2020-12-11

Jesus Christ Created as an Epitome of Old Testament Figures (1) — Charbonnel and Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier

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by Neil Godfrey

We now continue our exploration of Nanine Charbonnel’s case for Jesus Christ being a literary-theological creation using the techniques of a “midrashic” re-reading and interpretation of Jewish Scriptures. The full series is archived at https://vridar.org/tag/charbonnel-jesus-christ-sublime-figure-de-papier/

Double Personification

The gospel figure of Jesus Christ was created as a “double personification”:

  • he was created as a personification of a people — both the Jewish people and ultimately as a “new people of God”. Nanine Charbonnel [NC] calls this “horizontal personification”. This is why we so readily see in the Jesus character aspects of the ideal King, the Prophet, the Priest, the Suffering Servant, the Son of Man, the Messiah, who as a new Adam creates in himself one new people

at the same time,

  • he was created as a personification of the fundamentals of the Jewish religion and its spiritual and heavenly and eternal focus — he is the embodiment of God and God’s presence with his people. As such, he embodies the Temple, the Tabernacle, the Glory and Presence, Glory (Shekinah) of God, the Word of God, the Law, the Name of God through which he saves.

The authors of the gospels were familiar with the Jewish literary technique of creating individual characters to represent collective ethnic groups. Recall, for example, the creation of the Jacob-Esau story which begins with the explanation that the two boys represent “two nations” (Gen 25:23). Recent posts have set out NC’s illustration of this technique with lesser characters. By creating the gospel Jesus figure they were seeking to create a new person who represented both a new people of God and the God who came to dwell with them. NC details the way Jesus was drawn to embody the divine persons and entities. She calls this “vertical personification”. This post and those immediately succeeding it look at how the authors have created a “horizontal” personification of a “new man”.

The New Adam

Before the gospels were penned Christians thought of Jesus as a “new Adam”. Thus Paul in 1 Cor 15:45-49

The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. . . .

See also Rom 5:17-18.

This second Adam is created in the same way the first Adam was — as a symbol or representative of mankind. Adam is a literary figure, a single character, but one with whom all of humanity are meant to identify. NC quoted from Paul Ricoeur‘s discussion of the Adam myth:

In Adam we are one and all; the mythical figure of the first man provides a focal point at the beginning of history for man’s unity-in-multiplicity. (244)

Jewish elites have addressed the idea of Adam in Genesis. NC mentions Philo as an example. Philo determined that the Adam created in God’s image was the perfect, heavenly Adam; while the Adam of dust was the corruptible Adam who needed laws to control him from his base tendencies. We will see that the heavenly Adam is also the son of God.

It is “Yahweh who saves” (the Hebrew meaning of the name Jesus) who was imagined as the “new Adam”, the embodiment of (redeemed) humanity.

Another instance not mentioned by NC, but one addressed by many scholars commenting on the Gospel of Mark, is the apparent depiction of Jesus as the New Adam cum Messianic figure in the wilderness where he is “with the wild animals”.

and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:13)

The gospel begins with an echo of the beginning of Genesis (“the beginning of the gospel”) and after the parting of heavens (as per the parting of the waters “at the creation of the cosmos”– Allison, New Moses 200, Thompson, Mythic Past 18 ff, Spong, Liberating the Gospels, 33 ff) and leads to Jesus being tempted by Satan, with the animals and angels, as was Adam in Genesis and Jewish writings of the Second Temple era elaborating on the Adam story. Where Adam failed in his temptation, Jesus succeeded; where Adam once had but then lost his companionship and peace with wild animals Jesus restored harmony with them; where the angels refused to serve Adam they did serve Jesus. Jewish apocrypha also said angels fed Adam for a time. Other scholars prefer to interpret the passage as a proleptic fulfilment of harmony with animals by Isaiah’s messiah; some accept both interpretations together. I will post about this interpretation of Mark 1:13 with reference to Richard Bauckham, Ulrich Mell, Joel Marcus, C.S. Mann, Francis Maloney, John Donahue and Daniel Harrington in a future post.)

We saw in a previous post that the place of Christ’s crucifixion was also associated with the place of Adam’s burial. This likelihood is suggestive of Jesus being understood as the new life-giving Adam.

