Before I was invested so heavily with Mark, I was a huge fan of the Wisdom of Solomon. Reading through Thom’s article, I noticed something that I wanted to pay more attention too:
We have no reason to believe that they read the Suffering Servant song as eschatological at all. The Suffering Servant doesn’t feature here or anywhere else in the Qumran corpus. Perhaps they saw themselves as a Suffering Servant, their own suffering cleansing them as in Wisdom of Solomon 2-3, where the righteous ones’ suffering and death is “like a sacrificial burnt offering” for their own individual sins. Or perhaps they read it historically as the suffering of Israel. Anything we posit will be merely speculative, since nowhere in the Qumran corpus do they discuss the Suffering Servant. I’ll repeat: nowhere.
A couple of things. First, I don’t want to call Wisdom (of Solomon) a midrash on Isaiah, but it is more than intertextuality and may fall into the realm of rewritten Scripture. 1
Now, what does Wisdom have to do with Isaiah? The first part of Wisdom is rewriting the Servant’s Song in Isaiah 52-53 to once again represent Israel during an oppressive stage in their history. Israel is the righteous man. It is not about eschatological hopes but about vindication. Luke recognized these terms when he worked to expand Matthew’s Gospel by including several references to the book of Wisdom as a contextualizing force throughout Luke-Acts. There is no notion of atonement in Wisdom, except for individual purging, much as we see in the Psalms of Solomon, another pre-Jesus textual tradition that does not expect a dying and atoning messiah.
In Matthew 8.17, the one time a post-Jesus author could have really elaborated on the connection between Isaiah 52-53 and Jesus, the author chose not to and instead once again proof-texted his contextualization of the ministry of Jesus as one that brought to completion the Jewish Scriptures. This is really no different than what many do today with various leaders from Europe whom they claim to be the mythical anti-christ. Acts makes a connection with the Eunach, but this is after much theological reflection. I have to laugh at the use the Old Testament or other writings to prove the historical Jesus – given that these things were used to contextual the memory of the Historical Jesus.
Now, about the idea of a dying and raising messiah… Nope. What about a heavenly messiah, the so-called mythical Jesus. Nope. One of the central issues with this is that Carrier and others seem to be missing one huge part when they argue for heavenly beings rather than early ones.
I find it rather odd that Carrier sees Isaiah 53 like contemporary evangelicals, but I digress.
I tend to agree with Casey regarding the ransom motif in Mark, and more, the idea that a ransom/sacrifice can be identified with a people, object or city is not uncommon and should be paid more attention too. Israel, however, is the righteous man of Wisdom and the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. It was only after a generation of reflection and an impetus of crisis that the original community began to explore the teachings of Jesus and the being of Jesus in a different light. There is a rather huge difference in the use of Scripture in Mark and Matthew, which should signal to us the leap forward in contextualizing Jesus that happened between the two authors.
Anyway… read Thom’s article.
- Cheon, Samuel. Exodus Story in the Wisdom of Solomon: A Study in Biblical Interpretation. Sheffield Academic Press, 1997. ↩