Thursday, October 11, 2007

4Q521 and Lk. 7.22-23 - Evidence for A Messianic Jesus?

Does 4Q521 teach that certain mighty-deeds will be performed by the Messiah and how does these relate to Lk. 7.22-23/Mt. 11.3-6 (= Q 7.22-23)?


[The hea]vens and the earth will obey His Messaih [... and all that]at is in them. He will not turn aside from teh commandments of the holy ones. Take strength in His service (you) who seek the Lord. Will you not find the Lord in this, all you who wait patiently in your hearts? For the Lord will visit the pious ones, and the righteous ones He will call by name. Over the meek His Spirit will hover, and the faithful He will restore by His power. He will glorify the pious ones on the throne of the eternal kingdom. He will release the captives, make the blind see, raise up the downtrodden. For[ev]er I shall cling to him ... and [I shall trust' in His loving kindness, and [His] goodness of holiness and will not delay. And as for the wonders that are not the work of the Lord, when He [...] then he will heal the slaint, resurrect the dead, and announce glad tidings to the poor. He will lead the [hol]y ones; he will shepherd [th]em; he will do and all of it ....

Lk. 7.22-23

And he answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. 23 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

Joseph Fitzmyer and Michael Labahn (among others) argue that the deeds are done by YHWH and not by the Messiah, while others such as Craig Evans and John Collins see this as describing activities of the anointed one himself. Here's my take: (1). Many texts do not make such a sharp bifurcation between what God does and what the Messiah/Davidic king does. Ezekiel 34 is a prime example where God says "I will come and shepherd my people" and it is also said a few verses later that a Davidic shepherd "will come and shepherd my people" and so forth. In the Psalms of Solomon 17 the focus is not merely on the Messiah but on God as King and God's own deliverance and actions for the Israelites which are correlated (somehow) with the activities of this Davidic king. (2) In Lk. 7.22-23 the question and answer seem to have a clear messianic sense. The title "coming-one" certainly designated an eschatological deliverer and quite probably a messianic figure. Jesus' oblique answer would suggest that the signs speak for themselves and John the Baptist and his disciples should not mistake the reception of the kingdom with its reality and the reality is attested by the mighty deeds that follow the Isaianic script for restoration. (3) The fact that the Qumran text begins with "heaven and earth will listen to His Messiah" implies that the Messiah is the one doing many of these actions described below. (4) That makes sense of the allusion to Isa. 61.1 where it is the "Anointed One" who preaches good news etc. (5) Lk. 4.18-21 and Q 7.22-23 provide an incidence of multiple-attestation where the activities of Isa. 61.1 are correlated with what Jesus is doing and in the last instance in the context of a messianic question.

HT: My thanks also to an email correspondence with Craig Evans on this matter!


Geoff Hudson said...

But Luke 7.23 does not say 'the blind see' as in 4Q521. It says 'The blind receive'. I suggest that what the prophet originally said was: 'The blind receive the Spirit' resulting in the blind praising God. This would have been bad news to report back to the High Priests since they probably excluded the blind from the temple as unclean. But the prophet was claiming that the blind were cleansed by the Spirit, even though they remained blind.

Geoff Hudson said...

The 'blind' seem to be the only subject of Lk.7.21-23. 'The Blind' occurs at the beginning of 7.23 but 'were blind' is at the end of 7.21. Thus in 7.21, 'many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to' looks like an interpolation before 'many who were blind'.

James Crossley said...

Is 'his anointed' enough to speak of a title 'THE Messiah'? And let's not forget that the gospel texts do not use the phrase 'THE Messiah' here. I know there are all sorts of other arguments but in light of de Jonge's classic article on the use of language for 'Messiah' I think more care is needed.

Danny Zacharias said...

James, which de Jonge article in particular are you talking about?

I wrote the article on 4Q521 for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of the historical Jesus so I'm definitely interested in this conversation.

I don't think the Birdman is claiming that Jesus is claiming to be THE messiah. The point, I think, is that there is some pretty striking coherence here and given the likely authenticiy of Luke's passage, it sure seems like Jesus has a messianic self-awareness.

one last thing related to this, Mike left out the previous verse in Luke which I think adds to the discussion—Jesus asked if he is THE ONE to come or if they should expect another. Given that Jesus answers in the positive (albeit a little cryptically) wouldn't this point to perhaps an idea of "THE" messiah?

d. miller said...