The New Moses

Since the twelve disciples are symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel, Jesus is the new Moses. The famous transfiguration scene clearly indicates that Jesus is the embodiment of the law represented by Moses and the prophets represented by Elijah. Moses was made radiant as was Jesus; both were covered with the cloud of God’s glory; both were ordained by God to be the shepherds and teachers of the twelve tribes/disciples; both perform miraculous signs; and so forth and so forth. NC copies forty points that some Catholic exegetes have seen that demonstrate Jesus as the new Moses:

NC admits that not all of the 40 points listed there are unquestionable. One that springs to notice for me is the point that Jesus left a higher royal court to join his lowly people — as Moses left Pharaoh’s court to join his people — is taken from Philippians 2:5-7; yet this detail is not found in the context of a Moses comparison. There are, nonetheless, reputable scholarly works that make the case for the Gospel of Matthew in particular deliberately building up Jesus on the Moses template. One of the more notable works is The New Moses: A Matthean Typology by Dale C. Allison Jr. I looked at one of Allison’s discussions in the post Additional Sauces for the Feedings of 5000 and 4000. NC does not mention Allison’s book so this is my addition to her discussion and what I think is a more trenchantly argued replacement than the 40 point list. Allison states in his concluding chapter,S

The Moses typology, especially strong in the infancy narrative and the [Sermon on the Mount], definitely shapes all of Matthew 1-7. It is also definitely present in the great thanksgiving of 11:25-30, in the narrative of the transfiguration (17:1-9), and in the concluding verses, 28:16-20.1 am further inclined, but with less faith, to find the typology in the feeding stories (14:13-22; 15:29-39), the entry into Jerusalem (21:1-17), and the last supper (26:17-25). But proposals concerning the missionary discourse, the requests for a sign (12:38; 16:1), the woes of chapter 23, the eschatological discourse, and the crucifixion (27:45-53) are to be rejected or entertained as nothing more than possibilities.

An interesting observation emerges from the foregoing conclusions: the passages in which Moses’ tacit presence is the strongest display an order which mirrors the Pentateuch:

Matthew The Pentateuch
1-2 Exod. 1:1-2:10 infancy narrative
3:13-17 Exod. 14:10-31 crossing of water
4:1-11 Exod. 16:1-17:7 wilderness temptation
5-7 Exod. 19:1-23:33 mountain of lawgiving
11:25-30 Exod. 33:1-23 reciprocal knowledge of God
17:1-9 Exod. 34:29-35 transfiguration
28:16-20 Deut. 31:7-9
Josh. 1:1-9
commissioning of successor

(Allison, 268)

The Gospel of Matthew is not the only one where Jesus is portrayed as a new Moses. Compare this snippet from another post about a year ago, OT Sources for the Gospel of Mark, chapters 2 and 3

Mark 3:7-10

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many . . . .

Exodus 12:37-38; 15:22-26
The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and childrenMany other people went up with them, and also large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. . . . Then Moses led Israel . . . He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”
Mark 3:13-19

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Exodus 19:1-2, 17

On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt . . . and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain. . . .

Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

Exodus 24:1, 4, 8-10

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. . . .

He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. . . .

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel.

Many more Moses imitations are cited throughout Isaiah’s New Exodus by Rikki E. Watts. One of many examples in which Watts is outlining the work of another scholar,

Although at first sight Mark appears to make little use of the OT, M. D. Hooker recognises that this is largely because of his distinctive approach. Not only is the opening quotation significant, ‘his story is good news precisely because it is the fulfilment of Scripture‘, but ‘Jesus’ words and activities constantly echo OT scenes and language, until what is “written” of the Son of Man (9:12; 10:21) is finally fulfilled’ (p. 220). . . . 

In the conflict over the Pharisees’ and scribes’ traditions, Mark 7:1-23 shows that while Jesus upholds the Law (vv. 1-13; cf. Nu 30:2; Dt 23:21-23) his authority is even greater than that of the Law (vv. 14-23). The same is borne out in examinations of 12:18ff and 28-34 (p. 224), and several Pentateuchal allusions (2:1-10; 2:23 – 3:6; cf. 1:44). Three other allusions recalling incidents in Moses’ life serve likewise to demonstrate that Jesus is either Moses’ successor (6:34, cf. Nu 27:17) or his superior (9:2-13; cf. Ex 24:15f; Dt 18:15), while 9:38-40 (cf. Nu 11:26-29) shows Jesus acting as did Moses.

