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Zechariah, Jude, and the Body of Moses

April 30, 2014 Leave a comment

From David Baron’s commentary on Zechariah, an interesting note concerning the book of Jude: its reference to the body of Moses, and reference to Zechariah 3.

My only previous acquaintance with Jude’s mention of Michael and the devil arguing over the body of Moses (Jude 9), was a passing comment from an online Bible teacher  who noted this passage as possible support for Moses being one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 (uncertainty concerning whether Moses actually physically died).  But for more in-depth consideration, David Baron addresses Jude 9, its possible meaning and reference to Zechariah 3:1-2:

And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of Jehovah, and Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary. And Jehovah said unto Satan, Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan; yea, Jehovah that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee : is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

Some of the church fathers, including Origen, state that the quotation in Jude is from an apocryphal book, the title of which is “The Ascension,” or “Assumption of Moses.” Yet Baron observes that no such account is to be found in our partial fragments of these works, or any indication that such exists in the parts of the book that are missing, that we no longer have.  Here it is possible that the early writers were thinking of other legendary accounts of contests between Moses himself and the Angel of Death, whom he put to flight when he came to take his soul by striking him with his rod, on which the ineffable name Jehovah was inscribed. In the end (so one legend proceeds) “God Himself, accompanied by Gabriel, Michael, and Zagziel (the former teacher of Moses), descended to take Moses soul.  Gabriel arranged the couch, Michael spread a silken cover over it, and Zagziel put a silken pillow under Moses head. At God s command Moses crossed his hands over his breast and closed his eyes, and God took his soul away with a kiss.”

Another way to understand “the body of Moses,” though, is an allegorical sense — contrasting “the body of Christ” (that is, the Church, the New Testament age believers) with “the body of Moses” (unbelieving Jews).  Support for this view includes the point that by the time Jude was writing, the Jewish church had become quite antagonistic and hostile to the Church of Christ and heavily focused on Moses as its teacher, “a claim which might well be admitted as true in the most real sense of the Jewish Church in the days of Zechariah (C. H. H. Wright).”

Whether the “body of Moses” in Jude is to be taken allegorically or not, David Baron emphasizes that Jude certainly had the passage of Zechariah in mind:

1) the use of the formula ‘The Lord rebuke thee’

2) Jude 23:  “pulling out of the fire” — reference “the brand plucked from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2)

3) “the garment stained by the flesh” — reference the “filthy garments” in which Joshua is first seen.

For further consideration of this question — sources cited by David Baron: 

Dr. C. H. H. Wright, Zechariah and his Prophecies; and Dean (Henry) Alford’s commentary note on the passage in Jude.

‘Christ is Awesome’? Remember the Father Who Sent Him

April 25, 2014 3 comments

It is common, especially in places of superficial and shallow teaching, to hear Christians focus on the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, in a way that neglects the more in-depth teaching of the whole counsel of God. For instance, recently at a local church someone proclaimed “Christ is Awesome!” — a great thought so far as it goes, but incomplete and limited in its perspective. I prefer instead the wording, as expressed in bumper stickers years ago, “God is Awesome” (reference the Rich Mullins song “Our God is an Awesome God”), which more accurately focuses attention on the Lord God, considering the work of the Triune God and God’s Divine Purpose.

S. Lewis Johnson, in his 1 John series, addressed this very point, that our gratitude should include not only Christ the Son, but also the Father who sent Him:

The Father sent the Son, so that the gratitude that we have — because we’ve come to know the Lord Jesus as Savior — is not a gratitude that should stop at Christ. It should go on, as our Lord taught us, to embrace the Father who sent the Son. In fact, the Lord Jesus says, that everything He did was done at the command and the will of the Father. The Lord Jesus acted for the Father. He carried out the Father’s will. And as far as going to the cross is concerned, it’s the Father who led Him to the cross. In other words, what I’m saying, my Christian friend, is that the Lord Jesus Christ is full of the love that the Father sent Him to carry out toward us. Never forget that.

 

The Center of Biblical Theology: Including the Wisdom Books

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Going through James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, the central theme is obvious enough within the Law and Prophets: the Pentateuch, then Joshua-Judges-Samuel-Kings, and the major and minor prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, plus the twelve minor). As Hamilton observes, though, previous attempts to describe a central theme of biblical theology did not include the wisdom books.

So here, after considering the previous scholarship regarding a biblical center of theology and the commentators who could not “fit” a central theme throughout scripture that works with the wisdom books (especially Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes), God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment includes a good theme-study through the book of Psalms, along with interesting details concerning how we approach reading the wisdom books in their context within the Old Testament canon of the law and prophets.