This reading of 4Q521 still strikes me as wishful thinking. The references to the "Lord" in lines 5 and 11 create a strong presumption in favor of seeing the Lord as the subject of lines 7-8, 12-13 too. However much we might want an anointed one to do these things, the parallel doesn't quite fit. To be persuaded otherwise, I would need to see explicit evidence within 4Q521 that the "anointed one" does the works of God (à la Psalms of Solomon 17).

I have tried to sketch another way that 4Q521 can illumine our reading of Luke in my essay, "The Messenger, the Lord, and the Coming Judgement in the Reception History of Malachi 3" NTS 53.1 (2007):1-16. It's at least tangentially related to this debate.


David Miller

ReformedChristian said...

Thanks Mike,
I remember reading on Ezekiel 34, that the Shepherd is both YHWH and the Davidic Servant and that this is a 'compenetration', a bringing of the two together into one. That's what we have in Jesus who is the Son of David and is YHWH.

Danny Zacharias said...

David, does what your implying make this document any less controversial? If the coherence is there between 4Q521 and Luke, then Jesus may be comparing his work to God himself!

I find it difficult seeing the Lord 'announcing glad tidings to the poor'. That is the work of an agent of God, no? If so, it stands to reason that it is the agent of God doing the remainder of deeds in the list of 4Q521 as well.

Geoff Hudson said...

Lk.7.19 has an awkward sentence:'he sent them to the Lord to ask'. That sounds like an instruction to go and pray about something - like the 'one' who was to come. 'One' is a pretty nondescript word. Is anything straight forward in the NT?

d. miller said...

I don't assume that Luke was aware of 4Q521. In my view, both Luke and 4Q521 attribute similar characteristics to the "Lord" of Malachi 3. In 4Q521 the "Lord" is almost certainly God; in Luke, I think the "Lord" when applied to Jesus is a messianic title (Luke 1.43; 20.41-44; Acts 2.34-36).

Re: proclaiming good news: The bit about proclaiming good news to the poor is the strongest argument for seeing an agent of God at work on God's behalf in column 2, but the other activities sound like God's own deeds. Elsewhere in 4Q521, for example, it is the "Lord" who raises the dead (see frag. 7 lines 4-6).

David Miller

Danny Zacharias said...

Geoff, I'm sorry I just don't see any ambiguity at all. The content is very clear. As Dave says, the Lord is clearly Jesus, and John has sent his disciples to ask Jesus the question. Now as to "the one", obviously we can't be hard and fast as to what Luke precisely means, but I'm sure he wasn't asking if he was the one who was going to hand out candy. "The One" here is likely a messianic figure, and Matthew makes this explicit in Matt 11:2-6.

I'm not presuming that Luke was aware of 4Q521 either, but there is some stirking similarity. It is interesting that you mention Malachi 3— in my readings on 4Q521 I don't remember this chapter every really coming into the discussion much. The most obvious parallels are to Isaiah. What is it explicitly about Mal 3 that you find to be in parallel with 4Q521?

I think what Mike said in his post still holds true, the deeds are the Lord's, just as it was the finger of God which was the origin of Jesus' deeds. This doesn't negate the agent of the Lord's deeds.

Finally, we're often thinking about the biblical text as our goal for knowing the meaning, but the reverse function can also clarigy. Whereas some are unclear if the messiah is the agent of the deeds in 4Q521, I think we concede that the parallels between luke and 4Q521 are pretty striking. And, Luke is not at all ambiguous, it is Jesus the Christ who is doing these deeds. Perhaps the clarity of the scriptural text can serve to clear up the meaning of 4Q521.


Geoff Hudson said...

Danny, so why doesn't the text have Jesus for Lord? In any case, how would the writer have known what John said? But, assuming Luke reported John's words correctly, and John was unsure about Jesus's status, why would John have called Jesus Lord? Or, was that just another way for Luke to describe Jesus here?

I suggest the sentence 'he sent them to the Lord to ask' is older than the text it is embedded in.

d. miller said...

Danny (and my thanks to Mike for letting us continue this conversation on his blog):

I don't think there is enough evidence in 4Q521 to identify the role of the "anointed one" (but I suspect I overstated my point when I referred to Collins/Evans/Stanton/Bird's conclusion as "wishful thinking").

To be sure, the NT tells us a lot about Second Temple Judaism, but--and here's another potential overstatement--we enter a quagmire when we try to use the NT to clarify the meaning of an extrabiblical text which we then cite as background to help us understand the NT passage. This may be done in some cases, but it needs to be done carefully, and in full awareness that early Christian reflection on the "Christ event" added many new things into the equation.

With regard to Malachi in 4Q521, I refer you to my NTS article. You might also try Emile Puech's DJD edition of 4Q521.


David Miller