2010-10-01

Peter, in the Enoch tradition, commissioned to replace the High Priest?

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by Neil Godfrey

Jesus Gives the Keys to Peter
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How do we account for Christianity growing out of Judaism yet being so unlike Judaism? Part of one possible answer lies in the recognition that there was no normative Judaism as we understand it prior to the destruction of the Temple in the year 70. Noncanonical Second Temple writings such as the Book of Enoch point to the existence of Jewish sectarians who had radically different ideas about contemporary Temple practices and priesthood, cosmology, the law, wisdom, even the angelic world and Godhead prior to the rise of rabbinic Judaism following the destruction of the Temple. Margaret Barker and others have noticed quite a few distinctively Christian ideas resonating in some of these early books such as the Book of Enoch and that came to be sidelined by later Jewish rabbis. We know, of course, that the Book of Enoch is even quoted in New Testament writings.

This post continues earlier ones taken from a 1981 Journal of Biblical Literature article by George W. E. Nickelsburg, “Enoch, Levi, and Peter: Recipients of Revelation in Upper Galilee”. (Note, though, that I am not reproducing many of N’s details. This post is only a selection of the points he makes.)

It considers the details of Peter’s commissioning as the Rock of the Church in the context of narratives found in Enoch and their adaptations again later in the Testament of Levi (pre-Christian version). Peter emerges as a possible replacement to the High Priest of the Temple, which was, of course, doomed to destruction. The story of Peter and his role in the Gospel of Matthew, at least, grew out of that branch of Jewish religion that opposed the Temple practices and drew upon writings such as the Book of Enoch that did not make it into the rabbinic and later Christian orthodox canon.

I suspect the narrative was composed long after the temple’s destruction, and is an etiological tale to explain how the Church is now the new Temple and Kingdom of God with the Jews having been punished be destruction, slavery and scattering.

Overview of the argument

Nickelsburg argues that Matthew’s account of Peter’s commissioning is based on the Enoch tradition and argues the following details in support:

  • The two parts of Matthew’s narrative (recognition and promise) are bound together by parallels in the Enoch-Levi literary tradition;
  • The language and imagery the rock and gates of Hades can be read as parabolizing the geographical environs of Caesarea Philippi, a sacred area of revelation in the Enoch-Levi tradition:
    • the rock calls to mind the rocky crags in the environs of the sacred Paneion,
    • the gates of Hades is paired with the subterranean waters of the grotto there;
  • The polarity of heaven and earth correspond to the mythology of Mount Hermon (a point of access to heaven, with entry to heaven a prelude to commissioning) in the Enoch-Levi tradition.

Matthew 16:13-19 is well known as the moment Peter was commissioned to head the Church after Jesus’ departure:

[13] When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

[14] And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

[15] He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

[16] And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

[17] And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

[18] And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

[19] And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

This differs significantly from Mark’s account. After studying the links between Matthew’s account and the Enoch tradition, one might even wonder if Mark is writing to counter much that appears in Matthew’s exaltation of Peter, but I know that goes against the grain of Markan priority.

So let’s backtrack here and look at an Enochian “tradition” that we find expressed in the Book of Enoch and further developed in the Testament of Levi (before Christian redactions, of course). Then we’ll see what all this has to do with Matthew’s account of Peter’s commissioning to be the chief apostle.

1 Enoch 12-16 and Testament of Levi 2-7 – closely related texts 

 

The point of this section is to show that the thought world of 1 Enoch was carried over and expressed in the Testament of Levi. We thus have evidence of a “tradition” or ongoing “school” within Judaism that embraced these ideas. The two texts are closely related.

The same themes later appear in early Christianity and are opposed to normative rabbinic and Temple-oriented Judaism. Not that the Enochian tradition was opposed to the Temple per se, but they did oppose the “sins” of the priests who controlled the Temple worship and for this reason thought of the Temple as doomed.

Note the following common themes:

  1. The Testament of Levi has a vision of ascent to the heavenly temple from the same geographical area (Abel Main and Mount Hermon) as we find in 1 Enoch 14.
  2. In this vision the patriarch Levi is commissioned to be a high priest and to execute judgment against one who has committed a sexual sin and broken God’s command. (Enoch was likewise commissioned to pronounce judgment on demons who had sinned by sexual intercourse with women.)
  3. Later, the Testament of Levi (like Enoch) strongly denounces the Jerusalem priests, notably for their sexual sins. 

(I use the numbering found on the internet passages in preference to that in Nickelsburg’s article which presumably refers to a more scholarly edition.)

Levi is shepherding his flock at Abel-Maîn

And when I was feeding the flocks in Abel-Maul, the spirit of understand of the Lord came upon me, and I saw all men corrupting their way (T. Levi 1:6)

Compare 1 Enoch 13:9

And when I awaked, I came unto them, and they were all sitting gathered together, weeping in ’Abelsjâîl, which is between Lebanon and Sênêsêr, with their faces covered.

Levi prays to be saved from iniquity, following which sleep falls upon him

And I was grieving for the race of the sons of men, and I prayed to the Lord that I might be saved. (T. Levi 1:7)

Then there fell upon me a sleep. . . (T. Levi 1:8)

Compare 1 Enoch 13:7-8

7. And I went off and sat down at the waters of Dan, in the land of Dan, to the south of the west of Hermon: I read their petition till I fell asleep.

8. And behold a dream came to me, and visions fell down upon me. . .

In the vision he sees, or is taken to the top of, Mt Hermon (=Sirion)

and I beheld a high mountain, and I was upon it. [This is from the online translation. Presumably there is something here that in other translations relates to Sirion. Nickelsburg has a note explaining the link of Sirion with Hermon — Deut. 3:9 and Psalm 42:5-8]

Compare 1 Enoch 6:6

And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. [There is a pun on the name Hermon here.]

