Blessedness of the Twelve

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Without a knowledge of the saying’s context, Jesus' saying about eyes and ears and prophets and righteous men, seems quite prosaic. However, when it is understood that this saying deals with the Kingdom of Heaven, it becomes one of Jesus' most exciting and dramatic statements.

Matt. 13:16-17; Luke 10:23-24
(Huck 92, 142; Aland 123b, 181b; Crook 145b, 206)[1]

Revised: 7-July-2017

אַשְׁרֵי הָעֵינַיִם הָרֹאוֹת מַה שֶּׁאַתֶּם רֹאִים וְהָאָזְנַיִם הַשֹּׁמְעוֹת מַה שֶּׁאַתֶּם שֹׁמְעִים אָמֵן אֲנִי אֹמֵר לָכֶם הַרְבֵּה נְּבִיאִים וּמַלְאָכִים הִתְאַוּוּ לִרְאֹת מַה שֶּׁאַתֶּם רֹאִים וְלֹא רָאוּ וְלִשְׁמֹעַ מַה שֶּׁאַתֶּם שֹׁמְעִים וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ

“How privileged you are because of what you are witnessing. Yes! I want you to know that many of God’s messengers would have given anything to experience what you are experiencing, but were not so fortunate as you.”[2]


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Reconstruction

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Story Placement

The authors of Matthew and Luke placed the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement in two very different contexts. In Matthew, the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement is part of the discussion about the Four Soils parable, following on the heels of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying. In Luke, by contrast, the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement forms the conclusion of Jesus’ response to the return of the Seventy-two. Each author probably got something right with respect to the placement of the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement. The author of Luke was probably right in making Blessedness of the Twelve the closing remark in Jesus’ response to his apostles’ successful return.[3] The author of Matthew, who did not describe the apostles’ return or Jesus’ reaction to their report, was probably correct in his placement of Blessedness of the Twelve following the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying.

We believe that in the Anthology (Anth.)—Luke’s source for the Mission of the Seventy-two[4] —Yeshua’s Thanksgiving Hymn, the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying, and the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement formed the major portion of Jesus’ response to the return of the Twelve. However, for reasons we have discussed elsewhere,[5] the author of Luke transferred Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven from its original location to the discussion about the Four Soils parable.

The author of Matthew, who generally followed the story order of Mark’s Gospel, found the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying in the context of the Four Soils parable—a placement Mark had inherited from Luke. However, since the author of Matthew knew from Anth. that Blessedness of the Twelve followed Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, and since he had no intention of describing Jesus’ response to the apostles’ return, he placed the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement in the discussion about the Four Soils parable. Thus, each evangelist preserved something of the Anthology’s placement of Blessedness of the Twelve.

To see an overview of the entire “Mission of the Twelve” complex, click here.

LOYMap

 

Click here to view the Map of the Conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua.

 

Conjectured Stages of Transmission

Anth-Luke-MattThe Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement is a Double Tradition pericope with a high degree of verbal identity.[6] According to Lindsey, Matthew and Luke were able to achieve such high verbal identity because they copied this pericope from the same source, the Anthology. This general observation concurs with our conclusion that Luke’s Mission of the Seventy-two represents the Anthology’s version of the Mission of the Twelve.[7]

Crucial Issues

  1. Which is the better reading: Matthew’s “righteous persons” or Luke’s “kings”?
  2. What had the Twelve seen and heard?

Comment

L1 Καὶ στραφεὶς πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς κατ᾿ ἰδίαν εἶπεν (Luke 10:23). This literary bridge describing Jesus turning to his disciples was probably added by the author of Luke.[8] While καί + participle + aorist could represent a vav-consecutive + vav-consecutive in an underlying Hebrew text,[9] the description of the addressees as “disciples” instead of “apostles” is editorial. Likewise, the phrase κατ᾿ ἰδίαν (kat idian, “by himself,” “privately”) is un-Hebraic,[10] occurring in LXX only in books not translated from Hebrew.[11] These observations bolster our suspicion that the author of Luke composed the introduction to Blessedness of the Twelve.

L2 ὑμῶν δὲ (Matt. 13:16). The emphatic placement of ὑμῶν δὲ (hūmōn de, “but your”)[12] is one of the subtle changes the author of Matthew made to his source[13] that sharpens the contrast between the (obviously Jewish) non-believers and the disciples (who are stand-ins for the members of the Matthean community). These tendentious changes are a continuation of the practice the author of Matthew followed in the preceding Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying.[14] In Luke’s version, which is preferable in many respects,[15] the contrast is not between believers and non-believers, but between members of former generations and those of the current generation, who were privileged to witness what the former generations had not seen.[16]

L3 μακάριοι οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ (GR). In Luke’s version of Blessedness of the Twelve, it is not only the apostles’ eyes that are privileged; the blessing is for all eyes that have seen what the apostles have witnessed. By changing his source to “But blessed are your eyes…” the author of Matthew limited the original scope of Jesus’ saying.[17]

אַשְׁרֵי הָעֵינַיִם (HR). In LXX the adjective μακάριος (makarios, “blessed,” “happy”) is almost always the translation of the construct of אֶשֶׁר (’esher, “blessedness,” “happiness”).[18] Likewise we find that אַשְׁרֵי is nearly always rendered in LXX as μακάριος or one of its cognates.[19]

Blessings that are pronounced on particular body parts are found elsewhere in the Gospels and in ancient Jewish sources. For example, in Luke we read:

μακαρία ἡ κοιλία ἡ βαστάσασά σε καὶ μαστοὶ οὓς ἐθήλασας

Blessed is the belly that bore you and the breasts that you nursed! (Luke 11:27)[20]

We have found no examples of blessings pronounced upon single body parts in the Hebrew Scriptures or DSS, but we have found examples in rabbinic literature:

אשריכם ואשרי יולדתכם אשרי עיני שכך ראו

Blessed are you, and blessed is she who gave birth to you, and blessed are my eyes that have seen this. (b. Hag. 14b)

According to the Talmud, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai pronounced the above blessing when two of his disciples told him how they had expounded upon the “works of the chariot” described in Ezekiel.

Another blessing pronounced upon a particular body part is found in a messianic context:

אשרי שעה שמשיח נברא אשרי הבטן שיצא ממנו אשרי הדור שעיניו רואות אשרי עין שזכתה לראותו

Blessed is the hour in which the Messiah was created! Blessed is the belly out of which he came! Blessed is the generation whose eyes see [him]. Blessed is the eye that has merited [the opportunity] to see him! (Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, Supplement 6 [ed. Mandelbaum, 2:470])[21]

This messianic blessing not only provides a linguistic parallel to our reconstruction, it also expresses a similar thought. In both Blessedness of the Twelve and the above messianic blessing the privilege of seeing God’s redemption is bestowed upon an entire generation. Whereas Jesus’ saying focuses on witnessing God’s redemptive activity, however, the messianic blessing focuses on the person of the Messiah.

L5 הָרֹאוֹת (HR). In Matthew’s version Jesus says, “but blessed are your eyes because they [are able to] see,” which heightens the tension between the disciples and the non-believers who “seeing will not see” (Matt. 13:13). Luke’s οἱ βλέποντες (definite article + participle) easily reverts to Hebrew as הָרֹאוֹת (definite article + participle).

