Sounds of the Levitical Choir in Ignatius of Antioch’s Epistles to the Ephesians

I am preparing some notes on a future writing project and came across this.

In Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians (chapter 4), he commends a certain amount of unity so that “man by man” the Church will become a choir. This was to create a unity of sound so that the Father would hear and accept the works as befitting the Son.

Guess what:

The Mishnah (Ar. 2:6) states that, in Jerusalem’s Second Temple, “There were never fewer than twelve Levites standing on the platform [as a choir] but there was no limit on the maximum number of singers.” The singing of the Levitical choir was a constant accessory to the sacrificial ritual.

Ignatius compares the connection between the presbytery to the bishop as the strings are connected in a harp.

Guess what:

The Levitical choir also included singers and musicians who played on trumpets, harps, lyres, and cymbals. They sang the festive Hallel songs of thanksgiving. Everyone who had entered with their Passover offering, also joined in and sang along. When we finished the Hallel, we would start all over again!

In chapter 9, Ignatius calls Christians “God-bearers, Christ-bearers, Temple-bearers.” Of course, just before this, he calls the Christians “stones of the Temple.”

Thus far, there is the well-known passage in Barnabas, a lot in 1 Clement, something in Mathetes, and now at least something in Ignatius.

I’m going to go ahead and file this under Publications with the hopes that before too long, I get a contract from the publisher I’ve sent it too.

Bare Your Arm of Salvation, A Traditional Hanukkah Song – Repost 2012

English: Hanukkah lamp unearthed near Jerusale...

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This is a long standing repost. I hope to visit it later to clean it up, etc…

Sundown approaches, darkness will cover the earth, and Hanukkah will being – it promises to be a bitterly cold night in some parts of the United States and moderately cool in Jerusalem. Here is song (and if you click the link at the bottom, it will take you to site to hear it sung in Hebrew) traditionally song, at least since the 13th century.

The last stanza strikes me, for God has indeed shown us His arm

But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke:
“Lord, who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” (John 12:37-38 NKJV)

Maoz Tzur

O mighty stronghold of my salvation,
to praise You is a delight.
Restore my House of Prayer
and there we will bring a thanksgiving offering.
When You will have prepared the slaughter
for the blaspheming foe,
Then I shall complete with a song of hymn
the dedication of the Altar.

My soul had been sated with troubles,
my strength has been consumed with grief.
They had embittered my life with hardship,
with the calf-like kingdom’s bondage.
But with His great power
He brought forth the treasured ones,
Pharaoh’s army and all his offspring
Went down like a stone into the deep.

To the holy abode of His Word He brought me.
But there, too, I had no rest
And an oppressor came and exiled me.
For I had served aliens,
And had drunk benumbing wine.
Scarcely had I departed
At Babylon’s end Zerubabel came.
At the end of seventy years I was saved.

To sever the towering cypress
sought the Aggagite, son of Hammedatha,
But it became [a snare and] a stumbling block to him
and his arrogance was stilled.
The head of the Benjaminite You lifted
and the enemy, his name You obliterated
His numerous progeny – his possessions -
on the gallows You hanged.

Greeks gathered against me
then in Hasmonean days.
They breached the walls of my towers
and they defiled all the oils;
And from the one remnant of the flasks
a miracle was wrought for the roses.
Men of insight – eight days
established for song and jubilation

Bare Your holy arm
and hasten the End for salvation -
Avenge the vengeance of Your servants’ blood
from the wicked nation.
For the triumph is too long delayed for us,
and there is no end to days of evil,
Repel the Red One in the nethermost shadow
and establish for us the seven shepherds.

Maoz Tzur – Texts and Prayers – Chanukah – Hanukkah.

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Hanukkah, biblically known as the Feast of Dedication – Repost 2012

English: Judas Maccabaeus was a Kohen and the ...

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Sun down this evening begins the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, or Chanukah for the Jewish among us. It is a celebration in commemoration of the re-dedication of the Temple by the victorious armies of Judas Maccabeus, who had led the armies of Israel against the Hellenizing forces of Antiochus.

Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year, they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering which they had built. At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them. So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise. They decorated the front of the temple with golden crowns and small shields; they restored the gates and the chambers for the priests, and furnished them with doors. There was very great gladness among the people, and the reproach of the Gentiles was removed. Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev. (1 Maccabees 4:52-59 RSVA)

Christ took this time (not to celebrate His birth, mind you) to attend the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem that year, and while spoke of His divinity,

It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (Joh 10:22-30 NLT)

It was here at the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, which Christ faced the question – are you Christ? Are the Messiah that would restore Israel to her Kingdom? It was no doubt on the minds of the Jews in attendance (and perhaps some of the Romans) as it was the celebration which celebrated a restored sovereignty – but not complete because it was not David’s line that sat upon the throne – to Israel and a restoration of the Temple to the Holy One of Israel.

Early in the morning, as the congregation gather to hear the Reader, they would hear

Then this message came to me from the LORD:

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them.

“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:

As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey.

“For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep. (Eze 34:1-11 NLT)

Just prior to this account, two “illustrations” (10:6) of Jesus as the Good Shepherd (10:1-5 and 10:7-10) were given and then the Lord’s  interpretation of these parables (10:11-18) The Jewish reader would immediately pick up the messianic connotation of this discourse. The Davidic Messiah would be a Shepherd and here was Christ claiming to be the Good Shepard – on Hanukkah no less. The questions posed to Christ by the Jewish leaders reflected the expectation that was running high in Palestine during that time of the year – they were waiting for the Messiah.

In looking for another Judah Maccabeus – one which would take away again the reproach of the Gentiles (Rome) – they missed Jesus Christ would would take away the sins of the world which is the separation between God and all of humanity. It is at Hanukkah that Christians can find Christ as well – in that He is the Good Shepherd that has taken away the sins of the world. Truly, if there is a holiday in which to celebrate Christ during this time of the year, it is this one.

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Scott’s about to Get all Jubilant!

Dr. Robert R. Cargill speaking about the Dead ...

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Scott, the filthy Canadian, is about to launch a series on the Book of Jubilees, and cautions his readers on two points about the notion of Jewish canon:

  1. Different Jewish Groups Considered Different Sacred Texts Authoritative. Probably one of the most difficult conceptual lenses for modern persons to remove from their understanding of ancient sacred texts is that of ‘canon’. However, not all of the different groups in ancient Judaism read or revered the same texts. Not only that, but…
  2. There are texts NOT in the ‘Canon’ that Were Treated As the Authoritative Words of God by some Groups. In short, there were texts considered sacred and the words of God, that never made it into ‘our’ canon, but nevertheless, were viewed, at the time, as the very words of God. Simply put: Not only do we have different groups in Second Temple Judaism but many of these groups considered different sacred texts as normative, formative, and authoritative. However, ancient caches such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and writers such as Josephus, demonstrate that some modern conceptions of ‘canon’ are wholly inadequate in understanding authoritative sacred texts from this time period.

via Jubilees and Second Temple Judaism(s) «.

It is difficult for the less-than-historically minded to understand that our Christian canon(s) is ‘new.’ Anyway, it looks to be an interesting series, which is surprising considering that it is coming from a Canadian and Scott Bailey.

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2nd Temple artifacts flushed

Have the Tourism Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality buried treasures from the Second Temple under a giant lavatory? That possibility is just one of the problems cited by opponents of a plan to improve a spring in the city’s Ein Karem neighborhood, at one of Israel’s most important Christian tourism sites.

But perhaps worst of all was the handling of the site’s archaeological relics. A salvage dig conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered ancient water systems that carried water from the spring to terraces on the wadi. This led the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Naomi Tsur, to call a meeting in November 2009 to discuss how these relics could be preserved. The meeting, attended by Tourism Ministry and Antiquities Authority representatives, decided to freeze construction of the building and look into building an archaeological park there instead.

