continuing the series of Charbonnel: Jesus Christ sublime figure de papier
Eucharist: Body and Blood of the People
We read about Jesus, on the eve of his death, as the eucharist or Last Supper meal, or as the ideal end-time sacrifice, that is, the sacrifice that effects not only forgiveness of sins but the communion of God and his people. The Passover feast has been reinterpreted but the changes have all come from other ideas found within the Jewish interpretations of Scriptures at the time.
In the view of Grappe and Marx (authors of Sacrifices scandaleux? quoted in the previous post) Jesus returns to the original (pre-Flood) ingredients of sacrifice, bread and wine, to function as both the sacrifice of reparation for sin and the sacrifice of the communion of God and his people (see the previous post for these two sacrifices explained). Further, these same ingredients represent the feast of the eschatological Kingdom of God. “Bread and cup become the place of the encounter with the one who gives his life” in the inauguration of God’s kingdom where both forgiveness and communion are freely offered.
In the old blood sacrifice, different parts of the animal were separated out and divided among the respective participants: offerer, priest, God. With the grain offering, on the other hand, God and priests share the same food that has been prepared the same way for both of them. So the ideal that was meant for the beginning of creation is projected to the end time. (Grappe and Marx, pp. 139-40)
We have seen this ideal from the beginning being re-instituted at the end-time in the Community Rule scroll from Qumran.
And when they shall gather for the common table, to eat and to drink new wine, when the common table shall be set for eating and the new wine poured for drinking, let no man extend his hand over the firstfruits of bread and wine before the Priest; for it is he who shall bless the firstfruits of bread and wine, and shall be the first to extend his hand over the bread. Thereafter, the Messiah of Israel shall extend his hand over the bread, and all the congregation of the Community shall utter a blessing, each man in the order of his dignity.
It is according to this statute that they shall proceed at every meal at which at least ten men are gathered together
(1QSa 2:11-22 — Vermes, Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English)
Variations on the Passover liturgy and meal
What we see in the gospels is not an interpretation of a historical Jesus, an interpretation that makes him a worthy sacrifice replacement for Passover. No, what we see is the reverse: the rituals and traditions relating to Passover have led to the creation of the figure of Jesus. The bread of the Passover meal and the sacrifice itself are together personified in the figure of Jesus. Here it is important to bring to our attention a custom associated with Passover that is not apparent from reading the gospels.
A Passover custom that appears to have had roots among some Jewish circles back into the Second Temple period and following is the breaking of a piece of bread and setting it aside, having wrapped it in white cloth to remain unseen, hidden, and to be eaten as the last thing of the meal. This piece of bread, the final item tasted, is called the aphikoman. This piece is said in rabbinic literature to represent Isaac, the son whom Abraham was willing to sacrifice. (For a description of this ceremony in French see the online article by R. Guyon beginning from Comment Jésus peut-il s’identifier à une matsah? – quoted by NC)
Now the word aphikoman/afikoman means “dessert”, or literally “he who is to come”, the dessert being delayed until the end of the meal. But of course “he who will come” has other connotations.
NC cites several scholarly works in this discussion and I have delayed posting this outline until I was able to track down some of them, in particular, essays by Eisler and Daube. Eisler’s article caused quite a storm when it appeared, as one can see from a section of Israel Jacob Yuval’s Two Nations in Your Womb:
In 1925—1926, Eisler published a rwo-part article named “Das letzte Abendmahl” in the journal Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kundeder âlteren Kirche, in volumes 24—25, presenting an approach that comparcd the afikoman of the Jewish ceremony with the Host of the Christian one. Eisler was a great scholar of the New Testament, but he knew less about Judaism, and his article suffered from some errors. Yet this fact still does not confute his essential argument, and his article was an important contribution to uncovering the messianic significance of the afikoman and the potential for research latent in an understanding of the parallel developments of Passover and Easter.
