Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Book of Isaiah

The current book of Isaiah (Hebrew: ישעיהו / Y’shuay’hu “YHWH saves”, Greek: ισαιας / isaias) has at least two different authors. The original Isaiah constitutes chapters 1 – 39. What is called “Deutero-Isaiah” (second Isaiah) makes up chapters 40 – 66. The themes of destruction, exile and suffering are presumed in Deutero-Isaiah; there is familiarity with the history of the 6th century, above all with Cyrus as the anointed one/christ/messiah, and firsthand experience of Babylonian religion; and a prophet speaks both out of and into the situation of his contemporaries. There are the themes of comfort and salvation, a new salvation under a new covenant; God is presented as creator and maker, and his action in history as redeemer and savior is rooted in his action as creator. Chaps. 40-66 there is constant repetition and doubling of words; there is familiarity with the style of the psalms of descriptive praise with their heaping up of present participles; Jerusalem, Israel (the suffering servant of Isa. 52-53), and objects are personified. Deutero-Isaiah might have been written by a student of the original pre-exile Isaiah. In the time of Isaiah, Babylon was seen as a friendly nation; it was Assyria that was the threat (chapter 39).

There are arguments for a Trito-Isaiah (third Isaiah) which comprises chapters 55 – 66. Throughout the greater part of Trito-Isaiah we continually find ourselves in the community of the restoration: there is mention of the temple and of rebuilding it, of sacrifices, of the observance of the sabbath and the regulations of the Torah, and this observance is considered to be an essential qualification for membership of the community. None of these arguments appears even once in Deutero-Isaiah, and since the setting of Deutero-Isaiah is Babylon, it is difficult to see how that would be possible. Trito-Isaiah was written probably 20 years after Deutero-Isaiah. In 60:13 the temple has been built and it is only necessary to adorn it, implying a post-exile Persian era setting.

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Posted by on May 31, 2010 in deutero isaiah, Isaiah, tanakh, trito isaiah, yhwh saves


One Like A Son Of Man

Over the past month I’ve been doing some armchair research on the books that make up the Tanakh (“Old” Testament) for my website so I haven’t been blogging that much. So I thought I would just combine the two; I’ll be posting short blurbs or “articles” about the different books of the TNK that will eventually end up on my website in a similar manner to my New Testament compilation page.

I’ve already posted about when and where the book of Daniel (lit. “my judge [is] god”) was written for my blog, and the majority of the posts I wrote about that book will be my snippet about Daniel on my website. I did some further analysis on that book and came to some elusive obvious conclusions about the phrase “one like a son of man”. In Aramaic, Daniel writes כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ (KBR ANSH) which is “[one] like [a] son [of] man” at 7:13. The LXX version of Dan 7:13 has ΩΣ ΥΙΟΣ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΥ (as/like man’s son) which in my estimation (which might be more wrong than right 😉 )is a lot more grammatically similar to the Aramaic.

The Christians around the time period of the writing of Mark considered the Daniellic phrase “one like a son of man” to be messainic. They render it as ΥΙΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΑΝΘΡΩΠΟΥ (son of man). This is grammatically different from Daniel 7:13 LXX, but the meaning is the same. Much like the difference between “man’s son” and “son of man”. In Daniel, the phrase “one like of a son of man” in chpt 7 refers to a restored Israel. This serves to form an ironic contrast– the four kingdoms that came about after the Exile are “like wild beasts,” (like a lion v4, like a bear v5, like a leopard v6, like an indescribable beast v7) whereas the restored Israel is like a son of a man – the Hebrew phrase meaning a plain human being. Ezekiel uses that phrase to describe himself, and Judith 8:15 uses the phrase as well to mean a plain ol’ human being. It’s ironic that Christians read the majority of the Tanakh allegorically to arrive at their invented savior, but read this obviously allegorical part of Daniel literally so that it could describe Jesus. So they read it not as like a son of man (ως υιος ανθρωπου), but the son of man (ο υιος του ανθρωπου).

