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JESUS AS PROPHET, HIS PROPHETIC SIGNS, AND THE LAST SUPPER
Michael Barber, Ph.D. / John Paul the Great Catholic University © 2011
www.JPCatholic.com / www.TheSacredPage.com / email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is a Prophet?1
1. Modern definition: someone who predicts the future 2. Biblical Prophet: ―one who speaks for God.‖2 a. Speaks ―the word of the LORD‖ (Jer 1:2, 4) b. Anointed with ―the spirit of the LORD‖ (1 Kgs 22:24; Isa 61:1) c. Able to predict the future (Deut 18:21–22) d. ―A man of the dabar‖ (Hebrew ―word‖)3
Biblical Terminology for Prophets
1. ―Prophet‖ (Hb nā ): bî e. ―mouthpiece‖ ―And the LORD said to Moses, ―See, I make you as God to Pharaoh; and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you; and Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land‖ (Exod 7:2). f. one who ―calls‖ or ―announces‖ (1 Sam 9:9) 3. ―Prophet‖ (Gk pro-phemi): to ―speak for‖ God5 4. ―Seer‖ (Hb ro‘eh or hozeh): one who sees what others cannot (1 Kgs 8:8; 14:2) 5. ―Man of God‖ (Hb ‗ish ha‘elohim) (1 Kgs 13:1; 17:24) 6. True Prophecy vs. False Prophecy a. True prophets predictions come to pass b. Fate of false prophets: death penalty (Deut 13:1–5)
Examples of Prophets
1. The Pentateuch: a. Adam: names animals & entrusted with God‘s word (Gen 2:19; cf. Gen 2:16–17; 3:3)6
Scott Hahn, ed., Catholic Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 2009), 733-37. Hahn, Catholic Bible Dictionary, 733. Roland De Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 354: ―The prophet was a man of the dabar, of the word, a spokesman of God, therefore, who was directly inspired by God to give a particular message in definite circumstances; he was an instrument through whom God actually revealed himself. The priest, on the other hand, was the man of the torah; knowledge (da‗ath) was entrusted to him for interpretation, and though this knowledge certainly came from God long ago, it was handed down to men century after century by teaching and practice.‖ Giuseppe Ricciotti, History of Israel (2 vols.; Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955/1958), 1:317. Or ―to speak in the place of God‖ (Ricciotti, History of Israel, 1:320). See Augustine: ―Hence we are justified in concluding that the ecstasy in which Adam was caught up when God cast him into a sleep was given to him so that his mind in that state might participate with the host of angels and, entering into the sanctuary of God, understand what was finally to come. When he awoke, he was like one filled with the spirit of prophecy, and seeing his wife brought before him, he immediately opened his mouth and proclaimed the great mystery that St. Paul [cf. Eph 5:31–32] teaches: ‗This now is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she has been taken out of man. And for this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be the two in one flesh.‘ These were the words of the first man according to the testimony of Scripture, but in the Gospel our Lord declared that God spoke them. For he says, ‗Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‗For this reason a man shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh‘?‘ [Matt 19:4]. From this we should understand, therefore, that because of the ecstasy that Adam had just experienced he was able to say this as a prophet under divine guidance‖ (On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis 9.19.36).
1 2 3 4 5 6
b. Noah: entrusted with the word of God‘s judgment (Gen 7:4) c. Abraham (and Patriarchs): both patriarch and prophet (Gen 20:7)7 d. Aaron: both prophet and priest (Exod 7:1) e. Miriam: example of female ‗prophetess‘ (Exod 15:20) f. Moses: greatest of all prophets (Deut 34:10) g. Balaam: unrighteous ―prophet‖ (Num 22–24; cf. Deut 23:5–6: ―a diviner‖) 2. The Historical Books: a. Samuel: first of the ‗classic prophets‘ (1 Sam 3:20) b. Nathan: prophet during reign of David (2 Samuel 7) c. Elijah: one of the greatest prophets d. Elisha: disciple of Elijah; ―father‖ of prophetic ‗school‘ or ‗family‘ (2 Kgs 9:1) e. Huldah: wife of the royal wardrobe keeper (2 Kgs 22:14) 3. The Prophetic Literature: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.
