Tempting a Hen to Play a Chick(en)

(Dominus Flevit Altar Mosaic; Photo credit: Tiuli.com)

In Matt 4:5–7; Luke 4:9–12, Jesus cites Deut 6:16 in response to his temptation at the temple. The full text there runs “you shall not test Yahweh, your God, as you tested him at Massah” (Deut 6:16; לא תנסו את־יהוה אלהיכם כאשר נסיתם במסה) and refers to Israel’s grumbling about their lack of water in Exod 17:1–7. In this narrative, Exodus reports that Moses “[] called the name of the place ‘Massah’ and ‘Meribah’ on account of the dispute of the sons of Israel and of their testing Yahweh, saying, ‘Is Yahweh in our midst or not?’” (Exod 17:7; ויקרא שם המקום מסה ומריבה על־ריב בני ישראל ועל נסתם את־יהוה לאמר היש יהוה בקרבנו אם־אין; cf. Num 20:2–13). Although this interpretation is Exodus’s own, Exodus does not directly narrate the people’s posing this question (Exod 17:1–6). Instead, they demand water from Moses and inquire whether lacking it indicates that they have been brought into the wilderness to die of thirst (Exod 17:2–3). Thus, the pericope’s interpretive conclusion seems to represent the recorded speech as tantamount to having asked the question “Is Yahweh in our midst or not?” (Exod 17:7; היש יהוה בקרבנו אם־אין).

When Jesus quotes Deut 6:16 to the devil, he quotes only the first part of the text about the inappropriateness of testing God and omits the direct reference to Massah (Matt 4:7; Luke 4:12). Yet, the connection with Massah apparently helps make Deut 6:16 an apt retort to the temptation in which the devil has taken Jesus to “the pinnacle of the temple” (Matt 4:5; Luke 4:9; τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ). Once there, the devil urges Jesus to jump and trust Yahweh’s angels to catch him, in the words of Ps 91:11–12, “lest you should strike your foot on a stone” (Matt 4:6; Luke 4:11; μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου).

Yahweh “will [indeed] command his angels” (τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται), and they will indeed minister to Jesus (Matt 4:7, 11; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:10). Yet, Yahweh is himself one who does touch foot to stone: when Israel was at Massah, Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb” (Exod 17:6; הנני עמד לפניך שם על־הצור בחרב).‭[1]

Thus, even as Jesus enacts what should have been Israel’s proper response of trusting Yahweh, so he also enacts Yahweh’s faithful care over his people.[2] In Ps 91:4, somewhat earlier than the devil’s quotation, the psalmist says Yahweh “will cover you with his pinion, and under his wings you will seek refuge” (באברתו יסך לך ותחת־כנפיו תחסה). In one respect, though much differently than the devil now suggests, Jesus is the properly trusting recipient of his Father’s care (Matt 4:6, 11; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:11). In another, Jesus is the hen that would gather her chicks to protect them—even at the cost of his own life—if they would but come under his “wings” (Matt 23:29–39; Luke 13:31–35; πτέρυγες).[3]

[1] Perhaps also in the background of this interchange is an exegetical tradition about Massah like that represented in Tg. Ps.-J. Exod 17:6: “Behold, I will stand before you there at the place where you saw the mark of the foot on the rock at Horeb” (Kaufman, Pseudo-Jonathan; האנא קאים קדמך תמן באתרא דתיחמי רושם ריגלא על טינרא בחורב). Thus, on the targumist’s reading, “the foot” (ריגלא) had apparently come into contact with “the rock at Horeb” (טינרא בחורב) with sufficient force to leave a “mark” (רושם).

[2] Cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.5 (Schaff, NPNF1, 8:121).

[3] Cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 91.5 (ibid., 8:447); Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 570–72.

Ratzinger, The Infancy Narratives

Ratzinger, The Infancy Narratives
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

Today, the Pope’s new book on the Gospels’ infancy narratives goes on sale. The volume is the third of a three-part series. The two earlier volumes have respectively discussed the narratives from Jesus’ baptism to his transfiguration (2007) and the final entrance into Jerusalem to the resurrection (2011). The present volume:

focuses exclusively on the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life as a child. The root of these stories is the experience of hope found in the birth of Jesus and the affirmations of surrender and service embodied in his parents, Joseph and Mary. This is a story of longing and seeking, as demonstrated by the Magi searching for the redemption offered by the birth of a new king. It is a story of sacrifice and trusting completely in the wisdom of God as seen in the faith of Simeon, the just and devout man of Jerusalem, when he is in the presence of the Christ child. Ultimately, Jesus’ life and message is a story for today, one that speaks to the restlessness of the human heart searching for the sole truth which alone leads to profound joy. (Amazon)

Philip Pullella of Reuters also has an interesting short discussion and digest of the release.