This approach became a thorn in the flesh of both Jewish and Christian scholars. Immediately after the first part of Eisler’s paper was published, the journal’s editor, Hans Lietzmann, wanted to rescind his agreement to publish the second part. Eisler refused to give in and insisted that Lietzmann honor his commitment to publish the complete article. He even hired an attorney and threatened a lawsuit. Lietzmann was forccd to corne around, and Eisler’s attorney even forbade him to append an editor’s note stating that the article was published against his will and under legal duress. Instead, at the beginning of volume 25 (1926), Lietzmann published his own critique of Eisler’s theory, along with a sharp article by Marmorstein. Eisler demanded the right to reply in volume 26 (1927), but Lietzmann refused. Eisler then suggested that Lietzmann publish his reply in a journal outside Germany, on condition that Lietzmann report its contents in the “From Foreign Journals” section, but Lietzmann refused to do even that. Eisler remained isolated, attacked on ail sides, and unable to reply to his critics.
Forty years later, in 1966, Daube delivered a lecture on the afikoman at Saint Pauls Cathedral in London, vindicating Eisler’s interprétation of the afikoman, with certain necessary corrections and adding his own new find- ings. Daube told his audience of the bitter fate of his predecessor and expressed doubts whether the time had come for such comparative studies between Christianity and Judaism. To illustrate his concerns, he pointed out the fact that in the Goldschmidt edition of the Passover Haggadah there was no mention of the New Testament, even though it contains valuable information on the ancient version of Passover customs. Since Daube was not sure that the time was ripe, he refrained from disseminating his lecture widely and was satisfied with its publication in a pamphlet available only through personal request to the secretariat of the Committee for Christian-Jewish Understanding in London. Unlike Eisler, Daube was not muzzled, but his interpretation remained on the periphery of scholarship and has not yet been accorded the scholarly recognition it deserves.
Ah, the gentle ethereal world of scholarly exchanges.
Having read Yuval’s account I had to track down the articles by Eisler (both of them), Lietzmann, Marmorstein and Daube. You can access them through the links I supplied in the bibliography at the end of this post. In short, to quote the conclusion of Yuval,
If we trace the history of the afikoman and that of the Host in parallel, we discover a very ancient similarity. In I Corinthians 11:26, Paul addresses the following injunction to the disciples: ‘For as often as you eat this bread (…) you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’. The consumption of the consecrated bread and wine during the Eucharistic meal is indeed an evocation of the crucifixion and the Parousia. This is also the precise meaning of the afikoman – a term that does not derive etymologically from the Greek epikomon but from aphikomenos, i.e. ”He who is to come”, as Robert Eisler (1925) and David Daube (1956) have glossed. Eating the afikoman therefore means anticipating the coming of the Messiah, according to the well-known rule: that “in Nissan comes deliverance and in Nissan comes salvation”.
(translated from p. 322 of the French edition of Yuval’s book in Hebrew, Deux peuples en ton sein, — quoted by NC, p. 380-381)
Contrary to Yuval’s conclusion elsewhere, Eisler and Daube insist that it is the gospel of Matthew that has been influenced by the Jewish custom.
There is an article in French by René Guyon describing the Passover customs and relating them to their reinterpretation in the gospels: http://www.garriguesetsentiers.org/article-12116051.html. Scroll down to the heading “Rite of Jesus”: a web translator is always an option, too. Included here are suggestions that Jesus is understood to have fulfilled the meanings of the several cups drunk at the Passover meal, with the fifth cup, normally not touched because it is poured out for Elijah, being drunk by Jesus. The suggestion is that by drinking the fifth cup at the end of the meal Jesus is declaring that he has fulfilled what Elijah came to proclaim: his own advent. (Perhaps, but I would have thought an evangelist would have dropped in a hint that it was explicitly the final or fifth cup that Jesus drank.)
Personification makes sense of it all
Another parallel lies in the four questions involving Jesus upon his entry into Jerusalem to suffer crucifixion: they coincide with the Passover Haggadah that goes back to the time of the creation of the New Testament, according to David Daube. For Daube, when we read the Gospel of Mark
We are here in touch with an author . . . who still spent Passover eve with his family or friends reciting the Haggadah.
