Monday, June 15, 2009

Creating Jesus 18: What Justin reflects

I know that many of my readers have concerns about what, if anything, second century texts can tell us about Christian origins. To limit ourselves to texts authored in the first century does not serve any of us well, especially when the ancient mindset was traditionalist and memorial. They worked to pass on in writing the oral and written traditions they had received from others before them. This doesn't mean that these traditions were passed on without development or shifts, but it does mean that we need to mine the second century materials for what they have passed on.

Justin Martyr is a case in point. He is teaching in Rome in the mid-second century. And his work assumes the Antiochean paradigm that we had located in the earlier materials. He knows Jesus as the YHWH Angel and that this Angel embodied as Jesus through the virgin womb. Jesus is the Son, the Angel of YHWH, who speaks from the burning bush, visits with Abraham, wrestles with Jacob, appears to Joshua. He writes, "Therefore, neither Abraham, nor Issac, nor Jacob, nor amy man saw the Father...but only him who, according to his [God's] will, is both God, his son, and Angel, from the fact that he ministers to his purpose. Whom he also has willed to be born through the virgin, and who once became fire for that conversation with Moses in the bush" (Dial. 127,4).

The Angel YHWH embodied the man Jesus, from the time of conception or quickening in the virgin womb.


Mike K said...

Thanks April for another great post and I have learned much from this series. There is definitely support for the connection between the divine Name (now understood as Jesus) and the YHWH Angel (e.g. Dial 75). What do you think of the argument of Larry Hurtado's, "'Jesus as God's Name, and Jesus as God's Embodied Name in Justin Martyr" (in Justin Martyr and His World [ed. Sara Parvis and Paul Foster; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007])? He argues that references to God and His Name (Dial 64:4; 65:4-5; 73:3; 74:2-3) as references to God and Jesus respectively and reflecting a binitarian devotional pattern (pg. 132-135).

April DeConick said...

Yes, for Justin Jesus is being worshiped as a separate subordinate god who is God in the same way that the ray of sun is the Sun.

Stephan Huller said...

I thought you might find this interesting. It dovetails nicely with what you are noting about Justin. It is well established that the Marcionites called Jesus 'Chrestos.' The common understanding was that Jesus was 'the Good' god. Yet this is wrong.

Open up an LXX concordance. Chrestos takes the place of three Hebrew words 'tov' (obvious) yaqar (precious, honored) and yashar (upright). Yashar is the intriguing one because it leads us to something absolutely central in Judaism.

Hebrew Proverbs 2:21 כִּי-יְשָׁרִים יִשְׁכְּנוּ-אD6רֶץ; וּתְמִימִים, יִוָּתְרוּ בָהּ

LXX Proverbs 2:21 χρηστοὶ ἔσονται οἰκήτορες γῆς ἄκακοι δὲ ὑπολειφθήσονται ἐν αὐτῇ ὅτι εὐθεῖς κατασκηνώσουσι γῆν καὶ ὅσιοι ὑπολειφθήσονται ἐν αὐτῇ

The point here is that it makes more sense to think that Chrestos was used by Justin and the Marcionites (i.e. the Christians before Irenaeus) as a rendering for yashar.

This is reflected in Kittel's statement that Chrestos "when used of people means 'worthy,' 'decent,' 'honest,' morally 'upright' or 'good." (p 1320)

So you might ask what's the big deal about Justin and the Marcionites identifying Jesus by a title by the title yashar? Well take a guess which angel happens to be connected with the Hebrew word yashar?

The angel ISRAEL.

Yes almost everyone in antiquity made the connection between a word spelled yod-shin-resh and Israel. Israel is (yod+shin +resh) + el (god). The Samaritans maintain a form of Hebrew which doesn't differentiate between shin and sin (the Jews put a dot on the right and left side of the letter to differentiate between two different phonemes). The Samaritans simply say the name of Israel comes from yashar or specifically Gen 32:28 "And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power ]yashar] with God and with men, and hast prevailed."

Now anyone who has ever read Philo, the various Palestinian Targums, the Prayer of Joseph and all those other pseudepygryphal texts knows that there was inevitably this story where Jacob either wrestles with an angel named Israel or Sariel, was a heavenly angel named Israel or something like this based on a word play related to yasar in Jewish Hebrew yashar in Samaritan Hebrew. The inevitable rejection by scholars that yasar com es from a root which means to 'rule' or have 'power' must be acknowledged. Nevertheless the point isn't what we know but what ancients thought was true about the etymology of the name Israel. It is abolutely amazing to see how every single Greek translator connects Israel with Yashurun or Jeshurun which is derived from the yashar meaning 'upright' and translated as Chrestos in the LXX.

