Christ’s Fulfillment of the Covenants

Throughout the Old Testament there are several instances of God establishing a covenant.  He did so with Adam in the Garden, with the nation of Israel through Moses where the Law was delivered, with Noah after the great flood, with Abraham and his descendants, and lastly with King David.  These covenants are a part of salvation history that prepared the world for the coming of the Messiah.  Each one of these covenants was important and significant, and each one was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.  This covenant is known as the new covenant, and it is everlasting.  Regarding this the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son, in whom he has established his covenant forever. The Son is his Father’s definitive Word; so there will be no further Revelation after him” (CCC para 73).

The Adamic covenant is the first that the Lord had established.  As its name states, it was established with our first parents on behalf of all humanity.  We read in Genesis 1:26-31 about the creation of mankind, and how God rested on the seventh day.  The number seen in the Hebrew language is the number of covenant (Lecture Notes).  However, there is a second part of the covenant that applies after the fall.  God gives the first Gospel pronouncement which is known as the protoevangelium.  Genesis 3:15 states, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (NRSV).  Christ is the fulfillment as his death, burial, and resurrection redeemed us from the sin of our first parents.

 

After the great flood mentioned in Genesis, God made a covenant with Noah never to destroy the Earth with water again (Lecture Notes).  The rainbow became a sign of the covenant that God made with Noah.  This can be seen in Genesis 9:13 which states, “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (NRSV).  Man will still struggle with sin, but Christ gives strength in the battle.  The Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spes states, “But the Lord Himself came to free and strengthen man, renewing him inwardly and casting out the prince of this world” (Ostrowski 18).  It also brought into focus the issue of capital punishment in Genesis chapter nine.  It took on a new meaning when Christ was crucified.  The covenant is for all time and for all people, as is the sacrifice of Christ.

God continued in his promise and made a covenant with Abraham.  Genesis 12:2 states, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (NRSV).  God promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars, and this included those by adoption (Lecture Notes).  This was fulfilled in Christ, because having faith in Christ we adopted sons of Abraham as Galatians 3:29 states.  In the Mosaic covenant, God made a covenant with the people of Israel.  Regarding this Dr. Koehne writes, “Through the leadership of Moses, God freed His people from slavery, then made a covenant with them on Mount Sinai” (Lecture Notes).  Christ fulfills the covenant by showing us how to live the law and calling to a higher standard of living as Christians.  This can only be done through his grace and mercy.

Lastly, God made a covenant with King David and said that through his lineage the Messiah would be born.  The promise can be seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 which states, “ When  your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (NRSV).

In St. Augustine’s great work the City of God he equates King David to an Old Testament prefigurement of Christ (Newadvent.com).  This covenant is fulfilled because he is proven to be in David’s lineage as is seen in Matthew Chapter one, and his kingdom will have no end.

Crucifixion

Works Cited

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.  Print.

Ostrowski, Thaddeus ed., Primary Source Readings in Christian Morality.  Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, 2008, Print.

Dods, Marcus. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 2. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120117.htm&gt;.

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

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Turn to the Subject: Who is Jesus?

The current theological landscape is one that has its roots in the 19th century.  In an attempt to discover what Jesus taught and experienced, theologians began to use methods that were only historical in nature.  An emphasis was placed on the historical and cultural context in which Christ lived.  Though this has its place, who Jesus was started to get lost in the shuffle.  Theologians began to come to conclusions about the person of Christ that were contrary to established Christian teaching.  In some cases, the theories formulated were downright hostile.  It is necessary to get back to the complete picture of theology and whom Jesus is.  In short, a turn to the subject to in order.

These turns are nothing new in the realm of theology, but they can take a couple different turns.  One way would be almost atheistic as was the case with Ludwig Feuerbach.  Feuerbach reduces theology to anthropology (a theory of human being).  It became further reduced as this anthropological trend became materialistic and was reduced to a series of economic factors by Karl Marx.  Though this is an extreme, it is met by an equal extreme that says history should have no bearing on who Christ is (O’Collins 162).   According to O’Collins, “This was to isolate faith from history and rely on direct experience of Jesus here and now” (O’Collins 162).

These are to examples of turning to the subject, and many theologians have made this turn.  Historical consciousness is an important development in this process.  Historical consciousness looks at individual and group experiences, as well as cultural and historical understandings.  Though the New Testament, the Gospel accounts in particular, are critical to theology and Christology and about so much more than their interpretation and historical consequence.  It is necessary to go back and investigate Jesus through the eyes of the disciples.  This investigation begins with the meaning of Jesus with the disciples’ experience and not with a naïve interpretation of the texts of the gospels.

