Thursday, April 21, 2005

John, Jesus, and Counter-temple Movements

I have been trying to get an idea of what Theophilus would have known, and thus recognized in Luke’s writings. I have organized some queries and assertions below.

Theophilus knew Caiaphas, no doubt, bring his brother-in-law. Is this perhaps why Luke only mentions Annas and Caiaphas as the high priests in Luke 3.2? Would Theophilus have also known Zechariah, John’s father, listed immediately after Annas and Caiaphas in Luke 3.3? Surely Theophilus was very familiar with John the Baptist’s story, his being of the priestly line. John, having been put to death by Herod, would have been a familiar subject to both Theophilus and his granddaughter, Joanna, who married one of Herod’s men, Chuza (cf. Lk8.3).

For some reason, it is a popular position in NT scholarship to assert that John the Baptist was NOT associated with the Qumran sect, not even an Essene. The reasoning generally rests upon the lack of any explicit reference to John's association with Qumran, and any lack of specific location for John's "wilderness" and "Jordan" ventures. But, I am wondering if this reasoning isn't incorrect. We know from the scrolls that Qumran was a counter-temple sect: the people retreated into the wilderness because they thought the priesthood to be corrupt. If Luke were to describe anyone coming from the Qumran and south Jordan region doing and preaching the very things we find in the DSS, then would it have been necessary to explicitly say that individual was from the Qumran sect, especially considering the recipient, Theophilus, was a member of the temple establishment and would have been most familiar with counter-temple movements such as Qumran? Would Theophilus not have recognized John’s behavior and preaching as Qumranic?

In beginning his Gospel with John, an implicit counter-temple movement himself who looks like he once belonged to (or still did?) the Qumran sect, is Luke suggesting that Jesus is interested in counter-temple movements? If John is Jesus' forerunner, and portrayed as a temple-defiant, it seems that Jesus would be colored with John’s agenda. Indeed, Luke cites Isaiah 40.3-5, a favorite Qumran text, to describe John, the one “preparing the way” for Jesus.

Luke 4.1ff. tells of Jesus’ retreat from the Jordan into the wilderness. Is this an indication that Jesus was himself interested in counter-temple movements, by sending him into the wilderness region as a starting point for his ministry? More importantly, is Luke suggesting that it was divinely intended that Jesus become identified with (and eventually assume for himself the role of) a counter-temple movement by having Jesus “led away by the Holy Spirit...into the wilderness”?

I wonder if there is not something behind Jesus’ association with John, counter-temple tendencies, and his own actions regarding the temple establishment that Theophilus would have recognized to be implicating the priesthood.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The High Priestly Garments

James VanderKam writes: “During the period when the Romans assumed control of Judea, the governor took over [the high priestly garments] and permitted the high priest to have them only during festivals” (An Introduction to Early Judaism, 180). After Herod died, the garments were in the custody of Tiberius (14-37CE). Then, as a favor, Vitellius (governor of Syria) gave the people back the garments. They remained in Jewish control until the death of Agrippa 1 in 44CE. When Rome tried to reclaim the garments, the Jewish people sent a delegation to Rome and were apparently granted custody.

VanderKam concludes, “The garment was thought to convey such a powerful impression that the authorities worried about the political and social effect it might have” (181). Sirach 45.6-13 and chapter 50 indicate that the garments bestowed great splendor upon the high priest, Simon at the time (cf. 50.11). Philo suggests that the garments had cosmic symbolism (Life of Moses, 2.109-126, esp. 2.117ff.). Josephus also gives an elaborate description of the garments (War, 5.231-36).

If it is true that these garments bestowed such glory and (political) power upon the high priest, Theophilus, high priest of 37-41CE, would have been the first in some time to have enjoyed such recognition. These garments would have given legitimacy to the priesthood, a legitimacy not known previously. With Theophilus the Jewish high priesthood gained some level glory and social respect once again.

Might this lend support to the notion that the temple establishment was seen as corrupt by several social groups of the early first century, such as the Qumran sect or John the Baptist’s followers, or even of Jesus’ followers? This might even explain further Jesus' cleansing of the temple, among his other temple-related actions and speeches.

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Luke's Genealogy (Part 2a)

I found in Josephus the mention of “Jeshua the son of Josedek [or Jozadak] the high priest” (Ant. 11.3.10[73]; cf. 20.10.1[231-234], transl . Whiston). As Josephus has it, Jozadak was the high priest when the Israelites were taken captive to Babylon. Jeshua the son of Jozadak was the high priest when they returned and, along with Zerubbabel, built the foundation of the “house of God”, the temple (cf. Ez3.1-2, et al). Imagine the implications if I have been correct in suggesting that, by isolating Zerubbabel in his genealogy, Luke is implying that Jesus (= Jeshua) has come with Zerubbabel to finish building the “house of God”, so predicted in Zechariah 4.9.