The fear of God so prominent in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes is informed by the holiness of Yahweh that breaks out against transgressors such as Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10). The voice of wisdom that cries out from these books is not spouting philosophical speculation on right and wrong; it is the song of a holy siren, wooing readers to return to the Law (Torah) and the Prophets. For instance, Proverbs 29:18 proclaims, ‘Where there is no vision the people are let loose, but as for the one who keeps the law, blessed is he.’ The word rendered ‘vision’ is a term often used to describe the visions of the prophets…. Disregarding the visions of the prophets is like walking blindly toward a precipice, but the danger is not an abstract fall from an impersonal height. Rather, the danger lies in defiling the holy God by transgressing his boundaries. Yahweh is a God of justice, and “the ways of a man are before the eyes of Yahweh, and all his paths he observes” (Prov. 5:21). The fear of judgment leads to salvation.7

Hamilton includes many details concerning specific psalms within each section, within this overall summary approach to the Psalms and its five “books” (sections).

Psalm 1 and 2 set forth the two main points which are followed throughout the rest of book 1: emphasis on the Torah and the inward life (Psalm 1), along with focus on the Messiah King and the external threats and enemies to defeat (Psalm 2). The rest of book 1 (Psalms 1-41) centers on these points, highlighting the afflictions faced by the Messiah (in type: David), which are the sufferings through which he will enter his glory.

Book 2:  Psalms 42-72. Salvation comes through judgment to God’s glory, through the agency of the Messiah, son of David, king in Jerusalem.  This section occurs during the time period of 2 Samuel 7-10, the time of David’s power growing, through his conquering and expanding. Then comes David’s sin with Bathsheba (Ps. 51) followed by more affliction and opposition.

Book 3:  Psalms 73-89.  These psalms concern the era of Solomon and the subsequent kings in the Davidic line. Here we have expressions of the hope of the world, intermingled with anticipations of judgment day. At the close of this section, judgment has fallen — but hope has not died.

Book 4:  Psalms 90-106. Here are expressions of faith while in exile.  This section has a “Moses dimension,” with Moses named 7 times in book 4; Moses is only mentioned once outside of this section. Hope grows stronger, and the future hope is built on the foundation of what God has done in history: from creation (Psalm 104), through the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Joseph, then Moses and Exodus. (Psalms 105-106). The future hope is placed on Yahweh’s history of glorifying himself in salvation through judgment.

Book 5: Psalms 107-150. These psalms begin with the return from exile as already accomplished. This section especially features the eschatological triumph of Yahweh through the conquering Davidic king. The new exodus and return from exile begin through the agency of the Messiah.

 

 

Zechariah’s Prophecy: Past Partial Fulfillment, but Future Complete Fulfillment

April 15, 2014 Leave a comment

David Baron’s “The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah,” (full online text available here) originally published nearly a hundred years ago, shows that indeed some ideas have been around quite a while, including the Preterist/fulfillment approach to Old Testament scripture. Preterism (and the form called “partial preterism”) has enjoyed greater popularity just in the last 15 years or so, after many decades of dominant futurism in American Christianity. But David Baron’s commentary gives answer to the same question raised today — along with proper balance of interesting details concerning the past partial fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy. We can acknowledge that, indeed, a partial fulfillment or foreshadowing has occurred, recognizing what those historical events are, while understanding that the Old Testament promises have a complete fulfillment yet to occur.

But it might be as well, before proceeding further, to pause and inquire if there is any truth in the assertion that this promise has already been fulfilled … and another, who, in an able and elaborate work, which, however, is chiefly a summary of the explanations and speculations of German commentators who, with very rare exceptions, have no place at all in their theological and exegetical schemes for any future for Israel admitting that it is of the earthly Jerusalem that the words were spoken, tells us coolly that : “There is no need to suppose that the prophecy refers to a still future period, as Von Hoffmann imagines. The prophecy was fulfilled by the restoration of the city of Jerusalem under the protection of God even in troublous days.

The 19th century preterist references the details of Jerusalem’s history during the post-exilic period:

 “Though surrounded indeed by walls, Jerusalem grew so fast that a considerable number dwelt in villages outside the walls. Its population continually increased the city was noted for its splendid appearance in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus. … In the troublous times which intervened between the days of Zechariah and those of our Lord, notwithstanding the disasters which occasionally fell upon the holy city, abundant proof was given that the Lord was not forgetful of His promises, specially to shield and to protect it. The promises,” he proceeds, ” would have been fully accomplished if the people had kept the covenant committed to them, and they were accomplished in a great measure, notwithstanding their many sins.”

