Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Lost in the logos 2

Mocking him for his bizarre and grandiose claims, the police beat the terrorist suspect before he was put to death by executive order.


This project of blogging Matthew's gospel will conclude with questions. 
When I began this study I had a modest goal, which was to read and comment 
on the text in the manner of contemporary recaps of TV shows like Breaking 
Bad or Mad Men. When I was watching those shows I liked to read some of the 
online discussions and reviews. I thought I could have a similarly 
informal, even vulgar, discussion of the first book in the New Testament. I 
planned to read a chapter or two and then write what came to mind. 


Although I was raised on the Christian Bible, and was taught in Sunday School for 
two decades before I took up my own study (from a new perspective) I soon 
found myself lost in what one would suppose to be familiar territory. When 
I saw that I was lost in the text I knew I was on the right path.

Matthew 24:1 As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his 
disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 Then he 
asked them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone 
will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."

Matthew 27:59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for 
false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, 60 but 
they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came 
forward 61 and said, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of 
God and to build it in three days.'" 62 The high priest stood up and said, 
"Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?" 63 But 
Jesus was silent.

This bit about rebuilding the temple in three days wasn't mentioned in 
Matthew before this testimony, and in 24:2 Jesus didn't say he would throw 
down the stones, so the witnesses seem to be distorting the truth.
Does Matthew want us to identify Jesus' body with the 
temple, "rebuilt" or resurrected in three days? Is he suggesting that the 
temple priests are somehow responsible for  the destruction of Temple?


Matthew 27:63 Then the high priest said to him, "I put you under oath 
before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God." 64 Jesus 
said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you,
From now on you will see the Son of Man
    seated at the right hand of Power
    and coming on the clouds of heaven."
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has blasphemed! Why 
do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy.

Did Jesus answer Caiaphus' question? "You have said so" was Jesus' reply to 
Judas'  "Surely not I, Rabbi?" in 26: 25. The implication in both cases is 
that the questions are really statements. Jesus then says something that 
the high priest declares blasphemous:

 But I tell you, From now on you will see the Human Being
    seated at the right hand of Power
    and coming on the clouds of heaven."


Maybe Jesus was being ironic?

Why  did Jesus say "son of man" in reply to the high priest's "son of God?" 
"Son of man" means human being, but Jesus also seemed to use it in a 
specific way to refer to himself as the messiah. I would have to go back to find the other times he used that term.

The human being seated at the right hand of power, as in the first verse of 
Psalm 110 (which Jesus brought up earlier, as a puzzle of interpretation, when he was teaching in the temple), interpreted to mean the messiah, is here identified with the "one 
like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven" from one of Daniel's 
terrifying dreams, and Jesus said the high priest will see this, "from now 
on." 
He seems to be saying that the messianic time has begun. What did he mean?

Before the Roman authority he again answers "You say so," this time to 
Pilate's asking if he is the King of the Jews. Pilate knew that Herod 
Antipas was the king, of course, so he was either asking if Jesus intended 
to overthrow Herod  or if he was crazy.

Mark's version says that Barabbus was in prison for his part in an 
insurrection in which a murder took place. Matthew only says he was a 
notorious criminal. 

Matthew adds the part about Pilate washing his hands before the mob and 
declaring his innocence, while the crowd (led by the priests) reply, "Let 
his blood be on our children." Christian Anti-semites continue to take this to be a curse on all Jews, and a rationale for persecution and genocide.

The account of the death of Jesus seems to mix eye witness accounts with 
bits from Psalm 22, starting with, "they divide my clothes among 
themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots," and finishing with, "My 
God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Tomorrow I'll write about the events after his death, but for now note that

Matthew 28: 11 adds an alternate explanation for the empty tomb:

...some of the guard went into the city and told the chief 
priests everything that had happened. 12 After the priests had assembled 
with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the 
soldiers, 13 telling them, "You must say, 'His disciples came by night and 
stole him away while we were asleep.'14 If this comes to the governor's 
ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." 15 So they took the 
money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the 
Jews to this day.