But on the very day the meeting was held, the tourist corporation’s vice president, David Mingelgreen, sent the municipality a letter saying that, for reasons unknown, all the archaeological findings had been buried under tons of earth the day before. Thus, by the time the meeting occurred, there was nothing left to salvage.

Second Temple artifacts may be buried under Ein Karem toilet – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

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Quote of the Day and First Thoughts on Lincicum’s Work

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After long years of reciting, praying, memorizing, debating, teaching, and ordering his life in conformity with its precepts, Paul the Pharisee had an unexpected hermeneutical irruption in his understanding of Deuteronomy. (p117)

The causes of Paul’s ‘hermeneutical irruption’ is not of scholarly concern at the moment, as Paul’s change in course is beyond the realms of the scientific method; however, Lincicum notes that Paul’s change of course is do to a visionary encounter with the resurrected Jesus, ‘whom he then recognized as Lord and Christ.’ At this moment, Paul’s Judiasm didn’t cease nor his use of all of his litgurical learning, meditations and daily study of the Holy Writings. Paul, instead, was a Jew who read the Book of Deuteronomy like others Jews and became a Jew who, like other Jews, read the Book of Deuteronomy but after this moment would read it through the prism of Christ.

Lincincum aptly shows that Deuteronomy was an important text to the Jews  (and various Judaisms) at the time, being used in a variety of rituals in the daily life of the believer. Further, he notes the large amounts of manuscripts found and saved through antiquity, the use of Deuteronomy in the tefillin, and the manner in which Deuteronomy is weaved through extra- and non-canonical sources such at Tobit and Philo. Here, I think, however, is his weakest points. To show that writers used Deuteronomy is easy enough, but in several cases he is only able to show a basic structure which is similar. Not a large distraction from his work overall, but the weakest. What is interesting, however, is that Lincicum is able to how the rich and deep presence which Deuteronomy has with communities such as Qumran which regularly interpreted Deuteronomy to fit their present day needs (p81, cf Philo p116). Our author is even able to show that Philo senses that Deuteronomy is not merely a book among the whole, an intertext he calls it, but a book but itself (p115). His point then, which he makes on p56, that ‘Deuteronomy was an emphatically public book, and one which specifically  commended its own internalization  and memorization’ is important to remember as he proceeds throughout the rest of his argument. After all, if, with all the evidence that Lincicum is able to bring to bear, Deuteronomy is just that important to the various Judaisms at the time, then it is no surprise that Paul is as familiar with it as he is.

These are only first thoughts, with the review once I’m done.

Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 3 – Analysis

Psalm 3 – A Psalm. Pertaining to Salomon. Concerning the Righteous.

A psalm of Solomon; concerning the righteous. Why do you sleep, O my soul, and do not bless the Lord? Sing a new song, to God who is worthy to be praised.
Sing and be wakeful against his awaking, for good is a psalm (sung) to God from a glad heart.
The righteous remember the Lord at all times, with thanksgiving and declaration of the righteousness of the Lord’s judgments
The righteous despise not the chastening of the Lord; his will is always before the Lord.
The righteous stumbles and holds the Lord righteous: he falls and looks out for what God will do to him; he seeks out when his deliverance will come.
The truth of the righteous is from God their deliverer. There lodges not in the house of the righteous sin upon sin.
The righteous continually searches his house, to remove utterly (all) iniquity (done) by him in error.
He makes atonement for (sins of) ignorance by fasting and afflicting his soul, and the Lord counts guiltless every pious man and his house.
The sinner stumbles and curses his life, the day when he was begotten, and his mother’s travail.
He adds sins to sins in his life, the day; he falls — for evil is his fall — and rises no more.
The destruction of the sinner is forever, and he will not be remembered, when the righteous is visited.
This is the portion of sinners forever. But they that fear the Lord will rise to life eternal. And their life (shall be) in the light of the Lord, and will come to an end no more.