The New Testament is an expression of meaning from those who had encountered Jesus.  Their experience is not something that can be overshadowed or discounted as it is their experience that is one of the foundations of the Christian faith.  There are some scholars today who claim that the historical Jesus became mythologized and became deity over time (O’Collins 166).  Those that claim this classify Jesus as a wise man and sage, but miss the experience of what those who knew Jesus really thought.

A turn to the subject would see early examples of Jesus being called Lord.  The earliest know Christian writer we have is Saint Paul who holds to a very high Christology in his writings.  Regarding this O’Collins writes, “Paul, the earliest Christian writer, quotes even earlier traditions that involved a ‘high Christology’ and the worship of Jesus” (O’Collins 167).  A turn to the subject is about recognizing Jesus as more than just a historical figure, but a transformative figure who radically changed the lives of those who knew him.  Their witness to who he was changed the world in which we all lived, and their testimony quickly went through the known word and lives were changed.

 

Works Cited

O’Collins, Gerald. “Developments in Christology:  The Last Fifty Years.”  Australasian Catholic Record Apr. 2013: 161-169.  Accessed December 19, 2017.

Episode 5: Do we need the Old Testament? Plus a look at Jesus in Hebrew Poetry.

Listen to this week’s episode here

On Google Plus the other day someone responded to one of my posts by saying that, as Christians, we no longer need to bother reading the Old Testament.  This show is a response, and shows why it is important because thee are so many things we can learn from it.  It is the story of salvation history.  I also look through the poetic books of Jon, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs and look at how Christ is in them.  This helps us see why the Old Testament is worth studying.  As Augustine said, “The New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old revealed in the New”.

Episode 1 of the Hope Within Radio Program

Jesus in Hebrew Poetry

Within the Old Testament are a group of books that are written almost entirely in Hebrew Poetry.  With the exception of a few passages in the Psalms, they do not deal with history.  They deal with the concerns of mankind, such as suffering, sickness, and death[1].  For the most part they are speaking about man to the Lord, and they do all these things in a way that can be related to.

The poetic books are found within the division of the Hebrew Bible that is known as the “writings.”  There are five poetic books which are:  Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, and the Song of Songs[2].  Within these five books we see much commentary on things such as love, daily living, suffering, and the feebleness of pursuits without God being in the forefront.

With all the great stories, commentary, and knowledge that Hebrew poetry provides something very important may go unseen.  This something is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and Hebrew Poetry points to Him in many ways.  In this paper, I will explore the poetical books and show that they contain material that points to the Messiah.

MESSIAH IN JOB

The book of Job is astonishing, a bit mysterious, and tells a story of a man who endures great suffering.  Job was a righteous man that was upright and blameless before God.  Satan tells God that Job is only that way because God protects him.  God says that Satan can do what he pleases to Job as long he does not lose his life.  Job then loses his livestock, children, and has sores all over his body.  As if this were not enough, Job’s friends insist that he had done something to displease God.  Job vehemently denies this accusation, and this served as the backdrop of the Messiah account in the book.

In Job 16:19 Job states, “Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,     and he who testifies for me is on high[3].”  Job says that there is someone in Heaven who will testify for him, and specifically calls for a mediator in 9:33.  To testify on behalf of someone is to mediate for them.  This is seen more fully in Job 16:21 which states, “that he would argue the case of a man with God, as a son of man does with his neighbor[4].” The term “Son of Man” is crucial in understanding her Christ is.  Though it is used in Job 16:21, it is a messianic term used in Daniel 7:13-14.  In that passage all dominion and authority over everything on the earth was given to the Son of Man, and it would never be destroyed.  In the Gospels Jesus prefers this term for Himself, and uses it no less than eighty times[5].

 

So far in Job we see Christ as “Son of Man”, and as a mediator.  Now we see Christ as a redeemer.  The full passage is in 19:23-27, but can be seen fully in verse 25.  That passage states, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth[6].”  The Hebrew word used for redeemer is the word Go’el.  This is the only time that this word appears in the book[7].  This word is used elsewhere in the Old Testament and has a few different meanings.  However, in the context hear it means “defender or helper.”  Obviously, the key to the verse is the identity of Go’el.  There are some scholars who say that someone other than God[8].

This makes little sense considering ancient Jewish context.  To think of someone other than God as redeemer is on the level of blasphemy[9].  When the verse is looked at in conjunction with what is said about Job 16:19 then it is clear evidence of the Messiah in Job.  Some may argue that the evidence does not declare that God became incarnate.  Given the brief evidence provided, it would seem that this as the conclusion[10].  The Son of Man was understood to be divine in nature, and thus only the Messiah, in the person of Jesus Christ would fit this description.

