Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”(Matt. 2:22b, 23) Matthew’s formula of prophetic fulfillment is used here again to add yet another piece of the messianic puzzle? Obviously the “he” here is a messianic reference but what is a “Nazarene” and which prophets refer to the coming Messianic figure as a “Nazarene”? Matthew’s account, uses the common Semitic word play to link the village of Nazareth to “Nazarene”. According to the majority of scholarship Nazareth was not a village during the prophetic era and some hold that it was not in existence during the first century CE.

Nazareth Village Synagogue Replica

nazareth syn

The prophets are quiet on this subject and in fact nearly silent. No Hebrew prophet overtly states the Messiah will be from Nazareth as Nazareth is not even mentioned in the Tanakh. In fact when Herod asked the elite of Jewish scholarship where the Messiah would be born they quote the prophet Micah; “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

The gospel tradition has Mary and Joseph hailing from Nazareth where Jesus would have been raised. However many scholars argue Nazareth did not exist in Jesus’ time. They point to the lack of archeological evidence of a first century synagogue as recorded in Luke. Others hold to the idea that it was a small community removed from the bustle of the more metropolitan Tsippori a few miles away. The architecture of Tsippori was simply amazing and the demand for skilled craftsmen would have been significant. The gospels use the word τέκτων to describe Jesus’ occupation in Mark 6:3. This word is the common translator of חָרָשׁ in the Hebrew Scriptures. This word carries the idea, as does its Greek translator, of a skilled craftsman, and is translated, carpenter, engraver, workman, craftsman, cutter, etc. depending on the context and accompanying terms. (In the Septuagint, LXX, the 3rd century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, τέκτων is used to translate חָרָשׁ). It seems reasonable that a devout Jewish family with such skills would live within commuting distance where their trade was in demand. Why not live in Tsippori? Because Tsippori was thoroughly Romanized and Hellenized. It seems therefore likely that Nazareth, though a small community would have its own synagogue since a Sabbath day’s journey is approximately 1,000 yards. So where does this idea of a Nazarene originate and where are the remains of that first century synagogue? Some speculate the remains may lie under the mosque in modern day Nazareth. Many building materials from previous structures were carried off and used on newer structures.

Perhaps the prophetic reference is far more subtle and we must listen to the prophets more carefully. A common method of referencing a particular person was to name their home town in conjunction with their name. For example Paul was originally known as ‘Saul of Tarsus’. A wealthy man who claimed the body of Jesus for burial was known as Joseph of Aramithea. Several times in the gospels and in Acts, Jesus is known as Jesus of Nazareth regardless of his village of birth, Bethlehem. Certainly it was a common practice to dedicate the first born son to the Lord for service and enter in to a vow much like Samuel and Samson. More notably is it that they were both sons born in somewhat miraculous or divine circumstances. Both were judges. Samuel was a prophet that altered the course of Israel’s history Luke appears to describe John the Baptizer as though he was under a Nazirite vow. (Luke 1:15). We know Paul took a vow while on mission in Asia minor, (Acts 18:18 ) as well as other Jewish believers, (Acts 21:23). Perhaps a more careful examination of the text (GNT- Greek New Testament) will unveil the mystery of the passage. However the GNT scarcely retains Semitic word play. If, however, there is a word play here it is not apparent in the GNT.

 καὶ ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρὲτ, ὅπως πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν, Ὅτι Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται

Scholars scarcely arrive at a consensus in regard to a great number of topics but they generally agree that Jesus of Nazareth’s mother tongue was not Greek. Clearly Ναζαρὲτ is a transliteration of נְצָרֶת , Nazareth but is Ναζωραῖοςa transliteration of נָצְרִי (notsri) or נְזִיר (n’zir); Nazarene or Nazirite? Is this someone who lives an aesthetic lifestyle or one who hails from Nazareth? Some scholars believe this to be a circumlocution made by subsequent editors. So it would go something like ”Jesus the Nazirite hailed from a small remote community, later to be known as Nazareth”. This seems unlikely since Jesus references a rumor that John the Baptist did not come “eating and drinking” as opposed to him who did so with “sinners and tax collectors”. (Matt. 11:18,19 ) It seems unlikely that both could be considered to have taken a Nazirite vow living in such different lives.

So linguistically how does one differentiate between a Nazirite and a Nazarene? Before we delve into that let’s consider the languages that are underlying the Greek text of the New Testament. (GNT) It is commonly known that first century Galileans would not have communicated with each other in the Greek language for a variety of reasons. Resistance to Hellenization would not have been the least. However we have the Holy Scripture of the New Testament (NT) passed down to us in Greek. We also know that Semitic word play is apparent in the NT but absent from the GNT as in Matthew1:21. The word play is found in retranslating from Greek back into Hebrew or Aramaic. (Or as some argue Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, a Hebraic version of Aramaic) Let’s look at Matt.1:21

 τέξεται δὲ υἱὸν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὑτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν αὐτῶν

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” NIV

The Peshitta is Ancient Church of the East’s Holy Scripture written in Aramaic.

תאלד דין ברא ותקרא שמה ישוע הו גר נחיוהי לעמה מן חטהיהון

Talad deyn bara w’t’kre shmo Yeshua, hu gar n’khyohy la’amo min kh’tahyhun.

The Hebrew retranslation reveals the underlying word play:

וְהִיא יֹלֶדֶת בֵּן וְקָרָאתָ אֶת־שְׁמוֹ יֵשׁוּעַ כִּי הוּא יוֹשִׁיעַ אֶת־עַמּו מֵחַטֹּאתֵיהֶם

Allow me to “Anglicize” this in a hybrid transliteration, ‘and she will bear a son will call his name Jesus (Yeshua) for he will save (yoshia) his people from their sins.’

An effective Hebraic method of attaching significance to the person and title is to employ a word play with their name. The meaning of the name said something of their character and when names were changed the metamorphosis in the person’s life would be revealed sometime later. Patriarchs’ names were changed in reflection of these idiomatic word plays. For example Abram, “high father”, became Abraham, “father of a multitude”. (Genesis 17:5 ) However only in Hebrew is the word play effective in Matthew 1:21.

