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Steve Heil


Yeshua the Anointed: Supplemental note (“The One Coming”)

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In examining the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus in Gospel tradition, special attention needs to be given to the expression o( e)rxo/meno$ (“the Coming [One]”, or “the [One who is] Coming”). This is a verbal noun from e&rxomai, a middle/deponent verb with the basic meaning “come, go”. It is used frequently in the New Testament, especially throughout the narratives of the Gospels and Acts. It plays a most important role in the message of John the Baptist, as recorded in the Gospels. The core declaration by John is firmly placed in the very earliest strands of (historical) Gospel tradition, being attested in at least five different places within the Gospels and Acts.

The Declaration by John the Baptist (Mk 1:7-8; Lk 3:16-17; Matt 3:11; John 1:27)

In the Gospel of Mark (Mk 1:7-8) it is as follows:

“The (one) stronger than me comes [e&rxetai] in back of [i.e. behind/after] me… I dunked you in water, but he will dunk you in the holy Spirit”

Luke’s version (Lk 3:16) corresponds closely and reads:

“(On the one hand) I dunk you in water, but (on the other hand) the (one) stronger than me comes [e&rxetai]… he will dunk you in the holy Spirit and fire”

In Matthew 3:11 we have:

“(On the one hand) I dunk you in water into a change-of-mind [i.e. repentance], but (on the other hand) the (one) coming [o( e)rxo/meno$] is stronger than me… he will dunk you in the holy Spirit and fire.”

Interestingly, Luke and Matthew agree with each other (against) Mark on several details: (1) both omit “in back of me” [o)pi/sw mou], (2) both use a me\nde/ construction [i.e. “on the one hand…on the other”], and (3) both add “and fire” [kai\ puri/]. Matthew differs from Mark/Luke, however, in the key phrase: “the one coming is stronger” vs. “the one stronger…comes”.

The truncated version in Acts 13:25, which may well be independent of Lk 3:16, is: “See! (one) comes [e&rxetai] after [met’] me…”

Finally we have the saying as recorded in Johannine tradition (John 1:26-27):

“I dunk you in water, (but one) has been stand(ing) in the midst of you whom you have not seen [i.e. known], the (one) coming [o( e)rxo/meno$] in back of me [o)pi/sw mou]…”

John’s version (independently) agrees with Mark in the inclusion of o)pi/sw mou (“in back of [i.e. behind/after] me”), and with Matthew in the verbal substantive (participle) o( e)rxo/meno$ (“the [one] coming”). It also contains detail not found in the Synoptic tradition, such as the idea that “the one coming” had been standing in the midst of the crowd (among those coming to be baptized by John), undetected by them. Keep in mind that the Johannine Gospel does not narrate Jesus’ baptism as such, but has John the Baptist describe it after it had occurred (Jn 1:29-34). It would seem that a common (historical) tradition has been preserved in various forms.

Malachi 3:1

In the context of the Baptist’s message, this use of the verb e&rxomai almost certainly has eschatological significance, and is probably derived from Malachi 3:1, the last clause—”the Messenger of the covenant, whom you take pleasure in, see! he will come“. In the Greek [LXX] version, the form is e&rxetai, as in Mark/Luke (cf. above). In other words, “the one coming” [o( e)rxo/meno$] likely refers to the Messenger of Mal 3:1. Now, both the Hebrew Ea*l=m^ and Greek a&ggelo$ can mean either a human or divine/heavenly messenger—i.e. a prophet/herald or an Angel—depending on the context. Based on a comparison with Exodus 23:20, it seems most probable that the original reference in Mal 3:1 was to a heavenly Messenger (Angel), perhaps the “Messenger of YHWH” (virtually a personification of God Himself); note (the parallel elements being italicized)—

Exod 23:20: “See! I am sending a Messenger before you to guard you in the way, and to make you come [i.e. bring you] to the place which I have established”

Malachi 3:1: “See! I am sending my Messenger and he will (turn and) face [i.e. look at, examine] the way before me; and straightly [i.e. suddenly] he will come to his temple…”

Admittedly, the syntax of Mal 3:1 makes interpretation difficult, since there are two references to a Messenger. It is, I believe, best to view the structure of this verse chiastically, as follows:

  • See! I am sending my Messenger…and suddenly he will come (to his temple)
    —the Lord whom you are seeking
    —the Messenger of the covenant (in) whom you have pleasure
  • See! he is coming

We seem to be dealing with a single figure, a single Messenger (of the covenant), who is to be identified as “the Lord” [/doa*h*]. Now in the Old Testament and Israelite religious belief, God (YHWH) himself was represented by the Angel/Messenger of YHWH, and the appearance or manifestation of this “Messenger” signified the very appearance of YHWH. Here the appearance of the Messenger in Jerusalem, in the Temple, ushers in the great and terrible “Day of YHWH” (verse 2), whereby the people will be judged with fire. The righteous will be purified and refined (vv. 2-4), while the wicked will be consumed (vv. 5-6). This very clearly fits what John the Baptist describes of “the one coming” in Matt 3:11-12 / Lk 3:16-17.

However, by the time the book of Malachi was completed, an ‘appendix’ was added, which seems to identify the Messenger of Mal 3:1 with “Elijah” who will appear before the Day of YHWH (Mal 4:5-6 [Hebrew 3:23-24]). From this interpretation developed the Messianic/eschatological Elijah-tradition—at the end-time, just prior to the Last Judgment, Elijah (himself or a Prophet like him) will appear in order to bring people to repentance. For more on this tradition, cf. the current article. In drawing, it would seem, upon Mal 3:1ff, did John have in mind a heavenly/divine Messenger (representing God himself) or an end-time Prophet-like-Elijah? There is perhaps a clue to be found in Luke’s account (Lk 3:15), where it is narrated that John’s declaration in vv. 16-17 is in response to speculation that he might be “the Anointed” (i.e. the ‘Messiah’), as we see also in Jn 1:20ff. Based on what we know of the Baptist’s appearance and his ministry, it is unlikely that anyone would have imagined him to be a Messiah of the Davidic-King type, whereas he easily could have been thought to be a Messianic Prophet according to the Elijah-tradition. As in Jn 1:20ff, he eschews such an identification, reserving it for another (Jesus).

Development in the Gospel of John (Jn 1:15, 30 etc)

In the Fourth Gospel, we find that the declaration of the Baptist has undergone an important theological/Christological development, which is expressed in the parallel statement in Jn 1:15, 30 (see my earlier note for a detailed exposition of these verses). This is part of an intentional effort by the author (and/or the tradition[s] he inherited) to subordinate John the Baptist to Jesus more completely and profoundly than we see in the Synoptic Gospels. We may note: (1) the references to John in the Prologue (Jn 1:1-18, vv. 6ff, 15), (2) his explicit testimony in three consecutive episodes (Jn 1:19-28, 29-34, 35ff), and (3) the juxtaposition of John and Jesus in Jn 3:22-30. Throughout the Gospel of John, the verb e&rxomai (“come, go”) often carries a special significance, related to the idea of Jesus (the Son) coming from God (the Father), and going back (returning) to Him. Particularly, in this respect, e&rxomai relates to what we would call the incarnation of the pre-existent Son. Many examples could be cited, but I will limit them here to instances where the participle [o(] e)rxo/meno$ (“[the one] coming”) is used—Jn 1:9, 15, 27; 3:31 (twice); 6:14; 11:27, also 12:13. The occurrences in Jn 3:31 are especially noteworthy since they follow right after the Baptist’s (final) statement, and are thought by some scholars to be a continuation of his words. It is also interesting that the parallel formulations of Jn 1:15, 30 vary between the participle (o( e)rxo/meno$ “the one coming”) and indicative (e&rxetai, “[he] comes”), just as we see the Baptist’s declaration in the Synoptic tradition (cf. above).

Psalm 118:26

There is an entirely different strand of Gospel tradition associating Jesus with “the one coming in the name of YHWH” of Psalm 118:26 (cf. Mark 11:9 [par Matt 21:9; Lk 19:38]; Matt 23:39 / Lk 13:35). Jesus is also connected with the king who comes in Zech 9:9ff—with both Zech 9:9 and Ps 118:26 being combined in the triumphal entry scene, most clearly in John 12:13, 15:

“…the (one) coming [o( erxo/meno$] in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel”
“…see! your king comes [e&rxetai]…”

In early Christian belief, and the developed Gospel tradition, Jesus’ identification as “the one coming in the name of the Lord” means more than that of the traditional Anointed King or Prophet. This is perhaps best seen by comparing Luke 13:34-35 (citing Psalm 118:26) with Luke 19:41-44 (a similar lament for Jerusalem, following his entry into the city, vv. 36-40). Here the appearance of God himself to his people is identified as taking place in the person of Jesus (v. 44). This brings us back to the language and symbolism of Malachi 3:1, as I understand its meaning and significance in the context of the original oracle.


Yeshua the Anointed – Part 3: The Prophet to Come (Moses and Elijah)

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In the previous article, I looked at the concept of an eschatological/Messianic Prophet in Jewish thought, and of evidence in the New Testament identifying Jesus as a Prophet. In this article I will examine the main (Messianic) Prophet figure-types that apply to Jesus; there are two main traditions involving: (1) Moses and (2) Elijah.

The Moses Tradition (Deut 18:15-20)

In the Old Testament, especially in Deuteronomic tradition, Moses is viewed as a Prophet—indeed as the ideal and greatest Prophet (Deut 34:10-12). In Deuteronomy 18:15ff we find the famous prediction that another Prophet will (eventually) arise who is like Moses and who will take his place. In the same manner, Elisha took the place of Elijah, being anointed by his predecessor (1 Kings 19:16) and possessing his spirit and character (2 Kings 2:9, 15). Eventually, this prediction was given a future, eschatological interpretation—at the end-time, a Prophet-like-Moses would arise to instruct the faithful of Israel. This expectation probably underlies the notice in 1 Maccabees 14:41 (“…until a trustworthy Prophet should arise”), as well as the reference to “the unique Prophet” in Testament of Benjamin 9:2. In the Qumran texts, Moses was clearly regarded as a Prophet, as in the “Apocryphon of Moses/Pentateuch” writings—cf. especially 4Q375 column 1 (in line 7 the phrase “trustworthy prophet” appears); in 4Q377 column 2, line 5, Moses is referred to as God’s “Anointed (One)” [jyvm]. Deut 18:18-19 is cited in 4QTestimonia [4Q175] lines 5-8, in what is likely an eschatological/Messianic context. The expected Prophet of 1QS 9:11 (“…until the coming of the Prophet and the Anointed [Ones] of Aaron and Israel”) presumably draws upon this Moses tradition as well.

The same may be said of passages in the New Testament which contain a reference to “the Prophet” (Jn 1:21, 25; 6:14; 7:40; Luke 7:16, 36 v.l. etc); in Jn 1:21-25, “the Prophet” seems to be understood as a separate figure from “Elijah”, possibly an indication that the Moses-tradition is involved. John the Baptist explicitly denies being “the Prophet” (Jn 1:21), but that Jesus was thought to be so by people on numerous occasions is indicated by several of the references above. In Acts 3:18-24 (sermon-speech of Peter), Jesus is identified specifically with the coming “Prophet like Moses” of Deut 18:15ff (cf. also Acts 7:37). Within early Christian tradition, Jesus is identified or associated with Moses in a number of ways:

  • Parallels with the birth of Moses (and the Exodus) in the Matthean Infancy narrative (Matt 2:1-21)
  • Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness (Matt 4:2 par) just as Moses was on Sinai for 40 days (Exod 24:18); in the arrangement of Matthew’s narrative, Jesus likewise returns to deliver/expound the Law/Torah (Matt 5:17ff)
  • The association with Moses in the Transfiguration scene (on this, cf. below)
  • In various ways, Jesus words and actions followed the type/pattern of Moses:
    —Cf. the detailed summary of Moses’ life in Stephen’s speech (Acts 7:17-44) and its parallel to Jesus (7:45-53)—cp. “this Moses” (7:35, 37, 40) with the frequent use of “this Jesus” in Acts (1:11; 2:23, 32, 36; 4:11; 6:14 etc)
    —Moses and the ‘bronze serpent’ as a pattern of Jesus’ death (and exaltation), Jn 3:14
    —Moses and the manna (Jesus as the “bread from heaven”), Jn 6:32ff
    —Moses and the rock in the wilderness (Christ as the rock), 1 Cor 10:2-5

Elsewhere in the New Testament, we also find a juxtaposition contrasting Jesus and Moses—e.g., John 1:17; 5:45-46 (cf. Lk 16:29-31); 9:28-29; 2 Cor 3:13ff; Heb 3:2-5. Interestingly, these points of contrast are still based on a similarity between Jesus and Moses, the emphasis being on Jesus’ superiority or on how he fulfills/completes the “Old Covenant” represented by Moses.

