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The Ministry of Jesus

The Ministry of Jesus

The Open Secret of the Kingdom of God

"In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever."
- Daniel 2:44

(1) The Time is Fulfilled

The Influence of Lady Wisdom

"The ancient Israelites personified wisdom itself as a wise woman, Lady Wisdom, who invited all and sundry to come to her house and learn from her."
- Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (1996) p. 240

"Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: 'To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness'."
- Proverbs 8:1-7

"When a righteous man [Jacob] fled from his brother's wrath,
she [Wisdom] guided him on straight paths;
she showed him the kingdom of God."
- Wisdom of Solomon 10:10

"Scholars agree that the Wisdom of Solomon was almost certainly written by a Jew in Alexandria in the first century BC. It is one of the apocryphal works written between the Old and New Testaments, but it was included in the ancient Greek edition of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. The original text was probably written in Greek, and Greek fragments were found in the Essene library at Qumran in Palestine. "
- Sanderson Beck, "Introduction to the Wisdom of Solomon"

The Wisdom of Solomon was written "most likely during the reign of the emperor Caligula, between 37 and 41 C.E. The true and lasting rule is not that which the kings of the earth now exercise but that which they would receive if they submitted themselves to wisdom's own rule. They are kings without the real kingdom."
- John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (1994)

There is no use of the phrase "Kingdom of God" in Jewish literature before the time of Jesus. Some scholars have suggested that the phrase originated with Jesus himself.

"Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom' [] 'of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel."
- Mark 1:14-15 (Matthew 4:17)

"In the gospels, Jesus is rarely represented as calling on people to repent. Such an admonition is characteristic of the message of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7-12; Luke 3:7-14). Like the apocalyptic view of history, the call to repentance may well have been derived from John and then attributed to Jesus."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels

"That formulation is, as Matthew 4:17's reformulation and Luke's omission indicate, a distinctively Markan statement. Its emphatically Markan theology presumes...that the Kingdom is here and now present but in a mode of hiddenness and humility that demands repentance before acceptance is even possible."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant (1991)

"Sometime after John's execution, and possibly even because of it, Jesus lost faith in God as the imminent apocalyptic One and came to believe, instead, in God as the immanent sapiential One. This God is known not through a future cosmic cataclysm but through a present lifestyle here, now, and immediately. His preferred term is the Kingdom of God, that is, the manifestation of God's presence through both individual and social, religious and political, styles of life appropriate to a world under divine rather than human control. What was needed, Jesus now claimed, was not a revelation (in Greek: apocalypsis) about the future but a wisdom (in Latin: sapientia) about the present."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images (1998), p. 147

Translating 


"The Greeks translate  (basileia - kingdom, reign); I think the translation 'power' might work better."
- Ed Friedlander, M.D., "Jesus of Nazareth"

"The Aramaic word which was translated into Greek to mean 'kingdom' [] has been misunderstood in this context, as it also means 'government' or 'rule' and, when one looks at the full usage of the term it means 'the land of Israel being ruled according to the Mosaic law."
- Christopher Knight & Robert Lomas, The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus

"All in all, the liturgical prayers and songs of Qumran are remarkably sparse in their use of the imagery of God's kingship. The one exception in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, and even here God's kingship is conceived of as a mystical heavenly reality to which the Qumranites have access through the esoteric liturgy of the community, which joins in the worship offered by the angels. This is hardly the imminent-yet-somehow-present eschatological rule of God that Jesus publicly proclaims to all Israel."
- John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume Two: Mentor, Message and Miracles (1994), p. 267

"'Kingdom of God' is used relatively infrequently in the Qumran writings and also in the rabbinic writings. The phrase is found in a number of other Jewish writings, but it is by no means easy to decide which of them may be dated with confidence to the time of Jesus; in any case there is such diversity that it would be rash to use any one strand as the 'key' with which to approach the sayings of Jesus! However in most of the passages 'kingdom' is a dynamic concept; it is a way of speaking about God's strength or power."
- Graham N. Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus, The Oxford Bible Series (1989), paperback, p. 195

A Disinherited Peasantry

"You shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family... But if there is not sufficient means to recover it [a piece of property], what was sold shall remain with the purchaser until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee it shall be released, and the property shall be returned."
- Leviticus 25:10, 28

"...Those ancient laws, precisely as ideal vision or ideological promise, refuse to see debt, slavery, or land expropriation simply as business transactions. The land is a divine possession not a negotiable commodity..."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images (1998), p. 6

"The land -shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants."
- Leviticus 25:23

"The Jewish peasantry, therefore, in distinction from say the Egyptian peasantry, had a long tradition in flat contradiction with a first-century boom economy that saw land accumulation as sensible business practice and debt foreclosure as the best and swiftest way to accomplish it."
"The Kingdom movement was Jesus' program of empowerment for a peasantry becoming steadily more hard-pressed through insistent taxation, attendant indebtedness, and eventual land expropriation, all within increasing commercialization in the expanding colonial economy of a Roman Empire under Augustan peace and a Lower Galilee under Herodian urbanization. Jesus lived, against the systemic injustice and structural evil of that situation, an alternative open to all who would accept it: a life of open healing and shared eating, of radical itinerancy, programmatic homelessness, and fundamental egalitarianism, of human contact without discrimination, and of divine contact without hierarchy. He also died for that alternative."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images (1998), pp. 6, 12


A Program of Empowerment


The attributes of the ideal kingdom, where God cares for the land and the poor, are described in Psalm 68 (attributed to King David).
"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."
"You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance. Your people settled in it, and from your bounty, O God, you provided for the poor."
- Psalm 68:5, 9-10

"The evidence of his parables and aphorisms shows that Jesus did not understand the rule of God to be the beginning of a new age, at the end of history, following a cosmic catastrophe. And he certainly did not speak of God's domain in the nationalistic sense as a revival of David's kingdom. Rather...Jesus spoke most characteristically of God's rule as close or already present but unrecognized, and thus in a way that challenged both apocalyptic and nationalistic expectations."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels


Sapiential Eschatology


"Apocalyptic eschatology is world-negation stressing imminent divine intervention: we wait for God to act; sapiential eschatology is world-negation emphasizing immediate divine imitation: God waits for us to act."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images (1998), p. 8

According to the Jesus Seminar, the apocalyptic eschatology present in the gospels, more properly reflects the impact of the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. on the early church. Eminent theologian E. P. Sanders disagrees with this assessment and points out that John the Baptist, Paul (1 Thessalonians 5) and the early church all expected an imminent end. Jesus, therefore, must fit this context. However, Jesus speaking for himself is not what you would expect of a prophet of Israel's eschatological hope. There is no teaching of the 12 tribes, no delineation of which groups are in and which are out, and nothing about the fate of Israel itself in the gospels, unlike prophesies in the Old Testament and Dead Sea scrolls.