L6 ἃ βλέπετε (GR). Throughout Luke’s version of Blessedness of the Twelve it is the privilege of seeing what was formerly hidden that distinguishes the present generation from prior generations (cf. L11-17). The author of Matthew dropped ἃ βλέπετε (“what you see”) from Anth. in order to further sharpen the distinction he wanted to make between the disciples and the non-believers. This omission changes the meaning of the first part of Matthew’s version of Blessedness of the Twelve, where it is no longer the opportunity to see, but their capacity to see, that distinguishes the two groups.[22]

מַה שֶּׁאַתֶּם רֹאִים (HR). Although the phrase -אֶת מַה שֶּׁ is twice attested in the Mishnah—both instances occurring in m. Neg. 13:10—there are many more examples of -מַה שֶּׁ where אֶת is omitted when we might have expected to find the direct object marker.[23] Since we prefer to reconstruct direct speech in a style similar to MH, we have chosen not to include the direct object marker אֶת in HR at L6, L8, L14 and L18.

L7 καὶ τὰ ὦτα τὰ ἀκούοντα (GR). Just as the author of Matthew changed the Anthology’s οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ οἱ βλέποντες (“the eyes that see”) to οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ ὅτι βλέπουσιν (“the eyes because they see”), we suspect he also changed τὰ ὦτα τὰ ἀκούοντα (“the ears that hear”) in Anth. to τὰ ὦτα ὅτι ἀκούουσιν (“the ears because they hear”). Unfortunately, the author of Luke dropped the second half of this parallelism,[24] so we lack independent confirmation of this suspicion. Nevertheless, an original parallelism seems likely, since both Matthew and Luke preserve “to see what you see…to hear what you hear” in the second part of Jesus’ saying (L14-16, L18).

L8 ἃ ἀκούετε (GR). We believe the author of Matthew omitted “what you hear” in this half of the parallelism, just as he omitted ἃ βλέπετε (“what you see”) in L6.

L9 ἀμὴν (Matt. 13:17). Matthew’s Hebraic ἀμήν (amēn, “Amen!”) probably comes from Anth.[25] Lindsey noted that, when using ἀμήν, the Synoptic Gospels often follow a pattern in which 1) Jesus makes a strong statement; 2) Jesus exclaims “Amen!”; and 3) Jesus makes a confirming statement. Lindsey further observed that, “This pattern is particularly evident in Jesus’ μακάριοι (makarioi, ‘blessed’) sayings.”[26] The author of Luke frequently dropped ἀμήν or substituted a synonym where ἀμήν is present in parallels with Mark or Matthew.[27]

L10 γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι (GR). Having dropped ἀμήν in L9, the author of Luke was forced by the laws of Greek grammar to shift the position of γάρ (gar, “for”) in L10.[28] Except when the author of Matthew edited Anth. for ideological purposes, in DT pericopae the Gospel of Matthew often preserves the wording of Anth. more faithfully than Luke, since the author of Luke was more prone to making stylistic improvements to his text. If we are correct in supposing that Matthew’s ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω word order is original, then the misunderstanding of ἀμήν as part of the following sentence instead of a response to what preceded can be traced back to the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua.[29]

Since both Matthew and Luke have ὅτι (hoti, “that”) in L10 we have retained ὅτι in GR. In Greek ὅτι is often used to introduce direct speech, whereas no equivalent such as כִּי (ki, “that, “because”) or -שֶׁ (she-, “that,” “because”) is required in Hebrew.[30]

L11 הַרְבֵּה נְּבִיאִים (HR). Following Delitzsch, Lowe and Flusser reconstructed πολλοὶ προφῆται (polloi profētai, “many prophets”) as נְּבִיאִים…רַבִּים (nevi’im rabim, “many prophets”),[31] but their reconstruction departs from the Greek word order of both Luke and Matthew. Our reconstruction agrees with the Greek word order and is paralleled in a rabbinic source:

כדתניא הרבה נביאים עמדו להם לישראל כפלים כיוצאי מצרים אלא נבואה שהוצרכה לדורות נכתבה ושלא הוצרכה לא נכתבה

As it was taught [in a baraita]: Many prophets [הַרְבֵּה נְּבִיאִים] arose for Israel, twice the number as [the total of Israelites] who came out of Egypt. But only the prophecy that was pertinent to coming generations was recorded, while that which was not pertinent to them was not recorded. (b. Meg. 14a)

On reconstructing προφήτης (profētēs, “prophet”) with נָבִיא (nāvi’, “prophet”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L22.

L12 καὶ βασιλεῖς (GR). Luke and Matthew disagree as to whether it was “righteous persons” (Matt.) or “kings” (Luke) who should be paired with “prophets.” Noting that “righteous persons” is a key term for the author of Matthew,[32] and that Matthew is unique among the Gospels in pairing “prophets” with “righteous persons” (Matt. 10:41; 23:29),[33] many scholars agree that Luke’s βασιλεῖς (basileis, “kings”) is more original.[34]

Luke’s reading, “kings,” is not without its difficulties, however, since kings are not often paired with prophets in ancient Jewish sources.[35] Furthermore, when prophets and kings are mentioned together kings always take precedence, whereas in Blessedness of the Twelve prophets are mentioned before kings.[36] Over a century ago Edwin Abbott suggested that “prophets and kings” in Luke 10:24 reflects a confusion of מַלְאָךְ (mal’āch, “messenger,” “angel”) in the original saying for מֶלֶךְ (melech, “king”).[37] Abbott’s suggestion has received little scholarly attention,[38] but it offers an elegant explanation for the puzzling combination “prophets and kings” in Blessedness of the Twelve. Not only is מַלְאָךְ a synonym for “prophet” in ancient Jewish sources,[39] there are numerous examples where confusion between מַלְאָךְ and מֶלֶךְ occurred.[40] Since it is easy to suppose that the alef in מַלְאָךְ was unintentionally omitted in the copy of the conjectured Hebrew Life of Yeshua used by the Greek translator, who accordingly wrote “king” instead of “messenger,” or, alternatively, that the Greek translator misread מַלְאָךְ in his text as מֶלֶךְ yielding the same result, we have accepted Abbott’s proposal and reconstructed Luke’s βασιλεῖς (“kings”) as מַלְאָכִים (“messengers”).[41]

L13 ἐπεθύμησαν (GR). As we noted above in Comment to L10, except when revising his source for ideological purposes, the author of Matthew often preserved the wording of Anth. more faithfully than Luke. Although at first glance Matthew’s ἐπιθυμεῖν (epithūmein, “to desire”), a compound verb, appears to be more polished Greek than Luke’s θέλειν (thelein, “to want,” “to desire”), the author of Luke may have wished to avoid using ἐπιθυμεῖν of the prophets since in the LXX version of the Ten Commandments ἐπιθυμεῖν is the verb used in the command, “Thou shalt not covet” (Exod. 20:17; Deut. 5:21), and is often used with negative connotations elsewhere in the Scriptures. The negative connotations of ἐπιθυμεῖν are not intrinsic to the verb, however, and since only one other instance of ἐπιθυμεῖν occurs in Matthew (Matt. 5:28), it is impossible to claim that ἐπιθυμεῖν is a particularly Matthean term.[42] We have therefore accepted for GR Matthew’s wording in L13.