The Elijah Tradition (Mal 3:1; 4:5-6)

This Messianic tradition derives from Malachi 3:1, combined with the explanatory interpretation of Mal 4:5-6 [Hebrew 3:23-24] which many scholars consider to be a (later) editorial gloss (see my supplementary note on the original context of Mal 3:1). In any case, already by the time of the completion of Malachi (and, presumably, the collection of the Twelve Prophets [Hosea–Malachi] as a whole), the “Messenger” [Ea*l=m^] of Mal 3:1 was identified as Elijah, who will (re)appear just prior to the “Day of YHWH” to bring repentance to people before the Judgment. Over time, this belief was given greater eschatological emphasis—”Elijah” would appear at the end-time, prior to the last Judgment—expressed already in Sirach 48:10 (early-mid 2nd century B.C.). Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, evidence for this belief at Qumran is rather slight, though it is attested in the fragmentary 4Q558 (fragment 1), but is perhaps reflected more prominently in a text such as 4Q521 (cf. below). Evidence for this tradition is found specifically in Mark 9:11-13 (Matt 17:10-12), the citations and allusions to Mal 3:1; 4:5-6 in Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27; Matt 11:10-14, and may be inferred from other references listed below. Also worth noting is Sibylline Oracles 2:187ff (Christian expansion/adaptation of earlier Jewish material).

An important question within the earliest (historical) strands of Gospel tradition was whether John the Baptist or Jesus was Elijah (and/or the Anointed Prophet) to Come. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, and, even more so as Christianity spread into the Greco-Roman (Gentile) world, this issue ceased to have any meaning, and disappeared almost entirely from Christian thought. At the same time, early tradition had more or less fixed the relationship between John and Jesus, reflected in the Gospels (c. 60-90 A.D.) as we have them. However, the situation is somewhat different when we examine the earliest Gospel tradition.

First, John the Baptist as Elijah

  • John’s appearance seems to echo the description of Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8
  • During his lifetime (and after his death), he was believed to be a great Prophet (Mk 11:32 par; Matt 14:5; and cf. 11:11 par)
  • The messengers (priests and Levites) who come to him in Jn 1:19ff ask him directly if he is Elijah (v. 21); however—
  • John explicitly denies that he is Elijah (Jn 1:21, 25)
  • By contrast, Jesus explicitly affirms John as the Elijah-to-Come in Matthew 11:10, 14 (cf. Luke 7:27) [citing Mal 3:1], with a similar identification recorded in Mark 9:11-13 (Matt 17:10-12)
  • The identification, by way of Mal 3:1 and 4:5-6, is also found in Mark 1:2 and the Lukan Infancy narrative (Luke 1:17, 76ff); in Lk 1:17 it is specifically stated (by the Angel) that John would have “the spirit and power of Elijah” (cf. 2 Kings 2:9, 15)

According to the belief ultimately expressed in the Gospels, Mal 3:1; 4:5-6 was given a specific interpretation: John was the Messenger (“Elijah”) who would prepare the way (by his preaching and ministry of baptism) before the coming of the Lord (Jesus). However, elsewhere in the tradition, there is some evidence that Jesus himself might be identified as Elijah.

Jesus as Elijah

  • In Jn 1:21, 25, John the Baptist denies being Elijah—the implication, then, is that this is reserved for someone else (Jesus).
  • John identifies himself primarily as the voice/herald of Isa 40:3-5 (Jn 1:23)—this is also the core tradition recorded at the start of the Synoptic Gospel narrative (Mark 1:3; Matt 3:3; Lk 3:4-6)—though a possible identification with the Messenger of Mal 3:1 may be found in Jn 3:28.
  • John’s own testimony in Mark 1:7-8 (par Matt 3:11-12/Lk 3:15-17) seems to suggest that Jesus is the Messenger to Come of Mal 3:1, as does his question to Jesus in Matt 11:3/Lk 7:19.
  • As with John, people apparently thought that Jesus might be Elijah—Mark 6:15 (Lk 9:8); Mark 8:28 (Matt 16:14; Lk 9:19).
  • In the Lukan version of the scene at Nazareth, where Jesus identifies himself as a Prophet (Lk 4:24), in the illustrations which follow (vv. 25-26) he effectively compares himself with Elijah and Elisha. The “Anointed” Prophet of Isa 61:1ff, with whom Jesus identifies himself (vv. 18-21), could also be understood in connection with Elijah (on this, cf. below).
  • Jesus is associated with Elijah in the Transfiguration scene (see below).
  • The episode(s) of the feeding of the multitude (Mark 6:30-44 / 8:1-9 pars) seem to echo a similar miracle(?) performed by Elisha (who possessed the spirit of Elijah) in 2 Kings 4:42-44.
  • The mocking response by observers while Jesus was on the cross (Mark 15:35-36 / Matt 27:47, 49) may reflect a belief that Jesus was (supposed to be) Elijah.

For more on this issue, see the accompanying supplementary note.

Moses and Elijah: The Transfiguration Scene (Mark 9:2-8; Matt 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36)

In one especially important passage—the Transfiguration episode in the Synoptic Gospels (also mentioned in 2 Peter 1:16-18)—Jesus is associated directly (and at the same time) with both Moses and Elijah. It is customary and popular for Christians to interpret Moses and Elijah here as representing “the Law and the Prophets”—that is, Jesus as the fulfillment of Scripture. However, this does not seem to be correct. For one thing, Elijah is not an especially appropriate figure to represent the written books of the Prophets, since he apparently wrote nothing, and did not utter any ‘Messianic’ prophecies that might be fulfilled by Jesus. At the same time, Moses, in addition to his connection with the Law (Torah), was viewed as perhaps the greatest of Prophets (cf. above)—indeed, Moses and Elijah together represent: (a) the two great Prophet figures of Israel’s history, and (b) each served as the type of a end-time Prophet-to-Come. Secondarily, perhaps, one might note that Moses and Elijah each experienced a special manifestation of God (theophany) on Mt. Sinai/Horeb, and that there are clear echoes and allusions to the Sinai theophany in the Gospel narrative of the Transfiguration (esp. in Luke’s version, cf. my earlier note).

Therefore, I would suggest that, if there is any definite symbolism in the presence of Moses and Elijah with Jesus here, it is to confirm Jesus’ role as Anointed Prophet of God. We might say that Jesus is the true fulfillment of the two strands of tradition (cf. above), and, in turn, far exceeds and transcends them both. Ultimately, Jesus is a different kind of Prophet: not simply a herald of God’s message, a teacher/preacher and miracle-worker in the manner of Moses and Elijah, but the Elect/Chosen One of God (as well as God’s Son), Luke 9:35 par. Indeed, it is Luke’s version of the Transfiguration scene which sets it most clearly in the context of Jesus’ impending death and exaltation—cf. especially verse 31, and the parallel between v. 35 and 23:35.

The Anointed Prophet of Isaiah 61

If we really wish to understand Jesus as the Anointed Prophet, we must turn to Isaiah 61:1-3, the passage which, according to Luke’s account, was read by Jesus on his visit to the Synagogue of Nazareth (Lk 4:16-30, vv. 17-20). The passage begins (rendering the Greek of Lk/LXX):

“(The) Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because of which he (has) anointed me to bring a good message…”

The presence of the Spirit precedes, and is the reason for, the person being anointed. In the case of Jesus, Luke narrates this very thing, stating that, upon his return to Galilee, Jesus was “in the power of the Spirit” (Lk 4:14). This phrase is probably meant to indicate Jesus’ own Prophetic status (cf. Lk 1:17; Acts 10:38)—specifically as an Anointed Prophet. Even though the noun jyv!m* [m¹šîaµ] / xristo/$ [christós], is not used in Isa 61:1 (rather it is the verb jv^m* / e&xrisen), this verse does seem to have been extremely influential toward the idea of a Messianic Prophet. The figure in Isa 61:1ff certainly does not appear to be a king or ruler of the Davidic mold, nor a priest, but rather a prophet like Isaiah himself. It describes a herald who announces a message of good tidings (in Hebrew, literally “fresh” tidings) to the poor and oppressed. By the time of Jesus’ ministry, there is evidence that Isa 61:1ff was already being understood in an eschatological sense, with the anointed figure of verse 1 identified as a Prophet-Messiah. This is seen most clearly in the Qumran text 4Q521, where in fragment 2 (column ii, line 1) we read: “…[the heav]ens and the earth will listen to [i.e. obey] his Anointed (One)”. What follows in lines 2-14 etc is a blending of Isa 61:1ff and Psalm 146; but the idea of heaven and earth obeying God’s Anointed is suggestive of a Prophet in the manner of Elijah who “shut up the heavens” so that it would not rain and brought down fire from heaven (1 Kings 17:1ff; Sirach 48:2-3; James 5:17); Jesus of course exhibited a similar authority over the elements (Mark 5:35-41; 8:45-52 pars). Moreover, in column iii of fragment there is an allusion to Mal 4:5-6 and the (end-time) role of Elijah in bringing people to repentance.

Thus, when Jesus identifies himself with the Anointed figure of Isa 61:1, it is almost certainly not to a Messianic King in the manner of David, but to a Prophet like Elijah. In Luke 4:24, Jesus specifically identifies himself as a Prophet, and the illustrations in vv. 25-26 further connect him with Elijah (and Elisha). Along the same lines, when we see references to “the Anointed” (o( xristo/$) in the early chapters of the Gospels (during the period of John and Jesus’ ministries), it is very probably an Anointed Prophet, and not a Davidic “Messiah”, that is in view. Similarly, when John (and others) speak of “the Coming One” [o( e)rxo/meno$] or “one who comes [e&rxetai]” (Mark 1:7; Matt 3:11; 11:3; Jn 1:15, 27 etc, cf. also Mark 11:9 par [citing Psalm 118:26]), this likely refers to a Prophetic Messiah. In this regard, it is important to note the Baptist’s question sent to Jesus (Matt 11:3 / Lk 7:20):

“Are you the Coming (One) [o( e)rxo/meno$], or should we look toward receiving [i.e. expect] another?”

Jesus, in his response (Matt 11:4-6 / Lk 7:21-23), again identifies himself with the Anointed (Prophet) of Isa 61:1-3, alluding to that passage, combined with elements of Isa 26:19; 29:20; 35:5. The blending of miracle-working with Isa 61:1ff, brings Jesus’ response more closely in line with 4Q521 frag. 2 col. ii (cited above); interestingly, both passages, right before the proclaiming of good news to the poor, specifically mention raising the dead (line 12, Matt 11:5b par), which, in Jewish tradition, came to be associated particularly with Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 17:17-24; Sirach 48:5, [11]; m. Sota 9; j. Sheqalim 3:3; Pesikta de R. Kahana 76a). By the end of the 1st century A.D., resurrection came to be connected with the appearance of the Messiah generally (2 Baruch 30:2; 2/4 Esdras 7) [cf. Collins, pp. 119-20]. For more on the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus, cf. my supplementary note.