"When Jesus was reported to have said, 'My Kingdom is not of this world' (John 18:36), he did not mean that it was in heaven. In the Gospel of John all people are divided into two groups: (1) those of the world and (2) those not of the world. Those not of the world included Jesus and his followers who believed in him. They lived on the earth. They were not in heaven, but they were not the heathen. They belonged to 'the church' in contrast to 'the world'. 'The world' included al the pagans and those who refused to believe in him."
- George Wesley Buchanan, Jesus - The King and His Kingdom


(2) Secrets of the Kingdom of God


Speaking in Parables

"I shall speak out freely, and I shall express my various sayings among you [...] [...those who would understand] parbles and riddles, and those who would penetrate the origins of knowledge, along with those who hold fast to [the wonderful mysteries...]"
- The Book of Secrets 4Q301 2.1-2

Jesus "gave an impression of paternalism, of moving about with regal benevolence of being a king among his subjects. This was not a pose, but the effect of the secret of his Messianic identity, which he carried about with him and did not disclose until near the climax of his activities [according to Mark]. He referred often to the secrets of the Kingdom of God."
- Hugh J. Schonfield, After the Cross

"O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old-- what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us."
- Psalm 78 A of Asaph

"Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel."
- Ezekiel 17:2

"With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable []. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything."
- Mark 4:33-34

Meaning and Use of Parables


"Parable: denotes 'a placing beside' (akin to , 'to throw' or 'lay beside, to compare'). It signifies 'a placing of one thing beside another' with a view to comparison."
- Vine's Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words

The "wide range of meanings for  can be attributed to its use in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) for the Hebrew word mshl which means 'maxim' (especially in Proverbs), 'proverb', 'parable', 'riddle', and 'allegory'."
- Graham N. Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus, The Oxford Bible Series (1989), paperback, p. 196

Parables "are short stories, and what one remembers, as with a joke, is the point or punch-line. Thereafter, one can reconstruct the story as required. Our extant New Testament versions of Jesus' parables are more like plot summaries than precise transcriptions. An actual version might have been told or even acted out by Jesus in far greater detail and with far more audience interaction and response. But even though aphorism and parable are forms of oral speech that vastly enhance the possibility of remembrance, there is one even deeper continuity to be noted.

"This deeper continuity is not in memory but in mimesis, not in remembrance but in imitation. Many of Jesus' early companions adopted a lifestyle like his own. They dressed as he did, like destitute beggars, but rather than begging, they brought free heating to the homes and hamlets of Galilee and asked in return, not for handouts, but for full participation in the family's meals. They had done that during his life and they continued to do so after his execution."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images (1998), p. 22

"When Jesus preached so strikingly in parables, he did not create a new literary genre. Rather, he made brilliant use of a genre which was already of long tradition and which was familiar to all throughout the Mediterranean world. In Greece and Rome, parables were employed by rhetoricians, politicians and philosophers. Perhaps the most illustrious among those who made use of them were Socrates and Aristotle.
"The parables which most closely resemble Jesus' are those in the Old Testament and rabbinic literature. These Semitic parables (as distinct from the classical) are no doubt the predecessors of those we find preserved in the Synoptic Gospels."
- Madeleine I. Boucher, The Parables (1980)

"You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them."
- Isaiah 6:9, 10

Parables also can be found in the wisdom literature of the Dead Sea Scrolls. For example, the following passage is reminiscent of Jesus' parable of the House Built on Sand in Matt 7:27.

"[...] a man [...] [...] who decides to build a house and covers its walls with plaster. With him too [...] the walls of the house will fall down when rain falls on it."
- 4QWisd=4Q424 Frag. 1, 2-4

"The rabbinic parables are of course the closest in both time and place to those of Jesus. The following example is interesting for its similarity to the Gospel parable of the Two Builders (Mt 7:24-27; Lk 6:47- 49):"
- Madeleine I. Boucher, The Parables (1980)

"He whose wisdom exceeds his works, to what may he be likened? To a tree whose branches are numerous but whose roots are few. The wind comes along and uproots it and sweeps it down.... But he whose works exceed his wisdom, to what may he be likened? To a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are numerous. Then even if all the winds of the world come along and blow against it they cannot stir it from its place..."
- Pirqe Aboth III. 18

Concealing or Revealing Understanding?

"From the beginning to the end of time...all the events that occurred, why things were, the way they were and all lead to an unknown, [future]. The time that God exposes, the answers to the unknown, too, those who listen...You will be one of the few, to be able to conceive, when I present you with the [answers]. Your actions will be weighted in the palm of my hand along with time...Cherish greatly, the lessons learned."
- 4Q418 Frag. 123 Col. 2

"When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, 'The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!""
- Mark 4:10-12 (Matthew 13:11, 13-15; Luke 8:10)

"...Mark endeavors to maintain the significance of the parables by making the original disciples of Jesus, who did not understand the meaning of the parables, into outsiders. That gives Mark and his readers a privileged position: they know even what the original disciples did not know.
"All of this is...far removed form the style of Jesus' discourse and the content of his message. Jesus' strategy in the authentic parables is to confuse the distinction between insiders and outsiders: he tends to make insiders into outsiders and outsiders into insiders, but he does so on new and different terms."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels

"...Mark's citation of Isa. 6:9-10 agrees with the Aramaic version rather than with the Septuagint, but Matthew went to the latter for his quotation, which allowed him completely to change the point of Jesus' statement:"
- Randal Helms, Gospel Fictions (1988) p. 40

"The disciples went up to him and asked, 'Why do you speak to them in parables?'
He replied, 'It has been granted to you to know the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven; but to those others it has not been granted. For the man who has will be given more, till he has enough and to spare, and the man who has not will forfeit even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; for they look without seeing, and hear without hearing or understanding. There is a prophecy of Isaiah which is being fulfilled for them: 'You may hear and hear, but you will never understand; you may look and look, but you will never see. For this people's mind has become gross; their ears are dulled, and their eyes are closed. Otherwise, their eyes might see, their ears hear, and their mind understand, and then they might turn again, and I would heal them.'"
- Matthew 13:10-15

"Hear now O foolish people which have eyes and see not ... ears that hear not."
- Jeremiah 5:21

"Jesus speaks in parables to enhance people's understanding, insists Matthew, not to prevent it. That Mark's account of the scene is simply wrong is Matthew's implication."
- Randal Helms, Gospel Fictions (1988) p. 41

Reversing Ordinary Perception


Whereas the Judean rabbis used parables to illustrate holy scripture, Jesus used them to depict real life situations, with an invitation to re-imagine the possibilities of life. In addition, when Jesus told his parables, the audience got the point without the need for further explanation (like the punch line of a joke). The only exceptions are the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:3-8 [Matthew 13:3-8; Luke 8:5-8a; Thomas 9:1-5]) which Luke follows with an explanation, and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35).

"Using a dozen parables specialists as my authorities I conclude that Jesus' parables were a unique form of discourse intended to reverse 'ordinary perception, functioning to jolt his hearers out of their present world, their present way of seeing reality' (M. Borg). I then take the hypnotherapeutic psychology of Milton Erickson as a contemporary analogy to therapy using altered states of consciousness and observe that there too parable-style discourse is used to reverse 'ordinary perception, to jolt hearers out of their present world, their present way of seeing reality.' I conclude that the Kingdom of God was, for Jesus' followers, a form of a.s.c. [altered state of consciousness] experience induced and directed through Jesus' discourse."
- Stevan Davies' review of his book Jesus the Healer: Possession, Trance, and the Origins of Christianity, Continuum Press, New York 1995

Jesus "could admit his followers to the kingdom of God, and he could do it in some special way, so that they were not there merely by anticipation, nor by virtue of belief and obedience, nor by some other figure of speech, but were really, actually, in."
- Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel

Morton Smith hypothesizes that the secret of the kingdom of God was actually a visionary journey experienced by the inner circle of disciples.
"You have stretched out the heavens for Your glory, You [formed] all [their hosts] according to Your will, and the powerful spirits according to their laws, before they became [Your holy] angels [...], as eternal spirits in their dominions, luminaries for their mysteries, stars according to [their] paths, [and all the storm winds] according to their duty, meteors and lightning bolts according to their service, and the store houses designed for their needs [...] for their secrets."
- Thanksgiving Psalm 1QH 9. 9-13


(3) A Hidden Wisdom


The Secret Way

"So listen, you who hold fast to the wonderful secrets ...) of eternity , and the plots behind every did, and the purpouse of .... He knows) every secret and stands behind very thought. He does every (... the Lord of all) is He, from long ago He established it, and forever (...) (...) the purpose of the origins he opened up to (...) (...) for he tests His son, and gives as an inheritance (...) (...) every secret, and he limits of every deed; and what (...) (...) the Gentiles, for He created them and their deeds (...)"
- 4q299 F.2 (+4Q300 F.5) Col.2

Initiation into a secret Way was referred to in the Dead Sea Scrolls, although the ritual itself was not described.
"He [the Instructor] shall ground them in knowledge, thereby instructing them in truly wondrous mysteries, if then the secret Way is perfect among the man of the Yahad, each will walk blamelessly with his fellow, guided by what has been revealed to them. That will be the time of 'preparing the way in the desert' (Isa. 40:3)."
- Community Rule 1QS 9:18-19

The Teacher of Righteousness himself writes of his knowledge of these mysteries.

