I had the privilege today of interviewing Dr. Ryan Stokes of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He told me about his research on satan (both a noun and a verb in biblical Hebrew). Stokes has concluded that the Satan in the Hebrew Bible is not an accuser but actually is Yahweh’s executioner. The article on this topic is in the June 2014 issue of Journal of Biblical Literature. My interview with him is here on MAP.
First, it begins here with comments by Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, an expert in the Hebrew bible. T. Michael Law, the expert in the Greek Old Testament, known in the heavenly tongue as Septuagint, weighs in about the mistranslation part. Mark Goodacre finds his mic. John Barton, a colleague of Jim’s via SOTS, weighs in as well.
Dr. Stravrakopoulou suggests that Matthew reads Isaiah 7.14 as a mistranslation resulting in the understanding a virgin birth. The Law is laid down on whether or not the LXX Isaiah is a mistranslation or not. The LXX is not a mistranslation (in part, as there is no real whole translation theory until after the time of Jesus) but a re-authoring. That’s my pet theory, I guess. Anyway, Goodacre does a great job (warning, British accent that lulls you in) of discussing the use of Scripture in telling the story.
However, Barton is the focal point for me.
that no one would have translated parthenos as virgin unless there had ALREADY been a virgin-birth tradition.
Virgil in the fourth Eclogue, recognized by the Patristics as problematic so re-interpreted.
Augustus was said to have had his birth announced by portent among other supernatural occurrences
There iss a fertile ground in Matthew’s world not for a mistranslation, but for the use of portents, births out of the natural order to explain surprise births, and to highlight the divine qualities of a person. This is not, in anyway, required to be connected to a Greco-Roman schema of demigods and the such. Matthew, no doubt, intended his audience to understand that Mary was impregnated according to God’s will, the first factor in the greatness of Jesus and used his bible, the LXX (because, as T. Michael Law would have it, God Spoke Greek), to do so. He was not the first Jew to promote the divine-ordained, and free of the sins of this world, birth of a prophet to other Jews, but followed a rather Jewish pattern as seen in the Genesis Apocryphon and Enoch, books and thoughts closer to the authors of the Gospels and much more palatable to their audience than Greco-Roman myths.
This gets into the post-/structural debate of placing emphasis. Either we place it on Matthew or the audience, although I like the middle ground myself. We can reasonably identify certain qualities of Matthew and we can reasonably identify the audience in a certain social situation, but not the initial reception beyond that of acceptance. My supposition is that Matthew very well intended that the audience would understand the story as meaning that Mary was impregnated by an angel/holy Spirit but accepting a presented literary structure is not the only goal of the author — I would contend that Matthew would rather have wanted his audience to receive what he meant by the inclusion of this story. An example I used in discussing this with a friend via phone was Virgil reading his poem about the ascendency of Rome and Augustus to the Emperor Augustus who knew very well many of the events enshrined did not occur as written and more than likely, if reception history is the judge, understood the intended allegory.
This is not meant to be all encompassing, but some of the passages in Enoch which allude to our notion of Hell. Enoch is an interesting book, and one of those circulating among the Jewish communities of the day. I have this in two parts, with one to be published later. It was been in my draft folder for a while, and I thought that I might go ahead and share, inviting discussion.
1st Enoch 10.13;
And to Michael he said: “Go and reveal to Semiaza and to those remaining with him who have mixed with the women, to defile themselves in their uncleanness.
“And when their sons will slay (one another) and they see the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth until the day of their judgment and consummation, until the judgment of the age of eternity is completed. Then they will be lead away into the chasm of fire and to the torture and to the prison of eternal confinement. And whoever will be burned up and destroyed from the present, they will be bound with them together until the end of the generation. (1EN 10:11-14 OPE)
First, there appears to be an intermediary state before the ultimate judgment. I don’t get the mixing of the two, those who suffer now and those who will suffer. But, it does appear that at least on, if not both, see the punishment as ending at the and of the”generation”.