הִתְאַוּוּ (HR). In LXX ἐπιθυμεῖν translates a few different verbs meaning “to desire,” but none so often as הִתְאַוֶּה (hit’aveh).[43] Although in MH הִתְאַוֶּה became rarer as רָצָה (rātzāh) began to encroach upon its semantic domain,[44] there are examples of the continued use of הִתְאַוֶּה in rabbinic sources.[45] Since הִתְאַוֶּה expresses ardent desire, and since it is known from LXX to be the equivalent of ἐπιθυμεῖν, we have adopted הִתְאַוֶּה for HR.[46]

L14 ἰδεῖν ἃ (GR). On reconstructing ἰδεῖν (idein, “to see”) with רָאָה (rā’āh, “see”), see Widow’s Son in Nain, Comment to L10.

L15 ὑμεῖς (Luke 10:24). Since ὑμεῖς (hūmeis, “you”) is omitted by Matthew in L15—and by both Matthew and Luke in L18—we have chosen not include ὑμεῖς in GR. The author of Luke may have added ὑμεῖς, which is unnecessary in Greek, for the sake of emphasis.[47]

L16-19 The wording in these four lines is identical in the Lukan and Matthean versions of Blessedness of the Twelve except for the insertion of μου (mou, “my”) in Luke 10:24 at L18, which is probably an error on the part of the scribe who copied Codex Vaticanus.

What had Jesus’ apostles seen and heard? They had witnessed empirical manifestations of God’s Kingdom, such as the healing of the sick and the restoration to sanity of the demon-possessed; and they had not merely heard, but had themselves announced, the proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven has arrived. Not only had they witnessed Jesus doing and saying these things, but they themselves had participated in healings, exorcisms and teaching in the course of their mission (Matt. 10:1; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1; 10:9),[48] and had thus experienced the Kingdom of Heaven’s redeeming power first-hand.[49] These concrete manifestations of God’s redeeming power are what Jesus referred to as “the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 13:11; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10).[50] Indeed, the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement bears a striking resemblance to a rabbinic comment regarding the physical manifestations of God’s redeeming power, which we discuss in the commentary on the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying,[51] of which Blessedness of the Twelve is a continuation:

זה אלי ואנוהו רבי אליעזר אומר מנין אתה אומר שראתה שפחה על הים מה שלא ראו ישעיה ויחזקאל וכל שאר הנביאים שנאמר בהם וביד הנביאים אדמה וכתיב נפתחו השמים ואראה מראות אלהים

This is my God and I will glorify him [Exod. 15:2]. Rabbi Eliezer says, “How does one know that at the [Red] Sea even the maidservants saw what Isaiah and Ezekiel and all the rest of the prophets never saw? Because it is said about them [i.e., the prophets—DNB and JNT], And through the prophets I gave parables [Hos. 12:11]. And it is written, The heavens were opened and I saw visions of God [Ezek. 1:1; i.e., Ezekiel did not see God face to face—DNB and JNT].” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirata chpt. 3, on Exod. 15:2 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:184])

Just as, according to Rabbi Eliezer, the generation of the exodus from Egypt was privileged to behold what even the prophets could not see, so, according to Jesus, the members of the generation to which he and his apostles belonged were privileged to see what the prophets longed to witness. Jesus linked “seeing” with the Kingdom of Heaven in the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying and the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement, and although Rabbi Eliezer does not explicitly mention the Kingdom of Heaven in the above cited comment, it is likely that the concept of seeing the Kingdom of Heaven was at the forefront of his mind.

Rabbi Eliezer’s comment pertains to Israel’s Song at the Sea (Exod. 15) where Moses and the people sang: “The LORD will reign [יִמְלֹךְ][52] forever and ever” (Exod. 15:18). According to rabbinic tradition, this verse constitutes the first mention of the Kingdom of Heaven in Scripture.

An early rabbinic reference to the proclamation of God’s kingship in connection with Exod. 15:18 is found in a story told by Rabbi Judah about the parting of the Red Sea:

רבי יהודה אומר כשעמדו ישראל על הים זה אומר אין אני יורד תחלה לים וזה אומר אין אני יורד תחלה לים שנאמר סבבוני בכחש אפרים ובמרמה בית ישראל מתוך שהיו עומדין ונוטלין עצה קפץ נחשון בן עמינדב וירד תחלה לים ונפל לו לגלי הים עליו הוא אומר הושיעני אלהים כי באו מים עד נפש טבעתי ביון מצולה ואין מעמד באתי במעמקי מים ושבולת שטפתני ואומר אל תשטפני שבולת מים ואל תבלעני מצולה ואל תאטר עלי באר פיה באותה שעה היה עומד משה ומאריך בתפלה לפני הקב″ה אמר לו הקב″ה משה ידידי משוקע במים והים סוגר ושונא רודף ואתה עומד ומאריך בתפלה לפני אמר לפניו רבונו של עולם ומה בידי לעשות אמר לו ואתה הרם את מטך וגו′ וכי מה אמרו ישראל על הים יי ימלוך לעולם ועד אמר הקב″ה מי שהמליכני על הים אעשנו מלך על ישראל

Rabbi Yehudah says, “When Israel stood at the sea, this one said, ‘I’m not going down first to the sea,’ and that one said, ‘I’m not going down first to the sea,’ as it is said, Ephraim surrounded me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit [Hos. 12:1]. As they were standing and taking counsel, Nahshon son of Aminadav [head of the tribe of Judah] jumped up and went down first to the sea and fell into its waves. About him it is said, Save me, O God, for the waters have come even to my soul, I have sunk in deep mire and there is no place to stand. I have come into deep waters, and the flood has enveloped me [Ps. 69:2-3]. And it says, Do not let the flood waters envelop me nor let the deep swallow me nor let the pit close its mouth over me [Ps. 69:16]. In that very hour Moses was standing and making lengthy prayers before the Holy One, blessed be he. The Holy One, blessed be he, said to him: ‘Moses, my friend is sinking in the water and the sea is closing upon him and the enemy is in pursuit and you stand and make lengthy prayers before me!’ Moses said to him, ‘Master of the universe, what can I do?’ He said to him, And you, raise your staff [and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the children of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground] [Exod. 14:16]. And what did Israel say at the sea [in response to this]? The LORD shall reign forever and ever! [Exod. 15:18]. The Holy One, blessed be he, said: ‘The one who caused me to be proclaimed King at the sea is the one I will make king over Israel.’” (Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, BeShallaḥ chpt. 6 [ed. Lauterbach, 1:155-156])[53]

The proclaiming of God’s kingship in the above passage is equivalent to proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven.