"My eyes have gazed
on that which is eternal,
on wisdom concealed from men,
on knowledge and wise design
[hidden] from the sons of men;
on a fountain of righteousness
and on a storehouse of power,
on a spring of glory
[hidden] from the assembly of flesh.
God has given them to His chosen ones
as an everlasting possession,
and has caused them to inherit
the lot of the Holy Ones..."
- Community Rule 1QS 11.5-8

The teachings of the Essenes, reflected in the pseudographical First Book of Enoch, emphasize a hidden wisdom which will be revealed by the Son of Man.

"And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden things, concerning that Son of Man, who he was, and whence he was, (and) why he went with the Head of Days? And he answered and said unto me: This is the son of Man who hath righteousness, With whom dwelleth righteousness, And who revealeth all the treasures of that which is hidden..."
- 1 Enoch 46:2-3

Jesus criticized those who claimed to be mediators of hidden knowledge.

"Jesus said, 'The Pharisees and the scholars have taken the keys of knowledge and have hidden them. They have not entered nor have they allowed those who want to enter to do so.'"
- Thomas 39:1-2; Luke 11:52 // Matthew 23:13

"The 'keys of knowledge' probably referred to special rules used to interpret scripture, possibly to confirm a particular sectarian understanding."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels

An Unrealized Presence According to Thomas

The following verses poke fun at the wisdom texts from the Greek Bible with which they share a common lore. The kingdom of God is not hidden at all - it is right in our presence now.

"His disciples said to him, 'When will the kingdom come?'
[Jesus said,] 'It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying 'Here it is' or 'There it is.' Rather, the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.'"
- Thomas 113:1-4

"In apocalyptic eschatology, the Kingdom of God refers to the imminent and cataclysmic event by which God will restore justice, peace, and holiness to a world grown old in evil. God's action will occur in specific time (soon) and specific place (here). In Jesus' vision and program, the Kingdom of God is always available and one enters it by a lifestyle of radical egalitarianism. Jesus himself does not announce its imminent actuality but its permanent possibility."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images (1998), p. 149

"In my translation, 113d is rendered, '...the kingdom ... is SPREADING out upon the earth'. This is literally correct, since the verb 'spread' is preceded by the Coptic prefix 'ES', which suggests current, on-going action, rather than 'ET', which suggests completed action. (BTW, the word 'kingdom' is feminine in Coptic.)"
"'How can they fail to see it?' someone as simple-minded as me might ask. Obviously, men can see buildings and lands, so the kingdom must not consist of those. Of what, then, does it consist?"
- Mike Grodin (CrossTalk - 30 Oct 1998)

"Jesus said, 'If those who lead you say to you, "See, the kingdom is in the sky," then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, "It is in the sea," then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you.'"
- Thomas 3:1-3

"But assuming that the kingdom doesn't consist of everything outside of you, what part of the 'outside' are we talking about? I would suggest that the part of the kingdom which is said to be 'outside you' is that which is inside others. In a word, the Gospel of Thomas's view of the kingdom is that it's comprised of the 'hearts and minds' of (some) people. Those people who have the kingdom inside them thus constitute the 'subjects' who belong to the kingdom. And that's why 'men can't see it'."
- Mike Grodin (CrossTalk - 30 Oct 1998)

"For the Gospel of Thomas, the kingdom is not to be imagined in reference to an eschatological and apocalyptic future but conceived in terms of the initial conditions of the world in the mythic primordial past of Genesis 1. From an idealist perspective the kingdom is a form of experience and, in theory, it has always been potentially available. The potential for experience logically precedes the actualization of experience."
- Stevan Davies' review of his book Jesus the Healer: Possession, Trance, and the Origins of Christianity, Continuum Press, New York 1995

"Be on your guard so that no one deceives you by saying, 'Look over here?' or 'Look over there!' For the seed of true humanity exists within you."
- Gospel of Mary

The In-Breaking of the Kingdom in the Synoptics


"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'"
- Matthew 10:7 // Luke 10:9

"Luke 10:9 (// Matt 10:7) declares that the kingdom HAS arrived [] as does Luke 11:20 (// Matt 12:28) [albeit with a different verb ()]. True, these verbs imply a transition. But the point is, in Q the BASILEIA [] is no longer imminent (i.e., not yet present but due to arrive in the near future); rather, it is just as present and immanent as it is in the Gospel of Thomas. The analogies to mustard seed and leaven presuppose a mundane presence that is open to expansion. In fact, its presence is datable to the transition from John to Jesus (Luke 16:16 // Matt 11:12)."
- Mahlon H. Smith (CrossTalk)

"For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.
It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?'
Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?'
But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.'"
- Deuteronomy 30:11-14

"Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them, 'The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, "Lo, here it is!" or "There!" for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you []'."
- Luke 17:20-21; Thomas 113:2-4

"The Greek [] is ambiguous between 'among you' and 'within you', and interpreters have differed; but two of the most influential translations, the English Authorized and Luther's, took the latter view, which helped to internalize the concept and make it a matter of personal rather than cosmic mysticism."
- John Ferguson, An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Mysticism and the Mystery Religions

"But what did Jesus mean when he said that the kingdom was 'in the midst of you'? The traditional interpretation which was common in the early church is reflected in the translation used in the Authorized Version: the kingdom is 'within you' - the kingdom is an inward power or reality in men's hearts. But Jesus can hardly have suggested to the Pharisees that the kingdom was within them!"
"The RSV adopts 'in the midst of you'; the NEB translated 'the kingdom of God is among you' (though the notes suggest three other possibilities.) In other words, the kingdom is related to the things Jesus does and says. If so, then this is a rare hint from Jesus that although the kingdom is God's, his actions and words are 'signs' of its presence among men."
"The saying may mean 'the kingdom of god is within you reach', 'it can be shared in by you, if you want it'. The rare phrase  seems to be used in this sense in several recently discovered fragmentary papyri which contain examples of everyday (i.e. non-literary) Greek from the first century. This interpretation makes excellent sense in the context: the Pharisees are invited by Jesus to participate in the kingdom. But although this is an attractive solution, it is no more than a good possibility since the precise sense of the examples in the papyri is not clear!"
- Graham N. Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus, The Oxford Bible Series (1989), paperback, p. 197-198

"What is needed, then, is not insight into the Kingdom as future but a recognition of the Kingdom as present. For Jesus, a Kingdom of beggars and weeds is a Kingdom of here and now."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant (1991)

"But now we turn to [Luke] verse 21:29 and notice that Luke has not discarded the idea that the Kingdom of God is something that is still to come in the future."
- Dr. Mark Goodacre (CrossTalk)

"He told them a parable: 'Observe the fig tree and all the trees. When they are fully budding, you know by looking at them that summer is in the offing. Similarly when you notice these things taking place, be assured that the Kingdom of God is near.'"
- Luke 21:29-30

"Even more interesting is the fact that Luke even appears to have substituted the arrival of the Son of Man (as found in Mark 13:29 and Matthew 24:33) with the arrival of the Kingdom. This clearly shows that the early Christians equated the Parousia with the arrival of the Kingdom."
- Dr. Mark Goodacre (CrossTalk)

"To his disciples he said 'The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but in vain. They will say to you, "Look, here he is!" or "Look there he is!" Do not go out or follow them; for as the lightning flashes from one end of the sky to the other, so will the Son of man be in his day.'"
- Luke 17:22-24