N. T. Wright has made much of Jesus’ accomplishing Israel’s “return from exile” (see esp. his Jesus and the Victory of God). Might the notion be correct, especially in light of Luke's play with names - i.e., that Jeshua/Jesus is the high priest who brings the Israelites back from exile and heads the building of the temple?

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Luke's Genealogy (Part 2)

In Luke’s genealogy, the last thirty-seven names (or first chronologically), from God to Nathan, match perfectly, save Luke’s puzzling addition of Admin (3.33b: see Metzger’s Textual Commentary to the Greek New Testament on this text), the genealogy of 1 Chronicles 1.1-4.9 (cf. also Jos. Ant. 1.3.2 [79], like Luke, descending from Noah to Adam). It is at this point where Luke’s genealogy differs from Matthew’s, who goes from David to Solomon rather than to Nathan. Nathan is said to be the father of Mattatha, the first of the many names having no record elsewhere.

G. Kuhn suggests that the seemingly lengthy genealogy ought to be understood as two shorter lists. (I have not yet acquired Kuhn’s book, but found this information in I. H. Marshall’s commentary on Luke [NIGTC], 159. I hope to read fully Kuhn’s argument.) These shorter lists are to be read as descending parallels, found in 3.23-26 and 3.29-31 (given here in RSV translation):

3.23-26 :::::::: 3.29-31

Jesus :::::::: Joshua
Joseph :::::::: [none]
Heli :::::::: Eliezer
[none] :::::::: Jorim
Matthat :::::::: Matthat
Levi :::::::: Levi
Melchi :::::::: Simeon
Jannai :::::::: Judah
Joseph :::::::: Joseph
Mattathias :::::::: [none]
Amos :::::::: [none]
Nahum :::::::: Jonam
Esli :::::::: Eliakim
Naggai :::::::: Melea
Maath :::::::: Menna
Mattathias :::::::: Mattatha

It is interesting to note that, in the second list, from Levi to Joseph are four partriachal names. This seems deliberate, and accounts for a good deal of the dissimilarity between the two lists. Are these patriarchal figures important to Jesus’ status and honor? Also, there is another reference to the otherwise unknown Melchi in the first list which is not in the second list, but rather in 3.28. Is there any significance? I am reminded of Melchizedek, the “high priest forever”.

Nathan is the next name following Mattatha in 3.31, which continues the descent toward Adam, “son of God” (3.38), the section corresponding to 1 Chronicles 1.1-4.9.

There are, however, several names which are unknown, or at least seem misplaced:

Semein: otherwise unknown
Josech: otherwise unknown
Joda: otherwise unknown
Joanan: otherwise unknown
Rhesa: otherwise unknown (possibly transl. of Aramaic “prince”? so Marshall, 163)
Zerubbabel: son of Shealtiel (1Chr3.19; Neh12.1; Hag1.12, et. al.; cf. Mt1.12)
Shealtiel: father of Zerubbabel (1Chr3.19; Neh12.1; Hag1.12, et. al.; cf. Mt1.12)
Neri: otherwise unknown
Melchi: otherwise unknown
Addi: otherwise unknown
Cosam: otherwise unknown
Elmadam: otherwise unknown
Er: Genesis 46.12-13 reads thus: “The sons of Judah: Er, …Perez…. And the sons of Perez were Hezron…” (cf. also Num26.19; 1Chr2.3). Ruth 4.18-19 reads thus: “Now these are the descendents of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, Amminidab of Nashon, Hashon of Salmon, Salmon of Boaz, Boaz of Obed, Obed of Jesse, and Jesse of David.” The Ruth passage coincides perfectly with the genealogy of 1 Chronicles 1-4. These names appear in the same order in Luke’s genealogy at 3.31-33. Could it be that by mentioning Er, Luke is making yet another parallel, though implicit, to that of the latter section of his genealogy up to David?

Supposing Kuhn is right to suggest the parallel of Luke 3.23-26 and 3.29-31, an extended diagram of Luke’s genealogy would look like so:

3.23-26b = Jesus to Mattathias
3.26c-28 = all unkown names/individuals, save Zerubbabel and Shealtiel
3.29-31c = Joshua to Mattathias, parallel to 3.23-26b
3.31d = Nathan
3.31e-38 = David to Adam to God, following OT parallels.