Based on Jesus’ own words and actions during the period of his ministry (in Galilee), he is to be identified primarily, if not exclusively, as an Anointed Prophet. There is little evidence, especially in the Synoptic Gospels, that he saw himself as a Davidic King-Messiah, nor did others who observed him seem to view him this way. The turning point, as recorded in Synoptic tradition, can be seen in two episodes:

  1. The Transfiguration, during which the Prophet-figures Moses and Elijah appear alongside Jesus, conversing with him, and, in so doing, confirm his role as the ultimate Anointed Prophet of God. The voice from the cloud, echoing the Divine voice at Jesus’ baptism, declares Jesus to be the Son of God (and, in the Lukan version, the Elect/Chosen One of God).
  2. Peter’s confession of Jesus as “the Anointed (One)”, an identification here set implicitly in contrast to a Prophet such as Elijah; the special status of this Anointed figure is further indicated by the formulations in Luke (“the Anointed One of God”, similar to “the Chosen One of God”) and in Matthew (“the Anointed One, the Son of the living God”, i.e. “Son of God”)

Beginning with the (final) journey to Jerusalem a new understanding of Jesus as the Anointed One (Messiah/Christ) emerges in the Synoptic tradition, that of Anointed King and “Son of David”, which dominates the episodes in Jerusalem, through to Jesus’ death and resurrection. This particular Messianic role will be discussed in upcoming articles.

Citations marked “Collins” above are to J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature (Anchor Bible Reference Library [ABRL]) 1995.


Note of the Day – March 15

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Following close after the Transfiguration scene in Luke’s account (Lk 9:28-36, cf. the prior note), we find the second of the three Passion predictions by Jesus (Lk 9:43b-45). These three prophecies are fixed in the Synoptic tradition, being found in all three Gospels. The parallel versions of the second prediction are in Mark 9:30-32 and Matt 17:22-23. In Mark, these pronouncements by Jesus of his impending suffering, death and resurrection, punctuate the narrative fairly evenly (Mk 8:31ff; 9:30-32; 10:32-34); Luke, on the other hand, includes a considerable amount of material between the second and third prediction (Lk 18:31-34). I examined the first prediction (Lk 9:21-23) in a previous note.

Luke 9:43-45

“And as they all (were) wondering upon all the (thing)s which he was doing, he said toward his learners [i.e. his disciples]:
‘You must set/place these sayings into your ears: for the Son of Man is about to be given along into the hands of men‘ (Lk 9:43b-44)

The verb paradi/dwmi literally means “give along”, or, specifically, “give over”—i.e., hand over, deliver—and can be used in a positive, neutral, or negative sense. The latter is meant here; in the context of the Passion narrative, this refers to the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. Interestingly, Luke’s version of this saying refers only to the arrest/betrayal, while in Mark/Matthew the entire Passion is summarized (as in the first prediction):

Mark 9:31—”The Son of Man is being given along into the hands of men, and they will kill him off, and being killed off, with [i.e. after] three days he will stand up [i.e. rise] (again).”
Matt 17:22b-23—”The Son of Man is about to be given along into the hands of men, and they will kill him off, and on the third day he will be raised (up).”

It would appear that Luke has retained only the first part of the saying. In several ways, the author has enhanced the dramatic impact:

  • Jesus introduces the saying with a solemn instruction: “you must set/place these words/sayings into your ears”. In English idiom, we might say something like “let these words really sink in”. It is possible that this instruction is related to other sayings and teachings, but only the prediction of verse 44 is presented here in the narrative.
  • By retaining only the first part of the Synoptic saying, it results in an extremely terse and enigmatic announcement, which creates a sense of menace and foreboding, since it is not stated what the “men” will do to him.
  • The reaction by the disciples (v. 45) has also been expanded (cf. Mark 9:32), emphasizing their confusion and lack of understanding (and the reason for it).

It is worth considering this last point in a bit more detail, by examining the structure and syntax of verse 45:

  • “but they did not know [i.e. understand] this utterance”
    • “and [kai\] it was covered over [i.e. hidden] from them…”
      —”…(so) that [i%na] they should not perceive it”
    • “and [kai\] they feared to ask him about this utterance”

This may also be arranged as a chiasm:

  • did not know this utterance
    —it was covered over from them
    —they feared to ask him about (it)
  • about this utterance

The significance of this sentence hinges on the central, inner sub-clause: “that they should not perceive it”. The exact force of the connective particle i%na is uncertain; there are two main possibilities:

(a) it was covered over… and so (as a result) they could not perceive it
(b) it was covered over…so that they would not (be able) to perceive it

The second interpretation expresses purpose, and would certainly mark the passive form of the prior verb as a theological passive—i.e., it was hidden from them by God. The precise syntax here is almost impossible to render literally in English: an imperfect (h@n “it was [being]”) + perfect passive participle (parakekalumme/non “having been covered over”). In English we might say “it was being covered over” or “it had been covered over”, but we cannot really combine them—i.e., it had been covered over by God, and was now being covered over for the disciples in their experience. The idea that God and/or Christ would want to keep the truth hidden, or from being properly understood, may be troublesome to Christians, but it is very much present throughout the Gospel tradition (cf. Mark 4:11-12 par [citing Isa 6:9-10]), especially with regard to the so-called “Messianic secret” (Mark 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:30; 9:9 pars). It was not until after the resurrection that Jesus’ disciples were to understand just who he was and what many of his sayings truly meant (John 2:22, etc).

The second Passion prediction, like the first, is a saying involving the expression “Son of Man”. There is little here to add in relation to the first saying, other than to point out that the specific emphasis on the betrayal/arrest of Jesus enhances the idea of suffering—that the Son of Man should suffer. This may be meant to draw a contrast with the previous glory of the Transfiguration scene, just as the first Passion prediction could be contrasted with Peter’s confession of Jesus as “the Anointed (One)”. That the ‘Messiah’ should be given over to suffer and die would certainly be startling and difficult to understand. In this regard, note how Luke’s shortened version of the saying creates a striking (poetic) parallel:

  • the son of man (o( ui(o\$ tou= a)nqrw/pou)
    —to be given over
    —into the hands of
  • men (a&nqrwpoi)

Earlier, I had pointed out that the main use of “son of man” in the Old Testament (Hebrew <d*a* /b#), was as a (poetic) synonym for “man” (<d*a*), as a way to express the nature and character of humankind, a human being, particularly with respect to mortality. Here we find a reverse parallel (“son of man… man”) which specifically emphasizes the suffering and death of Jesus.


Note of the Day – March 13

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Within the Synoptic tradition, the Transfiguration episode is part of a series that divides the Gospel narrative between the time of Jesus’ ministry (in Galilee) and his ministry in Jerusalem prior to his death. Using Mark as the reference point, I would outline these as follows:

  • Peter’s Confession of Jesus as “the Anointed” [Christ/Messiah] (Mk 8:27-30)
    —Instruction not to reveal it to anyone (v. 30)
  • Jesus’ first prediction of the Passion (Mk 8:31ff) [Son of Man saying]
  • Five sayings on discipleship (following Jesus), in an eschatological context (Mk 8:34-9:1) [Son of Man saying, v. 38]
  • The Transfiguration (Mk 9:2-10), with reference by Jesus to his death/resurrection
    —Instruction not to reveal it to anyone (v. 9f)
  • Question and teaching regarding the (eschatological) coming of Elijah (Mk 9:11-13) [Son of Man saying, v. 12]
  • A healing miracle (Mk 9:14-28)
  • Jesus’ second prediction of the Passion (Mk 9:30-32) [Son of Man saying]
  • Question involving Jesus’ disciples and their position (Mk 9:33-34), leading to teaching regarding true discipleship and humility, including an illustration involving children (Mk 9:35-37ff, 10:13-16)
  • Request of a man [‘Rich Young Ruler’], culminates in a question of whether he will follow Jesus (Mk 10:17-22ff), followed by additional teaching for his disciples (10:23-31)
  • Jesus’ third prediction of the Passion (Mk 10:32-34) [Son of Man saying]
  • Question involving Jesus’ disciples and their position (Mk 10:35-40), leading to teaching regarding true discipleship and humility (Mk 10:41-45) [Son of Man saying, v. 45]
  • Request of a man [a blind beggar], culminates in his following Jesus (Mk 10:46-52)

We can see how the three Passion predictions punctuate and portion out fairly evenly the material in these chapters (Mark 9-10). In particular there is a loose, but clear pattern to the second and third sections. All three Synoptic Gospels share this basic outline, though, as I have already pointed out, Luke has greatly expanded the portion corresponding to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, ‘omitting’ Mk 9:42-10:12 par, and ‘adding’ all of Luke 9:51-18:14. Referring to the above outline, Luke 9:18-50 corresponds to Mark 8:27-9:41, and even more decisively marks division between the earlier (Galilean) ministry (Lk 3:23-9:17) and the journey to Jerusalem (9:51ff). This is important for an understanding of the Lukan version of the Transfiguration scene, which I will explore briefly here.

The Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36)

For students and readers of the Gospels, this episode should be quite familiar, at least in its basic outline. It is common to all three Synoptics (Mk 9:2-10; Matt 17:1-9), and Luke follows the common account, though adding a few significant and important details which are worth examining [for an additional reference to the Transfiguration, cf. 2 Peter 1:16-18].

  • Luke introduces the account with “and it came to be, eight days after these sayings…” (v. 28), instead of “and after six days…” (in Mk 9:2; Matt 17:10). The author appears to be intentionally dating the episode differently, the “eight days” perhaps being an allusion to the feast of Booths (Sukkoth, cf. Lev 23:36). This seems likely, given the greater emphasis given to motifs related to Moses and the Exodus in Luke’s version of the scene. The Sukkoth traditions (and the symbolism surrounding them) provide the context for Peter’s desire to build three tents (v. 33).
  • It is stated that Jesus went up into the mountain for the purpose of praying (v. 28b). The inclusion of this detail may be a foreshadowing of the garden scene in the Passion narrative (Lk 22:39-41ff par); prayer is also given particular emphasis throughout Luke-Acts.
  • The description of Jesus is modified slightly—Matthew and Luke (independently?) including a reference to the transformation of Jesus’ face (v. 29; Matt 17:2). Matthew states that his face “radiated (light)” [e&lamyen]; in Luke’s version “the visible-shape [ei@do$] of his face (became) other/different [e%tero$]”. It is not unlikely that an allusion to the transformation of Moses’ face (Ex 34:29) is involved here.
  • In the description of Jesus’ encounter with Moses and Elijah, Luke adds two details (v. 31):
    (a) they were made visible before one’s eyes [vb. o)pta/nomai] in glory [e)n do/ca]—this may be an intentional echo of the Son of Man saying in v. 26 (note also v. 27 par)
    (b) they spoke with Jesus regarding “his way out [e&codo$, éxodos] which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem”—probably referring both to Jesus’ death (cf. 2 Pet 1:15) and resurrection/exaltation, which clearly connects with the surrounding (Son of Man) Passion predictions of vv. 22, 44. Use of the word e&codo$ is almost certainly an allusion to Moses and the Exodus (cf. Exod 19:1; Num 33:38; Heb 11:22).
  • Matthew and Luke each (independently?) give greater emphasis to the cloud that appears (vv. 34-35; Matt 17:5), perhaps as an allusion to the theophany at Sinai (Exod 19:16ff). This is far more likely in the Lukan version, which adds the detail that “they [i.e. the three disciples] went into the cloud“, just as Moses entered into the cloud on Sinai (Exod 24:18).
  • In Mark/Matthew (Mk 9:7; Matt 17:5), the (Divine) voice from the cloud echoes the voice at Jesus’ baptism (in Matthew they are identical)—”this is my (be)loved Son…” However, in Luke (v. 35, according to the best manuscript evidence [Ë45, 75 a B L etc]) the declaration reads “this is my Son, the One gathered out [o( e)klelegme/no$] (i.e. the Chosen One)”. Luke’s use of verb e)kle/gomai is distinctive (11 of the 22 NT occurrences are in Luke-Acts); especially noteworthy is the use of the related (verbal) adjective e)klekto/$ (“chosen”) in Luke 23:35—there o( e)klekto/$ (“the Chosen [One]”) is set parallel with o( xristo/$ (“the Anointed [One]”), being applied (mockingly by the onlookers) to Jesus while he is on the cross.

These details shape and color Luke’s version of the scene in two principal ways:

  1. Greater emphasis is given to motifs associated with Moses and the Exodus, and especially with the theophany (manifestation of God) at Sinai. This, in turn, creates a closer connection between Jesus and Moses, as well as with Elijah, who also experienced a theophany at Mt. ‘Sinai’ (Horeb) [cf. 1 Kings 19:11ff].
  2. The transfiguration is brought more clearly into the context of Jesus’ (impending) death and resurrection, as found in the surrounding Passion predictions and Son of Man sayings. Lk 9:31, in particular, effectively sets the stage for Jesus great journey to Jerusalem (to begin in v. 51ff).