 

MESSIAH IN PSALMS

The Psalms have been read and sung since the days of antiquity.  When we read the Psalms, we can feel the anguish, joy, peace, and comfort from the writer.  When it comes to the Messiah there is no shortage of material that can be extracted from the Psalms.  The concept of redemption is a very prominent theme, and one must have a redeemer in order to have redemption.  In the Psalms we not only see the redeemer, but we see the death of the Messiah, and as king.  It is known for its anticipation of the coming Messiah[11]

The Messiah is brought up as early as chapter two.  In this chapter the Messiah is in the figure of a king.  Psalm 2:6 states, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill[12].”  Verse 7 depicts a reassurance of divine sonship, and it is this sonship of the king that is referenced in Hebrews 1:5[13].  This was done to remind the reads that Christ was superior to the angels.

Psalm 22 is a Psalm that has very clear parallels to Christ’s death in Matthew 27:26 and Mark 15:34. Psalm 22:1 states, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me[14]?  Christ cried out these same words in Mark 15:34. Psalm 22:18 describes evildoers casting lots for the clothing.  This was fulfilled by Christ in John 19:23-24.  In verse 16 the psalmist also writes about the Messiah’s hands and feet being pierced.  This Psalm is anticipatory, as it awaits the suffering of Christ, and his victory[15].

Psalm 45 is also considered a Messianic Psalm because whole sections are used in the epistle to the Hebrews.  The author of the Epistle uses Psalm 45:6-7 to establish the superiority of Christ.  In this passage He is described as the king forever, and thus his superiority is established[16].

Perhaps one of the greatest examples one could give of the Messiah in Hebrew poetry is Psalm 110.  This is seen in verse one which states, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool[17].”  This very passage is quoted in Mark 12:36-37, and Christ says that it is David who was speaking about Him.  This Psalm also makes an appearance in the book of Acts and is quoted by Peter in his sermon on Pentecost[18].  This Psalm also refers to Christ as being a priest in the order of Melchizadek (Psalm 110:4).  This parallels with Hebrew 5:6, as the author utilizes this Psalm describe Christ as high priest[19].

These are only some of the passages in Psalms that speak of the Messiah.  There are several more such as chapters 18, 61, 72, 89, 132, and 144.  In addition, there are several more Psalms that were quotes directly by Christ to describe various things in man’s life.

 

MESSIAH IN PROVERBS

The Proverbs a favorite book of those who are seeking practicality.  In other words, they are striving to incorporate Biblical lessons into their daily lives.  In proverbial literature there is no place for storytelling.  Every line is a time-tested truth that came about after being tested repeatedly.  The overall purpose of the book is to shape people into useful members of society.  Our understanding of Proverbs is fuller when looked through the lens of Christ[20].

The first chapter of Proverbs speaks of the fear of the Lord, wisdom, and the call of wisdom.  In this chapter wisdom is calling from the streets, and concludes with verse 33 “but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster[21].”  The Messiah is not specifically mentioned, but there a few parallels.  In describing Jesus’s answers to the Tempe teachers Luke 2:47 states, “And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers[22].”  Jesus is described as wisdom personified, and his ministry revealed the same.  His teaching left those that heard it in wonder, and they said so in Mark 6:2.  Throughout the gospels Jesus teaches using parables. What many do not realize is that the word “parable” is the greek word parabole is the New Testament equivalent of the Hebrew word for “proverb” masal.      

Another reference to the Messiah in Proverbs is in Proverbs 8:27-28.  This passage is interesting as it speaks of creation, and may possibly be a reference to Christ as the second person of the Trinity.  This passage reads, “When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep[23].”  Though it is not a direct link other New Testament passages allow one to make the connection.  Verses such as 1 Corinthians 1:30, Colossians 1:15-17, and Colossians 2:3 are just some to be mentioned.  The 1 Corinthians passage is intriguing as it declares that Christ is the wisdom of God.  This was also the consistent teaching of the Apostle Paul[24].

 

MESSIAH IN ECCLESIASTES

The book of Ecclesiastes in one that has baffled Christians for centuries.  It allows the skeptical side of man to have an outlet to ask poignant questions[25].  When the book of Ecclesiastes is read, we can feel the frustration of the writer.  As with Proverbs there is no direct link to Christ, but with the help of New Testament passages we can see that some statements are fulfilled by him.

However, there is one verse with a Messianic application using Isaiah 26:19 and the Jewish Midrash[26].  The verse in question is Ecclesiastes 1:7 which reads, “All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again[27].”  In the Midrash tradition this verse refers to the Messiah who will rescue his people from the worship of false gods.

Throughout the book the author of Ecclesiastes uses vivid imagery to get his point across.  That message is that life is meaningless, and even futile if God is not Lord of all[28].  Jesus also uses very real imagery to let his listeners know this same reality.  In fact, Jesus very bluntly says that he is the only way to the Father[29].  In John 15:5 Jesus also uses the analogy of being the vine to underscore this point.  That beautiful passage states, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing[30].”  The writer of Ecclesiastes says that apart from God you can do nothing, or it is vanity.  Christ says that apart from Him we can do nothing.  That is perhaps the biggest connection of the Messiah in Ecclesiastes, but it is one that can be pondered and dwelt on.  For the one that does their relationship with Christ can do nothing but grow, because the point of Ecclesiastes would have been followed.