Another allusion to the Kingdom of Heaven in relation to Exod. 15:18 is found in the second paragraph of the Aleinu prayer, which reads:

וִיקַבְּלוּ כֻלָּם אֶת עֹל מַלְכוּתֶךָ. וְתִמְלוֹךְ עֲלֵיהֶם מְהֵרָה לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד. כִּי הַמַּלְכוּת שֶׁלְּךָ הִיא וּלְעוֹלְמֵי עַד תִּמְלֹךְ בְּכָבוֹד. כַּכָּתוּב בְּתוֹרָתֶךָ. יי יִמְלֹךְ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד:‏

And everyone will receive the yoke of your kingdom, and you will reign over them soon and forevermore. For the kingdom is yours, and you will reign forever in glory, as it is written in your Torah: The LORD shall reign forever and ever [Exod. 15:18].[54]

In yet another synagogue prayer, this one a part of the Sabbath evening service, the connection between the Kingdom of Heaven and Exod. 15:18 is made explicit:

מַלְכוּתְךָ רָאוּ בָנֶיךָ בּוֹקֵעַ יָם לִפְנֵי משֶׁה. זֶה אֵלִי עָנוּ. וְאָמְרוּ יי יִמְלֹךְ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד.‏

Your sons [i.e., the Israelites—DNB and JNT] saw your Kingdom when you [i.e., God—DNB and JNT] split the Red Sea so that Moses and the Israelites could pass. “This is my God!” [Exod. 15:2] they responded. And they said, “The LORD will reign forever and ever!” [Exod. 15:18].[55]

In this prayer we even have a parallel to Jesus’ claim that the apostles could see the Kingdom of Heaven.[56] The parallels in rabbinic literature and Jewish liturgical texts cited above support our interpretation that seeing (the mysteries of) the Kingdom of Heaven means witnessing God’s redeeming power in action.

According to Young and Flusser, the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement refers “to the culmination of redemptive history which is in the process of realization in his activities and by the work of his disciples. These powerful words view the fulfillment as already having arrived in the person of Jesus and through his career.”[57] Their observation highlights one of three important aspects of Jesus’ concept of the Kingdom of Heaven that must be understood in order to fully grasp the meaning of Blessedness of the Twelve.[58]

First, when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven he referred to a divine activity: God acting redemptively to remove the tyranny of evil and replacing it with his own saving reign. Thus, when Jesus cast out demons “by the finger of God,” he claimed “the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20). Second, the Kingdom of Heaven refers to the people who participate in God’s redemptive mission. Thus Jesus could refer to his own band of disciples as the Kingdom of Heaven, as in the Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven incident.[59] Third, the Kingdom of Heaven has a temporal aspect. According to Jesus, the reign of God has broken into the course of human history at a definite point: “the prophets…prophesied until John,” Jesus explained, but “from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven is breaking through” (Matt. 11:12-13).

As Young and Flusser noted,[60] the temporal aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven comes to the fore in the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement. As in the statement, “the prophets…prophesied until John,” here, too, Jesus divides history into the days of the prophets, and the present messianic era (i.e., the days of the Kingdom of Heaven). In other words, when Jesus said to the apostles, “many prophets and messengers desired to see what you see, but did not see it,” Jesus implied that the messianic age of redemption had finally dawned. In former days God had revealed himself indirectly to the prophets through symbolic images, but in the new era that had begun God was revealing his reign through the miracles and proclamation of Jesus and his twelve apostles. God’s redeeming power was being made clearly visible to everyone, because, as in the days of the exodus from Egypt, God was acting once again as the savior of Israel.

Redaction Analysis

In this Double Tradition pericope, Matthew and Luke have achieved a high degree of verbal agreement, which indicates that both Matthew and Luke copied Blessedness of the Twelve from their common source, the Anthology. The parallelisms and other Hebraisms preserved in the Matthean[61] and Lukan versions of Jesus’ saying enable us to reconstruct the conjectured Hebrew Ur-text with relative ease.

Luke’s Version

The author of Luke preserved the original context of the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement as part of Jesus’ response to the apostles’ return from their healing and teaching mission. Nevertheless, it appears that at several points the author of Luke departed from the Anthology’s wording in order to present a more polished Greek text. Such stylistic improvements include the omission of ἀμήν (“Amen!”) in L9, which necessitated the relocation of γάρ (“for”) in L10, and the addition of ὑμεῖς (“you”) in L15 for emphasis. It is possible that the omission of “and the ears that hear what you hear” in L7-8 is also a stylistic improvement, for the repetition of “see” and “hear” in this pericope may have seemed redundant. Changing ἐπεθύμησαν (“they ardently desired”) to ἠθέλησαν (“they wanted”) in L13 is better explained as an attempt by Luke to avoid attributing potentially embarrassing emotions to the prophets than as an attempt to polish the Greek of his source. None of these changes substantially affect the meaning of Jesus’ saying.

Matthew’s Version

From Matthew we learn that, in the Anthology, Blessedness of the Twelve was the continuation of the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven saying. This is an essential clue for arriving at a proper interpretation of the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement. At certain points Matthew’s version of Blessedness of the Twelve preserves the wording of Anth. more faithfully than Luke’s, but the first half of this saying is marred by the author of Matthew’s tendentious editorial activity. These editorial changes have the effect of drawing a stark contrast between believers and unbelievers, whereas the original form of Blessedness of the Twelve made a temporal distinction between those who looked forward to the things the prophets had foretold and those who had lived to see their fulfillment. These editorial changes begin in L2 where the author of Matthew introduced the emphatic ὑμῶν δὲ (“but your”) and continue in L4-6 where the author of Matthew changed “that see what you see” to “because they see.” This change transformed the originally open-ended blessing into a highly restricted blessing that pertained only to believers. We suspect that the author of Matthew edited the blessing pronounced upon the ears in L7, which mirrors the blessing pronounced upon the eyes, along the same lines, transforming “that hear what you hear” into “because they hear.” These changes are symptomatic of the growing tension between the original recipients of Matthew’s Gospel and the Jewish community.[62] That these rising tensions are reflected in his revisions to Blessedness of the Twelve is consistent with other editorial changes the author of Matthew made to the “Mission of the Twelve” complex that likewise reflect the conditions that prevailed at the time of Matthew’s composition.[63]

Results of This Research

1. Which is the better reading: Matthew’s “righteous persons” or Luke’s “kings”? We have concluded that in the Hebrew Life of Yeshua neither “righteous persons” nor “kings” appeared in this saying, but rather “messengers” (מַלְאָכִים; mal’āchim). Nevertheless, Luke’s reading is superior to Matthew’s, since βασιλεῖς (basileis, “kings”) can be explained as the result of a copyist or translator who mistook מַלְאָכִים (“messengers”) for מְלָכִים (“kings”). In either case, מְלָכִים was translated as βασιλεῖς, and this reading was preserved in Anth., which the author of Luke copied. Perhaps because he recognized that “kings” is not a suitable synonym for “prophets,” the author of Matthew replaced “kings” with “righteous persons.”

2. What had the Twelve seen and heard? Having returned from a healing and teaching mission, the twelve apostles had witnessed miracles that confirmed that the Kingdom of Heaven had arrived. God’s reign had begun to break into the human sphere with physical manifestations in a way that had not been seen (or heard) since the parting of the Red Sea. Formerly, God’s Kingdom had been veiled behind the curtain of ordinary human affairs, and prophets were required to interpret God’s actions and assure Israel of God’s promises. But now, through Jesus’ words and deeds, and those of his apostles, God’s redeeming power was once again bursting onto the stage of human history and could be witnessed by everyone.