So, it appears that Nathan is the single name to separate the “knowns” of 3.31e-38 from the “arranged” of 3.23-31c. And equally intriguing is Luke’s inclusion of Er. If Rhesa is a name, and not an Aramaism of “prince”, then the Er is the sixth name following Zerubbabel and Shealtiel, whereas only five precede them. So, Er might operate as a separator just as Nathan – and this so especially in light of Er’s family line, corresponding with some of 3.31e-38.

If Er is another separator, then the names Zerubbabel and Shealtiel comprise the midpoint of “the unknowns” of 3.26c-28. What is so significant about Zerubbabel and Shealtiel for Luke to have isolated them and given them attention in this way?

I am certain that Shealtiel is present simply to identify Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel is an important character in Israel’s history. Ezra tells of his fame:

“Now these were the people of the province who came up out of captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia: they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua,…. The people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built an altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings upon it, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God…. Zerubbabel…and Jeshua…made a beginning, together with the…priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites…to have oversight of the work of the house of the Lord…. And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets…and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD…. Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD,…they approached Zerubbabel…and said, ‘Let us build with you...’. But Zerubbabel, Jeshua…said to them, ‘You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD…’. Now the prophets Haggai and Zechariah…prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem…. Then Zerubbabel…and Jeshua…arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God helping them.” (Ez2.1-2; 3.1-2, 8-11; 4.1-3; 5.1-2)

And Zechariah says of Zerubbabel:

“Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. What are you, O mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’ Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.” (Zech4.6-10)

Zerubbabel accompanied Jeshua and his priests in building the house of God. Considering Luke’s name game in his genealogy, does Jeshua = Jesus? By singling out Zerubbabel, is Luke saying that Zerubbabel is accompanying Jesus (and his priests?) in establishing God’s kingdom amid pagan societies? And who are the “unknowns”, as I have termed them? Can they be identified at all, via other sources? Lastly, is there a chance that Melchi is shorthand for Melchizedek?


I’m not sure that this is significant, but isn’t Joanan (Lk3.27) the male form of Johanna, the name of Theophilus’ granddaughter, who witnessed the resurrection (Luke 24.8-11)? I ask this because, in the entire genealogy, Luke has employed only one huios (“son”, 3.23), and before every name employed the genitive article tou to link them together, creatively creating the phrase “son of”. Therefore, he could not have included any female names without breaking his rhythmic pattern. If the inclusion and singling-out of Zerubbabel is meant to suggest that Jesus and his prophets are breaking in (Ez5.2), and that Zerubbabel must accompany those who “complete” the “house of God” (Zech4.9), might these names refer to those actively involved? If so, Johanna, an eyewitness to Jesus' resurrection (Lk24.8-11), would surely be named in a list of witnesses and “prophets” given to her grandfather, Theophilus.

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Luke's Genealogy

I have been studying Luke’s genealogy a bit, unable yet to make much sense of it. (Admittedly, I came into the study with an agenda.) In comparison to Matthew’s genealogy and various others of the Old Testament, Luke’s is very different. I have noted some details of interest, given below. (J. A. Fitzmyer’s commentary on Luke [AB] was most helpful.)

None of the first twenty entries, from Jesus to Rhesa, find any OT support. Zerubbabel is the first in Luke's series (and the last in Matthew's) to share OT testimony (1Chron3.19). Luke's list has 78 entries, spanning 77 generations (Matthew's only having 42 names, stopping at Abraham; Luke's list from Jesus to Abraham is made up of 57 names). Luke makes the connection from David to Nathan, not Solomon (as in Matthew). Surely Luke has in mind David’s son, and not the prophet. Or does he? Is this shift significant? There are five mentions of "Matthat" or "Mattathias" in Luke (3.24, 25, 26, 31), one of which finds its way in Matthew (Mt1.14), and none of which are recorded in the OT. Luke mentions twice a "Levi" (3.24, 29), neither of which are in Matthew, and only the latter seeming to point to the patriarchal figure. And about that patriarchal figure, there are four patriarchal names in 3.29-30: Joseph, Judah, Simeon, and Levi. Luke mentions one "Eliezer", which has not OT referent, though Matthew names one "Eleazar" (Mt1.14).

Does any of this indicate that Luke has tampered with his genealogy? Fitzmyer says that, if we adopt the 25-30-year generational span, Luke's is more likely to be accurate in number over Matthew’s (Fitzmyer, 495). And, since Matthew has deliberately arranged his genealogy into three sets of fourteen generations (cf. Mt1.17), his seems most artificial. But, the sequence seems way out in Luke. What is Luke doing? The names I've noted above are those of former high priests, no doubt recognized by Theophilus (the high priest of 37-41AD). I. H. Marshall notes that in the times of the patriarchs, the names "Levi", etc., were only used in Israel after the exile, and thus Luke is designating names anachronistically (Marshall, Commentary on Luke [NIGTC], 160). Is Luke using a tradition, or improvising?