(Watts, 24 f)

Scholarly Resistance to Comparisons

Again, I am adding my own thoughts on NC’s thesis here, or on the problem of it being accepted among mainstream biblical scholars.

Dale Allison acknowledges that certain scholars are reluctant to acknowledge such associations and offers reasons for their hesitancy (with my own bolded highlighting and formatting).

Dale Allison Jr

Readers of Matthew have often found the vision of Moses’ distinct shadow clouded by two obscuring prejudices,

  • the first being the conviction that typology tends to negate historicity321—this is the ghost of Strauss—
  • the second being the desire, not unfounded, to give Jesus’ newness its due recognition.322

Moses’ shadow might also be obscured by those who wave the magic wand of current opinion: according to one writer, recent scholarship has, more and more, tended away from interpreting Matthew’s Jesus as a new Moses.323 But I am unsure how one measures such things, unsure that the judgement is correct, and unsure in any case that it matters. I do acknolwedge that in more than one recent work the new Moses theme has in fact, for whatever reason, suffered interment.324 But the burial is premature; and I trust that, however the reader may overcome the obstacles cited, it has become evident that Matthew embroidered brighter and thicker Mosaic threads into the fabric of his history than many have allowed.

Our evangelist plainly believed that “the law of Moses… foreshadowed the mystery of Christ… by types and shadows, painting it, so to speak, as in a picture” (Cyril of Alexandria,Hom. Luc. 54). 

321 Cf. Lagrange, Matthieu, 82-83. — If is beyond my present purview to address this problem; but I can observe that the presence of a typology does not, despite widespread presumption to the contrary, settle, without further ado, the historical question. Typology did often contribute to fictional narratives (as in 4 Ezra). But it also sometimes interpreted historical facts. Notwithstanding Eusebius’ Moses typology, Constantine did win a dramatic victory at the Milvian bridge; and Gregory of Nyssa’s eulogy of his brother Basil, full of synkrisis, is an eye-witness account.

322 Traditional christological dogma, with its investment in Christ’s uniqueness and divinity, has I think disinclined many from favoring a Christology whose principle feature is Jesus’ likeness to another human being.Luther, for one, had problems with it. Thus, in his lecture on Deuteronomy 18 (translated in Luther’s Works, vol. 9: Lectures on Deuteronomy, ed. J. Pelikan and D. Poellot [St. Louis: Concordia, 1960], 174-90), Luther sought to turn the “like me” of Deut. 18:15,18 into “unlike me:” “It is his purpose to show that in the future there will be another priesthood, another kingdom, another worship of God, and another word, by which all of Moses will be set aside. Here Moses clearly describes his own end, and he yields his mastery to the Prophet who is to come” (p. 176). “He is not speaking here of similarity between Moses and that Prophet in Tegard to personal worth but of similarity in authority or office” (p. 177). “They are alike in divine authority, but with respect to the fruit of their ministry they are unlike and completely opposed to each other” (p. 179).

323 David M. Hay, “Moses through New Testament Spectacles,” Int. 44 (1990):243.

[324=27 p.18] The present book is about a typology whose very existence can be doubted. According to T. Saito, Die Mosevorstellungen im Neuen Testament (Europäische Hochschulschriften Series 23, Theology, vol. 100; Bern: Peter Lang, 1977), the First Gospel contains a Moses typology only in 1:18-2:23—but that section derives largely from “Palestinian Jewish Christianity,” and the interest in Moses must be reckoned pre- Matthean; see pp. 51-72. Furthermore, the new Moses motif evaporates entirely in A. Sand’s commentary. Das Evangelium nach Matthäus (Regensburger Neues Testament; Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1986). See also Sand’s Das Gesetz und Propheten, Untersuchungen zur Theologie des Evangeliums nach Matthäus (Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1974), 101-103. Cf. Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1-7 (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1989), 186, n. 18 (citing Saito): “Elsewhere also, the Gospel of Matthew does not emphasize, I think, any personal correspondence between Jesus and Moses.”