Likewise in Matthew 2:23 the word play works only in Hebrew. It is noteworthy at this juncture to recall that Papias had allegedly stated the original Gospel was penned by Matthew in Hebrew “and others translated as they were able”. So then one would not rule out the possibility of another Hebraic word play on a prophetic reference. We should keep in mind the Greek letter ‘zeta’ is used to transliterate both Hebrew letters ‘tsade’ and ‘zayin’. This is where Nazirite could be confused with a Nazarene. In Hebrew Nazareth (Netseret) is spelled with a ‘tsade’ as is Nazarene (notsri) where as a ‘zayin’ is used to spell Nazirite (N’zir). The issue is that Greek at times transliterates the Hebrew word Nazirite very literally in the LXX as in Judges 13:5, nazir, nazir. However the GNT in this Matthew 2:23 passage reads nazwraiosnazoraios. Context also indicates ‘nazoraios’, is to be linked with the village. However the prophetic reference is still hidden. One must consider the Hebrew undertone to discern the subtle reference.

Let’s consider Isaiah’s prophecy:

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”(Isaiah 11:1)

וְיָצָא חֹטֶר מִגֵּזַע יִשָׁי; וְנֵצֶר, מִשָּׁרָשָׁיו יִפְרֶה

This passage has messianic overtones as is evident in the context. The term ”netser” נֵצֶר  (branch, shoot, offspring) is translated “Branch” here. The root of this word is נצר (natsar) meaning to protect, to guard, to keep, and is most certainly the root word of Nazareth (Netseret). It seems likely, given this information, the Isaiah prophecy is the messianic reference in Matthew 2:23. As to the plural reference, “prophets” one may ask, why isn’t there another prophet cited? Simply put the Jewish reference to the prophetical writings in general was plural, as in Matt. 5:17. In fact today the Hebrew Scriptures are called Tanakh, This stands for the three parts that comprise the Hebrew Scriptures. Torah (law) Nevyim (prophets) Khetuvim (writings). Hence the acronym TNK, Tanakh. Note Jesus’ reference to these as he esteemed all three parts as inspired in Luke 24:44.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Psalms is one of the books of “ha-ketuvim”, the writings. It is likely that the reference to Psalms is intended to refer to all of the writings.

This addresses the prophetic reference in Matt. 2:23 but what grew out of this Hebraic reference is truly phenomenal. We know that the former Pharisee, Paul, (Saul of Tarsus) was accused of being the leader of a Jewish sect in Acts 24:5

“We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect”

The Jewish hierarchy, opponents of Paul, labels these believers as Nazarenes. The Greek word again nazaraiwn which is the plural genitive form of the word found in Matt. 2:23. Moreover, the Babylonian Talmud, refers to Jesus as “the Nazarene”, ‘yeshu ha-notsri’. (Avoda Zara 17)

Note that it was not Jewish people in mass who were in Caesarea to oppose Paul rather the aristocratic class of priests and Pharisees. It appears that, in their estimation, this upstart sect of Judaism had to be quashed. Though the Sadducees and Pharisees did not agree with each other, they did agree on this. So named after their chief Rabbi these Nazarenes,(נֹצְרִים ,notsrim) would eventually allow Gentiles into their community, without observing the Torah. Disciples of ‘the Nazarene’ became known as Christians in Gentile Syria (Acts 11:26 cristianoi).

It is intriguing in Jeremiah 31:6 “For there will be a day when watchmen on the hills of Ephraim call out, Arise, and let us go up to Zion, To the LORD our God”

כִּי יֶשׁ-יוֹם קָרְאוּ נֹצְרִים בְּהַר אֶפְרָיִם; קוּמו וְנַעֲלֶה צִיּוֹן, אֶל-יְהוָהּ, אֱלֹהֵינו

ּNotice the “watchmen” here are נֹצְרִים “notsrim” the same Hebrew word likely used by the Jewish people in Judea and Galilee to identify Jewish believers. In fact this word in Jeremiah is used over the choice of a more common word for watchmen “shomrim” as used in Isaiah 62:6. Both terms are used to convey the idea of protecting, watching, guarding, and observing. Only one has the idea of being a branch. It is also interesting that the context refers to Ephraim near Mt. Gerazim which becomes the region of Samaria. The Samaritans of the first century certainly would not have been these “watchmen” as they claimed the proper worship must be conducted at Gerazim. Who then are these “notsrim” who say let’s go up to Zion?

Scores of pilgrims ascend to Zion year after year. The Israelis refer to these pilgrims, these Christians, these Nazarenes, in the Hebrew tongue, as “notsrim” So the ancient term “notsrim”, as used by modern Israelis, makes no distinction between Jewish or Gentile followers of Jesus. They have come home to the root. These “notsrim” are so called after the name of their Rabbi, whether natural branches from the root or un-natural branches which were grafted in. For those who are wild engrafted branches, Saul of Tarsus wrote in Romans 11:16b “…if the root is holy, so are the branches”.

In recent years the tide of affection in the Christian community has turned to favor the Jewish community and the nation of Israel. Jewish people have no greater friend than Christians. Are these pilgrims who ascend to Mt. Zion fulfilling some aspect of Jeremiah’s prophecy?

Typos, thoughts, comments? Please let me know how I can improve.

Thanks

James McCaw

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Introduction

For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:27[1]Image

The “Son of Man” expression has sparked considerable controversy over the centuries without resolution. Several points of contention surround the debate, not the least of which is Jesus’ use of the expression as a Messianic appellation in the Mount Olivet discourse and his trial before the supreme council. Some contend there was no original Messianic understanding in his “Son of Man” sayings and only a hand-full were authentic.[2] Some argue the authentic sayings are those in which Jesus spoke of his eschatological mission.[3] Indeed, others agree the “Son of Man” figure is Messianic but this does not preclude a divine origin and in fact pre-supposes a human origin.[4] The linguistic background for the phrase also sparks additional controversy and reignites the debate regarding the language Jesus spoke. The idiomatic expression, “ben adam” (“בֶּן־אָדָם”) is common in the Hebrew Scriptures:

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?’  (Nu. 23:19 NASB).