The question is of course how we square Luke 17:20 with 21:29?
"There is a kingdom that is in the process of realizing itself. Of course it is not wholly present, and Jesus does not say that in Luke; rather he says that it is near; for Satan is still active (e.g. 22.3). Of course it is not wholly future, for there is evidence of its in-breaking in Jesus' and the apostles' missions."
- Dr. Mark Goodacre (CrossTalk)

"Jesus conceived of God's rule as all around him but difficult to discern. God was so real for him that he could not distinguish God's present activity from any future activity. He had a poetic sense of time in which the future and the present merged, simply melted together, in the intensity of his vision."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels


(4) Lost Sapiential Writings


"For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'" [Isaiah 29:14]
- 1 Corinthian 1:19; (Luke 10:21 // Matthew 11:25-26, Gospel of the Nazoreans 57a [140:1-4])

"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
- Luke 10:22 // Matthew 11:27; (Thomas 61:4; John 13:3, 3:35b)

"Secret teaching passed on only to those in the inner circle would have been inimical to the openness and inclusiveness that was characteristic of Jesus, but it would have been congenial to the leaders of the new movement, whose positions of authority were made secure by the special knowledge they professed to possess."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels

"So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: 'I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.' [Psalms 78:2]"
- 1 Corinthians 2:7 (Matthew 13:35)

"However, as it is written: 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him'. [Isaiah 64:4]"
- 1 Corinthian 2:9; First Letter of Clement 34:8; Thomas 17 (Sayings Gospel Q)

"Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, 'Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.'"
- Luke 10:23-24 // Matthew 13:16-17; (Dialogues of the Savior 57a [140:1-4])

"This saying "was originally a Jewish tradition...attributed to Jesus in several different circles and at different times."
- William Stroker, The Formulation of Secondary Sayings of Jesus (1970)

All five of these complexes stem from "a lost sapiential writing which the Corinthians knew and used in the context of their wisdom theology [written] under the authority of an Old Testament figure...Material from this sapiential book - once it had been used by gnosticizing Christians in the time of Paul - was incorporated into the tradition of sayings of Jesus'."
- Helmut Koester, "Gnostic Writings as Witnesses for the Development of the Sayings Tradtion" in The Rediscovery of Gnosticism 73:105-130 (1980)

"Jesus' serene assertion of open and unmediated access to God has been developed and interpreted as a secret and eternally hidden wisdom now revealed to the simple and the humble."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant (1991)

This assertion was also held by non-Christians Jews.

"And now, if you Gentiles will be persuaded by these motives, and leave your vain imaginations about your pedigrees, and gaining of riches, and philosophy, and will not spend your time about subtleties of words, and thereby lead your minds into error, and if you will apply your ears to the hearing of the inspired prophets, the interpreters both of God and of his word, and will believe in God, you shall both be partakers of these things, and obtain the good things that are to come; you shall see the ascent unto the immense heaven plainly, and that kingdom which is there. For what God hath now concealed in silence [will be then made manifest,] what neither eye hath seen, nor ear hath heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love him. [Isaiah 64:4]"
- Flavius Josephus, Discourse to the Greeks on Hades, Sn 7


Proclaiming God's Imperial Rule


(1) A Pungent Shrub

"Jesus proclaimed the loving forgiveness of God the father, a prodigal father who freely bestows his forgiveness on sinners who have no strict claim on God's mercy (see, e.g., the parables of the prodigal son, the lost coin, the lost sheep, the unmerciful servant, the great supper, the two debtors, the rich man and Lazarus, and the Pharisee and the publican). It is God alone who acts in the end time to establish his kingdom of justice and love; humans can only wait for it (see, e.g., the parable of the seed growing by itself and probably the original sense of the parable of the sower.)"
- John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 2.

"The disciples said to Jesus, 'Tell us what the kingdom of God is like.'
He said to them, 'It is like a mustard seed. (It's) the smallest of all seeds, but when it falls on prepared [disturbed] soil, it produces a large plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky.'"
Thomas 20; (Mark 4:31; Luke 13:18-19 // Matthew 13:31-32)

Only the version of this saying in Thomas refers to the herb as a "plant". Mark 4 refers to is as a "shrub", Matthew 12 as both "shrub" and "tree" and Luke 13 as a "tree".

"In actual botany, the plant called SINAPI (Greek) in this parable [= Sinapis (or Brassica) nigra in Latin] was an annual wild herb that never grew to a size that any Mediterranean person would ever call a tree."
- Mahlon Smith (CrossTalk - 14 Jun 1998)

"Also...Brassica Nigra is a colonizing annual that appears in disturbed ground and, often, after sturdier plants appear in a few years, disappears. This might have parabolic implications. For textual implications Thomas has 'falls on disturbed ground' which is absolutely right, botanically. Mark has 'is sown' which is absolutely wrong... it's a weed... but fits with Mark's chapter 4 'sowing' theme. Matthew and Luke also have 'sown.'"
- Steven Davies (CrossTalk - 14 Jun 1998)

"Mustard...with its pungent taste and fiery effect is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once."
- Pliny the Elder Natural History 19.170-171

"The point...is not just that the mustard plant starts as a proverbially small seed and grows into a shrub of three or four feet, or even higher, it is that it tends to take over where it is not wanted, that it tends to get out of control, and that it tends to attract birds within cultivated areas where they are not particularly desired. And that, said Jesus, was what the Kingdom was like: not like the mighty cedar of Lebanon and not quite like a common weed, like a pungent shrub with dangerous takeover properties. Something you would want in only small and carefully controlled doses - if you could control it."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant (1991)

"It is a startling metaphor, but it would be interpreted quite differently by those, on the one hand, concerned about their fields, their crops, and their harvests, and by those, on the other, for whom fields, crops, and harvest were always the property of others."
- John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (1994)

"Again he asked, 'What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount [Greek 'three ' '(probably about 1/2 bushel or 22 liters)] of flour until it worked all through the dough.'"
- Luke 13:20-21 // Matthew 13:33

"...Leaven in the ancient world was a symbol of moral corruption [since it was] made by taking a piece of bread and storing it in a damp, dark place until mold forms. The bread rots and decays...modern yeast...is domesticated....In Israel there is an equation that leaven is the unholy everyday, and unleaven the holy, the sacred, the feast."
- Bernard Brandon Scott, Hear Then the Parable: A Commentary on the Parables of Jesus (1989)

"The kingdom of God is ENTOS hUMWN (among you / within your purview). It is the seed that has been sown in the ground that is growing; it is the leaven that is hidden in the dough. It is Satan bound but not yet fully conquered. It is here, but not yet fully consummated."
- Dr. Mark Goodacre (CrossTalk - 15 Jun 1998)

"Jesus has seen a vision of what is going on in the cosmic realm, the effects of which are beginning to be realised in the coming of the kingdom on earth, witnessed in the successes of the Seventy."
- Antonio Jerez (CrossTalk - 15 Jun 1998)


(2) A Kingdom of Nobodies


Become Like Little Children

"And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of God.'"
- Mark 10:15; (Matthew 18:3; Luke 18:17)

"Becoming a child is linked in this saying to 'entering' God's domain. This image could be understood as a call by Jesus to quit the present order of things and enter a new world, as he conceived it, under God's immediate providence. Many of his parables suggest such a move. Another way of interpreting the image of becoming like a child is to understand it as a rite of initiation. In the Christian movement this rite was solemnized in baptism. This perspective is supported by John 3:3, 5, where Jesus is represented as saying that no one can enter God's domain without being reborn, without being born of the water and the spirit. Since Jesus probably did not practice the rite of baptism himself (note John 4:2 in this connection), and was not given to institution building, the saying with this interpretation could not be attributed to him."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels

"(Actually, Jesus himself didn't baptize anyone; his disciples did the baptizing.)"
- John 4:2
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
- Mark 10:14b; (Matthew 19:14; Luke 18:16)

"I propose that, for the historical Jesus, to be a child meant to be a nobody. If we can leave aside our own dangerous and destructive romanticism of children, we should recall that in ancient patriarchal societies the newborn child could be easily abandoned (to slavery at best, death at worst) if the father did not lift it into his arms and declare it was to live as his child. Maternal birth made you a nobody, paternal acceptance made you a somebody. Not innocence, nor simplicity, nor humility is the point of the comparison, but the status of being a nobody."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images (1998), p. 151

"A kingdom of the humble, of the celibate, or of the baptized comes later. This comes first: a kingdom of children is a kingdom of nobodies."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant (1991)


(3) A Time of Desperate Poverty


Congratulations to the Poor

"Jesus said 'Blessed are you poor [, Greek: 'destitute'] for yours is the kingdom of God.'"
- Thomas 54; Luke 6:20

John Dominic Crossan paraphrases this beatitude as "Only the destitute are innocent", since the , at the bottom of the economic ladder, were the only social class who did not live off the systematic exploitation of others.