The heavens are opened and the angels invite him to enter

And behold the heavens were opened, and an angel of God said to me, Levi, enter. (T. Levi 1:9)

Compare 1 Enoch 14:8-9

8. And the vision was shown to me thus: Behold, in the vision clouds invited me and a mist summoned me, and the course of the stars and the lightnings sped and hastened me, and the winds in the vision caused me to fly and lifted me upward, and bore me into heaven. 9. And I went in

In the second heaven he sees snow, fire and ice, which are potential instruments of divine justice

And it has fire, snow, and ice made ready for the day of judgement, in the righteous judgement of God; for in it are all the spirits of the retributions for vengeance on men. (T. Levi 1:18)

Contrast 1 Enoch 14:9-12 where these are only components of heavenly palace.

9. And I went in till I drew nigh to a wall which is built of crystals and surrounded by tongues of fire: and it began to affright me. And I went into the tongues of fire and drew nigh to a large house which was built of crystals: and the walls of the house were like a tesselated floor (made) of crystals, and its groundwork was of crystal. 11. Its ceiling was like the path of the stars and the lightnings, and between them were fiery cherubim, and their heaven was (clear as) water. 12. A flaming fire surrounded the walls, and its portals blazed with fire.

In the highest heaven, the “holy of holies”, dwells God, who is called by the rare title, “the Great Glory”

And in the highest of all dwelleth the Great Glory, far above all holiness. (T. Levi 1:21)

Compare 1 Enoch 14:20

And the Great Glory sat thereon

He is attended by angels who are described in priestly terms

In the heaven next to it are the archangels, who minister and make propitiation to the Lord for all the sins of ignorance of the righteous; Offering to the Lord a sweet smelling savour, a reasonable and a bloodless offering. (T. Levi 1:22-23)

Compare 1 Enoch 12:4; 15:3-4; 14:18-23

12:4. ‘Enoch, thou scribe of righteousness, go, †declare† to the Watchers of the heaven who have left the high heaven, the holy eternal place, and have defiled themselves with women, and have done as the children of earth do, and have taken unto themselves wives: “Ye have wrought great destruction on the earth:

15:3-4. Wherefore have ye left the high, holy, and eternal heaven, and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men and taken to yourselves wives, and done like the children of earth, and begotten giants (as your) sons? And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten (children) with the blood of flesh, and, as the children of men, have lusted after flesh and blood as those also do who die and perish.

14:18-23. And I looked and saw therein a lofty throne: its appearance was as crystal, and the wheels thereof as the shining sun, and there was the vision of cherubim. And from underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire so that I could not look thereon. And the Great Glory sat thereon, and His raiment shone more brightly than the sun and was whiter than any snow. None of the angels could enter and could behold His face by reason of the magnificence and glory and no flesh could behold Him. The flaming fire was round about Him, and a great fire stood before Him, and none around could draw nigh Him: ten thousand times ten thousand (stood) before Him, yet He needed no counselor. And the most holy ones who were nigh to Him did not leave by night nor depart from Him.

The angel opens the gates of heaven

And thereupon the angel opened to me the gates of heaven, and I saw the holy temple, and upon a throne of glory the Most High. (T. Levi 2:9)

Compare 1 Enoch 14:15-25

15. And I beheld a vision, And lo! there was a second house, greater than the former, and the entire portal stood open before me, and it was built of flames of fire. 16. And in every respect it so excelled in splendour and magnificence and extent that I cannot describe to you its splendour and its extent. 17. And its floor was of fire, and above it were lightnings and the path of the stars, and its ceiling also was flaming fire. 18. And I looked and saw therein a lofty throne: its appearance was as crystal, and the wheels thereof as the shining sun, and there was the vision of cherubim. 19. And from underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire so that I could not look thereon. 20. And the Great Glory sat thereon, and His raiment shone more brightly than the sun and was whiter than any snow. 21. None of the angels could enter and could behold His face by reason of the magnificence and glory and no flesh could behold Him. 22. The flaming fire was round about Him, and a great fire stood before Him, and none around could draw nigh Him: ten thousand times ten thousand (stood) before Him, yet He needed no counselor. 23. And the most holy ones who were nigh to Him did not leave by night nor depart from Him. 24. And until then I had been prostrate on my face, trembling: and the Lord called me with His own mouth, and said to me: ‘Come hither, Enoch, and hear my word.’ 25. And one of the holy ones came to me and waked me, and He made me rise up and approach the door: and I bowed my face downwards.

God commissions Levi as a priest

And He said to me: Levi, I have given thee the blessing of the priesthood until I come and sojourn in the midst of Israel. (T. Levi 2:10)

On being brought back to earth he is commissioned to execute vengeance on Shechem for defiling Dinah

Then the angel brought me down to the earth, and gave me a shield and a sword, and said to me: Execute vengeance on Shechem because of Dinah, thy sister, and I will be with thee because the Lord hath sent me.

And I destroyed at that time the sons of Hamor, as it is written in the heavenly tables. (T. Levi 2:11-12)

Compare 1 Enoch 15:2-12

2. And go, say to the Watchers of heaven, who have sent thee to intercede for them: “You should intercede” for men, and not men for you: 3. Wherefore have ye left the high, holy, and eternal heaven, and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men and taken to yourselves wives, and done like the children of earth, and begotten giants (as your) sons? 4. And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten (children) with the blood of flesh, and, as the children of men, have lusted after flesh and blood as those also do who die and perish. 5. Therefore have I given them wives also that they might impregnate them, and beget children by them, that thus nothing might be wanting to them on earth. 6. But you were formerly spiritual, living the eternal life, and immortal for all generations of the world. 7. And therefore I have not appointed wives for you; for as for the spiritual ones of the heaven, in heaven is their dwelling. 8. And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits and flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, and on the earth shall be their dwelling. 9. Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men, and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called. 10. As for the spirits of heaven, in heaven shall be their dwelling, but as for the spirits of the earth which were born upon the earth, on the earth shall be their dwelling. 11. And the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble: they take no food, but nevertheless hunger and thirst, and cause offences. And these spirits shall rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them.