This poetic expression demonstrates idiomatic use of “son of man” in the Hebrew Scriptures referring to a “human being”.[5]  Additional issues arise considering the apocalyptic text from Daniel is in Aramaic:[6]

“I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.” (Dn. 7:13)

Aside of the authentic sayings, Jesus’ self identification, and linguistic issues of this debate, Jewish Apocalyptic literature offers additional understanding of the expression as its influence is seen in the New Testament.[7] In Jewish Apocalyptic literature and apocalyptic sections of the Hebrew Scriptures, as in Daniel 7, the “Son of Man” expression is clearly to be distinguished from normal idiomatic use.[8]  Also since Jesus’ taught as a Jewish sage our study would not be complete without considering rabbinical tradition. A brief analysis of the “Son of Man” occurrences will reveal the distinction which is to be made between various genres and styles and the unique development of the “Son of Man” expression during the inter-testamental period. The scope of this study is intended to be brief therefore only a few texts from the Hebrew Scriptures, Jewish apocalyptic literature, rabbinic literature, and the New Testament will be addressed.  The “Son of Man” will be referred to as SM for the sake of brevity.

Analysis

Although the poetic parallelism, from Num. 23, is from a manual of instruction[9] an example from the prophets also demonstrates idiomatic use:

“Her cities have become an object of horror, A parched land and a desert, A land in which no man lives And through which no son of man passes. (Jer. 51:43)

In this example from the prophets SM is Semitic idiom referring to the previous stanza. However, as we will see in Ezekiel, a significant shift from third to second person occurs. Ezekiel’s prophecy sits at the cross roads between the prophetic foretelling and apocalyptic unveiling of the divine sphere as the Lord sets a new task for him to prophesy to the exiles in Babylon:

“Then He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day.” (Ez. 2:3).

Most hold the view that SM in Ezekiel refers to him as representative Israel.[10]  Others develop the idea Ezekiel is not only the representation of Israel but that Israel is the representation of mankind upon the earth and therefore he is representative “man”.[11] Chrys Caragounis rightly notes SM in Ezekiel is not only a title but a function which has been seized upon by Jewish Apocalyptic literature and by Jesus himself.[12] Additionally Ezekiel’s vision of the departed throne as it ascends from earth into the heavens is an anthropomorphic description of the divine as the figure is described as having a “human appearance”:

And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. (Ez. 1:26, ESV)

Some believe this text and the SM appellations in Ezekiel inspired the shift from idiom to the distinct eschatological figure found in Daniel:[13]

“I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.” (Dn. 7:13)

In contrast the SM figure in Daniel is eschatological whereas in Ezekiel it refers to his role as representative Israel, as we have seen above. None the less for Daniel the figure is only “like” a SM which then cannot be taken idiomatically.[14] Some have argued then it does not follow as a messianic title or necessitate SM serves a redeeming role as he is not the representative of a special people or kingdom but an eschatological dominion conferred to him by God.[15] Others see the SM, in Daniel 7, as indeed being representative of the community of Israel, much like Ezekiel.[16] Others rightly claim SM in Daniel 7 is the King Messiah who stands in sharp contrast to the previous creature kingdoms earlier in the chapter.[17]

This is a theme taken up by Jewish Apocalyptic literature such as the “Book of Enoch” dated c. 250 BCE.[18]  The “Book of Parables”, Enoch 37-71, while relying on Daniel and Ezekiel, applies the SM expression to a being approaching the timeless one who, in his generation, reveals the secret treasures of God.[19]

At that place I saw the One to whom belongs time before time, And His head was white like wool, And with Him was another individual whose face was like that of a human being, And his countenance was full of grace, like that of  one of the holy angels. And I asked the one from among the angels, who was going with me and who had revealed to me all the secrets, regarding the one who was born of human beings, who is this, and from whence is he, who is going as the prototype of the Before-Time? And he answered and said unto me: This is the son of Man who belongs righteousness with whom righteousness dwells, And will open all the hidden storerooms” (En.46:1-2).

Enoch is an interpretational work as witnessed in Enoch 6 where the author is explaining the events of Genesis 6 regarding the “sons of God and daughters of men”. Here the author is interpreting Daniel 7 as the “secrets” of the SM are revealed by the celestial being. Some do not see the SM figure in Enoch as a messianic title.[20] However it is clearly the author’s intention to interpret the SM as a Messianic figure and to assign that title to Enoch, (cf. En. 70).[21] Also consider Enoch 48:2-3:

At that hour the Son of Man was given a name in the presence of the Lord of Spirits, the Before Time. Even before the creation of the sun and moon before the creation of the stars he was given a name before the presence of the Lord of Spirits.

This certainly supports the rabbinic belief the name of Messiah was created during the creation of the world.[22] Taking these issues into account we can be certain the author of the “Book of Parables” identifies the SM in Daniel as Messiah. Yet he could be pointing to the fact that he is more than Messiah. The author continues in the “Book of Parables”  explaining Enoch’s disappearance via his translation into the heavens (cf. Gn. 5:24). Though he had a human genealogy he became a celestial figure, highly exalted over all and assumed various roles including eschatological judge:

He placed the Elect One on the throne of glory and he shall judge all of the works of the holy ones in heaven above weighing the balance of their deeds,” (En. 61:8).

