2014-04-06

Daniel’s end time prophecies in context: 1

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Richard Horsley in his 2007 publication, Scribes, Visionaries, and the Politics of Second Temple Judea, alerts us to ancient Mesopotamian prophetic texts that have remarkable similarities to our well-known Book of Daniel. I find it most interesting to read these other texts in order to appreciate better the context and nature of our canonical book that has played a key role in New Testament literature and subsequent apocalyptic and millenarian beliefs.

Recall Daniel 11, that detailed prophecy of the king of the north moving against the king of the south and the king of the south rising up and the manipulation of powers by flatteries etc etc etc, all a detailed “prophecy” of the political struggles between the Seleucid (Syrian) and Ptolemaic (Egyptian) empires over the region of Judea. . . . Interestingly there is a remarkably similar (generically and stylistically) type of prophecy from Hellenistic Babylon, an Akkadian text known as the Dynastic Prophecy. It’s survives in a fragmented state, but we can see its striking similarity to the kind of text we read in Daniel 11:2-45 nonetheless. I have copied this from the text found on Scribd, apparently derived from publications by Grayson and Longman.

[…] me. […] me. […] left. […] great. […]

seed. […] he sees.

[…] a later day. […] will be overthrown. […]

will be annihilated. […] Assyria. […] silver (?) and […] will attack and […] Babylon, will attack and […] will be overthrown. […] will life up and […] will come/go […] will seize […] he will destroy […] will shroud […] he (=Nabonidus) will bring ex[tensive booty] into Babylon. […] he (= the Achaemenids/Elam) will decorate the Esagil and the Ezida . […] he will build the palace of Babylon. […] Nippur to Babylon. He will exercise kingship [for x year]s.

. . . .

 

[…] he will go up. […] he will overthrow […]. [He will exercise kingship’ for three years. Borders and […]. For his people […]. After him his son will [sit] on the throne. […] not […].

A rebel prince will arise. [He will establish] the dynasty of Harran. [He will exercise kingship] for seventeen years. He will oppress the land and [he will cancel?] the festival of Esagil. [He will build] a fortress in Babylon. He will plot evil against Akkad.

A king of Elam will arise. The scepter […]. He will remove him from his throne […]. He will seize the throne and the king who arose from the throne […]. The king of Elam will change his place […]. He will cause him to dwell in another land […]. That king will oppress the land and […]. All the lands [will bring] tribute [to him]. During his reign Akkad [will not enjoy] a peaceful abode.

[…] kings […] of his father […]. [He will exercise kingship] for two years. A eunuch [will murder] that king. Any prince [will arise]. He will attack and [will seize the thron]e. He will [exercise kingship] for five years. […] army of the Hanaeans (=Greeks, cf Ionians) […] will attack […].

His army […] will plunder and ro[b him]. Afterward [his ar]my will regroup and raise their weapons. Enlil, Shamash, and [Marduk] will go at the side of his ar[my]. He will bring about the overthrow of the Hanaean army. He will [carry] off his extensive booty [and bring] it into his palace. The people who had ex[perienced] misfortune [will enjoy] well-being. The mood of the land […] tax exemption […].

. . . . .

There is also an article on this prophecy at Academia.edu — Royal Ideology and Utopian Futures in the Akkadian Ex Eventu Prophecies by Matthew Neujahr.

The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)

28 Comments

  • Tim Widowfield
    2014-04-08 02:47:38 GMT+0000 - 02:47 | Permalink

    Reading that article on academia.edu, I find it striking how much the descriptions of the bad, chaotic days leading up to the time when all is made right resemble actual stories of cities under siege, complete with destruction, desperation, starvation, disease, cannibalism, and so on.

    . . . mad dogs roam the city biting citizens, friend attacks friend, the rich beg from the poor, brother eats brother, and corpses block the city gate. (p. 4)

    I’m thinking of Josephus’ description of the siege of Jerusalem. Did the memories of that awful time have an effect on the writing of the gospels and John’s Revelation? How could they not?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-04-08 21:49:04 GMT+0000 - 21:49 | Permalink

      What is surely remarkable is the failure of so much scholarly study on the Gospel of Mark to really register the same impact that must have found its way into the Gospel of Mark — beyond a verse or two in chapter 13. This is where I think studies by Clarke W. Owens and Karel Hanhart with their perception of the Fall of Jerusalem pervading the Gospel throughout by means of “midrash haggadah” or allusions to Temple-destruction related motifs in Isaiah, Daniel and the rest very persuasive.

  • 2014-04-23 02:49:50 GMT+0000 - 02:49 | Permalink

    Daniel always seems to be the curious book. I’ve seen Christian interpretations of it…but a lot of those go so far out of what even the plain text of it talks about.

    There’s still some debate about when it’s supposed to have been written, isn’t there? Some opinion is that it was written closer to the 2nd-1st centuries B.C.E. and not necessarily by someone taken away in the Babylonian exile.