(Allison, 267 )

We posted on another scholar making the same point in Scholarly Protection of the Uniqueness of Christianity . . . 

John S. Kloppenborg

[C]omparison in the historiography of early Christianity has had a peculiar history: comparisons were often employed either to establish the difference and, indeed, the incommensurability of Christian forms with anything in their environmentor, as Jonathan Z. Smith has observed, comparison was used to create “safe” comparanda such as the construct of “Judaism,” which then served to insulate emerging Christianity from “Hellenistic influence.” . . . .

. . . . comparison in the study of early Christianity has often been used to assert its sui generis and incommensurable character. That is, comparison is invoked to rule out comparison or to limit it so that comparison becomes inconsequential.

(Kloppenborg, p. 393)

New Elijah and Elisha

Elijah was expected to appear immediately prior to the Messiah, but that belief implied that the Messiah must surpass Elijah, to be a greater Elijah. NC notes the “greater than Elijah” depiction of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark:

  • Jesus calls his disciples as Elijah does (the call of Elisha by Elijah 1 Kings 19, 19: he gives up his oxen outright);
  • Jesus receives (Mk 12) the mite of the poor widow as Elijah received the gift of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17);
  • Jesus healed the leper as Elijah had asked Naaman the Syrian to wash his leprosy in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:14).
  • And above all, like Elijah and Elisha, Jesus knows how to resuscitate the lost children of the community: Elijah heals the child of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17), Jesus revives (Mk 5) the daughter of Jairus, head of the Synagogue.
  • Likewise, he disappears while ascending to heaven in an “ascension” (2 Kings 2:11).

Long time readers of this blog will recall discussions of Thomas Brodie’s analysis of the Gospel of Mark and his demonstration that its core is based on the Elijah-Elisha cycle in 1 and 2 Kings.

A later work by Adam Winn explored the same theme from the perspective of Greco-Roman imitation. One detail to make the point:

Predictions of Elijah’s Departure Predictions of Jesus’ Passion
1st Prediction: (2 Kgs 2:3–4)

In Bethel (3)

a. Prediction of final departure (3)

b. Statement indicating a disciple’s understanding of the prediction (3)

c. Example of a faithful disciple (4)

1st Prediction: (Mark 8:31–38)

In Caesarea Philippi (27)

a. Prediction of death (31)

b. Statement indicating disciples’ failure to understand the prediction (32)

c. Teaching on discipleship (34–38)

2nd Prediction: (2 Kgs 2:5–6)

In Jericho (5)

a. Prediction of final departure (5)

b. Statement indicating a disciple’s understanding of the prediction (5)

c. Example of a faithful disciple (6)

2nd Prediction: (Mark 9:30–10:31)

In Galilee (30–37)

a. Prediction of death (9:31)

b. Statement indicating disciples’ failure to understand the prediction (9:32)

c. Teaching on discipleship (9:33–37)

3rd Prediction: (2 Kgs 2:9–11)

Crossing the Jordan to place of ascension (9)

a. Prediction of final departure (9)

b. A disciple’s request for power (9)

c. The request is identified as difficult (10)

d. The request can only be fulfilled by God (10)

3rd Prediction: (Mark 10:32–40)

On the way to Jerusalem—the place of crucifixion (32)

a. Prediction of final departure (33–34)

b. Disciples’ request for power (35–37)

c. The request is identified as difficult (38–39)

d. The request can only be fulfilled by God (39–40)

NC ironically quotes a Protestant pastor’s discussion of how Jesus becomes the new Elisha. I say ironically because, as we saw above, many scholars fear the to acknowledge the literary evidence, yet it is the character of our sources — understanding the type of literature they are — that must be the first step of any historian who wishes to make the most judicious use of them. The quotation is from Elisée, le prophète des signes and I copy a Google translation. Of course, NC and most of us discount the view that the OT was written as a prediction of Jesus. Rather, the OT was reinterpreted by the evangelists.