Reference to the coming judgment of the world

Now, therefore, know that the Lord shall execute judgement upon the sons of men. (T. Levi 2:1)

Compare 1 Enoch 1:9 (though not cited in N’s article)

And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones

To execute judgement upon all,
And to destroy all the ungodly:

And to convict all flesh

Of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed,

And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.

The priority of 1 Enoch

The two texts are thus closely related. Two reasons are given for placing 1 Enoch prior to the Testament of Levi:

  • The connection between the story of the angels and Mount Hermon in 1 Enoch is coherent and the relationship between the two makes harmonious sense.
    • But Levi’s presence at Hermon is awkward and unnatural. The Bible never places Levi there in any tradition. Then in the T.Levi Levi is sent back south 80 miles to carry out his vengeance. This seems all rather unnatural.
  • According to T. Levi 2:4 (Therefore the Most High hath heard thy prayer, to separate thee from iniquity, and that thou shouldst become to Him a son, and a servant, and a minister of His presence.) God has heard Levi’s prayer to remove him from iniquity. Nickelsburg says that the language here is very close to Isaiah 57:1-2, which Wisdom 4:7-15 applies to Enoch’s removal from earth.

Isaiah 57:1-2

1 The righteous perish,

and no one ponders it in his heart;

devout men are taken away,

and no one understands

that the righteous are taken away

to be spared from evil.

2 Those who walk uprightly

enter into peace;

they find rest as they lie in death.

The above passage was said in Wisdom 4:7-15 to apply to Enoch and his translation from earth:

7 But though the righteous be prevented with death, yet shall he be in rest.

8 For honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that is measured by number of years.

9 But wisdom is the gray hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age.

10 He pleased God, and was beloved of him: so that living among sinners he was translated.

11 Yea speedily was he taken away, lest that wickedness should alter his understanding, or deceit beguile his soul.

12 For the bewitching of naughtiness doth obscure things that are honest; and the wandering of concupiscence doth undermine the simple mind.

13 He, being made perfect in a short time, fulfilled a long time:

14 For his soul pleased the Lord: therefore hasted he to take him away from among the wicked.

15 This the people saw, and understood it not, neither laid they up this in their minds, That his grace and mercy is with his saints, and that he hath respect unto his chosen.

It thus appears that a tradition about Enoch was applied to Levi the priest.

This would suggest that the author of T.Levi saw Enoch as a priest, too.

Jubilees 7:25 speaks of Noah performing priestly functions as commanded by Enoch:

And he placed all their offerings mingled with oil upon it, and afterwards he sprinkled wine on the fire which he had previously made on the altar, and he placed incense on the altar and caused a sweet savour to ascend acceptable before the Lord his God.

Compare 7:39 And I also will give you commandment, my sons, as Enoch commanded his son in the first jubilees: whilst still living, the seventh in his generation, he commanded and testified to his son and to his son’s sons until the day of his death.’

Compare also 1 Enoch 12-16 where Enoch intercedes (priestlike) for the watchers, and the similarities here with Ezra the priest and scribe.

Levi the priest was called by God for his mission when in the anti-Jerusalemite Northern Kingdom

The northern kingdom was proverbial in (Deuteronomy’s?) Jerusalem’s eyes for being reprobate idolaters for their shrines at Dan and Bethel. Levi received calls in visions near each of these shrines.

See above for Levi’s presence near Mount Hermon (Abel-Main) at the time of his calling.

Then again at the location of the southern shrine of Bethel that was also condemned by the Deuteronomist priests:

T. Levi 3:12-13

And we departed and came to Bethel.

13 And there again I saw a vision as the former,

Compare Jubilees 32:1

And he abode that night at Bethel, and Levi dreamed that they had ordained and made him the priest of the Most High God, him and his sons for ever; and he awoke from his sleep and blessed the Lord.

See the previous posts in this series (linked in second paragraph) to further see the tenacious tradition about Dan and Hermon being the places for visionary activities.

We are now ready to proceed to explain what all this has to do with Peter’s commissioning at Caesarea Philippi.

Peter’s Commissioning at Caesarea Philippi

Matthew 16:13-19 consists of two parts:

Verses 13-16 are generally recognized as being redacted from the Gospel of Mark:

[13] When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

[14] And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

[15] He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

[16] And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

The second part embraces verses 17-19 and is “widely recognized to have stemmed from an earlier tradition or traditions.”

[17] And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

[18] And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

[19] And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

While acknowledging that source criticism has divided the passage into these two parts, Nickelsburg treats the final product in Matthew as a formal unity as a commissioning story with its

  1. circumstantial introduction
  2. revelation of the commissioning figure, and
  3. the commissioning proper

Circumstantial introduction

Commissioning stories usually have an introduction describing the circumstances of the commissioning. In Matthew here this is the geographical setting.

It is set in the same geographical area as 1 Enoch 12-16 and Testament of Levi 2-7.

Caesarea Philippi was south of the slope of Mount Hermon, near the eastern source of the Jordan waters and a cave sacred to the god Pan. Josephus writes of this spot:

So when he [Herod] had conducted Caesar to the sea, and was returned home, he built him a most beautiful temple, of the whitest stone, in Zenodorus’s country, near the place called Panlure. This is a very fine cave in a mountain, under which there is a great cavity in the earth, and the cavern is abrupt, and prodigiously deep, and frill of a still water; over it hangs a vast mountain; and under the caverns arise the springs of the river Jordan. Herod adorned this place, which was already a very remarkable one, still further by the erection of this temple, which he dedicated to Caesar.