This understanding of Enoch may have led to the rejection of the SM expression as apocalyptic works were rejected by the sages for being overly esoteric.[23] Additionally the SM material comes too close to equating humanity with God which is why R. Aqiva attempted a gloss on Dn. 7:9:

Now, that is satisfactory for all [the other verses], but how explain Till thrones were placed? — One [throne] was for Himself and one for David. Even as it has been taught: One was for Himself and one for David: this is R. Akiba’s view. R. Jose protested to him: Akiba, how long will thou profane the Shechinah?[24]

Some have assigned a later date to Enoch’s “Book of Parables” as this section is missing from Qumran, while all others are represented, and may therefore be a result of Christian interpolation. [25]  However Matthew Black postulated, since only five percent of Enoch is found at Qumran, the argument of silence cannot be sustained.[26] Indeed neither was the canonical book of Esther found among the scroll fragments at Qumran which does not necessarily indicate the community rejected the theology of the book.  Incidentally, among the Dead Sea scroll literature found, not all is necessarily sectarian and therefore may not reflect the views of the community.[27] However among the fragments found at Qumran and somewhat related to the SM expression is the passage quoted in Jude (Jud. 14-15)

“Behold, he will arrive with ten million of the holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, He will destroy the wicked ones, and censure all flesh on account of everything that they have done that which the sinners and the wicked ones committed against him” (En. 1:9).

This demonstrates eschatological influence on various sects of the Jewish community apart from the “Book of Parables”.[28] Also a Pesher on the book of Habakkuk found among the sectarian scrolls, reads in part, “God will execute the judgment of the nations by the hand of His elect[29] Although final judgment is brought to bear in Daniel 7 those who participate are “holy ones”, as in En. 1:9, however in the Pesher above it will be the “elect”. The “Book of Parables” may have had hermeneutical influence as Enoch indicates the “Elect One…will judge the secret things” (En. 49:4). [30]  The “elect” is also Enoch’s favorite term referring to those on whom God will confer his blessing. (En 1:8). As the Qumran community is highly predisposed to predestination the “elect” fits into their sectarian view of themselves.

It has been argued the rabbinical designation for the Messiah is “Son of David” and furthermore post biblical prophecy, for the sages, “was perceived as a threat in part due to social and national radicalism and disdain for “realpolitik” found in apocalyptic Messianism.”[31] However rabbinical literature does refer to the SM:

“R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua b. Levi pointed out a contradiction. It is written, in its time [will the Messiah come], whilst it is also written, I [the Lord] will hasten it!  — if they are worthy, I will hasten it: if not, [he will come] at the due time. R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua opposed two verses: it is written, And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven whilst [elsewhere] it is written, [behold, thy king cometh unto thee … ] lowly, and riding upon an ass! — if they are meritorious, [he will come] with the clouds of heaven;  if not, lowly and riding upon an ass. King Shapur [I] said to Samuel, ‘Ye maintain that the Messiah will come upon an ass: I will rather send him a white horse of mine.  He replied, ‘Have you a hundred-hued steed?”[32] (Bavli Talmud Sanhedrin Tractate 98a).

Indeed the reference occurs in a Messianic section regarding the coming of the anointed one and set parallel to another prophecy regarding the Messiah’s advent:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech. 9:9).

Additionally the tractate refers R. Joshua ben Levi of the school in Tiberius around the first half of the third century which would be well after the Gospels were circulated.[33] In an earlier tractate, possibly a polemic against Christians, there is another reference to the SM:[34]

“ R. Nahman said to R. Isaac: ‘Have you heard when Bar Nafle will come?’ ‘Who is Bar Nafle?’ he asked. ‘Messiah,’ he answered, ‘Do you call Messiah Bar Nafle?”[35] (Bavli Talmud Sanhedrin Tractate 96b)

 

This is a play on words as “nafle” refers to the fallen tent of David in the prophecy of Amos:

In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins And rebuild it as in the days of old; (Am. 9:11).

“The fallen,” “nofelet,” sounds much like the Greek word for “cloud,” “nefelon,” in the Septuagint of Daniel 7:13 and the Greek New Testament; certainly it was in use by Hellenistic Jewish believers.[36]

None the less this also is in a Messianic section and demonstrates a long-held belief in SM theology among the community of believers.

Therefore it is necessary to briefly consider the linguistic background to the SM reference in Daniel as it seems to be the primary source for this title in Jewish Apocalyptic writings. Some assume, a priori, Jesus’ spoken language was Jewish Palestinian Aramaic and therefore used it exclusively as an idiomatic circumlocution for himself.[37] Additionally some have postulated the SM is not a title but an error that grew out of a Greek translation of a theoretical original Aramaic source, “Q”.[38]  However others have challenged the a priori position that Jesus’ primary spoken language was Aramaic.[39]

There is strong evidence that Hebrew was a spoken language in first century Judea as evidenced by the sectarian writings of the Qumran community.[40] Hebrew correspondence found dating to the second century, known as the “Bar Kochva” letters, also lends support to this premise.[41] The Hebrew expression “son of Man” is equivalent to the Aramaic as they are similar Semitic languages and the idiomatic meaning remains unchanged. Aramaic was the language of official business for the region but not necessarily the sacred language.[42] Some have hypothesized Jesus normally spoke and taught in Hebrew but made use of the Aramaic expression from Daniel 7 to remove any ambiguity of his Messianic claim.[43]

However Brad Young contends there are times when the idiomatic Hebrew expression, taken in its proper context, clarifies the text.[44] For example a somewhat difficult passage is simply explained when the Semitic locution is understood:

Whoever speaks a word against a man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt. 2:32).

Young observes the Holy Spirit is a circumlocution, referring to the divine presence. In fact the ambiguity of the Hebraic phrase conceals his Messianic mission to those outside the community as he was not in a hurry to reveal his identity until the proper time. (cf. Matt. 16:20).

However in Jesus’ eschatological discourse the time had arrived for his revelation. In Matthew the “coming” of the SM is described appropriately by the Greek word “parousia”.  This word appears only in Matthew among the gospels, and is used strategically to portray the arrival of a divine being.[45]

The disciples came to him on the Mount of Olives after he prophesied the temple’s destruction:

“As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?