MESSIAH IN SONG OF SONGS

The Song of Songs is a book in Hebrew Poetry recognized that the sensual side of man is a good thing.  However, it is not all about sexual intimacy, but is an allusion to God.  Since it is poetry it can be assumed that its reading is not meant to be literal, but allegorical.  When this is understood the precious gems of the book are mined.  However, with Revelation being the exception, no other book has been so frequently misinterpreted[31].  An allegorical interpretation was the favored one with early Rabbis and the early church fathers.  Prior to Christ it was seen as an image of the love that God had for his chosen people, Israel[32].  Under the New Covenant it is a beautiful portrayal of the love that Christ has for his bride, the church.

Song of Songs 1:2 states, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine[33].”  This verse is a call for intimacy that can only be mediated by the Messiah.  Verse four speaks of the king that takes his bride into his chambers, and this is an image of the Messiah.  Another verse depicting the Messiah is Song of Songs 8:6 which reads, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord[34].”  Allegorically speaking this is a reference to the New Covenant love that Christ has for his people.  It is a love that death will not be able to separate[35].  The Song of Songs can be read as a series of songs for this wedding between Christ and the church.  The imagery is beautiful, and a great reminder of the love that Christ has for us.

 

CONCLUSION

The five books of scripture that make up Hebrew poetry vary in terms used, and in the message they are trying to portray.  In Job we read about the incredible suffering of a man, the sovereignty of God, and a reward for faith.  In the Psalms there are psalms of Thanksgiving, sorrow, and prophecy.  In proverbs the wisdom of life is presented.  Wisdom teaches men and women how to act in their personal and religious lives.  Ecclesiastes teaches us that all of our worldly pursuits are vain, unless God is at the forefront of our lives.  The Song of Songs is a series of songs that are about the Christ and his bride, the church.

In some cases Christ, can be seen clearly in the passages described, nut in some cases this is not readily apparent.  For those that are not readily apparent, they begin to be so when compared to passages in the New Testament.  This speaks to the beautiful symphony that is the Word of God.  Everything has its place, and what is hard to understand will be given light in the passages ahead.  Thus, Christ can be seen in scripture from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation.

 

 

 

BIBIOGRAPHY

Benson, Clarence H. The One True God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004.

Bullock, C. Hassell. An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988.

Dockery, David S., ed. Holman Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 1998.

———., ed. Holman Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 1998.

Easley, Kendall. Holman Quicksource Guide to Understanding the Bible. Nashville: TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2002.

Ecclesiastes 1:7 (English Standard Version).

Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Vol. 2. New York: NY: Longmans, Green, And Co, 1896.

Ellingworth, Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews:  A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1993.

Ephesians 2:8 (English Standard Version).

Gordis, Robert. The Book of God and Man. Chicago: Il: University of Chicago Press, 1965.

Hahn, Scott, and Regis Flaherty, eds. Catholic For a Reason IV:  Scripture and the Mystery of Marriage and Family Life. Steubenville:  Oh: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2007.

Hahn, Scott. Catholic Bible Dictionary. New York: NY: Doubleday, 2009.

John 14:6 (English Standard Version).

John 15:5 (English Standard Version).

Longman, Tremper. Proverbs:  Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms. Grand Rapids: Mi: Baker Academic, 2006.

Luke 2:47 (English Standard Version).

Maas, A.J. Christ in Type and Prophecy. Vol. 2. New York: NY: Benzinger Brothers, 1896.

Newheiser, Jim. Opening Up Proverbs. Leominster:  Ma: Day One Publications, 2008.

Pitre, Brant. Jesus the Bridegroom:  The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. New York: NY: Image Books, 2014.

Proverbs 1:33 (English Standard Version).

Proverbs 8:27-28 (English Standard Version).

Reyburn, William D. A Handbook on the Book of Job. New York: NY: United Bible Societies, 1992.

Song of Songs 1:2 (English Standard Version).

Song of Songs 8:6 (English Standard Version).

 

[1] James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms (Joplin: Mo: College Press Publications, 1996), 6.

[2] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 22.

[3] Job 16:19 (English Standard Version).

[4] Job 16:21 (English Standard Version).

[5] Clarence H. Benson, The One True God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 64.

[6] Job 19:25 (English Standard Version).

[7] William D Reyburn, A Handbook on the Book of Job (New York: NY: United Bible Societies, 1992), 362.

[8] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 117.

