The prophet Anna (Lk 2:36-2:36)

“There was a prophet,

Anna,

The daughter of Phanuel,

Of the tribe of Asher.

She was of a great age.

She had lived

With her husband

Seven years

After her marriage.”

 

Καὶ ἦν Ἄννα προφῆτις, θυγάτηρ Φανουήλ, ἐκ φυλῆς Ἀσήρ· αὕτη προβεβηκυῖα ἐν ἡμέραις πολλαῖς, ζήσασα μετὰ ἀνδρὸς ἔτη ἑπτὰ ἀπὸ τῆς παρθενίας αὐτῆς,

 

Next Luke introduced a female prophet, Anna.  There were some female prophets in the biblical literature like Miriam in Exodus, chapter 15:20, the sister of Aaron and Moses, who was called a prophet like her brother Aaron, the first instance of women worshiping God.  Deborah, in Judges, chapter 4:4, was a married woman prophet from the northern tribe of Ephraim who led troops into battle.  Finally, Huddah in 2 Kings, chapter 22:14-20, was one of the few mentioned female prophets.  The elders in Jerusalem consulted her about what to do with a holy book.  Her response led to the religious revival under King Josiah (640-609 BCE).  Like the other Israelite male and female prophets, Anna interpreted God’s will for his people.  Luke said that there was a prophet Anna (Καὶ ἦν Ἄννα προφῆτις), the daughter of Phanuel (θυγάτηρ Φανουήλ), of the northern tribe of Asher (ἐκ φυλῆς Ἀσήρ).  Her father’s name Phanuel was considered to be the fourth of the great archangels with Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, according to the 3rd century BCE work, the Book of Enoch, but there is no implication here that she was angelic.  Thus, she was not a local Judean, but a northern Galilean Jewish person from Asher.  She was greatly advanced in years (τη προβεβηκυῖα ἐν ἡμέραις πολλαῖς), since she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage (ζήσασα μετὰ ἀνδρὸς ἔτη ἑπτὰ ἀπὸ τῆς παρθενίας αὐτῆς).  She had become a widow.

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The sheep and the goats (Mt 25:32-25:33

“All the nations

Will be gathered

Before him.

He will separate people,

One from another.

Just as a shepherd

Separates

The sheep

From the goats,

He will place

The sheep

At his right hand.

He will place

The goats

At his left side.”

 

καὶ συναχθήσονται ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, καὶ ἀφορίσει αὐτοὺς ἀπ’ ἀλλήλων, ὥσπερ ὁ ποιμὴν ἀφορίζει τὰ πρόβατα ἀπὸ τῶν ἐρίφων,

καὶ στήσει τὰ μὲν πρόβατα ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ, τὰ δὲ ἐρίφια ἐξ εὐωνύμων.

 

This last judgment section is unique to Matthew.  Jesus said that all the gentile nations would be gathered before him (καὶ συναχθήσονται ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη).  Then he would separate them from each other (καὶ ἀφορίσει αὐτοὺς ἀπ’ ἀλλήλων).  Just like a shepherd separated the sheep from the goats (ὥσπερ ὁ ποιμὴν ἀφορίζει τὰ πρόβατα ἀπὸ τῶν ἐρίφων), he would place the sheep at his right hand (καὶ στήσει τὰ μὲν πρόβατα ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ).  Then he would place the goats at his left hand (τὰ δὲ ἐρίφια ἐξ εὐωνύμων).  The divine judgment of Yahweh was a common biblical theme.  Here it is the Son of Man who judges everyone.  On the right side are the just righteous sheep, while on the left side are the wild or bad goats, a common generic theme.  Good is to the right, just as right-handed people are good.  Left-handed people are looked at with suspicion, as are left leaning policies.

