Monday, June 27, 2016

How Did Jesus Find A Place For The Passover Meal?

By Julia Blum, Associate professor of Biblical studies, eTeacherBiblical

Jerusalem was swarming with people who had come for Passover. Every house had additional guests, every room was packed. Yet, Jesus seemed unconcerned about a place to eat the Passover meal. He told His disciples confidently, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters” (Luke 22:10). Who is that man? And how did Jesus know they would meet him?

A man walking around with a jar of water was a very unusual sight, as this was ordinarily women’s work. Why would a man be carrying a water jar in Jerusalem? The only group of Jewish men that traditionally did carry water jars were Essenes. Essenes were mostly celibate, and their men did women’s work. They had their communities, not only in Qumran, but in various towns. They also had a community in Jerusalem.

One of Jerusalem’s gates was called “the Gate of the Essenes”. It was through this gate that they entered their community. When Jesus told His disciples that they will see a man carrying a water jar, he knew they would enter through the Essenes’ gate. Entering through this gate was crucial to finding a room for the Passover meal. The Essenes’ calendar was different than the regular Jewish one, and, therefore, they still had available guest rooms.

This story reveals the historical reality of Jerusalem of the 1st century. Discovering the Jewishness of Jesus and of the Early Jesus Movement is a crucial step in the continual process of accurate interpretation of the New Testament.

by Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

On one occasion Yeshua (Jesus) gave orders to Shimon (Peter) and Yohanan (John) to prepare for the Passover ahead of the disciples’ arrival: “Enter a city, then look for a man carrying a jar of water. Follow him and ask the person in charge to offer hospitality. He will show you a large room.” This is exactly what happened (Luke 22:7-13).

When Flavius Josephus describes the diaconal network that the Essenes, a Jewish group who were equal in number to the Pharisees, he writes: “They have no one certain city, but many of them dwell in every city; and if any of their sect come from other places, what they have they give to them …there is, in every city where they live, one appointed particularly to take care of strangers…” (Wars 2:124). Josephus also confirmed what we already know from other sources: many of the Essenes did not marry – choosing instead to dedicate themselves wholly to God.

So why did the disciples need to look for a man carrying a water jar? The answer is simple.

In an agricultural society, it was the exclusive duty of women to carry water. A man carrying a water jar could mean only one thing – this adult man had no wife and therefore he must have belonged to the Essene community!

Did Jesus know the future? Absolutely! He was familiar with the diaconal network of the Essene movement and he knew exactly what would happen next.

My comments:
Was Jesus referring to an Essene via the Essene Gate in Jerusalem? If so, then this appears to be the only time. If anything, it’s fascinating to contemplate (at least for me). Another interesting point fueling this fascination is that the Essenes had an esteemed Teacher of Righteousness, who nonetheless was not Jesus, but was also known as a “Teacher.”

Another possibility is that the man carrying the jar of water was a disciple of Jesus with an inconsequential name who expected Jesus’ request. (See for instance the comprehensive article “Why Are Some Bible Characters Left Unnamed?”, in the August 1, 2013 issue of The Watchtower.)

The scriptures:
Matthew 26:18-19
He said: “Go into the city to So-and-so* and say to him, ‘The Teacher says: “My appointed time is near; I will celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your home.”’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus instructed them and prepared for the Passover. [* JS: The NET Bible has “a certain man”. This translates from the Greek word deina. Strong’s dictionary has “one whose name I cannot call on the instant, or whose name it is of no importance to mention.” Or as the above article says: “not vital to the account.”]

Mark 14:13-16
With that he sent two of his disciples and said to them: “Go into the city, and a man carrying an earthenware water jar will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he goes inside, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says: “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Prepare it for us there.” 16 So the disciples went out, and they entered the city and found it just as he said to them, and they prepared for the Passover.

Luke 22:10-13
He said to them: “Look! When you enter into the city, a man carrying an earthenware water jar will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters. 11 And say to the landlord of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you: “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 12 And that man will show you a large, furnished upper room. Get it ready there.” 13 So they left and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared for the Passover.


Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Stature of Goliath

Slide from Qumran and the Text of the Hebrew Bible lecture by Ronald S. Hendel in The Scrolls, Scripture and Interpretation (DVD, Biblical Archaeological Society, 2009)
~click to enlarge~

Regarding the height of the Philistine giant Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:4 says “his height was six cubits and a span.” This computes to about 2.9 meters or 9 feet 5.75 inches. This is how the Mesoretic Text reads. And if this was how all texts read, then we would be done. However, the NET Bible footnote here accurately states that:
Some Greek [LXX] witnesses, Josephus, and a manuscript of 1 Samuel from Qumran [the Dead Sea Scroll 4QSama] read “four cubits and a span” here, that is, about six feet, nine inches (cf. NAB “six and a half feet”).[1]
How could this be? Which is the more accurate reading for Goliath’s herculean height?

Interestingly, there is a conceivable way that “four cubits” could have been altered into “six cubits” by a scribe who lapsed in his scribal acumen here, but not the other way around. Simply put, in verse 7 the words “six hundred” appears describing the weight of his spearhead. Now, in Hebrew “hundred” is similar to “cubits.” So it is possible that as the scribe was copying verse 4, that when he came to Goliath’s height, his eyes inadvertently saw the “hundred” of verse 7 and mistook it for “cubits” in verse 4, and copied the six along with it.

If this sounds too farfetched, I don’t blame you—and if this was a sole case of scribal mishandling, then I would probably be inclined to dismiss this explanation. However, consider two related examples: the first being the Nahash of the same book in 1 Samuel 11:1. Here it introduces Nahash like the reader is already familiar with him and how terrible he is. But the same Dead Sea Scroll 4QSama and also Josephus include a proper introduction to Nahash together with his terrible deed that frames 11:1 in better context. It is also essential to note that both the “prelude” and 11:1 begin with Nahash. So what happened? Apparently the scribe saw the Nahash of the “prelude” and then accidentally skipped down to the Nahash of our verse 1, and then continued, inadvertently omitting the “prelude.” (This mistake is called “homoeoarcton,” when two lines begin with similar words and the text in between is unintentionally omitted.)

The second related example is in 2 Chronicles 3:4, where the Mesoretic Text says the height of the Temple’s porch was “120.” However, as pointed out in the NWT-Reference Bible footnote, an LXX witness and the Syriac have “20 cubits.” What happened with the height? The footnote continues:
By a transposition of the letters of the Heb. word for “a hundred” it would read “cubits,” to produce the expression “twenty cubits.”
Here we see the same mechanism for the alleged scribal mistake for “hundred” and “cubit” above for Goliath’s height! That is, the scribe’s eye jumping from the similar word in verse 4 to verse 7.

Hopefully this explanation will give one greater insight when reading about Goliath’s height. We may just need to stand on the shoulders of scholarly giants to discern the stature of Goliath.

For more information on this and how a shorter Goliath may still harmonize with the account, see Reconsidering The Height Of Goliath by J. Daniel Hays in JETS 48/4 (December 2005) 701-14 found online here:

[1] This note has been revised in the second edition of the NET Bible:
The LXX, a Qumran manuscript of 1 Samuel [4QSama], and Josephus read “four cubits and a span.” A cubit was approximately 17.5 inches, a span half that. So the Masoretic text places Goliath at about nine feet, six inches tall (cf. NIV, CEV, NLT “over nine feet”; NCV “nine feet, four inches”; TEV “nearly 3 metres” while the other textual witnesses place him at about six feet, seven inches (cf. NAB “six and a half feet”). Note, too, that the cubit was adjusted through history, also attested in Babylon (NIDOTTE 421-424 s.v. אַמָּה). If the cubits measuring Goliath were reckoned as the cubit of Moses, his height at six cubits and a span would be approximately 7' 9" tall. This is one of many places in Samuel where the LXX and Qumran evidence seems superior to the Masoretic text. It is possible that the scribe’s eye skipped briefly to to the number six a few lines below in a similar environment of letters. The average Israelite male of the time was about 5' 3", so a man 6' 7" would be a very impressive height. Saul, being head and shoulder above most Israelites, would have been nearly six feet tall. That is still shorter than Goliath, even at “four cubits and a span,” and makes a sharper contrast between David and Saul. There would have been a greater expectation that a 6 foot tall Saul would confront a 6' 7" Goliath, placing Saul in a bad light while still positioning David as a hero of faith, which is fitting to the context. (underscore added)

See also:
David Versus Goliath—Did It Really Happen? This article, and the NWT-Reference Bible, follow the Mesoretic Text reading without addressing the LXX and 4QSama reading as corroborated by Josephus. Otherwise, this is a nice article.