Additionally (and more to the point of my original agenda), I read in Marshall’s commentary that "H. Sahlin, 89, also suggests that the number of priestly names in the genealogy may indicate a desire to show that Jesus was a priestly Messiah" (Marshall, 161, citing Sahlin’s Der Messias und das Gottesvolk). Marshall himself does not believe that Luke is portraying Jesus as a priestly Messiah. And Sahlin’s comment does not necessitate such a conclusion. However, can Sahlin’s suggestion be validated? If so, what are the implications?

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"Two Men": Witnesses of Jesus' Departure

In telling his Jesus story, Luke has often coupled his characters: the sending of the twelve out in pairs (9.1ff.); Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration (9.28ff.); the sending of the seventy out in pairs (10.1ff); the two men at the tomb (24.4ff.); the two on the road to Emmaus (24.13ff.). (I realize that some of these pairings appear in the other Gospels as well. I am working from the assumption that Luke was written first, an assumption I’ll not defend here, nor one on which the thrust of this entry rests.)

(Richard has written on the prospect that Luke uses the two-witness rule to verify his story. This may or may not be relevant to my suggestion here, but I thought it worth mentioning in the event that I may have overlooked such a connection.)

Many have supposed that the two men (andres duo) of Luke 24.4 and of Acts 10.1 were angels, particularly because of the comment in Luke 24.23 (where angelon is used by the two on the road in recalling the women’s tale, or “vision” as they call it). What can we know about these “two men”? And does it really matter?

I will begin by laying out what we “know” based on Luke’s data. From there, I will attempt to answer the above questions.

We know that the “two men” of Luke 24.4 and Acts 1.10 were dressed in “dazzling white” (estheti astraptouse) and “white robes” (asthesesi leukais), respectively. I suppose this is yet another reason why so many assume these “men” to be angels.

We know that Luke has mentioned in his Gospel “two men” (andres duo) who “appeared in glory” – namely, Moses and Elijah (9.30).

We know that Jesus referred to his own resurrection state in terms of “entering into glory” (24.26; cf. 9.32).

We know that at the Transfiguration Jesus’ appearance was altered, “and his raiment became dazzling white” (leukos exastrapton; 9.29 – compare with Lk24.4 and Ac1.10, of the “two men”).

We know that Moses and Elijah “spoke of [Jesus’] departure [exodon], which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” (9.31). (I do not think it necessary to recall the details of Moses’ and Elijah’s supposed departures or whereabouts. The connection should be fairly obvious.)

We know that the resurrection account of Luke 24.1ff. and the ascension accounts of Luke 24.50-52 and Acts 1.1ff. all take place in or around Jerusalem.

In light of these “known” things according to Luke’s writings, I submit that the “two men” of Luke 24.4 and Acts 1.10 are not angels, but Moses and Elijah. Jesus had demonstrated (9.29) that the “dazzling” appearance need not be relegated to angels only. The actual term used by Luke, andres, does not forcefully suggests “angels” are meant. For that, he has employed the normative “angelon” in Luke 24.23; but as I noted above, that reference is (at least) a second hand telling, one which calls the episode a “vision” as well. (I am honestly not sure what to make of this detail yet. I am however sure that it does not eradicate everything I am suggesting. It might also be said, and should be remembered, that a single angel, Gabriel, appears before Mary in Luke 1.26. Why are there not two here? It is because the angel is not having to witness anything, but rather is dispensing news. And again, here Luke calls Gabriel and “angel” [angelos].)

It might perhaps be mentioned that Luke’s Gospel places the ascension in Bethany, not Jerusalem; and that Acts 1 places it at the Mount of Olives “which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away [from Jerusalem]” (Ac1.12), and not in Jerusalem as 9.31 states. And so some may object to my linking Moses and Elijah with the two men present at the tomb and Jesus' "Jerusalem departure". But the remark made in Luke 9.31 is a reference point for Luke, a place at which his Jesus takes a new turn in his journey. Immediately after the Transfiguration, we find that Jesus "set his face to go to Jerusalem" (9.51). And from this point on Jesus is moving in that direction. So I don't think the reference to Jerusalem in 9.31 should be understood as Jerusalem proper, but as a general geographic reference from which Jesus' finishing work will "be fulfilled/accomplished" in contradistinction to Galilee, where he had ministered up to that point (cf. 4.31; 5.1; 7.1, 11; 8.26).