The unique perspective of Joseph

The Gospel of Matthew presented the infancy story of Jesus from the perspective of Joseph, unlike the Gospel of Luke that presented the same story from the perspective of Mary. What do they have in common and what is unique. Mary and the child Jesus play a secondary role in this narration, since it was all about Joseph, the son of Jacob, the father of the child. There were certain things in common with the Luke story. Both Joseph and Mary were troubled by this pregnancy. Both had an angel come and explain that the child was from the Holy Spirit. Both were told that the name of the child would be Jesus. In both stories, the child is born in Bethlehem. Beyond that, there were some unique things to the story of Joseph in Matthew. He almost divorced Mary. He had a number of angelic dreams. He was told to go to Egypt, which he did. He then returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth in Galilee. In between, there was the strange story of King Herod and the magi. Matthew used 5 different Old Testament Hebrew prophecies to show that Jesus was truly within the Jewish prophetic tradition. Clearly, in these two opening chapters, Matthew was a Jewish scripture scholar with his use of 1 Chronicles in the genealogy and the various prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, and Judges. Whatever sources he used for this unique perspective on the birth of Jesus, they were clearly Jewish based. Joseph was a righteous Jewish man. After this presentation, Joseph seemed to drift off the center stage in the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.

Joseph goes to Nazareth (Mt 2:23-1:23)

“There Joseph

Made his home

In a town called

Nazareth.

Thus,

What was spoken

Through the prophets

Might be fulfilled.

‘He will be called a Nazorean.’”

 

καὶ ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρέτ· ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν ὅτι Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται.

 

Joseph took his family to a specific place in lower Galilee, a city called Nazareth (ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρέτ). Somehow, this fulfilled a prophecy (ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν) about being called a Nazarene (ὅτι Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται). Some of Jesus’ followers were called Nazarenes. He was also known as Jesus of Nazareth since this was his childhood home. People have been living in Nazareth for nearly 5.000 years, with over 75,000 people today, as the largest Arab city in Israel. Nazareth may have had a population of about 400 at the time of Jesus. The town of Nazareth is about 20 miles from the Sea of Galilee and about 6 miles west of Mount Tabor, but over 100 miles from Jerusalem. It is difficult to pinpoint where this prophecy comes from. In Judges, chapter 13:2-7, there is a comment that a boy will be a Nazirite from birth, so that no one should cut his hair. Thus, he would deliver Israel from the Philistines. According to Numbers, chapter 6:1-21, there were rules laid out for those who would take the Nazirite vows. They would not drink wine, nor shave their beards. They were not to go near a corpse. They had to bring special offerings to the Temple. This separation and special consecration may have been present among other ancient people, but here it is under Mosaic Law. The normal time period, according to some rabbinic schools, was about a month of Nazirite vows, although others may have been longer. Some have referred to John the Baptist as a Nazirite. On top of that, Jesus of Nazareth may have been confused with Jesus the Nazirite. Is that the case here?

The Former Prophets

The former prophets are the same as the so-called Christian Old Testament historical works.  These works tell us of the establishment of the Israelites and the troubles that they faced.  However, they introduced a number of prophets that received oracles from God, including Elias, Elijah, Samuel, and Nathan.  The former prophets include the works of Joshua, from the 8th-7th century BCE and Judges, from the 7th-6th century BCE.  They also include the works of Samuel or 1 Samuel and. 2 Samuel, as well as Kings, or 1 Kings and 2 Kings. all coming from the 7th-6th century BCE.  These writings indicate what happened to the Israelites as they struggled in the new promised land.  They gradually went from a few judges to a full-blown kingdom, with many prophets with their divine oracles along the way.

The bad leaders (Zeph 3:3-3:4)

“The officials within her

Are roaring lions.

Her judges

Are evening wolves.

They leave nothing

Until the morning.

Her prophets

Are reckless persons.

They are faithless persons.

Her priests

Have profaned

What is sacred.

They have done violence

To the law.”

Zephaniah rebuked not only the city, but the leaders in the city of Jerusalem.  Their officials were like roaring lions.  Their judges were like evening wolves preying on people at night.  Their prophets were reckless faithless people.  Their priests profaned the sacred things, by doing violence to the law of Yahweh.

Everyone is evil (Mic 7:3-7:4)

“Their hands are skilled

To do evil.

The official

Asks for a bribe.

The judge

Asks for a bribe.

The powerful

Dictate

What they desire.

Thus,

They pervert justice.

The best of them is

Like a brier.

The most upright

Of them is

Like a thorn hedge.

The day of their sentinels,

Of their punishment,

Has come.

Now their confusion

Is at hand.”

Micah thought that everyone was evil.  The officialsand judges did things only if they got bribes.  The powerful people did whatever they wanted to do, since they all perverted justice.  The best and most upright of them were like a briar patch or a thorn hedge.  The day of punishment was announced.  Thus, they were in a state of confusion.