Moses as the Prophet Par Excellence8
1. Standard-bearer of a ―prophet‖ (Deut 34:10) Deut 34:10–12: ―And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.‖ 2. Divine commissioning accompanied by theophany (Exod 3–4) 3. Unique relationship with God a. Speaks to God ―face to face‖ (Num 12:6–8; Deut 34:10) b. Receives information to pass along to others directly from God i. To Pharaoh (Exod 6:20–22) ii. To Israel (Exod 19:3) iii. To Aaronic priests (Lev 19:1–2) 4. Delivers both a. Specific instructions for particular people (Exod 14:1–4; Num 9:1–5; 16:23–24) b. Enduring legislation (e.g., Exod 20–23; Lev 1:1–7:37) 5. Intercessory role (Exod 32:7–14; Num 14:10b–25) 6. Performs Signs / Mighty Deeds a. Miraculous staff, power over leprosy, & turning the Nile into blood (cf. Exod 4:1–9) b. The ten plagues (cf. Exod 5:1–12:51) c. The parting of the Red Sea (cf. Exod 14:1–15:12) d. The quail and manna from heaven (cf. Exod 16:1–36) e. Producing water from the rock (cf. Exod 17:1–7; Num 20:2–13) f. Constructing a bronze serpent that healed those who looked at it (cf. Num 21:4–9)9
See Clement of Alexandria, ―Among the Hebrews the prophets spoke by the power and inspiration of God. Before the law there was Adam, who used a power of prophecy over the woman and over the naming of animals; Noah, preaching repentence; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob offering a clear foreshadowing of a large number of events future or imminent‖ (Stromateis 1.135–3). See, e.g., B. Buller, ―Prophets, Prophecy,‖ in Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 664–665. See also the comments by David Stacey, Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament (Westminster: Epworth, 1990), 57: ―From one point of view Moses is a prophet par excellence. But Moses is a figure on his own.‖ See Scot McKnight, ―Jesus and Prophetic Actions,‖ Bulletin for Biblical Research 10/2 (2000): 218–22, who lists many others: the throwing of a tree into undrinkable water making it sweet (Exod 15:23–26; cf. Josephus, A.J. 3:5–8; 4Q364– 365 6, II, 10–11); the elevation of Moses‘ rod, which helped Israel overcome their enemies in battle (cf. Exod 17:8–13); Moses
8 9 7
7. Messianic / eschatological forerunner a. Deut 18:15: ―The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—him you shall heed. . .‖ b. Jewish tradition: Moses as Messianic Prototype10
The Fate of the Prophets
1. Prophetic Vocation: called from all walks of life a. Elisha: called while plowing a field (1 Kgs 19:19) b. Amos: called from shepherding and farming (Amos 7:14) c. Isaiah: royal court advisor (Isa 7:3-25; 37:21-35) d. Jeremiah: did not want to be a prophet (Jer 1:14ff.; 20:7-9) 2. The Danger of Being a Prophet: a. Temptation to False Prophecy: Micaiah and the Court Prophets (1 Kgs 22) b. Failure to Follow God‘s Commands: leads to death (1 Kgs 13:11-32) c. Prophets likely to end up persecuted or executed (Matt 23:29ff.)11 3. The Cessation of Prophecy a. Psalm 74:9: We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long. b. 1 Maccabees 9:27: Thus there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them. c. 1 Maccabees 4:43–46: . . . and they cleansed the sanctuary and removed the defiled stones to an unclean place. 44 They deliberated what to do about the altar of burnt offering, which had been profaned. 45 And they thought it best to tear it down, lest it bring reproach upon them, for the Gentiles had defiled it. So they tore down the altar, 46 and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them. d. 1 Maccabees 14:41: And the Jews and their priests decided that Simon should be their leader and high priest for ever, until a trustworthy prophet should arise. . .