    What’s curious, though, is another prophesy in it had people of the 1st century C.E. expecting something messianic to happen (weeks prophesy in chapter 9 of Daniel). It seems the people of the time had calculated the weeks from the time of the Babylonian exile as years…so very small wonder there was a sudden surge in would-be messiahs.

    The fact Daniel is only in the Writings section of the Jewish scriptures, not the Prophets section, is a telling point. It was accepted into canon…but looks like only by the skin of its teeth.

    If it’s a pseudoepigraphical work…then it’s definitely sparked the problem of everyone trying to be a messiah in the first century. Not necessarily really prophetic…it might disqualify every single claimant of the time anyway. Even any possible historical Jesus, IF there was one?

    Do you think anything that came out of the Greek period or the Septuagint era really helped the Judaism of the time? Or did it just push things closer to a very long exile?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-04-23 08:13:13 GMT+0000 - 08:13 | Permalink

      I don’t know if there’s much doubt among critical scholars that Daniel was written in the second century at the time and soon after the Maccabean revolt. More conservative scholars who believe in divine prophecy might still place it earlier. What is debated, though, is whether there ever was a historical “Babylonian exile” as biblical history claims. Certainly some elites of the kingdom of Judea were taken captive but the idea that they preserved and refined their faith by the waters of Babylon pining to return in penance is certainly a myth. The whole point of deportations was to break and reshape the identity of the captives.

      Some of the other views you mention are widely expressed, especially among Christians with an interest in prophecy. But they are all based on the assumption that Daniel was as widely known among ancient Judeans as it is amongst Western Christians today. We don’t have any evidence that anyone outside the educated and literate elites even knew of its existence let alone its contents. (There was no canon as we know it until much later.)

      The Gospel of Matthew contains a story that indicates only such elites knew such a writing. The crowds were said to have had no comprehension of what the Magi were coming to see — it was the learned priests who had to be consulted for even Herod to learn about prophecies of a messiah. (I don’t believe any of this is historical; it shows, however, what the author understood to be a natural happening at that time.)

      The author of the first of the canonical gospels, Mark, however, certainly knew Daniel like the back of his hand. He alludes to it many times in his gospel.

      The author of writings that found their way into the Book of Enoch also knew of Daniel and interpreted its Son of Man quite differently from the way he is portrayed in Mark’s narrative. This Son of Man was and will remain a heavenly figure until the time of judgment. Daniel understood no such figure (his Son of Man was a metaphor for the saints ruling under God and therefore standing in contrast to the Beasts who represented gentile oppressors). Mark appears to have extended “Enoch’s” view of the Son of Man and turned him into a divine-human figure.

      So before Mark’s gospel it appears that at least one Jewish sect interpreted Daniel to be speaking of a judgment to come from a heavenly (at no time human) agent of God — Enoch’s Messiah was also that heavenly Son of Man figure.

      Conclusion: the little evidence we do have is that any Judeans who knew Daniel were not expecting an earthly messiah figure to appear to deliver them from Rome.

  • John
    2014-04-23 18:39:29 GMT+0000 - 18:39 | Permalink

    “Conclusion: the little evidence we do have is that any Judeans who knew Daniel were not expecting an earthly messiah figure to appear to deliver them from Rome.”

    Judging from the number of copies, Daniel and 1 Enoch were two of the more popular books at the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls sect (pre-70). While both books exhibit heavenly elements regarding the Son of Man which are reflected in the messianism in the DSS, there are also earthly characteristics to the DSS messiah.

    For example, in the Damascus Document, the expected Messiah is said numerous times to be “of Aaron and Israel.”

    Josephus says that the Jews were expecting an earthly ruler to deliver them from Rome based on their interpretations of scripture (which he says elsewhere included Daniel):

    War 6.5.4: “[W]hat did the most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how, about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth. The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves … Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea.”

    Ant. 10.10.4: “…let him be diligent in reading the book of Daniel, which he will find among the sacred writings.”

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-04-23 20:00:59 GMT+0000 - 20:00 | Permalink

      The Damascus Document, as you intimate, adds to the evidence for widely varying interpretations of the Messiah among various sects of the day. Josephus’s comment refers to a time later than that of Jesus and a time of warfare. As I’ve mentioned before, it is from this time on (and not before) that we begin to see the first evidence of the sorts of messianic hopes that later readers have retrojected into the gospels. Before this time most of the rebels referred to are outright bandits.

      Moreover, Josephus’s narrative of the prophecy opens up many questions that relate to his own career change after the war; some of these questions appear to be best resolved if Josephus’s eventual success owed something to his agreeing to become a propaganda voice for Vespasian. His story of the prophecy should be seen in that light, I think. Certainly most of the Jews who participated and died in that war were not literate and if later events are any guide, the prophecy that spread by word of mouth (if it did in the way Josephus indicates) most likely came from Numbers.

      (Daniel’s prophecy actually speaks of the death of an ‘anointed one’, not his conquering, in addition to depicting a Son of Man as a corporate symbol — whom others from “Enoch” on interpreted messianically.)