Yeshua the Anointed – Part 2: The Prophet to Come

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In the previous Introduction to this Easter series (“Yeshua the Anointed”), I discussed how the expression or title “Anointed (One)”—Heb. j^yv!m* (m¹šîaµ, “Messiah”) and Grk. xristo/$ (christós, “Christ”)—did not have a single predefined meaning in Jewish thought in the 1st-century B.C./A.D. Rather, several different concepts emerged, drawn from certain key Scripture passages, some of which had a decided eschatological emphasis—a future/end-time figure, appointed by God, and through whom God would bring about the restoration of Israel. In my introductory article, I outlined five distinct ‘Messianic’ figure-types or roles which are relevant to an understanding of Jesus (Yeshua) as the Anointed One (Messiah) in early Christian belief and tradition. Of these five types, it is that of Prophet which I will be examining first, since it seems to fit Jesus best during the time of his ministry on earth.

To begin with, the word “prophet” is simply an anglicized transliteration of the Greek profh/th$ (proph¢¡t¢s), and refers to telling or declaring something (verbal stem fh-) before (pro/). The prefix pro (pro) can be understood two different ways: (1) declaring something beforehand (i.e. before it takes place), or (2) declaring something before (i.e. in front of) an audience. The noun (and its derived verb) are used in the former sense throughout the New Testament, and, in literal translation, I always render profh/th$ as “foreteller”. However, the latter sense better fits the basic meaning of the corresponding word ayb!n` (n¹»î°) in Hebrew. A ayb!n` is essentially a spokesperson—one who announces or declares the message (of God) to the people. If related to Akkadian nabû, then the word would also indicate someone called or appointed (by God), i.e. as an authoritative representative. In other words, in terms of ancient Near Eastern religion and society, the ayb!n` represented God before the community and made known His word to them. This role could be filled at any level of society, all the way up to the royal court. Contrary to popular tradition, prophets could be highly educated, literate people (such as Isaiah), and might possess considerable prestige and influence in the community.

Prophets as “Anointed”

In the Old Testament, we find very little evidence for prophets being ceremonially anointed (as were kings and priests). The only clear example is in 1 Kings 19:16, where Elijah is commanded by God to anoint [jv^m* m¹šaµ] Elisha as prophet in his place (cf. also 2 Kings 2:9, 15), just as he was to anoint Hazael as king of Syria (similarly the prophet Samuel anointed Saul and David as king, and Nathan did for Solomon). In Psalm 105:15 / 1 Chron 16:22, “my anointed one(s)” [yjyvm] is set parallel with “my prophets“, where the Prophets of God are referred to collectively. A similar usage may be found in the later Qumran texts (c. 1st century B.C.), where the plural “anointed ones” [<yjyvm] seems to refer to the historical Prophets—cf. 1QM 11:7-8; 4Q270 2 ii 13-14; 4Q287 10 13; 4Q521 8 9; also CD 5:21-6:1 (= 4Q267 2 6 | 6Q15 3 4); and the singular in 1Q30 1 2 probably also refers to a Prophet. In this regard, Moses also appears to have been viewed as an anointed Prophet (4Q377 2 ii 4-5, cf. CD 5:21-6:1). The important text 4Q521 will be discussed in the next article.

Jesus as a Prophet

Christians are not accustomed to thinking of Jesus as a Prophet, but in the Gospel tradition—at least in terms of his time of ministry (prior to the final journey to Jerusalem)—this is the ‘Messianic’ designation that best applies to him. In the Synoptic narrative, which divides neatly between Jesus’ ministry [in Galilee and the surrounding regions] (Mark 1-9 par) and the time in Jerusalem (Mark 11-16 par), there are virtually no references to Jesus as a Davidic ruler or ‘Messianic’ king (cf. Matt 9:27) during the period of ministry. Even references to “the Anointed One” [o( xristo/$] are quite rare, and almost non-existent prior to Peter’s confession (“you are the Anointed One…”, Mk 8:29 par). There are considerably more references to Jesus as “the Anointed One” in the Gospel of John (Jn 1:41; 3:28; 4:25, 29; 7:26-27, 31, 41-42; 10:24; 11:27), but, apart from the explicit identification in Jn 7:42, it is by no means clear that “Anointed One” in these passages always refers to a ‘Messiah’ of the Davidic-ruler type. There is actually better evidence for Jesus as a Messianic Prophet, though it takes a bit of detective work to see the extent of this.

  • First, Jesus himself claims to be a Prophet (or identifies himself as such) in Mark 6:4, along with the parallel passages of Matt 13:57; Luke 4:24ff. The Lukan version of this pericope offers a much more extensive development of this idea, including Jesus’ illustrations associating himself with Elijah/Elisha (vv. 25-27) and his interpretation of Isa 61:1-2 in vv. 18-21. The earlier reference to Jesus coming to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit” (v. 14) may be intended to depict him as a Prophet as well (cf. Luke 1:17; Acts 10:38).
  • Such a self-identification by Jesus may also be inferred or implied from:
    Mark 13:24 (Matt 24:11, 24); Matt 10:41; 23:29-37 (Lk 11:42-50); and Luke 13:33-34
  • Others identify Jesus as a Prophet at numerous points in the Synoptics:
    Mark 6:15; 8:28 (Matt 16:14; Lk 9:8, 19); Matt 21:11, 46; Luke 7:16, 39; 24:19
    There are even more direct statements in the Gospel of John—Jn 4:19; 6:14; 7:40, 52; 9:17
  • In at least one early sermon by Peter (as recorded in Acts 3:18-24), Jesus is identified as the Prophet of Deut 18:15-19 (on this, cf. below).

Additional evidence for Jesus as a Prophetic figure in the type/pattern of Moses and Elijah will be discussed in detail in the next article. In passing, it should be noted that the idea of Jesus as a Prophet is entirely based on early Gospel tradition, and is really only found in the Gospel narratives themselves. Apart from Acts 3:18-24 (cf. also 7:37), it does not occur anywhere else in the New Testament, and is virtually non-existent in early Christian doctrine and theology as well. All of this is strong evidence for the historical veracity of the Gospel references, on entirely objective grounds—the identification of Jesus as a Prophet is not something the early Church would have invented. In spite of the fact that Prophet is one of the customary “offices of Christ” in standard theological terms, it has played very little role in Christian thought since the first century.

The Coming Prophet

As noted in the previous article, I define a “Messiah” as: a ruler or leader, specially appointed by God, and through whom God will bring about the restoration of Israel, in a political and/or religious sense. According to this definition one may properly speak of a Messianic Prophet. The roots of this idea go back to the exile and post-exilic period, during which time the role and office of Prophet [Hebrew ayb!n`, cf. above] had begun to fade out of importance, to the point that a general belief developed regarding the “cessation of prophecy” in what we would call the Intertestamental period. Just as Israelites and Jews expected the future appearance of a king like David, it is not surprising that they would also hope for a Prophet like the great Prophets of old. It is hard to say just how widespread this expectation was—the evidence for it in Jewish writings prior to, or contemporary with, the time of Jesus is relatively slight, but clear enough for us to detect several strands of tradition. Three in particular will be discussed, all of which stem from specific Scripture passages:

  • The Elijah-Tradition—either Elijah himself, or another Prophet in his mold, will appear at the time of the Last Judgment (or just prior to it); through his preaching and signs (miracles) he will bring people to repentance. This is derived from Malachi 3:1 and the concluding verses 4:5-6 [Hebrew 3:23-24].
  • The Moses-Tradition—similarly, at the end-time a “Prophet like Moses” will appear, who will instruct the faithful just as Moses did. This tradition clearly comes from Deuteronomy 18:15-20 (cf. also Deut 34:10-12).
  • The Isaiah-Tradition—this refers specifically to the “Anointed” Prophet of Isaiah 61:1ff, a passage which, I believe, was highly influential on the idea of a Prophet as “Messiah”.

All three of these traditions were current, to varying degrees, in Judaism during the 1st centuries B.C./A.D., and each is important in understanding how Jesus was viewed in the earliest Gospel tradition. They will be discussed in the next article. First, let us look at passages which indicate belief in a coming (future or end-time) Prophet:

  • 1 Maccabees 14:41, part of an official record of thanksgiving (vv. 27-45), in honor of the high priest Simon; verse 41 reads (in conventional translation): “…the Jews and the(ir) priests thought it good (for) Simon to be their leader and chief priest into the Age [i.e. forever], until a trust(worthy) Prophet should arise“.
  • Testament of Benjamin 9:2 refers to the coming of “the unique Prophet”. The Testaments (of the Twelve Patriarchs) are difficult to date, as they represent Christian expansions/adaptation of earlier Jewish material, ranging from the mid-2nd century B.C. to the early-mid 2nd century A.D. For example, here verse 3 is a clear Christian addition (drawing upon Mal 3:1).
  • There are two passages in the Qumran texts (both to be dated sometime in the 1st cent B.C.):
    • The so-called ‘Community Rule’ 1QS 9:11, which has the famous phrase “…until the coming of the Prophet and the Anointed (One)s of Aaron and Israel”.
    • 4QTestimonia [4Q175] lines 5-8, citing Deut 18:18-19 (cf. above); for more on the Moses-type of Prophet, cf. also 4Q375 and 377 (the “Apocryphon of Moses” B, C).
  • It is likely that 4Q521 describes a Messianic Prophet, combining elements of the Elijah- and Isaiah-traditions (see the next article for more on this text). A combination of elements is also found in the Messianic figure of 11QMelchizedek, including that of an anointed herald (or Prophet).
  • The tradition of Elijah’s appearance at the end time is attested by Sirach 48:10f (alluding to Mal 4:5-6), and also in the “Sibylline Oracles” 2:187ff (Christian, but drawing upon earlier Jewish material).

Several passages in the New Testament demonstrate a similar belief in the appearance of an end-time (Messianic) Prophet, indicated by references to “the Prophet”—John 1:21, 25, and with whom Jesus is identified in John 6:14; 7:40; Luke 7:16, 39 v.l., and (possibly) also Matt 14:5; 21:11. Probably “the Prophet” here refers to the expected “Prophet like Moses” of Deut 18:18ff, as likely also for the “trustworthy” or “unique” Prophet in 1 Macc 14:41; Test. Benj. 9:2 (above). Jesus is specifically identified as the Prophet of Deut 18 in Acts 3:18-24 (cf. also Acts 7:37), and is associated with Moses in various ways throughout early Christian tradition.

As for the eschatological appearance of Elijah, this belief (derived from Mal 3:1; 4:5-6) is expressed several places in the Gospels—Mark 1:2; 6:15; 8:28 pars; 9:11-13 par; Matt 11:14; John 1:21, 25; Luke 1:17, 76ff. In all likelihood the Elijah-tradition also underlies the expression o( e)rxo/meno$ (“the [One who is] Coming”) which occurs at several important points in the Gospels. It is closely related to the vital early question as to whether John the Baptist or Jesus was “Elijah” and/or the Anointed Prophet (to Come). This specific issue will be discussed in detail in a supplementary note. Regarding the Elijah/Moses-traditions in relation to Jesus, this is the subject of the next article.