-- and not only "the Jews," certainly, to this day.


In October I wrote:
So much of this gospel is uninspiring, and even depressing, because of its anti- Pharisee propaganda, but it reflects the situation of Matthew's community soon after the destruction of the temple, and decades after Jesus' crucifixion, when his followers were accused of heresy and spreading propaganda about their dead messiah. I wonder if the real point of Matthew's attacks on the Pharisees is to discredit their claim that Jesus' disciples had stolen Jesus' body and lied about the resurrection. The Jesus movement was based on a small group of followers  who claimed to have witnessed the resurrected Jesus and to have been called by him to spread his message until the messiah returns and the messianic age is realized, utopia now.


The scripture Jesus quotes that causes Caiaphas to tear his garment is Daniel'saccount of a dream, a night vision, and the "one like a human being" was, according to a footnote in the NRSV, traditionally thought to be the Messiah, but was more likely the figure elsewhere in Daniel identified as the angel Michael, who  I will mention in tomorrow's post.

Daniel 7: 

I saw one like a human being
    coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
    and was presented before him.
14 To him was given dominion
    and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
    that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
    that shall never be destroyed.

Lost in the logos



Mocking him for his bizarre and grandiose claims, the police beat the terrorist suspect before he was put to death by executive order.

This project of blogging Matthew's gospel will conclude with questions. 
When I began this study I had a modest goal, which was to read and comment 
on the text in the manner of contemporary recaps of TV shows like Breaking 
Bad or Mad Men. When I was watching those shows I liked to read some of the 
online discussions and reviews. I thought I could have a similarly 
informal, even vulgar, discussion of the first book in the New Testament. I 
planned to read a chapter or two and then write what came to mind. 

Although I was raised on the Christian Bible, and was taught in Sunday School for 
two decades before I took up my own study (from a new perspective) I soon 
found myself lost in what one would suppose to be familiar territory. When 
I saw that I was lost in the text I knew I was on the right path.

Matthew 24:1 As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his 
disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 Then he 
asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone 
will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

Matthew 27:59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for 
false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, 60 but 
they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came 
forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of 
God and to build it in three days.’” 62 The high priest stood up and said, 
“Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” 63 But 
Jesus was silent.

This bit about rebuilding the temple in three days wasn't mentioned in 
Matthew before this testimony, and in 24:2 Jesus didn't say he would throw 
down the stones, so the witnesses seem to be distorting the truth.
Does Matthew want us to identify Jesus' body with the 
temple, "rebuilt" or resurrected in three days? Is he suggesting that the 
temple priests are somehow responsible for  the destruction of Temple?


Matthew 27:63 Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath 
before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus 
said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you,
From now on you will see the Son of Man
    seated at the right hand of Power
    and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why 
do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy.

Did Jesus answer Caiaphus' question? "You have said so" was Jesus' reply to 
Judas'  "Surely not I, Rabbi?" in 26: 25. The implication in both cases is 
that the questions are really statements. Jesus then says something that 
the high priest declares blasphemous:

 But I tell you, From now on you will see the Human Being
    seated at the right hand of Power
    and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Maybe Jesus was being ironic?

Why  did Jesus say "son of man" in reply to the high priest's "son of God?" 
"Son of man" means human being, but Jesus also seemed to use it in a 
specific way to refer to himself as the messiah. I would have to go back to find the other times he used that term.

The human being seated at the right hand of power, as in the first verse of 
Psalm 110 (which Jesus brought up earlier, as a puzzle of interpretation, when he was teaching in the temple), interpreted to mean the messiah, is here identified with the "one 
like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven" from one of Daniel's 
terrifying dreams, and Jesus said the high priest will see this, "from now 
on." 
He seems to be saying that the messianic time has begun. What did he mean?