Stephan Huller said...

Brown, Driver and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament p 449 identifies Aquila, Symmachus and Theodoret as identifying Yeshurun as the 'name of Israel, designating it under its ideal character.' Numbers appears to use the word “upright,” “yesharim,” as a play on the word “Jeshurun” to refer to the people of Israel.(Num 23:10) Similarly Rabbi Berekiah in the name of Rabbi Judah b. Rabbi Simon interpreted Jeshurun to mean “the noblest and best among you.” (Genesis Rabbah 77:1.)

Rabbi Aha bar Jacob told that the breastplate of the High Priest contained the words “The tribes of Jeshurun" (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 73b; see also Exodus Rabbah 38:9.)

The point of all of this is that while most Christian regurgitate the nonsense about 'Jesus Christ' ignoring his incompatibility with tradition Jewish expectations for the messiah (Europeans imagine Jesus to have applied for a job position which didn't exist in the first century), the EARLIEST Christians (not just me) similarly emphasize him as the angel of the Presence BECAUSE HE WAS CHRESTOS i.e. the angel Israel/Sariel.

IN SUMMA: Despite the wishes of the European tradition Jesus was identified as Chrestos by the Marcionites and 'the angel of the presence' by Justin because HE WASN'T the Christ. He was the angel who gave Jacob the divine name, who visited with Abraham, and who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and guided the Israelites as the column of glory and the well of Miriam.

Indeed we can finally rescue 1 Corinthians 10:4 from the misconceptions of Europeans. As my good friend David Trobisch always points out the earliest manuscripts of the NT do not distinguish between 'Christ' and 'Chrestos.' There is simply a nomina sacra that could be taken either way.

As such despite our desire to force the figure of 'the Messiah' into the statement of Paul that 'the ancient Israelites drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was XS" the only reading which makes sense is Chrestos - i.e. Sariel, the angel of the presence, the kavod which is already acknowledged to have been present with the community in the narrative. said...

The angel YHWH is simply another way of saying the Spirit of God. So where is Jesus?

Frank McCoy said...

Dear Stephan Huller:
The spiritual Rock that followed the Israelites in the wilderness was understood by Philo to be the Logos and the spiritual water that flows from it was understood by him to be Wisdom.
Philo thusly refers to this spiritual rock and the spiritual water of Wisdom that flows from it in Som ii (220-22), "'Here I stand there before thou was, on the rock in Horeb' (Ex. Vxii. 6), which means, 'This I the manifest, Who am here...established on the topmost and most ancient source of power, whence showers forth the birth of all that is, whence streams the tide of Wisdom. For I am He 'Who brought the fountain of water out of the steep rock,' as it says elsewhere (Deut. viii. 15). And Moses too gives his testimony to the unchangeableness of the deity when he says 'they saw the place where the God of Israel stood (Exod. xxiv. 10).'"
Elsewhere he identifies this spiritual Rock upon which God stands and from which flows the the fountain of Wisdom as the Logos, stating, in Som I (62), "Now 'place' has a threefold meaning,...secondly that of the Divine Logos, which God has completely filled throughout wiith incorporeal potencies; for 'they saw,' says Moses, 'the Place where the God of Israel stood'.", and stating in Fuga (97), "The man who is capable of running swiftly it bids stay not to draw breath but pass forward to the supreme Divine Logos, Who is the Fountain of Wisdom, in order that he may draw from the stream and, released from death, gain life eternal as his prize."
The scenario is this: (1) In the earliest Jerusalem assembly, Jesus was understood to be the Christ in the sense of being the Davidic Messiah and (2)early on there, evidenced even in the epistle written by James, the brother of Jesus, Jesus came to be identified, as such, as also having been the Logos.
Paul appeals to this Jerusalem assembly Christology in I Cor. 10:4, "And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual Rock following--and the Rock was Christ." That is to say, "And all drank the same Wisdom, for they were drinking from the Logos following them--the same Logos who later became incarnate as the Christ, i.e., the Davidic Messiah.
He also appeals to it in I Cor 10:3, "And all ate the same spiritual food." This spiritual food is the true heavenly manna, the Logos and the Wisdom that fills him and flows from him--see Fuga (137), where Philo states, "When they sought what it is that nourished the soul (for, as Moses says, 'they knew not what it was') (Exod. xvi. 15), they became learners and found it to be a saying (hrema) of God, that is the Divine Logos, from which all kinds of instruction and Wisdom flow in perpetual stream." said...