Conclusion

The Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement forms the final segment of the “Mission of the Twelve” complex. A pervasive theme throughout the complex is the redemption of Israel, which God was bringing about through Jesus and his followers. The appointment of twelve apostles to Israel signified the miraculous renewal and ingathering of the twelve tribes (Choosing the Twelve). The healings and exorcisms the apostles were commissioned to carry out signified the lifting of the curse of exile (Sending the Twelve: Commissioning). The apostles’ proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven had arrived reverberated with the themes of the exodus from Egypt when, according to Jewish tradition, the Kingdom of Heaven had first been revealed (Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town). When the apostles returned, rejoicing in all they had accomplished in the course of their mission, Jesus affirmed that he had seen a vision in which he saw Satan fall (Return of the Twelve). In other words, the supernatural powers that opposed the redemption of Israel had finally been cast down. Nothing now could stop the coming redemption promised by the prophets of old. Whatever resistance the diabolical powers might still mount against the Kingdom of Heaven could no longer prevail. The day of redemption had dawned, and the glories the prophets had struggled even to imagine (Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven) were now being revealed for everyone in Israel to see (Blessedness of the Twelve).

 


 

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  • [1] For abbreviations and bibliographical references, see “Introduction to ‘The Life of Yeshua: A Suggested Reconstruction.’
  • [2] This translation is a dynamic rendition of our reconstruction of the conjectured Hebrew source that stands behind the Greek of the Synoptic Gospels. It is not a translation of the Greek text of a canonical source.
  • [3] See Brad Young and David Flusser, “Messianic Blessings in Jewish and Christian Texts” (Flusser, JOC, 280-300, esp. 293-294); Notley-Safrai, 29-30. Other scholars who agree that Blessedness of the Twelve originally belonged to the context of the apostles’ mission include Plummer, Luke, 283; Davies-Allison, 2:394; David Hill, “ΔΙΚΑΙΟΙ as a Quasi-Technical Term,” New Testament Studies 11.3 (1965): 296-302, esp. 298.
  • [4] On Luke’s Mission of the Seventy-two as the Anth. version of the Sending of the Twelve, see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, under the subheading “Conjectured Stages of Transmission.”
  • [5] See Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, under the subheading “Story Placement.”
  • [6] Lindsey classified this pericope as Type 1 Double Tradition. See Robert Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “Double Tradition.”
  • [7] Dodd suggested that John 20:29 (“Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe”) is a reaction to the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement. According to Dodd, “John seems to say, ‘No: blessed are those who do not see—but have faith!’ The Sitz im Leben, therefore, of the Johannine saying is the situation of the Church after the resurrection…, whereas the Synoptic form [i.e., the Blessedness of the Twelve pronouncement—DNB and JNT] makes sense only in the Setting of the historic Ministry of Jesus” (C. H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965], 354).
  • [8] Pace T. W. Manson, 80.
  • [9] On the καί + participle + aorist construction, see Jesus and a Canaanite Woman, Comment to L1.
  • [10] The closest Hebrew expression to κατ᾿ ἰδίαν is probably לְבַד + pronominal suffix (e.g., לְבַדּוֹ, “by himself”), which LXX typically translated as μόνος (e.g., Gen. 2:18), κατά + ἑαυτοῦ (e.g., Gen. 30:40) or κατά + μόνος (e.g., Gen. 32:17).
  • [11] In LXX the phrase κατ᾿ ἰδίαν occurs in 2 Macc. 4:5; 6:21; 9:26; 14:21.

    Incidentally, it is likely that the phrase κατ᾿ ἰδίαν should be considered what Robert Lindsey called a Markan stereotype, in other words, a phrase the author of Mark picked up from the Gospel of Luke and used with a much higher frequency than is found in Luke’s Gospel. In Luke the phrase κατ᾿ ἰδίαν occurs twice (Luke 9:10; 10:23), and in both instances it is probably editorial. In Mark κατ᾿ ἰδίαν occurs 7xx:

    • Mark 4:34
    • Mark 6:31
    • Mark 6:32 (= Luke 9:10)
    • Mark 7:33
    • Mark 9:2
    • Mark 9:28
    • Mark 13:3

    Evidently, the author of Mark became enamored of the idea that Jesus spoke privately to his disciples, and therefore worked this theme into his Gospel repeatedly. This theme was subsequently passed on to the Gospel of Matthew.

    In Matthew κατ᾿ ἰδίαν occurs 6xx:

    • Matt. 14:13 (= Mark 6:32; Luke 9:10)
    • Matt. 14:23
    • Matt 17:1 (= Mark 9:2; omitted in Luke 9:28)
    • Matt. 17:19 (= Mark 9:28)
    • Matt. 20:17
    • Matt. 24:3 (= Mark 13:3; omitted in Luke 21:7)

    In Matthew’s much longer Gospel the phrase κατ᾿ ἰδίαν occurs with less frequency than in Mark. Moreover, most instances of κατ᾿ ἰδίαν in Matthew are taken over from Mark’s Gospel.

    On the phenomenon of Markan stereotypes, see Robert L. Lindsey, “Introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark,” under the subheading “The Markan Stereotypes”; Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Catalog of Markan Stereotypes and Possible Markan Pick-ups.”

  • [12] So Albright-Mann, 167: “The your is emphatic here (humōn de), in contrast with them (autios, ekeinois) of vss. 10, 11, 13, 14.” Cf. Allen, 147; Davies-Allison, 2:395; Hagner, 375.
  • [13] Pace Malcolm Lowe and David Flusser, “Evidence Corroborating a Modified Proto-Matthean Synoptic Theory,” New Testament Studies 29.1 (1983): 25-47, esp. 38.
  • [14] See Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L12.
  • [15] Cf. T. W. Manson, 80.
  • [16] See Nolland, Luke, 576.
  • [17] Davies and Allison compare Jesus’ blessing upon those who see and hear to two blessings recorded in the Psalms of Solomon:

    μακάριοι οἱ γενόμενοι ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἰδεῖν τὰ ἀγαθὰ Ισραηλ ἐν συναγωγῇ φυλῶν ἃ ποιήσει ὁ θεός.

    Happy are those who shall live in those days, to see the good things of Israel that God shall accomplish in the congregation of the tribes. (Pss. Sol. 17:44; NETS)

    μακάριοι οἱ γενόμενοι ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἰδεῖν τὰ ἀγαθὰ κυρίου ἃ ποιήσει γενεᾷ τῇ ἐρχομένῃ.

    Happy are those who shall live in those days, to see the good things of the Lord, which he will perform for the coming generation. (Pss. Sol. 18:6; NETS)

    Davies and Allison write, “In these two texts those who shall see the messianic age are blessed. Jesus, however, declares that salvation has come now” (Davies-Allison, 2:394).

