When you come to the Communion Table, make sure you’ve left Egypt
In God’s covenant with Israel in the Torah, he provided the people with liberation, societal structure, laws and a calendar, all for the ordering of their new lives of freedom. In this calendar, God designated three major feasts: Passover, Weeks and Booths. While all three have instructions for celebration, Passover (פֶּסַח) receives the largest and most detailed treatment. Passover’s importance appears immediately God’s arrangement of their new calendar around it, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you,” and the language designating its repeated observance, “you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.” Unlike the other two feasts, God included a prohibition against anyone outside of the covenant community celebrating it, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it. . . A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it.” These items provide sacramental status to Passover. “These sacramental signs served as covenantal markers to define the people of God, remind them of their relationship to him and each other, and focus them on their duty to live as a peculiar people among the nations.”
Appreciating Passover as sacrament helps us understand the instructions for its celebration. As a means of grace given by God for the communication of his love, Passover connects the people to God via the tangible. As a sacrament, the instructions for its observance would be known theologically as Words of Institution. These Words explain the meaning of the rite, the way God acts in it for the people, and instructions for repeated observance. For Passover, Exodus 12:12-17 contains these words. Furthermore, because Jesus forever united Passover to his passion, death and resurrection in the Eucharist, a proper understanding of the later Eucharistic Words of Institution begins not in the Gospels, but in Exodus 12. As Pitre writes, “If we are going to be able to see Jesus’ actions through ancient Jewish eyes, we first need to study the meaning of the Passover itself, both in Jewish Scripture and in Jewish tradition.”
Exodus 12:12-17 is the center of the longer discussion of Passover. What Exodus 12 describes is Israel’s memorialization of their redemption by God, with specific attention God’s actions in the tenth plague, the slaying of the firstborn. Also, it provides the foundational commands for its continued ritualistic memorial. The received text of Exodus 12 provides the context for understanding the feast.
Thus, with this background in mind, we move toward the specific group of verses for study. I’ve provided them with my new translations.
For on that night, I will pass through (from one side to the other) the land of Egypt, and I will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human and animal, and on all the gods of Egypt, I will execute judgment. For, I am The Lord.
This verse contains the one of Passover’s key themes for study: judgment. Here, the writer links the killing of the firstborn to God executing judgment, specifically judgment on Egypt’s gods. Pictured here, as the climax in this battle to redeem Israel from Egypt, is the idea that God asserts his supremacy. While the ultimate outcome is Israel’s freedom, the objective seems the vindication of God himself. In this assertion, God states his divine name, as if his own character is the reason for this enterprise. God now reveals himself to the world through his action of deliverance. Through the plagues, God brings judgment on Egypt’s pantheon of gods, and specifically on Pharaoh, who is god on earth, punishing him for his brutality of God’s people.
And the blood on the houses where you are will be a sign for you. For I will see the blood, and I will pass by (spare) you, and there will not be any plague to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
This verse details the purpose and meaning of the blood which God instructed the Hebrews to put on the lintels and doorposts of their houses. The blood will be a sign. This word, usually translated “sign,” carries multiple meanings: “mark,” “token” or “signal” in the secular sense, and “miracle,” “omen” or “reminder” in the religious. In this verse, all the meanings may mingle, especially because it is paired with the application of blood and sacrifice. Nahum Sarna uses sacramental language as he comments, “the blood was simply to function as an outward, visible sign . . . an identity symbol; the entrance to the house with such a symbol is now a portal of freedom.” The blood (and the sacrificial lamb) served as the mechanism by which God would spare or pass by the house. Because of the blood on the door, the plague of death will not come to the house.
Thus it will be a day for you to remember, and you shall celebrate it as a festival to The Lord for your generations; you will keep it as a perpetual statute.
With verse 14, the context shifts from the first Passover to instructions for the nation to observe a yearly festival devoted to the remembrance of God’s actions on their behalf that day. Passover is a feast of remembrance. Sarna writes, “The Hebrew stem of z-k-r connotes much more than the recall of things past. It means, rather, to be mindful, to pay heed, signifying a sharp focusing of attention upon someone or something. It embraces concern and involvement as is active not passive, so that it eventuates into action.” Here, God’s instructions for future observance have a particular participatory feel. The celebrant becomes not only a part of the later festival, but somehow also invested in the action the festival memorializes. The traditional text of the Haggadah of Passover describes it well, “In every generation each individual is bound to regard himself as if he personally had gone forth from Egypt.” Thus, each person through history has a connection to every generation before and after, i.e., “for your generations.”
Seven days, you will eat only matzoth (unleavened bread). On the first day, you will remove leaven from your houses; indeed, you shall exclude from Israel anyone eating khametz (leavening) from the first day until the seventh day.
