Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Jesus as the eschatological priest

There are a number of enigmatic passages that can be better understood once we recognize that both Jesus and Theophilus areLabels priests. Since 1997, there has been a paradigm shift in Lucan studies in that academic scholarship has begun to recognize that both Luke and Theophilus are Jewish, and not Gentiles, and that most excellent Theophilus served as High Priest from 37 to 41 C.E. Secondly, beginning in 2004, scholars have acknowledged that perhaps Jesus in his sermon in Nazareth was telling us he is a special kind of priest.

Isaiah 61 speaks, in the first person, of an “anointed” figure whose activities seem to suggest that he is an eschatological prophet. Scripture has identified only two prophets as having been anointed: Elijah and Elisha, both mentioned by Jesus in his sermon in Nazareth. The anointing of Elijah and Elisha indicates they were both high priests. This identification of the anointed one of Isaiah 61 with a priest is supported by the mention of the priesthood in Isaiah 61:6 in these words: “But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord . . . .” The priestly nature of the anointed figure in Isaiah 61, the quotation from Isaiah 61:1-2 and the reference to Elijah and Elisha in the sermon is evidence that hidden polemics has been employed to advocate that Jesus is a special kind of priest. Fifty verses later, in Lk 5:24, Jesus, speaking as the son of man, claimed he had the power to forgive sins, and parenthetically,
consequently rendered the sacrificial system obsolete.

The poor, blind, captives and the oppressed are all named when the Lucan Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” A number of the scholars who have examined this passage have noted that the captives and the oppressed are never mentioned again. These scholars failed to recognize the creativity of Luke.

Luke begins his gospel by having a priest from the hill country offer sacrifice in the Temple. The wife of this hill country priest is one “of the daughters of Aaron.” Zachariah and Elizabeth are both described as “righteous before God.” Thus the Greek word, δίκαιος, is first applied to righteous individuals such as Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth and Simeon then applied by the centurion to Jesus on the cross. In his second letter written in early sixties, Luke continues in the next step of progression to designate Jesus as “the Righteous One” and “the righteous one” as “the son of man” and eschatological agent of God. The designation in Acts appears only speeches delivered to Jewish audiences in Jerusalem.

Zechariah and Elizabeth live in a city of Judah in the hill county (Lk 1:39). According to Joshua 20:7, Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), located in hill country of Judah, is a city of refuge. Thus Zechariah is a priest with a ministry to persons who have fled to the levitical place of refuge in Hebron, whose “guests” living in a self imposed exile as captives, receive “atonement” upon the death of the high priest. The last “righteous” priest of the old levitical order is a special kind of priest. 

This new series of blog postings will explain how “righteous” as a adjective used originally as a term of piety for a simple rural priest and his wife became a term, used interchangeably, to designate Jesus as the eschatological high priest.

This new series of blog postings will also attempt to establish that the messianic hopes are fulfilled in Jesus as the eschatological high priest.

This is a work in progress.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Enoch and “dry ground”

The most interesting approach to the dating of Enoch is that of Charlesworth and his analysis of the meaning and significance of the use of the phrase “dry ground” in the Parables (En 48:8; 62:9; 63:1-10). Prior to the 19th century, Palestine was defined by two types of land: the dry land, and the swamps and marshes. Where were the swamps located? According to Charlesworth, “they defined the low country near the coast, the vast areas west of Kinneret, and especially the land in Hulah Valley.” Charlesworth also noted that many Jewish people lost their land during Herod’s reign to Herod and his hierarchy. Ant. 17.304-14. Moreover, according to Charles worth “the best location for those who live near swamps – non dry ground – and lament the loss of dry ground to the Herodians and their henchmen, is the Hulah Valley, the large swampy area from Dan or Banias to Bethsaida or Capernaum.” The transfiguration took place near Banias.

Furthermore, “archaeological excavations strengthen the conclusion we obtained by focusing on texts. The recent excavations help us understand that two-thirds of the desirable land (the dry land) was lost to the Herodian dynasty from the end of the first century BCE to the first two decades of the first century CE. The appearance of large sumptuous manor houses and palatial abodes witness to a new development in the Herodian period.”

An article, not cited by Charlesworth, written by Berlin [Biblical Archaeologist 60:1 (1997)] about material cultural change and settlement patterns observed:

“By the early mid first century BCE, most of the regions around the perimeter of the Hasmonean kingdom were very largely depopulated. All sorts of sites, cities and villas, rural farmsteads were abandoned. In the Hula Valley, Tel Anafa was abandoned in 75 BCE; in the Akko plain scores of small farmsteads were deserted in the early first century; on the coast, Dor, Strato’s Tower, and Ashdod sat unoccupied by the beginning the first century; in the foothills and in Idumea, Gezer, and Maresha lay deserted.”

