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Sunday School Supplements #1
By Kerry A. Shirts
What I will do in these supplements to this years study (2003) of the New Testament is indicate some of the scholarly materials of the scriptures which the Gospel Doctrine lesson manual goes over. This is intended to give insights and ideas which may help in making some good points for the scriptures, and helping us appreciate what they are saying. I cannot pretend to be exhaustive, though I will work with the Greek as well as the Hebrew of the Old Testament as we look in the writings of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Genesis, and other Old Testament books in dealing with what is said from them in the New Testament.
Since the Dead Sea Scrolls are written approximately in this era, I will use them to assist us in gaining more appreciation for ideas from the Jewish side of things, as well as other pertinent archaeological data, as is necessary or desired to include.
My idea here is to help us delve a little deeper and more meaningfully into what the New Testament is saying. I believe this can be done, not only with the words of the prophets, both ancient and modern, but also with the assistance of serious Bible scholarship and research done both by LDS scholars as well as Non-LDS scholars who have given the better part of their lives in understanding the scriptures. I will pick and choose to highlight some areas, but skip over others. As I say, this is meant to be an assistant in helping you perhaps make a stronger point in one area or another in the lessons. It is not meant to be a substitute for the manual. You are certainly welcome to print these off and hand them out as supplements if you so desire. They will be various lengths, but none of them should be too long.
Lesson 1 Jesus the Christ
We are to read Isaiah 61:1-3; JST Luke 3:4-11; John 1:1-14; 20:31.
Isa 61:1-3 is discussing in prophetic language some aspects of Jesus mission when he comes to the earth as a mortal. Jesus refers to this prophecy of Isaiah in Luke 3:4-11. Or at least the one about John the Baptist.
First Isaiah 61:1-3:
1. The Spirit (xwr))) of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed (vx#m) me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2. To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3. To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
In verse 1 the Spirit of the Lord is upon him. This is the Hebrew Ruach which is the equivilant of the Septuagint pneuma "pneuma" which is rendered by the Sufi Master Hazrat Inayat "Spirit [an oversimplified term for light from above] is always fine matter, and matter is always gross spirit." (Ann Williams-Heller. "Kabbalah: Your Path to Inner Freedom," Quest Books, 3rd printing, 1997: 27. Cf. P. 124, "Matter is dense spirit and spirit is fine matter.")
This connects well with what Joseph Smith taught in 1843 "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes." (D&C 131:7).
The Spirit hovering over the waters of creation in Genesis 1:2, the xwr Myhl)/ "Ruach Elohim," is interpreted as the "Wind of God" by some scholars, which always denotes a "materially divine creative power." (William P. Brown, Structure, Role, and Ideology in the Hebrew and Greek Texts of Genesis 1:1-2:3, Society of Biblical Literature series, Doctoral Dissertation, Scholars Press, 1993: 50, footnote 36. Brown also shows that Theophilus used the term "pneuma" materialistically by likening it to water and situating it between heaven and earth. Cleanthes in the Fragments 484, who was the head of the Stoa (263-232 B.C.) seems to have been the first to say that God is defined as pneuma which was always conceived of in a material sense. It was not until we get to Philo who likened pneuma, not only to the air, which was above the waters, but also says pneuma was pure knowledge (akeratos episteme). (Brown p. 49)
Walter Wili shows that the German word Geist goes back to the Indo-Iranian gheizd, whose root ghei means "to move powerfully." Originally it is a motive force. This vital force is what inhabits the soul and anima. Hence it is also understood to be the breath of life. (Walter Wili, "The History of the Spirit in Antiquity," in Joseph Campbell, ed., Spirit and Nature, Princeton University Press, 1954: 77).
He says he was anointed. This Hebrew term Maschach means to smear, anoint, spread a liquid. The idea of giving a blessing involved with liquid is extremely interesting here, according to the ancient scriptures.
Genesis 49:25, Jacobs Patriarchal and deathbed blessings to his twelve sons has an interesting connotation with this:
who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
Notice here the blessings of heaven is thought to be an outpouring of liquid, which is associated in other places with life, that is the seed.