To fully understand the ministry of Elisha, one must realize that Elisha fundamentally proclaimed Jesus Christ. His actions and actions breathe the Gospel. The multiplication of the loaves is the most obvious Christological story (2 Kings 4, 42-44). Elisha asks his assistant to feed a large crowd with some loaves of bread. “Impossible,” the latter replied, whereupon Elisha replied that not only would everyone be satisfied, but there would be a surplus of food. That there are a hundred men instead of five thousand, twenty loaves instead of five loaves and two fish is secondary (Mt 24, 25-21). Elisha precedes Jesus. Christ does more, of course, for he is the master and Elisha the servant. Thus, Jesus with less bread feeds more of men. With bread, he not only feeds five men, but a thousand families (Mt 14,21).

This superiority of the Son of God over the prophet is found in other accounts. Elisha resuscitates the only son of a woman in Sunem (2 Kings 4, 8-37), while Jesus resuscitates several people, including the only son of a woman in Nain (Le 7, 11-17). Some believe that the two localities are one. Dwarf being the short form of Sunem (The New Bible Dictionary, p. 861). In the case of Elisha, the prophet had to stretch out twice to be able to restore life, while Jesus just touched the coffin so that the child would be healed. The miracle of Elisha is exceptional (there are only two resurrections in the Old Testament), but that of Jesus is even more exceptional. Regarding the resurrection of the dead, let us also note that the body of Elisha in his tomb gives new life to a man (“A man was cast into the sepulcher of Elisha. The man went and touched the bones of Elisha, and he came to life again and rose to his feet ”, 2 Kings 13, 20-21), but when Jesus died“ the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had died were raised ”(Mt 27, 50-53). Jesus also gives life to all those who place their trust in him by his death.

In the chapter on healings, let us also point out that if Elisha healed a leper (this is the only account of a leper being healed in the Old Testament), Jesus healed many, and even ten in a single encounter (The 17, 12). On this occasion, Jesus also sends the lepers away from him (not towards the Jordan as for Naaman, but towards the priests: 17th, 14th) and it is on the way that they are healed. The only one who returns to Jesus to thank him is a Samaritan, that is, a stranger like Naaman. The geographical region is the same: Elisha stays in Samaria and “Jesus passed between Samaria and Galilee” (Le 17:11). More generally, Elisha announces the mercy of Christ. The free healing of Naaman, general-in-chief of the enemy armies or the liberation of the Syrian soldiers captured by Elisha foreshadows the opening of grace to men of all nations.

In the realm of miracles on nature, the ax-iron floating on the water announces, in a way, the walk of Jesus on the water. Both men are able to overcome the law of gravity, but Jesus can do it longer (he walked five to six kilometers on water: Jn 6:19), and repeats the operation a second time, allowing it is up to Peter to come and join him out of the boat (Mt 14,28-29). The ax blade remains in close contact with the water (it floats: 2 Kings 6, 6), while Jesus is standing on the water.

As common points between the two men let us point out three more. They concern the immense knowledge of the two men, the divine protection and the prophets who preceded them.

(1) The immense knowledge. Elisha seems to know everything with one exception: he confesses that he does not know the need of the Shunammite (“Her soul is in bitterness, and the Lord has hidden it from me and has not made it known to me”, 2 Kings 4,27). Jesus, likewise, knows everything with one exception: he admits to ignoring the day of his advent (“As to the day and the hour, no one knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, but the Father alone ”, Mt 24:36).

(2) Divine protection. Jesus, like Elisha, passes through hostile crowds who want to stop him {Le 4, 28-30 and Jn 7, 30; 2 Kings 6, 18-20). Jesus, like Elisha, speaks of a heavenly host ready to stand up for him. On one side, more than twelve legions of angels (Mt 26, 53), on the other, a mountain full of horses and chariots of fire (2 Kings 6, 16-17).

(3) The precursors. The bond between Elijah (precursor of Elisha) and John the Baptist (precursor of Jesus) is close: “it is he (John the Baptist) who is the Elijah who was to come”, {Mt 11:14). Each precursor is followed by a more powerful successor (2 Kings 2, 9-10; Jn 3, 27-31), and the transfer of powers takes place at the Jordan. 

Again, while these sorts of confessional interpretations are easy to find on the web, given the bias of scholars as we saw in the words of Allison and Kloppenborg, it is better to turn to the scholarly analyses of the same material such as we find in Brodie, Winn, Watts, Goulder and others.