Note of the Day – March 12

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Directly following the Passion prediction by Jesus (Luke 9:22, cf. the previous note), we find a sequence of five sayings (Lk. 9:23-27) which is very close to that in Mark 8:34-9:1 (par Matt 16:24-28):

  • “If any(one) wishes to come in back of [i.e. after] me, let him take up his stake [i.e. ‘cross’] according to (the) day [i.e. daily] and follow me” (v. 23, Mk 8:34 / Matt 16:24)
  • “Whoever wishes to save his soul [i.e. his life] will destroy it [i.e. cause it to perish], but whoever would destroy his soul [i.e. let it perish] will save it” (v. 24, Mk 8:35 / Matt 16:25)
  • “What [i.e. how] is a man aided [i.e. how does he benefit], gaining the whole world but destroying or injuring himself?” (v. 25, Mk 8:36 / Matt 16:26)
    [Note: a literal rendering here is somewhat misleading — the idiomatic language is that of commerce, i.e. financial profit vs. loss]
  • The Son of Man saying (discussed below) (v. 26, Mk 8:38 / Matt 16:27)
  • “There are some (indeed) standing on th(is) same (place) [i.e. here] who should not taste death (themselves) until they should see the kingdom of God!” (v. 27, Mk 9:1/ Matt 16:28)

It should be noted that Jesus need not have uttered all of these sayings together in sequence, on a single occasion. Early Gospel tradition developed largely by way of combining together sayings and teachings of Jesus on the basis of a common theme or wording. Here, the first four sayings all relate to what we might call the “cost of discipleship”, that is, of following Jesus. Originally, the sayings would have applied to those who would follow Jesus during his earthly ministry, but they soon were understood clearly in terms of being a Christian. The middle three sayings involved the idea of (heavenly) reward for following Jesus, certainly with the context of the divine tribunal and the end-time Judgment in mind. The eschatological emphasis is made abundantly clear in the last two sayings, though the apparent declaration of an imminent end in the final saying (less pronounced in the Lukan version) remains problematic for readers today.

It is the fourth saying which involves the expression “the Son of Man” [o( ui(o\$ tou= a)nqrw/pou], and this is what I will be looking at briefly in today’s note.

Luke 9:26 (par. Mark 8:38)

Here is Luke’s version of the saying:

“For whoever would feel shame on (account of) me and my words, the Son of Man will feel shame on (account of) this (person) when he should come in his glory and (that) of his Father and the holy Messengers”

For comparison, here is the version in Mark 8:38 (differences between the two being italicized):

“For whoever would feel shame on (account of) me and my words in th(is) adulterous and sinful (period of) coming to be [i.e. generation], the Son of Man also will feel shame on (account of) him [i.e. that person] when he should come in the glory of his Father with the holy Messengers”

On the (critical) theory that Luke has utilized Mark’s version, the author may be seen as simplifying the first half (omitting “in this adulterous and sinful generation”), and modifying the second. The second half of Mark’s version is far less awkward; it also would seem to make much better sense for Jesus to say “in the glory of his Father, with the holy Messengers”. Luke’s version of that clause may be intended to express a clearer sense that Jesus himself would be coming in (his own) glory—”in his (own) glory, and (that of) his Father and the holy Messengers”. A more traditional-conservative explanation might resort to the idea that both versions are (somehow) accurate translations from an Aramaic original; but exactly how this might be is rather hard to envision. The corresponding saying in Matt 16:27 is quite different:

“For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father with his holy Messengers, and then he will give from (him[self]) [i.e. give over, give away] to each (person) according to his actions/deeds”

Only the first clause is shared by Mark (and Luke). It is possible that Mark’s version reflects a merging of two (originally) separate sayings; or, perhaps, Matthew (if the author is utilizing Mark) has modified or replaced the saying to better fit the context of the prior verses. Interestingly, Luke has a parallel (doublet) version of verse 26 in 12:8-9 (also in Matt 10:32-33):

“…every one who would give account as one [i.e. agree/consent] on me in front of men, the Son of Man will give account as one [i.e. agree/consent] on him in front of the Messengers of God; but the one denying me in the eyes of [i.e. before] men will be denied in the eyes of [i.e. before] the Messengers of God”

This saying has the definite context of the heavenly court and divine tribunal (of the Last Judgment), with the holy Messengers (i.e. “Angels”) as witnesses. Here, however, it is not so clear that Jesus himself is meant to be taken as the same person as the “Son of Man”. If a saying such as that in Matt 16:27 were combined (in the early tradition) with a saying like Luke 12:8-9, it might well have resulted in an apparent conflate saying such as Luke 9:26/Mark 8:38. Consider that Matt 16:27 and Luke 12:8-9 are both clear and straightforward, expressing two different (but related) aspects of the end-time Judgment by God:

  • Matt 16:27—The Son of Man will appear in glory, along with the Angels, to oversee the Judgment, i.e., render to each human being according to his/her deeds in this life.
  • Luke 12:8-9—The human being appears in court (in Heaven), before the divine tribunal, and in presence of the Angels (members of the ‘Heavenly Court’); again the Son of Man oversees the Judgment. Here the basis of judgment is more clearly Christian—a person’s deeds are defined in terms of whether he/she publicly confessed or affirmed Christ, or, by contrast, whether he/she denied Christ. Very likely this test relates to persecution believers would face in their lifetime on account of Jesus.

It is readily apparent that Mark 8:38/Lk 9:26 combine both aspects:

  1. Mk 8:38a/Lk 9:26a generally matches the situation of Lk 12:8-9, though the test of affirming/denying Jesus is made only in the negative, as “feeling shame on (account of)” Jesus and his words (i.e. the Gospel).
  2. Mk 8:38b/Lk 9:26b corresponds with Matt 16:27a, emphasizing only the appearance of the Son of Man, in glory, along with the Angels at the end-time. However, the idea of judgment on the basis of a person’s deeds (Matt 16:27b) is clear enough from the context of Lk 9:23-25 par, and is defined in terms of faithfulness, devotion and perseverance in following Jesus.

In all of these instances, the Son of Man is present according to two distinct roles or images:

  1. Appearing in (Divine) glory along with the Angels at the end-time. The expression “in the glory of his Father” should be understood in two important respects:
    (a) The Son of Man functions as God’s own representative—that is, God himself is manifest to human beings at the end-time in the person of the Son of Man
    (b) There is an implication, at the very least, that the title “Son of Man” is related in some way to the “Son of God”
  2. As the One overseeing the end-time Judgment of God, which, according to Scriptural motifs and concepts, can be seen as taking place: (a) on earth (the “day of YHWH”, involving judgment/subjugation of the nations), or (b) in heaven before the Heavenly court and Divine tribunal.

Both of these roles will discussed in more detail later on. It is also worth noting here that, in these passages under examination (Luke 9:26 / Mark 8:38, along with Matt 16:27; Lk 12:8-9), it is not entirely clear that Jesus and the “Son of Man” are to be identified as the same person. This should be kept in mind, even though such an identification was, I believe, certainly made by Jesus himself (at the historical level) in at least a number of the Son of Man sayings, and was without question the understanding of early Christians and the developed Gospel tradition. These points and questions will be elucidated further in subsequent notes and articles.

Following the (eschatological) saying in Luke 9:27 (par Mk 9:1/Matt 16:28), all three Gospels record the Transfiguration episode. Even though this episode does not feature the expression “Son of Man”, it is vital to the structure of the Gospel narrative, leading (especially in the Lukan version) toward the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem, and so will be examined in the next daily note.


Note of the Day – March 10

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The first “Son of Man” saying in Luke which I will be examining in this Easter season note (cf. the prior introduction) is Luke 9:22—the first of three Passion predictions in Synoptic tradition where Jesus is recorded announcing (prophetically) his own suffering and death. For an earlier treatment of these Passion predictions, see the notes from April 10, 11, and 12 last year.

Luke 9:22

In all three Gospels, this first statement follows Peter’s confession of Jesus as the “Anointed (One)” (o( xristo/$, ho christós, i.e. “the Christ”). I have just begun a series of articles on the idea of Jesus as the “Anointed (One)” (‘Christ, Messiah [j^yv!m* m¹šîaµ]’). The episode in Luke 9:18-20 (par Mark 8:27-29; Matt 16:13-16), culminating in Peter’s confession, is central to this identification in early Gospel tradition. Here, for the first time, Jesus’ own disciples begin to come to grips with who he is (note the question, “who do you count/reckon me to be?”); Peter clearly gives the answer. In fact, it may be possible to detect a development of Gospel tradition right in this passage. If we compare the three [Synoptic] versions (Mk 8:29 / Lk 9:20 / Matt 16:15-16), each has an identical question by Jesus: u(mei=$ de\ ti/na me le/get ei@nai; (“and who do you count/reckon me to be?”); however, Peter’s answer differs somewhat:

  • Mark has the shortest and simplest version:
    su\ ei@ o( xristo/$ “you are the Anointed (One)”
  • Luke’s version contains a bit more:
    to\n xristo\n tou= qeou= “(you are) the Anointed (One) of God
  • In Matthew it is expanded considerably:
    su\ ei@ o( xristo/$ o( ui(o\$ tou= qeou= tou= zw=nto$
    “you are the Anointed (One), the son of the living God

In the view of many critical scholars, the italicized portions reflect subsequent belief about Jesus in the early Church, rather than Peter’s own words per se—that is, as a kind of gloss or commentary on Peter’s statement. Certainly it is most unlikely that Peter had in mind a developed doctrine of Christ’s deity at such an early stage; however, it is certainly possible for an Israelite or Jew in the first century to have understood an Anointed figure (Messiah) as the “son of God”, at least in a qualified sense. The Aramaic text 4Q246 from Qumran would seem to confirm this (col. ii, line 1, cf. Lk 1:32, 35). Bear in mind also that Matthew records Peter’s answer (stated by Jesus) to be an inspired utterance by God (Matt 16:17)—i.e. Peter may well have not understood the full force of what he was saying. Following this confession, the Synoptic tradition has the interesting notice that:

“putting a charge upon them, he gave along the message [i.e. instructed them] to tell this to no one” (Lk 9:21, par. Mk 8:20 / Matt 16:20)

On purely objective grounds, this instruction not to tell anyone he was the Anointed One (Messiah)—the so-called “Messianic secret”—must be historical and factual; it is extremely unlikely that such a tradition would have been produced (subsequently) by the early Church. Various suggestions have been made by commentators as to why Jesus would want to keep his identity a secret; perhaps the most reasonable (and best) explanation is that it would (prematurely) result in the expectation that he would fulfill a particular idea of the Messiah—i.e., as a Davidic ruler who would restore the (earthly) kingdom of Israel (cf. Lk 17:20; 19:11; Jn 6:15; Acts 1:6, etc). Many of Jesus’ sayings and teachings about the kingdom (of God) reflect a very different idea. In any event, a follower who expected Jesus to fulfill the eschatological role of a triumphant Messiah-king, would certainly have been shocked by the Passion prediction by Jesus which comes in the next verse. I set the Lukan version side-by-side with Mark/Matthew in the context of the Synoptic tradition:

Luke 9:22

ei)pw\n o%ti dei= to\n ui(o\n tou= a)nqrw/pou polla\ paqei=n kai\ a)podokimasqh=nai a)po\ tw=n presbute/rwn kai\ a)rxiere/wn kai\ grammate/wn kai\ a)poktanqh=nai kai\ th=| tri/th| h(me/ra| e)gerqh=nai

“…saying that it is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many (things) and to be removed from examination [i.e. be rejected] from [i.e. by] the Elders and Chief Sacred-officials and Writers and to be (set forth to be) killed, and, on the third day, to be raised (from the dead)”

Mark 8:31

kai\ h&rcato dida/skein au)tou\$ o%ti dei= to\n ui(o\n tou= a)nqrw/pou polla\ paqei=n kai\ a)podokimasqh=nai u(po\ tw=n prebute/rwn kai\ tw=n a)rxiere/wn kai\ tw=n grammate/wn kai\ a)poktanqh=nai kai\ meta\ trei=$ h(me/ra$ a)nasth=nai

“and he began to teach them that it is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many (things) and to be removed from examination [i.e. be rejected] under the Elders and the Chief Sacred-officials and the Writers and to be (set forth to be) killed, and, after three days, to stand up (out of the dead).”