and Aaron‘s ascension up to Mt. Sinai (cf. Exod 19:9–20:26; 24:12–18); the construction of twelve pillars and the covenant ratification ritual (cf. Exod 24:1–8); the act of smashing the tablets containing God‘s Law, grinding it into powder and giving it to Israel to drink (cf. Exod 32:15–24); Moses‘ challenge, asking ―Who is on the L ORD‘s side?‖ (cf. Exod 32:25–29); the pouring out of the spirit on the seventy (cf. Num 11:16–30); the destruction of Korah (cf. Num 16:1–50; 1 Kgs 18:20–46); the gathering of rods from each tribe and the budding of Aaron‘s rod (cf. Num 17:1–13); the stripping of Aaron and the investiture of Joshua on a mountain (cf. Num 20:22–29); the installation of Joshua as Israel‘s leader (cf. Num 27:12–23). 10 Indeed, Moses‘ significance is underscored by the way later Jewish tradition describes him as the messianic prototype. Along these lines we should mention that the rabbinic literature refers to Moses as ―Israel‘s savior‖ ( b. Sotah 12b; cf. 11a; 11b and 13a) and the ―first redeemer‖ (Ruth Rab. 2:14; the Messiah is called the ―last redeemer,‖ cf. Gen. Rab. 85; cf. also Gen. Rab. 85; Exod. Rab. 1). Likewise, Moses is associated with the Messiah in b. Sanh. 98b: ―Rab said: The world was created only on David's account. Samuel said: On Moses account; R. Johanan said: For the sake of the Messiah‖ (Soncino ed.). Other passages draw conclusions abut the Messiah based on Moses‘ life: e.g., as Moses was brought up in Egypt, the Messiah would live in Rome (cf. Exod. Rab. 1); as Moses went into hiding so would the Messiah (cf. Num. Rab. 11; Song Rab. on 2:9; Pesiq. Rab. 36); as Moses rode on an ass and provided miraculous food so also would the Messiah (cf. Eccl. Rab. 1:9). See also 4Q375 1 I, 1–4; Howard M. Teeple, The Mosaic Eschatological Prophet (SBLMS 10; Philadelphia: Society of Biblical Literature, 1957). Of course, the Exodus itself became the model for Jewish eschatological hopes. For further discussion, see the discussion and references provided in Rikki Watts, Isaiah‘s New Exodus and Mark (WUNT 288; Tübingen: MohrSiebeck, 1997), 79–82; Dale Allison, The New Moses: A Matthean Typology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 200–13. See, e.g., 1 Kgs 19:14 (Israel has ―slain‖ all the prophets except Elijah with ―the sword‖). ―The attitude of the people toward the prophets was the usual attitude of moral pygmies toward giants in their midst. It was an illogical, changeable attitude, veering in turn from veneration to abomination, from faith to incomprehension which in a moment of bestial exasperation would stone the giant, and immediately afterward use the same bloody stones to raise up a monument to him‖ (Ricciotti, The History of Israel, 1:329).