That Haggadah is derived from the four occasions in the Pentateuch when God commands that children be taught the significance of the Exodus from Egypt. The differences in the wording of those four occasions led exegetes to interpret them as alluding to four different types of sons. The earliest gospel, Mark, “followed the Midrash of the four sons” in the way he composed the exchanges with Jesus. I have set out the highlights of the comparisons with rabbinic tradition that appears to go back to very early times:
|Pharisees ask||Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?||A question re Law||first son: the wise son asks about the laws|
|Sadducees ask||Which of the seven brother-husbands will have the wife in the resurrection?||A question designed to ridicule a belief held by Jesus||second son: the wicked son asks the scoffing question|
|A scribe asks||What is the greatest commandment?||A question about fundamental principles of life||third son: the son of plain piety asks the simple and fundamental question about life principles|
|Jesus asks||How can the Messiah be the Son of David per Psalm 110?||A question relating to conflict in Scripture||fourth son: the son who does not know how to ask so that the father must take the initiative in opening instruction|
There is much more detail than that table suggests and anyone interested can follow up the two references (book and article) to Daube in the bibliography at the end of this post. Daube further explains the differences in Matthew’s and Luke’s versions as evidence that the later evangelists failed to understand Mark’s reliance on the Passover Haggadah.
NC adds an alternative explanation to Daube’s thesis, one proposed by René Guyon and that appears to me to be based on the Gospel of John so is more an addition than an alternative:
- The wise son: Jesus, who questions the meaning of the present event and supplies the answer
- The wicked son: Judas Iscariot
- The simple or innocent son: Peter who asks Jesus where he is going (John 13:36-37) and why he cannot follow him straightaway. (According to Daube the evidence points to the earliest liturgy containing a “plain and pious” son that was later mutated into a foolish or silly son.)
- The son who does not know how to ask the question: the disciple whom Jesus loved, the one Peter had to prompt to ask Jesus who would betray him.
Narrative constructed entirely from the verses of Jewish Scripture
If we accept such origins for these episodes and characters in the gospels what we are witnessing is the transformation of Jewish teachings into personifications and living narratives pointing to a “fulfillment” of those teachings. The main character becomes “the body” of his people. The bread and the cup of the Passover are made to point to this identification. So the Passion of Jesus in the narrative can be woven entirely out of phrases from those Jewish Scriptures that concern the people of Israel, the “son of God”. And we know that the Passion narrative is indeed constructed entirely from phrases from the Old Testament. See, for further evidence in addition to what we have posted in this serious previously, 160 Scriptural Quotations and Allusions in Mark 11-16. The texts that have been used to create the Passion narrative originally applied to the Jewish people: their suffering in Egypt, their exodus, the lamentations of the prophets over them.
The background to the scene of the death of the Prophet is found in Jeremiah 26. See Jeremiah 26:8-16.
See also Nehemiah 9:26 for the killing of the prophets and Zechariah 9:9 for the humiliation of the messiah. That the righteous are destined to suffer, see Wisdom 2:10-20. That the righteous suffer was a common theme in the Hellenistic world and later Christian theologians and commentators came to increasingly see Jesus in the terms Plato used to describe the fate of the wise and good in The Republic. And of course we are all familiar with Psalm 22. The two thieves, the divided tunic, the nailed hands and feet, the spear through the side, the gall and vinegar, the thirst, the last words — all are taken from Isaiah, from Psalms 69 and 22. Recall Isaiah 53:10-11.
