Lord’s Prayer, Booting the Quartos, Sabbath as Eden

1. Source: David Flusser, “Psalms, Hymns, and Prayers,” Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period, ed. Michael E. Stone (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984) 560-561.

“Of special interest is line 11b-12a: ‘Do not bring me into difficulties insurmountable for me; keep me far from the sins of my youth.’ This does not only resemble the rabbinic prayers of the apotropaic type, but also the last sentence of the Lord’s prayer: ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’ (Matt. 6:13; cf. Luke 11:4 and see especially Luke 10:13).”

Flusser is referring to the Syriac Psalms, whose Hebrew originals he places at Qumran. I don’t know much about this topic, but I’ve heard that Flusser sort of has a thing for hypothetical Hebrew originals. He believes that the New Testament was originally in Hebrew.

“Lead us not into temptation.” When I lived in New York, I attended the New York Metro Adventist Forum, which is a liberal Seventh-Day Adventist group. A lady there asked me what “Lead us not into temptation” means. For her, it was a pretty problematic statement. We actually have to ask God to lead us not into temptation? Why would he lead us into it in the first place? God is good, right?

To be honest, I’m still not sure how to answer her question. On the one hand, there are clear passages denying that God tempts people to sin. James 1:13 affirms, for example, that “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one” (NRSV). On the other hand, there are other passages in which God seems to lead people into sin. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21 et al). He incites David to conduct a census (II Samuel 24:1). He sends a lying spirit to deceive King Ahab (I Kings 22). God also tests his people, for Deuteronomy 13:3 states that God uses idolatrous prophets to put Israel to the test. Does God lead people into temptation? Maybe so.

A blogger who wrestles with this issue is Ryan, a conservative Christian who comments here every now and then. In one of his blogs, Ryan’s Notes From God’s Word, he has a post: “Difficult Passages: Do 2 Sam 24:1 and 1 Chron 21:1 Contradict?” Ryan’s argument seems to be that God may lead into temptation those who are already sinful and unrepentant. For example, Pharaoh was a jerk before God hardened his heart. So God may harden people’s heart in judgment of their sins, as Isaiah 6:9-10 appears to indicate.

Another point: the Lord’s prayer may be based on previous Jewish ideas. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve read things in Ben Sira about God not tempting people (although I also vaguely recall an acknowledgement in that book that God hardens people’s hearts). And Ben Sira 29:2-5 says that God will only forgive those who forgive others, an idea that appears in the Lord’s prayer.

Some may say that Jesus’ command to love your enemies was revolutionary. On some level, it was. The Qumran community didn’t really follow that idea. But the concept does appear in the Hebrew Bible. An Israelite was to return the lost ass of one who hated him (Exodus 23:5). And Proverbs 21:25 says, “If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat; and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink.”

Maybe Jesus was preaching new stuff, but he proclaimed old truths as well.

2. Source: Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1910) 217.

“Victor turned a deaf ear to this remonstrance, branded the Asiatics as heretics, and threatened to excommunicate them. But many of the Eastern bishops, and even Irenaeus, in the name of the Gallic Christians, though he agreed with Victor on the disputed point, earnestly reproved with for such arrogance, and reminded him of the more Christian and brotherly conduct of his predecessors…who sent the eucharist to their dissenting brethren.”

Schaff is discussing the Quartodeciman controversy, which occurred in the second century and concerned a question of the festival calendar: will the church observe Easter Sunday, as Rome desired? Or would it commemorate Jesus’ death on the Jewish Passover, as many Christians in Asia Minor did? Victor excommunicated the Asiatics who observed the Passover.

I’m surprised that Irenaeus challenged the pope. One thing I don’t know is this: How much power do Catholics think the pope has? Sometimes, they talk like the pope has ultimate authority on faith and practice. God tells Peter in Matthew 16:19, after all, that Peter has authority to bind and loose, and there are Catholics who read Acts 15 to mean that the church had to accept the Gentiles after Peter gave his little speech, since Peter was pope.

At the same time, they don’t exactly treat Peter or subsequent popes as infallible. They recognize that Paul challenged Peter’s alienation of the Gentiles in Galatians 2, and they acknowledge there were corrupt popes in history. If memory serves me correctly, they usually address this by saying that these were mere foibles. In matters of faith and practice, however, God will guide the pope to make the right decision.

But, here, we see a pope exercising his authority to excommunicate, and a church father tells him that he’s not acting very Christian. Maybe Irenaeus respected Victor’s authority and decision, but he didn’t think it corresponded with how Jesus would handle the situation. For Irenaeus, Jesus would still treat the Asiatics as brethren, rather than excommunicating them.