Also from David Baron:

A good deal is made of a letter of Aristeas, an Egyptian Jew, to Philocrates, which is referred to by Josephus in the I2th book of his Jewish Antiquities, in which a description of Jerusalem after the restoration is given; also of a fragment of Hecataeus, who lived in the time of Alexander the Great, and who describes the Jews at the time as possessing “many fortresses and towns, moreover one fortified city, by name Jerusalem, fifty stadia in circumference and inhabited by 120,000 men”; and of Josephus’ statement (see his Jewish Wars, v. 4. 2) that at the time of Herod Agrippa, “as the city grew more populous it gradually crept beyond its old limits, and those parts of it that stood northwards of the temple and joined that hill to the city made it considerably larger, and occasioned that hill, which is in number the fourth, and is called Bezetha, to be inhabited also.” All of which, according to these interpreters, show that the glorious prophecy in Zech. 2 has been fulfilled, and has no more reference to a future period.

But to say that this wonderful prophecy was completely fulfilled in that time misses the mark and misses the depth and meaning of the great words of the actual prophecy. Here are the two major reasons why the prophecy (Zechariah 2) cannot be limited to the past event, and speak of a future fulfillment:

1.  Jerusalem is still being “trodden down of the Gentiles,” which has never ceased to be the case from the time of the Babylonian Captivity to this day. The “times of the Gentiles” began with “the withdrawal of Himself from their midst,” and the darkness of the Jewish nation since then, has not ended. That this period did not terminate with the first advent of our Lord is clear from Christ’s own prophetic forecast of future events, in which He says: “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

2.  These beautiful words, “For I, saith Jehovah, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and the glory in the midst of her,” are really an announcement of the return of the Glory of the Personal Presence of Jehovah to Jerusalem, and an amplification of the words in the first vision, “I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies.” David Baron further addressed this issue, of the departure of the Glory of God from Jerusalem (Ezekiel’s vision) and the present-day “Ichabod” period of Israel’s history (reference his work, The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew).

God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: The Commentary Within the Old Testament

April 2, 2014 3 comments

James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment reads as an overview commentary on the whole Bible, from beginning to end, with the Old Testament in its original Hebrew sequence. Along the way, many parallels are brought out, as we see that parts of the Old Testament act as commentary on other sections. Thus far I have read through the Torah, the former prophets, and some of the Latter Prophets section — the Pentateuch books, then Joshua through Kings (excluding Ruth); then Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve (minor prophets books).

A few interesting points here, showing how later Old Testament books provide commentary on other sections.

The Former Prophets comment on the Torah. Example: the book of Kings (1 Kings and 2 Kings)

In order to understand Kings, however, readers must be aware of the terms of the covenant in order to see the justification for the visitation of the curses of the covenant. It seems that what the author of Kings has chosen to include is largely informed by the teaching of Torah, such that while the law of the king in Deuteronomy 17:14–20 is not overtly mentioned, 1 Kings 10:14–11:8 shows Solomon breaking these laws point for point (horses, wives, excessive silver and gold, disregard for the Torah he was to copy and keep).

The latter prophets likewise “provide an explanatory commentary on the narrative story line of the Torah and the Former Prophets.” As for instance, the early chapters of Jeremiah

depict the exodus from Egypt and the covenant at Sinai as a wedding between Yahweh and his virgin bride, Israel (Jer. 2:2; cf. Hos. 2:17–18, ET 15–16). While a virgin bride’s memories of the glory of the wedding day would keep her faithful to her husband, Israel has forgotten Yahweh “days without number” (Jer. 2:32). Jeremiah calls the people to repent of their spiritual adultery. The horror of covenant infidelity, forsaking Yahweh and turning to idols (1:16), should be recognized by the fruit it will bear.

Hamilton’s book should be interesting as it looks at the later Writings section (I haven’t read that far yet). From my own genre reading, one or two chapters each day from several sections of the Bible — and reading the Old Testament according to the original Hebrew section, the same order Hamilton prefers — I have noticed similar commentary, in the later Writings section, upon both the Torah and the Latter Prophets. Why does Nehemiah make such emphasis upon closing the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath, even turning away those who show up at the gates on the Sabbath and threatening physical force against them if they do it again (Nehemiah 13:15-21). Jeremiah 17 describes the very same scenario – in reverse. Jeremiah exhorted the people, (verse 21) “Thus says the Lord: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem,” promising (verses 24 -27) “But if you listen to me, declares the Lord, and bring in no burden by the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath day holy and do no work on it, 25 then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings and princes who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their officials, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And this city shall be inhabited forever.But if you do not listen to me, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter by the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched.’”  Nehemiah alludes to what the people had done in the days before the exile, a later “commentary” upon Jeremiah 17:19-23.