Sunday, December 20, 2009

Jesus: Master of Remez c4p3

During Bible times, it was common for Jewish scholars and students to memorize large portions of scripture. When referring to other passages, concepts, and ideas they often merely mentioned a key word or phrase and expected their listeners to pick up on the clue. The term “remez” was given to this technique.  This was of course before there were chapters and verses. Jesus grew up in this type of dynamic culture and rich learning environment where ideas were exchanged with vigorous interplay. In Jewish culture, learning it is not so much about facts but about asking questions and sorting out the truths with plenty of boisterous argument.
Luke 2:46-47 “Now so it was [that] after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers."
The emotions and atmosphere of these discussions were done in a style that a Scandinavian like me would find confrontational. When we read Bible verses today we don’t have the benefit of the visual effects or even the soundtrack. To say that we probably miss something is an understatement. Especially when a phrase in a sentence is hearkening back to a concept, idea, or verse that is hidden away in another place. Fortunately we have concordances and computer searching tools to help - we just need to know when a speaker is using a remez. Let’s look at this passage which occurs as Jesus is being led away to his crucifixion:
NIV Luke 23:28: "Jesus turned and said to them, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.'"  29 "For the time will come when you will say,'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!'" 30 "Then  they will say to the mountains, 'Fall on us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!'" 31 "For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"   
The expression "Cover us, fall on us!" is from Hosea 10:8, and points toward the events of Jerusalem's destruction.    NKJV: “Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. The thorn and thistle shall grow on their altars; They shall say to the mountains, "Cover us!" And to the hills, "Fall on us!" 
Here is a quote from a review of David Bivin and Roy Blizzard, in their Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus,  Arcadia, CA: Makor Publishing, 1983. Pp. 172. I have read this book and I own it, but I can’t find it at the moment, so:

Luke 23:31, "31 "For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" is explained against the background of Ezekiel's prophecy 
against Jerusalem and its Temple in Ezek 20:45-21:7.  Jesus identifies himself 
with the "Green Tree," a Messianic symbol of the times and the "Dry Tree" 
with the people of Jerusalem who would face a worse fate than Jesus at the 
hands of the Romans.  Bivin suggests that "in" should be "against" (no doubt 
going back to the original Hebrew ).  Not only does the verse finally make 
sense, but it shows once again, as Bivin says, that "Jesus seems hardly ever to 
have spoken without somehow or in some way making a messianic claim," even 
though he never comes right out and says "I am the Messiah" in the Synoptics. 
The people who heard Jesus say these words as he was going to his crucifixion certainly understood that his reference to himself as the "Green tree" was a bold messianic claim.  It also was a warning, for Jesus was telling the people, "If this terrible thing can happen to me, 'how much more' to you." 
Luther’s Baggage came from the early days in the Catholic Church, somewhere around the 4th century. Not counting the book of Revelation, the New Testament ends just before all hell would break loose in the Jewish revolt of 66-72 AD. In between these two events is about 250 years of incredible change. I am trying to establish that the 70 years of the New Testament was a golden age where the distinctly Jewish movement began to switch over to a primarily Gentile movement. How the young faith went from a respect for the Torah to a disgust for it in these intervening 250 years is what I want to explore in later posts.

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