3. Jacob Neusner, Judaism’s Story of Creation: Scripture, Halakhah, Aggadah (Boston: Brill, 2000) 40.

“The household on the Sabbath recapitulates Eden…”

Neusner may be discussing the rabbinic rules for the table, and how they treated a meal like a mini-temple service. I’m intrigued by his statement that the Sabbath recapitulates Eden. In a sense, I’ve felt that way when I have gone to Jewish Sabbath services: it’s an atmosphere of peace and relaxation, in which God seems to be present. In a world of continual chaos, it’s good to have a mini-Eden in the week.

I wonder, however, if the rabbinic rules of the Sabbath are conducive to this or not. We read in the New Testament that Jesus was critical of Pharisaic regulations regarding the Sabbath, since he believed that they subordinated human well-being to a day (e.g., Mark 2:27). But there are Jews who have argued that such rules are designed to protect the peace and sanctity of the Sabbath. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. Personally, I wouldn’t be too at peace if I had to worry about rules about a Sabbath days’ journey, or what technically constitutes work, etc.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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7 Responses to Lord’s Prayer, Booting the Quartos, Sabbath as Eden

  1. steph says:

    Hi James,

    On loving your enemies, Ahiqar (sixth to seventh century BCE) contains the command to love your enemies. Also in the context of love your neighbour, Leviticus prohibits hating your brother and taking vengeance against the sons of your people. Jesus’ genuine injunction to love your enemies is a very strong prophetic intensification of the biblical injunction to love one’s neighbour, confirmed by Luke 6.27.

    Jesus was also completely faithful to Jewish law of the Torah. His debate was with the Pharisees’ interpretation and expansion of it.

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  2. James Pate says:

    Thanks for the information on Ahiqar, Steph. I have Ahiqar in my Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden (why it’s THERE, I have no idea), but I haven’t read it yet. Actually, I first heard of Ahiqar rather recently, when I was reading Tobit for my daily quiet time.

    In terms of Jesus’ position on the law, I’ve wrestled with that in various posts, particularly ones on the Sabbath. I think there are passages in which Jesus upholds the Torah, as well as passages where he does not–as when he nullifies the Mosaic command on divorce, or proclaims himself Lord of the Sabbath. I think Jesus’ nullifying of the divorce command is historical because it appears in Mark and Paul alludes to it, showing it’s an old statement.

    But I’m slowly making my way through Crossley’s book, and I know he believes Jesus and Paul were pro-Torah, so I’ll be interested to see what he has to say.

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  3. steph says:

    Ahiqar is also in my Charlesworth’s 2 volume OT Pseudepigrapha published by Doubleday. On divorce, I recommend James Crossley’s The Date of Mark pp. 172ff which discusses this in detail and no, Jesus didn’t break Jewish law. I hope you have access to a library, do you?

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  4. James Pate says:

    I do, but HUC’s library is undergoing construction. The thing about Mark is that Jesus explicitly says that the Torah command was given to the Israelites because of their hardness of hearts. He says the rule was not always this way, and he affirms the creation rule–no divorce. That sounds to me like he’s saying Jewish law doesn’t apply anymore. I wonder if Crossley tries to get around that.

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  5. steph says:

    He doesn’t just try – he succeeds! 🙂 It’s all quite logical. Libraries are frustrating when they are under construction. Nottingham did that last year and it was a pain in the neck!

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  6. steph says:

    On Jesus proclaiming himself Lord of the Sabbath, he does not. Once again, he has not broken Jewish law by going along the paths (the Aramaic root of Mark’s notoriously unsatisfactory Greek) picking the ears of corn is biblical (Lev. 19.9). The Peah is left for the poor and sojourners. The son of man is historical and Jesus spoke Aramaic. Son of man is an idiom in Aramaic for man. Son of man is nonsense in Greek and a literal translation of the Aramaic idiom. However it was interpreted and became useful as a title. What Mark translated was “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. Surely then a man is masster even of the sabbath”. Once again, with apologies, can I persuade you to read Maurice Casey’s Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel? He has a chapter devoted to Mark 2.23-3.6 pp 138-92. He doesn’t deal with divorce in this book – he does that in detail in his forthcoming Historical Jesus but you won’t see that til 2010.

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  7. James Pate says:

    Hi Steph,

    I may read it sometime. The thing is, everyone on this blog is always recommending to me something to read. I already have lots to read, plus it takes me forever to get through a book. I’m going through Crossley right now as it is, and I only got through with chapter 1, probably because I’m reading the books I comment on each day, plus one by Tik Nach Hahn (a Vietnamese Buddhist). I may take a look at the 50 or such pages you recommend, but it will take a while.

    I agree that picking the corn was biblical, but the question was is it legal on the Sabbath? When Jesus brings up the example of David doing what is unlawful, I think he’s saying that his disciples broke the Sabbath. At the same time, he’s doing so on the basis of Scriptural authority–David broke the law to meet a need, the Sabbath was created for man, etc.

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