"In the first of the Beatitudes Jesus announces that the poor are blessed, 'for yours is the kingdom of God' (Matt. 5:3 // Luke 6:20 [Q]). The word translated 'blessed' has rich connotations: it means 'God's favor now rests upon..' but who are the poor to whom Jesus declares God's favor, or blessing? Matthew modifies [or creates] the first beatitude to 'blessed are the poor in spirit'; the words are not addressed to the spiritually poor - those who are poor before God. Luke has in mind those who live in poverty (this is confirmed by the woe addressed to those who are rich (6:24) and Luke's emphasis elsewhere on those who are literally poor). So Luke and Matthew have rather different understandings of 'the poor'."
- Graham N. Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus, The Oxford Bible Series (1989), paperback, p. 200-201

(Examples of the author of Matthew's lack of special concern for the poor can be seen in his omission of the story of the widow's gift (Mark 12:41-44) and his editorial introduction of the adjective 'rich' in Matt 27:57.)

"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs in the kingdom of heaven."
- Matthew 5:3, 5:5

"'Heaven' is merely Matthew's circumlocution for avoiding the name of God. The kingdom of heaven the historical Jesus was talking about was right here on earth."
- Mahlon Smith (CrossTalk)

The use of the "poor in spirit" in the Gospel of Matthew echoes the humility expressed in the Psalms. (Psalm 51 is describes David's contrition for having failed for a year to atone for his sinful liason with Bathsheba.)

"The sacrifices of God are [or 'My sacrifice, O God, is'] a broken [shabar] spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
- Psalms 51:17

The author of the Thanksgiving Psalms, believed to have been the Righteous Teacher, refers to the poor in the same sense as the author of Luke.
"{I give thanks to You} Blessed are You, O Lord, for You have not abandoned the orphan, and You have not despised the poor."
- 1QH + 4Q432 Frag. 3 Col. 13-20

The later sectarian literature of the Dead Sea Scrolls, such as Community Rule and the War Scroll, prefigures the use of "poor in spirit" in Matthew.

"According to the Dead Sea Scrolls the terms 'the poor in spirit' and 'the poor' are terms which the Qumran Essenes employed as technical self designations. In the War Scroll 'the poor' is synonymous with 'we in the lot of your truth' (lQM 13.12-14). They are the ones who will eventually conquer, thanks to God's intervention in the final (eschatological) war. The members of the Qumran community transformed the concept of 'the poor ones' from a sociological and economic term to a religious concept."
- James H. Charlesworth, "The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Historical Jesus" in Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1992), p. 14

"There are even examples in crucial contexts of the published corpus of an allusion like 'the Poor in Spirit',...in both the War Scroll, xi.10 and Community Rule, iv.3."
- Robert Eisman and Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered

"This spirit engenders humility, patience, abundant compassion, perpetual goodness, insight, understanding, and powerful wisdom..."
- Community Rule 1QS, iv.3

"You will ignite the humble of spirit like a fiery torch of fire in a sheaf, consuming the wicked."
- War Scroll 1QM, xi.10

"Another hymn, put in the mouths of the victorious 'sons of light' after they have defeated the 'sons of darkness', proclaims 'Among the poor in spirit [there is power] over the hard of heart.'"
- Alan Millard, Discoveries From the Time of Jesus

The Beatitude in Luke and Thomas

Mahlon Smith disagrees that the author of Luke truncated "poor in spirit" to "poor".

"Luke uses 'spirit' almost twice as much as Matt (31x). And unlike Matt, he uses the absolute phrase 'the spirit' in his special narrative material: Luke 1:80 ('in spirit'), 2:27 ('in the spirit'), 4:14 ('in the power of the spirit'). Therefore, he was not inclined to delete it, IF he found it in a text he was reproducing."
- Mahlon Smith (CrossTalk - 09 Oct 98)

The Gospel of Thomas is in agreement with the Gospel of Luke in not using "in spirit". Although the reference to the "Kingdom of Heaven" in Thomas suggests both Luke 6:20 and Matthew 5:3 served as sources, Mahlon Smith argues otherwise.
"...The use of 'Kingdom of Heaven' is not typical of the Gospel of Thomas. It occurs in only one logion aside from Thomas 54: the parable of the mustard seed (Thomas 20). But Thomas's version of this parable is closer to Mark's (who uses 'Kingdom of God') than to Matt's. the Gospel of Thomas's normal usage is 'kingdom of the/my Father' or simply the absolute 'the kingdom.' So the use of 'Kingdom of Heaven' in Thomas 20 and 54 cannot be dismissed as obvious Thomasine redaction. In fact Thomas 3, makes it highly improbable that the editor of of the Gospel of Thomas would have introduced 'Kingdom of Heaven' into these sayings, since he has Jesu mock the idea of a heavenly kingdom: 'If your leaders say to you, "Look, the kingdom is in the heaven", then the birds of the heaven will be first before you.' Like Luke the Gospel of Thomas represents 'the kingdom' as a present mundane reality (Thomas 113). And it does not use the plural 'heavens' outside the idiom 'Kingdom of Heaven'."
"Together this evidence suggests that, far from being a Thomasine confusion of Luke 6:20 and Matt 5:3, Thom 54 is most likely an independent oral version of this beatitude. If one is to posit any dependence, there is a greater redactional probability that Luke 6:20 and Matt 5:3 are mutations of the saying in Thom 54 than vice versa."
- Mahlon Smith (CrossTalk - 09 Oct 98)

The Lot of the Destitute

"Has not God chosen those who are poor [] in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?"
- James 2:5

", in short, meant the harsh compulsion to toil, whereas the pauper, the man who was altogether without resources, was normally called a , a beggar, not a ."
"The  was someone who had lost many or all of his family and social ties. He often was a wanderer, therefore a foreigner for others, unable to tax for any length of time the resources of a group to which he could contribute very little or nothing at all...a  was a shocking reality for the Greco-Roman world."
Jesus "spoke, in shocking paradox, not about a Kingdom of the Poor but a Kingdom of the Destitute."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant (1991)

"In any situation of oppression, especially in those oblique, indirect, and systemic ones where injustice wears a mask of normalcy or even of necessity, the only ones who are innocent or blessed are those squeezed out deliberately as human junk from the system's own evil operations."
- John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (1994)

"Give to Everyone..."

"[Jesus said], 'If you have money, don't lend it at interest. Rather, give [it] to someone from whom you won't get it back.'"
- Thomas 95

"Give to everyone who begs from you, and if anyone takes your things, don't ask for them back."
- Luke 6:30 // Matthew 5:42

"Give not only without interest but without taking your capitol back. But one would soon be destitute. Exactly. Finally those twin paradoxes...look to the same situation in which the rich and powerful are classed as poor and powerless. And vice versa."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant (1991)

The second century Didache softened the burden on the giver by placing limitations on the recipient (and legitimizing debtors' prisons.)