      • John
        2014-04-23 21:30:56 GMT+0000 - 21:30 | Permalink

        Josephus says this warfare mindset that caused the destruction of 70 CE started before the time of Jesus, and that:

        “[T]he nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree; one violent war came upon us after another … the sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemies’ fire” (Ant. 18.1.1).

        Rabbinical writings (e.g., ARN 4.5) say that Rabbi ben Zakkai also applied a messianic prophecy to Vespasian. So whether or not it came from Numbers and their motive was strictly self-preservation, Josephus was not the only one who did this.

        While it may be one among various intepretations that may have existed, the interpretation of the Messiah by the DSS sect (whch used Daniel and 1 Enoch) in the Damascus Document is that the Messiah would be “of Aaron and Israel,” and this was pre-70 CE.

        And if the prophecy Josephus referes to is the one from Numbers, it’s worth pointing out that the Damascus Document cites it twice.

        • 2014-04-23 22:12:29 GMT+0000 - 22:12 | Permalink

          Nowhere does Josephus hint that the fourth philosophy he speaks about in 18.1.1 had any messianic notions. The concept is simply not there.

          The DSS evidence tells us nothing about what the Jewish population as a whole believed at the time of Jesus. If anything, we should probably infer that the DSS beliefs were not those of the majority of people of Judea.

          The times of Vespasian are not the times of Tiberius.

          • John
            2014-04-24 00:09:20 GMT+0000 - 00:09 | Permalink

            The concept is mentioned in War 6.5.4 concerning the 66-70 CE war, which Josephus says was connected with all the wars that started with the fourth philosophy in Ant. 18.1.1.

            Whether or not they were all messianic, Josephus connects them all, even though he doesn’t mention the fourth philosophy in the Jewish War (which has the oracle reference) or the oracle in the Antiquities.

            But I suppose that, of them all, it’s possible that only the one of 66-70 CE was inspired by a messianic prophecy.

            Regarding the DSS sect and the Jewish population as a whole, the presence at Qumran of a large number of coins that were minted by the rebels in the war of 66-70 CE (at least up to 68) indicates that the sect was part of this culminating war that Josephus says began before Jesus and had “infected [the nation] … to an incredible degree.”

            As for rabbinical writings, what can I say, there all relatively late. But in any event, they do say that ben Zakkai, like Jospehus, applied a messianic prophecy to Vespasian.

            • 2014-04-24 01:53:05 GMT+0000 - 01:53 | Permalink

              I meant to say that idea of messianic hopes is indicated prior to the war itself. The “fourth philosophy” in its early decades has no association with messianism — only with taxes. Messianic hopes make sense at the time of the war. Josephus links messianic hope with the war. But of the time of Jesus the only indication of an expectation of a messiah is the preaching of John the Baptist in the gospels. And Josephus — if he did write the JtB passage — suggests he knows nothing of John announcing a messiah.

              • John
                2014-04-24 03:36:34 GMT+0000 - 03:36 | Permalink

                Messiah or no Messiah, Josephus doesn’t separate the 66-70 CE war from the revolt of the fourth philosophy that began before Jesus, because he cites the destruction of 70 as being its fitting end.

                Let’s suppose that the fourth philosophy only became messianic in 66. Does this scenario make sense for the messianic DSS sect, which also existed during this time and was destroyed by the war? No, because they used older messianic writings like 1 Enoch.

                If the messianism of the DSS sect did not suddenly spring up in 66, why assume that the messianism that inspired the 66-70 war did, when Josephus says that this war was the culmination and fitting end of the fourth philosophy?

                Was it only about taxes in the beginning? Josephus also says that “the customs of our fathers were altered, and such a change was made, as added a mighty weight toward bringing all to destruction.”

                Do you think the customs (plural) that they altered were only about the issue of taxation?

              • Neil Godfrey
                2014-04-24 07:35:01 GMT+0000 - 07:35 | Permalink

                There is simply no evidence that I know of that messianic expectations or hopes were an integral part of popular Jewish religious ideas in the early to mid first century (and earlier).

                The historical record tells us that this only became a normative part of Judaism — a general expectation that one day a messiah would come to restore the Jews — in very late antiquity, and almost certainly as a reaction to Christian persecution.

                The idea that the Jews generally are living in exile really originated as a Christian myth in the second century. Justin was the first to express it. From around the fourth century I think it was the Judaism itself took on the hope of collective deliverance and restoration through the intervention of a messiah. Before then it had appeared in Bar Kochba and probably the way of 66-70 ce.

  • John
    2014-04-24 19:23:25 GMT+0000 - 19:23 | Permalink

    “From around the fourth century I think it was the Judaism itself took on the hope of collective deliverance and restoration through the intervention of a messiah. Before then it had appeared in Bar Kochba and probably the way of 66-70 ce.”

    This is an issue you’ve discussed before in your reviews of Horsley’s Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs, the most relevant for my comment being:

    http://vridar.org/2011/07/31/popular-messianic-and-bandit-movements-up-to-the-time-of-jesus-and-beyond-part-2/

    In a comment there you said something similar to what I excerpted above:

    “But the bottom line in my view is that there is no evidence of Jews referring to a contemporary king as a messiah until the time of Bar Kochba.”