This is the ideal setting for the SM prophecy. Romans occupied the land and kept the Pax Romana with extreme diligence and swift execution while enforcing tax collection. The zealots and Essenes believed the Kingdom of Heaven was eschatological and coincided with the coming of King Messiah.[46] Although the Essenes were generally passive the zealots were determined the Kingdom would be brought about with armed resistance.[47] The Pharisaical sages understood the Kingdom would be revealed in their teaching.[48] Jesus goes on to describe the decline and terrible events which are to take place prior to his arrival. How disheartening for a down-trodden community, as if conditions weren’t bad enough,  justice will only come after more tribulation in an unjust world. All of these various factions awaited the King and the Kingdom to which Jesus concludes his response to their question:

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” (Matt. 24:30).

The sign of his coming is in fact his arrival on a chariot of clouds. It will be sudden and without warning, unexpectedly he appears for all to witness.[49] Gundry notes the SM in Matthew is on the clouds whereas the Aramaic of Daniel is with the clouds.[50]

Indeed Keil identifies the clouds as an allusion to the divine chariot throne:[51]

“He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters; He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind” (Ps. 104:3)

Therefore though the SM figure is representative of mankind he is more than human, like the divine “prototype” in Enoch’s “Book of Parables”. Jesus is using a “word picture” here “capturing the imagination” of a people awaiting deliverance.[52] Also in the Matthean apocalypse a favorite term of Enoch re-appears, namely “the elect”:

Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matt. 24:22).

As Young has noted SM is a term pregnant with meaning which refers to the eschatological judge from Daniel 7 but also taken idiomatically as representative man for Israel as the Suffering servant of Isaiah 53.[53]

Finally in this apocalyptic discourse, as Nickelsberg has correctly noted, a parallel may be drawn between “the days of Noah” and the typology of Enoch’s times.[54] Those who are familiar with Enoch would certainly recall the imagery of the evil times and the judgment described. They would immediately connect the dots between the SM and the Anointed one.

During his trial authorities interrogated Jesus in regard to his Messianic claim. Making claim to Messianic identity is a claim to be King of the Jews, and as such would be sedition against Rome and deserve crucifixion.[55] Jesus response however is clear:

Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matt. 26:63)

Bivin notes while using circumlocution for the divine he also applies two Messianic prophecies from Daniel 7, previously quoted, and Psalm 110:1[56]: “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’.” He is saying, you use the word Messiah but I am the one of Daniel 7 and Psalm 110. Buth correctly notes, certainly in this SM occurrence, he is not referring to his humanity but his heavenly origin.[57]

Jesus avoids their entrapment while defining his mission but in effect he shared glory which belongs to God alone.[58] His response is an affront to those on supreme council, bringing about an immediate verdict of blasphemy. If Jesus were to quote the Aramaic phrase in his response at the trial and during the Olivet discourse his self designation as Messiah, eschatological judge, suffering servant, and reigning King would seem to be all the more poignant.

Conclusion

As we have seen the “Son of Man” expression in the Hebrew Scriptures generally reflects Semitic idiom but a change occurs initially inspired by Ezekiel as the representative man of Israel. Daniel seems to pick up on this representative role of the SM and the human likeness of the one on the throne in Ezekiel 1:26. Daniel describes the SM, as a superhuman king in stark contrast to the creature kingdoms that precede him. Enoch’s “Book of Parables” interprets SM not only as King Messiah but eternal judge. There are hints of Enoch in the “little apocalypse” of the synoptic gospels, especially Matthew. For example the “elect” and “days of Noah”, not to mention the developed SM eschatology, are all themes from Enoch. Although, the Parables section was not found at Qumran there is a connection in regard to Enoch’s “Elect One”, who is the “Righteous one” corresponding to the “Righteous teacher” of the “community” who are the “elect”. Jesus seizes upon this imagery to develop “word pictures” which his audience is able to identify.

The SM is the eschatological King Messiah who will return and claim his throne and judge everyone as he is a qualified representative human and yet more than human. Dwight Pryor has also shared information germane to the discussion regarding the benediction at the conclusion to partaking of “the Lord’s supper” from”Didache”16:17.[59]

“Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven”

Pryor explains after the meal the congregation would exclaim “Maranatha”[60] which is the English transliteration of the Greek transliteration of an Aramaic term.[61] However the Greek form is ambiguous and demonstrates the tension we have seen in the preceding pages. Jesus has established his reign and will come to receive his kingdom as in Daniel 7. The term can mean both, “our Lord has come” and “our Lord come” It echoes the longing in Revelation 20:22, “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. “Maranatha”!


[1] Unless otherwise indicated all Biblical references are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995)

[2] Barnabas Lindars, Jesus Son of Man, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 158. Lindars sees few authentic SM sayings and places most on early redactors and authors.

[3] Ibid, 173.

[4] Carsetn Colpe, “ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol.VIII, transl. Geoffery W. Bromiley, ed. Gerhard Frederich, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972) 423.

[5] H. Haag, “בֶּן־אָדָם,” The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, vol. 2 eds.G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 159.

[6] “Son of Man” here is “bar enash”, “בַר אֱנָשׁ”.

[7] Jude 14 quotes Enoch.

[8] Randall Buth, Jesus’ Most Important Title, Jerusalem Perspective, jerusalemperspective.com/2471, (March 01, 1990). Buth explains generally ‘son of man’ is Semitic idiom for, ‘someone’, ‘a man’ but usually without the definite article in the Greek gospels as with definite article may be taken as “a certain man”.

[9] R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 495.

[10] Chrys C. Caragounis, The Son of Man Vision and Interpretation, (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1986), 60. Also Colpe, 421.

[11] R. Moshe Eisemann, “Yechezkel/Ezekiel A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic Sources. 3rd ed. Complete Three Volumes in One,” The Art Scroll Tanach Series, eds. R. Nosson Scherman and R. Meir Zlotowit, (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, Ltd. 1988), xxxii.He spends considerable time developing the idea of Israel’s representation of mankind thus revealing is mission is earthly and not heavenly. Ref. Tan.d’Bei Eliyahu 6, Yezchiel is son of man, son of Israel. Also cf. Ez. 34:31 as “אָדָם” is translated “men” Eisemann continues with the idea Israel is the seed of Adam, “אָדָם” , which must be preserved and therefore cannot assimilate into that culture. Assimilation would mean annihilation and the seed of man would be lost.