In the earliest Jerusalem assmbly, the prophets worshipped the Spirit as God. This brought them into conflict with the priests who considered that this was idolatrous. The priests were messianic. (see the DSS) The Logos was a later Greek overlay, as is 1 Cor. 10:3,4.

Stephan Huller said...

Yes and the point is that the Logos isn't the messiah. What is the matter with these people? THE messiah didn't begin as God and God can't be anointed. It's like the referee scoring the winning touchdown ... said...

One can imagine that there were plenty of potential messiahs in Israel's history. They were priest messiahs, and king messiahs such as the guy who "broke" into Masada, "Manahem", and returned to Jerusalem in the status of a king. Naturally, he was said to be one of the sons of Judas, because the Flavian editors wanted to portray him as a revolutionary, and Judas was the favourite whipping boy of the editors. In reality, he was more than likely a priest, of the likes of Ananus.

Stephan Huller said...

Yet THE messiah can only be a royal figure. This isn't my opinion. It is the established understanding of Jews from the beginning said...

It seems that there was some woolliness regarding regarding the Messiah. The Messiah of Israel had to defer to the Priest Messiah. (1QSa). Now this was more or less concurrent with the time of the prophet. So what was the understanding of the Jews, then, and from the "beginning"? Was their understanding changing?

Manahem was simply a name invented by the Flavian editors of Josephus. He was in reality a priest, probably by the name Ananus, who somehow 'broke' into Masada. This was undoubtedly at a time when Agrippa was away in Rome seeking support from Nero.

Stephan Huller said...

No there was no wooliness, no ambiguity. This is like Bill Clinton defining the definition of 'sex.'

There is no wooliness regarding who or what 'the President of the United States' is nor what an 'airplane pilot' is. If you don't have a licence or don't fly a plane you can't identify yourself as an 'airplane pilot.'

What THE messiah is has been known to Jews from the beginning. He is the king that the world governments did not allow them to have in the period after the Torah was written (i.e. the time of Ezra?). THE messiah is the second Moses (see Philo on Moses as king, prophet and high priest), the second David etc.

If you want to get a better understanding of what the Qumran community likely held study the Karites.

I don't know what to tell non-Jews about this except that the job position they think Jesus was applying for in the first century period didn't exist then. It was developed subsequent to his ministry as a way of obscuring who or what was the subject of his original announcement [bashîrah = gospel, the opening words/title of Mark's original text = 'the announcement of Jesus'].

It might be best for them to pursue the idea that he was the anointed high priest cf the Epistle to the Hebrews. I think this was the original formulation after Zech 6:9

Stephan Huller said...

I meant 'Karaites.' Damn BlackBerry said...

What makes you think there was such a thing as The Qumran Community? It is obvious from the text that The Messianic Rule, for example, was written for the communities of Israel. And why should I study the Kairites, an eight century sect, when I can read the Scrolls that have been buried for 2000 years?

You haven't met the challenge I presented to you? Why did the priests reckon on two types of Messiah, the priest Messiah and the king Messiah? And why did the king Messiah defer to the priest Messiah? There was obviously a different concept of Messiah from yours.

Stephan Huller said...

The reason you should become familiar with the traditions of the Karaites is because there is unmistakable continuity with the ideas represented at Qumran. MY ideas?!!! You mean 'the ideas of the Jewish people' of which I am a member since the day I came out of the womb of a Jewish mother. You know the Jews? Ever heard of them? They are this people who invented a whole religious system that the Europeans developed 'a la carte' to suit their invented notions of a 'nice' messiah ...

Study the Karaites and the Qumran material will make more sense.

The gospel only makes sense in a Hebrew context. And just to show that I am not 'biased' in favor of my inherited traditions (I am not a Karaite but I cite them out of an interest in truth; I am not 'supporting' the claims of the Karaites) I point you in another direction to understand the gospel.

The Samaritans used the word gospel (bassorah) in a specific sense i.e. the 'announcement' of the ('messianic' although the Samaritans don't use this specific term) Jubilee. The reference here is to an unpublished Arabic Commentary on Numbers (I can give you the reference). The original title of this book 'the gospel of Jesus' etc. provides the necessary reference - viz. Jesus' announcement of someone else as the messiah.

Sorry buddy. When you go back to the native soil of the nascent Christianity - viz. Palestine/Syria - European notions fade and the tradition literally becomes surrounded by over a billion people who understand Jesus announcing someone else as the awaited 'second Moses' of Hebrew tradition.

The lesson is that you can't just develop Moses and the prophets like you were at a buffet (i.e. taking something from here and something from there). The job position Europeans (and Americans) think that Jesus was applying for didn't exist in his age