    I’ve been looking into this idea more closely, and so far I don’t see any sources earlier than rabbibical writings that actually use the word “messiah” to describe Bar Kochba.

    Justin Martyr calls him “the leader of the revolt of the Jews” (First Apology 31).

    Eusebius calls him “the leader of the Jews” who claimed to have “possessed wonderful powers; and he pretended that he was a star that had come down to them out of heaven to bring them light in the midst of their misfortunes” (EH 4.6.2), and “the Duke of the Jewish sect” (Chronicle).

    Coins minted during the revolt only refer to him as “Prince [Nasi] of Israel,” and his own letters do not call him Messiah.

    As far as I can tell, the earliest references to him as a “messiah” are in relatively late rabbinical writings. And you (like most people) have no issue seeing him as one.

    You also appear to have no issue with seeing the oracle in War 6.5.4 as a reference to the messiah, even though it doesn’t actually use the word messaih and says “governor [or ruler] of the habitable earth.” So technically one could say that not even the 66-70 war was messianic, if it’s all about the word messiah.

    This is simply the kind of language that Josephus and others use to describe people we can infer from the context as being wannabe messiahs, like those mentioned in your post that’s linked above. Leaders, kings, crowns, purple robes, royal power, supreme power (etc.). Just like Bar Kochba. This is how I’m seeing it, anyway.

    But if the word messiah has to be there, the Dead Sea Scrolls are pre-70, and the sect existed in a time of and used coins that were minted during a popular revolt, and they are saturated with the expectation of a Messiah.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-04-25 04:00:04 GMT+0000 - 04:00 | Permalink

      It’s not so much the appearance of the word for messiah as the concept that’s important. The evidence for the Bar Kochba revolt is very thin but the rabbinical source, if I recall, says that a contemporary rabbi declared Bar Kochba as the messiah, and the name itself, meaning Star from Numbers, is part of the messianic complex of scriptural passages. It’s not much, but this is more than we have for any other would-be king in the period well before the War of 66-70. I don’t see any reason to assume anyone who claims to be a king to be at the same time claiming to be a messiah of prophecy. As for Vespasian, yes, that’s a reference to a messianic prophecy. No problem. The war and all that. Quite different times. Of course there were sects and scribes who had some notion of a messiah in scriptures and some had specific beliefs about such a figure. But they don’t represent Judeans more broadly.

      • John
        2014-04-26 19:26:11 GMT+0000 - 19:26 | Permalink

        “Of course there were sects and scribes who had some notion of a messiah in scriptures and some had specific beliefs about such a figure. But they don’t represent Judeans more broadly.”

        I want to address your last comment first. What exactly is giving you the impression that the Dead Sea Scrolls do not represent Judeans more broadly?

        The Fourth Philosophy is called a sect (War 2.8.1, Ant. 18.1.1), yet “the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree.” That this revolutionary doctrine affected other sects is obvious given this statement, that one of its founders was a Pharisee (Ant. 18.1.1), one of its military leaders was an Essene (War 2.20.4), and simply from the increasing size and ultimate outcome of these revolts, the destruction and enslavement of the nation.

        That the DSS sect was also engaged with these revolutionary doctrines and events is obvious from the large amounts of coins from the 66-70 CE war found at Qumran (up to 68 CE), the anti-tax stance (1QpHab col. 6) and expectation of a Messiah in the Scrolls (cf. War 6.5.4).

        Also, Josephus says that the last straw that started the 66-70 war was that the messianic and Fourth Philosphy-inspired rebels had halted sacrifices on behalf of Gentiles by persuading:

        “those that officiated in the Divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans; for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account; and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon” (War 2.17.2).

        This issue is discussed in the Dead Sea Scrolls:

        “[C]oncerning the offering of grain by the Gentiles … it is impure … one is not to eat any Gentile grain, nor is it permissible to bring it to the Temple … Concerning sacrifices by Gentiles, we say that in reality they sacrifice to the idol that seduces them; therefore it is illicit” (MMT)

        (On a side note, one should contrast this with Paul’s stance on the issue of “things sacrificed to idols”).

        So the time frame of the existence of these sects and the similarity of their doctrines is enough to at least say that the DSS are the writings of a Fourth Philosophy-type sect.

        And since the messianism in the DSS did not suddenly spring up in 66 CE (which is obvious enough from the sect’s use of older messianic writings), how likely is it that the messianism of the Fourth Philosophy did, especially in light of the numerous freedom fighting would-be kings and divinely inspired religious leaders that Josephus says existed between the death of Herod and the destruction of the Temple?

        That’s the thing, These would-be kings and religious leaders weren’t just fighting to gain personal power, but to gain the nation’s freedom from the Romans. And this is the issue that started our discussion, your statement that:

        “[T]he little evidence we do have is that any Judeans who knew Daniel were not expecting an earthly messiah figure to appear to deliver them from Rome.”