NC’s intention, however, is to overwhelm the reader with the sheer number of detailed connections between Jesus and OT persons. It is by confronting readers with the vast array of connections that she seeks to “unsettle readers” and oblige them to face the fact of how Jesus has been created from literature into a new literary figure epitomizing the godly heroes and the collective people of Israel.

Many sceptical scholars will dismiss these comparisons by saying that they are merely authorial exaggerations that have accrued to oral traditions or memories of historical events. To which one might reply by referring them back to Dale Allison’s observations that we read above.

Here are a few more selected from Adam Winn’s work for no reason other than the fact that they are set out in simple and easy to grasp tables instead of lengthy paragraphs:

“1 Kings 19:19–21 / Elijah Calls Disciple Mark 1:16–20 / Jesus Calls Disciple
Elijah finds Elisha (19) Jesus finds the disciples (16, 19)
Elijah is found working (plowing) (19) Disciples are found working (fishing) (16, 19)
Elijah initiates call (symbolic call) (19) Jesus initiates call (verbal call) (17, 20)
Elisha leaves his livelihood (20) Disciples leave their livelihood (18, 20)
Elisha’s Response to Family (20–21) Disciples’ Response to Family (20)
Wording used to describe Elisha’s response:
ἀκολουθήσω ὀπίσω σου “I will follow after you”
ἐπορεύθη ὀπίσω Ηλιου “he went after Elijah”
Wording used to describe disciples response:
ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῷ “They followed him”
ἀπῆλθον ὀπίσω αὐτοῦ “they went after him”

Expanded….

1 Kings 19:4–21  / Elijah: Wilderness – Proclaims Kingdom – Calls disciple Mark 1:12–20  / Jesus: Wilderness – Proclaims Kingdom – Calls disciples
I. Elijah in the Wilderness (4–14) I. Jesus in the Wilderness (12–13)
A. Forty Days and Nights in Wilderness (8) A. Forty Days in Wilderness (13)
B. Attended to by Angels (5, 7) B. Attended to by Angels (13)
C. Presence of Ravens (1 Kg 17:4–5) C. Presence of Wild Animals (13)
D. Tempted to Abandon Divine Calling (10, 14) D. Tempted by Satan (13)
II. God’s Proclamation of Jehu as Israel’s King Who will Restore God’s Kingdom (15–18) II. Jesus’ Proclamation that the Kingdom of God is Near (14–15)
III. Elijah’s Calling of Elisha (19–21) III. Jesus’ Calling of Disciples (16–20)
A. Elijah finds Elisha (19) A. Jesus finds the disciples (16, 19)
B. Elijah is found working (plowing) (19) B. Disciples are found working (fishing) (16, 19)
C. Elijah initiates call (symbolic call) (19) C. Jesus initiates call (verbal call) (17, 20)
D. Elisha leaves his livelihood (20) D. Disciples leave their livelihood (18, 20)
E. Elisha’s Response to Family (20–21) E. Disciples’ Response to Family (20)

The Multiplication of Loaves

Elisha (2 Kgs 4:42-44) Jesus (6:30–44) Jesus (8:1–10)
Hunger—famine in land (38) Hunger—day w/out food (31) Hunger—three days w/out food (1-2)
Small amount of food—twenty barley loaves + fig cakes (42) Small amount of food—five loaves of bread + two fish (38) Small amount of food—Seven loaves of bread + a few fish (5, 7)
Command to pass out food “Give to the men, so that they may eat” (42) Command to provided food
“Give them something to eat” (37)
Command to pass out food implied (2–3)
Servant responds with doubt/hesitation (43) Disciples respond with doubt/hesitation (37) Disciples respond with doubt/hesitation (4)
Command is repeated (43) Command to the disciples to sit the people down (39) Command to the crowd to sit down (6)
Food distributed by a servant (44) Food distributed by disciples (41) Food distributed by disciples (6)
A large number of people eat (100) (44) A Large number of people eat (5,000) (42) A Large number of people eat (4,000) (8)
Extra food remains (44) Extra food remains (12 baskets full) (43) Extra food remains (7 baskets full) (8)

We are only beginning . . . .


