Antiochus, Transubstantiation, Edenic Sabbath

1. Source: Isaiah Gafni, “Historical Background,” Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period, ed. Michael E. Stone (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984) 7-8.

“The change in Seleucid policy may be attributed at least in part to external events. Following the defeat of Antiochus III at the hands of Roman legions in Magdala in 190 B.C.E., and the ensuing peace treaty of Apamea (188), the Seleucid Empire found itself in dire need of funds to pay the tributes forced upon it by Rome. Antiochus III himself was killed while attempting to sack a temple in Elymais (187), and under his successor Seleucus IV (187-175) the Jews of Palestine experienced a similar attempt to extract funds from the Temple of Jerusalem. The event, described in 2 Maccabees 3, reflects not only on predicaments of the Seleucids, but more importantly on the internal developments among the ruling class of Jerusalem. Apparently, elements within the priesthood and particularly the family of Bilga, had joined forced with the Tobiads in an attempt to usurp power from Onias. This new coalition seems to indicate not only a power struggle within the priestly oligarchy, but a cultural clash as well, for it is this element that ultimately carried out (if it did not instigate) the reforms initiated by Antiochus IV in Jerusalem, culminating with religious persecution. [Antiochus also] devoted the first seven years of his reign to plans for the conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt. In this context one can understand the steps taken to ensure a loyal leadership in Judaea, which would necessarily serve as a staging area for the invasion of Egypt.”

This doesn’t explain to me why Antiochus IV persecuted the Jews. Do the ancient sources give us guidance? Some. I Maccabees 1 doesn’t really give a reason for Antiochus‘ activity, as far as I can see. And II Maccabees 5 states that Antiochus invaded Jerusalem to put down Jason’s attack of the city. Antiochus had given the Jewish priesthood to Jason, then to Menelaus. When Jason thought that Antiochus was dead, he (Jason) gathered up some men and attacked Jerusalem. That’s when Antiochus launched his persecution. As far as Antiochus‘ attack of Egypt was concerned, I and II Maccabees present Antiochus as already engaging in that when he decided to go after Jerusalem. So I don’t think he started the persecution to invade Egypt.

So I’m not entirely satisfied with Gafni’s explanation so far, but maybe he’ll go into more detail in the coming pages. Maybe Antiochus was trying to show the Jews who’s boss, hoping to maintain his base of operations in Palestine.

2. Source: Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1910) 242.

Irenaeus says repeatedly, in combatting the Gnostic Docetism, that bread and wine become, by the presence of the Word of God, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the body and blood of Christ, and that the receiving of them strengthens soul and body (the germ of the resurrection body) unto eternal life. Yet this would hardly warrant our ascribing either transubstantiation or consubstantiation to Irenaeus. For in another place he calls the bread and wine, after consecration, ‘antetypes,’ implying the continued distinction of their substance from the body and blood of Christ.”

Roman Catholics believe that the bread and wine of communion become the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ. What did the second century church fathers teach about this? Schaff documents ambiguity. Ignatius talked as if the elements of communion were the flesh and blood of the Lord. Others, however, tended to view the bread and wine as symbolic. Then there was Irenaeus, who either contradicted himself, or had a nuanced position.

3. Jacob Neusner, Judaism’s Story of Creation: Scripture, Halakhah, Aggadah (Boston: Brill, 2000) 55.

“The Halakhah forms a social system for the sanctification of Israel’s here-and-now, aiming at the salvation of Israel–its ultimate victory over the grave–at the end of days. The basic teleology of the Halakhah aims at the recovery of Eden. It promises the restoration, now within the household of Israel, of the conditions that ought to have prevailed in Eden: the occasion of perfect Repose, sanctified by God’s own action at the instance of the advent of the Sabbath. God has defined the condition for restoring Eden’s Sabbath: sanctifying the Sabbath day at the climax of the week of work.”

Neusner’s argument is not entirely clear to me. For one, I don’t understand why Israel’s system in the here-and-now should have anything to do with victory beyond the grave. Is it solely a matter of earning one’s way into the good afterlife by keeping the Torah, or is there another connection? Second, does the Sabbath restore Eden? Adam and Eve didn’t just rest in the Garden, for they had to dress and keep it. That’s work, right? Neusner says that the Sabbath restores the Edenic Sabbath because Jews don’t create things that are permanent on that day, as God on the original Sabbath rested from his work of creating something long-lasting: the heavens and the earth.

According to Neusner, did the Sages believe that Adam and Eve kept the Sabbath? I wouldn’t be too surprised if such were the case, since there is a rabbinic tradition that God created Adam circumcised, and circumcision (in Judaism) is specifically for Jews. By and large, the rabbis viewed the Sabbath as an Israelite institution, not something for all people, regardless of whether Adam and Eve kept it or not.

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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