        Certainly the messianic rebels of 66-70 knew Daniel and expected an earthly messiah figure, since Josephus says that Daniel belonged to the sacred writings and that the 66-70 war was inspired by a messianic prophecy. But presuming you might have meant pre-66 CE Judeans, then the DSS sect also knew Daniel and expected an earthly messiah figure pre-66.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2014-04-27 00:08:25 GMT+0000 - 00:08 | Permalink

          The main reason I don’t see the Qumran community’s views as representative of those of Judeans generally is the fact that the Qumran community appears to have been a sect that separated itself from the mainstream.

          I don’t know what evidence we have that the various bandits and would-be king in the early part of the century had any expectation of overthrowing the Romans. The descriptions strike me as portrayals of regional gangs carving out their own areas of influence.

          There is no precedent that I know of of any national aspiration for a would-be messiah to come and deliver the Jews at any time until the war of 66-70. It was not there in the Maccabean rebellion. It was not there — at least that I know of — in any earlier captivity. Isaiah says the anointed one to deliver the Jews is Cyrus.

          Why would it suddenly emerge in the early first century? Josephus’s account is not clear about this, and that is suspicious given the history of his apparent betrayals of his friends in order to survive and his eventual acceptance in the Vespasian court in connection with a prophecy that has all the appearance of being a propaganda innovation that somehow helped him survive personally.

          • John
            2014-04-27 21:42:27 GMT+0000 - 21:42 | Permalink

            I think messianism suddenly emerged in the first century because it would not have been necessary before Herod, with Roman support, ended the Maccabean state.

            While Herod was strong enough to clamp down on post-Maccabean sedition, his successors were not, and this is when the Romans took over and the Fourth Philosophy began.

            Some of these post-Herodian “Fourth Philosphers” were would-be kings and others were divinely inspired religious leaders.

            While Josephus names a few of them (such as Athronges, Simon of Perea, Theudas and the Egyptian), as Mason says:

            “Notice Josephus’ repeated assertion that there were *numerous* imposters, false prophets, and wizards around in the period before the revolt [of 66-70 CE]. These unnamed popular leaders typically led the masses out into the desert, promising them miraculous signs of imminent salvation … In both of his major works, he presents the Egyptian as but one example of the many anonymous troublemakers at the time” (Josephus and the New Testament pg. 209).

            As you said in a previous comment, even the evidence for Bar Kochba, as big as his revolt was, is thin. And if the appearance of the word messiah is not an issue, but rather the concept of the messiah, then Josephus tells us more about this concept with respect to all these Fourth Philosphy-inspired types than rabbinical writings do about Bar Kochba.

            The only thing said of the “concept” of the Messiah in rabbinical writings about Bar Kochba is that it entails being a king, since all that Rabbi Akiba says about him (in the Midrash and Talmud) is, “This is the king Messiah!”

            Also, his student says that Akiba had taught that the Numbers prophecy referred to Bar Kochba’s name, and disbelieving rabbis refer to the Messiah as “the Son of David.”

            http://www.livius.org/ja-jn/jewish_wars/bk01.html

            The concept of the Messiah as a king is also in rabbinical writings concerning Rabbi ben Zakkai proclamation to Vespasian:

            “Lo, thou art about to be appointed king … this has been handed down to us, that the Temple will not be surrendered to a commoner, but to a king; as it is said … ‘Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one'” (ARN 4.5);

            “When he reached the Romans he said, ‘Peace to you, O king’ … He [Vespasian] said, ‘Your life is forfeit on two counts, one because I am not a king and you call me king, and again, if I am a king, why did you not come to me before now?’ He replied, As for your saying that you are not a king, in truth you are a king, since if you were not a king Jerusalem would not be delivered into your hands, as it is written, ‘And Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one’ [and] mighty one is applied only to a king'” (Gittin 56a-b).

            So the concept of the Messiah being derived from scripture and applied to both Vespasian and Bar Kochba was that the Messiah was a king, and, at least in the former’s case, that Jerusalem would fall into his hands. And this is the same kind of language and imagery that Josephus uses in the first century to describe the numerous religious leaders and Fourth Philosophy-types that existed before the 66-70 war.

            These concepts are also present in Mark:

            “Are you the king of the Jews?” (15:2).

            “Do you want me to release the king of the Jews?” (15:9).

            “What shall I do, then, with the one you are calling the king of the Jews?” (15:12).

            “Hail, the king of the Jews!” (15:18).

            “Why do the teachers of the Law say that the Messiah is the son of David?” (12:35).

            And there is more about the concept of the Messiah (and the actual word) in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but because of time contraints I will have to address this later.

            So if the word messiah is not an issue, then what has changed about the *concept* of the Messiah between the death of Herod and the time of Bar Kochba?

            • Neil Godfrey
              2014-04-27 21:57:59 GMT+0000 - 21:57 | Permalink

              There is simply no evidence for popular expectations of a messianic deliverer until outright Jewish wars against Rome much later than Jesus. I can’t say any more than what I have said already, sorry.