Here begins the detailed information about the use of unleavened bread in the observance of the festivals. While the bread appears in the detailed observance of the first Passover (vs. 8), the commands for the perpetual observance contain specific prohibitions against eating anything leavened for the length of the holiday. Coupled with verse 17, “observe and keep the matzoth” these strict rules about leaven add an authoritative atmosphere to celebration. What is it about using unleavened bread that requires such regulation? Khametz carries a meaning of fermentation and leavening. Sarna explains the significance:
Because the prohibition on leaven has wider application than that of the Passover, it is likely that the process of fermentation was associated with decomposition and putrefaction, and so it became emblematic of corruption. Accordingly, it would be inappropriate to associate such a symbol with a sacrificial ritual whose function was to effect conciliation between man and God and to raise man to a higher level of spirituality. In other words, leavening implies sin. To remove leavening from the house during the feast could be understood as a command to holiness, a practical reminder of the later commands in the Levitical Laws.
The first day shall be a holy assembly, and the seventh day shall be a holy assembly. You will do no work on those days. Indeed, you will only make that (food) which everyone will eat (for that day).
What does it mean to be an Israelite? Those who mark themselves according to the covenant claim that status. In the previous argument that Passover carried sacramental status, we noted that a sacrament defines and separates a group that observes it. This verse connects these words in Exodus 12 with specific language in Leviticus 23:4-7. There, the writer focuses on the distinction of Israel from the rest of the world: holiness. This word appears eleven times in chapter 23 and 69 times in the entire book, the most in any book of the Hebrew Scriptures: sanctification matters. To make this sanctification a reality, God commands no work be done except that which is necessary to eat. Only Sabbath and Yom Kippur have more stringent laws about work. For a culture enslaved for over 400 years, the idea of days of rest is very foreign. God forges something dramatically new in the life of a people newly liberated.
Thus, you will observe and keep the matzoth; for indeed, in that very day, I brought your multitudes forth from the land of Egypt, and you will guard the very day permanently, forever.
This final verse forms a neat closure to the discussion, providing the full rationale for the observance of the festivals. The key word in this verse, the verb, translated here as “observe and keep,” has a very active meaning. Strong’s defines it “to hedge about (as with thorns)” Similar uses appear all over the Torah regarding keeping of all the ordinances, and regulations of the Mosaic Law. God is insistent that Israel keep this festival to remember it.
So what? Why does this matter to Christians and their observance of the Lord’s Supper. We’re not Jews after all. Not so fast. There are three themes for study: perpetual remembrance, sacrifice and judgment.
“Thus it will be a day for you to remember, and you shall celebrate it . . . for your generations; you will keep it as a perpetual statute . . . you will guard the very day permanently, forever.” Verses 14 & 17 indicate that the Israelites should keep Passover in perpetuity to remember the miraculous redemption from Egypt. God wants to guarantee that Israel forever understands the remarkable way he redeemed them. Jesus and the disciples participated in this event at the Last Supper. Jesus took the full measure of meaning found in the Exodus, connected it to his passion, and spoke these words, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Here appears, the fusion of Passover language with the words of institution for the Eucharist. Christ commands the disciples to forever connect the memorial of the redemption of Exodus with the memorial of the redemption of Calvary. To “observe and keep the matzoth,” now reaches fullest expression in the breaking of the bread of the Eucharist. Paul’s language in Corinthians completes the full range of meaning when he comments, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
God’s interest in connecting the perpetual memorial of the Exodus with the perpetual memorial of the Passion necessitates celebrating the Eucharist properly fusing both. It seems that Christians, gentile or Jew, should also celebrate Passover, in a fashion that memorializes the Exodus in the context of its fulfillment in Christ. In fact, the earliest Christians understood the feast this way. “The celebration of began life as the Christian version of the Passover, observed on the same day as its Jewish antecedent and focused upon Christ as the paschal lamb who had been sacrificed for the sins of the world . . . set within the context of the whole of the Christ-event, from his birth to his expected second coming.”
Passover is about sacrifice. The lamb, sacrificed, eaten with blood smeared becomes the vehicle through which the Israelites receive redemption. Through the ritual, God wants his people to tangibly unite themselves to his actions on their behalf. This gives wider meaning to Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 5, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival,” as well as his words in chapter 10, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Passover is a festival about redemption through sacrifice and blood. The Eucharist’s enactment should focus on Christ’s atonement through blood in light of God’s miraculous rescue of his people from slavery in Egypt.
Passover is also celebration, a joyous festival! While solemnity certainly has its place (Ex. 12:16), God has redeemed with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Celebration of the Eucharist should not be overloaded with heavy penitential attitudes, but instead be a joyous occasion because God has overthrown and judged the evil of the world in Christ. God’s character means that he cares about oppression, evil and false gods: “on all the gods of Egypt, I will execute judgment. For, I am The Lord.” Passover displays in vivid clarity that God will be supreme. Christ displays this as vividly as the Exodus, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” This is the classic Christus Victor view of Jesus’ atonement.
