The Four Gospels (6 of 6)

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(Continued from yesterday)

iv) His whole ministry starting as a self-proclaimed Prophet (Lk 4:24), reaching a climax by people’s acceptance as the King riding the donkey into Jerusalem, and ending as a High Priest offering Himself.

• Lk 4:24 And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.”

I agree that in general Jesus commenced His ministry with the prophetic role, culminating in people recognizing Him as king in His triumphal entry, and ending with His high priestly role offering Himself as the atoning sacrifice. However, it is important to realize that He held these offices not consecutively but all the time. He did not become king and priest later on. He was king, prophet and priest throughout, even though people may not recognize Him as such.

v) The need for 4 gospels: Matthew (Kingship); Mark (Priesthood, the suffering Messiah who gave up His life as a ransom for many); Luke (Prophethood, the constant emphasis on the gospel by the Son of Man, in particular the massive records of His work outside Galilee in comparison with the other gospels); John (Son of God).

Scholars agree that Matthew’s emphasis is Jesus as King. Of the 14 direct reference to Jesus as son of David, and therefore heir to the throne,

• 9 appear in Matthew (1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:9, 15; 22:42),
• 3 are in Mark (10:47, 48; 12:35), and
• 2 are in Luke (18:38, 39).

Mark’s key verse indeed say He gave His life as a ransom for many. But Mark’s target audience is Gentiles. That’s why he did not include genealogies, Jewish customs and controversies, and fulfillment of OT prophecies. For this reason the consensus is that Mark’s focus is on Jesus coming to serve, His Servanthood, rather than His Priesthood.

• Mk 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

I fail to see the connection between Luke and Prophethood. Of the 80 times “son of Man” appear in the gospels (please refer to your concordance):

• 29 times are in Matthew,
• 13 times are in Mark,
• 26 times in Luke, and
• 12 times in John.

Matthew called Jesus “son of Man” the most, but we’ve already seen that he wrote for the Jews to prove that Jesus is the Messiah and King. The second evangelist to highlight this is Luke, so Jesus as the perfect Man is definitely his focus. He included a lot of details on His humanity not mentioned elsewhere e.g. tracing Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam, his infancy and childhood etc. While Ezekiel the prophet was called “son of man” in the OT, Luke’s emphasis is more on Jesus’ concern for the welfare of all people i.e. His priestly role, than His proclaiming God’s word or prophet role. I therefore do not see Luke as presenting Jesus the Prophet, and the Synoptic Gospels as presenting the threefold offices of Christ.

I have two concluding remarks to make. I commend your efforts in studying the Bible in detail, but the correct method of interpretation is exegesis – drawing the conclusions from the text – and not eisegesis – putting ideas into the text based on presuppositions. The latter reads meaning into the passage which were never intended by the author, and is dangerous.

The second is application. Analyzing the Bible for insights and is intellectually very challenging, but our goal should be how we can apply what we learn to further God’s kingdom, not to satisfy our theological curiosity. To borrow from Paul, “however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Co 14:19). I too would rather speak 5 words to evangelize and disciple, than 10,000 words which do not edify. I hope you don’t mind my speaking the truth in love.

Jesus’ Threefold Office and His Age (5 of 6)

prophet priest king 5

(Continued from yesterday)

iii) the strange 3 references to Jesus’ ages in the bible, e.g. in the temple at 12 debating with the teachers which was very strange in view of so many people attending the temple at that time, there seemed to be little chance for a 12-year-old to debate with the teachers unless He was questioned by these teachers to confirm His adulthood, His waiting until reaching 30 years old to preach (why need to wait so long?), and not reaching 50 (will He see Abraham if He reached 50?):
• Age 0 at birth The visit of the Magi (Kingship)
• Age 12 Confirmation of adulthood (Mishnah Niddah 5:6) so that He could be held responsible for his vows / prophecies (Prophethood)
• Age about 30 (Lk 3:23, & Historically born in 4 BC and commence ministry in AD 27, hence aged 30, crucified 3 years later in AD 30) but not up to 50 (Jn 8:57) to fulfill the 30-50 age requirements of a Priest / High Priest (Num 4:23, 30, 35, 39, 43) (Priesthood)

Again, let’s begin with observation:
• Mt 2:16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.
• Mishnah Niddah 5:6 Regarding a boy of twelve years and one day, his vows are examined [to determine if they are valid]. At thirteen years and one day, his vows stand. And we examine [his vows] for the entire thirteenth [year]. Prior to this time [i.e. eleven years and one day for a girl and twelve years and one day for a boy], even if they said, “We know in whose name we vowed, and in whose name we sanctified,” their vows are not vows and their sanctifications are not sanctified property. After this time, even if they say, “We do not know in whose name we vowed, and in whose name we sanctified,” their vows are vows and their sanctifications are sanctified property.
• Lk 3:23 When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,
• Jn 8:57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
• Num 4:23 from thirty years and upward to fifty years old, you shall number them; all who enter to perform the service to do the work in the tent of meeting. (See also v 30, 35, 39, 43)

I feel connecting the 3 references to Jesus’ age to His 3 offices to be strained. First everyone, king or no king, is age 0 at birth. Jesus was born in a manger (Lk 2:12, 16). When the magi visited the child Jesus and Mary, they were living in a house (Mt 2:11). So commentators deduced that Jesus may have been up to 2 years old by that time (Mt 2:16). To equate birth to kingship is a stretch.