[9] Robert Gordis, The Book of God and Man (Chicago: Il: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 88.

[10] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 117.

[11] Scott Hahn, Catholic Bible Dictionary (New York: NY: Doubleday, 2009), 743.

[12] Psalm 2:6 (English Standard Version).

[13] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 162.

[14] Psalm 22:1a (English Standard Version).

[15] David S. Dockery, ed., Holman Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 1998), 222.

[16] A.J. Maas, Christ in Type and Prophecy, vol. 2, (New York: NY: Benzinger Brothers, 1896), 46.

[17] Psalm 110:1 (English Standard Version).

[18] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 162.

[19] Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews:  A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1993), 282.

[20] Jim Newheiser, Opening Up Proverbs (Leominster:  Ma: Day One Publications, 2008), 13.

[21] Proverbs 1:33 (English Standard Version).

[22] Luke 2:47 (English Standard Version).

[23] Proverbs 8:27-28 (English Standard Version).

[24] Tremper Longman, Proverbs:  Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms (Grand Rapids: Mi: Baker Academic, 2006), 67.

[25] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 210.

[26] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. 2, (New York: NY: Longmans, Green, And Co, 1896), 725.

[27] Ecclesiastes 1:7 (English Standard Version).

[28] Kendall Easley, Holman Quicksource Guide to Understanding the Bible (Nashville: TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2002).

[29] John 14:6 (English Standard Version).

[30] John 15:5 (English Standard Version).

[31] David S. Dockery, ed., Holman Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 1998), 253.

[32] Brant Pitre, Jesus the Bridegroom:  The Greatest Love Story Ever Told (New York: NY: Image Books, 2014), 20.

[33] Song of Songs 1:2 (English Standard Version).

[34] Song of Songs 8:6 (English Standard Version).

[35] Scott Hahn and Regis Flaherty, eds., Catholic For A Reason IV:  Scripture and the Mystery of Marriage and Family Life (Steubenville:  Oh: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2007).

Image result for jesus in hebrew poetry

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The Importance of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Christ is vitally important to Christianity.  The Old Testament goes into great detail to say that the Messiah die and rise three days later (Isaiah 25:8, Isaiah 53:5, Psalms 16:10, Psalms 22:21).  Even if Christ still completed his earthly ministry and was crucified if he did not resurrect then he is not the Christ.  If Christ did not resurrect then Christianity is false, we are false witnesses, our faith is futile, and we are still in our sins [1].  In fact Christianity is probably the easiest religion in the world to prove false.  All skeptics have to do is show us the bones and we would be living a lie. Therein lies the problem for they have not been able to do that.

There are many historical facts about the death of Christ.  We read in the Gospel accounts that there were witnesses, including Jewish leaders and Roman executioners who were present, at the death of Christ.  We have writings from non-Christian historians such as Josephus and Philo that document it.  Nobody has every challenged their writings, in fact they are looked at as invaluable guides to Jewish history.  After the crucifixion Jesus was placed in a physical tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea.  This is important because the burial site of Christ was then known to the community as Joseph was a very prominent individual [2].  Roman soldiers were placed as guards of the tomb to ensure his body was not stolen.  In one of the Gospel accounts we read that the Jewish leaders told the soldiers to tell their superiors that the body was stolen.  It is doubted that the soldiers followed this order as it would have ensured their own deaths.  In those days if you were guarding someone or something you died if was taken or compromised.  There is also no other burial tradition that exists.  This would help us conclude that the burial site is legitimate.  If it is legitimate and there is no body, and no roman soldier testimony of theft then we have some proof of the Christian account.  We also have well documented, twelve cases in fact, of a resurrected Christ appearing to Christian believers.  In one case he appeared to five hundred disciples as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:6.  He appeared more than to his inner circle of earthly friends.  All of those who saw him testified to it, and many suffered martyrdom for it.

Another proof is the transformed behavior of the disciples.  We read after the crucifixion about depression like symptoms that ran through most of the disciples.  Their teacher and friend had just died and was not coming back.  After the resurrection there was a fire in them as witnessed in Act chapter two.  They left the comforts of home and went around the known world spreading the Gospel.  The resurrection gave them assurance that Christ was the son of God and fulfilled scripture.  Eleven of the twelve disciples died a martyrs’ death.  This is something people would not do if the body was simply stolen and hidden.  People do not die for a lie.  Christianity spread very rapidly despite fervent persecution from Jewish and Roman authorities.  Despite this Christianity flourished and took over the know world.  Again this would not have happened had the resurrection been a lie.