Matthew differs from Mark here by placing the commissioning scene in the district of Caesarea Philippi. Mark placed the vision “on the road” to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Matthew thus associates the commissioning more closely with this particular spot.

Revelation of the commissioning figure

Commissionings usually follow a revelation or epiphany of the divine person who is to do the commissioning. The divine figure usually identifies himself, sometimes as a response to a question about the divine person’s identity.

In Matthew’s scene this typical pattern is reversed. It is Jesus who asks Peter the question about his identity, and it is Peter who identifies him.

But in accordance with the pattern of such scenes in the literature, the revelation of Jesus’ identity is not a matter of human judgment, but a divine revelation. Peter did not discern Jesus’ identity by himself, but it was revealed to him by the Father.

Peter is also called “blessed” at this moment, and this is another term at home in revelatory contexts:

And the man stretched his hand out and placed it on her head and said, “You are blessed, Aseneth, for the indescribable things of God have been revealed to you . . . . (Joseph and Aseneath, 16:7)

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. (Matthew 13:16; Luke 10:23)

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Where Mark presents Peter as simply saying that Jesus is “Christ”, Matthew adds, “Son of the Living God.” This, too, is “a title more consonant with the epiphanic nature of the commissioning depicted in 1 Enoch 12-16 and Testament of Levi 2-7.

The Commissioning proper

Matthew 16, 1 Enoch and T. Levi all “share a similar view of the polarity of heaven and earth.

  1. 1 Enoch 12-16 presumes a correspondence between the sacred territory of Dan and the heavenly temple.
  2. According to T. Levi, the patriarch is to serve in the earthly sanctuary as the counterpart to the angelic priests in the heavenly temple (cf. 2:10 and 3:4-7)
    • And He said to me: Levi, I have given thee the blessing of the priesthood until I come and sojourn in the midst of Israel. (2:10)
  3. For Matthew, the ekklesia which Christ will build corresponds to the heavenly kingdom to which Peter holds the keys. The binding and loosing that take place in that ekklesia are ratified and become fact in the heavenly realm.” (Nickelsburg, p.592, my formatting)

All three texts contain a demonic dimension:

1 Enoch 15:9-16:1 describes continuing onslaughts of demons:

And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits and flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon
9 the earth, and on the earth shall be their dwelling. Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; 
10 they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called. [As for the spirits of heaven, in heaven shall be their dwelling, but as for the spirits of the earth which were born upon the earth, on the earth shall be their dwelling.]
11 And the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble: they take no food, but nevertheless 
12 hunger and thirst, and cause offences. And these spirits shall rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them.

16:1 From the days of the slaughter and destruction and death of the giants, from the souls of whose flesh the spirits, having gone forth, shall destroy without incurring judgement -thus shall they destroy until the day of the consummation, the great judgement . . . . (“These verses constitute the climax of the oracle and describe the demonic activity between the flood and the eschaton.”)

T. Levi

Levi prays, “Let no satan rule over me” (The long reading of the Mt. Athos manuscript, attested also in Aramaic of 4Q Levi)

Matthew 16:18

. . . and the gates of hell shall not prevail against [the church]

Nickelsburg sees the similarity between T.Levi and Matthew 16:18 underscored by the Peter/rock association and the satanic influence on Peter described a few verses later (Get behind me Satan — 16:23):

May no satan prevail against Levi
The gates of Hades will not prevail against the church
Satan does prevail against Peter

As Nickelsburg remarks, “Peter would have done well to have prayed Levi’s prayer.”

He sees more ambiguous parallel between Matthew 16 and the Testament of Levi 2-7:

And the angel opened the gates of heaven for me . . . (5:1) I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven
Levi, to you I have given the blessings of the priesthood (5:2; cf 4:4) and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven;
Then the angel . . . gave me weapon and sword (5:3) and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven

Both Levi and Peter are commissioned to serve as God’s unique agents on earth for blessing and for curse. The imagery of the two commissionings is similar.” Levi, when commissioned, is “given” certain things to enable him to function for both the benefit of Israel (2:10, 4:3, ch.18) and as a divinely ordained curse upon Schechem. Peter, on the other hand, is given keys that will enable him to decide who enters the kingdom of heaven and who does not. Nickelsburg observes (p. 593):

This usage of the verb “to give” is rare in commissioning stories and would appear to strengthen the connection between Matt 16 and T. Levi 2-7.

 

 

 

 

Nickelsburg also sees another parallel to Matthew in the Testament of Levi (5:26-27 — I use the numbering throughout for the online versions, which often differ from N’s citations in his article.)

18: 26 And he shall open the gates of paradise, and shall remove the threatening sword against Adam, and he shall give to the saints to eat from the tree of life, and the spirit of holiness shall be on them.

18: 27 And Beliar shall be bound by him, and he shall give power to His children to tread upon the evil spirits.

Many have noted the influence of Isaiah 22 on Matthew 16, but N suggests the possibility of Isa 22 also influencing T. Levi. The significant detail is the application of the Davidic language to the priestly figures.

Isaiah 22:22-24

22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

23 And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house.

24 And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.

There is a similar tristichal structure and similar wording between the Isaiah and Matthew passages. Eliakim and Peter are both installed in high authority, both are given keys, and both are established on a secure place (rock and fastened peg) to bear the weight of the kingdom/father’s house.

But Matthew also speaks of the kingdom of heaven which is not derived from Isaiah 22. The heavenly temple in the Testament of Levi (see the quoted extracts above) would correspond more closely to this idea.

Matthew may well have derived his Commissioning of Peter scene from elements in both Isaiah 22 and the Testament of Levi.