"Remember, if anyone accepts charity when in need,
that person is blameless
But if such a person is not in need,
that person will have to answer
for what and why he or she accepted (it).
He or she will be imprisoned
and put to the test for every deed performed,
and will not get out until the last cent has been repaid.
Concerning this it is also said
'Let your contributions sweat in the palms of your hands
until you know to whom you are giving.':"
- Didache 5b-6

"The Parable of the Vineyard Laborers"

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
"About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went.
"He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'
"'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.
"He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'
"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'
"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'
"But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'"
- Matthew 20:1-15

"The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel..."
- Isaiah 5:7a

"In this parable, both groups of participants get what they do not expect: the first get less than they expected, in spite of their agreement with the owner (v.2); the last get more than they expected, since as idlers they could not have expected much. This reversal of expectations comports with Jesus' proclivity to reverse the expectations of the poor...and the rich:"
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels

A parallel where the last workers received disproportionate treatment can be found in Josephus' account of the completion of the Temple in Jerusalem c. 64 C.E.

"And now it was that the temple was finished. So when the people saw that the workmen were unemployed, who were above eighteen thousand, and that they, receiving no wages were in want, because they had earned their bread by their labours about the temple; and while they were unwilling to keep them by their treasures that were deposited, out of fear of their being carried away by the Romans; and while they had to make a provision for the workmen, they had a mind to expend those treasures on them; for if any one of them did but work a single hour, he received his pay immediately..."
- Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, Bk XX, Ch 9 Sn 7

Damn the Rich

"Woe to you who are rich for you have trusted in your riches..."
- Enoch 94:8

"But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort."
- Luke 6:24

"No servant can be a slave to two masters. No doubt that slave will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and disdain the other. You can't be enslaved to both God and a bank account."
- Luke 16:13 // Matthew 6:24, Thomas 47:1-2

"It's easier for a camel to squeeze through a needle's eye than for a wealthy person to get into God's domain."
- Mark 10:25; (Mattthew 19:24; Luke 18:25)

"The Aramaic word gamla is the same word for 'camel' and 'a large rope.' Matt. 19:24 should read, 'It is easier for a rope to go through a needle's eye, etc."
- The Gospels from the Aramaic, translated by George M Lamsa

The Needle's Eye was also reputedly the name of a narrow gate into the city of Jerusalem. In order to fit through the gate, camels would have to be unloaded of their burdens.

"Many of the last will be first and first last."
- Mark 10:31; (Matthew 19:30, 20:16; Luke 13:30)

"Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."
- Mark 4:25 ; (Matthew 25:29, 13:12; Luke 8:18b)

The last saying is "a piece of ordinary wisdom that Jesus might have quoted."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels

"A society that welcomes people of all races and social classes, that is characterized by love and not polarization, that cares most for its weakest members, that stands for justice and righteousness in a world enamored with selfishness and decadence, a society in which members compete for the privilege of serving one another - this is what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God."
- Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (1995)


The Lord's Prayer


(1) A Private Petition

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
- Matthew 6:5-6

"Notice in that the admonition is not to pray in public. Yet the Lord's Prayer is a 'we-our' prayer -- public. This contradiction indicates that significant redaction was done upon the source. The original prayer within the source document could well have been a private prayer directed to one's own spirit, which the writer of Matthew would have found unacceptable and in need of heavy redaction, so as to turn it into a prayer to God for a group within a church. If so, the hallower of one's spirit was meant to be one's own conscious self."
- Jim Deardorff (Synoptic L)

One of the independent versions of the Lord's Prayer makes the following petition:

"One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'
He said to them, 'When you pray, say: "Father,
[Some manuscripts 'Our Father in heaven']
hallowed be your name, your kingdom [Greek:  - BASILEIA] come.
[Some manuscripts 'May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.']
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.'
[Some manuscripts 'but deliver us from the evil one']."
- Luke 11:1-4 // [!] Matthew 6:9-13

"The meaning is not 'may thy kingdom grow,' 'may thy kingdom be perfected,' but rather, 'may thy Kingdom come'. 'For the disciples' the BASILEIA is not yet here, not even in its beginnings; therefore Jesus bids them  ['seek the kingdom' - Luke 12:31}. This yearning and longing for its coming, this ardent prayer for it, and this constant hope that it will come soon--this is their religion."
- Mahlon Smith (CrossTalk)

"This is strongly reminiscent of a Jewish prayer, the Kaddish, which was almost certainly in use in synagogues at the time of Jesus."
- Graham N. Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus, The Oxford Bible Series (1989), paperback, p. 194

"May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel, even speedily and at a near time'."
- Kaddish


(2) As in Heaven So on Earth

"'Thy will be done' was a prayer used by magicians (- Papyri graecae magicae XII.189), and 'on earth as it is in heaven' expresses the most general objective of magical action: to change the natural order by influence of the supernatural (in this case, as often, the god's will.)"
- Morton Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? (1978) p. 174

"Tat, Tat, Tat...come...and reveal thyself to this boy here today...for I will glorify thee in heaven before Phre, I will glorify thee before the Moon, I will glorify thee on Earth."
"I am he whom you met under the holy mountain to whom you gave the knowledge of your greatest Name, which I shall keep holy, communicating it to none save to your fellow initiates in your holy rites."
- Papyri graecae magicae XII.92ff

"The Lord's Prayer also contains the great Hermetic Maxim 'as above so below', Matt. 6:10:


'Tavo Malkhutkha, yeasse retzonkha, KMO BASHAMAYIM KEN BAARETZ'

translated as 'thy kingdom come, thy will be done as in Heaven so on Earth'."
- Liora Bernstein, letter to Beacon, June 1997
(Hebrew letters named from right to left)
as
(kaf/chaf, mem, vav)
in
(bet)
heaven
(shim, mem, yod, final mem)
so
(kaf, final nun)
in/on
(bet)
earth
(aleph, rish, final tzadik)
"It is true that in the English translation it is written 'on earth as it is in Heaven', and in the French translation it is written 'ta volonte soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel', but the Hebrew translation (from Greek) quoted above says 'as in Heaven so on earth' (Greek 'heaven' = ''; Gr. 'earth' = ''),) and so does the Vulgate in Latin...'sicut in caelo, et in terra'.

"The Aramaic N.T., 4th century C.E. (the Khaboris Mss) also uses the same order of words, i.e. as in Heaven so on earth."
- Liora Bernstein, (private correspondence)
taithay malkoothakh,
nehwey sevyanakh,
AIKENNA DEVESHMAYA UP BERAH.
taitheya let come
malkoothakh your kingdom
nehwey let be
sevyanakh your will
aikenna even as
deveshmaya in heaven
up so
berah on earth
- Thanks due to Mr. Don Hargis for assistance with the Aramaic and the Greek .
-
This phrase was evidently a later addition and did not appear in the original prayer.