              • 2014-04-28 08:42:28 GMT+0000 - 08:42 | Permalink

                Well, there’s still a heap of candidates for messiah in available information from the 1st century, as Josephus attests. There seems to have been either would-be messiahs, a few prophets of some type or another…heck, Jerusalem Syndrome in a somewhat different form.

                However, Josephus gives us a few clues as to why. Daniel and the “weeks” prophesy had people counting to that point of time. They interpretted the weeks as years. Years from the Babylonian exile/time of call to rebuild the temple after Babylon.

                Then there’s the “Star Prophesy” of Balaam in Numbers 24. Also commented on by Josephus as having a huge factor, but misinterpretted so as to think it was supposed to be a Jewish messiah…still having a huge part to do with things by the Bar Kochba revolt.

                So we have a prophesy that’s still uncertain AS a prophetic book (not in the prophets section of the Jewish scriptures) and a prophesy by a non-Israelite prophet of dubious character. But it together and you have messianic expectation…and a lot, if not ALL, failed messiahs.

                EVEN any “historical” Jesus.

                In fact…it WOULD disqualify even a historical Jesus for the same reason as all the others.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2014-04-28 08:56:01 GMT+0000 - 08:56 | Permalink

                These are all inferences retrojected to the time of Jesus. They all have their origins in the orthodox view of Christian origins and the nature of the Judaism the new religion supposedly grew from. Josephus is also interpreted through this paradigm.

                I don’t consider them evidence. I’ve attempted to address many of the different points in earlier comments.

  • 2014-04-28 11:47:05 GMT+0000 - 11:47 | Permalink

    I agree there’s a lot of stuff retrofitted to the 1st century, especially when it comes to the proto-Catholic side of things…but Josephus WAS 1st century. And still the best source for anything really going on then.

    He still says there were heaps of would-be messiahs.

    Or would-be prophets…and he still pointed out the general thinking of that time had a lot to do with the way people were interpretting Daniel and especially mentions the Star Prophesy.

    Problem was…both those things really had a flaw in them.

    Nobody would be a real messiah that century as a result. And I mean nobody…not even a non-existent historical Jesus.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-04-28 12:40:26 GMT+0000 - 12:40 | Permalink

      Josephus WAS 1st century. And still the best source for anything really going on then.

      He was not from the supposed time of Jesus. “Best source” is not necessarily a valid source. It always needs testing against our other data.

      He still says there were heaps of would-be messiahs.

      No. He doesn’t. This is an inference many people draw from what he does say.

      Or would-be prophets…

      He does speak of prophets, yes.

      and he still pointed out the general thinking of that time had a lot to do with the way people were interpretting Daniel

      Again, he doesn’t say this. This is another inference drawn from what he does say. An inference is not evidence. It might be right but it might be wrong. We need more data.

      Nobody would be a real messiah that century as a result. And I mean nobody…not even a non-existent historical Jesus.

      Correct — at least with respect to the time of Jesus. (It’s not a flaw as you suggest, though.) I presume by messiah you mean another human recognized as such by his contemporaries.

  • John
    2014-04-28 16:16:30 GMT+0000 - 16:16 | Permalink

    “The main reason I don’t see the Qumran community’s views as representative of those of Judeans generally is the fact that the Qumran community appears to have been a sect that separated itself from the mainstream.”

    Regarding the issue of whether or not the writings of the Dead Sea Scrolls sect are representative of Judeans generally, I’ve already pointed out the main similarities between the Scrolls and the Fourth Philosophy that Josephus said had began after the death of Herod and infected the entire nation “to an incredible degree” and caused one war after another and led to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE:

    1. The Scrolls are anti-tax, and this is the main (but not the only) reason Josephus says that the Fourth Philosophy began in the early first century.

    2. The Scrolls are anti-sacrifices on behalf of Gentiles, and Josephus says this was the last straw that started the 66-70 war.

    3. The Scrolls expect a human Messiah, based on scripture, to free them from foreign occupation, and Josephus says this was the main inspiration for the 66-70 war.

    4. Additionally, numerous coins from the 66-70 war found at Qumran indicate that the sect was engaged with this event.

    In light of this, the question that ought to be asked is, were the views of the *Pharisees* representative of first century Judeans generally? Considering that they were generally pro-Herodian, pro-tax, and anti-messianic, I would say no.

    Cohen points out how, even after 70 CE, when the rabbis tried to fill the power vacuum left in the wake of the destruction, they “were opposed by various segments among the wealthy and priesthood, and by the bulk of the masses in both Palestine and the diaspora. The local aristocracies, especially in the cities, were not going to subject themselves voluntarily to the hegemony of a new power group; the priests still thought of themselves as the leaders of the people; and the masses were indifferent to many apsects of rabbinic piety” (From the Maccabees to the Mishnah pg. 221).

    Now, on the issue of the DSS sect separating itself from the “mainstream,” consider that a similar mode of existence was practiced by Judas Maccabee, who, in a similar time of war against foreign occupation, had fled “away to the wilderness, and kept himself and his companions alive in the mountains as wild animals do; they continued to live on what grew wild, so that they might not share in the defilement” (2 Mac. 5:27).