Therefore, to celebrate the Eucharist in light of the Passover, imbues it with a sense that Christ has conquered all the evil and false gods (Jn. 12:31). Furthermore, the Eucharist must envision eschatological hope, so that when the Passover yearns for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the Eucharist answers with, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” In this way Exodus 12:17, “on this day I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt,” becomes the fulfillment, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”
Exodus 12:12-17 provides not only a vision of God’s work to redeem Israel, but a foundation for how Christians should see the ultimate redemption in Jesus Christ. For Christians to “unite themselves to God’s redemptive history, and consequently to the nation of Israel,” they should understand the roots of the sacrament given to them, and how to celebrate it in a way that honors the fullness of redemption in the Jewish Messiah given as the Passover Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. The words of institution of the Passover provide the basis necessary to celebrate the richness of the Eucharist. To understand the character of God in the redemption of Christ, one should begin with the character of God in the redemption of the Exodus.
2 Kgs. 23:21-27/2 Chr. 35, Passover was restored under Josiah, where the chronicler wrote, “None of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as was kept by Josiah” (ESV). In 2 Chr. 30 Hezekiah celebrated Passover as a two week festival to emphasize its importance in Israel.
For a detailed treatment of how Old Covenant ceremony constitutes Old Covenant sacrament, see Matthew Sichel, “Sacraments Reimagined: Fulfillment, Continuity and the New Israel,” Evangelical Journal 34, no. 1 (Spring 2016): 1-17.
Paul F. Bradshaw, “Easter in Christian Tradition,” in Two Liturgical Traditions, ed. Paul F. Bradshaw, vol. 5, Passover and Easter: Origin and History to Modern Times (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999), 1.
Go and Read: “Luke’s Artistic Parables: Narratives of Subversion, Imagination, and Transformation”
Luke’s parables are narratives of disorientation that subvert conventional wisdom about many issues such as the use of wealth and possessions. The parables use specific rhetorical strategies (character identification and premature closure) in order to transform the lives of Luke’s readers/hearers
Josephus, Dean Printer, and Luke, but no Farrer (Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not @ivpacademic)
Admittedly, I have never read Dean Printer before, but I have read Josephus and I have read Luke. When it comes to Josephus, I suspect Printer and I will disagree about him and his hidden transcripts, but will agree when it comes to Luke. Unlike Willitts who has Carter as his foil, Printer’s essay is generally a collection of talking points aimed roughly across the Third Gospel but not hitting anyone in particular in a cordon defensive manner.
Printer’s aim, then, without another scholar to directly challenge, is to use Josephus as a foil to Luke. This, I believed, would be interesting given Luke’s sometimes borrowing of scenes from various works of Josephus, but alas, I found the mention of this area of scholarship lacking in this essay. Instead, Printer bases his use of Josephus on a supposed commonality of agendas shared by the two ancient historiographers (103). Printer ultimately sees more of the hidden transcripts in Josephus than Luke (107–8), which I find rather odd since several scholars, myself included, have identified the imperial propaganda created by Josephus as the impetus for the Gospel of Mark.
While I agree with Printer’s overall arguments, that Luke is simply not concerned enough with Rome to be anti-Rome, his argument is lacking in two distinct areas. First, in discussing the hiddenness of the transcript, Printer’s laugh is almost noticeable as he points out the addressing to Theophilus (109) of the Gospel. The essayist, then, counts the Gospel as a private letter. If so, then this is the only instance of a private letter in the New Testament, not to mention that neither Luke nor Acts is presented as a private letter. It is doubtful historiographers would see such a historical enterprise as private, but this is another story. Instead, we can focus on the lack of historical Theophilus. This is not say Theophilus may have not been a real person, but there needs not be such an entity. Instead, we can allow the possibility “Theophilus” is itself a hidden meaning implying “friend of God” or “lover of God,” both theological concepts indicating a status of the person reading the letter rather than a person of status reading the letter. If this is the case, then from the start, Luke is telling his audience that something is buried in the Gospel, something only they will fully understand.
Of course, that is not the major weakness of his argument. His major weakness is not considering Luke as a final redactor of the Mark-Matthew tradition à la Farrer-Goulder. We may allow Luke to have his own agenda, but given the distance away from Mark and Matthew, Luke’s agenda must be considered as one without the crisis of imperial ideology as we see in Mark with something of an echo in Matthew. If Luke is not using the implausible and certainly non-existent Q, then Printer’s allowance that Luke is “free to write as he chooses” (109) is roundly mistaken. Luke is only really free to shape Mark-Matthew around some independent sources. These sources, I would urge, reveal Luke’s agenda and they are an agenda of a settled community rather than a community under mental siege by imperial ideology. Indeed, Luke as much as tells us he is only using sources known to him to retell the story differently and for a different reason (Luke 1.1-4).
Overall, Printer does a fine job and showing a developed Gospel with no real need to press against the encroachment of imperial ideology, offering satisfactory answers as to why Rome simply doesn’t seem to matter to our Evangelist.