The Righteous is introduced in the third psalm and stand in contrast to the sinners. The first verse which speaks of one who sleeps combined with the second verse with the command to awaken finds its parallel in Ephesians 5.14, where Paul quotes (διὸ λέγει· introduces a quote, see Ephesians 4.8 and James 4.6) an unknown source. While the third psalm does not provide an exact quote for Paul, it does hold the same imagery. Along with this is the crowning achievement in later chapters of the Messiah, it is plausible that Paul may have been quoting, at least in part, these verse. Further, the Paul mentions the singing of hymns, psalms and spiritual songs while making a melody from the heart. Again, the same image is found in Psalm 3.1-2;

ἵνα τί ὑπνοῖς ψυχή καὶ οὐκ εὐλογεῖς τὸν κύριον ὕμνον καινὸν ψάλατε τῷ θεῷ τῷ αἰνετῷ

ψάλλε καὶ γρηγόρησον ἐπὶ τὴν γρηγόρησιν αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἀγαθὸς ψαλμὸς τῷ θεῷ ἐξ ἀγαθῆς καρδίας (Pss Sol 3.1-2)

λαλοῦντες ἑαυτοῖς [ἐν] ψαλμοῖς καὶ ὕμνοις καὶ ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς, ᾄδοντες καὶ ψάλλοντες τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν τῷ κυρίῳ, (Ephesians 5.19)

The rest of the Psalm is filled with a comparison between the Righteous and the laborious atonement which occurs while waiting for God and the sinner which, like the impious in the Wisdom of Solomon 2-6, sees nothing after this life. The Psalm finishes with a warning to the sinner who will suffer destruction forever (v11) while the righteous will have everlasting life, a dichotomy which figures heavily in the New Testament.

Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 2 – Analysis

Psalm 2 – A Psalm, Pertaining to Salomon, Concerning Ierousalem

Psalm 2 is the verdict of the judicial reviewing of Psalm 1, in which the ‘sinner[1]’ ransacks Jerusalem and profanes the Holy of Holies. While the author(s) of the Psalms mention various parts of the Temple, but only the extreme cultic uses, they fail to mention the Temple as something vital to the Jewish life. The importance of the Temple that we find in Tobit and Revelation, as well as the Gospel accounts, cannot be found in this collection, and this Psalm explains why. In verses 1-2, we find that the Holy of Holies had been violated by Pompey. Josephus[2], and the later Roman Historian Tacitus[3], recounted that when Pompey had defeated Aristobolus and his supporters, he took with him several men and entered into room where only the High Priest could go. This Psalm is a direct result of watching the myth that no one but a pure High Priest could enter the קֹדֶשׁ הַקָּדָשִׁים without being slain by God[4], yet the Gentile sinner had done so, and nothing happened.

Verse 18 contains the phrase θαυμάσει πρόσωπον, which is also found in Deuteronomy 28.50 lxx. In Deuteronomy 28.45-57 speaks of a foreign nation, ‘like the swoop of an Eagle’ (Deut 28.49 NETS), which will descend upon Israel to take away her sovereignty for failure to obey God’s covenant. While this is the limit of written connection to Deuteronomy, the connection between disobedience and punishment from God by an outside force remain. By the end of the Psalm, Pompey has met his own defeat (through Caesar) learning Jerusalem to await a time in which God will remember her. This literature is neither prophetic, since the events have already happened, nor is it eschatological, because here, the community is still waiting on God Himself to end the punishment, and is only praying for understanding (2.33). Here, it is not the world system out of control which threatens God’s people, but God himself as a result of the failure to obey the Covenant.


