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?”
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.
Material from Ezekiel 17:24, and more often 21:3 (20:47 in the English Bible) has often been cited as the source of Jesus’ saying in Luke 23:31, “If they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Other commentators have questioned this assumption. If the material was borrowed from Ezekiel, however, was it borrowed directly or was it sifted through hundreds of years of usage, only to find its way into the mouth of Jesus?
When addressing these questions, it becomes immediately apparent that despite the numerous interpretations offered, there has been no attempt to gather all the pertinent sources together. Nor has there been any attempt to offer anything resembling a comprehensive analysis of all the relevant material.
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