The anointed one who gets cut off (9:25) seems to refer to Cyrus the Great, who was considered the anointed one in Isaiah 45:1 and in history was assassinated, while the second anointed one is Alexander the Great (9:26). The definite article in Daniel 9:26 reads: “And after the threescore and two weeks. . . .” By treating the sixty-two weeks as a distinct period, this verse, in the original Hebrew, shows that the sixty-two weeks mentioned in verse 25 are correctly separated from the seven weeks. Hence, two anointed ones are spoken of in this chapter, one of whom comes after seven weeks (Cyrus), and the other after a further period of sixty-two weeks (Alexander).

Darius the Mede is a fictional character produced by the author, loosely based on Darius I of Persia, but here depicted as ruling over a distinctly Median (rather than Persian) empire. The author’s invented chronology is clear enough when you get to the visions of the four beasts. These represent Babylon/Lion, Media/Bear, Persia/Leopard, and Greece/Elephant. Greece is the final kingdom, after which God will intervene, restore Israel (again, who is not a beast but “a son of man”; a human) to power, and resurrect the dead. It could be said that Daniel’s son of man prediction (minus the resurrection of the dead) came true, as subsequent to the turmoil that produced the book of Daniel the Hasmonean kingdom ruled by Jewish priest-kings was established (c. 150 BCE – 49 BCE).

The Hasmonean kingdom was one like a son of man.


Posted by on May 24, 2010 in daniel, son of man


Water and Spirit

Mark 1:10

και ευθυς αναβαινων εκ του υδατος ειδεν σχιζομενους τους ουρανους και το πνευμα ως περιστεραν καταβαινον εις αυτον

Reading this in Greek, I see a subtle wordplay that isn’t really as evident in English translations. This translates roughly as “And immediately ascending from/out of the water [he] saw the sky split and the spirit, like a dove, descended into him“.

The wordplay is between Jesus rising out of the water and the spirit falling into him. But, like I said, in English it doesn’t really do justice. Mark uses the words αναβαινος and καταβαινος to describe the rising/falling. The more obvious parallel in English would be ascending/descending since they are the same word but with opposite meaning prefixes.

The “split” between the two words occurs when there’s a “split” in the sky, as though there was a split between worlds, like walking from the real world into “camera negative” world through some portal. It kinda reminds me of a video game, like in “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” or “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” where there’s a real world and then the opposite world.

After being baptized by John, the world flips or splits and Jesus is then baptized by the spirit. Instead of going into the water, the “water” (i.e. the spirit) goes into him. There seems to be an interplay between water and spirit at the beginning of Mark, but oddly in Mark this theme is never revisited.

Maybe Mark was harkening back to Genesis 1:2?

η δε γη ην αορατος και ακατασκευαστος και σκοτος επανω της αβυσσου και πνευμα θεου επεφερετο επανω του υδατος

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and God’s spirit was hovering over the water

When I think of interplays between water and spirit, I think of Johannine theology: “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit [υδατος και πνευματος]’” (3:5). I wonder which came first? Maybe John is trying to rectifiy the once separated “water and spirit”? The human Jesus and the spiritual Christ; the christology of pre-gnostics like Cerinthus – a “separatist” according to Irenaeus (AH 3.11.7).

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Posted by on May 13, 2010 in gospel of john, gospel of mark, spirit, water


Marcion, Luke, and Justin

So I was thinking about how late Luke might have been written. In my view, it seems as though our current Luke is a reaction to Marcion’s possible correction of Matthew. If Luke is after Marcion, then who is the earliest witness to things in the gospel narrative(s) that are unique to Luke? This would be Justin Martyr.

There are a few clues that Justin was aware of Luke (courtesy of a table put together by Neil Godfrey).

1. Elisabeth is mother of John the Baptist (Dialog with Trypho 84) / Luke 1:57
2. Gabriel’s announcement to Mary; “Be it according to thy word” (DT100) / Luke 1:38
3. Census under Quirinius (DT78) / Luke 2:2
4. Circumcised 8th day (DT23,67) / Luke 2:21
5. Sweats drops of blood (DT103) / Luke 22:44
6. Appears to disciples in Jerusalem (DT 51) / Luke 24:36 [the other gospels have him appear in Galilee, the more Gentile of the two]
7. Ascended to heaven (Firs Apology 51, 46) / Luke 24:51

Justin also seems to be aware of the Protevangelium of James:

But when the Child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him.