The sociologist Max Weber understood the beginnings of this way of writing (my bolded highlighting):
The theme is developed in the much discussed songs of the “Servant of God” (‘eved Yahwe). The peculiar conception of this figure obviously vacillates . . . between a single figure and a personification of the people of Israel or, rather, of its pious core. Besides all sorts of unacceptable personalities the figure has been interpreted as that of King Joiakim who as a youth was abducted to Babylon, pardoned after long years of imprisonment, and invited to the royal table; the Book of Kings concludes with his liberation from captivity. But, unless one wishes to relate the various songs to distinctly different representations qualifying as Servants of God, neither this nor any other assumption is truly compelling, and also the question whether an individual person or collective personification cannot be consistently answered.The author would seem to have linked fates and woes, well known to his public as a matter of course, above all, the “pierced” ankles of the prisoners, with features of an eschatological figure of unknown derivation. Obviously it is deliberate art form when he moves to and fro between the personal representative of fateful suffering and the suffering collectivity in such a manner that occasionally it is hard to tell even in a single instance which possible meaning was guiding the artist. Israel is the Servant of Yahwe, it is said (49:3) and even before (48:20) it is said, that Yahwe redeemed his servant Jacob. However, immediately after the first passage ( 49:5, 6) the Servant of Yahwe is called upon to convert Jacob, to restore the tribes of Israel. For Yahwe had given him the tongue of a disciple to speak in time to the weary (50:4) and further (53: 11) (to be sure, in an uncertain reading) his knowledge is viewed as the source of hope. This was the customary way of speaking of prophets or Torah teachers, hence one may be inclined to see in the Servant of God a personification of prophecy.
Further, Israel itself is saved through this suffering, through this death leading to rebirth, and even becomes the agent of the salvation of the world:
[The] problem [of Deutero-Isaiah] is . . . the theodicy of Israel’s suffering in the universal perspective of a wise and divine world government. Granting such questions, what constitutes for him the meaning of his glorification of sufferance, of ugliness, and of being despised? Of course, it is not an accident but design that the prophet makes the eschatological person repeatedly shift from a personification of Israel into one of prophecy and vice versa, and that Israel consequently appears now as the champion, now as the object of salvation. The meaning of it all is plainly the glorification of the situation of the pariah people and its tarrying endurance. Thereby the Servant of God and the people whose archetype he is, become the deliverers of the world. Thus, should the Servant of God even have been conceived as a personal savior, then he qualified only by voluntarily taking upon himself the pariah situation of the Exile people and by suffering without resistance and complaint misery, ugliness, and martyrdom. All the elements of the utopian evangelical sermon “resist no evil with force” are here at hand.
See again the many scriptural building blocks of the Passion narrative that NC set out earlier and that we posted at Gospels Cut from Jewish Scriptures, #7 (conclusion). The new Isaac carrying the wood of his sacrifice, the new David climbing the Mount of Olives, the Suffering Righteous One found in Isaiah, Zechariah and the Psalms, etc.
Collective death preceding Jesus’ death in the Gospels
Ironically NC finds a significant indicator in support of her thesis in the thought of Q specialist John S. Kloppenborg in an article of his that was included in a French collection. Kloppenborg is discussing “the problem” that there is no Passion Narrative in the Q document — a hypothetical document that has long been widely believed to be a source used by Matthew and Luke. Kloppenborg argues that the lack of narrative about the suffering and death of Jesus is replaced by reflections on the suffering and death of the followers of Jesus. So even if we accept the authenticity of the Q document, we can see in it the concept of the suffering of Jesus being equated with the suffering of the community.
I will quote from the article version of the same chapter (again my bolding except for the Jesus’ Death header). Note also the footnote #103 where Kloppenborg draws attention to all the elements of the Passion narrative being found in “the wisdom tale” and recall recent posts where we covered the same theme in NC’s thesis: that Jesus is also found to be personified Wisdom.
Jesus’ Death: There is no passion narrative in Q and no sayings that appear to reflect on Jesus’ death in particular, yet it would be absurd to suppose that those who framed Q were unaware of Jesus’ death. As I have argued elsewhere, the narrative elements that make up the Markan passion narrative are also present in Q, although they refer not to Jesus’ death in particular, but more generally to the fates of the prophets and the Q group.l03 The key elements of trial, condemnation, assistance (by the Spirit), ordeal, vindication, acclamation, and punishment (of the opponents) are all embedded in the fabric of Q, but they are not emplotted as a single narrative.l04 More importantly, the subject of these narrative functions is not Jesus himself, as in the Markan passion narrative, but the larger set of persons comprising the prophets, John, Jesus, and Jesus’ followers. That is, for Q the “passion narrative” has not yet become privatized as Jesus’ passion.
