surveyed the evidence Hengel finds for how the authors of the books of Zechariah and Ben Sirach/Sira interpreted the Suffering Servant we read about in Isaiah 53;
noted related developments in the period of the Maccabean martyrs (around 165/164 BCE) when the book of Daniel appears to have been written.
Though we sometimes read dogmatic assertions by scholars who don’t keep themselves up to date across their field of research to the effect that no pre-Christian era Jew could ever have thought that the Messiah was destined to suffer and be killed, Martin Hengel has no qualms arguing on the basis of early Jewish writings that pre-Christian Jews really do appear to have done just that. And why not? How better to make sense of a persecuted and often martyred community? We must keep in mind that there was no fixed idea of any other kind of Messiah (“anointed one”, “Christ”) in this period.
Yet we must remember that in the second century B.C.E., we do not yet possess any fixed Jewish doctrine of the Messiah – there basically never was one – but must rather deal with various ideas of anointing and the Anointed One. In Qumran, not only the Davidic Messiah but also the eschatological high priest and the prophets are considered “anointed ones.”
— Hengel, Martin, ‘The Effective History of lsaiah 53 in the Pre-Christian Period’, in The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Sources(ed. Bernd Janowski and Peter Stuhlmacher; Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2004), p103. (Bailey is responsible for translating Hengel’s essay into English and updating it in consultation with the author.)
Hengel warns us not to expect an author to introduce the new ideas or interpretations emerging in the Maccabean period with an unambiguous supporting citation to an earlier text.
Because the ideas introduced are new, they are at first only cautiously hinted at. Isaiah 53, as a unique text in the Old Testament, may have helped this development along, though at first the collective understanding [i.e. that the Suffering Servant represented Israel] stood in the foreground, and only certain aspects of the whole text exerted an influence. It also needs to be remembered, as already said, that the pre-Christian Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha contain almost no literal scriptural citations. We can therefore conduct only a very cautious search for traces. (p. 96)
So the argument is suggestive rather than conclusive. We might further consider the interpretative power of the argument: Does it explain the emergence of earliest Christian interpretations more directly than a radical revision of Jewish thought being sparked by a belief in a crucified leader’s resurrection from the dead?
Sometimes I discover the most curious things en route to learning something else. I can’t even remember why now, but for some reason, I recently stumbled upon the definition of pericope (peh-RIH-kuh-pee) at the Oxford Biblical Studies Online site.
If you’ve read my posts on the Memory Mavens, you’re no doubt aware that I sometimes refer to a common practice in current NT studies wherein scholars tend to associate concepts, ideas, and even words they don’t like with form criticism. By such association, they dismiss anything they find offensive. “Don’t touch that,” they imply. “It has form-critical cooties.”
A term used in Latin by Jerome for sections of scripture and taken over by form critics to designate a unit, or paragraph, of material, especially in the gospels, such as a single parable, or a single story of a miracle. (emphasis mine)
The previous post showed the apparent influence of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 upon the books of Zechariah and Ben Sirach/Sira. This post pauses to look at some background before resuming with the way the Book of Daniel adapted Isaiah’s Suffering Servant idea in the light of contemporary events — around 165/164 BCE.
A chapter by Martin Hengel is the basis for the posts.
It appears that at the end of this post I anticipated writing one more to conclude the series. I must complete that as soon.
A number of critics who are more interested in attacking religion, especially Islam, than in making the effort to understand what scholarly research has uncovered about why individuals become terrorists have often missed a critical reason for radicalization. This reason seems too simple and some have scoffed at the idea as if it is some left-wing loony nonsense — such as anthropologist Scott Atran’s claim that street soccer networks can enable us to predict who is at risk of extremism. It is a fact, however, that some of us over time do get mixed up in things neither we nor any of our acquaintances would ever have suspected. And it’s not because we convert to some fanatical religious idea.
McCauley and Moskalenko introduce us to Sophia (Sonia) Perovskaya, a Russian girl born into nobility and who was attracted to idealistic student movements seeking to improve the lot of the peasantry. Her ideals forbade her from crossing the line of violence.
Like many others who ventured “into the people,” Sonia did not have much success in mobilizing the peasants. Instead, it appears from her letters at the time that she became more and more involved in the mission of making peasants’ lives better, having seen the horrible conditions in which they lived.
Failure to politicize the peasants led a fellow revolutionary, Andrei Zhelyabov (we met him in the first post of this series), to persuade a few that violence was the only answer. The peasants were too besotted with the Czar; kill the Czar and they would be forced to engage in actions for a better society. Sophia’s response was absolute refusal:
“revolutionaries must not consider themselves above the laws of humanity. Our exceptional position should not cloud our heads. First and foremost we are humans.”
That explanation tells us that the Jewish idea of a Messiah or Christ was that he was to be a conquering Davidic King who would overthrow Israel’s enemies and usher in a utopian reign with the Jews as the top nation.
Yet if that were the reason Jesus was not accepted as the Messiah then some interesting questions surface.
Ehrman has pointed to one of these questions without realizing it. He has pointed out that the term “messiah” is nowhere mentioned in connection with the Suffering Servant in the Book of Isaiah as if that should be a decisive point. But nor do we find the word for “messiah” in any of the standard biblical passages that are said to speak of the conquering Davidic messiah. Notice (the list it taken from Matthew Novenson’s study of the term “Christ”):
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the commander’s staff from between his feet, until that which is his comes; and the obedience of the peoples is his.