[12] Caragounis, 60.

[13] Ibid, 76. He believes Dan. 7 is inspired by Ezekiel’s “דְּמוּת כְּמַרְאֵה אָדָם” of 1:26, ”likeness with a human appearance” Additionally Ezekiel lays the groundwork for describing likenesses of living creatures found in Apocalyptic such as Daniel 7.

[14] Ibid, 77.

[15] Colpe, 421.

[16] David Flusser, The Jewish Sages and Their Literature, Judaism of the Second Temple Period, vol. 2, (Hebrew University Magnes Press: Jerusalem. 2009), 262.

[17] R. Hersch  Goldwurm, “Daniel A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic, and Rabbinic Sources,” 2nd Ed, The ArtScroll Tanakh Series, eds. R. Nosson Scherman and R. Meir Zlotowitz, (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, Ltd. 1988), 206. and C.F. Keil, “Ezekiel, Daniel. Part 1.” Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes. vol. 9. trans. James Martin, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), 274. Keil references Jn. 1:51.

[18] Brad Young, Lecture notes from GBIB 774, Jewish Apocalyptic Literature, Oral Roberts University Graduate School of Theology, (August, 22, 2012). Young dates Enoch circa mid to late third century BCE.

[19] Flusser, The Jewish Sages, 262.

[20] Colpe, 423.

[21]Enoch, trans. E. Isaac, “Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol.1, Editor James H. Charlesworth, (Peabody, Ma: Hendrickson Publishers. 1983), 9. He is also depicted as the Righteous One in the “book of watchers” both are Messianic.

[22] Flusser, The Jewish Sages, 263. He does not cite his source as though it is common knowledge. However he does cite Rev1:1 and refers to Paul’s Epistles in reference to Christ existing from the foundations of the world.

[23] Joachim, Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, An Investigation into Economic and Social Conditions During the New Testament Period, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 1969), 239.

[24] Sanhedrin 38b, “Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin,” http://halakhah.com/pdf/nezikin/ Sanhedrin.pdf. This insight is from Flusser, “Jewish Sages”, 266. We recall R. Aqiva supported Bar-Kochva (Bar-Kosiva) as the Messiah son of David in the second century revolt. He was refuted by R. Jose in this broad polemic against the “minim”; Jewish believers in Jesus perhaps.

[25] Caragounis, 3. This is not his view but referring to  J.T. Milik’s French work, “Problems de la literatre Henochique a la lumere de fragments aramens de Qumran” HTR 64, (1971), 333-78.

[26] Ibid. 93. The student could not get access to this journal through the ORU liabrary system. Caragounis references Black’s statement that only 5 percent of Enoch was found at Qumran and therefore takes only chapters 70-71 as being a later addition. (From ET 95 (1984) 201. Caragounis also noted some have stated the parables were added by a Jewish Kabbalistic group. 94.

[27] Young, Brad. Lecture notes from GBIB 774 , Jewish Apocalyptic Literature, Oral Roberts Graduate School of Theology, (October 31, 2012).

[28] Colpe, 473 . Colpe also states tradition; James, the bother of Jude and half brother of Jesus, responded to the supreme council’s interrogation, “what is the door of Jesus”, to which he responded in much the same fashion as Jesus in his trial (cf. Matt. 26;64-66). The “door” is taken to mean the way of salvation. (Esusebius Hist. Ecc. II 23,3-9.)

[29]“ Commentary on Habakkuk,” tran. Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, (London: Penguin Books, 1962), 511.

[30] Nickelsberg, George W.E., Jewish Literature Between the Bible and Mishnah A Historuical and Literary Introduction, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), 222. Nickelsberg also indicates the “Elect One” may be a way to consolidate titles, although he does argue that SM is not a messianic title.

[31] Flusser, The Jewish Sages, 274.

[32]Halakha.com, “Talmud Bavli. Sanhhedrin”  http://halakhah.com/sanhedrin/ sanhedrin_ 98.html. Also quoted from the original Aramaic, “עם ענני שמיא כבר אינש אתה”, MechonMamre.org, “סנהדרין.“ http://mechon-mamre.org/b/l/l4411.htm. Note it is translated with the definite article above.

[33] Jewish Encyclopedia, “Joshua ben Levi,”“http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/ articles/8919-joshua-b-levi.”

[34] Abraham Cohem, Everyman’s Talmud The Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages, (New York: Schocken Books, 1949), 348. Cohen sees the designation only as Messianic and not as a polemic.

[35] Halakha.com, “Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin”, “http://halakhah.com/rst/nezikin/ 34e%20-%20Sanhedrin%20-%2093a-113b.pdf.

[36] Amos 9:11 reads “הַנֹּפֶלֶת”, “ha-nofelet” as the LXX of Dan. 7:13 and Matt. 24:30 read  “νεφελῶν”, “nefelon”. “Bar Nafle’  “ בר נפלי” would then be a polemic, as “son of the fallen” or “son of the clouds”, mocking those who are awaiting “son of man”.

[37] Colpe, 403. and Lindars, 161.

[38] Lindars, 161. He also notes the LXX does not translate with the definite article.

[39] Randall Buth, “Jesus’ Most Important Title,” Jerusalem Perspective, jerusalemperspective.com/2471, (March 01, 1990), David Flusser, The Sage From Galilee, Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 2007), 112.

[40] Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Revised Edition, (London: Pengion Books, 2004), 10. Also Buth, Jesus’.

[41] Buth, Jesus.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid. Buth also states Dr. Robert Lindsey supported this hypothesis. Flusser, Sage, 112. Flusser agrees Jesus taught in Hebrew but emphatically refutes the premise that Jesus used the Aramaic form, “כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ“, “son of Man”.

