The prophecy about parables (Mt 13:35-13:35)

“This was to fulfill

What had been spoken

By the prophet.

‘I will open my mouth

To speak in parables.

I will proclaim

What has been hidden

From the foundation

Of the world.’”

 

ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος Ἀνοίξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὸ στόμα μου, ἐρεύξομαι κεκρυμμένα ἀπὸ καταβολῆς.

 

Matthew uniquely cited this prophecy from the Psalms, Psalm 78:2, where the psalmist Asaph explained the teachings from long ago.  Jesus was going to open his mouth in parables about the old-fashioned sayings, like the wisdom writers.  These sayings had been passed on from his ancestors, showing the great deeds of Yahweh that he had done for Israel.  Jesus, via Matthew, justified or fulfilled (ὅπως πληρωθῇ) what the prophet Asaph in the psalms had said (τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος) about the use of parables.  He would open his mouth in parables (Ἀνοίξω ἐν παραβολαῖς τὸ στόμα μου) to proclaim the hidden mysteries from the foundations of the earth (ἐρεύξομαι κεκρυμμένα ἀπὸ καταβολῆς).  The parables were a way of conveying wisdom, with only the initiated able to understand them.

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Love your enemy (Mt 5:43-5:44)

“You have heard

That it was said.

‘You shall love

Your neighbor!

You shall hate

Your enemy!’

But I say to you.

Love your enemies!

Pray for those

Who persecute you!’”

 

Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου.

ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς·

 

Luke has something similar to this in chapter 6:33, but Matthew is more forceful here.  Once again, Matthew begins by asking them to recall what they have heard said (Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη) about loving their neighbors (Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου), based on the holiness code in Leviticus, chapter 19:18.  However, the next phrase, about hating your enemies (καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου), cannot be found in any Hebrew biblical texts.  However, the reading of the psalms, and the general attitude prior to the exile indicates that the Israelites did not generally wish well on their enemies.  They often asked Yahweh to come and destroy their enemies.  Hate was not encouraged, it was just there.  Then Matthew has this solemn strong announcement from Jesus (ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν), without ambiguity.  They were to love their enemies (ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν) and even pray for those who were persecuting them (καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς).  Perhaps, many of the followers of Jesus at the time of Matthew’s writing were actually being persecuted.  In fact, the Byzantine text added here a couple of phrases to elaborate on this.  These followers of Jesus were asked to bless those cursing them (εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς).  They were to do good to those who were spitefully accusing them, hating them, and persecuting them (καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς, καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς, καὶ διωκόντων ὑμᾶς).  These early Christians were asked to be generous to their enemies and persecutors.

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 Almighty Holy One (Hab 3:3-3:3)

“Elohim,

The Almighty One,

Came from Teman.

The Holy One

Came from Mount Paran.”

            Selah

Habakkuk has a series of names for Yahweh.  He was called Elohim, the Almighty One, and the Holy One.  This Almighty One was coming from Teman in Edom, the territory south of Judah.  Paran was a mountain in Edom.  Thus, Yahweh was going to enter Judah from the south.  Like in many of the psalms, there is an indication for a pause with the Selah.

The prayer of Habakkuk (Hab 3:1-3:1)

“A prayer

Of Habakkuk,

The prophet,

According to Shigionoth.”

This last chapter is clearly a prayer or hymn of Habakkuk the prophet.  Like the psalms attributed to David, it may not have been written by him, but inspired by Habakkuk.  They were to sing this using the melody of Shigionoth or a lamentation.  Thus, this hymn or prayer may have been used in their worship services.

The Greek introduction

“It happened

After the captivity

Of Israel,

After the destruction

Of Jerusalem

The prophet Jeremiah

Cried.

He offered

This lamentation

Over Jerusalem.”

Most of the conjecture about the author of this book comes from this introductory title to the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible. It clearly states that this work takes place after the captivity of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem. It explicitly says that Jeremiah was the one crying as he offered this lamentation over Jerusalem. Although this introduction was not in the original Hebrew text, the Greek translators believed that Jeremiah was the author. However, the style is not like Jeremiah. The style is a Hebrew acrostic poem that has each verse starts with a different sequential consonant of the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet. There were other acrostic works, especially the psalms, with the most prominent being Psalm 119.

The search for wisdom (Eccl 7:23-7:25)

“All this I have tested by wisdom.

I said.

‘I will be wise.’

But it was far from me.

It is far off.

It is deep.

It is very deep.

Who can find it out?

I turned my mind to know it.

I turned my mind to search it out.

I turned to seek wisdom.

I turned to seek the sum of things.

I know that wickedness is folly.

I know that foolishness is madness.”

Qoheleth was tested by wisdom. He wanted to be wise, but it was far away and too deep for him. He wanted to know who was able to find wisdom. Unlike the psalms, where the beginning of wisdom was simply fear of Yahweh, Qoheleth has a hard time finding wisdom, since he does not make the connection here with the fear of God. He wanted to know about wisdom and calculations. He knew that wickedness and foolishness were folly and madness.