Matthew 16:21

a)po\ to/te h&rcato o(  )Ihsou=$ deiknu/ein toi=$ maqhtai=$ au)tou= o%ti dei= au)to\n ei)$  (Ieroso/luma a)pelqei=n kai\ polla\ paqei=n a)po\ tw=n presbute/rwn kai\ a)rxiere/wn kai\ grammate/wn kai\ a)poktanqh=nai kai\ th=| trith| h(me/ra| e)gerqh=nai

“from then Yeshua began to show his learners that it is necessary for him to go (away) from (there) into Yerushalaim and to suffer many (things) from the Elders and Chief Sacred-officials and Writers and to be (set forth to be) killed, and, on the third day, to be raised (from the dead)”

In the Lukan version, Jesus described four things which will happen, presented by a string of (aorist) infinitive forms. Here is the structure of the sentence:

  • dei= “it is necessary”
    • to\n ui(o\n tou= a)nqrw/pou “(for) the Son of Man”
      {the sequence of infinitives follows, linked by polla\ [“many things”, i.e. suffer many things]}
    • paqei=n “to suffer (many things)”
    • a)podokimasqh=nai “to be considered unworthy, i.e. be rejected”, literally something like “to be thrown out from the test”
      —rejected by [a)po\ lit. “from”] the Elders and Chief sacred-officials (“Chief priests”) and Writers (“Scribes”), i.e. members of the Council (Sanhedrin) in Jerusalem
    • a)poktanqh=nai “to be killed (off)”, that is, “set away to be put to death”
    • e)gerqh=nai “to be raised (up) in/on the third day

If we take this statement as authentic prophecy (by Jesus), then it provides an accurate summary of the events which would take place, as recorded in the Gospel narrative:

  • paqei=n—that he would suffer “many things” (polla/), covering the next two terms as well, but also including specifically Jesus’ suffering in the garden, along with his subsequent arrest (Luke 22:39-53 par).
  • a)podokimasqh=nai—the use of the verb (a)po)dikma/zw indicates an examination, someone or something being taken under consideration or put to the test, etc. This certainly fits Jesus’ appearance before the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:54-65 par). Contrary to popular belief, the meeting of the Sanhedrin presumably was not an official trial, but an ad hoc tribunal of sorts, in response to what was deemed an urgent situation. The prefix a)po indicates someone being taken away from consideration, removed from the test, i.e. being rejected, in this instance by the members of the Sanhedrin (the Elders, Chief Priests and Scribes).
  • a)poktanqh=nai—his being “killed off”, or, more precisely, being taken away and put to death—which includes all of the proceedings of the Roman governor (Pilate) leading to the execution (at the stake, i.e. crucifixion), Luke 23:1-49 par.
  • e)gerqh=nai—the resurrection, his being raised (from the dead), Luke 24:1-12ff par.

What of Jesus’ use of the expression “the Son of Man” (o( ui(o\$ tou= a)nqrw/pou) here? Given Peter’s declaration in verse 20, we might have expected him to have responded that “it is necessary for the Anointed (“Christ”) to suffer many things…”, which is the language he is recorded as using in Lk 24:25-26, 46f, after the resurrection. Instead here he uses “the Son of Man”, as also in the other two Passion predictions (Lk 9:44; 18:31-32 par; cf. also 24:7). For the moment, I can only offer a tentative interpretation—a more complete explanation must wait until the other two passages have been discussed; but there are several possibilities which may be considered:

  1. Jesus simply uses the expression as a way to refer to himself, i.e. “the son of man” is equivalent to “I”. In a number of the Son of Man sayings, Jesus is clearly speaking of himself, and that is likely how the early tradition understood it here, judging by the parallel in Matt 16:21. There is some evidence for the use of “son of man” (<da /b / vna rb) as a circumlocution for the pronoun “I” or “you” in direct address, but it is relatively slight, and it is by no means clear that it was common practice in Jesus’ time. Such usage stems from the general or indefinite sense of the expression, i.e. “a(ny) man”.
  2. He may be identifying himself specifically with humankind, that is, in terms of his own human ‘nature’—here, especially, of mortality, including suffering and death. The idea, then, might be a kind of representative or collective identification, such as would be developed doctrinally in the early Church (cf. Romans 5:12ff; 8:3f, 17; Heb 2:10-18, etc).
  3. If he is drawing upon the image of a divine/heavenly figure (taken primarily from Daniel 7:13f; 10:5, 15), as appears to be the case in a number of the Son of Man sayings we will be examining (cf. Lk 9:26, etc), then Jesus may be indicating a striking contrast—instead of coming in (eschatological) glory and power, the “Son of Man” (that is, Jesus himself) will first suffer and be put to death. Only with the resurrection, will he appear subsequently in a glorious, victorious form.
  4. There may also be a specific contrast with Peter’s identification of Jesus as “the Anointed One” (Christ/Messiah), especially if understood in the (traditional) sense of an end-time Davidic ruler who will judge the Nations and restore the kingdom to Israel. It is abundantly clear, both from the New Testament and other Jewish writings of the period, that there was no expectation that the ‘Messiah’ would suffer and be put to death. Such an idea appears to be unique to Jesus’ own teaching, and must have come as something of a shock to his followers at the time. This is presumably the basis for the sharp exchange with Peter in Mk 8:32-33 / Matt 16:22-23, which is omitted by Luke. Of course, we cannot be sure exactly what Peter may have said; the verb e)pitima/w (also used by Jesus in Mk 8:33 [to Peter], and previously in Lk 9:21 par), has a fairly wide range of meaning—to place honor (and/or blame) upon someone, to place a charge upon someone; more generally, to rebuke, admonish, threaten, forbid, etc., depending on the context.

Note of the Day – Easter Season

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For the remainder of Easter Season, on through Holy Week, I will be looking at selected verses and passages from the Gospel of Luke, set around the journey to Jerusalem—specifically those which involve the expression “(the) Son of Man”. Most of the references containing “the Son of Man” (o( ui(o\$ tou= a)nqrw/pou) in Luke were inherited from the wider Synoptic tradition, and parallel versions can be found in Matthew and Mark as well. They will be introduced below.

The Gospel of Luke is unique among the three Synoptics in the way that the narrative is structured around the journey to Jerusalem. The common view of many New Testament scholars is that Matthew and Luke both made use of Mark as a source document. The basic hypothesis is sound, though not without certain difficulties. It may, however, safely be said that, if Luke did not use Mark, then the author clearly drew upon a document (or a developed set of traditions) which, in terms of structure and content, was very similar to Mark. For most of chapters 3-9, Luke follows Mark (chs. 1-9) in its basic narrative and arrangement of episodes, including additional material at several points. Indeed, Luke 9:1-50 corresponds with Mark 8:1-9:41, has nothing matching Mk 9:42-10:13 (except the saying in Lk 17:1-2), and then ‘picks up’ the narrative thread of Mk 10:14ff, but only at Lk 18:15. All of Lk 9:51-18:14 (nearly nine full chapters) consists, for the most part, of material not found in Mark. Lk 9:51ff contains (1) sayings and narrative sections occurring also in Matthew (so-called “Q” material), and (2) material found only in Luke among the Synoptics (so-called “L”). The “L”-material in these chapters includes many of the most famous and beloved parables of Jesus.

The fact that the “Q” sayings, etc., often occur in very different locations in Matthew strongly suggests that we are dealing with a literary, rather than historical/chronological, arrangement. The narrative setting for this material in Lk 9:51-18:14 is the journey of Jesus and his disciples to Jerusalem. The Synoptics, unlike the Gospel of John, record only one journey to Jerusalem—for the Passover of Holy Week, Jesus’ last week prior to his death. In Mark and Matthew, this journey is narrated very briefly (cf. Mark 10:1, 17, 32, 46; Matt 19:1; 20:17, 29); Luke, on the other hand, records Jesus giving a considerable amount of teaching—taking place, according to the narrative setting, on the way to Jerusalem.

“The Son of Man”

There are more than 85 occurrences of the expression [o(] ui(o\$ [tou=] a)nqrw/pou (“the son of [the] man”), in the New Testament—every occurrence in the Gospels comes either from Jesus’ own lips or in reponse to his words (for the latter, cf. Lk 24:7; Jn 12:34). Outside of the Gospels it is only found in Acts 7:56; Heb 2:8 (quoting Ps 8:4); and Rev 1:13; 14:14 (alluding to Dan 7:13, also 10:5, 16; 14:4). In an upcoming article, I will examine in detail the background and meaning of this expression and how it applies to Jesus. For the moment, by way of introduction, I would simply note that the Greek expression corresponds to the Hebrew <d*a* /B# (ben-°¹d¹m), which occurs in the Old Testament more than 100 times. In ancient Semitic idiom (/B# ben, “son”) in the construct state (“son of…”) often has the meaning of belonging to a particular group or category, and of possessing such characteristics. In this instance, “son of man” simply means “a human being”, i.e. belonging to the human race. Specifically it can mean possessing human characteristics or qualities (especially mortality), contrasted with a heavenly or divine being (including God [YHWH] himself). The parallel, synonymous expression vona$ /B# (ben °§nôš), “son of (hu)mankind” occurs once (Ps 144:3); the corresponding Aramaic is vn`a$ rB^ (bar °§n¹š), only at Dan 7:13 in the OT, along with the variant forms vn rb, avn rb (as well as <da rb) attested in later Aramaic. The Biblical (and contemporary) usage can be summarized as follows:

  1. Generally (or indefinitely) of a human being (“a[ny] man”), in poetic language—with <da /b (ben °¹d¹m, “son of man”) set parallel to <da (°¹d¹m, “man”), cf. Num 23:19; Job 16:21; 25:6; 35:8; Psalm 8:4; 80:17; 144:3; 146:3; Isa 51:12; 56:2; Jer 50:40; 51:43. The dual-expression (“man…son of man…”) often is set in contrast to God [YHWH] and His nature.
  2. In divine/heavenly address to a human being (a Prophet), in Ezekiel (more than 90 times) and Daniel (Dan 8:17). The sense is something like “(as for) you, O mortal…”, again distinguishing a human being from the divine/heavenly being who addresses him.
  3. The apparently unique instance of Daniel 7:13—here “son of man” is used to describe a divine/heavenly/angelic(?) being who resembles a human. This famous passage will be discussed in more detail later on.

For a convenient summary of the topic, especially on the possible Aramaic forms of the expression which might relate to the concept and terminology in the 1st century A.D., see J. A. Fitzmyer, A Wandering Aramean: Collected Aramaic Essays, Chapter 6 (Scholars Press: 1979), pp. 143-160 (reprinted in The Semitic Background of the New Testament [Eerdmans: 1997]).

I will be beginning these notes with the Son of Man saying in Luke 9:22 (par Mark 8:31; Matt 16:21). Here is a list of prior sayings in the Gospel, along with their Synoptic parallels:

  • Luke 5:24 (Mk 2:10 / Matt 9:6)
  • Luke 6:5 (Mk 2:28 / Matt 12:8)
  • Luke 6:22 (cf. Matt 5:11)
  • Luke 7:34 (Matt 11:19)

Yeshua the Anointed – Part 1: Introduction

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For Easter season this year, I will be presenting a series entitled “Yeshua the Anointed” (in conventional rendering, “Jesus the Messiah”) – focusing specifically on Jesus as the Anointed One, or Messiah. Within a generation (less than 30 years) after his death and resurrection, the term Xristo/$ (Christos, “Anointed [One]”) was being applied to Jesus virtually as a second name. Through the generations, right up to the present day, believers have been so accustomed to referring to him as “Jesus Christ” or “Christ”, that much of the original meaning of the title has been lost or forgotten. This began to change, to some extent, in the 20th century, largely as a result of more thorough critical study of the Jewish background of the New Testament (aided considerably by the discovery and publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls), and we are now able to gain a clearer sense of what the term might have meant or signified for Jews and early Christians in the 1st century A.D.

The word “Messiah” is simply an Anglicized transliteration of the Hebrew j^yv!m* (m¹šîaµ), a substantive noun derived from the root jv^m* (m¹šaµ), which has the basic meaning to wipe, rub or otherwise apply a substance (such as paint or oil). It came to be used in the technical or ceremonial sense of the application of oil to persons or objects, as a means of consecration. More generally, in ancient Near Eastern culture, anointing with oil was often a way of bestowing honor or dignity upon a person (the use of oil typically being a sign and symbol of wealth), e.g. Psalm 23:5; Amos 6:6; Mic 6:15; Luke 7:46. Anointing with oil was also thought to be a means and medium for healing, i.e. of illness or disease (James 5:14; cf. Isa 1:6, etc); in addition, there was the ceremonial practice of anointing (or “embalming”) associated with burial ritual (cf. especially regarding Jesus’ burial in Mark 16:1; Matt 26:12; Luke 23:56; John 19:39).

