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holy-landJust as the writer of Jubilees sought to insert the Law into primeval history, so to the boundaries of the Land. Jubilees begins with the recognition that the Land is a gift from God rooted in the covenant.  Chapter 1:7-14 summarizes Israel’s history as being given the Land, and being removed from the Land.  Verse 13 especially emphasizes the connection between covenant obedience and continued presence in the Land.  In 1:15-18 the Lord tells Moses that after the people repent, he will replant them in the Land and the sanctuary will be rebuilt.

The allocation of the land of Israel to the descendants of Shem is made in documents written by Noah himself (8:10-11).

And it came to pass at the beginning of the thirty-third jubilee, that they divided the land (in) three parts, for Shem, Ham, and Japheth, according to the inheritance of each, in the first year in the first week, while one of us who were sent was dwelling with them. 11 And he called his children, and they came to him, they and their children. And he divided by lot the land which his three sons would possess. And they stretched out their hands and took the document from the bosom of Noah, their father. OTP 2:72.

Noah rejoiced that his son Shem should receive this land, and blessed his son saying “may the Lord dwell in the dwelling place of Shem” (8:18).  In this territory are the three most holy places on earth: Eden, Sinai and Zion (8:19-21).  Of the territories assigned to the three sons of Noah, only Shem’s is described as “very good,” an echo of the text of the creation story itself (8:21, cf Gen 1:31).  When Canaan sees this good land he seizes it from his brother, incurring a curse (10:30).

After the flood, Noah makes a sacrifice to atone for the defilement of the land (6:2). The description of this sacrifice in Jubilees 7:30-33 is greatly expanded from the text in Genesis 9 and is a careful interweaving of texts from the Law on the defilement of the land (Halpurn-Amaru, Rewriting the Bible, 27).  In 7:34, Noah’s sons will be like plants in the land (medr) if they are righteous.  This may echo the prophets (Jer 11:17, Amos 9:15) as well as 1 Enoch (10:16, 93:5, 10).

When Abraham is taking possession of the land for the first time, the Lord promises to give the land to Abraham’s descendants forever (15:10).  In Abraham’s farewell to his children in chapter 20 he implores his children to not worship false gods so that they will remain in the land, blessed with the good things of the land (20:6-10). This section is an echo of the blessings found in Deut 27:15; it is perhaps significant that the writer does not include an equal place to the curses of the covenant.

The emphasis on God’s gift of land to the descendants of Israel is important because many Jewish readers of this book were living outside of Judea. Perhaps the author of Jubilees places the promise of land to the time of Noah in order to assure readers of God’s promise restore the people of Israel to the land in the future, or even to encourage a return to the land at the present time.

How does this idea of land play into the Maccabean revolt? Does the view of Jubilees reflect the same sort of land-theology as 1 Maccabees or 2 Maccabees? It is even possible the idea of the land as a sacred gift of God impacts later Christian writing (and perhaps contemporary theology).

 

Bibliography: Betsy Halpern-Amaru, Rewriting the Bible: Land and Covenant in Post-Biblical Jewish Literature. (Valley Forge, Penn.: Trinity Press, 1994), 26.

The first section of Hebrews develops an argument that Jesus was foreshadowed by various people and events in the Hebrew Bible. In chapter 3 he will contrast Jesus and Moses, perhaps the most faithful servant of God and certainly the person associated most with the Law. It is well known that Matthew uses a kind of Moses typology in his Gospel to show that Jesus is a teacher in the tradition of Moses yet superior to him.

It is therefore somewhat surprising that the book of Hebrews does not begin with the contrast with Moses.  After the introduction, the writer says that the Son who is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven is superior to the angels (1:3). Following this statement, the writer constructs a lengthy comparison of Jesus and the angels, drawing on a series of texts from the Hebrew Bible (1:4-14, 2:1-9). Why start with the angels?

Dore AngelsAngels were very popular in Jewish mythology from the second century B.C. through the first century A.D.  A whole hierarchy of angels was developed along with some theological teachings that were not present in the Old Testament.  In the re-telling of Biblical stories writers often had angels performing acts that were acts of God in the Hebrew Bible.  Although the imagery is found in Daniel 10, the appearance of angels as glowing white, fiery, glowing, etc. was developed during this time as well.