"It is possible that vernacular translators were aware of the Hermetic streak and consequently reversed the order of words.
"The question arises how the Hermetic maxim found its way into the Lord's Prayer. The Kitab Sirr al-Khaliqu wa San at al-Tabi'a, c.650, is the earliest known work to contain the Emerald Tablet with the Hermetic maxim.
"One may also argue that that this phrasing is accidental, and that it is not identical. However, The Gospel of Thomas, which was written not later than the mid second century C.E. and possibly 'even perhaps somewhat before the gospels in the bible' (i.e.beginning of the second half of the first century C.E). contains the phrase 'upper/lower' directly."
- Liora Bernstein,
"..when you make ... the upper like the lower ... then you will enter the kingdom."
- Thomas 22


(3) Our Daily Bread


"Bread and debt were, quite simply the two most immediate problems facing the Galilean peasant, day laborer and non-elite urbanite. Alleviation of these two anxieties were the most obvious benefits of God's reign."
- John Kloppenborg, "Alms, Debt and Divorce: Jesus' Ethics in Their Mediterranean Context", Toronto Journal of Theology 6:182-200

Jesus' "strategy, implicitly for himself and explicitly for his followers, was the combination of free healing and common eating, a religious and economic egalitarianism that negated alike and at once the hierarchical and patronal normalcies of Jewish religion and Roman power....Miracle and parable, healing and eating were calculated to force individuals into unmediated physical and spiritual contact with God and unmediated physical and spiritual contact with each other. He announced, in other words, the brokerless kingdom of God."
- John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant (1991)

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
- Matthew 6:33 // Luke 12:31

"The generalizations in both Matthew and Luke...are secondary accretions to the underlying tradition."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels , p. 153

"The fact, that people are urged to seek it (Luke 12:31 // Matt 6:33) is no more a sign of the BASILEIA's absence in Q than in Thomas. God's kingdom is here; people just fail to perceive it since they are looking for something great like John (Luke 7:28 // Matt 11:11). Q does not anticipate the advent of God's kingdom but rather the advent of gentiles coming to dine with the patriarchs (Luke 13:28 // Matt 8:11)."
- Mahlon H. Smith (CrossTalk)


(4) Connections with Later Traditions


"The Lord's Prayer mentions...one Sfira [one of the spheres in the spiritual world - Sefirot - described in the Kabbalah] implicitly. The implicit Sfira is Chessed which...means doing charitable things with your body, not with money and hopefully anonymously....The expression 'by the grace of God' is translated into Hebrew as i.e., by the 'Chessed' of God. The word Grace in the Christian meaning has no equivalent in Hebrew and is translated into the word 'Chessed'."
- Liora Bernstein, letter to Beacon, June 1997

"The Lord's Prayer, the Pater Noster, has an attachment to it, called 'doxology' . Nobody knows when it was attached. It is the phrase 'for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory'. This phrase is not in the Catholic version (the Vulgate). At any rate, in Hebrew, it says:
lecha thine
ha the
mamlacha kingdom (Malchut)
ha the
Gevurah power
ve and
ha the
Tipheret glory
[The words in gold are Sefirot.]
- Liora Bernstein .

A prayer attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John echoes Hellenistic magical tradition.

"Glorify me as I have glorified the Name of your son Horus!"
- Papyri graecae magicae VII.504; cp. XXXVI.165f.

"Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you."
- John 17:1

(5) Thy Kingdom Come


Entering a New World

"A number of sayings refer to entry into the kingdom of God. Here the emphasis is not...on God's initiative in bringing the kingdom, but on the 'effort' needed on the part of the individual who wishes to enter the kingdom. These sayings imply that the kingdom is a 'place to be entered', a 'realm', rather than the dynamic kingly rule of God, which is how the sayings [that the kingdom has come or is 'at hand'] are usually understood."
- Graham N. Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus, The Oxford Bible Series (1989), paperback, p. 193

"And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell..."
- Mark 9:47 (Matthew 18:9)

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
- Mark 10:15 (Luke 18:17)

"How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
- Mark 10:23 (Matthew 19:23; Luke 18:24)

"Entering a new world seems to be advocated in the authentic parables of Jesus, which incorporate a vision of an alternative reality directly ruled by God. However, the idea of 'entering God's domain' suggested to members of the Seminar that the saying had been drawn into the context of baptism and thus had to do with the rites of initiation into the Christian community."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels , p. 89

A Heavenly Banquet

"The eschatological kingdom Jesus proclaimed, which was to be the object of intense expectation and prayer on the part of Jesus' disciples, would mean the reversal of all unjust oppression and suffering, the bestowal of the reward promised to faithful Israelites (the beatitudes), and the joyful participation of believers (and even of some Gentiles!) in the heavenly banquet with Israel's patriarchs."
- John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 2.

"I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth."
- Matthew 8:11-12 // Luke 13:28:29

"'Heaven' is merely Matthew's circumlocution for avoiding the name of God. The kingdom of heaven the historical Jesus was talking about was right here on earth."
- Mahlon Smith (CrossTalk)

"Luke has Jesus address these remarks to people along the route to Jerusalem, while Matthew [who reverses their order] makes them part of Jesus' response to the Roman officer at Capernaum."
"In Matthew's context, the pair of sayings predicts that many gentiles will come to dine with the patriarchs in Heaven's domain, but the Israelites will be thrown out. The rejection of Israel certainly belongs to a secondary stage of the tradition when the emerging new movement was separating from the newly emerging form of Judean religion, to be known as Judaism. Matthew's version of the sayings clearly did not originate with Jesus."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels

This depiction of a final banquet recalls the great sacrificial feast in celebration of the Messiah's victory over Gog and Magog.

"That the banquet would be shared with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob implies the transcendence of death itself, a transcendence that becomes personal...when Jesus prophesies that God will save him out of death and seat him at the final banquet."
- John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 2.

"Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
- Mark 14:25, (Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:16)


"The saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever--yes, for ever and ever.' "
- Daniel 7:18


The Sermon on the Mount/Plain


(1) Inspiration from Sacred Texts

Moses on the Mountain
Matthew places Jesus' sermon on an unnamed mountain, probably as an allusion to Moses ascending Mount Sinai. Luke, on the other hand, places Jesus on a plain giving a shorter version of the sermon.

"The Sermon on the Mount, in which the law of the new covenant is proclaimed, is structured after Exodus 19. This dependence is quite evident in the prelude to the sermon (Mt 5:1-20), whose background must be found in Exodus 19:1-8."
- Otto Betz, "Jesus and the Temple Scroll" in Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls (James H. Charlesworth, Ed. - 1992), p. 98

"In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt--on the very day--they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, 'This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.'
So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the LORD had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, 'We will do everything the LORD has said.' So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD."
- Exodus 19:1-8
-
Prayer of Manasseh

"You, O Lord, according to your gentle grace,
promised forgiveness to those who repent from their sins,
and in your manifold mercies
appointed repentance for sinners as the (way to) salvation."
- Prayer of Manasseh 7b

"Both the Woes and the Beatitudes in the Gospels probably derive from Jesus, and indicate he inherited from contemporary Judaism both God's judgment (1 Baruch, 4 Ezra) and his forgiveness (Prayer of Manasseh). Yet he replaced the stress on a distant, vengeful God about to annihilate the Wicked - Jews and Gentiles - with an emphasis on a present, forgiving father who wished repentance from all Jews. The eschatological prophets urged the righteous to remain faithful to Torah and its moral laws; Jesus urged all Israel (and perhaps the Gentiles also) to repent and believe the good news of God's final act."
- James H. Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism


(2) Congratulations!


The Meaning of "Blessed"

"Blessed are you who are poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of God."
- Matthew 5:3 // Luke 6:20

"...The Aramaic tova, means envied, expressing emulation, but it is translated 'blessed' in the Beatitudes, for which the Aramaic is brekha. This word 'blessed' and a few others are retained...because there are no equivalents to express their meanings."
- George M. Lamsa (translator), The Four Gospels : According to the Eastern Version (1933) p. xii

"Any Greek scholar will tell you the word 'blessed' is far too sedate and beatific to carry the percussive force Jesus intended. The Greek word conveys something like a short cry of joy, 'Oh, you lucky person!'"
- Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (1995)

"Blessed, blessed are those who know the mysteries of god.
Blessed is he who hallows his life in the worship of god,
he whom the spirit of god possesseth, who is one
with those who belong to the holy body of god.
Blessed are the dancers and those who are purified,
who dance on the hill in the holy dance of god.
Blessed are they who keep the rite of Kybele the Mother.
Blessed are the thyrus [long shafts topped with ivy or vine leaves]-bearers,
those who wield in their hands the holy wand of god.
Blessed are those who wear the crown of the ivy of god.
Blessed, blessed are they: Dionysos is their god!"
- Old hymn to Dionysos from Euripides, The Bacchae

The authors of The Five Gospels interpret "blessed" as "Congratulations!"

