Euangelion: Messianic Interpretation in the Targums

Euangelion: Messianic Interpretation in the Targums

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Published in: on February 16, 2009 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment  


Couple of thoughts I had after last class session, which I found challenging and exciting:

1.  We talked about the appeal of servant atonement Christology in the Church in spite of limited references in the NT, and concluded that its connection with sacrifice might be the key.  I’m wondering if for Lutherans it may also be rooted in our emphasis on justification.  While dikaiow is a juridical term and by itself has no sacrificial implications, Paul in a key verse we read every Reformation Sunday (Romans 3:25) connects it with hilasthrion,  whose precise meaning is disputed, but which the LXX uses in Lev. 16: 13-16, to translate “mercy seat” of the Ark on which the blood of the bull was sprinkled on the day of atonement.  So in the Romans verse justification hinges on the gift by God’s grace, through the setting-free which is in Christ, whom God displays or offers (protithhmi) as a place(?) or means of atonement.  An easy homiletic jump from that ambiguity, which is difficult to preach,  to a courtroom drama in which God the Judge, who would otherwise pronounce a death sentence upon us, instead places it upon our public defender (what, you think we can afford a lawyer?)  who willinglly bears the sentence for us (once you make that jump, the domino link is Is. 53:5, although as Mark mentioned, Paul never goes there or uses pais) so that we may be declared not guilty and set free.

 2.  We touched on the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) in terms of verse 16, the rebuilding (restoration) of Israel.  But it also, I believe, contributed to some of the apparently anti-Jewish rhetoric we noted in Stephen’s sermon (7:51-53), other places in Acts (13:46-50; 28:25-28) and other NT passages.  The major decision of the Council was to declare that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised (and hence come under the Jewish law) in  order to be received as Christians (“to be saved” vs 1).   The major consequence of that decision: Chritianity could no longer remain as a group within Judaism, for Jewish identity is inseparably tied to circumcision (letter from a rabbi in this week’s Time magazine makes the same point about Jews who are currently questioning the practice for other reasons).   Jews who had become Christians would now need to make a decision about whether to continue in their new found faith in Jesus as Messiah; those who did so risked expulsion from their familiar synagogues (John 9:22).  One can only imagine the pain and anger that ensued as families and communities were divided.  It’s against that background of family struggle (Norm Beck, Mature Christianity  uses the model of young people trying to establish their own identity over against the established traditions of their parents) that we can best understand this “anti-Jewish” rhetoric and so avoid the hermeneutical error so prevalent throughout church history where preachers, writers and theologians (including Martin Luther – see my uncategorized blog “Beyond Trypho”) directly applied the rhetoric to Judaism of their own day.


Published in: on November 26, 2007 at 9:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

A listing of texts for Mark’s Use of the OT

HERE is a posting by Rod Decker collating a number of resources we have used to show the use of the OT in Mark. Download and save, if you can use it.

Published in: on October 30, 2007 at 11:15 pm  Comments (1)  

Early Jewish and Christian Art as Interpretive Resources

The most recent issue of Interpretation focuses on “Art and Exegesis.” It serves as a reminder that depictions of biblical events often reflect a history of interpretation. The article on “Art and the Liturgy” points to a scene from Sant Apollinare at Ravenna where the sacrifice of Abel, of Abraham/Isaac, and of Melchizedek are brought together as types of the sacrifice of Jesus. (It is not the same scene but a similar theme, again at Ravenna, is described here.) Most Christian art is relatively late–the Ravenna scenes are from the 6th century–but it may provide some resources for your work. Look here for links to biblical art sites. The first two listed on that page are probably the most helpful.

Published in: on October 29, 2007 at 12:42 pm  Comments (1)  

Interesting post regarding Messiah in a Qumran text

4Q521 and Lk. 7.22-23 – Evidence for A Messianic Jesus?

UPDATE (10.24): That first post has now been updated HERE.

Published in: on October 15, 2007 at 10:48 pm  Comments (2)  

Why we blog…

This short video should help give you a sense of Web 2.0 and why we blog.

Published in: on October 15, 2007 at 10:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jerusalem Perspective site and articles

Jerusalem Perspective Online describes itself as a site interested in “Exploring the Jewish Background to the Life and Words of Jesus.” Sign up for their free Jerusalem Perspective Email Updates. The latest article is “Rabbinic Literature: A Spiritual Treasure.” It especially focuses on a part of the Mishnah called the Pirke Avot or “Sayings of the Fathers.” There are some interesting connections with the sayings of Jesus… (BTW, this document is available as a free download for BibleWorks7. Look for Pirke Aboth here.)