1. Samuel: Saul tears his robe: symbol that the kingdom is torn from him (1 Sam 15:27–29) 2. Ahijah: Tears cloak into 12 pieces, gives Jeroboam 10: symbolizes the ten tribes (1 Kgs 11:29–40) 3. Elijah a. Call down fire from heaven: proves that YHWH is the one true God (cf. 1 Kgs 18:20–46) b. Casts mantle on Elisha: given prophetic power / successor (cf. 1 Kgs 19:19–21). 4. Elisha a. Kills his oxen: symbolize commitment to follow Elijah (cf. 1 Kgs 19:21) b. Parts the Jordan with Elijah‘s cloak: successor (cf. 2 Kgs 2:12–18) c. Directs Joash to shoot arrows: symbolize victory God promises (cf. 2 Kgs 13:14–17) i. Joash only strikes the ground with arrows three times: God will only allow him to be victorious three times (cf. 2 Kgs 13:18–19) 5. Zedekiah (false prophet): a. makes horns of iron to indicate (falsely) that Israel will defeat their enemies (cf. 1 Kgs 22:1– 12 and 2 Chron 18:1–11) 6. Hosea: a. Takes a wife: symbolizes God‘s relationship with Israel (cf. Hos 1:2–3) b. Gives his children symbolic names: reveal God‘s coming judgment on Israel (cf. Hos 1:4– 9) c. Must marry a prostitute: unfaithfulness symbolizes Israel‘s infidelity to God (cf. Hos 3:1–5) 7. Isaiah: a. Gives his son a name with prophetic value (cf. Isa 7:3; Isa 8:1–4) b. A woman will bear a child named, ―Immanuel‖: sign of judgment of Ahab (cf. Isa 7:10–17) c. Walks around naked for 3 years: Assyria‘s humiliation of Egypt & Ethiopia (cf. Isa 20:1–6) 8. Micah: Goes around naked: embodies the shame & judgment coming upon Judah (cf. Mic 1:8) 9. Jeremiah: a. Wears a waistcloth, buries it and digs it back up: symbolizes Israel‘s corruption, sin and humiliation (cf. Jer 13:1–11) b. Celibate: God‘s judgment on Israel & his separation from wicked Israel (cf. Jer 16:1–4) c. Prohibits mourning and feasting: symbolizes coming sorrow of judgment (cf. Jer 16:5–9) d. Refashions a spoiled vessel: God‘s willingness to forgive & remake Israel (cf. Jer 18:1–12) e. Breaks a pot: symbolizes the irrevocable divine decree of judgment (cf. Jer 19:1–13) f. Takes a cup from the Lord & gives it to the nations to drink: judgment (cf. Jer 25:15–29) g. Makes and wears yokes: Babylonians coming to conquer Jerusalem (cf. Jer 27:1–28:17) h. Purchases a field: indicates God‘s promise of a future restoration (cf. Jer 32:1–15) i. Explains Rechabites refusal to drink wine: a prophetic sign to Israel of the faithfulness they are called to exhibit (cf. Jer 35:1–19) j. Rewrites a scroll after the king destroys it: God‘s words endure (cf. Jer 36:1–32) k. Hides stones in the mortar used for Pharaoh‘s palace: Babylonian king will conquer Egypt (cf. Jer 43:8–13) l. Writes about the coming judgment upon Babylon in a book and tells Seraiah to read from it in Babylon and throw it into the Euphrates (cf. Jer 51:59–64): exile had been foretold! 10. Ezekiel
Scholars use different terminology here including ―parabolic signs,‖ ―prophetic actions,‖ and ―symbolic actions.‖ See W. D. Stacey, Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament (London: Epworth, 1990); Kelvin G. Friebel, Jeremiah‘s and Ezekiel‘s Sign Acts: Rhetorical Nonverbal Communication (JSOTSup 283; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999). Here we will be using ―prophetic sign‖ and ―prophetic action‖ as essentially synonymous terms. The following is largely indebted to the outstanding comprehensive survey offered in Scot McKnight, ―Jesus and Prophetic Actions,‖ 201–22. Here we will not go into great detail regarding each of the signs he discusses. For further discussion on each individual prophetic sign see the works cited in McKnight‘s article.