Angels were associated with giving of the Law to Israel in early Judaism.  This tradition develops from Deut 33:2, where the “holy ones” accompany the Lord as he arrives at Sinai. “Holy ones” was taken to mean angels. In Acts 7:53, Stephen refers to the Law as “delivered by angels.” The Second Temple book Jubilees predates Hebrews and begins with a reference to the “angel of the presence” who wrote a text for Moses:

And he said to the angel of the presence, “Write for Moses from the first creation until my sanctuary is built in their midst forever and ever. And the LORD will appear in the sight of all. And everyone will know that I am the God of Israel and the father of all the children of Jacob and king upon Mount Zion forever and ever. And Zion and Jerusalem will be holy.” (Wintermute, “Jubilees,” in OTP 2: 54)

The tradition that angels delivered the Law is found in later Judaism as well:  “The presence of angels at the event of the giving of the law was a favourite bit of embroidery in rabbinic tradition, and was meant to enhance the glory of Sinai” (H. Schoeps, Paul, 182).  The emphasis in this literature is on the angels as intermediaries, delivering the Law to Moses.  When God revealed himself to Moses, he used angels.

Since the writer of Hebrews began his book by saying that God is new revealing himself through his Jesus, it is possible a Jewish reader might think of Jesus as an angel, like a Michael or Gabriel.  He must therefore begin by showing that Jesus is something other than an angel; he is “Son of God.”

One last observation:  Is this a “difference” between Jewish Christian literature and the Pauline Letters? Perhaps not. While Paul cannot be accused of emphasizing angels, he does use the same sort of language as Stephen in Gal 3:19: The law was “put in place through angels” (ESV).

Are there other reasons that the writer begins with a sustained argument that Jesus is superior to the angels in every way?

The audio for this week’s evening service is available at Sermon.net, as is a PDF file of the notes for the service. You should be able to download the audio directly with this link, if you prefer.

In Acts 10:27-29, Peter expresses his hesitancy to enter the home of a Gentile.  I think the key here is not simply talking with a Gentile, but receiving hospitality form a Gentile. Primarily this was because of food, but some Jews in the first century did in fact avoid contact with Gentiles in order to avoid impurity.  This was certainly true in Jerusalem where Temple worship could be a daily experience.  Josephus tells us that the Jews kept separate from the Gentiles: “[the Jews]…did not come into contact with other people because of their separateness.” (Antiq. 13:245-247; cf., Apion, 2.210) Witherington (Acts, 353) observes that the Greek word Luke chooses here probably has the sense of “taboo” or “strongly frowned upon.”

But this is not to say that Gentiles were totally excluded from Jewish worship.  There was a huge “court of the Gentiles” in the temple complex itself, giving Gentiles a place of worship in the temple.  On a number of occasions in the gospels Jesus speaks with Gentiles, although usually the faith of the Gentile is in contrast to the unfaithfulness of the Jews.

One factor bearing on this issue is the long standing Jewish belief that purity laws did not apply to Gentiles even when they lived in Israelite territory.  The “sojourner laws” of Deut 5:14 ff define these Gentiles as resident aliens and require only a few general commands for them while they are living within the nation of Israel. (These are the same commands given by James at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:24-29.)

Rabbinic writers seem to have defined a category “gentile impurity,” but this does not appear in the eighteen benedictions (dating to the period just prior to the fall of Jerusalem.) Did Jews of the first century consider Gentiles impure and therefore exclude them from the inner courts of the temple?  Several Second Temple period texts indicate that Jews did not mix at all with Gentiles (Jubilees 22:16, Tobit 1:10-12, Judith 12:1-1).  To this list we can add  Joseph and Asenath 7:1:  “Joseph never ate with the Egyptians, for this was an abomination to him”

Jubilees 22:16 And you also, my son, Jacob, remember my words, and keep the commandments of Abraham, your father. Separate yourself from the Gentiles, and do not eat with them, and do not perform deeds like theirs. And do not become associates of theirs. Because their deeds are defiled, and all their ways are contaminated, and despicable, and abominable.

Tobit 1:10-12 After I was carried away captive to Assyria and came as a captive to Nineveh, everyone of my kindred and my people ate the food of the Gentiles, but I kept myself from eating the food of the Gentiles. Because I was mindful of God with all my heart . . .

Judith 12:1-4 Then he commanded them to bring her in where his silver dinnerware was kept, and ordered them to set a table for her with some of his own delicacies, and with some of his own wine to drink. But Judith said, “I cannot partake of them, or it will be an offense; but I will have enough with the things I brought with me.” Holofernes said to her, “If your supply runs out, where can we get you more of the same? For none of your people are here with us.”  Judith replied, “As surely as you live, my lord, your servant will not use up the supplies I have with me before the Lord carries out by my hand what he has determined.”

What I think is fascinating is that Cornelius, as a God-Fearer, might very well have followed the food laws as well as Peter did.  There was still a hesitancy on the part of the apostolic mission to cross over the next social barrier and bring the gospel to Gentiles.  These issues will erupt into the first major church controversy by Acts 15.

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