Allison, Dale C. The New Moses: A Matthean Typology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993.

Arnold, Daniel. “Elisée, le prophète des signes.” Promesses (blog). Accessed December 9, 2020. https://www.promesses.org/elisee-le-prophete-des-signes/.

Brodie, Thomas L. The Crucial Bridge: The Elijah-Elisha Narrative as an Interpretive Synthesis of Genesis-Kings and a Literary Model. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2000.

Charbonnel, Nanine. Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier. Paris: Berg International éditeurs, 2017.

Goulder, M. D. Luke: A New Paradigm. 2 vols. JSOT Press, 1989.

Kloppenborg, John S. “Disciplined Exaggeration: The Heuristics of Comparison in Biblical Studies.” Novum Testamentum 59, no. 4 (September 20, 2017): 390–414. https://doi.org/10.1163/15685365-12341583.

Ricoeur, Paul. The Symbolism of Evil. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969.

Salvador, Joseph. Jésus-Christ Et Sa Doctrine. Histoire De La Naissance De L’église, De Son Organisation Et De Ses Progrès Pendant Le Premier Siècle. Bruxelles, Hauman et compagnie, 1838. http://archive.org/details/jsuschristetsado00salv.

Strauss, David Friedrich. The Life of Jesus Critically Examined. 2nd ed. London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1892.

Watts, Rikki E. Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark. Revised, Updated, Subsequent edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2001.

Winn, Adam. Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material. Eugene, Ore: Pickwick Publications, 2010.


 

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12 thoughts on “Jesus Christ Created as an Epitome of Old Testament Figures (1) — Charbonnel and Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier”

  1. I recognize that there are previous examples of literary characters personifying an entire people. But NC is saying that the Gospel Jesus personifies too much entities in the same time. Isn’t this feature an unicum in the History and literature and therefore (probably) evidence that NC’s view is wrong someway? I would limit myself to a more moderate claim, as for example: Jesus has to be the Jewish Christ “therefore” he personifies also an entire people, “therefore” he personifies the presence of God among his people, “therefore” he has to live “in the last times”, etc etc.

    In my opinion, NC appears unable to distinguish between the primal impulse to invent the Gospel Jesus (to prove he was the Christ) and its various collateral effects (personifying X, Y, Z, etc).

    1. Said in other terms, NC is particularly good to depict HOW Jesus was invented, but she seems to be particularly evasive about WHY a such midrashical Jesus was invented.

      To do a name, Mergui doesn’t the same error, since he says somewhere that the Christ was invented because the Christ didn’t come in the expected time. And only AFTER he starts to talk, as NC, about midrash and various “infinite” personifications…

      1. If you can’t establish an action, motives cannot be inferred. It seems, however, that Christianity was fading on the vine. Its future was surely in the gentile world, but after the Jewish-Roman War of 68-72 (not sure of the dates) and the destruction of Jerusalem. There was not much happening in the Christian world for quite some time. And, if Tom Dykstra was correct, gMark was written to support the teachings of Paul in the secular world. That seems to be quiet a fine motivation.

        1. if Tom Dykstra was correct, gMark was written to support the teachings of Paul in the secular world.

          • Per R. G. Price 2018, p. 61: “in light of the outcome of the First Jewish-Roman War”.

          We know that some Jews were promoting a replacement of the Temple Cult prior to the Jewish-Roman War that destroyed the temple.

          Neil has previously posted on Mason asserting that some (many?) cities escaped destruction during the Jewish-Roman War by capitulation. Therefore many Jews/Roman citizens likely saw the Roman Empire positively in this light.

          Christianity seems to be a natural replacement of the Temple Cult in fraternal competition (for a time) with proto-orthodox Judaism.

          1. Christianity seems to be a natural replacement of the Temple Cult

            “Just as the Jewish people and their centre of worship had been destroyed through fire and mass crucifixions, and just as many were subsequently finding new hope and a new life in Christianity, so Jesus, the suffering servant who was resurrected, was a personification of the ideal Israel. That would explain why Jesus was depicted as the Temple, destroyed physically but restored spiritually; why he was depicted as an antitype of Israel thrust into the wilderness for forty days; and why hosts of other such allusions were attached to him.” [“Owens: Son of Yahweh”. Vridar.]