Before the Roman authority he again answers "You say so," this time to 
Pilate's asking if he is the King of the Jews. Pilate knew that Herod 
Antipas was the king, of course, so he was either asking if Jesus intended 
to overthrow Herod  or if he was crazy.

Mark's version says that Barabbus was in prison for his part in an 
insurrection in which a murder took place. Matthew only says he was a 
notorious criminal. 

Matthew adds the part about Pilate washing his hands before the mob and 
declaring his innocence, while the crowd (led by the priests) reply, "Let 
his blood be on our children." Christian Anti-semites continue to take this to be a curse on all Jews, and a rationale for persecution and genocide.

The account of the death of Jesus seems to mix eye witness accounts with 
bits from Psalm 22, starting with, "they divide my clothes among 
themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots," and finishing with, "My 
God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Tomorrow I'll write about the events after his death, but for now note that
Matthew 28: 11 adds an alternate explanation for the empty tomb:

...some of the guard went into the city and told the chief 
priests everything that had happened. 12 After the priests had assembled 
with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the 
soldiers, 13 telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and 
stole him away while we were asleep.’14 If this comes to the governor’s 
ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the 
money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the 
Jews to this day.

-- and not only "the Jews," certainly, to this day.

In October I wrote:
So much of this gospel is uninspiring, and even depressing, because of its anti- Pharisee propaganda, but it reflects the situation of Matthew's community soon after the destruction of the temple, and decades after Jesus' crucifixion, when his followers were accused of heresy and spreading propaganda about their dead messiah. I wonder if the real point of Matthew's attacks on the Pharisees is to discredit their claim that Jesus' disciples had stolen Jesus' body and lied about the resurrection. The Jesus movement was based on a small group of followers  who claimed to have witnessed the resurrected Jesus and to have been called by him to spread his message until the messiah returns and the messianic age is realized, utopia now.

The scripture Jesus quotes that causes Caiaphas to tear his garment is Daniel'saccount of a dream, a night vision, and the "one like a human being" was, according to a footnote in the NRSV, traditionally thought to be the Messiah, but was more likely the figure elsewhere in Daniel identified as the angel Michael, who  I will mention in tomorrow's post.

Daniel 7: 

I saw one like a human being
    coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
    and was presented before him.
14 To him was given dominion
    and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
    that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
    that shall never be destroyed.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The bitter tears of the Rock

Today's reading: Matthew 26: 31-75

Something I should have said in the previous post is that the new covenant announced in the communion is the Messianic age described by the prophet:

Jeremiah 31:
31 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. 32 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 Lord33 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. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Matthew 26:
27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Matthew's claim is that the new covenant proclaimed by Jeremiah was being fulfilled and the Messianic age, the kingdom of heaven, was being realized through the community that arose among Jesus' followers after he was killed by the authorities. One of strongest voices, according to other sources, in this Messianic movement was Peter's, but you wouldn't know that from Matthew's gospel, if it was the only source you had. 

This is the last passage where Matthew mentions Peter by name:
26:69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” 71 When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”[d] 72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.


Here are the other highlights of Peter's time with Jesus, according to Matthew:
Peter was one of the first disciples called by Jesus:
4:18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 

Peter was married:

8:14 When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; 15 he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him.

Peter had a tendency to overestimate his own faith, such as when Jesus walked on water:
14:28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind,[e]he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Mostly on the basis of this passage, Peter is called the first Pope:
16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah,[c]the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter,[d] and on this rock[e] I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

But Jesus also called him Satan:
16:21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Peter and the sons of thunder were the inner circle:
17:1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I[a] will make three dwellings[b] here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved;[c] with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

Peter wanted to know just how often he had to forgive:
18:21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church[g] sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven[h] times.

Peter wanted to know what the payoff of his discipleship would be:


19:27 Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold,[d]and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

Correction
I forgot the passage about the temple tax.


17: 24 When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” 25 He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” 26 When Peter[k] said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. 27 However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin;[l] take that and give it to them for you and me.”