a. Eats a sweet scroll: sign of reception of God‘s words of coming wrath (cf. Ezek 2:8–3:3) b. Bound in a house until an appointed time after commissioning:, the Lord will determine the time when he will reveal his judgment to Israel (cf. Ezek 3:22–27; 24:25–27; 33:21–22) c. Builds a model of Jerusalem under siege: judgment coming upon the city (cf. Ezek 4:1–3, 7) d. Claps his hands and stomps his foot: the Lord‘s anger with his people (cf. Ezek 6:11–14) e. Embody the coming misery and shame of exile i. Lies on his side (first his left and then his right) for the number of days corresponding to the time Israel will be in exile (cf. Ezek 4:4–6, 8) ii. Eats unclean food (cf. Ezek 4:9–17) and eats and drinks in fear (cf. Ezek 12:17–20) iii. Sent out of the city through a wall with nothing but a bag over his shoulder (cf. Ezek 12:1–16; 2 Kgs 25:1–6) iv. Told to sigh, cry and strike his thigh to embody the pain and suffering coming as a result of God‘s judgment (cf. Ezek 21:6–7, 12) v. Forbidden to mourn for his wife, symbolizing the fact that due to the separation of exile the people will not know the fate of their loved ones (cf. Ezek 24:15–24) f. Other signs indicating coming judgment i. Shaves his head with a sword, dividing the shavings into three parts which are to be burned, struck with the sword and tossed to the wind, symbolizing coming punishments of famine, violence and exile (cf. Ezek 5:1–12). ii. He is told to sharpen and polish a sword, bringing it down three times, to embody God‘s use of Babylon in executing his judgment (cf. Ezek 8–17, 28–32; 1 Kgs 22:11; 2 Kgs 13:17) iii. Commanded to construct a road sign for the coming Babylonians, signifying God‘s will to punish his people (cf. Ezek 21:18–22). iv. Told by God to record the day of the siege of Jerusalem in Babylon as a sign of acknowledgment of what the Lord is doing (cf. Ezek 24:1–2) g. Joins together two sticks: God‘s to reunite both houses of Israel (cf. Ezek 37:15–28). 11. Zechariah: a. Crowns and clothes Joshua before two witnesses: God‘s anointing of him (cf. Zech 3) b. Makes two staffs to symbolize grace and union and then breaks: symbolizes both the broken covenant between God and Israel as well as the division of Israel and Judah (cf. Zech 11:4–17)
Meaning of Prophetic Signs
1. A somewhat debated question 2. No one size-fits-all answer (different signs have different meanings) a. Authenticating prophecy (e.g., Moses signs)13 b. Embodiment of divine message (e.g., Ezekiel‘s two sticks; Hosea‘s marriage)14 c. Predictive / Foreshadowing of future events (e.g., Ahijah‘s tearing of Jeroboam‘s cloak) i. ―Apocalyptic‖: reveal ―the truth as it already exists in heaven.‖15
See the discussion in Hooker, Signs of the a Prophet, 5–6. See also H. Wheeler Robinson, ―Prophetic Symbolism,‖
1–17. Stacey writes, ―The prophet was himself a symbol. By his very presence in society he represented the immanence, the power and the unpredictability of the divine word‖ (The Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament, 61; cf. also 66–67). See also the discussion on the ―parabolic actions‖ of the prophets in John F. A. Sawyer, Prophecy and the Prophets of the Old Testament (Oxford Bible Series: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 9–12. Keating uses the language of ―enacted prophecy‖ (―The Prophet Jesus,‖ 50–53). Here it is helpful to reproduce Hooker‘s comments in full: ―. . . the vision reveals to the recipient a reality that lies beyond time and place, disclosing not simply events which will one day take place on earth, but the truth as it already exists in
3. Prophets embody YHWH to Israel: speak for God with their lives and actions (not just words!) 4. Efficacious value of prophetic actions? a. Some deny: Protestant bias? 16 b. Certain examples resist being explained away as mere embodiments17 c. Zechariah breaks his staff effects annulment of covenant i. ―And I took my staff Grace, and I broke it, annulling the covenant which I had made with all the peoples.11 So it was annulled on that day and the traffickers in the sheep, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD‖ (Zech 11:10–11). d. Moses‘ act of elevating his staff caused Israel‘s success (cf. Exod 17:8–13)
―Sign-Prophets‖ of the Second Temple Period
1. Josephus: many led astray by ―imposters‖ (A.J. 20.97; 20.160) 2. Promise of ―marvels and signs‖ (A.J. 20.168; cf. B.J. 2.258–260; 6.286–287cf. Exodus: A.J. 2.327).18
heaven. God‘s purpose is thus revealed in different form—in prophetic oracle, dramatic action and apocalyptic vision—and each proclaims, in its own way, ‗This is how things are.‘ Each of them is a manifestation of the underlying divine intention. Only if God‘s will changes—perhaps, because men and women repent—can the future be different. But that does not mean that the prophetic actions were mistaken. The oracle spoken in the name of the Lord, the prophetic drama and the vision, were all of them authentic because they represented a reality that had its being in God‖ (Hooker, The Signs of a Prophet, 4). See also R.B.Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets (New York: Macmillan Company, 1960), 98: ―. . . in the main, a prophetic ‗sign‘ was a present token of a future whose realization had been initiated by the prophetic word.‖ In fact, later Jewish traditions seem to indicate a belief that the future already somehow exists in heaven. For example, Jubilees 1 relates that when Moses went up to Mt. Sinai, ―. . . the LORD revealed to him both what (was) in the beginning and what will occur (in the future). . . ‖ ( Jub. 1:4; cited from J.H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha [henceforth OTP] [New York: Doubleday, 1985], 2:52). It is important to note that Moses‘ ascent up Mt. Sinai was viewed by some ancient Jewish writers as a kind of entry into the heavenly temple (e.g., Ps.