    2. Are you saying that once a literary practice is created, no one can break or modify it (two representations rather than one), especially for the most extraordinary subject in history?

    3. I tried to point out that it is not mere speculation but multiple scholarly arguments that identify Jesus as a “new Moses”, a “new Elijah”, a “new Adam”, etc. etc.

  2. Re

    Before the gospels were penned Christians thought of Jesus as a “new Adam”. Thus Paul in 1 Cor 15:45-49

    “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. . . .”

    See also Rom 5:17-18.

    I’m not sure Paul penning those passages would reflect Christian thought. We don’t have any evidence of what other ‘Christians’ in Paul’s time might have thought.

    Also, when you say, “The gospel figure of Jesus Christ was created as a “double personification”,” are you asserting that by way of agreeing with Charbonnel or are you just saying what she says? Cheers.

    1. Also, when you say, “The gospel figure of Jesus Christ was created as a “double personification”,” are you asserting that by way of agreeing with Charbonnel or are you just saying what she says?

      I meant it as “just saying what she says” (as far as my fairly literal translation of her words permitted me to say). But I do suspect she is right.

      As for the new Adam point, your comment reminded me of a detail I omitted from my post last night. I will insert it into the post. The Gospel of Mark’s wilderness scene of Jesus with the wild beasts has been identified as an allusion to Adam with the beasts in the Garden of Eden in scholarly publications. (I make a point of that detail — the scholarly element — because too many scholars dismiss such literary studies for the reasons Allison and Kloppenborg state as per the post.)

      The Golgotha (“place of the skull”) reference also alludes to a Jewish legend of the site of Adam’s burial. Given the extreme unlikeliness of Jews developing such a legend after Christianity had already invested the site with christological, it is reasonable to infer that the evangelists were building on a legend known to them.

      So we have more than a couple of lines in Paul. Broader context further takes us to the writings of Plato and comparisons between the heavenly Adam and the Logos.

    2. I have updated the post to include the following understanding among many scholars that the Gospel of Mark deliberately presented Jesus as a New Adam (as well as a “greater than” list of other figures).

      Another instance not mentioned by NC, but one addressed by many scholars commenting on the Gospel of Mark, is the apparent depiction of Jesus as the New Adam cum Messianic figure in the wilderness where he is “with the wild animals”.

      and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. (Mark 1:13)

      The gospel begins with an echo of the beginning of Genesis (“the beginning of the gospel”) and after the parting of heavens (as per the parting of the waters “at the creation of the cosmos”– Allison, New Moses 200, Thompson, Mythic Past 18 ff, Spong, Liberating the Gospels, 33 ff) and leads to Jesus being tempted by Satan, with the animals and angels, as was Adam in Genesis and Jewish writings of the Second Temple era elaborating on the Adam story. Where Adam failed in his temptation, Jesus succeeded; where Adam once had but then lost his companionship and peace with wild animals Jesus restored harmony with them; where the angels refused to serve Adam they did serve Jesus. Jewish apocrypha also said angels fed Adam for a time.

      Other scholars prefer to interpret the passage as a proleptic fulfilment of harmony with animals by Isaiah’s messiah; some accept both interpretations together. I will post about this interpretation of Mark 1:13 with reference to Richard Bauckham, Ulrich Mell, Joel Marcus, C.S. Mann, Francis Maloney, John Donahue and Daniel Harrington in a future post.)

      We saw in a previous post that the place of Christ’s crucifixion was also associated with the place of Adam’s burial. This likelihood is suggestive of Jesus being understood as the new life-giving Adam.

  3. It is indeed an odd and troubling thing that Jesus should seem to be both 1) God and 2) Man; Jewish and (Roman?) Christian.

    Christians tried to address this as a “flesh” vs “spirit” dualism. But they were never really able to reconcile these two; leaving them instead in a contradiction.

    Or suggesting that Jewish/OT origins were inferior perishing “flesh”. That needed to be cast off in order to free the higher spirit.

    But oddly that leaves Jesus with something inferior in him. In a “lower court.”

    To be made higher by death freeing the spirit? And likewise dissociating from Jewish origin.

    So the double personification exists – but then breaks down for this religion?

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