Secondly Mishnah is Jewish oral tradition, and Niddah is Hebrew for a woman during menstruation. The chapter quoted gives the oral tradition for women (and men) at different ages. For a boy, he becomes a “son of commandment” (Bar mitzvah) at age 13. Could the teachers be confirming His adulthood to hold Him responsible for His vows? It’s unlikely given the text said He went to Jerusalem at the Feast of the Passover when He became 12 (Lk 2:42). He was listening to the teachers and asking them questions, and they were amazed at His understanding and His answers (Lk 2:46-47). Asking a person’s age does not take a lot of debating, and He was the one asking, even though He gave answers too. Nothing is mentioned about prophecies, so there is no evidence supporting the incident as prophethood.

Thirdly, we know Jesus began His ministry at about age thirty (Lk 3:23) and was crucified at age 33. Thirty is also the age when priests start serving at the tabernacle or temple. But 50 years old in Jn 8:57 is only an incidental mention in Jesus’ confrontation with the Jews. It has nothing to do with the retirement age of priests. So to correlate this to the Jesus’ priesthood is far-fetched.

(To be continued)

Temptation of Jesus (4 of 6)

prophet priest king 3

(Continued from yesterday)

ii) the 3 temptations by the Tempter: Dominion over the whole land (Kingship) / Turning Stone to Bread (Prophethood c.f. Elijah’s 40 days in the wilderness) / Jumping from the Temple (Priesthood), again somewhat different;

As is our practice, first observe the passages cited:
• Mt 4:8-9 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” (See also Lk 4:5-6)
• 1 Kings 19:6-8 Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.
• Mt 4:5-6a Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down;

While it is natural to link the authority to give all the kingdoms of the world to kingship, the association of bread to prophethood is contrived. In fact, it is easier to connect bread to priesthood, as bread is used in offerings and the bread of the Presence was administered by priests.

Similarly, although temple is mentioned, to tie jumping off the pinnacle of the temple with priesthood is forced. Jerusalem is built on a hill, and the Temple on Mount Moriah (2 Chron 3:1) is the high point of the city. To jump off the pinnacle of the Temple is therefore from the highest point in Jerusalem, and bound to attract lots of attention. With 2 out of 3 associations doubtful, I feel interpreting the temptation of Jesus in terms of His threefold office to be artificial.

(To be continued)

Transfiguration (3 of 6)

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(Continued from yesterday)

But can these threefold roles be further expanded to interpret some other strange passages / events in the gospels? Examples are:

i) the 3 strange God-initiated events of Star of Bethlehem / Transfiguration (with Moses and Elijah the prophets) / Tearing of the Veil of the Temple were visual confirmation of His Kingship / Prophethood / Priesthood. So the interpretation of the Transfiguration will be somewhat different from the traditional view;

Let’s look at the references:
• Mt 2:2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
• Deut 34:10 Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,
• Mk 15:38 And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (See also Mt 27:51; Lk 23:45)

It is obvious that the star is associated with Jewish kingship and the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place is associated with the high priesthood:
• Heb 9:7 but into the second [Holy of Holies], only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.

But while Jesus Himself and some people identified Him as a prophet:
• Mk 6:4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” (See also Mt 13:57; Jn 4:44)
• Mt 21:11 And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” (See also Lk 24:19; Jn 7:40)

and Moses was called a prophet in Deut 34:10, the most common immediate association of Moses is with the Law. So rather than interpret all three of Jesus, Moses and Elijah represent prophets, I believe a more natural reading is to interpret Moses and Elijah as representing the Law and the Prophets, with both testifying for Jesus:

• Lk 24:44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
• Jn 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
• Acts 28:23 When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.

(To be continued)

Prophet, Priest, King (1 of 6)

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I have a friend who studies the Bible in detail. He has some non-traditional interpretations and asked for my opinion. Since his question reflects the fact that he had done a lot of thinking on the subject, I thought it would be best to present his query as is, section by section, then add the comments I have. His question is in italics:

The fulfillment of the threefold messianic roles (king, priest and prophet) by Jesus helps to explain some strange events / records in the gospels, e.g.
a) the necessity of Virgin Birth, so that He could satisfy Zech 6:12-13 by resolving the role conflict of both King and Priest (couldn’t be both descendant of Judah and of Levi; Heb 7:14), through following the order of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4), no fatherly genealogy and no beginning / end (Heb 7:3);

First, let’s observe the verses cited:
• Zech 6:12-13 Then say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”’
• Heb 7:14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests.
• Ps 110:4 The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
• Heb 7:3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.

To clarify the issue, to sit on the throne the Branch must be descended from David (2 Sam 7:16), of the tribe of Judah. To be a Levitical priest He must be descended from Aaron (Ex 28:1), from the tribe of Levi. How can He be descended from two tribes at the same time? Actually to satisfy both requirements all He has to be is to belong to a different priesthood, since Zech 6 did not specify Levitical at all. Priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek, an order higher than Aaron since it is forever, would satisfy that. The Virgin Birth is not necessary if we boil the dilemma down to its irreducible minimum.

(To be continued)