[1] ‘Sinner’ may either mean the opposing faction (4.8; 13.6-12) or Gentile, which it does in this case. See James Dunn’s Echoes of Intra-Jewish Polemic in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2008 227-246, and Luke T. Johnson’s The New Testament’s Anti-Jewish Slander and the Conventions of Ancient Polemic, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 108, No. 3 (Autumn, 1989), pp. 419-441 Published by: The Society of Biblical Literature

[2] Josephus Ant. xiv 14.71-72

[3] The first Roman to subdue the Jews and set foot into their Temple by right of conquest was Gnaeus Pompey: thereafter it was a matter of common knowledge that there were no representations of the gods within, but that the place was empty and the secret shrine contained nothing” (Hist. 5.9)

[4] See Exodus 28.31-35; Leviticus 16; Hebrews 9.7

Psalms of Solomon, Psalm 1 – Analysis

For some reason, I don’t believe that I can write something without posting it. So, I am doing so – although this might not be how it ends up on paper. Over this next week, I will be posting rough drafts of my analysis’ of the Psalms of Solomon.

I cried out to the Lord when I was extremely troubled, to God when sinners attacked.
Suddenly the clamor of war was heard before me. I said: “He will hear me, for I am full of righteousness.”
I considered in my heart that I was full of righteousness, for I have prospered and had many children.
Their wealth was spread on the whole earth, and their glory to the end of the earth.
They exalted themselves to the stars. They said they would never fall.
They were arrogant in their possessions, and they did not bring glory to God?.
Their sins were in secret, and even I did not know.
Their lawless actions surpassed those of the gentiles before them; they completely profaned the sanctuary of the Lord.

Psalm 1 – (No Superscription)

This first Psalm is the judicial review of the Hasmonean dynasty highlighting their false patronage of the cult, their lewd behavior in private, and their self-conceit for the things that they had. It is told from the viewpoint of Jerusalem, personified as a mother. This is a common thought in the New Testament as well (Galatians 4.26). Verse 3 is connected the Deuteronomistic covenant (Deut 28.63) in which God promises prosperity and children if Israel obeys. Jerusalem is caught believing that because she had accomplished those things, then it must have been a sign from God. Indeed, the Hasmonean kings had overthrown the Greeks, achieving independence for Israel. Several of the kings which followed had even expanded Israel’s borders to Solomonic days, but now, they were under the boot heel of Rome. Verse four possibly alludes to Hyrcanus who opened David’s Tomb to fund the foreign troops[1].


[1] Josephus, Ant. xiii, 9:1-9

The Psalms of Solomon and Mary’s Magnificat

My special project this week is expanding my previous work on the Psalms of Solomon. While studying the Psalm, I am paying special attention to the connection it has with the New Testament, if any. I believe that there is a connection, not just in the theology (Pauline) words, but in Luke’s Gospel.

And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; And sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.” (Luke 1.46-55 NASB)

There are two points of connection, highlighted above, with the Psalms of Solomon:

And the Lord remembers his servants in mercy. (10.4)

But upon the pious is the mercy of the Lord, and upon them that fear Him His mercy (13.12)

It is not long after Mary’s song that Zacharias begins to speak for the first time in nine month with language which I see as connected to the 10th and 17th Psalm in this Psalter,

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant– (Luke 1:68-69 NASB)

Compare with:

For the testimony (is) in the law of the eternal covenant. The testimony of the Lord (is) on the ways of men in (his) visitation. (Pss 10:4 OPE)

See, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, to rule over Israel, your servant, in the time which you chose, o God, (Pss 17:21 LXE)

When this goes into my paper, it will be Greek…no worries. I am not looking for direct quotes – those are used to justify a position held by the New Testament writers; instead, I am looking for theological thought connections.

An Online Encyclopedia of Second Temple Judaism and Christian Origins

John Hobbins heralds good news!

The website is an academic project of the Enoch Seminar, directed by Gabriele Boccaccini (University of Michigan, USA) and Loren T. Stuckenbruck (Princeton Theological Seminary, USA) and, until recently – זכרונו לברכה – Hanan Eshel (Bar-Ilan University, Israel). Hanan Eshel (1958-2010), whose life, work, and faith in God on whom he relied in his battle with cancer is evoked here, was a prolific and gracious scholar. Gabriele Boccacini eulogizes him here. Robert Cargill gives examples of his kindness. For another remembrance, go here.

You can find the website here.