Loosing and Binding — extending the priestly character of the tradition

Some have interpreted Peter’s power to bind and loose as making Peter something like a chief rabbi who can decide how to apply halakoth in the church. But Nickelsburg finds the alternative view, that it refers to authority to exclude people from the church and to reinstate them, as having more support. This latter understanding is closer to

  • the imagery of Isaiah 22 than is the concept of authority to teach;
  • the closely related saying in John 20:22b-23 about authority to loosen or retain sins (another tristich);
  • Matthew 18:15-21 speaking of forgiveness and excommunication.

One of the suggestions N proposes for the origin of the image of loosing and binding is the appearance of “binding” in 1 Enoch 12-16 where the judge announces his sentence on the watchers:

1 Enoch 13:1-2, 14:5-6

And Enoch went and said: Azazel, thou shalt have no peace: a severe sentence has gone forth against thee to put thee in bonds . . . and in bonds of the earth the decree has gone forth to bind you for all the days of the world.

This sentencing to be bound is the outcome of their request for forgiveness:

Then I wrote out their petition, and the prayer in regard to their spirits and their deeds individually and in regard to their requests that they should have forgiveness . . . (See chapters 12-14 of Enoch Book 1)

Peter as replacement of the Jewish high priest?

Both the Book of Enoch and the Testament of Levi express condemnation of the sins of the Jerusalem priesthood.

Matthew’s Isaiah 22 source for his commissioning of Peter scene also suggests that the commissioning of a new office is intended to replace a pre-existing one.

Isaiah 22:15-25

15 Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts:

Go, proceed to this steward,

To Shebna, who is over the house, and say:

16 ‘ What have you here, and whom have you here,

That you have hewn a sepulcher here,

As he who hews himself a sepulcher on high,

Who carves a tomb for himself in a rock?

17 Indeed, the LORD will throw you away violently,

O mighty man,

And will surely seize you.

18 He will surely turn violently and toss you like a ball

Into a large country;

There you shall die, and there your glorious chariots

Shall be the shame of your master’s house.

19 So I will drive you out of your office,

And from your position he will pull you down.[a]

20 ‘ Then it shall be in that day,

That I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah;

21 I will clothe him with your robe

And strengthen him with your belt;

I will commit your responsibility into his hand.

He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem

And to the house of Judah.

22 The key of the house of David

I will lay on his shoulder;

So he shall open, and no one shall shut;

And he shall shut, and no one shall open.

23 I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place,

And he will become a glorious throne to his father’s house.

24 ‘They will hang on him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the posterity, all vessels of small quantity, from the cups to all the pitchers. 25 In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘the peg that is fastened in the secure place will be removed and be cut down and fall, and the burden that was on it will be cut off; for the LORD has spoken.’”

The passage announces God’s judgment upon and dismissal of Shebna and the transfer of his authority to Eliakim.

Similarly, Isaiah 28:1-22 portrays the scoffers of Ephraim making a covenant with death and being swept away, and being replaced:

Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,

A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation

This oracle is used also by the Qumran community to describe the new community as a new temple (Betz on 1QH 6:26-27). Compare also the imagery of Matthew 7:24-27 where the contrast is made between a house on a rock and one on sand. J. P. Meier, for one, argues that Matthew is repudiating the authority of the Jewish scribes and Pharisees in 15:1-20 and 16:1-12, and is announcing their replacement — in Peter — in 16:13-20.

Confession and Denial

In Matthew 16 Peter is commissioned after confessing that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

At Jesus’ trial the high priest condemns Jesus to death for his “blasphemous” claim to be “the Christ the Son of God.”

Nickelsburg finds three noteworthy points here:

  1. Peter is present in the courtyard of the high priest’s palace
  2. Peter’s disavowal of Jesus annuls his earlier confession — which was the same as Jesus’ at his trial
  3. Peter is thus guilty along with the high priest for his rejection of Jesus

Nickelsburg speaks of an early tradition in which Peter’s repudiation of Jesus was later reversed by a “post-resurrection christophany” — both denial and confession relating to the same issue, Jesus’ identity. And this repentance and confession stood in contrast to the ongoing rejection of Jesus by the priestly authorities.

Thus Peter’s repentance and confession led him to be the one to replace the high priest who failed to repent or acknowledge Jesus.

The later repentance of Peter was seen as a reversal of his earlier denial in John 21 which describes his threefold confession to match his earlier threefold denial. Luke 22:31-32 also contrasts his succumbing to Satan with his restoration to support (like a rock?) his brethren. Acts 4 juxtaposes Peter and the Jewish chief priests in a scene recalling his earlier denial, only this time it is Peter who is rebuking the rulers for their rejection of Jesus.

N sees the post-resurrection setting of Peter’s confession being moved to the earlier place in the narrative, at Caesarea Philippi and Mount Hermon, as the above tradition developed.

Steering away from Nickelsburg’s conclusions

What makes it difficult for me to accept the Matthew commissioning scene as part of “a development of a tradition” is that it such a “tradition”, if it existed, is repudiated by (or unknown to) Luke and John. Mark also distances the event from Matthew’s regional location by placing “on the road”.

When one argues for a later variant of a tradition, one generally argues for its later appearance on the grounds of certain anomalies or misfits in the context in which it is (later) placed.

The more coherent the details of a narrative’s variant, the more reasonable it is to think that it is the original.

If the gospel commissioning scene of Peter in Matthew 16 appears to fit the Enoch tradition so well, is it not reasonable to think this was its original home, and that it was not something that grew higgledy piggledy over time? We have the place of Hades, the subterranean pits and the base of the mountain that was place of ascent and descent to heaven, we have the rock imagery and the related literary motifs of recognition, epiphany and commissioning. And the Dan-Bethel axis was traditionally associated with opposition to the priests of Jerusalem.

