The above image, courtesy of Gary Asperschlager, shows olive trees growing near the Church of All Nations on the Mount of Olives. Revised: 19-Apr-13How did a Jew in Jesus’ time announce that he was the Messiah? One accomplished this by applying to himself words or phrases from Scripture that were interpreted by members of his community to be references to the coming Messiah. Being interpretations rather than direct references, such messianic allusions are extremely subtle, and easily missed by modern readers of ancient Jewish literature. Claimants certainly did not reveal themselves by simply declaring, “I am the Messiah,”Even today a Jew who believes he is the Messiah never says, “I am the Messiah,” but rather, a messianic pretender refers to himself using words or phrases from scripture texts that have been interpreted messianically.
The first, for example, “Jesus and the Enigmatic ‘Green Tree,'” is a study of Jesus’ saying, “For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”
Luke 17:37b, ὅπου τὸ σῶμα ἐκεῖ καὶ οἱ ἀετοὶ ἐπισυναχθήσονται (“wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together”; KJV),Matthew’s parallel is: ὅπου ἐὰν ᾖ τὸ πτῶμα ἐκεῖ συναχθήσονται οἱ ἀετοί (wherever there may be the corpse, there will be gathered the eagles; Matt 24:28)is certainly one of the most enigmatic of Jesus’ sayings.
Luke’s use of “kings” (Luke 10:24) opposite Matthew’s parallel “righteous persons” (Matt. 13:17) creates a conundrum. Assuming that a Hebrew text lies underneath the Greek text of Luke 10:24 may allow us to arrive at a satisfactory solution to the problem.
In a beautiful statement that probably referred to the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus proclaimed to his disciples, according to Luke, that “many prophets and kings” desired to see and hear what they (his disciples) are seeing and hearing. Matthew preserves the same saying, but in Matthew’s account the doublet is, “prophets and righteous persons.”The saying appears only twice in the Gospels (Matt. 13:16-17; Luke 10:23-24).
Throughout the history of Judaism, the Torah has been investigated and analyzed by means of various rules of interpretation. These hermeneutic (interpretative) principles are statements of deductive reasoning.
The sage Hillel, a contemporary of Herod the Great, compiled a list of seven such rules. We will focus upon the first in the list, קַל וָחֹמֶר (qal vāḥomer; “simple and complex,” “kal vahomer”). This is a logical deduction that can be drawn from a simple truth about a less obvious situation, or from something known about something unknown.
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