The bolded part — Joseph and Mary taking residence in a cave to give birth — is only to be found in the gospel of James:

17. […] And they came into the middle of the road, and Mary said to him: Take me down from off the ass, for that which is in me presses to come forth. And he took her down from off the ass, and said to her: Whither shall I lead thee, and cover thy disgrace? for the place is desert.

18. And he found a cave there, and led her into it; and leaving his two sons beside her, he went out to seek a midwife in the district of Bethlehem.

The gospel of James is dated to around 150 – 200 CE.

One thing to point out is that Justin never refers to any gospel names as we know them (according to Matthew, etc.), he just refers to them as the Memoirs of the Apostles and it seemed like some sort of gospel harmony. If this is the case, then it was probably a compilation of the most popular gospels written by then; one of which more than likely included Marcion’s.

Here is a nice rundown of Marcion’s gospel vs. Luke’s:

In my opinion, Marcion must have been active a lot earlier than what’s traditionally ascribed by his enemies as his period of activity (140s CE). They had a vested interest in showing that heresy started “late” and orthodoxy started “early” (this is also the time period when gospels start getting names of those assumed to be “orthodox”; which is also after Marcion). There had to have been enough time for Marcion’s influence to spread all across the Roman empire by the time Justin is writing in the 150s. Of course, I could be wrong, but for the sake of argument, I think Marcion wrote his gospel – and began spreading it around – in the 130s. This is enough time for Mark’s gospel to have been written in the late 1st century (as I argued there), Matthew to make corrections that start getting circulated, Marcion becoming aware of both, and them him writing his correction of Matthew.

Sometime between Marcion and Justin, the current Loukan birth narrative was added, one that’s independent of Matthew’s, but still feeding on traditions of a miraculous birth. What Greco-Roman hero didn’t have a miraculous birth in antiquity? Of course, another line of evidence would be the portion of Luke that’s not the birth narrative that shows evidence of being aware of Matthew. Courtesy of Mark Goodacre:

The same phenomenon of editorial fatigue occurs also in double tradition material, where the evidence suggests that Luke is secondary to Matthew. In the Parable of the Talents / Pounds (Matt 25.14-30 // Luke 19.11-27), Luke, who loves the 10:1 ratio (Luke 15.8-10, Ten Coins, one lost; Luke 17.11-19, Ten Lepers, one thankful, etc.) begins with a typical change: ten servants, not three; and with one pound each (Luke 19.13). Yet as the story progresses, Luke appears to be drawn back to the plot of the Matthean parable, with three servants, “the first” (Luke 19.16), “the second” (Luke 19.18) and, remarkably, “the other” (Luke 19.20, ο ετερος). Moreover, the wording moves steadily closer to Matthew’s as the parable progresses, creating an internal contradiction when the master speaks of the first servant as “the one who has the ten pounds” (Luke 19.24), in parallel with Matthew 25.28. In Luke, he does not have ten pounds but eleven (Luke 19.16, contrast Matt. 25.20).

Possible evidence that Luke (or Marcion) depended on Matthew. On top of that, this also gives time for the author of Luke to utilize the (relatively) recently published works of Josephus.

One last point, and back to Luke 22:44. Ehrman argues in “Misquoting Jesus” that all throughout Luke, Jesus seems completely in control – never becoming emotional. It’s only at Luke 22:44 where Jesus seems to show any emphatic display of emotion. This might be a sign of interpolation; and if it is an interpolation then this means it happened before Justin since Justin is aware of it. Jesus — as the Good God of Marcion — being in control, showing no emotion, and knowing what will happen seems to be a staple of Docetic Christologies. Lk 22:44 might have been inserted as anti-Marcionite along with the rest of the birth narrative.

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