  • [18] See Hatch-Redpath, 2:892.
  • [19] See Dos Santos, 20.
  • [20] An inversion of this blessing is found in Luke 23:29. “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matt. 5:8) is a quasi-example of a blessing pronounced on a body part.
  • [21] Cf. Pesikta Rabbati, chpt. 37; Yalkut HaMechiri on Isa. 61:10. On these rabbinic traditions, see Young and Flusser, “Messianic Blessings in Jewish and Christian Texts” (Flusser, JOC, 280-300).
  • [22] Cf. T. W. Manson, 80; Bultmann, 109; Davies-Allison, 2:395.
  • [23] Such examples include:

    מְעוֹת חוּלִּין וּמְעוֹת מַעֲשֵׂר שֵׁנִי שֶׁנִּיתְפַּזְּרוּ מַה שֶּׁלִּיקֵּט לִיקֵּט לְמַעֲשֵׂר שֵׁינִי עַד שֶׁיַּשְׁלִים וְהַשְּׁאָר חוּלִּין

    Monies for common use are inadvertently scattered with monies for the Second Tithe: what is gathered is gathered for the Second Tithe until it is all accounted for and the rest can be put to common use. (m. Maas. Sh. 2:5)

    עָשִׂיִנוּ מָה שֶּׁגָּזַרְתָּה עָלֵינוּ אַף אַתָּה עֲשֵׂה מָה שֶׁהִבְטַחְתָּנוּ

    We have done what you have imposed upon us, so may you do what you have promised us. (m. Maas. Sh. 5:13)

    אָמַ′ לוֹ ר′ אֱלִיעֶזֶר עֲקִיבָה עָקַרְתָּה מַה שֶּׁכָּתוּב

    Rabbi Eliezer said to him, “Akiva, you have uprooted what is written….” (m. Pes. 6:2)

    יְתוֹמָה שֶׁהִשִּׂיאַתָּהּ אִמָּה וְאַחֶיהָ וְכָתְבוּ לָהּ מֵאָה וַחֲמִשִּׁים זוּז יְכוּלָה הִיא מִשֶּׁתַּגְדִּיל לְהוֹצִיא מִיָּדָן מַה שֶּׁרָאוּיִ לְהִינָּתֶן לָהּ

    If a fatherless girl was given in marriage by her mother or her brothers and they wrote for her a dowry of a hundred [zuz (a certain denomination of money)—DNB and JNT] or fifty zuz, when she is come of age she can take from their hand what rightfully ought to have been given her. (m. Ket. 6:6)

    אוֹמְ′ לוֹ עֲשֵׂה מַה שֶּׁיִשְׂרָאֵ′ אוֹמְרִין לָךְ

    …they say to him, “Do what Israel tells you!” (m. Git. 9:8)

  • [24] See Bultmann, 109; Marshall, 438; Nolland, Luke, 2:575.
  • [25] Ἀμήν is the most common transliterated Hebrew word in the Gospels. See Joshua N. Tilton and David N. Bivin, “LOY Excursus: Greek Transliterations of Hebrew, Aramaic and Hebrew/Aramaic Words in the Synoptic Gospels.”
  • [26] Robert L. Lindsey, “‘Verily’ or ‘Amen’—What Did Jesus Say?
  • [27] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L115. Cf. Davies-Allison, 2:395.
  • [28] According to the laws of Greek grammar, γάρ cannot begin a sentence; it is usually placed as the second word of a sentence. If Luke had retained ἀμήν in this section, he, like Matthew, might have supposed that ἀμήν began the next sentence and placed γάρ immediately after ἀμήν. However, ἀμήν is usually used to emphasize or conclude a previous statement, not to introduce a new statement. So, Matthew’s word order does not reflect the normal Hebraic usage of ἀμήν.
  • [29] See previous note.
  • [30] For an identical reconstruction of λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι, see Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, L102 and Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, L116.
  • [31] See Lowe and Flusser, “Evidence Corroborating a Modified Proto-Matthean Synoptic Theory,” 38.
  • [32] See David Hill, “ΔΙΚΑΙΟΙ as a Quasi-Technical Term,” New Testament Studies 11.3 (1965): 296-302.
  • [33] On Matt. 10:41, which was likely penned by the author of Matthew, see Sending the Twelve: Apostle and Sender, Comment to L145-150.
  • [34] See Harnack, 26; T. W. Manson, 80; Hill, “ΔΙΚΑΙΟΙ as a Quasi-Technical Term,” 298; Davies-Allison, 2:395; Hagner, 376; Nolland, Luke, 2:576. The pairing of prophets with righteous persons is unusual in ancient Jewish and early Christian sources. The closest we come to “prophets and righteous persons” in the rest of NT is “prophets and saints” (Rev. 11:18; 16:6; 18:24). Davies-Allison (2:395) cite Josephus’ account of the wickedness of king Manasseh as a possible parallel to Matthew’s “prophets and righteous persons”:

    πάντας τοὺς δικαίους τοὺς ἐν τοῖς Ἑβραίοις ἀπέκτεινεν, ἀλλ᾽ οὐδὲ τῶν προφητῶν ἔσεχε φειδώ

    …he killed all the righteous men [τοὺς δικαίους] among the Hebrews, nor did he spare even the prophets [τῶν προφητῶν]…. (Ant. 10:38; Loeb)

    In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin mentions kings, righteous persons, prophets and patriarchs (ἢ βασιλέων ἢ δικαίων ἤ προφητῶν ἢ πατριαρχῶν) in a single list (Dial. chpt. 85).

  • [35] In ancient Jewish sources it is more common to find prophets paired with priests, elders or emissaries than with kings.

    In MT the pairing of “priest” with “prophet” sometimes refers to specific individuals, e.g., Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet (1 Kgs. 1:32, 34, 38, 44, 45), and sometimes “priests” are paired with “prophets” when listing prominent positions in the community (e.g., 2 Kgs. 23:2; Jer. 2:26; 8:1; 23:34; 26:7; 29:1; Neh. 9:32). Other times, however, “priests” and “prophets” are paired in such a way that suggests that their functions were considered comparable, for example:

    “Both prophet and priest [גַם נָבִיא גַם כֹּהֵן] are ungodly; even in my house I have found their wickedness,” says the LORD. (Jer. 23:11; RSV)

    Other examples include: Jer. 5:31; 6:13; 8:10; 14:18; Lam. 4:13; Ezek. 7:26; Zeph. 3:4 (in the order “prophet…priest”); Isa. 28:7; Jer. 4:9; Lam. 2:20; Mic. 3:11; Zech. 7:3 (in the order “priest…prophet”).

    Prophets are also paired with priests in the writings of Philo (e.g., Cher. §17; Sacr. §130; Gig. §61) and Josephus (e.g., Ant. 6:262, 268; Ag. Ap. 1:249).

    Elders (זְקֵנִים; zeqēnim) are paired with prophets in rabbinic sources. Cf., e.g., m. Avot 1:1; m. Yad. 4:3; Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Vayassa‘ chpt. 1 (ed. Lauterbach, 1:225); BaḤodesh chpt. 6 (ed. Lauterbach, 2:324).

    According to a rabbinic source, שָׁלִיחַ (shāliaḥ, “emissary”) is a synonym for prophet:

    עשרה שמות נקרא נביא אלו הן. ציר. נאמן. עבד. שליח. חוזה. צופה. רואה. חלום. נביא. איש אלהים.‏

    By ten names were prophets called, and they are: ambassador, faithful, servant, emissary [שָׁלִיחַ], visionary, watchman, seer, dreamer, prophet, man of God. (Avot de-Rabbi Nathan, Version A, 34:7 [ed. Schechter, 102])

    This agrees with the pairing of prophets with apostles (ἀποστόλοι; apostoloi) in NT, for instance:

    Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles [προφήτας καὶ ἀποστόλους]….” (Luke 11:49; RSV)

    Apostles and prophets are closely associated in 1 Cor. 12:28, 29 (cf. Eph. 4:11), and they appear in tandem in Eph. 2:20; 3:5. In Rev. 18:20 we find saints, apostles and prophets mentioned together. Apostles and prophets also appear together in Didache 11:3. (On שָׁלִיחַ as the equivalent of ἀπόστολος, see Choosing the Twelve, Comment to L10-11.)