    This kind of separation was due to the issue of maintaining ritual cleanness, and did not mean that the Maccabees were not engaged with the events and issues of their time. Who would argue that the Maccabees were not engaged with the mainstream?

    Likewise, writings such as MMT, the Priestly Courses and the Temple Scroll show that the DSS sect was similarly involved with the institutions of their day. Consider also that the sect actively sought converts, even possibly from among the Gentiles, as the Community Rule and the Damascus Document indicate.

    Consider also the example of Cephas in Galatians 2:11-13, when, after the arrival of people sent to Antioch by James, “he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.”

    This is the same kind of separation promoted in the DSS Community Rule concerning eating and conducting any business with a lawbreaker:

    “[N]o man shall mix with him with regard to his work or property lest he be burdened with the guilt of his sin. He shall indeed keep away from him in all things, as it is written, ‘Keep away from all that is false’ [Exod. 23:7]. No member of the Community shall follow them in matters of doctrine and justice, or eat or drink anything of theirs … as it is written, Keep away from the man in whose nostrils is breath, for wherein is he counted?’ [Isa. 2:22]'” (column 5).

    Yet despite this practice of separation endorsed by “the circumcision group”, Cephas (and presumably those sent from James) was actively missionizing in Antioch. This is another example of how those who practiced a lifestyle of separation, like the DSS sect and the Maccabees, managed to be engaged with society.

    So despite having a similar lifestyle of separation, and considering all the evidence that they were engaged with pre-70 issues and events, I certainly see the Dead Sea Scrolls sect and their expectation of a Messiah as being at least more representative of first century Judeans generally than the Pharisees (or any other sect for that matter).

  • John
    2014-04-28 17:05:46 GMT+0000 - 17:05 | Permalink

    George wrote: “Or would-be prophets…”

    To which Neil replied: “He does speak of prophets, yes.”

    We’ve already established that, when it comes to Josephus (or Bar Kochba), its not about the word “messiah” but rather its concept. And I’ve shown how the concept of the Messiah consisted of the idea that he was a king (or “governor”), a son of David, based on scripture, who would free the Jews from foreign occupation. As far as I can tell, this concept is consistent from Josephus to the writings concerning the time of Bar Kochba.

    I’ve pointed Josephus uses similar language to describe some of the numerous Fourth Philosophy-inspired types. Some of them are called bandits, but this is only a pejorative he uses to show his Roman captors that he was against the revolt. I would not imagine that “bandit” was a term they would have used to identify themselves anymore than Bar Kochba, who, for reasons of his own, is similarly called a “bandit,” “murderer,” and “leader of the Jews” by Eusebius and not “Messiah” (EH 4.6.2).

    Also, that Josephus does not explain the concept of the Messiah being a son of David makes sense because he believed that Vespasian was the Messiah.

    As for the “pseudo-prophets,” they weren’t simply providing people with divinely inspired messages. They were, like “the Messiah,” trying to change the goverment, which is why they were killed by the Romans:

    “These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretense of Divine inspiration, but were for procuring innovations and changes of the government; and these prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them into the wilderness, as pretending that God would there show them the signals of liberty. But Felix thought this procedure was to be the beginning of a revolt; so he sent some horsemen and footmen both armed, who destroyed a great number of them” (War 2.13.4).

    That the concept of “the prophet” and “the Messiah” go together is clearly indicated by the Dead Sea Scrolls, where, of the four or five messianic proof texts cited in 1Q175, the first two of them are Dt. 18:18-19 concerning the True Prophet who would be like Moses, and the second one is the messianic Star Prophecy of Numbers 27:15-17.

    Another one is taken from the book of Joshua, which reminds me of the Joshua-inspired Theudas who “persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the river Jordan; for he told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it; and many were deluded by his words” (Ant. 20.5.1); and the Egytian, who said he would “show them from hence how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down” (Ant. 20.8.6).

    Additionally, in the Clementine writings, Jewish Christians also saw Jesus as a Messiah and the True Prophet like Moses (e.g., Rec. 1.40). So these two concepts were not mutually exclusive.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-04-29 09:55:57 GMT+0000 - 09:55 | Permalink

      Sorry, John, but I don’t think there’s anything more I can say. I understand your reasoning, your arguments, but I myself can do nothing more than accept they are arguments and not evidence in and of themselves. They are conclusions, inferences, but not the evidence itself.

      Did a messiah have only one clear concept among the various schools and sects? I’m not so sure. Did a messiah really have to be a king? of the line of David? I don’t know if that’s true. At least not for all messianic concepts. And I don’t know if the common everyday person in the supposed time of Jesus or thereabouts ever heard or cared about the notion of ‘messiah’ in the sense that means so much to interpreters today. They may have, but I have not seen any clear evidence that they did.