There are many alternative naturalistic theories out there and one of them is hallucination.  It states that the disciples were hallucinating.  This is unlikely because hallucinations only happen to individuals [3].  It is highly unlikely that a group of people would have the same hallucination, and then go on to describe this hallucination in the Gospels.  Another theory is that Christianity is the greatest deception of hour time.  It was a conspiracy from the disciples deceit the masses.  There is a few problems with this theory.  The Christian movement is still going strong today.  Surely in 2,000 years of the church someone would have stood up to say this whole thing was a hoax and have evidence to prove it.  Secondly there is no evidence to prove this hoax, and thirdly the disciples lost friends, family, were persecuted, and killed for there faith.  People don’t do this for a hoax.  In the case of Paul he was a persecutor of Christians and had his resurrection encounter separate from the other Apostles.  The brother of the Lord, James, did not believe he was the Messiah until after the resurrection.  The third theory is mentioned in the Gospels and is that of a corpse heist.  Perhaps the tomb was robbed by grave robbers which were common at the time [4].  Grave robbers focuses on graves of the wealthy.  Jesus was not a wealthy man on earth.  We read in the Gospels that he have nowhere to rest his head.  Grave robbers do not rob graves of those who have nothing.  Even if they tried they would have to contend with the roman guards who most likely would have slaughtered them to preserve their own lives.    The same goes for the Apostles, if they were the robbers they would have to contend with the guards, but I have discussed this already.  Lastly Jesus is regarded as a highly ethical teacher, not only in scripture, but in extra biblical sources.  Why would his disciples, who are grieving, break the command of their beloved teacher?  It does not make sense to think that they would dishonor someone whom they cared about so deeply.

The resurrection is vital because it encompasses Christianity.  Without the resurrection Christianity would cease to exist, and Jesus would be just a good teacher.  The good news is that the resurrection is a real historical event that was witnessed by many people and never refuted.  Many had their chance, but have not been able to prove otherwise.  Take heart that our savior lives!

 

 

Works Cited

1.  Douglas Groothius.  Christian Apologetics:  A Comprehensive case for the Biblical Faith.  (Downers Grove, Il., IVP Academic, 2011), 529.

2.  Ibid, 543.

3.  Ibid, 556.

4.  Ibd, 560.

Babylon and the Old Testament

When the word Babylon is said in today’s culture there is one of two reactions. The first reaction is one of not caring because it does not immediately affect one’s life. When asking about Babylon over the past few weeks this has been the predominant answer. The second reaction given was to describe the events in the recent past that have shaped political, and in some cases economic, policy of not only the United States but the world.

Many questions were asked to get to these reactions. Questions such as is Babylon relevant today? What was its role in the development of the Old Testament? Is it relevant that they were mentioned throughout the whole Old Testament? What effect did they have on the ancient Jewish people? In most, there were exceptions is some cases, the laity of the church seemed to be ignorant of the significant contribution that Babylon’s existence had in Old Testament history.   As W. Brueggemann states, “In biblical history Babylon’s chief significance is as a mighty empire that God used in the early 6th century B.C. as his agent for punishing his people for their stubborn and grievous covenantal disobedience and disloyalty, taking the residents of Judah and Jerusalem into exile[1].”

The purpose of this paper is to explore Biblical passages to elaborate not only on the history of Babylon, but on its effect on the writing of the Old Testament. Historical and extra-biblical documents will be used to assist in detailing the information. In the course of doing this research it became evident that Babylon had a very significant effect on the Jewish people, and subsequently the writing of the sacred Old Testament texts.

HISTORY

In speaking of Babylon in the Old Testament we must first look at a brief history of Babylon to help gain perspective of what the world was like at the time. Babylon was the most famous city in Mesopotamia, and the ruins of the city lie in Iraq about 59 miles southwest of Baghdad.

In the old Akkadian language   Babylon meant “City of the Gods”, and was found between   2334-2279 B.C[2].     When it was founded it as simply known as a large port town along the Euphrates river, but it was also close to the Tigris river. This area of the world would come to be known as the fertile Crescent, and they we right in the middle of it. Very little is known about Babylon until 1792 B.C. when King Hammurabi took power. Hammurabi “enlarged and heightened the walls of the city, engaged in great public works which included opulent temples and canals, and made diplomacy an integral part of his administration. So successful was he in both diplomacy and war that, by 1755 BCE, he had united all of Mesopotamia under the rule of Babylon which, at this time, was the largest city in the world, and named his realm Babylonia[3].”

When Hammurabi died the empire shrank in size and was sacked by the Hittites in 1595 B.C.   Under the reign of the Assyrian ruler Sennacherib, who reigned from 705-681 B.C., Babylon revolted.   At this point in history Babylon was known as a bastion of learning and culture.   In 604 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar II, of Biblical fame took over as Emperor of the empire. He built some of the most beautiful structures in all of Mesopotamia.  The exile of the Jews, and the construction of the hanging gardens also happened under his watch.  In 539 B.C. the Persian s under the leadership of Cyrus the Great, also mentioned in the Old Testament, invaded Babylon. They held Babylon in great regard and made it the administration capital of the Persian Empire.

