“The Lord Leading Them On” – 2 Maccabees 10:1 and Mark 10:32

Image result for judah maccabee the hammerIn New Testament studies it is somewhat commonplace to say the Jews at the time of Jesus were expecting a messiah who was a military leader or a Davidic king. In popular preaching this is usually stated without any sort of evidence. There is some reason to think at least some Jewish people in the first century had this view of the messiah, although it was not the only way to think about the messiah in the first century.

This semester I have been teaching a class on the Second Temple period as well as a series of Bible studies in the Gospel of Mark. When I was preparing to teach Mark 10:32-34 for this week, I ran across a potential allusion to the military activity of Judas Maccabees in the Gospel of Mark. I am sure someone what noticed this before, but let me offer this as an illustration of how reading Second Temple period literature helps to illuminate the New Testament.

In Mark 10:32, Jesus is “going before” his disciples. Mark makes it clear Jesus is leading the way up to Jerusalem. Although Jesus has traveled with his disciples in previous stories, this is the first time he has been described as “going before” them. The word is occasionally used to described a military maneuver (2 Macc 11:10), but with the sense of advancing in a battle rather than to describe a general leading his army into battle.

The verb (προάγω) appears in a very important Second Temple text in 2 Maccabees 10:1, Judas Maccabees and his followers up to Jerusalem to recover the Temple after Antiochus had desecrated it. But the writer of 2 Maccabees says it was the Lord himself who was leading them up to the temple (a participle of προάγω, προάγοντος αὐτοὺς).

2 Maccabees 10:1–2 (NRSV) Now Maccabeus and his followers, the Lord leading them on, recovered the temple and the city; 2 they tore down the altars that had been built in the public square by the foreigners, and also destroyed the sacred precincts.

When Judas and his followers reach the Temple, they “recover the Temple and the city.” Judas and his followers purified (καθαρίζω) the sanctuary and initiated the proper worship in the Temple which had been cut off three years before by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. This rededication of the Temple is the climax of a series of stories in 2 Maccabees since Judas has achieved what he set out to do when he came to Jerusalem.

Mark may be intentionally presenting Jesus as acting like Judas Maccabees. For the first time in the Gospel of Mark Jesus is going up to Jerusalem and Jesus himself is leading the way. Before he arrives he will be hailed as the son of David (10:47) and welcomed as the one who comes in the name of the Lord (11:9). The next pericope in Mark begins with the curse of the fig tree (11:12-14) followed by the Temple action (11:15-19). Although the Temple action is symbolic, Jesus is driving out those who are not using the Temple properly. Again, popular preaching calls this a “cleansing of the Temple” even if that word is not used in Mark 11.

This connection of Judas Maccabees may also explains the amazement and the fear of the other followers of Jesus. Perhaps the disciples are amazed that Jesus is leading the way to Jerusalem in this way. Since James and John ask to sit on the right and left hand when “Jesus comes in his glory” (10:37), it is possible the disciples think this is the time the Kingdom will be restored to Israel.

8 thoughts on ““The Lord Leading Them On” – 2 Maccabees 10:1 and Mark 10:32

  1. That is a very interesting allusion you might have found. The link between the Lord leading them on with Judas and Jesus leading his disciples to the temple. Also how when James and John ask to sit with Jesus on his throne. Did they think Jesus was trying to restore the temple right then or where they were talking about the throne in Heaven. This was the first time Jesus was going to Jerusalem and he did lead the way like in 2 Maccabees when “the lord led the way”. It is amazing how scripture is so divine and intricate we are still finding allusions to the New Testament in old Testament literature as well as intertestamental literature. I wonder what Jesus’ disciples were thinking about as they were headed to Jerusalem for the first time with Jesus. They were waiting in anticipation to see if this is when Jesus would restore the temple. I am sure all of the citizens were also waiting in excitement or fear to see what Jesus was going to do. Judas and his army were going to the temple to cleanse and clean it. Some say that Jesus was going to the temple to cleanse the temple. When Jesus called out those who were not using the temple properly he was cleansing it, even if this does not specifically say this in Mark.

  2. As I work through your class, this example of applications of the intertestamental period within the New Testament is eye opening! Having always read the New Testament with a lack of previous context, it is very cool to see some allusions that may be drawn from that period and reaffirms my study of this time period. This makes me wonder how many other allusions to previous history may exist within the Bible that readers have not picked up on! I think that this allusion somewhat clues readers in on the intentions of Jesus as he “goes before” his disciples to Jerusalem. Each leader in these scenarios (Judas and Jesus) advances a people toward Jerusalem and restores the temple. Really, however, both groups were led by God himself, as you mentioned that Judas states that the Lord was leading them into Jerusalem in 2 Maccabees. Judas prepared his troops with prayer and fasting, something that Jesus did regularly (Tomasino, 2003). The connection between these two incidences ultimately brings glory to God in their unfolding, through the leadership of Christ and restoration of the temple. Even the process by which Judas and Jesus restore the temple is somewhat similar, as Jesus is angry and throws over the tables of those misusing the temple ( “He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts”) (Mark 11:15-16, NIV). Judas destroys Pagan altars and parts of the temple that were desecrated with the blood of unclean animals (“they tore down the altars that had been built in the public square by the foreigners, and also destroyed the sacred precincts”) (2 Maccabees 10:2).