)rwy )wh Mg hwrmw N#dt hkrb #pn
ne|pe-Büräkâ tüduän ûmarwè Gam-hû´ yôre´
The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
Mkl xtp) )l M) tw)bc hwhy rm) t)zb )nynwnxbw
yd ylb d( hkrb Mkl ytqyrhw Mym#h twbr) t)
ûbüHänûºnî nä´ Bäzö´t ´ämar yhwh(´ädönäy) cübä´ôt ´im-lö´ ´epTaH läkem ´ët ´áruBBôt haämaºyim wahárîqötî läkem Büräkâ `ad-Bülî-däy
"prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
Notice how Isaiah equates the blessing with spirit, both of which are poured out.
Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
Notice also this same imagery in the New Testament where we read in Acts 2:33 "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear."
The Greek word for "shed forth" in this verse is ekxew (ekcheo) which means "a pouring forth, to pour out."
At Titus 3:5f, we read the the washing of regeneration is that Which he shed on us abundantly (ou ezexeen ef hmaj) through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
"In anointing a king, the spirit was given by pouring actual liquid representing seed into one who thus becomes a son." (R. B. Onians, The Origins of European Thought, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988: 493. He notes on p. 189 that this anointing is an infusing of life, making a new life, a divine life into the kings, as sons, like Jesus Christ was anointed to be the Son of God).
Knowing this background, we can see how the New Testament authors indicated that the anointing was the idea of Jesus being the Son of God. And a new fragment in the Dead Sea Scrolls is discussed by Dale C. Allison, Jr., as it may very well relate to Jesus baptism! In the Messianic Vision fragment which indicates the heavens and the earth will obey His Messiah, there is also a statement that "over the poor will His Spirit hover and the Faithful will He support with his strength." ( Dale C. Allison, Jr., "The Baptism of Jesus and a New Dead Sea Scroll," in Biblical Archaeology Review, 18/2 (March/April 1992): 58-60). This brings to mind the spirit hovering over the waters in the Genesis Creation account, both it and the baptism of Jesus cold certainly have suggested to the Christians a renewal, a new beginning in the Creation. Baptism was a renewal of life. The dove fluttering over Jesus at his baptism over the waters of the Jordan, could very well have brought out the imagery to the people, that here was a renewal of Creation, washing, and regeneration. (p. 59).
William P. Brown indicates that the Piel participle merahepet is attested only at Deuteronomy 32:11 (al gozalayw yerahep) with the meaning Hover." Pxr Rachaph can mean hover, grow soft, relax, and even resting. (Structure, Role, and Ideology in the Hebrew and Greek Texts of Genesis 1:1-2:3, SBL, 1993: 103. Note he ties in a parallel with the Ugaritic findings which suggests a movement, such as eagles soaring, though not in any particular direction, apparently movement is involved.)
Howard C. Kee makes this emphasis as well in his article "Membership in the Covenant People at Qumran and in the Teaching of Jesus," in James H. Charlesworth, ed., Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Doubleday, 1992: 106 notes that Jesus description to the questioners sent to him from John the Baptist where he tells them the blind see, the lame walk, the dead are raised up, etc., (Luke 7:22) shows He is the Son of Man. This is in fulfillment of the Prophetic hopes of Israel and the coming of Gods agent in establishing the Kingdom. "Jesus is seen here as fulfilling the eschatalogical [that is, things pertaining to the last days, the establishment of Gods Kingdom, etc.] promise of renewal uttered by the prophets." He indicates that this is the amalgamation of the prophecies of Isaiah 29:18-19; 35:5-6; and 61:1. (Footnote 3 on p. 121).