[44] Brad H Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian, (Peabody, Ma: Hendrickson. 1995), 246.

[45] Walter Bauer, “παρουσία,” A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Christian Literature, trans. W.F. Ardnt, F.W. Gingrich rev. and ed. by F.W. Danker. 3rd Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2000), 780. Used in a special technical sense as a sacred expression for the coming of a hidden divinity who makes their presence know by a revelation of his power or whose presence is celebrated by the cult.

[46] Flusser, The Jewish Sages, 259.

[47] Jeremias, 73.

[48] Flusser, The Jewish Sages, 261.

[49] Ibid, The Jewish Sages, 260.

[50]Robert H. Gundry, Matthew A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 488.

[51] Keil, 235.

[52] Young, 247. Young describes the figure as a “superhuman”. This is my assumption but the term’s ambiguity works to Jesus’ advantage whereas if he were to be using the Aramaic term the reference would be poignant.

[53] Young, 249.

[54] Nickelsberg, 222.

[55] F.F Bruce, The Hard Sayings of Jesus. The Jesus Library.  Ed.Michael Green, (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 247.

[56] David Bivin, New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus, (Holland, Mi.:En Gedi Resource Center, Inc. 2005), 57. Jesus uses the right hand of “power” , ” גברה, as a divine passive out of reverence for the name. Flusser, The Jewish Sages and Their Literature. Flusser also adds Is. 9:6 as “El Gibbor”, “Mighty God” is a variant of “power” in Matt. 26:63.

[57] Buth, Jesus.

[58] Bruce, Hard Sayings of Jesus. 247.

[59] Early Christian Writings, “The Didache”, http://www.earlychristianwritings. com/ text/didache-lightfoot.html”, tran. J.B. Lightfoot, (23 November 2012).

[60] The Greek form is “μαράναθά” 1 Cor. 16:22, of the Aramaic”מרנאתה”  which contains the verb “to come” found in Daniel 7:13.

[61] Dwight D. Pryor “The Coming of the Son of Man”, CD. Center for Judaic Christian Studies. 1999.


Who Crucified Jesus?

Posted: March 21, 2011 in Gospel Language

‘Then two thieves were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.”

Are we to understand thieves were crucified under Roman criminal code? How can we take the New Testament seriously? The citation above is from Matthew 27:38 (KJV). Parallels in the synoptic gospels are Mk 15:27 and Luke 23:33. John’s mention of others crucified with Jesus is found in Jn. 19:18. The Romans reserved crucifixion for insurgents and others who threaten Roman peace. How are we to reconcile the New Testament with Roman law?

Greek words translated thief and robber are κλέπτης and λῃστής. Modern English draws on the Greek word for thief ‘kleptes’ (κλέπτης). Kleptomania, the impulse, to steal, is derived from ‘kleptes’. However this word does not appear in the crucifixion narrative. Matthew and Mark describe the others crucified with Jesus as ‘lestai’ (λῃσταί), translated ‘robbers’ in some translations (NASB, ESV) and ‘rebels’ in another (NIV). Barabbas was obviously more than a ‘thief’ as some translations render ‘lestai’ in Jn. 18:40. Luke describes the two other convicts as ‘kakourgoi’ (κακοῦργοι), ‘evil doers’ the general term for ‘bad guys’.

So what do the two ‘robbers’ have in common with Barabbas that would warrant crucifixion?

In order to understand their crime we note that Barabbas was being held with other ‘rebels’, (στασιαστής) for his part in a recent ‘insurrection’. (Mk 15:7) It appears the other rebels being held were indeed the men crucified with Jesus. Additionally John 18:40 indicates Barabbas took part in an ‘uprising’ and Luke 23:19 states he not only participated in an insurrection but was convicted of murder as well. It’s reasonable to conclude the ‘rebels’ of Mark 15:7 are the ‘robbers’ of Mark 15:27. Matthew hints that Barabbas is a well known figure and perhaps may have been on Rome’s ‘most wanted’ list. A ‘bandit’ (λῃστής) therefore, may also be a ‘rebel’ (στασιαστής) as Barabbas and his fellow prisoners are called rebels (στασιαστής). The term loses its force in English as ‘fellow insurgent’ would be a more accurate translation. As previously mentioned John refers to him as a bandit (λῃστής). Josephus uses λῃστής nearly interchangeably with ‘zealot’. (Jos. Ant 14, 159) A zealot violently opposed Roman occupation with force if and when necessary. None the less, it is likely the two crucified with Jesus were not just ‘thieves’ but ‘rebels’ or ‘insurgents’.

So if they were indeed insurgents why doesn’t the New Testament refer to them as zealots?

According to Matthew’s version, 27:11-14, Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus was an effort to discover if he was indeed making a claim to the throne of Israel. Such a claim to the throne would be a threat to Caesar, as the Jewish leaders pointed out (John 19:12). In fact the Sanhedrin brought such a charge against Jesus during his arraignment (Luke 23:1). The Sanhedrin was composed of “the chief priests, elders, and scribes’. Having already convicted Jesus with the crime of blasphemy the Sanhedrin was powerless to carry out the execution as Jerusalem was a Roman province governed by Caesar’s prefect, Pontius Pilate (Matt 26:65)(Matt 27:1).

Pilate seems reluctant to crucify Jesus because of the possibility of an ensuing riot as his popularity with the common people was well known. The prefect thinks perhaps a flogging or a trade for Barabbas will be the leverage he needs to avoid a commotion. He had been warned by Tiberius Caesar about his previous actions of provocation. However neither the scourging nor the exchange shook the chief priests’ resolve to have Jesus executed.

It is noteworthy to mention the contrast between Jesus Barabbas and Jesus who is called Messiah (Matt 27:15 NIV). As a zealot, Barabbas would have been an enemy of the priests. Some high priests were known to have been collaborators with Rome, purchasing their high position (Jos. Ant. 18, 26). Barabbas is not simply ‘an insurgent’ but a ‘notorious’ one. (Matt 27:16) Some extreme zealots joined an elite group of assassins known as the ‘sicarii’. The ‘sicarii’ concealed a sicarius, Latin for dagger, beneath their cloak. The targets of some attacks were in fact priests. Priests may not serve if they have a blemish (Lev. 21:21).