In 331 B.C. the Persian Empire fell to a young general named Alexander the Great. Before his death, Alexander the Great “ordered the superstructure of Babylon’s ziggurat pulled down in order that it might be rebuilt with greater splendor. But he never lived to bring his project to completion. Over the centuries, its scattered bricks have been cannibalized by peasants to fulfill humbler dreams. All that is left of the fabled Tower of Babel is the bed of a swampy pond[4].” In 141 B.C. the Parthian Empire took over and Babylon was forgotten about and fell into ruin.

NIMROD

Babylon is mentioned very early in scripture. In fact the first mention of the city and its significance to the people of Israel is in Genesis 10:8, 10. Genesis 10:8, 10 states, “Cush was the father of Nimrod who came to be a mighty warrior on the earth. The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh, in Shinar[5].” This chapter in Genesis is known as the table of nations, and this verse in particular traces the genealogy of Noah’s son Ham. The name Nimrod Literally means “we shall rebel”.   If that is the case then He lives up to his name in regards to relationships with the Lord and the Jewish people.

The great Bible commentator Matthew Henry writes, “Nimrod’s aspiring mind could not rest; he was resolved to lord it over his neighbors[6].”From its founder we find the spirit of the great city of Babylon. One that is blessed with natural resources because of its location in the fertile crescent. They were not happy with what they had and always wanted more.  The Jewish historian Josephus has this to say about Nimrod, “Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah-a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny-seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence upon his own power[7].”

There are some scholars who suggest that Nimrod was the Gilgamesh in the Gilgamesh epic. This epic was an ancient document that also spoke of a worldwide flood, but it was also significant for Gilgamesh starting the first “God is dead’ movement. If this is the case then Babylon and the Jewish people were bound to clash. According to the epic, Gilgamesh sets out to kill the person responsible for sending the flood upon the earth.

THE TOWER OF BABEL

The story of the Tower of Babel is found in Genesis chapter 11. It describes a people of the same language who are building a monument that will reach the heavens so they could make a name for themselves. Genesis 11:1-4 state, “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we can make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the earth[8].”   This story has great significance not on in scripture, but in world history. According to the Concise Bible Dictionary, Babel is also the Hebrew word for Babylon[9].”

According to scripture the founder of Babylon was Nimrod, who was a descendent of Noah’s son Ham. On that we could assume that this occurred after the flood. The flood happened so the earth could have somewhat of a fresh start with evil people being eliminated. The people gathered and decide to build Babylon, and erect a tower to show how great they are. Not only that, but they want to build it to the heavens. Perhaps this is where Babylon received the term “city of the gods.” The KJV Biblical Commentary states, “This is the cultural focus of mounting human arrogance. The tower could be a fortress. Parallels to the account of the building of Babylon and its temple tower (the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish) suggest that it was a prototype ziggurat, or temple-mound, first found in classical form in the early third millennium B.C.[10].”

The Tower of Babel is a prelude of things to come in the Old Testament. It shows the pride of a nation who see themselves as superior to those around them. The Tower of Babel, though a literal event, is also a symbol of rebellion. At the center of every sin is an I. The people had the attitude that they were better and they wanted to show that. They grew in power and would eventually overtake the Israelites.   That is also the spiritual message of the story.  The writer of Genesis knew that and incorporated it so future generations would know the dangers of pride an arrogance. John Collins writes, “Thematically, the story of the tower provides an apt conclusion to this phase of history as it reiterates the theme of human limitation and the dangers involved in trying to be like God or to rise to the heavens[11].”

THE CONQUEST OF JUDAH

Perhaps the greatest example on Babylon’s influence on the Old Testament could be seen in the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon. Because of the Israelites disobedience to God he allowed them to be conquered by Babylon. They were exiled for a period of seventy years, and then returned back to their land.

There is arguably no king in the history of Babylon as powerful as Nebuchadnezzar II. Under his rule the Babylonians defeated the Assyrians, and the Egyptian Pharaoh, Necho II, came to the aid of the Assyrians. The Babylonian military, under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar II, defeated the formidable foe which allowed him Babylon to take possession of all former Assyrian lands, which included Israel.

The vents of this takeover of Israel and Judah are recorded in 2 Kings Chapter 24. 2 Kings 24:1 states, “During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he changed his mind and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar[12].” As previously stated Babylon defeated Egypt to acquire the territory which included Judah. For three years Judah lived under Babylon, but then they rebelled and Babylon came into the land by force.