The Lukan Version

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh."
- Luke 6:20b-21 // Matthew 5:3, 6, 4

Click here for a discussion of the interpretation of "blessed are the poor".

"Jesus almost certainly formulated the first three congratulations in the Lukan version - those addressed to the poor, the hungry, the weeping."
"...Isolated parallels in Thomas (54, 69.2) demonstrate that the individual beatitudes once circulated separately in the oral traditions. The absence of parallels in either Luke or Thomas to the additional beatitudes found in Matthew also confirms the conclusion that Matthew has expanded the Q list."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels

In 'You who weep now', "the reference is to the Qumran Community [more properly the Yahad who did not necessarily live at Qumran] and other pious Jews who grieved for the Temple of Yahweh in the hands of the unworthy. This saying also appears in a Qumranian psalm."
- Christopher Knight & Robert Lomas, The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus

Additional Beatitudes in Matthew "Into the list he inherited [from Mark] Matthew introduces four congratulations not found in either Luke (Q) or Thomas. To commend the meek, the merciful, those with undefiled hearts, and those who work for peace is quite different from congratulating the poor, the hungry, and the weeping. These additional beatitudes offer reward for virtue rather than relief from distress. People normally expect virtue to be rewarded; and the virtues in question are well known and widely accepted among Judeans of the period. There is no surprise, no reversal, no paradox. In sum, these sayings are not characteristic of Jesus."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels , p. 139

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
- Matthew 5:5, 7-9

"The use of this terminology [Ebionim ('the Poor')], and its ideological parallels, n('Meek') and Dal ('Downtrodden'), as interchangeable terms of self-designation at Qumran [Dead Sea Scrolls], is of the utmost importance."
- Robert Eisman and Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered

Note that the designation for the early Christian community that originated in Jerusalem was Ebionites.

"But the meek shall possess the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity."
- Psalms 37:11

"The elect shall possess light, joy, and peace; and they shall inherit the earth."
- Enoch 5:7a

Sectarians in the Dead Sea Scrolls also referred to themselves as the "Poor" and "Meek". (Click here for more information.) According to some scholars, who do not interpret "the meek" as a name for the early Christian movement, the beatitudes cannot be attributed to Jesus himself.

"The 'peacemakers' here does not mean pacifists of any kind, it refers to those who were working for 'shalom', the state of peace, prosperity and general well-being that would arrive when the pillars of 'tsedeq' and 'mishpat' were finally put in place....The reference applies solely to the Qumran Community."

- Christopher Knight & Robert Lomas, The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasons and the Discovery of the Secret Scrolls of Jesus

A Creation of Matthew's?

Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong argues that the author of the Gospel of Matthew created all eight beatitudes as part of Christian celebration during the Jewish liturgical year.

"The Jews marked "The Sermon on the Mount also reveals the form of a twenty-four-hour watch vigil, for it divides neatly into eight subgoupings, which would provide a proper Christian reading for each of the three-hour segments of the liturgical watch that marked the Pentecost celebrations."
"...It is very clear that the Sermon on the Mount was a Matthean creation and was patterned by Matthew on Psalm 119, the psalm of Pentecost."
- John Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels, pp. 113, 115

"Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways."
- Psalms 119:1-3

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."
- Matthew 5:6

"...Luke is particularly interested in poverty and riches. In Matthew, however, God's blessing is promised to a rather different group: to those who 'hunger and thirst after righteousness' (5:6), i.e. to those who are 'hungry' to do God's will.quot;
- Graham N. Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus, The Oxford Bible Series (1989), paperback, p. 70-71

"Luke broke up Matthew's Sermon on the Mount and distributed its segments throughout his gospel, having Jesus deliver a major portion of it not on a mountain, but on a plain (Luke 6:17-49)."
"The whole Sermon on the Mount was a midrashic attempt to reveal Jesus as the new Moses presiding at the new Sinai, the giver of the new law of the new covenant."
- John Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels, p. 123, 115


Conventional Jewish Themes in the New Testament


(1) The End Time

"And on one vine will be a thousand branches, and one branch will produce a thousand clusters, and one cluster will produce a thousand grapes, and one grape will produce a cor of wine."
- 2 Syriac Apocalyse of Baruch 29:5

"As plentiful wine at harvest time (the end of the year) is a natural symbol of 'joy at the end', so naturally the OT prophets used the imagery of abundant wine to symbolize the joy of the 'final days', when Yahweh would reverse the sinful and sad condition of his people.
- John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 2.

"'The days are coming', declares the LORD, 'when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled [or will restore the fortunes of my] people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit."
- Amos 9:13-14

"On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine-- the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations..."
- Isaiah 25:6-7

"'They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the LORD-- the grain, the new wine and the oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.
Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty,' declares the LORD."
- Jeremiah 31:12-14

"Not surprisingly, in addition to the theme of Yahweh supplying wine and joy to Israel at the end time, we also find the related OT image of Yahweh, the true husband of Israel, rejoicing with his bride at the wedding banquet of the end time (Isaiah 54:4-8; 62:4-5)....
- John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 2.

"'For your Maker is your husband-- the LORD Almighty is his name-- the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit-- a wife who married young, only to be rejected," says your God. 'For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,' says the LORD your Redeemer."

"No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, ['my delight is in her'] and your land Beulah ['married']; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons [or Builder] marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you."
- Isaiah 54:5-8; 62:4-5

"Ancient Jewish eschatology taught that a seven year 'time of trouble' would come upon the earth before the coming of the Messiah. During that time of trouble, the righteous would be resurrected and would enter the wedding chamber where they would be protected from the time of trouble. Today that seven year period is referred to as the tribulation."
- "Weddings of Ancient Israel - A Picture of the Messiah"
Return to God Magazine, Volume 1 Number 2.

"Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, 'How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?'
Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them.'"
- Mark 2:18-19; ( Matthew 9:15a; Luke 5:34)

"Some form of this saying probably goes back to Jesus since it is clear that he and his disciples did not fast, in contrast to the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees, who did."
- Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels

"The transferal of the bridegroom imagery from Yahweh to the Messiah seems in the 1st century AD to be very much a piece of Christian theology. It is significant that the vast majority of passages where Jesus is explicitly said to be a bridegroom or is placed at the wedding come from the second Christian generation (Ephesians, Matthew, Revelation, and the Gospel of John)."
- John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 2.

[John the Baptist said] "The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete."
- John 3:29

"After seven days in the wedding chamber, the bride and bridegroom would emerge and participate in a feast with friends and family. There would be joyous celebrating during this feast. The feast would conclude the wedding celebration."
- "Weddings of Ancient Israel - A Picture of the Messiah"
Return to God Magazine, Volume 1 Number 2,.

"As the bride and bridegroom celebrated with a joyous wedding supper, so Jesus and His bride, the church will celebrate the marriage. Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: 'Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.' (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, 'Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'"
- Revelation 19:6-9

"In light of this direct identification of Jesus with the bridegroom of Israel in John 3:29 (as well as the allied imagery in the Book of Revelation), it seems likely that the first Cana miracle [of turning water into wine] also means to conjure up the idea of Jesus the bridegroom coming to claim his bride Israel at a wedding feast."
- John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 2
.
Bridegroom imagery was also central to Merkavah mysticism, as can be seen in this account in the Babylonian Talmud:

"And that day was a midsummer day. The heavens became filled with clouds, and there was appearance like a rainbow in a cloud. And the Ministering Angels gathered together and came to see the rejoicing of the bride and bridegroom."
- Babylonian Talmud Hagigah 14b




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