  3. I think everyone who was not Jesus at the time was just anticipating what was going to happen when he got to the Temple. In Mark it says that he James and John requested to sit at his right and left hand (10:37) They did not realize what they were asking, which makes you assume that they thought they were going to be seated with Jesus and God right then, not in the end times. They thought it was happening now. Jesus told James and John that it was not for him to grant but for those it was prepared for. Judas and his men tried to cleanse the temple before anyone got there, they also assumed that is what Jesus was going to do. What really happens is that the people who were not using the temple the correct way, were no longer around to use the temple at all. It was then only left for the people who knew how to truly use it. There were mixed feelings about Jesus coming, some were amazed and some were fearful. It is okay to feel both in this regard since it was uncertain what was going to happen.

  4. Context is everything and this is one thing that while at Grace in your class and other theology classes has been made very clear. Certain verses or stories are taken very wrong when not making clear what is before and with the build up. Context is especially needed through all the 2nd Temple period stories and situations. In this specificly I see a connection between Jesus and Judas; however similar the situations are we can take two very diferent responses that lead to two very opposite outcomes. And as christians we need to look at this example and learn from it.

  5. This connection between 2 Maccabees and the book of Mark are very interesting. This class has proven to me that reading the non-canon books of the Bible can be very beneficial for a variety of reasons, including to get a better sense of the context of the Old and New Testaments and also to find connections like the one talked about in the blog post. When reading the passage in Mark, I do not picture Jesus as a military leader, but after reading the passage in 2 Maccabees and learning more about the meaning of the words used, I can see why some would say that the disciples perceived Jesus in this way at that moment. It makes me wonder if the disciples had knowledge of this particular moment in 2 Maccabees and could see the similarities for themselves in Jesus. This definitely makes me rethink how I have assumed what the disciples felt about Jesus and how they pictured Him. It makes me want to look at other passages of the New Testament where the disciples are being led by Jesus and looking at it in the perspective of Jesus being not just the Messiah, but also being a military leader in the eyes of the disciples. Many connections between non-canon books and the canon books of the Bible make me wonder if more people should read the non-canon books so that they can get a better understanding of the Bible. They can help out a lot to see things in a different way and maybe reveal more of the history.

  6. It is very interesting to note that the messages that preach that the Jews were expecting a military leader who would come and rescue them from the Roman rule and oppression they were under, very rarely, if at all, include support to tell where this idea comes from. The Jews did not just want to be free of the Romans, but of any and all nations that oppressed them. In chapter 7, Tomasino explains that the Jews would rather be ruled by a wicked Jew than a foreign ruler. This goes to show how much they craved a military leader who would come in, deliver them from their oppressors then rule them as a king like David. I have heard messages like this before, and many sermons mention how Jesus was not the kind of messiah the Jews expected, however, I never realized that these messages were not providing evidence or support for this Jewish manner of thinking. The literature from the Second Temple Period and the stories that they tell, fill in some of the gaps and gives the history that is often not supported in the sermon. Connecting Judas Maccabeus and his actions to what the Jews expected, and to what Jesus would do in Mark 10:32 is something I had certainly never thought of before, and in some ways, it helps explain why the Jews were expecting a mighty warrior to ride in and conquer all their problems. I think Jesus’ actions in Mark are an allusion to Judas Maccabees, they are supposed to make the Jews think about what they desire and expect in the Messiah, and Jesus alludes to some of these things to make them realize that he might not be what they expected, but he is fulfilling those roles, he is coming to conquer and restore a kingdom where the Jews can be free and choose their worship.

  7. I find it so interesting that during this time period there were so many connections to the Old Testament and even New Testament refers to the Old Testament, but I never knew that there would be any correlation between the New Testament and the Intertestamental period. I find it intriguing to see the connection between 2 Maccabees 11:10 and Mark 10:32 and how they use similar military language. I really wonder if it was intended to be written as “going before” to connect with the idea of battle or just a coincidence because within that text Jesus talks about His coming death and resurrection, which could refer to His battle with sin and death. Also, the connection between the purification of the temple with Judas and his followers and Jesus is just another example. In 2 Maccabees 10:3-“They purified the sanctuary, and made another altar of sacrifices;…” (2 Maccabees, 1620). I don’t think that we realize how important it is to learn the history of the Jews in this time because it shows how it affected the reaction of the people around Jesus. It causes an understanding as to what the situation looks like not just from one perspective.

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