-Philo, LA.B. 12:1). Likewise, see the much later work of 3 Enoch where R. Ishmael is taken into the heavenly temple and sees the entire history of the world on the curtain (cf. 3 Enoch 45:1–2; cf. also b. Sanh. 38b; 2 Bar. 59:4–10). Pace Hooker, Signs of a Prophet, 4. One cannot help but wonder whether or not a Protestant bias (i.e., rooted in anti-sacramental theological outlook) plays a role in the denial of this dimension of certain signs. 17 See Keating, ―The Prophet Jesus,‖ 51: ―. . . neither is the content of the enactment always merely predictive. The purpose of enacting a prophecy is frequently to create, perhaps in a more powerful way than the spoken word ever could, that prophecy‘s fulfillment.‖ Keating goes on to look at Ahijah‘s tearing of the garment and the anointing of Jehu as king. He concludes: ―It is certainly true that, from one point of view, the prophet may be said to symbolize what is about to take place. But the prophet himself would assuredly not have thought of his action in this fashion. Ahijah would not have said that he was symbolizing the dividing of the kingdom. He would have said that he was dividing the kingdom. The prophet who anointed Jehu was certainly not symbolizing Jehu‘s becoming king. He was making him king. Enacted prophecy has an objective potency which our word ‗symbolism‘ does not convey‖ (51). See also Norman A. Beck, ―The Last Supper as an Efficacious Symbolic Act..‖ Journal of Biblical Literature 89/2 (1970): 194–95. Likewise, see C.H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953), 141, where he describes the implication of Ezekiel‘s destruction of the model of Jerusalem: ―The prophets appeared to have thought of such symbolic acts as more than mere illustrations. They were inspired by God, and in His unchanging purpose formed the necessary prelude to that which He had determined to perform. Ezekiel was caused to effect a sort of proleptic siege of Jerusalem; after that, nothing could prevent the siege from actually coming about. In the symbol was given also the thing symbolized.‖ See also James D. G. Dunn, who discusses this dimension of prophetic signs in connection with the Baptism of John in his Baptism in the Holy Spirit (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1977), 16. Dunn here builds on the work of H. Wheeler Robinson, who believes this dimension of prophetic actions was tied to the practice of mimetic magic and the Hebrew conception of the world. See H. Wheeler Robinson, ―Prophetic Symbolism,‖ 11, 17: ―. . . Hebrew philosophy (if the term may be allowed) ascribed metaphysical significance to events in the external world. . . . This implies that man's life is not a shadow-drama, an illusion in the minds of the actors, or a mode of the divine consciousness leaving no room for any effective agency of man. On the contrary, man's deeds have a real significance, and man's history is, under God's direction, the record of real achievements. On such a view of history the whole conception of the Biblical revelation rests. . .‖
3. Figures named all linked with Exodus & Conquest traditions,19 evoking eschatological hopes20 a. a ―Samaritan‖: promised to reveal Mosaic vessels on Mt. Gerizim (cf. A.J. 18.85–87) b. Theudas: gathered people to the Jordan, promising to make it part (cf. A.J. 20.97–99) c. ―the Egyptian‖: stood on the Mt. of Olives promising to bring down the walls of the city and who then led followers out to the desert with the promise of performing signs and wonders (cf. A.J. 20.167–168) 4. Josephus: people ignored authentic signs of coming judgment (cf. B.J. 6.218–309).21 5. Later Simon ben Kosiba: Messianic pretender, killed after failing to perform a sign (cf. b. Sanh. 39b).22
Jesus‘ Prophetic Signs
1. Given background scholars see Jesus‘ actions as similar types of prophetic actions23
In fact, the term for ―sign‖ is used primarily to describe those miracles Moses performed to authenticate his prophetic identity before the people of Israel. See the discussion in Rebecca Gray, Prophetic Figures in Late Second Temple Judaism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 125–130. The Samaritan‘s promise is probably related to the hope evidenced by 2 Maccabees 2 which describes Jeremiah hiding the ark of the covenant, the tent and the altar of incense, explaining: ―The place shall be unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated‖ (2 Macc 2:7–8; cf. also 2 Bar. 4:6–9; 2 Bar. 10:18; t. Taʿan. 29a). Theudas‘ attempt to part the Jordan evokes the imagery of Joshua who parted the Jordan (cf. Josh 3:7–17), which itself was evocative of Moses‘ act of parting the waters of the Red Sea (cf. Exod 14:21–29; cf. also 2 Kgs 2:6–13). See Allison, The New Moses, 23–28 (cf. also the discussion of Theudas and the Egyptian on 77–79). Finally, the ―Egyptian‖ may be so named as an allusion to Moses, perhaps indicating that he was associated with idea of a Moses redivivus. See Hengel, Die Zeloten: Untersuchungen zur Jüdischen Freiheitsbewegung in der
Zeit von Herodes I bis 70 n. Chr. Investigations into the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period from Herod I Until 70 A. D. (Leiden: Brill, 1961), 235–39. Josephus characterized the signs they promised to perform as ―signs of freedom‖ ( B.J. 2.259) and ―signs of deliverance‖ (B.J. 6.285). For further discussion see Otto Betz, ―Miracles in the Writings of Flavius Josephus,‖ in Josephus, Judaism and Christianity (eds. L. H. Feldman and G. Hata; Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987), 223–25; 228–29; Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 237–41; Craig A. Evans, Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation, 238–252; idem., Jesus and His Contemporaries, 53–82; Gray, Prophetic Figures, especially 112–44.