Barabbas may have been an ‘assassin’ whose blade struck its target.

At Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane Peter’s action may indicate that he was perhaps only trying to disfigure the high priest’s servant not trying to kill him. This was in fact the fate of one high priest disqualifying him for office (Jos. Ant. 14,366). Each gospel recounts this event but only John names the victim and indicates with the definite article his position as “the’ servant of the high priest. He was not just ‘a’ servant indicating he may in fact be a priest or Levite himself and Peter tried to maim him in an effort to deny him priestly service. Perhaps he was the representative of the Sanhedrin sent by the high priest accompanied with other representatives of the Sanhedrin and a ‘detachment’ of Roman soldiers with their commander (Jn. 18:3,12). None the less Jesus had compassion on the priest’s servant and restored his body and his service to God by making him whole again.

We should note the ‘crowd’, at the arrest, was prepared for resistance as they were armed ((Lk. 22:52).

Judas remembered Jesus’ habit of praying in Gethsemane, which would provide the Sanhedrin’s opportune moment, away from large crowds, to make their arrest. According to some historical records as many as 2.565 million people could have been in Jerusalem during Passover (Jos. BJ 6,9). Since Jesus was popular with the Jewish people, the Sanhedrin could not take the chance of seizing him in the temple while he was teaching; a point Jesus made at his hearing (Jn. 18:20).

Though Pilate found the Sanhedrin’s accusation baseless he did not want the protest against Jesus to become a riot of thousands or hundreds of thousands. Perhaps there were lingering thoughts in Pilate’s mind about who Jesus really was. In his attempt to show Herod Antipas courtesy, after discovering Jesus’ Galilean origin, Pilate sent him to Antipas for interrogation. Antipas had the authority to perform the execution as Jesus was a Galilean subject and could have been extradited under his jurisdiction but he found no cause for conviction.

Antipas, Pilate’s antagonist since the latter brought emblems of the emperor to the threshold of the temple, took a step toward reconciliation by returning Jesus to Pilate who would crucify him as an ‘insurgent’. Not that Pilate considered him a ‘zealot’ but he was obviously at the center of a commotion and Roman peace must be maintained. Jesus was crucified as a result of conspiracy by those who stood to lose the most both Jew and Gentile. The common person, Jew and Gentile, favored him. He was a rebel like the others crucified with him in the sense that he did not accept the status quo. He was a religious zealot not a political zealot and the gospel writers draw contrast using terminology hearkening to Isaiah 53:12, ‘he was numbered with the transgressors’.

Finally what are we to make of Judas’ betrayal?

He who saw the bread multiplied; who saw the eyes opened; who saw the lame walk and the dead raised; who lived with him and called him Rabbi for three years. Is it possible Judas was a zealot who did not completely surrender to the “Kingdom of Heaven”? Perhaps he did not surrender to the complete reign of Jesus as Lord of his life. Perhaps he thought he could force Jesus’ hand into becoming the Messiah the Jews were expecting and expel the Roman occupation. Maybe if he could just get the Sanhedrin to meet with Jesus they would come to the same conclusion the apostles arrived at in Caesarea Phillipi, that he was indeed the Messiah (Matt. 16:16). Some from the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, had been influenced by Jesus. Joseph a prominent member of the council (Mk. 15:43) had become Jesus’ disciple ( Matt. 27:57 Hebrew NT מִתַּלְמִידֵי יֵשׁוּעַ). He had clearly voted against the council’s guilty verdict of the alleged blasphemy (Lk. 23:51). Nicodemus, another member of the council, seemed to disagree with the ruling as well and had defended Jesus in the past (Jn. 7:50,19:39). Nicodemus, a Pharisee, visited Jesus in the cover of night (Jn 3:2).

Pharisees gained their position on the council by their knowledge of ‘halakha’ and skill using ‘haggaddah’ .

That is, they were profoundly knowledgeable regarding the Hebrew scriptures and oral tradition as well as how to apply this instruction practically. Nicodemus was recognized as a Rabbinical teacher who discovered Jesus’ teachings to be profound (Jn. 3:10). Perhaps these two council members concluded Jesus was the Messiah and Judas thought this could be leveraged into an all out Messianic rebellion. Rabbi Akiva proclaimed, at first, that Simon Bar Kokhva was indeed the Messiah in the second century uprising which led to the Roman expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem.

Another of the Apostles, Simon the Zealot is named in conjunction with Judas as though they share something in common. (Matt. 10:4) Weather Simon was a zealot in the political sense or only in the religious sense we cannot determine with total confidence. Some apostles names refer to their prior life before transformation. We know James and John were “sons of thunder” and at least John likely became the one to whom Jesus entrusted the care of his mother. Perhaps he was a converted zealot in the political sense who became a zealot for the gospel afterward.

What of Judas? It is a bit of a stretch but perhaps he was ideologically linked to Simon and aligned himself against Rome and its collaborators. A possible derivation of Judas’ surname is that he is a zealot assassin; a “sicarius”. There are manuscripts indicating he was a man from ‘a village’, (ish kariot) but the third century Aramaic manuscript, called the Peshitta renders the name as a transliteration of the Latin term with a Greek ending, skaryota, (Matt. 10:4 Peshitta).

So then Yehudah Skaryotae could mean ‘Judas of the Sicarii’, Judas the Zealot Assassin’

When Judas could not force Jesus’ hand, as the Sanhedrin had convicted him of blasphemy and conspired to have the gentile authorities execute the sentence, he realized the betrayal would lead to his Rabbi’s death.

How like Judas are we, trying to force Jesus’ hand?

Do you make Jesus conform into your concept of a redeemer or do you allow him to transform you into the image of the creator?