Some commments from NT Wright on LUKE
The real slave master, keeping the human race in bondage, is death itself. Earthly tyrants borrow power from death to boost their rule; that’s why crucifixion was such a symbol of Roman authority.
We need to remember this..
People often think that resurrection means “life after death” or “going to heaven”, but in the Jewish worldview of the first century it meant an embodied life in God’s new world; a life after “life after death” so to speak.
By embodied, we mean “in a body” – not floating about in the clouds nebulously playing a harp.. In the end, “heaven” and earth will be the same place, that is, the earth will be renewed. We aint “going away” – we WANT to be left behind.. creation is our inheritance, not “nowhere”.
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit, and stories about him spread all through the area.15 He began to teach in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
16 Jesus traveled to Nazareth, where he had grown up. On the Sabbath day he went to the synagogue, as he always did, and stood up to read. 17 The book of Isaiah the prophet was given to him. He opened the book and found the place where this is written:
18 “The Lord has put his Spirit in me,
because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to tell the captives they are free
and to tell the blind that they can see again. — Isaiah 61:1
God sent me to free those who have been treated unfairly — Isaiah 58:6
19 and to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness.” — Isaiah 61:2
20 Jesus closed the book, gave it back to the assistant, and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue was watching Jesus closely. 21 He began to say to them, “While you heard these words just now, they were coming true!”
22 All the people spoke well of Jesus and were amazed at the words of grace he spoke. They asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
23 Jesus said to them, “I know that you will tell me the old saying: ‘Doctor, heal yourself.’ You want to say, ‘We heard about the things you did in Capernaum. Do those things here in your own town!’ “ 24 Then Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, a prophet is not accepted in his hometown. 25 But I tell you the truth, there were many widows in Israel during the time of Elijah. It did not rain in Israel for three and one-half years, and there was no food anywhere in the whole country.26 But Elijah was sent to none of those widows, only to a widow in Zarephath, a town in Sidon. 27 And there were many with skin diseases living in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha. But none of them were healed, only Naaman, who was from the country of Syria.”
28 When all the people in the synagogue heard these things, they became very angry.29 They got up, forced Jesus out of town, and took him to the edge of the cliff on which the town was built. They planned to throw him off the edge,30but Jesus walked (Slipped) through the crowd and went on his way.
All the people were amazed at the words of grace.. no, not that Jesus was a great speaker, but that He was talking about Grace, and most importantly, not grace for Israel, but for everyone, as he goes on to point out how Elijah was sent to a non-Israelite woman, and Elisha was healed an enemy general. This would be a bit like someone (claiming to be a prophet) standing up in America and saying that God was going to save Al Queda.
It would be shocking, and outrageous. God’s grace is for everyone, and He, the Messiah (these words about the Messiah are fulfilled before you today, he says), has not been sent to save Israel – the healthy do not need a doctor – but to save the Gentiles.
So they try to kill him. Ironically, Jesus did not test God to save him when the accuser tested him a little before, and now, miraculously, Jesus slips away through the crowd. “On his way” generally means, in Luke, some form of divine direction or leading, “a path set out before one by God” – so to speak.
Review: Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church: The Challenge of Luke-Acts to Contemporary Christians @eerdmansbooks
Luke Johnson shows in his recent work, that a biblical scholar can retain the prophetic mantle and issue a call to the Church Universal (“I recognize as authentic realizations of church any community where two or three gather in the name of the risen Lord Jesus and both speak and act the truth of the gospel in love.” (p7)) to rediscover the vision of Jesus Christ. Ever present is Johnson’s trademark critique of the search for the historical Jesus who he insists is second to the Christ of Faith. For him, Luke’s Jesus is the Jesus which he examines. It is in this mind set that Johnson sets about, with a solid foothold in the historical critical approach and in the life of a Spirit-filled believer, to tackle the Third Evangelist’s corpus as a single literary unit, contrary to what modern scholarship as to say. But, he goes further. Johnson challenges modern scholarship in setting Acts against Luke as if, to paraphrase the author, the Church in Acts has betrayed the Jesus of Luke. Instead, Johnson see the institutionalized Acts Church as even more radical than the Jesus of the Gospels. This is classic Luke Johnson with his deep concerns for the faith, his call to the Church, and his resilient scholarship.
The first chapter, The Literary Shape of Luke-Acts, deals with four things which Johnson deems needful in reading Luke-Acts as the author intended for it to be read. He will analyze four pieces of the corpus, material, stylistic, genre and structural shape. This is the historical critical approach; this is scholarship. Johnson assumes Markan priority, which, in my opinion, is always the best place to start. One cannot easily grasp the proper analyses of either Matthew or Luke without assuming Markan priority. Throughout the analyses, Johnson is able to demonstrate a careful handling of Luke-Acts and the scholarship which surrounds it. He briefly describes where modern scholarship, perhaps, has gone too far in pitting Luke against Matthew or Luke against Acts. He notes that Luke-Acts is a definitive historiographical apologetic, sharing some traits with Greco-Roman biographies of the age, but written to defend the Church against charges which were commonly presented against it. He notes that these charges, and thus the defenses, are more readily apparent in Acts. (Note, the defense was needed, especially if Johnson was correct, and that one of the charges were that the Jewish movement around Jesus had reached the Gentiles.) He ends the first chapter with the issue of geography in Luke-Acts, noting that this is indeed very much part of the prophetic message of the corpus, a theme he will return too later. With the literary shape of Luke-Acts completed, Johnson moves on the prophetic shape.