We might also highlight an interesting passage in the Talmud relating to an obscure tradition associated with the Day of Atonement: ―R. Nahman b. Isaac said it was the tongue of scarlet, as it has been taught: ‗Originally they used to fasten the thread of scarlet on the door of the [Temple] court on the outside. If it turned white the people used to rejoice, and if it did not turn white they were sad. They therefore made a rule that it should be fastened to the door of the court on the inside. People, however, still peeped in and saw, and if it turned white they rejoiced and if it did not turn white they were sad. . . and it has further been taught: ‗For forty years before the destruction of the Temple the thread of scarlet never turned white but it remained red‘‖ (b. Roš Haš. 31b [Soncino ed.]). This passage is especially interesting given the fact that miracles were often downplayed to a certain extent in many rabbinic traditions. See t. Yebam. 14:6; Keener, The Gospel of John, 274; Gerd Theissen, Urchristliche Wundergeschichten: Ein Beitrag zur formgeschichtlichen Erforschung der synoptischen Evangelien (Güttersloh: Mohn, 1974), 14–15. Interestingly, Jesus warns of false prophets in Matt 24:24: ―For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect‖ (cf. Mark 13:22). ―Bar Koziba reigned two and a half years, and then said to the Rabbis, ‗I am the Messiah.‘ They answered, ‗Of Messiah it is written that he smells and judges: let us see whether he [=Bar Koziba] can do so.‘ When they saw that he was unable to judge by the scent, they slew him‖ (Soncino ed.; cf. also m.Taʿan. 4:6; b. Giþ. 57a–b; Lam. Rab. 2:2 §4). The passage alludes to Isa 11:3, 5: ―And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear . . . he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.‖ This passage‘s reference to the powerful breath of the servant may also have been behind Jerome‘s testimony that Simon ―fanned a lighted blade of straw in his mouth with puffs of breath so as to give the impression that he was spewing out flames‖ (Rufinus 3.31; PL 23.480). It should also be pointed out that according to rabbinic tradition the famous Rabbi Aqiba held Simon to be the messiah because he believed he was able to perform miraculous signs (cf. y. Taʿan. 68d; also cf. Mishneh Torah, Melakhim 11:3). See the thorough discussion in Craig A. Evans, Jesus and His Contemporaries, 183–211. The passage was first brought to my attention in a private conversation with Colin Brown (2008). The theme of ―signs‖ is especially important in the Gospel of John (cf. John 2:11, 18, 23; 3:2; 4:48, 54; 2:2, 14, 26, 30; John 7:31; 9:16; 10:41; 11:47; 12:18; 12:37; 20:30). For a thorough discussion see, Keener, The Gospel of John, 275–76;
2. No clear consensus on the list24 3. Some actions are virtually universally accepted as prophetic actions a. The cursing of the fig tree (cf. Matt 21:18–19; Mark 11:12–14; Luke 13:6–9) b. The temple cleansing incident (cf. Matt 21:12–16; Mark 11:15–19; Luke 19:45–48; John 2:13–16) c. Jesus‘ actions at the Last Supper (cf. Matt 26:26–29; Mark 22–25; Luke 22:17–29).25 4. Major difference between Jesus & Prophetic Signs of OT Prophets a. Old Testament prophets: typically instructed by God to perform such signs b. Jesus‘ signs come from his own initiative26 c. Jesus also denounces those who look for signs, refusing to perform them27 5. Despite debates about specifics Aune‘s conclusion is unavoidable a. ―That Jesus did perform acts which were highly symbolic is undeniable.‖28
Hooker, The Signs of a Prophet, 68-76; Craig R. Koester, Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community (2 ed.; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 79–140. McKnight surveys the debate in ―Jesus and Prophetic Signs,‖ 203–4. Dodd recognizes four (cf. ―Jesus as Teacher and Prophet,‖ 161–63), while McKnight and Hooker find about fifteen (cf. McKnight, ―Jesus and Prophetic Signs,‖ 223–24). In addition, see Aune, Prophecy, 162, who argues that a prophetic sign must be predictive. He therefore discards several signs included by others. Other actions included in the extensive list provided by McKnight include Jesus‘ exorcisms (cf. Luke 11:20; cf. Matt 12:28); Jesus‘ healings and ministry to the poor (cf. Luke 7:18–23; cf. Matt 11:2–19); the selection of the twelve and the promise that they will judge over the twelve tribes (cf. Mark 3:13–19; Luke 22:28–30); the renaming of Peter (cf. Mark 3:16; Matt 16:17– 19); table-fellowship with the outcasts (e.g., cf. Mark 2:13–17); the refusal to fast (cf., Mark 2:18–22 parr.); actions on the Sabbath (e.g., Mark 2:23–28); neglect of washing ritual (e.g., cf. Mark 7:1–23); the miraculous fishing trip with Peter (cf. Luke 5:1–11); the command for the disciples to shake the dust from their feet (cf. Mark 6:11 parr.); entry into Jerusalem (cf. Mark 11:1–10 parr.); the feeding of the multitude (cf. Mark 6:30–44 parr.); and Jesus‘ baptism in the Jordan (cf. Mark 1:1–13 parr.). It should be noted that a number of scholars have recognized John‘s baptism as a kind of prophetic action. See McKnight, ―Jesus and Prophetic Actions,‖ 224 n 87; Hooker, The Signs of a Prophet, 24–31; Joan E. Taylor, The Immerser: John the Baptist within Second Temple Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), especially 69–72. Aune, Prophecy in Early Christianity, 163: ―The major differences between these actions of Jesus and the symbolic acts of the OT prophets are that God is not represented as having commanded Jesus to perform these actions, and the OT prophets interpreted their actions by means of a word of the Lord, usually introduced with the messenger formula. When the actions referred to above by Jesus are interpreted (and few of them are), God is not represented as the authority behind that interpretation.