103 John S. Kloppenborg, “‘Easter Faith’ and the Sayings Gospel Q,” Semeia 49 (1990) 71-99. The narrative functions of provocation, conspiracy, trial and condemnation, ordeal, prayer, protest, assistance, vindication, exaltation and acclamation (of the righteous) and punishment (of the persecutors) are key elements of the “wisdom tale” analyzed by George W. E. Nickelsburg, Resurrection, Immortality, and Eternal Life in Intertestamental Judaism (HTS 26; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972) 48-92.
104 I am indebted to Nickelsburg’s seminal discussion of these narrative functions in the Markan passion narrative. See George W. E. Nickelsburg, “The Genre and Function of the Marcan Passion Narrative,” HTR 73 (1980) 153-84.
The alternative explanation to Kloppenborg’s is that Q understood Jesus’ death differently from the way today’s “orthodox readings” interpret it. Q can be seen as drawing the idea of Jesus’ death from the stories of the deaths of the prophets and the sufferings of God’s people. Would it be simpler to see Jesus’ death as the literary figure of the death of the people?
In conclusion, then, should we say that Jesus dies as God’s people or as God’s presence? NC’s answer: Both. For NC we must keep in mind the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 since that event signified the end of the old era of the “People of God”. (Recently I have been looking at readings of the sources that may indicate that sacrifices did not come to an end in 70 and that the truly final break with the old, the loss of all hope of restoration of rebuilt Temple came in the 130s with the Bar Kochba revolt and the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem. But I’m happy in the meantime to work with the year 70.)
Charbonnel, Nanine. Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier. Paris: Berg International, 2017.
Daube, David. “Four Types of Question.” The Journal of Theological Studies 2, no. 1 (1951): 45–48. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23955932 and https://sci-hub.do/10.1093/jts/ii.1.45
Daube, David. The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism. Reprint edition. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011. https://archive.org/search.php?query=The%20New%20Testament%20and%20Rabbinic%20Judaism%20daube.
Eisler, Robert. “Das Letzte Abendmahl. 1925.” Zeitschrift Für Die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft Und Die Kunde Der Älteren Kirche 24, no. 1 (1925): 161–92. https://doi.org/10.1515/zntw.19184.108.40.206.
———. “Das Letzte Abendmahl. 1926.” Zeitschrift Für Die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft Und Die Kunde Der Älteren Kirche 25, no. 1 (1926): 5–37. https://doi.org/10.1515/zntw.19220.127.116.11.
Guyon, René. “Une coupe, des coupes… Une Pâque, des Pâques… 4.” Garrigues Et Sentiers, 2007. http://www.garriguesetsentiers.org/article-12116051.html.
Kloppenborg, John S. “The Sayings Gospel Q and the Quest of the Historical Jesus.” The Harvard Theological Review 89, no. 4 (1996): 307–44.
Lietzmann, Hans. “Jüdische Passahsitten Und Der Ι͂ἀϕιϰόμενος.” Zeitschrift Für Die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft Und Die Kunde Der Älteren Kirche 25, no. 1 (1926): 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1515/zntw.1918.104.22.168.
Marmorstein, A. “Miscellen.” Zeitschrift Für Die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft Und Die Kunde Der Älteren Kirche 25, no. 2 (1926). https://doi.org/10.1515/zntw.1922.214.171.124.
Weber, Max. Ancient Judaism. Translated by Hans H. Gerth and Don Martindale. London: Free Press, 1967.
Yuval, Yiśrā’ēl Yaʻaqov. “Rome or Jerusalem: The Foundations of Jewish-Christian Hostility: . . . Development of the Stories; Parallels Between the Jewish Haggadah and the Christian ‘Haggadahs’; the ‘Midrash’ of the Haggadah; Conclusions; a Note on the Research.” In Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, 62–91. Berkeley, Calif London: University of California Press, 2006.
Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)
- The Secret of the Power Behind the Gospel Narrative (Charbonnel Continued) - 2021-09-11 12:54:01 GMT+0000
- The Gospels as Figurative Narratives (Charbonnel continued) - 2021-09-07 11:26:50 GMT+0000
- How to Read Historical Evidence (and any other information) Critically - 2021-09-05 14:00:06 GMT+0000
If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!