Review of Biblical Literature Newsletter (October 31, 2012)

The latest reviews from the Review of Biblical Literature include:

New Testament and Cognate Studies

Second Temple Judaism

Praying with Jesus

To demonstrate the superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice to those previously offered under the Torah, the writer to the Hebrews quotes a version of Ps 40:6–8 (Eng; 40:7–9 HB; 39:7–9 OG; Heb 10:5–9).1 In so doing, Hebrews fairly clearly situates its rendition of this psalm’s words as Jesus’ own (cf. Heb 10:10).2 If one were to read the entire psalm in this direction however,3 problems would seemingly arise (e.g., vv. 12–17 Eng).4

Nevertheless, in looking at the whole psalm from the perspective of Hebrews’ reading, one might well consider that Jesus “sometimes speaks in the name of our Head; sometimes also He speaks of us who are His members.”5 In this way, initially problematic elements (e.g., v. 12 Eng) would follow not with respect to him who is the head but with respect to those who are his members.6 Moreover,

Of all those things which our Lord Jesus Christ has foretold, we know part to have been already accomplished, part we hope will be accomplished hereafter. All of them, however, will be fulfilled because He is “the Truth” who speaks them, and requires of us to be as “faithful,” as He Himself speaks faithfully.7

Thus, it befits the church too to join in praying this psalm alongside her Lord.8

1. Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text (The New International Greek Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 488; Richard B. Hays, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 106–7; B. F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (3rd ed.; London: Macmillan, 1906), 311. On Hebrews’ quotation and its relationship to the OG, see GS, Ps 39:7–9; Franz Delitzsch, Psalms (Commentary on the Old Testament 5; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1866; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2006), 302; Geoffrey Grogan, Prayer, Praise, and Prophecy: A Theology of the Psalms (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2001), 273; Karen H. Jobes, “The Function of Paronomasia in Hebrews 10:5–7,” TrinJ 13, no. 2 (1992): 182, 184; see also Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 48–51.

2. Ellingworth, Hebrews, 499; Jobes, “Paronomasia in Hebrews 10:5–7,” 186; Delitzsch, Psalms, 299; Westcott, Hebrews, 311; cf. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.5 (NPNF1, 8:120–21); see also Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 18.1 (NPNF1, 14:451). Unless εἰσερχόμενος (Heb 10:5; entering) is both substantival and anarthrous, the text omits an explicit an explicit subject for the verb λέγει (says; Westcott, Hebrews, 311).

3. Cf. Chrysostom, Hom. Heb., 18.1 (NPNF1, 451); Hays, Conversion of the Imagination, 107.

4. Delitzsch, Psalms, 299.

5. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.5 (NPNF1, 8:121).

6. E.g., Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.22 (NPNF1, 8:126).

7. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.1 (NPNF1, 8:119).

8. Augustine, Enarrat. Ps., 40.2, 5 (NPNF1, 8:119–21); cf. Walter Brueggemann, “Psalms and the Life of Faith: A Suggested Typology of Function,” JSOT 17 (1980): 3–32; Hays, Conversion of the Imagination, 101–18; Jerry Eugene Shepherd, “The Book of Psalms as the Book of Christ: A Christo-Canonical Approach to the Book of Psalms” (Ph.D. diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1995).

The Resurrection of the Son of God

In Acts 13:16–41, Paul addresses the Pisidian synagogue. In this discourse’s context, Paul asserts “we preach to you the good news concerning the promise that had come to the fathers—that this promise God has fulfilled for us their children by raising Jesus” (Acts 13:32–33; ἡμεῖς ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελιζόμεθα τὴν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἐπαγγελίαν γενομένην, ὅτι ταύτην ὁ θεὸς ἐκπεπλήρωκεν τοῖς τέκνοις [αὐτῶν] ἡμῖν ἀναστήσας Ἰησοῦν). From here, the following quotation of Ps 2:7 confirms Jesus’ resurrection by Yahweh’s hand (cf. Acts 13:37).1 This resurrection in incorruption situates Jesus as the means by which the ancestral promise becomes actualized (Acts 13:34–37) because it situates him as the recipient and mediator of the things vouchsafed to David (Acts 13:34)—namely, an everlasting covenant in which the wandering return and receive forgiveness from Yahweh (Isa 55; cf. Deut 30).2

1. Chrysostom, Hom. Act., 29 (NPNF1, 11:182–85).

2. Ibid.; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 268–74, 576–77.

Donnerstag Digest (August 26, 2010)

This week in the biblioblogosphere:

Was the Teacher of Righteousness Considered to Be a Messiah?

John Collins rightly argues that the possibility of a positive answer to this question depends heavily on what one means by משיח (messiah) (“A Messiah before Jesus?” 15–35). Most notably, messianic language at Qumran refers to the so-called “Davidic” and “priestly” messiahs (1QS 9:11; 4Q161 3:22–29; 4Q174 3:7–13; 4Q252 5:1–7; 4Q266 f2i:11; f10i:12; 4Q285 f7:1–6; 4Q479 f1:4; 11Q14 f1i:5–15; CD 12:23–13:1; 14:19; 19:10–11; 20:1; cf. 4Q504 f1-2Riv:6–8),1 but some Qumran texts also use messianic language about prophets (28). For example, one may cite the following texts (cf. 28):

  • ויודיעם ביד משיחי רוח קדשו וחוזי אמת (and he taught them by the hand of the ones anointed by his holy spirit and the seers of truth; CD 2:12–13)
  • דברו סרה על מצות אל ביד משה וגם במשיחי הקודש (they spoke rebellion against the commands of God by the hand of Moses and also by the holy anointed ones; CD 5:21–6:1; cf. 4Q266 f3ii:9–10; 4Q267 f2:6; 6Q15 f3:4)
  • וביד משיחיכה חוזי תעודות הגדתה לנו קצי מלחמות ידיכה (and by the hand of your anointed ones, seers of decrees, you told to us the times of the wars of your hands; 1QM 11:7–8)

4Q521; 11Q13 2:18 may also arguably fall under this category (28–29), and if the Teacher is to be assigned to the category of ‘messiah’, he should be so assigned under the rubric of this third, prophetic type of messiah (32–33). Yet, nowhere do the “Teacher Hymns” claim any anointing for their author (30, 33), even though there is ample reason to affirm that the Teacher saw himself as a prophet (32). Thus, in a loose sense by which anointing and prophetic vocation were held together, the Teacher might be termed a messiah, but Collins thinks that “it is misleading to speak of him as the eschatological prophet or as a messiah, in the definitive eschatological sense” (33).

This point is well taken, and the desire that Collins consistently expresses throughout his essay to describe the Teacher, messiahship, and Jesus on their own individual terms is both appropriate and commendable. Still, texts like CD 1–2; 1QpHab 2:1–10 may well set up for the Teacher a “definitive eschatological” role that also differs distinctly at certain points from the “definitive eschatological” role that the early Christian community assigned to Jesus (cf. 29). Perhaps most obviously given Qumran’s likely witness to Davidic and Aaronic messiahs as well, the Teacher does not constitute the sole person in whom יהוה’s purposes for his people ultimately come to fruition. Rather, taken as a whole, the sectarian manuscripts may be understood as divvying out to several parties what the New Testament assigns collectively to Jesus (e.g., 2 Cor 1:20; Gal 1–2; Heb 6:19–7:28; Rev 5). Thus, the exclusivity of influence for the Teacher’s “definitive eschatological” role may be comparatively smaller and otherwise expressed for the Qumran community than it was for the role that Jesus exercised on the early Christian community, but because the Teacher was יהוה’s appointed guide (e.g., CD 1:1–11), there seems to be good reason to suppose that the Teacher’s eschatological definitiveness would have been quite strong within its own designated sphere.

Despite this qualification, “A Messiah before Jesus?” offers concise summary of and engagement with the theses that André Dupont-Sommer advanced early in the history of Qumran scholarship and that others (e.g., Michael Wise, Israel Knohl) have more recently revisited. Particularly, Collins’ conclusion helpfully draws attention to some key points of difference between Jesus and the Teacher that those who have taken the Dupont-Sommer line may have insufficiently appreciated (33–35). This essay and its sister (Collins, “An Essene Messiah?” 37–44) are generally both judicious and informative, and the rest of the volume promises to be quite engaging also.

1 The reference system adopted here follows the conventions of Martin Abegg, Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts.

In this post:

Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts
Martin Abegg Jr.

Christian Beginnings and the Dead Sea Scrolls
John Collins and Craig Evans


The following poem, “Epi-strauss-ium,” by Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861) playfully draws attention to D. F. Strauss’s then recently published Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet (Life of Jesus Critically Examined; NAEL 2:1452 n. 1).

Matthew and Mark and Luke and holy John
Evanished all and gone!
Yea, he that erst, his dusky curtains quitting,
Through Eastern pictured panes his level beams transmitting,
With gorgeous portraits blent,
On them his glories intercepted spent,
Southwestering now, through windows plainly glassed,
On the inside face his radiance keen hath cast,
And in the luster lost, invisible, and gone,
Are, say you, Matthew, Mark, and Luke and holy John?
Lost, is it? lost, to be recovered never?
The place of worship the meantime with light
Is, if less richly, more sincerely bright,
And in blue skies the Orb is manifest to sight.

This assessment generally seems quite apropos and its language quite arresting, though one might well be grateful for how more recent scholarship has arguably provided some means for brightening the “place of worship” both “[more] richly” and “more sincerely” (e.g., Bauckham; Dunn; Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God; Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God).

In this post:

Norton Anthology of English Literature (7th ed; Volume 2)
M. H. Abrams et al.
Richard Bauckham
Richard Bauckham
James Dunn
James Dunn

N. T. Wright
N. T. Wright

N. T. Wright
N. T. Wright