‖ See also Schnider, Jesus der Prophet, 84–85. It is also noteworthy that Jesus‘ actions are miraculous (especially in John!) whereas most of the actions associated with the Old Testament prophets involve infusing ordinary actions with spiritual meaning―although there are clear exceptions to this, such as Elijah (in addition to examples above see Sir 48:13; Liv. Pro. 2:3). For example, see Matthew 12:38–39: ―Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, ―Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.‖ But he answered them, ‗An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah‘ (cf. Matt 6:4; Luke 11:29–31). Here we cannot offer an in-depth treatment of this passage. Suffice it say, it is interesting to note that such requests often come shortly after Jesus has already performed a miracle. Thus, it appears that Jesus is speaking to those who are interested in the spectacle of signs without any real interest in pursuing God on his terms. See, for example, Luke 23:6, which describes Herod‘s excitement at the prospect of meeting Jesus: ―When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him.‖ Hooker‘s analysis (Signs of a Prophet, 18) that Jesus refuses to perform authenticating signs ignores certain episodes where Jesus seems to do just that. See especially his healing of the paralytic—a miracle he performs to verify his ability to forgive sins (cf. Matt 9:1–8; Mark 2:1–12; Luke 5:17–26). See Keener, Gospel of John, 275. Nonetheless, Hooker is likely right in saying, ―All four of our evangelists, therefore, juxtapose a miracle of Jesus with a demand that he perform a sign, so underlining the failure of the religious leaders to see the significance of what Jesus has already done. For those with faith, miracles are signs of God‘s activity‖ (18). Aune, Prophecy in Early Christianity, 161. In fact, it is important to note that Josephus appears to refer to Jesus‘ reputation for performing works (cf. A.J. 18:68). For the most recent discussion and up to date bibliography on this passage see Craig A. Evans, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2005), 178–80. It is worth noting that even the reconstructed versions offered by John P. Meier [ A Marginal Jew, 1:56–88; idem., ―Jesus in Josephus: A Modest Proposal,‖ CBQ 52 (1990):76–103] and Joseph Klausner [Jesus of Nazareth, 55– 56] preserve the reference to Jesus‘ works. Evans goes on to support Klausner‘s reconstruction, citing the Arabic version found in Agapius‘ Book of the Title (cf. Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies, 180).
24 25 26 27 39 28 d
6. The Last Supper: a. Efficacious Sign b. Sacramental! GENERAL WORKS ON PROPHETS, PROPHETIC LITERATURE AND MESSIANIAC HOPES Balentine, S. E. ―The Prophet as Intercessor.‖ Journal of Biblical Literatre 103 (1984): 161–73. Bird, Michael F. Are You the One Who Is To Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question Grand
Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009. Blenkinsopp, A History of Prophecy in Israel. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1983. Chester, Andrew Messiah and Exaltation. Wissenschafltliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 207. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007. Collins, John. The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and OtherAncient literature. Anchor Bible Reference Library. New York: Doubleday, 1995. Collins, John and George W. E. Nickelsburg, eds. Ideal Figures in Ancient Judaism: Profiles and Paradigms. Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1980. Heinisch, Paul. Christ in Prophecy. Trans. by W. G. Heidt. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1956. Klausner, Joseph. The Messianic Ideal in Israel. Translated by W. F. Stinespring. New York: MacMillan, Co., 1955. Laato, Antti. A Star is Rising: The Historical Development ofthe Old Testament Royal Ideology and the Rise of the Jewish Messianic Expectations. University of South Florida, International Studies in Formative Christianity and Judaism; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997. McKnight, Scot. ―Jesus and Prophetic Actions.‖ Bulletin for Biblical Research 10/2 (2000): 201-205. Miura, Yuzuru. David in Luke-Acts. Wissenschafltliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2/232. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005. Mowinckel, Sigmund. He That Cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism. Nashville: Abingdon, 1956. Petersen, D.L. ―Defining Prophecy and Prophetic Literature.‖ Pages 33–44 in Prophecy in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context: Mesopotamian, biblical, and Arabian Perspectives. Edited by M. Nissinen. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000. ___. The Roles of Israel‘s Prophets. Sheffield: JSOT, 1981. Robertson, O. Palmer. The Christ of the Prophets. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2004. Scott, James H, ed. Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 72. Leiden: Brill, 2001. Stacey, David W. Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament. London: Epworth, 1990. ___. ―The Lord‘s Supper as Prophetic Drama,‖ Epworth Review 21 (1994): 65–74. Strauss, Mark L. The Davidic Messiah in Luke-Acts: The Promise and Its Fulfillment in Lukan Christology. JSNTSup 110. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995. VanGemeren, Willem A. Interpreting the Prophetic Word: An Introduction to the Prophetic Literature of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.
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