Completing Hanson’s Dawn of Apocalyptic

I finished Paul Hanson’s Dawn of Apocalyptic.  I enjoyed my reading today because I felt that Hanson illuminated biblical texts as well as highlighted the diversity of Scripture, but in a manner that demonstrated the different ideologies in conflict, rather than merely pointing out discrepancies in the text.  Hanson’s focus in my reading today was on Second Zechariah (Zechariah 9-14), which he believes came from different hands and yet conveyed a visionary, anti-establishment mentality (except for the touches that the establishment added, here and there).

I blogged a couple of years ago about Zechariah 11-12 (see here and here), which contain passages that come into play in the New Testament.  Zechariah 11 is about a bad shepherd, the rods of Unity and Favor being broken, the abandonment of the flock to slaughter, and the shepherd receiving thirty pieces of silver, which Matthew 27:9 applies to Judas betraying Jesus for the priests’ payment of thirty pieces of silver.  Hanson interprets Zechariah 11 as an attack on Ezekiel’s prophecies (in Ezekiel 34 and 37) that a Davidid would arise, unite Northern and Southern Israel (note the unity), and shepherd the tribes under the favor of God.  The Book of Ezekiel was a favorite of the post-exilic establishment, which sought to inaugurate Ezekiel’s vision as much as it could.  But Zechariah 11 was saying that people should not buy into Ezekiel’s positive vision, for devastation would come.  The flock would be slaughtered.  For Hanson, Zechariah 11 was a reaction against Ezekiel by anti-establishment visionaries.

Hanson actually comments on the use of Zechariah 11 in Matthew 27:9.  Hanson reads the Christian story in light of the message of Zechariah 11.  Zechariah 11 concerned the corruption of the temple establishment, woes that would precede the glorious eschaton, and the appointment of a bad shepherd, who would play some role in God’s redemptive purposes.  And, in the New Testament, the temple establishment is corrupt, Jesus’ sufferings must precede the glorious eschaton, and a villain, Judas Iscariot, plays some role in bringing that to pass.  For Hanson, in this case, knowing the Hebrew Bible in light of its original context can actually illuminate the New Testament.

Zechariah 12:10 says that people will weep when they see the one whom they have pierced, and this passage comes into play in Revelation 1:7, which relates it to the second coming of Christ.  Hanson interprets Zechariah 12:10 in light of the post-exilic persecuted visionaries, who (according to Zechariah 12) would be vindicated when God intervened and cleaned house.  But, whereas Zechariah 12 envisions Jerusalemites repenting of their misdeeds against the visionaries, Zechariah 14 predicts devastation of the city.  Hanson states that post-exilic apocalyptic became angrier and more vindictive over time.

But Zechariah 14 has some uplifting points, such as the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles by all of the nations after God’s victory, which Hanson considers to be fitting within Zechariah 14, since the Feast of Tabernacles was about “God’s enthronement as universal king” (only the focus in pre-exilic Israel was on agricultural fertility and God’s victory over barrenness, whereas Zechariah 14 applied the concept to God’s victory over sinners in Israel and elsewhere).  Moreover, because Zechariah 14 was more concerned about who was righteous and who was wicked than ethnicity, it had a more universal outlook, as Gentiles were included in the worship of YHWH.  And, like part of Third Isaiah, Zechariah 14 manifests an inclusive view on the priesthood (in contrast to the exclusive view of the Zadokites, which we encounter in Ezekiel 40-48), for Zechariah 14:20-21 describes all of the horses’ bells being inscribed with “Holy to Yahweh”, which was on the turban of the high priest (Exodus 28:36; 39:30), as well as says that every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD.  Hanson affirms on page 388 that “the development toward a redefinition of ‘holy nation’ as including families of all the earth represents the new dimension carrying apocalyptic eschatology beyond its prophetic roots.”

Another interesting point to note is the difference between Zechariah 14 and P.  Whereas P presents God creating a reliable cycle that includes the sun and the moon, day and night, heat and cold, Zechariah 14:7 predicts a time of continuous light, even in the evening.  According to Hanson, the idea here is that sinners have corrupted even nature, and so God will make a fresh start, with a new natural order.

Hanson has defined apocalyptic in terms of God’s direct intervention into the course of human events, without reliance on human institutions.  And yet, Zechariah 12:6 says that the clans of Judah will play a role in the defeat of Israel’s enemies.  How does Hanson account for that?  On page 368, he states: “…this is not the instrumentality of classical prophecy, where an actual historical monarch or army carries out Yahweh’s purposes.  It is rather the instrumentality of late apocalyptic where Yahweh musters his cosmic hosts and includes some drawn from the ranks of his earthly community.”  Hanson’s point seems to be that the primary actor here is the LORD, but that he uses some humans in his work (and, on page 320, this appears to be how Hanson treats Zechariah 9:9, which is about the king coming into Jerusalem on a donkey).  For Hanson, the clans of Judah are the visionaries, and they are distinguished from Jerusalem, which they believe has become corrupt.

In a previous post, I talked about Hanson’s theological approach to his narrative about the visionaries and the realists.  Hanson believes that the ideal is to be concerned about the present world (like the realists), and yet to critique the status quo according to whether or not it pursues justice (like the visionaries).  (That, for him, was also the way to address the spirit of protest that was occurring in the 1970’s, which was when this book was written.)  Hanson thinks that Isaiah exemplified such an ideal.  I found this book to be interesting because it touched on the roots of apocalyptic (or at least one view of what they were): Some desire God’s direct intervention because they feel that this world is hopelessly corrupt and incapable of reform.  That was the mentality that I received in my religious background, Armstrongism (which Hanson actually criticizes in an Anchor Bible Dictionary article).  I believe that the world is corrupt, but I also think that there are some policies that are more just than others.

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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