Sunday, February 10, 2013

3X-part 4 Mark, Luke, John

In this series, I am looking at Brevard Childs' The Struggle to understand ISAIAH as Christian Scripture.

I think I should move a little faster. So here is some data from Mark, and some notes on Luke and John re their use of Isaiah and a comment or two from Childs. (This is a very curious way of re-entering the NT from my long sojourn among the psalms.) 

Mark 1:2-3
This is a combination of Malachi 3:1, Exodus 23:20 (not LXX) and Isaiah 40:3.
Ὡς γέγραπται ἐν τοῖς προφήταις,
Ἰδού, ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου
ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου ἔμπροσθέν σου,
φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ

הִנְנִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָכִי וּפִנָּה־דֶרֶךְ לְפָנָי

לִשְׁמָרְךָ֖ בַּדָּ֑רֶךְ
קֹ֣ול קֹורֵ֔א בַּמִּדְבָּ֕ר פַּנּ֖וּ דֶּ֣רֶךְ יְהוָ֑ה יַשְּׁרוּ֙ בָּעֲרָבָ֔ה מְסִלָּ֖ה לֵאלֹהֵֽינוּ

ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐξαποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου καὶ ἐπιβλέψεται ὁδὸν πρὸ προσώπου μου
ἵνα φυλάξῃ σε ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ
φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν
Childs points out the confirmation of the gospel of verse 1 from this catena of allusions and quotations of the prophets. Gospel also has "Hellenistic roots associated with the emperor cult of Rome". This use of the same term 'good news' for political 'fairness' and Roman 'peace' contrasts with the reign of justice required for the Messianic rule. Childs says that the connotation of the connection is unclear but "it is hard to believe that at least some of his audience would not have sensed the competing agendas".

He comments that "Both Malachi 3 and Isaiah 40 use the phrase 'prepare the way,' which is not evident in the Greek". But what am I looking at in Isaiah 40:3 (grayed out above)? I guess he means that it is in the Greek of Isaiah but not in the NT Greek. Ottley has Prepare ye the way for his translation of the LXX. It seems to be a word from seeing, maybe colloquially: 'will keep an eye out for you the way'.

Luke 4:16-30
This section of Luke is a conflation of Isaiah 61:1, 58:6, and 61:2. I will skip the display of the omissions. What I am struck by is Childs' comment that only later would the Greek term εὐαγγελίζω "acquire the full Christian meaning of proclaiming the gospel".

I am disturbed by this comment. What is the "full Christian" gospel that it should differ from the reign of God and judgment with equity?   When I was younger, I met this interpretation that Isaiah's gospel or the gospel of the kingdom differed from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope I misunderstood. There can be no difference here, no separation of one gospel from another as if there was an 'unchristian' gospel. 

The gospel is the penetration of equity and justice into human governance. Yes, it is based on the example of self-giving in Jesus which brings "to fulfillment the prophetic promise of God's eschatalogical salvation by his very presence". But the adjectives 'full' and 'Christian' run the risk of pointing to a belief in words about Jesus rather than a working out of the obedience of faith. I am very wary of adjectives. They short-circuit thought and can inhibit and stall the action of obedience. In some ways Christendom despite its failures has succeeded in bringing such self-giving to the policies of human government. But 'Christians' must learn from the examples of success and failure in the TNK and in doing so find the means of obedience that their faith must lead to or it is empty rather than full.

What is Luke's 'today'?  Childs warns me of identifying this with the pesher exegesis from traditional rabbinic midrash. He says of Qumran that "the concern to interpret prophecy as predictions being fulfilled literally in the present life of the community offers an exegetical analogy close to Luke's resounding 'today'", but "the conflict portrayed in Luke 4 is of a different order: it centers on the claims of Jesus the Messiah to fulfill the Isaianic promise."

John 12:41
Here after referring to Isaiah 53:1 and 6:10 "the evangelist offers a commentary on Isaiah's purpose. ... The sequence of the passage makes it clear that John is speaking of the glory of Jesus. ... quite clearly, the evangelist is speaking of the vision by the prophet of the pre-existent Son." (Childs p 15).

OK I guess - but don't think of glory as being dependent on time. It must be independent of time, mutually orthogonal, one, perhaps the One of many dimensions. Childs also compares Abraham (John 8:56) and Moses (John 5:45) in this section. He concludes with the reference to John 2:22 as informing the disciples of the present reality of the Incarnate Word with them in Jesus.

As one who believes, I cannot disagree, but as one who searches for a unity that is broken, I have to ask how our words (traditions, confessions, etc) fail to respect the unity into which we are called. (John 17:21).

Next - on to Paul and his reception of Isaiah.