Other Enochian associations with Peter?

Nickelsburg concludes with a few notes on other associations of Enoch with the name Peter. I am not so sure that the epistles of Peter as we have them in our NT are distinctively “Petrine” in relation to anything else among the epistles, but include them here for thought:

1 Peter 3:19-20 reflects the story of Enoch preaching to the disobedient spirits, and suggests a parallel between Jesus and Enoch.

2 Peter 2:4-5 refers to the Enochian narrative of the punishment of the Watchers, and quotes the Book of Enoch.

The Akhmîm manuscript preserves together the Gospel of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter and the text of 1 Enoch 1-32.

Further, Gospel of Peter 41-42 uses 1 Peter 3:19-20; and the Apocalypse of Peter is similar to 1 Enoch 17-21 in recording a vision of eternal punishment.

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12 Comments

  • 2010-10-02 04:04:07 UTC - 04:04 | Permalink

    JW:
    Another observation here is that part of the incomplete scholarship of mainstream Christian Bible scholarship (McGrath El-all) is that they are only looking at the relationship of oral tradition to writings one way. How oral tradition contributes to writings. The problem is that you also have to look at it the other way, to what extent does writing effect oral tradition. It’s likely here that Christian writings (not unique to Christianity) eat away at oral tradition, like the King’s Lineagoliars in the book, creating an authority which disputes/destroys anything that disagrees with it, like I don’t know, say actual history. So maybe there was an HJ but most/all actual history could have been destroyed. So what does it really mean to say HJ? Little, if all you can demonstrate is it started with a man.

    As far as “John” he is not just editing “Mark”, he is REACTING to it. See this post at FRDB:

    http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=263375

    “Mark” is the original narrative and follows Paul’s source of Revelation. Evidence and therefore historical witness is the enemy of Revelation/Faith. As Christianity faced the larger world it had to deal with the lack of historical witness and evidence. Faith alone didn’t fly. “John” flips “Mark” so that belief is based on evidence and not just faith. Hence the miracles create belief = the opposite of “Mark”. Another big problem for HJ to deal with. They want “John” as an independent witness to the Synoptics and will cherry-pick agreement but ignore the larger stauros that “John” discredits “Mark” as a witness as to major themes. So you have the comical situation that “John” discredits its primary source. Comedy is very good for literature but very bad for history.

    Joseph

    • 2010-10-02 04:33:23 UTC - 04:33 | Permalink

      A related point here was made by Kelber but it seems “mainstream” scholars find it tough sticking with genuine insights and keep opting to go with the easy flow. His point was that once someone puts whatever was once oral into writing, they are declaring an end to orality. They know orality modifies the story as it goes along, but writing ends the very essence of orality. Written text is in effect a declaration of war on orality. It is there to end orality. If that is the case, then all that scholarly argument that different authors were writing different oral reports falls apart. Given the nature of orality the scribes knew of many oral variants. They were pronouncing the rule of letter over the spirit. Clement of Alexandria, as late as he was, found himself at pains to justify to his readers why he was writing about the gospel instead of letting the spirit pass it through his tongue to them.

      Some Chinese celebrate a god’s birthday by letting the god possess one of them, and then having that person cut his tongue with a sword to draw heaps of blood, and then stamping that blood on paper to be posted around the sacred area — the blood represents the oral messages from the god. You can always rely on the diversity of human culture to come up with grey areas between orality and written messages.

  • 2010-10-01 23:48:42 UTC - 23:48 | Permalink

    JW:
    What is notable here regarding Peter is that his development in Christianity is based on WRITINGS and not “oral tradition” =

    1) PAUL = Peter is a comPetitor of Paul who followed Jesus before Paul.

    2) MARK = Peter was the primary follower of Jesus who did not succeed Jesus.

    3) MATTHEW = Peter was the primary follower of Jesus who did succeed Jesus.

    Note that each subsequent author starts with the Prior (so to speak) Peter and than adds a Christian Assertian. Each author is concerned with explaining HOW you get from Jesus to the author’s audience:

    1) Paul = Wait

    2) Mark = Through Disciples who did not understand Jesus

    3) Matthew = Through Disciples who did understand Jesus and their institution.

    Lot of support here for MJ and not much for HJ as for potential HJ witness you have to go back to Paul who is not interested in the life of HJ.

    Jospeh

    • 2010-10-02 02:51:34 UTC - 02:51 | Permalink

      I find more and more likenesses to the models proposed by the likes of Philip R. Davies re the origin of the OT literature. He sees literary/theological schools in dialogue with one another — competing, re-writing, arguing their points through various versions of the stories. It was a battle of the literati.

      Would not be surprised if this is why we find loose ends whatever theory we have for gospel trajectories. Mark may appear to be the first on so many grounds, but then someone can always come up with a good reason that in this or that periscope (sorry) he is writing after Matthew in an effort to rebut him. John seems SO out of touch with the synoptics, but boy he sure knows how to needle them when he needs to, though.

      • Michael W. N.
        2010-10-03 08:53:03 UTC - 08:53 | Permalink

        “Philip R. Davies … sees literary/theological schools in dialogue with one another — competing, re-writing, arguing their points through various versions of the stories. It was a battle of the literati.”

        I may be wrong in seeing a parallel with Thomas L. Thompson’s reflections on Matt 19:14, Luke 18:16, and Mark 10:14: “The assumption that Mark is the source for the versions of Matthew and Luke is unprovable. Similarly, that the saying in Mark is the most likely original can be shown to be without merit” (The Messiah Myth, p. 76). Robert M. Price attacks Thompson for suggesting that “the ocean of common motifs is much too wide and deep for us to spot a similarity between text A and text B and then to conclude that one got it from the other.” However, from the perspective of an outsider, I believe it is a legitimate concern that the synoptic problem may be ill-posed and hence unsolvable. Matthew and Mark may be too intertwined to be easily unravelled.