The prophetic shape is different than Matthew’s, according to the author, although his statements here seem more like a slight against Matthew rather than a critical reading; however, Johnson pushes the fact that Luke is not Matthew simply redone, but as an author has a unique way of exploring the themes of fulfillment, or actualization, of Israel’s narrative history in the events of Jesus and the early Church. This latter bit is new to me; however, Johnson presents it well enough, along with tacking on to this the use of other Judaisms (Qumran, Hellenists) by Luke. Moving on, Johnson begins to discuss a deeper view of prophecy that the Evangelists employs – the actualization of character in that people in Luke-Acts share character traits of people in the Hebrew Scriptures. This is the meat of this book, I think, which must propel the reader to want to explore the rest of this work. Throughout this section, Johnson draws the literary connections to the Old Testament, and more especially to the narratives in the Kings. This is one of the faults of the book, in that Johnson doesn’t allow that Luke has taken over the use of these narratives from Mark. Over all, however, Johnson is impressive in his meticulous research in connection Luke-Acts to the Septuagint, and establishing the Evangelist as something more than a mere copyist, but one with a distinct theology.
I often find that when an author says, “I have shown thus and thus in the previous chapters,” I laugh to myself because I can, many times, note where they simply didn’t. When Johnson says, however, that he has shown how “prophecy plays a key role” in Luke-Acts at the beginning of the third chapter, I have to agree. The first two chapters read like a brisk commentary filled with solid scholarship and an (re)establishment of what prophecy is and how it serves as a structure for Luke-Acts. This structure, I would have to agree, does unite the two volumes into one book, and more, provides for something more. This chapter, The Character of the Prophet, will focus on prophecy itself, and he begins early on with defining what prophecy actually is, and then, what a prophet is (I note that too many contemporary Christians need to read this book, if for nothing else, the clear establishment by Johnson of these two important concepts which are often times gotten wrong). Something to really consider is Johnson’s mandate that the prophet “embodies God’s Word.” For him, the prophet does not just speak the words of God, nor just live them, but actually acts those things out. This is an important theme, and one expanded in chapter six, becoming almost an axis, in my reading at least, of this book. Here, we can think of Moses and the destruction of the first set of stone tablets or John the Baptist coming out of the wilderness or of Hosea and Ezekiel. He concludes the chapter with the promise to show that the early Church did not deviate from Jesus the prophet, but embodied it completely.
After the critical work is done, Johnson moves into tackling the different aspects of what a prophet is. Chapters 4 through 8 detail the Prophetic Spirit, in which Johnson tackles the role of the Spirit in Luke-Acts; the Prophetic Word, in which the author discusses the words of the prophets, or rather, God and God’s vision of humanity; the Prophetic Embodiment, in which the scholar looks at the prophetic character (of Jesus) in terms of poverty, itinerancy, prayer, and servant leadership; the Prophetic Enactment in which the Church stands in opposition to the World Order through actualization of the word; and finally, the Prophetic Witness in which Johnson considers as the culmination of the life of the Church the connection to “persecution and death.” Each of these chapters are developed critically first, establishing Johnson’s foundation from which he springs forth, followed by how this presents a challenge to the contemporary Church. Luke’s Gospel (contained in Luke-Act as we are reminded) is retold through critical study and deep theological reflection based on the structure which Johnson has highlighted for us, that of prophecy.
Luke Johnson has provided the Church a prophetic message based on Scripture, on how to read Scripture while using scholarship and deep theological reflection. His call is indeed needful for the body of Christ today for several reason, but most importantly, because he takes the two hands of God, Scholarship (Logos) and Tradition (Wisdom), and shows us where God is leading us, what his vision for the Church really is. This is a wonderfully, reflective book for the modern Church.
Sermon on the Plain, Via Epideictic Oratory
For my NT Rhetoric Class. Rough Draft. Blah Blah. The deal is, is that the question is posted, I write a response, and we wade through that for a week. So, this may not be the final word, or summation, but more than likely, it’s all I’m going to post. I thought that I might summarize and react to Carey’s article, so as to present a chance to correct a deficit in my thinking, before I get to the Sermon on the Plain. The pages are from the Kindle version and may not be accurate.