The new light on the Messiah from the Dead Sea Scrolls have proven very interesting. Michael O. Wise, and James D. Tabor, "The Messiah at Qumran," in Biblical Archaeology Review, 18/6 (Nov./Dec. 1992): 60ff, have noted that the "Messianic Apocalypse" (4Q521) approximately dating to 100 B.C. "is astonishingly, quite close to the Christian concept of the Messiah." (p. 60). The text mentions that the heavens and the earth will obey the Messiah. So will the seas and all that is in them. His [the Messianic Priests] wisdom will be great. The Messiah described in this fragment will also heal the wounded and raise the dead! The entire cosmos will be subject unto him (cf. Philippians 2:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28!). Finally, He will resurrect the dead! (p. 61). This is simply breathtaking. Scholars have now shown that in this fragment that it is the power of God which will raise the dead, not necessarily the Messiah himself. Either way, based on our understanding of Jesus, the power is there and clearly involved with Jesus mission. In a fragment from the scrolls (4Q287) we read "The Holy Spirit rested on His Messiah." The antecedent "His" is referring to God. (p. 62). The Day of Salvation is described as "He will lead the Holy Ones" with Isaiah 49:7-11. The fragment goes on to say that He will shepherd them." (p. 63). God also lifts up the oppressed and rewards the faithful. Lines 12-13 then describes the activities that the Bible (Isaiah 49:7-11 and Ezekiel 34:23) associates with the Messiah figure. (p. 63).
John J. Collins, "A Pre-Christian Son of God Among the Dead Sea Scrolls," in Bible Review, 9/3 (June 1993): 34ff, notes that this text has extraordinary parallels to the annunciation scene in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:33-35) including the titles, "Son of God," and "Son of the Most High." (p. 35). The text also says "His Kingdom will be an everlasting Kingdom and all his ways in truth. He will jud[ge] the earth in truth and all will make peace the Great God will be his patron His sovereignty is everlasting sovereignty." (p. 37). As James C. Vanderkam puts it, "This is not simply a matter of one title found in two texts [comparing Luke 1:33-35, with the Son of God fragment in the scrolls] it is an entire context that has striking similarities; the individual in question will be great, son of God (a title found in the Hebrew Bible), son of the Most High (a new title), and his kingdom will be eternal." ("The Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Christianity: What They Share," part 2, Bible Review, 8/1 (February 1992):21).
The LDS scholar, John Tvedtnes, has noted as well that all the elements found in the Dead Sea Scroll fragment (Messianic Apocalypse) are also found in the Book of Mormon! The concept of the heavens and earth listening to (obeying) the Messiah (Messianic Apocalypse 2.1) is reflected in the BofM title for Christ, "the Father of heaven and of earth" (see for example, Helaman 14:12; 16:18) The idea of seeking the Lord (Messianic Apocalypse 2. 3-4) is found in a number of Bible passages (Deuteronomy 4:29; Isaiah 55:6; Acts 17:27). Note especially Isaiah 11:10 (cited in 2 Nephi 21:10) and Malachi 3:1 (cited in 3 Nephi 24:1), which seem to refer to the Messiah. Note also Jesus statement about seeking and finding (Matt 7:7-8), which is repeated to the Nephites (3 Nephi 14:7-8). Of Particular importance is the admonition of Moroni, "and now I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written" (Ether 12:41). Messianic Apocalypse 2. 3-4 ties those who seek the Lord with those "who hope in their heart". Three passages (3 Nephi 9:20; Moroni 7:43-44; 8:26) promise the Holy Ghost to those who approach God with a broken heart, reminding us of a similar promise in Messianic Apocalypse 2.6. In the latter, we read that the Lord will renew the faithful by his strength. This idea is found in Alma 44:3-4; 48:15. See also Alma 50:22. The freeing of the prisoners (Messianic Apocalypse 2.8) is found in Isaiah. 11:9 (cited in 2 Nephi 21:9) and Isaiah. 61:1. (John Tvedtnes, The Most Correct Book, Cornerstone Publishing, 1999: 330-335.)
Amazingly, the "Suffering Servant" idea in the scrolls is brought out in another fragment (4Q451) which says "His word is like a word of heaven, and his teaching is in accordance with the will of God he will atone for all the children of his generation " This, according to Collins, shows he is a priest. (John J. Collins, "The Suffering Servant at Qumran?" in Bible Review, 9/6 (December, 1993): 26).
So as we learn of Jesus in the New Testament, and turn to what the Old Testament says, especially in Isaiah, these insights take on added weight and significance.