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Let's go and die with him

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  • Joseph Codsi
    [Joseph Codsi] According to my theory, the Kingdom of God Jesus had in mind was a new religious order, which insisted on the spiritual dimension of things, at
    Message 1 of 105 , Apr 15, 2005
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      [Joseph Codsi]

      According to my theory, the Kingdom of God Jesus had in mind was a new
      religious order, which insisted on the spiritual dimension of things, at
      the expense of the legal and ritualistic dimensions.

      [Jeffrey B. Gibson]

      Well, that's hardly "spiritual", is it?

      Dear Jeffrey,

      According to the classical distinction between flesh-and-blood and
      spirit, the abolition of bloody sacrifices and their replacement with
      non-sacrificial rituals represents a passage to a more spiritual form of
      worship.

      As long as the Temple is considered the one and only place where
      sacrificial worship can be conducted, the adoption of more spiritual
      form of worship would render the pilgrimage to Jerusalem obsolete. One
      can worship God anywhere on earth.

      The prophets who have criticized the superstition-like sacrificial
      worship, and insisted on what goes on in the heart and the mind of the
      person, as well as on the requirements of justice, made implicitly the
      same distinction. What is important is not the ritual, but what goes on
      within the worshipper.

      According to my theory, Jesus was in line with this prophetic view, but
      he took it to the extreme: doing without the Temple and the special
      worship that took place in it.

      Now what I am saying here is a theoretical possibility. You are welcome
      to criticize it. But I recognize also that it is up to me to defend it.

      The post-Easter Christian discourse has altered the pre-Easter history
      in many ways. Most of the time we speak of "redactional" alterations,
      which take the form of adding something to the facts. But it is also
      possible to alter the facts by hiding something judged unacceptable. It
      is relatively easy to identify redactional additions to the text. It is
      much more difficult to identify redactional omissions.

      In order to illustrate this point, I will go back to a question that was
      raised a few weeks ago by Ted Weeden (Temple Act not Jerusalem Entry
      caused Jesus' death, March 22, 05). In this post, reference was made to
      Paula Fredriksen's article: <<Gospel Chronologies, the Scene in the
      Temple, and the crucifixion of Jesus>>. Fredriksen writes this:

      << Known in church tradition as the "Cleansing of the Temple," Jesus'
      disruption in the Temple court had long been seen as his protest against
      commerce in the Temple precincts. When scholars held this view, they
      took their cue from the evangelists themselves, who (albeit with
      variations) presented Jesus as protesting against such activity.>>

      After quoting Mark 11:15-18 and John 2:13-16 (Jesus action in the
      Temple), she goes on saying:

      << It was Sanders, in "Jesus and Judaism", who did most to dissolve this
      earlier reading. He did so by pointing out that it made no historical
      sense. The function of the Temple -- as indeed, of any ancient temple --
      was to serve as a place to offer sacrifices. Money changing and the
      provision of suitable offerings were part of the support services
      offered at the Temple to accommodate pilgrims. Did Jesus then mean to
      repudiate Temple sacrifice itself? That would have made him virtually
      unique among his contemporaries, whether Jewish or pagan: in antiquity,
      worship involved offerings. It also would have been tantamount to
      rejecting the better part of the five books of Torah, wherein God had
      revealed the protocols and purposes of these sacrifices to Israel. If
      Jesus targeted not the sacrifices but the support services facilitating
      them, his gesture would have lacked practical significance. If he were
      targeting not the support services but some sort of priestly malfeasance
      that might have stood behind them, no trace of this protest remains
      either in the gospels (nothing of the sort figures in the accusations
      against Jesus brought at his "trials") or in later Christian tradition
      (Paul, for instance, says nothing of the sort). And finally, on either
      reconstruction, Jesus would have failed utterly to communicate his
      message to his earliest followers, who after his death continued, on the
      evidence, to live in Jerusalem, to worship at the Temple, and to revere
      the Temple and its cult as a unique privilege granted by God to
      Israel.>>

      Fredriksen raises the question: << Did Jesus then mean to repudiate
      Temple sacrifice itself? >> But she dismisses it immediately. I think
      that what Jesus did can very well be read in this fashion. The problem
      is that there is a discrepancy between what Jesus did and the
      explanation he is supposed to have done of it. So I think that it is
      quite possible that Jesus' action is reported correctly, but that his
      explanation was not.

      Mark's text speaks as if Jesus had used his violent action to illustrate
      the doctrine he explained immediately after to the Temple audience. The
      doctrine could have been an announcement of the end of Temple worship
      and sacrificial offering.

      I agree with Sanders and Fredriksen that "If Jesus targeted not the
      sacrifices but the support services facilitating them, his gesture would
      have lacked practical significance." But I disagree with both of them,
      when they adopt the following explanation:

      << By overturning the tables, said Sanders, Jesus symbolically
      proclaimed the Temple's impending destruction, to be succeeded by its
      rebuilding, and the establishment of God's kingdom. The content of
      Jesus' prophecy cohered with and reaffirmed the message of his mission:
      the Kingdom was at hand.>>

      The destruction of the Temple and its rebuilding is linked to the
      peculiar Johannine reading: Temple = Jesus' body. This is a post-Easter
      notion that cannot be attributed to the historical Jesus. So I find
      Sanders' explanation unacceptable.

      Can you think of a better explanation?

      Peace,
      Joseph
      ================
      Joseph Codsi
      P.O. Box 116-2088
      Beirut, Lebanon
      Telephone (961) 1 423 145
      joseph5@...
    • Richard H. Anderson
      Liz, I assume you mean the url for the journal which I posted this am Xtalk member, Lisbeth S. Fried s, new book is now available, The Priest and the Great
      Message 105 of 105 , Dec 2, 2005
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        Liz,

        I assume you mean the url for the journal which I posted this am

        Xtalk member, Lisbeth S. Fried's, new book is now available, The Priest and
        the Great King: Temple-Palace Relations in the Persian Empire, together with
        this review in Denver Journal.
        http://www.denverseminary.edu/dj/articles2005/0100/0109.php

        Richard H. Anderson
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