Carey opens his article with the idea that the historical separation of the “spheres” of argumentation predates Aristotle, which may allow the reader to assume that these spheres, are near a universal constant, or at least in (near-)Western literature. Here, the author will write on epideictic oratory, a speech of displays which allows the speaker to issue praise or blame. Some of the most well-known speeches under this form were the funeral orations. Perhaps, the Gospels were apologeticum crucis, they may be considered, on the other, a funeral oration, in praise of Christ, casting blame upon his opponents, and as in Acts 2, the hearers/readers. One of the interesting notes is that the speeches delivered in this sphere have “inherent principles of form and over trends in content” although as Carey notes, they aren’t clearly stated, but understood by the speaker and the audience. This idea that the speaker and the audience come together to bring forth the speech is an interesting one.
Carey quotes Aristotle in saying that when people, either in offering private advice or speaking in public regarding civic issues, will engage in either exhortation and/or dissuasion and this, according to the ancient rhetorician is similar to the speeches delivered as display, in that the concern “is partly praise and partly blame.” I interpret this to mean that in praising one, another may be used as an example, to highlight the goodness of the first. The second one, then, is the one who doesn’t measure up. It is not about, then, guilt or innocence, but about the establishment of the good of the person. Carey notes that unlike deliberative or judicial speaking, display has “no immediate practical outcome.” This form of speaking is sometimes derided, as we note from Isocrates, but he may have been biased, as display, as he understood it, focused more on the performance. This idea of display and performance is interesting, again, in taking the Gospels as a whole, especially if, as some scholars (Richard Hayes, for one) believe, that the Gospels were written for performance, for display. If so, then this comports with the idea that the display presents Christ as praiseworthy, at least in Mark. (I separate Luke from this, because of the Lukan announcement of Righteous/Innocence by the Centurion.)
I note Isocrates’ quote (238) which commends the proper use of this oratory to those who could carry out the speech. Also of note is Carey’s history lesson, in that with the rise of the book trade, display’s influence rose. The author notes that with the rise of books, the technique shifted a little to include speeches created “entirely for a reading audience.” In Paul’s letters, especially in Galatians, he pits himself against the ‘Judaizers’ who need not be real, allowing himself to be counted as praiseworthy, while seeking to persuade the people in those churches that he had the true gospel. (Carey notes on 238 that persuasion was indeed a part of epideictic rhetoric.) Paul was in competition with others, as was Lysias who noted that while his speech were about the recent dead, his real force was directed against those who had previously issued speeches. I note here, then, Luke’s introduction to his gospel, who notes that while others have written accounts, he alone had undertaken research to write a “more orderly account.” (Luke 1.3) Here, I note Carey’s statement that while “the outcomes of epideictic oratory have none of the urgency of the other two categories” the personal stakes remained high for the speaker, and I would contend, for the recent dead in the funeral oration.
Of special interest is Carey’s examination of the funeral oration, especially when he begins to deal with the writing of such speeches long after the speech was supposed to have taken place. In examining Thucydides writing down Pericles’ speech, the author notes that “we do not need to hold to ‘Pericles’ to every word, merely to accept that the broad tenor of the speech has been reproduced.” (242) Thus, this combines with earlier comments about the expansion of epideictic rhetoric into written form. If the tenor could be maintained, and delivered to a written audience, for a purpose, especially for a funeral oration, we have some semblance to the nature of the Gospels (and Acts), which were written down long after Christ and the Apostles, capturing the broad tenor of the words, in written form, for performance, but not detailing a transcript of every word.
Of another interest is Carey’s assertion that the epitaphios logos is “more for the living than for the dead.” He writes that these speeches become “an act of collective self-definition and self-assertion.” Isn’t this the goal of good rhetoric, and of the Gospels, to have the hearer/reader/viewer self-identify with Christ? I note then the role of Baptism in Romans 6, which includes self-identification with Christ, as well as the role of suffering in Revelation. Here, Carey gives us more room to explore the connection of the Gospels with epideictic rhetoric, in that he writes that the goal of these funeral orations, of that of the dead warriors, was to assure the culture that it was worth the price which was paid, that the living was worth the dead – that the living were praiseworthy.
Carey notes at least twice that display had certain political uses (248 and 249).
Notes on Aristotle III.13-19
According to the Aristotle, the speech as two parts: statement of case and proof. If so, then one must expect that good epideictic oratory will include some manner of persuasion, but what is persuasion? It is then to the praise or blameworthiness of an individual or other identified subject. Breaking this down further, he notes that in the Introduction, a subsection of the first part, one must have a subject, but that there is freedom to “travel far” from it. This introduction contains advice, of what to or not to do, and may on the surface be paradoxical; however, the introduction can be dismissed if the subject is not long enough. Further, these introductions are “popular with those who case is weak, or looks weak.” It might, then, behoove the speaker to make his case stronger by not including an introduction.
The speech is an “appeal to the hearer” and again uses the character of the speaker. Further, the receptor will feel connected if he or she is able to be touched by something in the speech. Perhaps it is using a well-known example, or speaks to the situation experienced by the audience. This is necessary, because as Aristotle says, the receptor may have a “weak-minded tendency” to turn away if the point is not about him or her.
