Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Luke 24.50-51: Jesus as High Priest

What is the significance of Jesus' raising of his hands and pronouncing a blessing (doubly stated) before ascending into heaven in Luke 24.50-51? It seems very similar to the priestly ritual performed by Aaron and recorded in Leviticus 9.22: "And Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people and blessed them, and came down from offering of the sin offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings."

Sirach 50.20-21 tells a similar story of the high priest Simon (ca. 220-195 BC). He was praised for restoring the temple, and remembered for his appearance after having returned from the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (50.1-19). Additionally, the people are said to have bowed in worship.

In Luke 24.52, there is a variant reading: "And they worshipped [Jesus]." Perhaps this is an addition by a scribe who recognized Luke's effort to portray Jesus as a high priest, mirroring that of Simon in Sirach 50.


Some additional questions and thoughts on Luke 24.50-51:

Is Luke's account of Jesus' departure modelled after those of Moses (Deut33) and Abraham (Gen49)?

Does Luke have in mind the blessings of Methuselah and Enoch as recorded in 2 Enoch 56.1; 57.2; 64.4?

If Luke ought to be read chiastically, it seems that 1.8ff. corresponds to 24.50-53, which would implicitly link Jesus with the office of high priest. The grammatical construction of the opening statements of the two passages seems to suggest such a link.

Upon their dep[artures, Moses left his spirit with Joshua (Deut34.9), and Elijah his with Elisha (2Kgs2.9). Should we understand Jesus to be leaving his spirit with his followers in the same way? If so, this would help strengthen already-established emphasis in Luke on Moses and Elijah, and that at the culmination of Luke's Gospel.

If I remember correctly, Crispin Fletcher-Louis has argued that the high priest was worshipped, either as God or as the representative of God. Does Sirach 50.20-21 text support that idea?

copyrighted 2005

1 comment:

Strawmen said...

I think your reading of Sirach is dead-on, and sadly, not many people seem to be noticing Fletcher-Louis' work...maybe because they're all published by Brill and come with hefty 3-digit pricetags...there are some you can find online, if you didn't know about them.