        • 2010-10-03 09:51:31 UTC - 09:51 | Permalink

          My first reading of TLT’s Messiah Myth evoked many indignant reactions and even moments of embarrassment: TLT was the outsider johnny-come-lately who had no idea what he was talking about when he suggested this or that about the relationship between the synoptics, priority etc. I had to pick up the book a second time to check if he had even been aware of certain NT scholarship on some of the questions, and was not sure if I should be surprised or even more offended that he did seem to have read and even referred to some of the basic literature.

          I compare my reaction to first reading Cohen’s Mind of the Bible Believer. I had only recently left behind my religion at the time of reading that, and my copy of the book is testimony to how indignant I was at so many of Cohen’s remarks: I had written many marginal notes objecting in strongest terms to many of his assertions about the psychology or mentality of certain beliefs about the Bible. But years later I look back and can see how naive my own comments were, and how I was still too close to what I was personally struggling with, to fully understand Cohen’s points. I now probably agree with just about everything Cohen wrote and look on my own remarks as naive self-denials of the facts.

          I have not yet come to the same acceptance of TLT’s Messiah Myth, but I have come some way to seeing his point and accepting more of his arguments as possible/plausible than I did at my first reading.

  • Michael W. N.
    2010-10-03 01:09:06 UTC - 01:09 | Permalink

    Thanks for a great post offering a fascinating glimpse at the true history of the words the Catholic Church (since the sixth century?) has been using to justify papal authority. (Being a non-practicing Catholic for years, I realize with surprise how passionately I feel about this subject, even if only for sentimental reasons.)

    Peabody, who believes in Markan posteriority, notes, “Mark omits Mt. 16:17-19. Perhaps Mark did not think that, given the later conduct of Peter, it was appropriate to attribute his confession to revelation. Mark also finds no use for Matthew’s characterization of the founding of the church using arguments intelligible only in Semitic culture” (One Gospel from Two, p. 194).

    Unfortunately, Peabody does not elaborate on why he feels the arguments are “intelligible only in Semitic culture.” Reading through your post, it appears to me that the imagery of Isaiah 22, as well as 1 Enoch and the Testament of Levi, provide the correct answers. What is fascinating, too, is your argument that Peter’s repentance “was seen as a reversal of his earlier denial in John 21.” One is tempted to ask if the author of John 21 was troubled by the same questions that Mark had to wrestle with when adapting Matthew 16. (Of course, I am not insinuating that you have rejected Markan priority.)

    You wrote, “The more coherent the details of a narrative’s variant, the more reasonable it is to think that it is the original.” This is exactly the feeling one gets when comparing, say, Matt. 19:17 to Mark 10:18. As shown by Lamar Cope, Matthew’s version is the original one. In fact, Mark did not even understand the meaning of the words attributed to Jesus (see Lamar Cope, “The Argument Revolves: The Pivotal Evidence for Markan Priority Is Reversing Itself,” in: W. R. Farmer, ed., New Synoptic Studies, 1983). David J. Neville’s thesis (2002) seems to imply that the only valid argument for Markan priority relates to “editorial fatigue.” Hence, anyone having a slight suspicion that Mark, at least in some respects, is secondary to Matthew will have to deal with Mark Goodacre’s examples of this phenomenon.

    • 2010-11-01 08:53:23 UTC - 08:53 | Permalink

      JW:
      The evidence favors Markan priority and Peter Kirby lays out the basic argument here:

      http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/mark-prior.html

      ” 1. The Argument from Sequence of Incidents
      2. The Argument from Grammar and Aramaicisms
      3. The Argument from Harder Readings
      4. The Argument from Redaction
      5. The Argument from Theology
      6. The Argument from Content”

      In addition, the legendary Vorkosigan and myself have added The Argument from Structure (chiasms & intercalations) and I have added The Argument from Theme (Discrediting of the Disciples – especially obvious with “Matthew” as “Matthew” follows “Mark” the closest and at the end simply changes “told no one” to told everyone). I’ve also added The Argument from Style (Greek Tragedy/Irony). The only significant argument against Markan priority would be the Patristic. Really, the only thing that even makes Matthean priority possible is the overall general uncertainty regarding all the Gospels.

      Joseph

      • 2010-11-01 09:58:23 UTC - 09:58 | Permalink

        Thanks Joseph.

        Markan priority reminds me of the Ptolemaic system. It works perfectly except for the tiny little minor adjustments that one needs to make to keep the big picture ticking along smoothly.

        But I don’t think the final answer will be black and white in favour or against any one of the other of the gospels being prior.

        I wonder if what we see among the gospels is ongoing dialog: Mark said something, Matthew re-wrote it, Mark was redacted to made a rebuttal to Matthew, and something else was directed against Gospel of Peter or whatever. If we work backwards from this, then who knows what ‘ur’ gospels started it all. At some point along the way in this little dialogic war we have the “ultimate weapon” with a grand epic-tragic-narrative created by Mark. But that only started a new arms race.

        In other words, I’m prepared to work with Ptolemy till one day when maybe a Copernicus will come along.

        • 2010-11-01 10:37:26 UTC - 10:37 | Permalink

          JW:
          I think orthodox Christianity is best defined as believing that historical witness properly promoted Jesus while Gnostic Christianity is defined as historical witness did not properly promote Jesus. Thus the TimeLion:

          1) Paul – Gnostic = historical witness did not properly promote Jesus

          2) Papias – orthodox = historical witness properly promoted Jesus

          —–“Mark” may have existed at the time but Papias did not accept it because it was not historical witness promoting Jesus.