“Narration in ceremonial oratory is not continuous but intermittent,” the ancient orator relates. He recommends categorizing the needed facts into mini-narratives. Thus, it is simple and easy to follow, and keeps the interest of the audience. He recommends that the narrative tackle character and gives the indication of moral purpose. He recommends that moral purpose be held to a higher example in display than intelligence. Perhaps, because it would be more easily touched by the common receptor, as they would more easily associated with morality than intellectualism. To this end as well, Aristotle calls for the use of emotions in display. Again, perhaps because the common receptor can more easily grasp this, than the dryness associated with manuals. Aristotle, to this point again, uses Isocrates as an example of how to break up the narration in display with “bits of episodic eulogy.”
Sermon on the Plain, Luke 6.17-49.
What is noticed first is that Jesus doesn’t give a verbal introduction, but Luke does. Jesus has chosen his twelve disciples, after he had healed and a man with the paralyzed hand, and declared himself Lord of the Sabbath. Perhaps he may have been seen to given a declaration of his kingdom, shown his power, chose his royal court (or royal army, if twelve equals the twelve tribes of Israel who were called to surrender a certain number of men to the defense), and showed his intelligence in that he began to teach and heal. So, while there is verbal introduction to Jesus’ speech. What is interesting me, however, is that unlike Matthew, the Lukan Jesus comes down to a “level place” (HCSB). What does this tell us about the character of Jesus?
Jesus has been presented as one sent from God, from his birth, and given a humble origin. By now in Luke’s Gospel, he has already been seen to forgive and heal, and call his close associates. Further, Jesus has already been declared Lord through the vision in the wilderness. All of this has already happened in extended episodes, but in Luke 6, with the build up to the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus is declared Lord again, heals, teaches, and once again chooses his close disciples. Perhaps this might qualify as one of Aristotle’s episodic eulogies, or at the very least, a break-up of the narrative. After all, Jesus again is demonstrated to have the moral purpose to issue the Sermon on the Mount, with a neatly re-categorization of his own character.
If taken as a display, then the audience must figure into this. As Aristotle said, the audience must be touched in some way. Jesus, by not having assumed the position of teacher (unlike Matthew), is on eye level, and is able to point, broadly, when he says ‘you… blessed’ and ‘you… woe.’ We have an established of a moral purpose as well as a connection to the audience. Further, in a time of socio-political upheaval, it would have been unfortunate to speak only of the good, but Jesus avoids this moment in which the audience would feel only slightly connected through hope as he addresses those who were currently putting the community through woe. Woe to the rich, the full, the jovial and to those who speak well about the poor, the hungry, and the sad, i.e., the hypocrites. This woe, v26, may have been a shield against the audience accusing Jesus of being such. Aristotle notes one should examples to deflection from assured, wrongly made comparison. Jesus had promised an end to poverty, hunger, mourning and oppression, and had criticized those who said the same thing. This is an appeal to the hearer.
What is lacking in the speech itself, if we were to examine it as epideictic, is narration which seems to be essential to epideictic. It is simply Jesus speaking. There are no parables or examples easily seen. It would not be uncommon for sinners to not act like the law, so it might be difficult to assume that Jesus had anyone particular in mind (although the term sinners as a representative of a particular group does appear in other documents of the time). The one example of narration seems to be in v48 in which Jesus describes a careless homebuilder.
The beatitudes, 6.20-26, can create images of being praiseworthy or blameworthy, but Jesus doesn’t include any examples of whom he is speaking about. While the audience would have no doubt supplied their own examples, epideictic oratory must provide examples so as to draw comparisons. If we were to take 6.20-22 as a whole, we would see that Jesus is speaking to the audience and declaring them praiseworthy in 6.23. Minutely then, this may be epideictic, with 6.24-26 serving then as a point of comparison.
On the persuasiveness of the Sermon on the Plain, I find that like 6.23, the elements of persuasion can be found. In 6.23, the idea is to be patience for the visitation, in which everything would be turned on its head. Further, twice the connection between the audience and the ancient prophets, the renowned dead, is made (6.23, 26), in that they, the modern audience, are of the same qualities as the prophets, perhaps even Moses, therefore, they most continue and wait. To this end as well, the audience is compared to the sinners (6.33) and to the Father (6.36), in that the audience is warned not to be like the former, but to be like the latter. Further, they are told not to judge like the hypocrites (6.42). They are given the comparison between the good man and the evil man (6.43-45) and finally, they are told to be watchful and careful in not doing the things which Jesus is telling them. Here is the greatest act of persuasion. Jesus begins the speech with simple comparisons, but not an introduction, and moves to specific situations, telling the audience how not to respond to them, but at the end, the warning is given that if they do not heed his words, they will come crashing down.