    The term ἀπεσταλμένος (apestalmenos, “sent one”), which is similar in form and meaning to “apostle,” is found in Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem (“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who have been sent to her [τοὺς ἀπεσταλμένους]”; Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34), where it too is paired with “prophet.” The Hebrew equivalent of ἀπεσταλμένος is probably שָׁלוּחַ (shālūaḥ, “emissary”), a synonym of שָׁלִיחַ.

    In the New Testament we also find prophets paired with teachers (προφῆται καὶ διδάσκαλοι) in Acts 13:1, to which we may compare Did. 13:1-2 (προφήτης ἀληθινὸς…διδάσκαλος ἀληθινός).

  • [36] In the Hebrew Scriptures kings were often at odds with the prophets, e.g., Ahab and Elijah (1 Kgs. 18); Ahab and Michaiah (1 Kgs. 22); Ahaz and Isaiah (Isa. 7); Jeroboam and Amos (Amos 7); Joash and Zechariah (2 Chr. 24); and Jehoiakim and Jeremiah (Jer. 36).

    Sometimes, as in the example from Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho cited above, kings and prophets are mentioned together in lists of important personages, for example:

    …let not all the hardship seem little to thee that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all thy people [לִמְלָכֵינוּ לְשָׂרֵינוּ וּלְכֹהֲנֵינוּ וְלִנְבִיאֵנוּ וְלַאֲבֹתֵינוּ וּלְכָל־עַמֶּךָ], since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. (Neh. 9:32; RSV)

    Further examples from Scripture include Jer. 2:26; 4:9; 8:1; 13:13; 32:32; Lam. 2:9.

    The Mishnah describes a similar assemblage of personages:

    אֵין מוֹסִיפִין עַל הָעִיר וְעַל הָעֲזָרוֹת אֶלָּא בַמֶּלֶךְ בַּנָּבִיא <בָּאוּרִ>ים וּבְתוּמִּים וּבְסֶנְהֶדְרִין שֶׁלְשִׁבְעִים <וְאֶחָד> וּבִשְׁתֵּי תוֹדוֹת וּבְשִׁיר

    They may not add to the city [i.e., Jerusalem] or to the [Temple] courts, unless by the decision of the king, and prophet, and Urim and Thummim [i.e., priest] and a sanhedrin of seventy-one members, and two thank offerings, and song. (m. Shevu. 2:2)

    Sources that pair “prophets” and “kings” more narrowly include Ben Sira’s description of Elijah’s resume:

    ὡς ἐδοξάσθης, Ηλια, ἐν θαυμασίοις σου…ὁ χρίων βασιλεῖς εἰς ἀνταπόδομα καὶ προφήτας διαδόχους μετ᾿ αὐτόν

    How you were glorified, Elias, in your wondrous deeds! …He who anointed kings for the purpose of retribution and prophets as successors after him. (Sir. 48:4, 8; NETS)

    The deeds of the prophets and kings are mentioned together in the second book of Maccabees:

    καταβαλλόμενος βιβλιοθήκην ἐπισυνήγαγεν τὰ περὶ τῶν βασιλέων βιβλία καὶ προφητῶν καὶ τὰ τοῦ Δαυιδ

    …he founded a library and collected the books about the kings and prophets, and the writings of Dauid…. (2 Macc. 2:13; NETS)

    Philo of Alexandria occasionally attributed the role of king and prophet to the same individual, for instance:

    ὁ καὶ βασιλὲων καὶ προφητῶν μέγιστος Σαμουήλ

    Samuel…the greatest of kings and prophets! (Ebr. §143; Loeb)

    ἐγένετο γὰρ προνοίᾳ θεοῦ βασιλεύς τε καὶ νομοθέτης καὶ ἀρχιερεὺς καὶ προφήτης

    For Moses, through God’s providence, became king and lawgiver and high priest and prophet…. (Mos. 2:3; Loeb; cf. 2:292)

    In the Tosefta we find a halachic ruling pertaining exclusively to prophets and kings:

    כל הקברות מתפנין חוץ מקבר המלך ומקבר הנביא רבי עקיבא אומר אף קבר המלך וקבר הנביא מתפנין

    All graves are subject to removal except for the grave of a king and the grave of a prophet. Rabbi Akiva says, “Even the grave of a king and the grave of a prophet are subject to removal.” (t. Bab. Bat. 1:11 [Vienna MS]; cf. Semaḥot 14:10)

    Prophets and kings are also paired in the following aggadic statements:

    כל כלה שהיא צנועה בבית חמיה, זוכה ויוצאין ממנה מלכים ונביאים

    Every bride who is modest in the house of her father-in-law is rewarded by having kings and prophets among her descendants. (b. Meg. 10b; b. Sot. 10b; Soncino)

    תמר זינתה יצאו ממנה מלכים ונביאים

    Tamar played the harlot yet out from her came kings and prophets. (b. Naz. 23b; cf. b. Hor. 10b)

  • [37] See Edwin A. Abbott, Clue: A Guide Through Greek to Hebrew Scripture (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1900), 154-156.
  • [38] Lowe and Flusser mention the possibility of confusion between מַלְאָךְ and מֶלֶךְ, but they attribute this solution to Michael Mach. See Lowe and Flusser, “Evidence Corroborating a Modified Proto-Matthean Synoptic Theory,” 46 n. 78.
  • [39] The use of “messenger” as a synonym for “prophet” occurs in MT and in post-biblical Jewish literature. Examples include:

    וַיִּהְיוּ מַלְעִבִים בְּמַלְאֲכֵי הָאֱלֹהִים וּבוֹזִים דְּבָרָיו וּמִתַּעְתְּעִים בִּנְבִאָיו עַד עֲלוֹת חֲמַת יי בְּעַמּוֹ עַד לְאֵין מַרְפֵּא

    But they mocked the messengers of God [מַלְאֲכֵי הָאֱלֹהִים] and disdained His words and taunted His prophets [נְבִאָיו] until the wrath of the LORD against His people grew beyond remedy. (2 Chr. 36:16; JPS)

    קלקלו בנביאים שנאמר ויהיו מלעיבים במלאכי האלהים

    They despised the prophets, as it is said, But they mocked the messengers of God [2 Chr. 36:16]. (Sifre. Deut. §306 [ed. Finkelstein, 328])

    עשרה שמות נקרא נביא עבד. מלאך. שליח. צופה. חוזה. חולם. ציר. רואה. נביא. איש אלהים.‏

    By ten names were the prophets called: servant, messenger [מַלְאָךְ], emissary, watchman, visionary, dreamer, ambassador, seer, prophet, man of God. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version B, chpt. 37 [ed. Schechter, 95])

    נקראו הנביאים מלאכים. הה″ד וישלח מלאך ויוציאנו ממצרים וכי מלאה היה והלא משה היה, ולמה קורא אותו מלאך, אלא מכאן שנקראו הנביאים מלאכים.‏

    The prophets are called מַלְאָכִים [i.e., “messenger” or “angel”—DNB and JNT]. This is indicated by what is written, And he sent a מַלְאָךְ, and brought us out of Egypt [Num. 20:16]. And was it indeed an angel? Was it not Moses? So why does it call him מַלְאָךְ? Only so that from here we might know that the prophets were called angels. (Lev. Rab. 1:1 [ed. Marguiles, 1:2])

