Walls of Jerusalem

by peacefulpete 3 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • peacefulpete

    Judaism of late antiquity was rife with schisms and sects. It was a time bursting with religious ingenuity fueled by desperation and disappointment. Through extensive exegesis many had formulated detailed predictions of what a Jewish Messiah would be like and do to demonstrate his credentials. OT passages were not only given new enhanced meaning they were downright wrung of any drip of messianic portent. Also, a popular imagining was the repetition of specific OT scenes such as power over waters, raising dead, fasting 40 days, even miraculously destroying a city's walls. A "Messiah Cycle" a widely held pattern or story board of sorts became established through many years of repetition, eventually details of what the Messiah would do and come from cemented into a motif. The OT itself did not in any obvious way direct readers to so speculate, but to the eyes of desperate creative minds the verses were speaking volumes not actually in the text. The messianic texts of Qumran are a classic of such ingenuity. Rabbinic works are teeming with this stuff as well. Josephus recounts quite a few would-be Messiahs, including details such as their promising to split the waters of the Jordan or make the walls of Jerusalem to crumble. Readers of the book of Mark and it's expansions in Matt, Luke and even John can't help but see these OT allusions and repetitions. The OT was mined for story elements of the ancient messianic figures, especially Moses, Samuel, Elisha/Elijah. What to modern literalist readers might appear as incredible miraculous prophetic fulfillments (even when no prophesy existed) are actually typological window dressing for the story.

    A neat example, new to me, is what was not so much an OT text itself but a legend associated with the OT story of the Egypt exile. A popular elaboration on the story has the tribe of Ephraim escaping Egypt early and trying to capture the promised land but failing to do so. The Leader/Messiah was named Messiah ben (son of) Joseph. He was a builder/craftsman.

    This tradition spawned messianic speculation that a future Messiah who, while heroic in his efforts, is killed in battle with the forces of evil. The Messiah ben David, then comes to complete the conquest. It certainly fits the pattern of Jesus son of Joseph, the man who tries to save Israel but fails and is killed. But as Jesus son of David the conquering king he saves he world. Wiki has a nice page on this: Messiah ben Joseph - Wikipedia

    If anyone has an example to share we can discuss it.

  • peacefulpete

    OK, I was too slow to change the title. I shifted to a different theme.

  • Phizzy

    You make a good point that the idea of a Messiah is very late, and comes long after the completion of the O.T, and that all "Messianic expectations" and examples of "Messianic Prophecy" are read INTO the Text. I cannot remember the exact point that such ideas began to get traction, but not much before 300 BCE ?

    Therefore all the Messianic stuff in the N.T is based upon intertestamental Rabbinic speculations and formation of new doctrines. JW Org would never acknowledge the truth of this, along with most Christians !

    The practice of Eisegesis is a bad one, reading in to the text that which is not there. But in the case of our Jewish friends their development of a messiah idea probably came from their practice of midrash, adapting Scripture to tell a story and teach a lesson for the time in which they lived, so, not as naughty as the " interpretation" JW's do !

    The Jews really needed badly a leader to free them under Antiochus 1V Epiphanes, hence the book of "Daniel" being written then, about 164 BCE, and Judas Maccabeus popping up as a Messiah to do the job, like a " Hammer" !

  • peacefulpete

    Phizzy, I appreciate the comment. I'm not sure I'd entirely agree with the lateness of the Messiah concept as it seems to me as old as man himself. The Moses and Joshua characters e.g. resonated with audiences centuries before the Seleucid period. But I'd agree that this came to a fevered pitch after that time. The eventual loss of the Temple precipitated a shift away from literal messianism, engaging in the liberation of Israel, toward the mystery faith forms of individualized salvation Messianism.

    The various elements drawn from patriarchal tales and legend gelled into a fairly established motif, a Messiah Cycle, a template of expectations by the time of Christianity's launch. It was still useful after the loss of the Temple worship by those who no longer anticipated a military salvation. I've been reading a reprint of Schonfield's 'The lost Nativity of John' ( I had a signed original but gifted it to Narkissos years ago. (who I miss very much). His work impresses me still. The Messiah birth and concealment was a favorite aspect of the popular expectation and applied to JtheB in both Mandaean and Christian works then secondarily transferred to Jesus through the Markan revisions in Matt and Luke. Clearly most directly paralleled with the Moses story but much more ancient in concept (Sargon?). His work on this combined with recent reconstructions by R.Carrier (et al) has cemented my view that the earliest Gospel form was not technically a deliberate euhemerization of a mystical Christ (slightly different than Carrier) but a brilliant utilization of preexisting story elements for homiletic usage. A tale filled with symbolism and secret meaning. The author of Mark (ch.4) outright tells us this through his parable story in which he in effect tells his reader that everything in his story is in fact a parable. Parables within a parable meant to be comprehended only by those with understanding of the mystery.

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