The Lord of the Sabbath (Mt 12:6-12:8)

“I tell you!

Something greater

Than the temple is here.

If you had known

What this means.

‘I desire mercy,

Not sacrifice!’

You would not have

Condemned

The guiltless.

The Son of Man is

Lord of the Sabbath.”

 

λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ὅτι τοῦ ἱεροῦ μεῖζόν ἐστιν ὧδε.

εἰ δὲ ἐγνώκειτε τί ἐστιν Ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν, οὐκ ἂν κατεδικάσατε τοὺς ἀναιτίους.

κύριος γάρ ἐστιν τοῦ σαββάτου ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

 

Mark, chapter 2:27-28, has a similar saying to this, so that he may be the source of this saying.  Matthew has Jesus begin with a solemn proclamation (λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν).  Something or someone greater than the Temple is here (ὅτι τοῦ ἱεροῦ μεῖζόν ἐστιν ὧδε), a clear reference to Jesus himself.  Too bad, that they did not know what the saying about mercy was all about (εἰ δὲ ἐγνώκειτε τί ἐστιν).  Matthew then used the same citation of Hosea that he had earlier in chapter 9:13.  Jesus explained that he desired mercy (τί ἐστιν Ἔλεος θέλω), and not sacrifices (καὶ οὐ θυσίαν), based on Hosea, chapter 6:6, where the essential message was that Yahweh wanted real faithful love, not mere sacrifices.  Hosea wanted the Israelites to have real knowledge of God, rather than worry about burnt offerings.  Thus, the Pharisees would not have condemned the innocent or guiltless ones (οὐκ ἂν κατεδικάσατε τοὺς ἀναιτίους) since Jesus and his disciples had done nothing wrong.  The Son of Man was the Lord of the Sabbath (κύριος γάρ ἐστιν τοῦ σαββάτου ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου).  Jesus then could control the Sabbath, not the other way around.  Instead of the Sabbath as a gift to humans, Jesus would reinterpret the laws of the Sabbath as the Lord of the Sabbath.

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The citation from Hosea about mercy (Mt 9:13-9:13)

“Go!

Learn what this means!

‘I desire mercy,

Not sacrifice!

I have come

Not to call the righteous,

But sinners.’”

 

πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε τί ἐστιν Ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν· οὐ γὰρ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλούς.

 

This response of Jesus is almost the same as in Mark, chapter 2:17, and Luke, chapter 5;31.  Jesus explained that they ought to learn what he means (πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε), because he desired mercy (τί ἐστιν Ἔλεος θέλω), and not sacrifices (καὶ οὐ θυσίαν).  This was based on Hosea, chapter 6:6, where the essential message was that Yahweh wanted real faithful love, not mere sacrifices.  Hosea wanted the Israelites to have real knowledge of God, rather than worry about burnt offerings.  Jesus had come not to call the people who were righteous already (γὰρ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους), but to call the sinners (ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλούς).

The response of Jesus (Mt 4:4-4:4)

“But Jesus answered.

‘It is written.

One does not live

By bread alone,

But by every word

That comes

From the mouth of God.’”

 

ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν Γέγραπται Οὐκ ἐπ’ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι ἐκπορευομένῳ διὰ στόματος Θεοῦ.

 

Once again, Matthew and Luke, chapter 4:4 shared a common source, perhaps Q.  Jesus responded (ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς) to the tempter by citing a written phrase (εἶπεν Γέγραπται) from Deuteronomy, chapter 8:3, about the fact that man does not live by bread alone (Οὐκ ἐπ’ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος,), but rather man lives by all the words that come from the mouth of God (ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι ἐκπορευομένῳ διὰ στόματος Θεοῦ.).  Actually, the Book of Deuteronomy was the most quoted book of the Torah in these New Testament writings.  In Deuteronomy, Yahweh had reminded the Israelites that they had been tested for 40 years with hunger.  Then came this saying about not living by bread alone, but by every word that came from the mouth of Yahweh.  The mouth of God was an anthropomorphism for Yahweh’s law.

 

Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights (Mt 4:2-4:2)

“Jesus fasted

Forty days

And forty nights.

Afterwards,

He was hungry.”

 

καὶ νηστεύσας ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα καὶ τεσσεράκοντα νύκτας ὕστερον ἐπείνασεν.

 

Once again, this text is like Luke, chapter 4:2, word for word, indicating a common source, perhaps the Q source.  There was a symbolism in this fast of 40 days (ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα) and 40 nights (καὶ τεσσεράκοντα νύκτας).  Fasting (νηστεύσας) was a common Hebrew exercise, while 40 was the same number of years that the Israelites were in the wilderness during the Exodus.  This was a real fast, not one that ended when the sun went down, since it included a night fast also.  Jesus was really hungry of famished (ἐπείνασεν) at the end of this time. (ὕστερον).

Christians reading the Old Testament

The Old Testament Hebrew Bible raises questions of interpretation for a Christian.  To what extent am I, as a Christian, projecting Christian views and values on the children of Israel, the people of Israel, the Israelites?  There are various terms that translators have used to describe the slowing forming group of Yahweh believers over three thousand years ago.  Yahweh was their God and intervened in their lives.  They had a special relationship or covenant with him.  The Hebrew sacred writings were incorporated into Christianity because all the early Christians were Jewish.  However, the writings were not originally meant for Christians, but for the Hebrew people.  Can I really fully understand the Semitic thought process of three thousand years ago?  Will I be able to appreciate how important the promised land of Israel was to Jewish people?  What role did the exodus from Egypt, the Temple, the exile, and the various codes play in their lives?  I can try, but I doubt if I will be fully successful.

The Writings

The Writings, as they were referred to in the New Testament, were the poetic or wisdom books.  They include the Psalms, some written by David, but mostly ranging from the 10th–4th century BCE, and the Proverbs, ascribed to Solomon, ranging from the 9th century–3rd century BCE, as well as the Book of Job, from the 6th century BCE.  Both the Psalms and Proverbs were written over a period of time, but they each have an author attributed to them, King David to the Psalms, and King Solomon to the ProverbsJob was not an Israelite, but his story was instructive to the Israelites.

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.