    In LXX מַלְאָךְ is rendered ἄγγελος (angelos, “messenger,” “angel”) over 200xx. In Hellenistic Jewish sources and in NT we find “angel/messenger” paired with “prophet,” for example:

    It was then, I think, that she [Sarah—DNB and JNT] first saw in the strangers before her a different and grander aspect, that of prophets or angels [ἢ προφητῶν ἢ ἀγγέλων], transformed from their spiritual and soul-like nature into human shape. (Philo, Abr. 113; Loeb)

    “If hearing ye will hear My voice,” [Exod. 23:22] (which), it must be supposed, refers to the angel mentioned a little while ago. For the prophet [προφήτης] of Him Who speaks is properly an angel [ἄγγελος]. (Philo, QE 2:16; Loeb)

    The prophets [προφῆται] who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation…. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels [ἄγγελοι] long to look. (1 Pet. 1:10, 12; RSV)

  • [40] Abbott (Clue, 62-63) noted that מַלְאָךְ was mistaken for מֶלֶךְ in the story of David’s census. According to 1 Chr. 21:20, “Araunah [the Jebusite—DNB and JNT]…turned and saw the angel,” whereas 2 Sam. 24:20 reads, “Araunah looked out and saw the king.” Other examples of the confusion of מַלְאָךְ and מֶלֶךְ occurred in the process of translation from Hebrew to Greek: “The Hebrew ‘messenger’ [malāch] is rendered [in the Septuagint] by the Greek ‘king’ or ‘ruler,’ in Is. xiv. 32, xlii. 19; Prov. xiii. 17” (Abbott, Clue, 63 n. 1). (Abbott cited David Christian Ginsburg, Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible [1897], 141, for additional examples.) More recently, Kister has collected examples of this confusion from DSS and rabbinic literature. See Menahem Kister, “Ancient Material in Pirqe de Rabbi Eli‘ezer: Basilides, Qumran, the Book of Jubilees,” in ‘Go Out and Study the Land’ (Judges 18:2): Archaeological, Historical and Textual Studies in Honor of Hanan Eshel (ed. Aren M. Maeir, Jodi Magness, and Lawrence H. Schiffman; Leiden: Brill, 2012), 85 n. 70.

    The similarity of the Hebrew words for “king” and “messenger/angel” is intentionally played upon in a story about Hanina ben Dosa in Eccl. Rab. 1:1 §1.

  • [41] See David N. Bivin, “‘Prophets and Kings’: The Evangelist Luke’s Curious Doublet.”
  • [42] See Harnack, 26.
  • [43] See Hatch-Redpath, 1:520. In LXX ἐπιθυμεῖν is the translation of הִתְאַוֶּה in Num. 11:4; Deut. 5:21; 2 Kgdms. 23:15; 1 Chr. 11:17; Ps. 44[45]:12; 105[106]:14; Prov. 21:26; 23:3, 6; 24:1; Eccl. 6:2; Amos 5:18; Jer. 17:16.
  • [44] See Bendavid, 336, 345.
  • [45] The verb הִתְאַוֶּה occurs with both negative and positive connotations in m. Mak. 3:15; Mechilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Pisḥa chpt. 16 (ed. Lauterbach, 1:91); Sifre Deut. §31 (ed. Finkelstein, 53); Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, 20:1 (ed. Schechter, 71). Additional examples are cited in Jastrow, 24.
  • [46] Following Delitzsch, Lowe and Flusser reconstructed ἐπιθυμεῖν as נִכְסַף (nichsaf, “desire”), but since Jastrow (655) does not include this use of the root כ-ס-פ in his dictionary, it appears that נִכְסַף had fallen into disuse in MH. See Lowe and Flusser, “Evidence Corroborating a Modified Proto-Matthean Synoptic Theory,” 38.
  • [47] See Plummer, Luke, 283.
  • [48] On the reconstruction of Matt. 10:1; Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1, see Sending the Twelve: Commissioning, L14-23. On the reconstruction of Luke 10:9, see Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, L103-105.
  • [49] See Joseph Frankovic, “Beyond an Inheritance,” footnote 28. Manson commented, “The blessedness consists not in the fact that their eyes are open (as in Mt.), but in the fact that there is something to be seen by the open-eyed, the manifestation, namely, of the kingdom of God” (T. W. Manson, 80).
  • [50] See Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, under the subheading “Results of this Research.”
  • [51] See Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L10-11.
  • [52] The verb יִמְלֹךְ (yimloch, “he will reign”) and the nouns מֶלֶךְ (melech, “king”) and מַלְכוּת (malchūt, “kingdom”) all derive from the same Hebrew root, מ-ל-כ.
  • [53] We discuss this rabbinic tradition further in Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L13.
  • [54] Synagogue prayers are difficult to date. However, such prayers often preserve ancient phraseology. The phrase “for the Kingdom is yours” in the above quotation, for instance, is nearly identical to the phrase ὅτι σοῦ ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία (“for yours is the kingdom”), which appears in the doxology appended to the Lord’s Prayer. See Lord’s Prayer, Comment to L26.
  • [55] See Joseph H. Hertz, ed., The Authorized Daily Prayer Book (rev. ed.; New York: Bloch, 1975), 370.
  • [56] Although the concept of seeing the Kingdom of Heaven might sound strange to English speakers, references to seeing God’s Kingdom occur elsewhere in NT. In John 3:3 we find the phrase ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ (“to see the Kingdom of God”). According to Dodd, “This use of ἰδεῖν is probably a Semitism, representing the Hebrew ראה with the wide meaning ‘experience’” (Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel, 359).
  • [57] See Young and Flusser, “Messianic Blessings in Jewish and Christian Texts” (Flusser, JOC, 249 n. 31).
  • [58] For a fuller discussion of the different aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jewish literature and in Jesus’ teachings, see David N. Bivin and Joshua N. Tilton, “LOY Excursus: The Kingdom of Heaven in the Life of Yeshua.”
  • [59] See Rich Man Declines the Kingdom of Heaven, Comment to L64.
  • [60] See Young and Flusser, “Messianic Blessings in Jewish and Christian Texts” (Flusser, JOC, 249 n. 31).
  • [61] On the Hebraisms preserved in Matthew’s version of this pericope, see David N. Bivin, “Cataloging the Gospels’ Hebraisms: Part One (Luke 10:23-24).”
  • [62] On the anti-Jewish nature of much of Matthew’s editorial activity, see David Flusser, “Two Anti-Jewish Montages in Matthew” (Flusser, JOC, 552-560); idem, “Matthew’s Verus Israel” (Flusser, JOC, 561-574); idem, “Anti-Jewish Sentiment in the Gospel of Matthew” (Flusser, JSTP2, 351-353); and Tomson, 263-267, 406-408.
  • [63] See Sending the Twelve: Conduct on the Road, Comments to L52-62, L68; Sending the Twelve: Conduct in Town, Comment to L82-83.

David N. Bivin

David N. Bivin
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David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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Joshua N. Tilton

Joshua N. Tilton

Joshua N. Tilton grew up in St. George, a small town on the coast of Maine. For his undergraduate degree he studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). There he studied Biblical Hebrew and…
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