Can this speech be classified as epideictic? As a whole, I would say not. It is still overly concerned with ethical, and as Aristotle reminds us, politics and ethics go hand in hand. However, I do believe that the Gospels, and thus this speech, were intended as performance. Jesus signals this, I believe, when he comes down from the mountain, to a level place with the people. Further, I am unsure that the amount of narration is sufficient. I do believe that there are the elements of display, such as praising and blaming, as well as a few examples, although not specific as Isocrates might give. There is the indication of moral purpose, however, in 6.23, to ensure that the community survives to rejoice in That Day.
On the other hand, perhaps the entire Gospel could be classified as epideictic in that it serves as a funeral oration of Jesus. Taken in this view, there is the introduction, the narrative, the “episodic eulogies”, display, performance, praise, blame, judicial acquittal and the connection between Jesus and the audience in that they were worth dying for.
Teach MERGE: Jesus and Economics – Chapter 1
Okay, so a few of us are working on a book regarding Jesus and Economics. Plus, we are using it as a curriculum for a class I am teaching this Fall at Church. Here is the notes and outline of the first chapter. Note, this is a rough draft and doesn’t really tell you how it is going to be written:
“Jesus wasn’t an –ist, but he did have economic views. This class will explore many of the economic views held by Jesus as told by Luke in his Gospel. It will be 8 sessions, focusing on the songs of Liberation, parables, other insights, and closing with a session on the Lord’s Prayer (in Luke) as we determine how best to bring about the Kingdom of God locally, and what role the Church plays in God’s economy. A study guide will be provided at the first session, which will introduce Mark and Zechariah’s songs of liberation in Luke 1 which sets the stage for the rest of the Gospel. It’ll be a mix of biblical studies, theology, fun and modern issues. Hopefully, a lot of fun though!”
We now have many different understandings of Jesus Christ. We all know the temptation for Christians to make Jesus Christ into their own image and likeness. After all, everyone wants Jesus on her or his own side. Consequently, Jesus has been proposed. as a capitalist and a socialist, a revolutionary and a law abiding citizen, a nonviolent pacifist and a guerilla. Yes, problems abound in the effort to spell. out or unpack the meaning of Jesus, and it may be difficult to find agreement. – Charles Curran
- Songs of Liberation (September 14, 2011)
- Mary – Luke 1.46-55
- The Song of Hannah 1 Sam 2.1-10
- Confident Triumph (Hannah) Versus Contemplation of Grace (Mary)
- Mary is in a place of humility. She should be a Queen.
- Both songs are sung by mothers regarding their sons. Samuel would be a great Prophet, and by comparison, Jesus was going to be a Greater Prophet. What was the role of the prophet?
- Zachariah – Luke 1.68-79
- The Great Deliverance Luke 1.71-75
- Political in nature
- No separation of the secular and the sacred.
- The Great Deliverance Luke 1.71-75
- Mary – Luke 1.46-55
Note that the first psalm and hymn of praise we here is not from a man, but from a young woman, most likely 14. Women were given the place of glory and praise not just here, but in Judges 5, the Song of Hannah, and Miriam’s praise in Exodus 15. The songs are very nationalistic, very corporate and doesn’t speak to the needs of the individual. But in acknowledging the very nationalist realm of these songs, we have to remember that both May and Zachariah were dependent upon Israel’s scriptures which spoke of a time when Gentiles would come into the covenant, a new covenant. Mary is peaking on behalf of her people, and is in a sense representing her people when she speaks of herself. Israel was brought low, and was made to reverence God; now, she/they were hoping for a deliver. God had granted that petition through her son. The Greek here allows us to ponder if Mary was speaking about either the past or the future. Has God or will God?
51-53 details a complete reversal of the human values around her. Rome was proud and mighty, and the Jewish people poor and hungry. Yet, it was these people whom God would come to. A commentator writes, “In the ancient world, it was accepted that the rich would be well cared for. Poor people must expect to be hungry. Mary sings of a God who is not bound by what people do.”
What does this tell us about Jesus? Mary saw in Jesus the hope that the people of God would be freed from tyranny, but what tyranny? Has the commentator noted, it wasn’t just about Rome, but about human values. It is the Gospel before the Gospel, at Tom Wright says!
vens and the earth will listen to His Messiah, and none therein will
stray from the commandments of the holy ones.
Seekers of the Lord, strengthen yourselves in His service!
All you hopeful in (your) heart, will you not find the Lord in this?
For the Lord will consider the pious (hasidim) and call the righteous by name.
Over the poor His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with His power.
And He will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom.
He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the b
And f ever I will cleavopeful and in His mercy . . .
And the fr will not be delayed for anyone.
And the Lord will accomplish glorious things which have never been as
For He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news
to the poor
. . .He will lead the uprooted and knowledge . . . and smoke (?) – (Michael O. Wise, translation)
- Remembrance of Zechariah and Elizabeth (heidelberg26.wordpress.com)