In these days downcast in countenance shall the kings of the earth have become, And the strong who possess the land because of the works of their hands,For on the day of their anguish and affliction they shall not (be able to) save themselves. And I will give them over into the hands of Mine elect: As straw in the fire so shall they burn before the face of the holy: As lead in the water shall they sink before the face of the righteous, And no trace of them shall any more be found. And on the day of their affliction there shall be rest on the earth, And before them they shall fall and not rise again:And there shall be no one to take them with his hands and raise them: For they have denied the Lord of Spirits and His Anointed. The name of the Lord of Spirits be blessed. (1EN 48:8-10 OTP)
Woe to you, Sinners, on the day of strong anguish, Ye who afflict the righteous and burn them with fire: Ye shall be requited according to your works.
Woe to you, ye obstinate of heart, Who watch in order to devise wickedness: Therefore shall fear come upon you And there shall be none to help you.
Woe to you, ye sinners, on account of the words of your mouth, And on account of the deeds of your hands which your godlessness has wrought, In blazing flames burning worse than fire shall ye burn. (1EN 100:7-9 OTP)
No end, but there is the since of fire, ain’t there?
And I saw there something like an invisible cloud; for by reason of its depth I could not look over, and I saw a flame of fire blazing brightly, and things like shining mountains circling and sweeping to and fro.
And I asked one of the holy angels who was with me and said unto him: ‘What is this shining thing ? for it is not a heaven but only the flame of a blazing fire, and the voice of weeping and crying and lamentation and strong pain.’
And he said unto me: ‘This place which thou seest–here are cast the spirits of sinners and blasphemers, and of those who work wickedness, and of those who pervert everything that the Lord hath spoken through the mouth of the prophets–(even) the things that shall be.
For some of them are written and inscribed above in the heaven, in order that the angels may read them and know that which shall befall the sinners,and the spirits of the humble, and of those who have afflicted their bodies, and been recompensed (1EN 108:4-7 OTP)
Good. Hell again, but… what about the “recompense”. If you have afflicted your body for 70 years, would you suffer hell for all eternity?
We know that Enoch was used by the early Church writers, especially Tertullian who no doubt drew heavily from it, at least spiritually.
As I was listening to Dr. Dragos Giulea of Marquette University speaking about something dealing with the fallen angels in Enoch, I noticed that Enoch might have fared well in today’s canonization efforts, if for nothing else, like everything else, he has vampires! Imagine that, vampires… Now, before you start thinking that I am in the twilight of my blogging, there is a new moon on the horizon, and the dawn is breaking.
Besides, I am still at SBL and I have to post something…
1 Enoch 6-7
And it came to pass that when the sons of men multiplied, in those days beautiful and fair daughters were born. And the angels, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them, and said to one another: “Come! Let us choose for ourselves wives from people, and we will beget for ourselves children.”
And Semiaza, who was their ruler, said to them: “I fear that you will not desire to do this deed, and I alone will be a debtor of a great sin.”
Therefore they all answered him: “Let us swear an oath and let us all anathematize one another, not to turn away from this plan, until we should complete it and should this deed.”
Then they all swore together and anathematized one another by it. And these were the two hundred who descend in the days of Jared to the summit of Mount Hermonieim, and they called the mountain Hermon, because they swore and anathematized one another by it. And these are the names of their leaders: Semiaza, he is their leader, Arathak, Kimbra, Sammane, Daneiel, Arearos, Semiel, Iomeiel, Chochariel, Ezekiel, Batriel, Sathiel, Atriel, Tamiel, Barakiel, Ananthna, Thoniel, Ramiel, Aseal, Rakeiel, Touriel. These are their rulers who (are) [over] tens.
And they took wives for themselves, each of them chose for themselves wives, and they began to enter them and to be defiled in them. And they taught them sorceries and enchantments and root-cutting, and explained the plants to them. And the women became pregnant and bore great giants of three thousand cubits, who devoured the labors of people. And when the people were not able to sustain them, the giants dared (to attack) them, and they devoured the people. And they began to sin with birds and wild animals and reptiles and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drink blood.
While Genesis gives us only a snippet of a story which could be interpreted as fallen angels, Enoch focuses a great deal of attention on these beings. Further, as Guilea pointed out, early Church leaders used them to explain certain things, such as demons.