          3) “Mark” – Gnostic = historical witness did not properly promote Jesus

          —–Before “Matthew”/”Luke” existed “Mark” was not accepted by orthodox. It was the editing/ending of “Matthew”/”Luke” that converted “Mark” from Revelation to historical witness.

          4) Marcion – Gnostic = historical witness did not properly promote Jesus. Marcion’s “Luke” was likely an editing of “Mark”, no big problem for the orthodox at the time since they did not have any Gospel. Marcion’s “Luke” was closer to “Mark” than “Luke” in that it had no Infancy narrative, little prophecy fulfillment from the Jewish Bible and not much of a post resurrection narrative. The only significant change for Marcion was disconnecting Jesus from the Jewish Bible. We would all agree that “Luke” is a gospel written for the Gentiles so this is consistent with Marcion exorcising the Jewish connection.

          5) “Matthew”/”Luke” = orthodox = historical witness properly promoted Jesus.

          —-Once “Matthew”/”Luke” are written “Mark” is kosher because the orthodox can claim it is largely consistent with them.

          6) Justin = orthodox = historical witness properly promoted Jesus.

          —–Justin can use all the Synoptics but can not mention Paul because he is still seen as Gnostic (Marcion’s) at this point.

          7) Tatian = orthodox = historical witness properly promoted Jesus.

          The great period of orthodox harmonization (Justin/Tatian/Acts) where just like the baptism scene in the Godfather, all Gnostic claims are simultaneously murdered and loose ends are tied up.

          8) Irenaeus = orthodox = historical witness properly promoted Jesus.

          Acts is written so now Paul has been converted to historical witness. Just like “Mark” could not be mentioned before “Matthew”/”Luke” were created, so too Paul could not be mentioned before Acts was created.

          So in an Irony that I think the author of “Mark” would have really appreciated, the original historical witness Paul/”Mark”, did not believe in historical witness. This subject matter is not something for McGrath el-all to figure out, it’s something for the author of Back to the Future to sort out. As always I wait for HJ to explain how all this is just like the evidence for _______.

          Joseph

          • 2010-11-01 11:02:13 UTC - 11:02 | Permalink

            One of my difficulties is with Marcion having something like an ur-Mark to work with. I used to think, as you said, that Mark’s gospel comes closest in some respects to Marion’s position on a few things, but when I studied the details (through Tyson, Hoffmann as the more recent authors on this) I found it harder to defend the idea and was persuaded there really was an “ur-Luke” Marcion used. Two huge arguments proLuke and contraMark are Marcion’s gospel having the central message of the two trees, and Jesus’ career beginning in the 15th year of Tiberius — both absent from Mark.

            Maybe Mark was really in Basilides’ camp as we have been told (by Irenaeus?) all along.

            And is our collection of Justin entirely what he himself wrote? Some niggling indications his paragraphs referencing “Memoirs of the Apostles” have signs of being inserted by a later hand; other indications that they were not quite what our gospels are today.

            And who knows what Papias wrote, really? We don’t have Papias but only a fourth century account from a known forger.

            Can you remove these doubts of mine?

      • 2010-11-01 21:26:47 UTC - 21:26 | Permalink

        Thanks, Joseph.

        Kirby’s list is a summary of arguments found in Bellinzoni, Jr (ed.), “The Two-Source Hypothesis,” published in 1985, which is quite a while ago. For a slightly updated summary, see Goodacre, “The Synoptic Problem: A Way through the Maze” (2001), pp. 56-83.

        The phenomenon you refer to as the “sequence of incidents” is discussed at length in David J. Neville’s doctoral thesis, “Mark’s Gospel–Prior or Posterior?” (2002). Neville examines the solidity of the arguments on either side of the debate, on which Neville himself remains impartial:

        “In the same way that advocates of Markan priority have ceased to appeal to the absence of agreement in order between Matthew and Luke against Mark as evidence for their source theory, advocates of Markan posteriority should discontinue appealing to the pattern of alternating agreement in order as evidence for their source theory. All formal arguments based on the phenomenon of order are inconclusive” (p. 335).

        “[At] the compositional level, both the Markan hypothesis and the two-gospel hypothesis are able to offer satisfactory explanations for the phenomenon of order” (p. 338).

        “My analysis of Mk 1:21-22, 3:7-12 and 6:1-13 indicates that at the compositional level, none of these pericopes is better explained by the Markan hypothesis than by the two-gospel hypothesis. Indeed, in the case of Mk 3:7-12, internal evidence favours Markan dependence on both Matthew and Luke. In addition, significant verbal correspondences between Mathhew’s and Luke’s parallels to Mk 6:1-13 militate against the alleged independence of Matthew and Luke” (p. 337).

        This is not the place to discuss the other arguments listed by Kirby. As far as the “harder readings” are concerned, suffice it to quote Goodacre: “[Most] scholars have concluded that Mark often has the more difficult reading… [This] evidence is suggestive rather than decisive, plausible if not provable” (pp. 66-67).

        Regarding Mark’s Aramaicisms, it is indeed correct that Mark supplements the texts of Matthew and Luke by inserting Aramaic-sounding words, of which he always provides translations. However, if Mark was a Jewish Christian, living in Galilee, what need would Mark’s probable community have for such translations? (See Pierson Parker, “The Posteriority of Mark,” in: Farmer, ed., New Synoptic Studies, 1983, pp. 67-142: “[Mark’s] Aramaic was so sketchy as to be almost nonexistent, though he liked to include Aramaic words that seemed to him of supernatural import. His Greek was Italianate.”)

        My view remains that what is now needed in this context is a neo-Griesbachian response to the specific phenomenon of “editorial fatigue” as presented by Goodacre (following Goulder). Regrettably, there is little evidence in the past half-decade that the Two-Gospel hypothesis continues to be discussed.

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