Hebrew jv^m* is typically rendered in Greek by the corresponding verb a)lei/fw (aleíphœ), which likewise has the meaning “rub, wipe, smear” (used 8 times in the NT—Matt 6:17; Mk 6:13; 16:1; Lk 7:38, 46 [twice]; Jn 11:2; 12:3; Jas 5:14). However, when referring to the ritual/ceremonial practice of anointing rulers, priests, sacred objects, and the like, the verb xri/w (chríœ) is more common (LXX Exod 30:26; 40:10; Lev 8:11ff, et al); xri/w occurs 5 times in the NT (Lk 4:18 [quoting Isa 61:1]; Acts 4:27; 10:38; 2 Cor 1:21; and Heb 1:9 [quoting Ps 45:7]), with the compound forms e)pixri/w and e)gxri/w in Jn 9:6, 11 and Rev 3:18. The derived noun xristo/$ (christós) corresponds to j^yv!m*—both mean literally “anointed (one or thing)” (i.e. person or object). The related noun xri=sma (chrísma) refers to the application or anointing itself (LXX Ex 29:7; 30:25, etc), and is used in the NT (of believers) only in a symbolic, spiritual sense (1 Jn 2:20, 27, cf. 2 Cor 1:21).

Use of the noun j^yv!m*

The substantive noun j^yv!m* (m¹šîaµ) occurs 39 times in the Old Testament Scriptures (cf. Fitzmyer, pp. 76-77), and always in the ritual/ceremonial sense of a consecrated person (or object):

  • Most commonly it refers to the reigning/ruling King generally—1 Sam 2:10, 35; 16:6; Psalm 2:2; 20:7; 84:10 (and Psalm 28:8; Hab 3:13 ?), or to a specific ruler, such as:
    • Saul—1 Sam 24:7, 11; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Sam 1:14, 16, 21 (?), and cf. also 1 Sam 12:3, 5
    • David—2 Sam 19:22; 22:51; 23:1; Psalm 18:51; 89:39, 52; 132:10, 17 (and/or the Davidic line)
    • Solomon—2 Chron 6:42
    • Zedekiah—Lam 4:20 (cf. 2 Kings 25:4-5)
  • It may also be used of an ordained/officiating Priest (or High Priest)—Lev 4:3, 5, 16; 6:15
  • References to anointed Prophets in the OT are rare or uncertain, but note 1 Chron 16:22, Psalm 105:5, and cf. also 1 Kings 19:16
  • Only twice does the term clearly refer to a future, expected figure:
    • Isaiah 45:1 (the Persian ruler Cyrus)
    • Daniel 9:25-26 (of a military commander or “prince” [dyg]n`])—this famous passage will be discussed in due course

There are, of course, many references to the anointing of kings and rulers, priests, and sacred objects (i.e. of the Tabernacle), not all of which necessarily use the verb jv^m*: e.g., Gen 31:13; Ex 28:41; 29:7, 21, 29, 36; 30:25ff; 40:9-11ff; Lev 6:20, 22; 7:36; 8:10-12; 10:7; 16:32; 21:10, 12; Num 3:3; 7:1, 10, 84, 88; Judg 9:8, 15; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 15:1, 17; 16:3, 12-13; 2 Sam 2:4, 7; 3:39; 5:3, 17; 12:7; 19:10; 1 Kings 1:34, 39, 45; 5:1; 19:15f; 2 Kings 9:3, 6, 12; 11:12; 23:30; 1 Chron 11:3; 14:8; 29:22; 2 Chron 22:7; Psalm 45:7; 89:20; Dan 9:24; and cf. also Zech 4:14.

The concept of anointing and anointed persons need not be limited to the use of the noun j^yv!m* (or the verb jv^m*), but it is helpful indeed to begin with these terms (and/or their Greek equivalents) when analyzing the idea of a “Messiah” in Jewish and early Christian thought.

Definition of Basic Terms

  • “Messiah”—As a basic concept, I define the term as: a ruler or leader, specially appointed by God, and through whom God will bring about the restoration of Israel, in a political and/or religious sense. To this definition, several additional or qualifying points should be made:
    • (1) The distinctive concept of a “Messiah” is primarily a product of the historical circumstances of the Exile, with the end of the old Israelite/Judean kingdoms, the conquest of the territory (and people), and the destruction of the Temple. Only in the Exilic and Post-exilic periods does the idea of the restoration of Israel come into view, and with it the hope of a divinely-appointed figure who will bring it about.
    • (2) This future hope gradually came to be understood in an eschatological context—that is, the appearance of a “Messiah” (or the “Messiah”) will precede, or coincide with, the end-time Judgment of God, and will usher in the Age to Come.
    • (3) While a “Messiah” may correspond to a number of different images or ideas (cf. below), the primary figure which developed in Israelite/Jewish thought was that of a Davidic ruler (i.e. from the dynasty or line of David) who will arise at some point (in the future) and restore the kingdom of Israel, subjugating the nations, and inaugurating a (worldwide) reign of peace.
    • (4) It is worth noting the virtually all of the traditions associated with the idea of a “Messiah” in Jewish and early Christian thought are derived from a relatively small set of Old Testament passages. Apart from the verses where the specific word j^yv!m* is used (cf. above), these include Gen 49:10; Num 24:15-19; 2 Sam 7:11-17; 22:44-51 (= Ps 18:44-51); 23:1-3, 5; Isa 11:1-9; Amos 9:11; Jer 22:4-5; 23:5-6; 30:9, 21; 33:14-22; Ezek 17:3-4, 22-23; 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Zech 3:8; 4:11-14; 6:12-13; Dan 7:13ff, and perhaps a few others. These will all be discussed at various points in this series. Extra-Scriptural influence on the Messiah concept would seem to be slight indeed.
  • “Messianic”: any belief, teaching, image, or motif which relates to, or is characteristic of, the idea of a “Messiah” as defined above.
  • “Messianism”: a distinct set of “Messianic” beliefs or concepts which is relatively consistent, and may be expressed as such (with some degree of clarity) in tradition or writing. I do not find the term to be particularly helpful, and it really ought to be used sparingly, as little as possible.

Some authors and scholars, on occasion, will apply the terms “Messianic” and “Messianism” to similar religious-cultural phenomena outside of Judaism—i.e. ancient Persian, Egyptian (in the Roman period), Hindu, Islamic, etc. While one may legitimately consider “Messianism” or “Messiah” concepts under the larger umbrella of the Phenomenology of Religion—and, admittedly, there are any number of parallels in other cultures—it is best to reserve “Messiah” and “Messianic” specifically for Jewish (and early Christian) thought. The only (partial) exception is that I would, without hesitation, include Samaritan beliefs (associated with a future/coming Taheb [bht]) as “Messianic”.

Sources for Messianic thought (in the 1st century A.D.)

I would group these into four categories:

  • The Old Testament Scriptures—for a list of the most relevant passages, see above.
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls (from Qumran)—These texts span the period roughly 150 B.C. to 50 A.D., with the majority to be dated somewhere in the 1st century B.C. It is generally assumed that the scrolls found in the various caves belonged to a Community which resided at the site of Khirbet Qumrân. The corpus represented by the scrolls comprises a wide range of writings: documents related to the organization of the Community, copies of Scripture, commentaries, pseudepigrapha and other interpretive treatments of Scripture, and much more. A number of texts contain definite eschatological and/or Messianic passages, which will be introduced and discussed throughout this series.
  • Other Jewish writings c. 250 B.C.–100 A.D.—These include:
    • Pseudepigraphic works with an apocalyptic and/or eschatological emphasis, especially—
      • The Psalms of Solomon (mid-late 1st century B.C. [sometime after 63 B.C.]), esp. the 17th and 18th psalms
      • The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which appears to be a Christian expansion (or adaptation) of earlier Jewish source material (mid-2nd century B.C.?). The presumed Christian additions likely date from the early/mid-2nd century A.D. The Qumran text 4QTLevi is related in some way to the Testament of Levi.
      • The Sibylline Oracles (esp. portions of Books 3 and 5), which contain much Jewish material (variously dated from the mid-2nd century B.C. to the late 1st century A.D.), along with Christian additions and adaptation.
      • The Similitudes of Enoch (1 Enoch 37-71), date uncertain, probably early-mid 1st century A.D.
      • The Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch), late 1st century A.D.
      • The deutero-canonical 2/4 Esdras (or “4 Ezra”), late 1st century A.D.
    • Several passages in the books of Jubilees and Sirach (both typically dated early/mid-2nd century B.C.)
    • Philo of Alexandria shows little interest in eschatology or Messianic ideas (but cf. On Rewards and Punishments §§165-9). As for Josephus, his pro-Roman viewpoint made him averse to popular Messianic expectation, but he does bear witness to several would-be “Messiah”-type figures who appeared and had some influence (Antiquities 18.85; 20.97, 169-172; War 7.437ff). That Messianic expectation was relatively widespread is indicated by Josephus’ report of a prophecy that a world-ruler would come out of Judea (War 6.312ff, and cf. Tacitus, Histories 5.13.2; Suetonius, Vespasian 4.5).
    • We might also include texts and inscriptions associated with the Bar-Kokhba rebellion (132-135 A.D.)
  • Later Jewish Literature, from the 2nd century A.D. on into the middle ages—these writings may contain earlier traditions, but one must be extremely cautious about trying to read them back into the time of Jesus. There is a wide range of material, including:
    • Later Pseudepigrapha, such as so-called “Hebrew Enoch” (3 Enoch)
    • The Targums, Aramaic translations of Scripture which are often highly interpretative and expansive
    • Traditions contained in the Midrash and Talmuds
    • Collections of Midrashim (such as the Midrash Rabbah) and other Rabbinic writings

j^yv!m* in Jewish writings 1st-century B.C./A.D.

It is instructive to list the relevant passages where the noun j^yv!m* (m¹šîaµ), or the corresponding Greek xristo/$ (christós) etc., is used in Jewish writings of the 1st centuries B.C. and A.D. (including the New Testament). For Old Testament passages using j^yv!m, cf. above.

The Dead Sea (Qumran) Texts (cf. “Qumran-Messianism”, pp. 191-4), including the so-called “Damascus Document” which, in addition to the fragments from Qumran (QD), is attested also in later versions or copies found previously in Cairo [CD]:

  • It is often used of a political/military leader (presumably, if not explicitly, Davidic):
    • Anointed (One) of Israel
      CD 12:23-13:1; 14:9 (= 4Q266 10 i 12); 19:10-11; 20:1
      1QS 9:11 (passage apparently missing from 4Q259 1 iii 6)
      1QSa 2:14-15, 20-21; and also 4Q382 16 2
    • Anointed (One)
      1QSa 2:11-12; 4Q252 5:3-4; 4Q381 15 7; 4Q458 2 ii 6
  • It is used similarly of a priestly leader (Priest/High-priest):
    • Anointed (One) of Aaron
      CD 12:23-13:1; 14:9; 19:10-11; 20:1; 1QS 9:11 (all parallel to “Anointed [One] of Israel”)
    • Anointed Priest
      4Q375 1 i 9; 4Q376 1 i 1
  • It frequently refers to the (historical) Prophets, always in the plural (“Anointed Ones”):
    • CD 2:12; 5:21-6:1 (= 4Q267 2 6 / 6Q15 3 4); 1QM 11:7-8; 4Q270 2 ii 13-14; 4Q287 10 13; 4Q521 8 9
    • And similarly of Moses: 4Q377 2 ii 4-5, and cf. CD 5:21f
  • It is used of an Elijah-like Prophet figure in 4Q521 1 ii 1, 7 3 (drawing upon Isa 61:1ff and Ps 146)
  • It is used of an Anointed “herald” (r?bm) in 11QMelch 2:18, referring specifically to Daniel 9:25

Pseudepigrapha (cf. “Qumran-Messianism”, pp. 29-43)—the key passages are:

  • Psalms of Solomon 17:32[36]; 18:5, 7 (and cf. the context of 17:21-33)
  • The Similitudes of Enoch—1 Enoch 48:10; 52:4 [Ethiopic]
  • The Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch) 29:3; 30:1; 39:7; 40:1; 70:9; 72:2 [Syriac]; and note esp. the context of chs. 72-74.
  • 2/4 Esdras (4 Ezra) 7:28-29ff (throughout ch. 7); 11:37-12:34; and see also 13:3-14:9

New Testament—here I list out only those verses where xristo/$ is clearly used in the general sense of an expected (future or end-time) figure; square brackets indicate references which are slightly less certain, or which may be colored more by early Christian belief about Jesus. Naturally enough, nearly all of these come from the Gospels and Acts.