Also note that the site has some free articles.  One I just noticed is about the “Finger of God,” a topic we discussed in class. Check it out.

Published in: on October 10, 2007 at 9:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Download this article…

Related to Dave’s post just below this one, check out the latest Journal of Theological Interpretation. (Check out the contents over at Euanggelion.) There is a link to download the article, “Texts in Context: Scripture in the Divine Economy” by Murray Rae that discusses Justin’s Trypho and quite a few other topics related to our class.

Published in: on October 10, 2007 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Beyond Trypho

Sadie’s report last Friday on Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho raises critical issues in Jewish-Christian relationships which have their roots in the supersessionist exegesis (the understanding that Hebrew Scripture texts have been superseded by their fulfillment in Christ and are therefore only important as promises or preparation for the reality that Jesus came to bring) expressed in that writing.  Actually, supersessionist exegesis has roots already in the NT (2 Cor 3:1-11; Heb 8:13) as does the charge also implicitly present in the Dialogue that Jews really don’t understand their own Scriptures (Acts 13:27; 2 Cor 3:14).  In the NT, however, the issue was largely an “in-house” debate (Jews arguing with Jews) as the Church endeavored to establish its own identity over against Judaism from which it was emerging or more traumatically, being expelled (Jn 9:22).  Norm Beck’s Mature Christianity is a good read that uses family dynamics to help us understand and move beyond the NT polemic.

In the succeeding centuries, however, especially after Constantine the “dialogue” became more of a one sided attack on Judaism by Gentile Christian writers and theologians.  Even with Trypho, as we observed in class, Justin controlled both sides of the debate.  Sadie noted how he ended the writing with mutual respect; that spirit is sadly lacking in later works.   Tertullian, for instance, charged the Jews with rejecting or killing both Jesus and the prophets, being contentious about the meaning of words in the Bible (again, don’t understand their own Scriptures), and generally openly sinful.  Ambrose allegorically interpreted the Cain-Abel story to apply the mark of Cain to the Jews (“stained by the blood of their Lord…and Brother also”).  Augustine, commenting on the same story (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean),  insisted that Jews be preserved, but as wanderers and fugitives (like Cain) in order to be a witness to Christians of the consequence of rejecting Christ.

In our Lutheran tradition we also have no reason to boast.  Martin Luther’s attitude toward Jews and Judaism at the beginning of the Reformation indeed seemed remarkably conciliatory.  In his 1523 treatise “That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew” (LW, 45) Luther sympathetically and colorfully commented on the persecution and lack of genuine Gospel outreach that Jews endured from the medieval church, “If I had been a Jew and seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian.”  The underlying premise behind the treatise is that Jews had never been taught what their Scriptures meant, but once they learned, they would certainly convert to Christianity.  Considering various OT passages, Luther described in detail how Christ fulfilled them all.  How disappointed he was to discover the Jewish community rejected his christological, supersessionist hermeneutic and in fact had their own understanding of the passages in question.  Disappointment turned to anger and anger eventually to bitterness.  In 1543 three years before his death, Luther wrote a hate-filled piece entitled “On the Jews and their Lies” (LW, 47) in which he advocated setting fire to synagogues and schools, destroying Jewish homes, forbidding rabbis to teach, and other extreme measures which found chilling fulfillment in kristallnacht and the Holocaust.  We can only echo Roland Bainton’s sentiment, “One could wish that Luther had died beore this tract was written.” (Here I Stand, p. 379)  While the above survey is a vast oversimplification of a long and complex historical process, I would still contend it correctly points to the danger of  interpreting texts, even (perhaps, especially) sacred texts, in a narrow, exclusivistic manner.

Thankfully, the ELCA has turned a page, expressing sorrow for sins committed against Jews in the name of Luther and others who have attempted to incorporate anti-Judaism into our Lutheran understanding of the faith.  At a Churchwide and local level, we have begun to engage in genuine dialogue as we read Scripture texts together, listening carefully to the understanding of the other and honestly expressing our own understanding.  The real value of this course, I believe, is not simply to help us identify patterns of Jewish and Christian exegesis in biblical times, but to help us grow in our own exegesis and proclamation so that we can “bring out of our treasure what is new and what is old.”  (Incidentally, if any class participants are interested in discussing Jewish-Christian (or Lutheran) dialog further, I’d be glad to do so at a mutually convenient time – just leave a note on my blog page).  Dave

Published in: on October 10, 2007 at 3:44 am  Comments (1)  

Review of recent book on Didache

The Way of the Didache is reviewed here. Looks interesting, and it has a chapter on Scripture in the Didache.

Published in: on September 27, 2007 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment