Saturday, January 05, 2008

Hiding Jesus from Jews

At the end of my post, "We killed Jesus, we'll kill you too!", I wrote about an Ha'aretz article entitled "What happened to Jesus' haftarah?" by Hananel Mack, lecturer in the Naftal-Yaffe Department of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University. Mack writes about how Jewish hostility toward Jesus and Christianity has affected haftarah, the "custom of reading a chapter from the Prophets section of the Bible in public in the synagogue." The haftarah, according to Mack, is "an integral part of the Jewish liturgy on Sabbaths and holidays ..."

Mack claims, "The heads of Jewish communities, who had some familiarity with Christian faith and literature, preferred to refrain from reading the same chapter Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth ..." and "Generally speaking, Jews excluded from the haftarot those verses on which Christians based the principles of their religious faith."

What I did not know when I wrote the earlier post, and what Mack does not mention, is that the entire book of Daniel is excluded from the haftarah. The facile explanation for this is that Jews do not consider Daniel part of the Nevi'im/Prophets. How did this come to be? Here's what the Jewish Study Bible (1999 ed.; p, 1642) says:
Daniel was evidently considered a prophet at Qumran and elsewhere in early Judaism [sic] (Josephus, Antiquities 10.266-68 [see 10.10.4-7]), but because prefigurations of Christ and Christian resurrection were seen in Daniel by the early church, the rabbinic tradition hesitated to embrace the visions of Daniel. The Rabbis denied that Daniel was predicting events after the Maccabean revolt, and especially not the end of time, and assigned him a role as a seer, not a prophet (b. Meg. 3a, b. Sanh. 94a) [emphasis added].
Although not mentioned in the Jewish Study Bible, Daniel was also classified as a prophetic book in the Septuagint (abbr. LXX), an important ancient (3rd cent. BC) Koine Greek-language translation of the Old Testament.
The significance of Daniel to the church is underscored by a passage from Four Strange Books of the Bible by the Jewish scholar Elias Bickerman (New York: Schocken, 1967). On page 128, he writes:
Of all messianic prophecies, the most important was the testimony of Daniel. Daniel, as Josephus says, "not only prophesied of future events, but also determined the time of their fulfillment." In the Gospels, Jesus applies to himself the words of Daniel that the Son of Man shall come in the clouds of heaven. Daniel, says Augustine in the City of God, even defined the exact date of the coming and suffering of Christ. Jerome said that none of the prophets spoke so clearly concerning Christ: Daniel sets forth the very time at which Jesus would come and announces beforehand the clearest signs of events to come. Thirteen centuries later, Isaac Newton stated that to disbelieve Daniel's predictions "is to reject the Christian religion. For this religion is founded upon his prophecy concerning the Messiah."
The "Son of Man" is indeed a key
phrase. It comes from Daniel 7:13 (KJV) and is rendered υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου in the LXX. It appears 82 times in the Gospels and Acts (KJV) together. Daniel 12 is also notable but, make no mistake, the entire book is important in Christian theology.

To sum up, Mack has identified several prophetic texts (see table below) removed by "the Rabbis" from the Jewish liturgy because of their Christological implications. But "the Rabbis" also demoted an entire book of the Bible--Daniel--to prevent Jewish lay people from drawing the prophetic lines to Jesus the Messiah.

Passage Excluded from the Haftarah ReadingsCorresponding New Testament Text
Isaiah 7:14. Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman* is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

*As Mack points out, "The term 'virgin' is translated as such in the Septuagint and that is how Christians explicate the verse to this very day." The NRSV, quoted here, uses the Masoretic text.
Matthew 1:22,23. All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."
Isaiah 42:1-4. Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.Matthew 12:18-21. "Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope."
Isaiah 52:13. See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high.Same as above.
Isaiah 61:1. The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;Luke 4:16-19. When [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Jeremiah 31:30-33. But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge. The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt--a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.*Luke 22:20. And [Jesus] did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Hebrews 8:6-10. But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one. God finds fault with them when he says: "The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

*Mack does not provide any corresponding New Testament verses. See text above table.
Hosea 11:1. When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.Matthew 2:14,15. Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."
Micah 5:2. But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.Matthew 2:3-6. When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

John 7:41, 42
. Others said, "This is the Messiah." But some asked, "Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?"
Zechariah 9:9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.Matthew 21:3-6. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, 'The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately. " This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, "Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey." The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them;

John 12:14,15.
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: "Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!"
*Zechariah 11:12,13. I then said to them, "If it seems right to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them." So they weighed out as my wages thirty shekels of silver. Then the LORD said to me, "Throw it into the treasury"-- this lordly price at which I was valued by them. So I took the thirty shekels of silver and threw them into the treasury in the house of the LORD.

*Mack's article cites Zech. 12:13 but this is clearly a typographical error.
Matthew 26:14,15. Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I betray him to you?" They paid him thirty pieces of silver.

Mark 14:10,11.
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
Malachi 3:1. See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.Matthew 11:10. This is the one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'

Mark 2:2. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.

Luke 7:27. This is the one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'

John 3:28.
You yourselves are my witnesses that I [John] said, 'I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.'
All text is from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible via The Unbound Bible

Revised: 1/11/2008

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