Last to note, the “two men” appear at the beginning and the end of the forty day period, the period which marks the time of Jesus “departure” as spoken about by Moses, Elijah and Jesus earlier (cf. Lk9.32). It therefore seems quite sensible for Luke to have meant by “two men” in “dazzling white robes” and associated with the state of “glory” the very same individuals he explicitly named beforehand – Moses and Elijah.


In light of Richard’s
contemplated text of a few days ago, I had once written an essay on the similarities between Luke’s Transfiguration account and Exodus 29-40. I will be searching for it.

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In his recent post on Johanna (see Lk8.3; 24.10), Richard diagrammed a chiasmus of Luke 24.8-11. While his point is clear, I would like to make a slight modification to the chiasmus to demonstrate Luke's verbal deliberacy.

A They remembered his words (rhematon).

B Having returned from the tomb, they reported all these things (tauta panta)

C to the Eleven

D and to all the rest/others (loipois).

E Now there were Mary Magdalene

F and Johanna

E' and Mary the mother of James

D' and the others (loipai) with them.

C' They were telling the Apostles

B these things (tauta).

A' But these words (rhemata tauta) seeemed nonsense to them, and they did not believe them.

Some have argued that the variant of 24.12, if retained, would correspond to 24.9, both of which speak of the tomb. But, I find it hard pressed, since the order of things would be skewed.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Luke, Jesus and Samuel

I previously wrote about the relationship between Luke 2.40-52 and 1 Samuel 2.26-3.19. (See my earlier post on this.) Richard has asked an important question about that relationship: "Why then, if we accept Lee Dahn’s original and insightful observation, is Luke being subtle in comparing Jesus to Samuel, one of the greatest prophets, who resided in the temple at Shiloh from the age of two and according to 1 Samuel 2:35 is the fulfillment of God’s promise to “raise up for myself a faithful high priest”?"

I am not sure how to take the question - as directed to me personally calling for further clarification, or as a general query. I will nonetheless try making a few clarifications and modifications to my original comments. (I thought for a moment to go back and make these modifications in the original post, but then quickly realized how irresponsible and compromising that would be. I am embarrassed for some of the errors.)

First, I may have been hasty in asserting that "from 3.1-18, we get the idea that Samuel fits the requirements God had established for the priests, thus seemingly fulfilling the promise to 'raise up for myself a faithful high priest' (2.35)." I was putting some small details (e.g., the linen ephod of 2.18-19, 28) together which may or may not bear any weight in linking Samuel to the fulfillment of 2.35. Perhaps to say that Samuel particularly is God's "faithful priest" is to read too much into Luke's Jesus story. (Please note that I incorrectly wrote "faithful high priest" in my previous post. Apologies for the lack of faithfulness to the text - an obvious indicator that I was too strongly attempting to import some implication into Luke's story.) Perhaps it is not. I am just not sure.

Second, and certainly more in line with Richard's thesis, I believe that Luke is comparing Jesus to Samuel, however subtle, because the story of Eli's sons (1Sam2.12-17, 27-36) represents perhaps the best-known tale of the corruption of the Israel's priesthood. Richard has brought to light other instances in Luke's Gospel where the priesthood is subtly exposed as corrupt (e.g., the story of the rich man and Lazarus). Those subtle movements by Luke would have been, I presume, fairly easy for Theophilus to recognize, being high priest himself and familiar with his own familiy's handling of the office. And the fact that the stories of both Eli's sons and young Samuel's calling (at the age of twelve? [so Josephus]) are found between the "growth" comments of 1 Samuel 2.26 and 3.19 seems, in my mind, to indicate that Luke is trying to tie what lies between his own "growth" comments about the twelve-year-old Jesus (Lk2.40, 52) with the two stories about Eli's sons and Samuel.

I will admit that the evidence in Luke's Gospel suggesting that Jesus is the new eschatological high priest is scarce and cryptic at best. But that does not mean it is not present.

May I ask a few counter-questions? If Luke is consistently showing the corruption of the priesthood and not attmepting to say that Jesus is the new eschatological high priest, what is his resolution to the problem of the priesthood? Is there one? What are the reasons for exposing the priesthood's corruption? Is the motivation merely to show that Jesus was condemned unjustly, by an unjust establishment, by Romans influenced by corrupt priests? (I find this hard to believe, considering that everything Jesus was condemned for he is recorded to have claimed himself, explicitly and implicitly.) If the motivation is not merely political, then why is the corruption of the priesthood important for Luke's Jesus story?

Lastly, could it be that Luke 19.47-48 and texts like it are meant by Luke to fulfill 1 Samuel 2.36, where the people implore the faithful priest? (I notice that 1 Kings 2.27 claims to fulfill the promise as well.)

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