In a strange twist of fate Babylon had become a means by which God disciplined his people for their disobedience. They were taken from their land, plundered, and the temple was destroyed in 587 B.C. A Babylonian Chronicle records, “Year 7, month of Kislimu: The king of Akkad moved his army into Haddi land, laid siege to the city of Judah, and the king took the city on the second day of the month Addaru. He appointed in it a new king to his liking, took heavy booty from it and brought it to Babylon[13].” Scripture has a similar recording in 2 Kings 25:9-10. 2 Kings 25:9-10 state, “He set fire to the Temple of the Lord, the royal palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem[14].” The Lord used a foreign land, who did not even believe in him, as a divine instrument to help prepare their hearts for the future Messiah. Throughout the Old Testament we read stories of the people’s disobedience, but through is all God was faithful.

Throughout the Old Testament we read of the Lord saying how he was going to discipline his people. In Isaiah he names some, such as Cyrus, by name. This event had a huge impact on the writing and style of the Old Testament. Books such as Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Daniel were heavily influenced by the events that would take place during the seventy years of exile. In Jeremiah we read of God still loving the people, and will be giving them yet another chance. The Lord goes on to say that they will be his people in Jeremiah 32:38. After seventy years the people were permitted to return to their land, but many did not. J. Julius Scott writes, “We know only little about the captivity. The Hebrews spent the period of captivity in scattered locations. Their experiences were diverse. Many never returned to the land of Israel. In fact, from this time forward the majority of Hebrews, at every point in history, have lived in the Dispersion or Diaspora, that is, outside the boundaries of the land of Israel[15].”

The time of the Lord’s judgment will come. It is not a matter of if but of when, and the people of Israel and Judah never though they would see the day in which their sins would reap punishment. As previously stated, the heathen Babylonians were chosen by God to carry out the deed. This was prefaced as far back as Genesis and is mentioned throughout a majority of the Old Testament texts.

DANIEL AND THE FALL OF BABYLON

The Old Testament prophets Daniel and Ezekiel both performed their ministry in Babylon. They were involved in the exile and subsequently deported from Judah. It was Daniel who became a leader and loyal servant to the empire, but he maintained his faith in the Lord. In Daniel Chapter two Daniel comes to the aid of King Nebuchadnezzar, and assists him in interpreting a dream.   Daniel 2:24 states, “Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, ‘Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret the dream for him[16].”

It was a very dangerous move for Daniel to make, because if he was wrong about the dream then he would be executed. Daniel was being a witness and thought of the needs of others. He was loyal to the king, but he wanted to save the lives of the wise men even more. The dream that Daniel would interpret for the king was one that predicted the end of the Babylonian Empire. The fall to the Persian Empire was further documented by Daniel in Chapter 5. The fall of Babylon is also written about by Isaiah in Isaiah 46:1-2. Isaiah specifically names the Persian Cyrus who will conquer Babylon which is the way the Lord chose to judge Babylon for its sins against his people.

CONCLUSION

In scripture Babylon is mentioned from Genesis all the way to the book of Revelation. When the Lord needed to discipline his people he chose the Babylonians to give it. However God was merciful and only let the exile last 70 years. The Lord also promised to punish it, as Jeremiah 25:12 states, “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians for their guilt, ‘ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make it desolate forever[17].” Though it seems like those that are doing wrong have the upper hand that is not the case. Through Babylon we learn that evil will always be punished. William LaSor writes, “Daniel’s concern over the seventy years of Jeremiah’s prophecy is interpreted in terms of both the restoration of Jerusalem and also ‘the time of an appointed prince[18].”

The story of Babylon helped the Old Testament writers better speak of the faithfulness of God, the punishment of evil, and the coming of the Messiah. Babylon was a huge empire that seemed to be indestructible, but Daniel told the king that it was not to be. Through the characters in the Old Testament the love and mercy of God were spoken to Gentile nations.

 

[1] W.h.Mare, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 126.

[2] “Babylon,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, accessed December 6, 2014, http://www.ancient.eu/babylon/.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Babylon,” Ancient History Encyclopedia, accessed December 6, 2014, http://www.ancient.eu/babylon/.

[5] Genesis 10:8, 10 (New International Version).

[6] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 1, Genesis to Esther, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1979), 32.

[7] Josephus, Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 331.

[8] Genesis 11:1-4 (New International Version).

[9] Holman Concise Bible Dictionary, 1st ed., s.v. “Babel.”

[10] King James Version Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), 38.

[11] John J. Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004), 81.

[12] 2 Kings 24:1 (New International Version).

[13] Maxwell J. Miller and John H. Hayes, A History of Ancient Israel and Judah (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1986), 314.

[14] 2 Kings 25:9-10 (New International Version).

[15] J. Julius Scott, Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1995), 74.

[16] Daniel 2:24 (New International Version).

[17] Jeremiah 25:12 (New International Version).

[18] William Sanford Lasor, David Allan Hubbard, and Frederic Wm. Bush, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 568.

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