      The only passages in our canonical texts where the word ‘messiah’ appears are:

      Leviticus 4:3, 5, 16; 6:15

      1 Samuel 2:10, 35; 12:3, 5; 16:6; 24:7, 11; 26:9, 11, 16, 23

      2 Samuel 1:14, 16; 19:22; 22:51; 23:1

      Isaiah 45:1

      Habbakuk 3:13

      Psalms 2:2; 18:51; 20:7; 28:8; 84:10; 89:39, 52; 105:15; 132:10, 17

      Lamentations 4:20

      Daniel 9:25, 26

      1 Chronicles 16:22

      2 Chronicles 6:42

      Further discussion you have probably read: http://vridar.org/2012/06/17/christ-among-the-messiahs-part-2/

  • John
    2014-04-29 17:12:20 GMT+0000 - 17:12 | Permalink

    “Did a messiah have only one clear concept among the various schools and sects?”

    I suppose my answer to this would depend on exactly what schools and sects you are referring to.

    The word messiah has different meanings in the OT, but after the time of the OT, in Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Mark, Revelation (1:5, 5:5 11:15, 22:16), 4 Ezra (12:32) and the rabbinical writings about Bar Kochba, “the Messiah” (as a concept) is consistently portrayed as being a king (or ruler) or a descendent of David.

    In addition to this, the DSS (I should have said 4Q175 above, not 1Q175) and Jewish Christian writings, but also (yes, by inference based on the context) possibly Josephus, combine this concept with the idea of being a prophet.

    Now allow me to speculate for a moment.

    I can imagine that, if the Egyptian (or Theudas, or any of the numerous unnamed others Josephus says attempted to overthrow the Romans) had been successful (or if his followers had believed that his death was “for our sins according to the scriptures” or that “he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures” and had made converts of Gentiles who were not destroyed in the 66-70 war), that their writings about him would have been more charitable and explicitly messianic in character than what Josephus says about him.

    But even what Josephus *does* say about him (and the numerous others) gives us a better idea of the *concept* of the Messiah than what rabbinical writings say about Bar Kochba.

    “And I don’t know if the common everyday person in the supposed time of Jesus or thereabouts ever heard or cared about the notion of ‘messiah’ in the sense that means so much to interpreters today. They may have, but I have not seen any clear evidence that they did.”

    I don’t know what the “common everyday person” may have thought about “the Messiah” either, because all we have to go by are writings, and these writings (at least the ones I’ve mentioned) are giving me the impression that their authors thought of the Messiah as being a king (or ruler) and a descendent of David (and possibly also a prophet).

    I took another look at your link, but I’m still not sure exactly what writings by exactly what other schools or sects are giving you a significantly different impression of the concept of the Messiah (in or around the first century CE, let’s say).

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-04-29 19:33:45 GMT+0000 - 19:33 | Permalink

      I took another look at your link, but I’m still not sure exactly what writings by exactly what other schools or sects are giving you a significantly different impression of the concept of the Messiah (in or around the first century CE, let’s say).

      The post ( http://vridar.org/2012/06/17/christ-among-the-messiahs-part-2/ ) does not address other specific schools or sects but points out the scholarly conclusions that prior to the War the concept of “messiah” was not as clear as it is to us today.

      • John
        2014-04-30 19:02:33 GMT+0000 - 19:02 | Permalink

        The concept of the Messiah is clear in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in that, while having heavenly elements:

        * “[T]he heavens and the earth shall obey his Messiah” (4Q521);

        He is a human being:

        * “[T]he coming of the Messiah *of Aaron and Israel* who will pardon their iniquity” (CD);

        A descendent of David:

        * “[T]he prince of the congregation, the branch of David” (4Q285); “the branch of David that will arise in the final days” (4Q161); “until the Messiah of Righteousness comes, the branch of David” (4Q252);

        Who would free the Jews from foreign occupation:

        * “[W]ith the breath of his lips he will execute his enemies and God will support him” (4Q161); “the Prince of the whole congregation, and when he comes he shall smite all the children of Seth” (CD).

        This is all prior to the war of 66-70 CE. It did not suddenly spring up in 66 CE, or else we would have to suppose that all of their messianic writings were written in the two years between 66 CE and the fall of Qumran in 68 CE, which seems unlikely.

        The thing that I’m not understanding most about your position is what is giving you the idea that the Scrolls are “not representative of Judeans generally.”

        I’ve shown how the DSS sect was engaged with the issues and events of the entire first century, from their anti-tax position shared by the Fourth Philosophy in the early part to their anti-Gentile sacrifices position that set off the 66-70 CE war.

        So the DSS are at least representative of the doctrine of the Fourth Philosophy that Josephus says had infected the nation during the first century “to an incredible degree” (Ant. 18.1.1).

        And I’ve shown how the separation that the DSS sect practiced did not prevent them from engaging with society or the events of their time any more than it did for the Maccabees or Jewish Christians.

        The Scrolls are also more concerned with the “common everyday person” than any other sect whose writings we have. I could give plenty of examples of this, but I don’t have time to right now. It ought to be obvious enough, though, from the self-designating terms they use, such as “the poor,” “the meek,” “the downtrodden” and “the simple of Judah.”

        Contrast this with the attitude that the post-70 rabbis had for “the common everyday person”:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Am_ha'aretz

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.