  • Mark 8:29; 12:35; 13:21; 14:61; 15:32 (and parallels in Matt/Luke)
  • Luke 3:15; 4:41; 23:39; [24:26, 46]
  • Matthew 2:4; [11:2; 24:5]
  • John 1:20, 25; 3:28; 4:29; 7:26-27, 31, 41-42; 10:24; 11:27; 12:34; [20:31]
  • Acts [2:31]; 3:20; 5:42; [8:5]; 9:22; 17:3; 18:5, 28; [26:23]
  • [Romans 9:5]
  • 1 John 2:22; 5:1

In John 1:41; 4:25, j^yv!m* is transliterated (as Messi/a$), rather than translated by Xristo/$.

Messianic Figures or Types

I would highlight five distinct figures or types associated with the Messiah-concept in Jewish and early Christian tradition:

  1. The Davidic King—a political/military ruler, usually understood to be a ‘descendent’ of David, though this does not necessarily mean biological descent.
  2. The True or Ideal Priest—a priestly ‘descendent’ of Levi/Aaron who will oversee the religious restoration of Israel; this figure is associated especially with the Messianic beliefs and expectations of the Qumran Community.
  3. The Coming Prophet—an end-time miracle-working and/or teaching prophet whose appearance will precede the Judgment of God; there are two strands of tradition which developed:
    (a) A Moses-figure (from Deut 18:15-19)
    (b) An Elijah-figure (from Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6)
  4. A Teacher of Righteousness/Holiness—who will bring divine revelation and instruction, especially with regard to a proper understanding of the Law (Torah); a distinctive feature of the Qumran texts.
  5. A Heavenly/Angelic Deliverer—associated as well with the end-time Judgment of God; best known in terms of the “Son of Man” concept, as developed (it would seem) from the brief reference in Daniel 7:13f.

These are best understood as specific types or roles—it may be possible for a single person or figure to fulfill more than one role. As we shall see, all five of these can be seen as being fulfilled by Jesus in various ways, and this as been expressed at different points throughout the history of Christian belief and tradition.

Outline for this Series

Here is the outline I will be following for this series:

  • Part 1: Introduction
  • Part 2: The Coming Prophet: Moses
  • Part 3: The Coming Prophet: Elijah
  • Part 4: The Teacher of Righteousness
  • Part 5: The Kingdom of God
  • Part 6: The Davidic King: Overview and Background
  • Part 7: The Davidic King: Detailed Analysis
  • Part 8: The Son of David
  • Part 9: The True Priest
  • Part 10: The Son of Man
  • Part 11: The Death and Resurrection of Jesus
  • Part 12: Messiah and the Son of God

In each article I will attempt to examine: (a) the Old Testament background, (b) Jewish believers or traditions which are likely to have been in existence during the 1st century A.D., (c) how it relates or applies to Jesus at the historical level and in Gospel tradition, and (d) how it further was understood in early Christian thought.

Bibliographic Note: There are many books and articles which survey Messianic beliefs in the Qumran Texts (Dead Sea Scrolls); I found three to be especially useful, which I will be citing frequently during this series:
* John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature (Anchor Bible Reference Library [ABRL] 1995)—referenced as “Collins”.
* Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins ([Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature], Eerdmans: 2000), esp. pp. 73-110—referenced as “Fitzmyer”.
* James H. Charlesworth, Hermann Lichtenberger, and Gerbern S. Oegema, editors, Qumran Messianism: Studies on the Messianic Expectations in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Mohr Siebeck: 1998)—referenced as “Qumran-Messianism”.


Note of the Day – January 13

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The octave of Epiphany (Jan 13) in the West has traditionally commemorated the baptism of Jesus. It is in the context of Jesus’ baptism, as recorded in the Gospels, that we find some of the most intriguing and provocative references to the “birth of the Son of God” (the theme of these Christmas season notes).

Mark 1:9-11 par

The core narrative, in its clearest form, is that of Mark 1:9-11:

  • In verse 9 it is simply stated that Jesus was dunked/dipped (i.e. baptized) in the Jordan river by John
  • In verse 10, a three-fold sequence of ascent/descent is narrated:
    • Jesus stepping up [a)nabai/nwn] out of the water
      —he saw the heavens splitting open
    • The Spirit as a dove stepping down [katabai/nwn] (out of heaven) into/unto him
  • In verse 11—”there came to be a voice out of the heavens: “You are my Son the (be)loved, I think/consider good in you [i.e. I think well of you, I have delight in you]”

Both Matthew and Luke include tradition(s) regarding John’s ministry (Matt 3:7-12; Lk 3:7-20), which expands the narrative. Luke’s account of the baptism itself (Lk 3:21-22) is rather brief, shorter even than that in Mark, with several extra details:

  • It is mentioned that, while being baptized, Jesus was praying (lit. “speaking out toward [God]”)
  • Instead of Jesus seeing the heavens split open, it is simply stated that “the heaven opened up”
  • It is said that the Spirit descends in bodily appearance as a dove
  • (For the textual variants involving the words of the heavenly voice, cf. below)

Matthew includes a brief exchange between John and Jesus (Matt 3:13-15), but otherwise his account of the baptism is essentially a blend of the wording in Mark and Luke. The heavenly voice differs slightly—”This is my Son the (be)loved, in whom I think/consider good“—as a declaration rather than a personal address to Jesus.

The Gospel of John does not given an account of the baptism as such—it is narrated indirectly as part of John the Baptist’s testimony in Jn 1:29-34. The concluding declaration essentially takes the place of the heavenly voice in identifying Jesus as God’s Son:

“and I have seen and have given witness that this is the Son of God” (v. 34)

The Johannine account (Jn 1:29-34) has been discussed in more detail in an earlier note last year.

Textual variants in Luke 3:22 and John 1:34

There are two key variant readings which are worth noting:

  1. In John 1:34 (cf. above), instead of “the Son of God” (o( ui(o\$ tou= qeou=), several manuscripts and versions (Ë5vid a* b e ff2* syrs,c) read “the (one) gathered out [i.e. Chosen one] of God” (o( e)klekto\$ tou= qeou=) or the conflation “the Chosen Son of God” (a ff2c syrpal sah). The conflate reading is certainly secondary, but some scholars have argued that “the Elect/Chosen (One) of God” is original (cf. Ehrman, pp. 69-70). However, the external manuscript evidence, as well as Johannine usage, would seem to favor “the Son of God”.
  2. In Luke 3:22, a number of (Western) witnesses (D a b c d ff2 l r1) record the heavenly voice quoting Psalm 2:7—”You are my Son, today I have caused you to be (born)”—instead of the declaration “You are my (be)loved Son…” It is also attested by quite a few Church Fathers in the 2d-4th centuries, and a minority of textual critics accept it as original (cf. Ehrman, pp. 62-67). I have discussed the question in some detail in a previous note.

Psalm 2:7, of course, was one of the principal “Messianic” passages interpreted as referring to Jesus in the early Church, as I have noted on a number of occasions. The oldest application seems to have been to Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation to heaven—i.e., the moment when he is “born” as God’s Son—as indicated by its use in Acts 13:32-33ff [note the similar use of Ps 110:1 in Acts 2:24-36]; cf. also Rom 1:4 and Rom 8:22-23, 29; Col 1:18; Rev 1:5. Orthodox Christology would come to understand Psalm 2:7 (along with Ps 110:1) in terms of Jesus’ eternal, pre-existent Sonship, as association which is already reflected in Heb 1:5ff. Actually, Hebrews seems to combine both views—Jesus as pre-existent Son and “Son” as a result of the resurrection/exaltation—based on a careful study of chapter 1 and the way Ps 2:7 and 110:1 are cited in chapter 5 (cf. also Heb 2:8-13, etc). We find a similar combination in Paul’s writings (cf. Rom 1:3-4; Phil 2:6-11).

The Transfiguration Scene (Mark 9:7; Matt 17:5; Lk 9:35)

There is a clear parallel with the Baptism of Jesus in the Transfiguration scene narrated in the Synoptics (Mark 9:2-8 / Matt 17:1-8 / Lk 9:28-36) and referenced in 2 Peter 1:17-18. In Mark 9:7, a voice from Heaven declares:

This is my Son the (be)loved, hear [i.e. listen to] him!”

The italicized portion is closest to the form of the divine voice in Matthew’s account of the Baptism (cf. above), also reflected in the Matthean Transfiguration scene (Matt 17:5):

This is my Son the (be)loved, in whom I think/consider good—hear him!”

The words in italics are identical to that of the voice in Matt 3:17, which strongly suggests that an original 2nd person address there was modified to match the form in the Transfiguration scene (and vice versa!). The Lukan version (Lk 9:35) matches the shorter form in Mark, with one major difference (noted by italics):

“This is my Son the (One) gathered out [i.e. Elect/Chosen One], hear him!”

Instead of the adjective a)gaphto/$ (“[be]loved”), Luke has the participle e)klelegme/no$ (“having been gathered out”). While many manuscripts of Lk 9:35, naturally enough, read a)gaphto/$ (harmonizing with Matt/Mark), e)klelegme/no$ is most likely original (cf. TCGNT, p. 124, and Ehrman, pp. 67-68). The verb e)kle/gomai (“gather out”, i.e. “select, choose”) is relatively common in Luke-Acts (11 of the 22 NT occurrences), but is used elsewhere in the Synoptics only once (Mark 13:20).

Finally, we should mention the reference to the heavenly voice at the Transfiguration in 2 Peter 1:17, which, interestingly enough, matches the version in Matthew (specifically Matthew’s account of the Baptism):

“This is my Son, my (be)loved, in whom I think/consider good”
Differs from Matt 3:17 only in word order and inclusion of a second mou (“my”)

The Symbolism of Baptism

A number of key passages in the New Testament which refer either to believers as “sons/children” of God, or specifically as being “born”, are in a context relating in some way to baptism. Most of these have already been discussed in the previous Christmas season notes; I point out here again the most relevant passages:

  • John 3:3-8—especially significant is the expression “come to be (born) [gennhqh=|] out of water and (the) Spirit” (v. 5), parallel to “come to be (born) from above” in v. 3. Nearly all of the instances in the New Testament where water and Spirit are juxtaposed refer to baptism—either of Jesus or of believers (Mark 1:8-10 par; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 8:39; 10:47; 11:16; the reference in 1 John 5:6-8 is more complicated).
  • Galatians 3:26-27ff—the idea of believers as the “sons of God” (v. 26, cf. also v. 29) is connected specifically with baptism in verse 27.
  • Romans 6:3-4ff; 8:12-23, 29—In Paul’s thought, baptism is symbolic of the believer’s identification with, and participation in, the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom 6:3-4ff; cf. also Col 2:12). As pointed out above, it is through his resurrection (and exaltation) that Jesus was understood as God’s “Son” in early Christian preaching (Acts 13:32-33; Rom 1:4, etc), and it is also the means by which believers are “born” as “sons/children” of God, at least in one strand of Christian tradition (cf. Rom 8:12-23, 29; 1 Pet 1:3; Heb 2:10, also 1 Cor 15:20, 23, 36-37, 42ff). On the specific expression “firstborn of the dead” (Col 1:18; Rev 1:5), cf. the prior note.

This concludes the series of Christmas season notes, devoted to the theme of “the Birth of the Son of God”. During this season, it is right and proper that we should celebrate both Jesus own birth—whether from Mary, in the Baptism, by his Resurrection, or eternally from God—as well as our own birth as sons and daughters, children of God, in union with Christ. It is to be hoped that this survey and study of all the New Testament passages related to this theme has been informative and enriching, in at least some small way, for those who have followed it.

References above marked “TCGNT” are to the Metzger/UBS Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd edition, 1994/2002); those marked “Ehrman” are to Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (Oxford: 1993).