The provenance of Enoch is believed to be Upper Galilee, the same areas described by Berlin as “largely depopulated” in the first century BCE. Enoch does not tell us how the “those who rule the dry ground” acquired their land or how the “righteous ones” lost their land. Berlin certainly confirms these areas “largely depopulated” would be available for easy taking.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Son of Man in Luke II

Recently, there are been considerable interest in the Parables of Enoch which constitutes Chapters 37 to 72 of the Book of Enoch. In the Parables, the author adds four titles which did not previously appear in the Enochic writings. “Righteous One” appears 4x in Ethiopic text of the Parables, but in only one of these occurrences is “righteous One” used as an individual title of the eschatological leader: 1 En 53:6. VanderKam points out that in the Parables this title is never used alone in application to an eschatological figure; it is found only with another title, “Chosen One.” For Orlov, “This conjunction serves as a significant clue that in the Parables all four titles of the elevated messianic character are closely connected.”

“Anointed One” which occurs 2x, En 48:10 & 52 is based upon Ps 2:2, a biblical source. “Chosen One” used many times in the Parables designating an eschatological character with possible biblical roots. “Son of Man” appears multiple times in En 46:2,3,4; 48:2; 62:5,7,9,14; 63:11; 69:26,27,29*; 70:1; 71:14; 71:17. Some features of the son of man recall details found in Dan 7, where one a messianic figure designated as “one like the son of man.” These four titles seem to be used interchangeably in the Parables and refer to one composite figure.

Nine years ago, I did a series of articles on Enoch with the observation that both the books of Jubilees and Enoch are Palestinian writings used as a source by Luke with five examples provided for Enoch but I did not venture further because in my mind there was considerable dispute among scholars about the dating of the Book of Parables and whether it was a Jewish writing. Lately a consensus has developed that it is a Jewish writing with most scholars agreeing that in published during the reign of Herod the Great. I subsequently concluded that in Luke the “son of man” was the eschatological high priest, which I developed further in my book, Who are Johanna and Theophilus?: The Irony of the Intended Audience of the Gospel of Luke, available as an e-book at Amazon Books

Luke’s use of the term “Righteous One” in Acts 3:14; 7:52 and 22:14 is probably based upon 1 Enoch 53 since in these passages in Acts “the Righteous One” is an eschatological agent of God. The designation in Acts appears only speeches delivered to Jewish audiences in Jerusalem.

Luke uses the phrase “chosen one” twice in his gospel: Luke 9:35 “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" and Luke 23:35 “And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!"

Luke makes clear that Jesus is the “anointed one” in Lk 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

In the story of healing the paralytic, his friends removed the tiles to create a hole in roof of house so that they could lower him on his bed into the middle of crowded room. When the Lucan Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Man your sins are forgiven you.” A dialogue on forgiveness postponed the miracle that crowd had expected to witness. Judaism asserted that only God can forgive sins. The dialogue was concluded with the statement by Jesus that he would demonstrate his authority to forgive sins by healing the paralytic. In this pericope, Jesus refers to himself for the first time as “son of man.” In fact, Jesus had applied this title to himself 25 times in direct discourse beginning in Lk. 5:24. Stephen in Acts 7:56 used the phrase “son of man” in these words: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.”

Although I have not yet demonstrated in this blog, I believe that Luke has appropriated the Enochic books as a source.

At the beginning of the Gospel, the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah. I Enoch 20:2-8 names Gabriel as one of the seven archangels and one of the four closest to the throne of God (I Enoch 10:9; 40:3,9; cf. Lk. 1:19). Gabriel delivers special revelations from God to individuals (Lk. 1:8-20; 26-38).

The Gospel of Luke contains the genealogy of Jesus of Nazareth in Lk. 3:23-35 in seventy-seven generations. The author of the Book of Watchers states the Day of Judgment would take place seventy generations after Enoch. Since Enoch is the seventh generation and Luke has placed Jesus in the seventy-seventh generation, has Luke in agreement with Enoch suggested that the end of history would be in the seventy-seven generation? Luke presents Jesus as the Messiah and that the last judgment is very, very near.

Enoch 93:7 states “Those, too, who acquire gold and silver, shall justly and suddenly perish. Woe to you who are rich, for in your riches have you trusted; but from your riches you shall be removed.” Luke 6:24 states “Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.”

The Transfiguration in Luke 9:35 was previously mentioned.

Scholars have long recognized that there is a parallel between the last chapters of Enoch and the Gospel of Luke. Nickelsburg and Grenstedhave noted the parallelism between Luke 16 and 1 Enoch while others have noted the parallels with the deuteronomic injunctions against oppressive treatment of the poor in Israel. Not unlike Jesus' warning, 1 Enoch 103:5-8 delivers a stinging indictment of Sadducees with 'ill-gotten wealth' who live extravagantly only to descend to Sheol. These observations only confirm the very Jewish nature of the parable.

Finally, the Return of the Seventy periscope is an another possible reason in that the fall from heaven is a regular theme in the Enochic literature.

It is about time that the significance of these findings be further explored and developed.

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