A star will go forth from Jacob; and a scepter will rise from Israel; it will shatter the borders of Moab and tear down all the sons of Sheth.
2 Samuel 7:12-13
I will raise up your seed after you, who will come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
A shoot will come forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch will grow from his roots. The spirit of YHWH will rest upon him.
One small detail but a most valuable asset is an appendix by a Brown University doctoral student, Megan K. McBride, providing one of the most readable and informative outlines of the history and nature of Islam and where the various movements that culminated in ISIS fit in to that overview. My first reaction to reading it was to want to contact the author and seek permission to post it in Vridar.
A principal difference from the Weiss and Hassan study is that Stern and Berger explore in much greater depth the way ISIS is really such a modern phenomenon with the strategic ways it has exploited modern communication technologies, especially social media. I first heard the expression “barbarism empowered by modern technology” as a graduate student to refer to the Nazi machine of World War 2. ISIS is reverting to the most primitive forms of barbarism but empowering that barbaric message through modern communications technology. Beheadings have been historically employed as a “mercifully” swift means of execution; not for ISIS where some deliberately seek out blunt knives to do the job. The object is to strike fear, of course, as well as demonstrate to idealistic potential recruits just how serious they are. Bizarrely bloodthirsty messages are somehow mixed with video shots of an ideal visionary society, a caliphate where children are happy (even if playing with decapitated heads on corpse-lined streets) and the true ways of Allah ensure a purified “utopia”. Gone are the defeatist messages of the old terrorists like Al Qaeda with their expectations of being overwhelmed by godless forces and hopes for a future paradise. The heavenly kingdom is here now; the jihadists are strong and terrifying in their strength. That is their message and that is what makes them different from other terrorist groups. Continue reading “Another Study of ISIS”
I always dreamed of coming to Bali and getting locked in as a result of a volcanic eruption that would not allow my flight to return to Australia. But catching a cold while stuck here was definitely not part of that plan. Since the pace has slowed, however, I have time to post a few more scenes:
One does expect a little better from someone who makes a living out of biblical studies and even charges audiences for his scholarly wisdom.
There was not a Jew on the planet who thought the messiah was going to be crushed by his enemies — humiliated, tortured, and executed. That was the *opposite* of what the messiah would do. To call Jesus the messiah made no sense — i.e., it was nonsense – virtually by definition.
In his crusading zeal to slash and burn mythicism James McGrath is demonstrating once more his unfortunate lack of awareness of the actual content mythicist arguments and has done his readers a more general disservice by misrepresenting the nature of mainstream arguments on how various interpolations have worked their way into manuscript traditions.
Somehow the only argument for interpolation that I am aware of is not addressed from what I have seen of the discussion. The evidence for interpolation is not rock solidly indisputable but it is suggestive: See James Brother of the Lord: Another Case for Interpolation. There is evidence, as noted in this post, that the passage “brother of the Lord” was not original but a later copyists insertion.
And the evidence is of the sort that is used by mainstream scholars to argue for other cases of possible interpolation.
And the argument in this case is actually noted by someone arguing against mythicism.
And most mythicist arguments of which I am aware simply note that there is no mention of Jesus in the phrase and that the expression was has other known referents.
(Readers wondering why I have not made these points on McGrath’s blog should be aware that McGrath will not tolerate any comments from me on his blog.)
Our good professor and Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University James McGrath continues to distort consistent rational argument beyond all recognition with his frenzied attacks on both biblical inerrantists (somehow McG manages not only to accuse them of “attacking the Bible“, “self-righteousness” and, yes, “defending sin“, but finds his own words are even worth framing!). He has clearly never done a course or read a book on how to win wayward minds over to more reasonable and enlightened thinking. And right on top of those mental flailings comes Jerry Coyne, the scientist who once scoffed at McG’s pleading efforts to have theological authority given equal billing with the authority of the scientific academy, to see right through the empty pomposity of the claims that the evidence for the historical existence of Jesus is as strong as for any ancient figure of history.
Hoo boy. So a reasonably intelligent person can see the dubiousness of the arguments that the theologians need to be true to justify their existence (at least for many of them) and our good professor is as helpless and incoherent as when faced with fellow believers who see only naked flesh when due reverence would have them admire only the finest theological silk and embroidery.
Matthew portrays Peter as a false disciple of Jesus, a disciple who went so far as to apostatize; that Matthew does so to warn Christians against the loss of salvation through falsity-exposing apostasy; that this warning fits the Matthean theme of apostasy-inducing persecution; and that the danger of apostasy fits the further Matthean theme of the ongoing presence of false disciples in the church . . . till the end.
That’s quite a daring proposal for most of us who have long viewed the Gospel of Matthew as the one gospel that does more than any other to exalt the role of Peter in the foundational history of the Church. Some of us have wondered if the Gospel of Mark was meant to be having a dig at the disciples for their faithlessness, and some have seen the Gospel of John as subtly suggesting that Peter’s spiritual qualities were somewhat inferior to those of “the Beloved Disciple”. But the Gospel of Matthew (henceforth “Matthew”) is famous for Jesus pronouncing that he was giving Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and “upon this rock I will build my church”.
So any suggestion that Matthew viewed Peter as an apostate is going to have some explaining to do.