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Thursday, November 12, 2009

John the Baptist and the limits of Archaeology, Part 1

For those of us that trust the Bible, and call ourselves "born-again Christians", we view the Bible as G-D’s Word. The idea is to get people to trust in the words of G-D that they may believe the One who is called the WORD of G-D; that is, Jesus Christ the Son.

Faith in G-D’s Words, should bring about faith in G-D’s WORD -- He who spake all Creation into existence.

Thus, it pleased G-D, that by the foolishness of preaching, man should be redeemed after this manner.

Since G-D spoke Creation into existence, He maintained that by believing into words spoken by G-D, man should be redeemed and spiritually re-created (as it were).

This also was the message of John the Baptist, son of Zacharias and his wife, both of whom were as physically almost dead -- both parents being above age 70 (probebakotes) at his birth -- and who was at the first thought to be the Messhiach, because of his miraculous birth association with Abraham / Sarah / Isaac, and not His forerunner.

John was part of a social and religious revolution within Judaism that left virtually no remains of its happening. For those of us that lived through the social revolution and Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, we cannot say that there is much to point to as evidence of a rally other than maybe some fading rags, pictures, and film that will all decay and be gone in the next several centuries. And John the Baptist was from some 2000 literal years ago.

So archaeology is finding limits, with some speculation that they may have found his cave and a place to baptize on the OTHER (or Eastern side) of the Jordan.

That idea doesn't wash.

John baptized Israel as the nation immersed itself from west bank, while he himself pointed to the stones taken from the river by Joshua's crossing some 1538-1539 years earlier. This pile of stones was an essential point to the saying which we will examine.

There are those who have claimed the location is at Qasr al Yahud.
(Cf. Jesus' Life and Times - Baptism by John the Baptist

In relation to Jericho, refer to the map at the top of
Biblical Excursions: The Holy Land )

Most all theologians have seemingly relegated research and thinking in regards to figuring out who and what John the Baptist was and what he really meant, to somebody else. At least, to me this appears so, though some adding or taking away points of observation.

What was the Early Church (pre-200 A.D.) comprehension of who the man was, as might be discovered by translating from Greek to Aramaic (as using the Gospel of Matthew), since archaeology cannot shed enough light on this as yet, even with the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Let's just cite one verse...and see the technicality of correct processes and thought -- is needed in a way that is far apart from that used by the dim-intellectuals of the "Jesus Seminar" (so-called), et al.

Matthew's Gospel (according to Irenaeus Against Heresies 3.1.1., etc.) records details that are site specific to Judea, in the presence of hostile witnesses, in a the same dialect known of Galileans and Syrians. An example of the Aramaic manuscript v. Greek translation distinction is preserved by Ignatius and Irenaeus in comparing Matthew 3:9 .

Ignatius to the Magnesians, .10
“And those that were of a stony heart have become the children of Abraham, the friend of G-D.” Matt. 3:9

To which, some may point to Isaiah 53:10 - "And the Lord wished to crush him, He made him ill; if his soul places itself for a guilt-offering, he shall see seed, he shall prolong his days, and God's purpose shall prosper in his hand."

If John is the Messiah or Messiah's forerunner, must he not have physical offspring or zera (seed) to teach such things?

Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:9. In Torah, there is the instruction to not plant fields with two kinds of zera (seed). Lev. uses “mingled” and Deut. “diverse” in the KJV translation.

Jesus addresses this aspect of the prophecy in His parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13:24-30. The reader researching this might also want to read vv. 1-23 for context. The wheat is the good zera, and the tares are the bad zera. These both refer to people in the parable. In the protosemitic, the word zera is a composite from two words: one means to sow (zr), the other to scatter (drw). The Ugaritic interprets (drw) as that which is dry and exhibits the qualities of that which is dead. Zr appears to exhibit qualities involving moisture and life, or life supporting (or a thought along those lines).

John the Baptist spoke of stones that could be raised up as zera to Abraham (Matthew 3:9).

Judaism also teaches that those of the Gentiles who convert as Noachides (for which the 'Court of the Gentiles' of the Temple at Jerusalem was for) are as “zera” unto Abraham, in the spiritual sense, though not physically until after circumcision, etc., so that their children (at least) might be grafted in as if physically Jewish. That is, the children, not previously Jewish, now can be “by faith” as though the zera of Israel.

For it says, “in you shall all the families of the Earth be blessed”; “Look now toward Heaven and tell the stars, if you be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall your seed be;” “Behold, My Covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.” (Genesis 12:3;15:5; 17:4).

We see this same approach with Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.7.2. ; which gives us the accuracy of the Greek translation, saying and then elucidating back from the Aramaic copies – ‘…as John the Baptist says: “For G-D is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” Now this Jesus did by drawing us off from the religion of stones, and bringing us over from hard and fruitless cogitations, and establishing in us a faith like Abraham.’

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.25.1. – ‘…the sons of Abraham, whom G-D has raised up to Him from the stones….’

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.39.3. – ‘The skill of G-D, therefore, is not defective, for He has the power of the stones to raise up children to Abraham; but the man who does not obtain it, is the cause to himself of his own imperfection.’

Hence, reviewing these 4 quips, we can better reconstruct the Aramaic original and its specific wording of the quoted Greek text known to Irenaeus and Iganatius. And in these elucidations on the verse, we can verify the extreme likelihood or accuracy of Matthew having been first written in Aramaic, as Irenaeus declared in Against Heresies, 3.1.1. The historical record, and hence "lower criticism", is used to validate and enforce the "higher criticism" conclusions. No lower support...the higher cannot stand, lacking foundation.

We also find the qualifiers of: Multiple attestation or forms, Israeli environment or language, dissimilarity, coherence…as required in the study of higher criticism, testifying against the illiteracy of: liberal scholarship, and higher critics; as well as those not familiar with even this basic material. This all leads us to a deeper analysis of John through the historical literary texts, and what we can and cannot look for in regard to John.

Since "Bethabara" / "Bethany" was the place of crossing, we can now only look for a small pile of stones attesting to Bethabara's true location for an archaeological point of location...but we must look to the texts, where archaeology now stops -- limited now only to the discovery of the earliest texts / manuscripts extant -- in regard to John and his ministry, for the events.

The exception, perhaps, where we consider that the Madaba map so lists the crossing location in the form of a log, instead of the location written as Bethabara by the fish fighting to swim upstream nearer the Dead Sea at this map link:

Madaba Mosaic Map - Section 2 - JordanValley

The only other attestation we might find regarding John in the First Century era, may be some sort of early church graffiti used as a teaching aid or memorial.

So it seems to me, some historical studies, must be approached more from a type of theological textual analysis, rather than the archaeologist tendency of theorizing on evidence and texts he doesn't have.

This is just one example to consider.

Luke 1:5-33 my alternate translation from the Greek

“In the days of Herod, the King of Judea, there was a certain priest -- by name, Zacharias --
Of the daily [Temple] service: Abijah.

http://www.templeinstitute.org/day_in_life/24_shifts.htm [pp.1-2]

His wife was of the daughters of Aaron: her name, Elizabeth.
In the sight of G-D they were both righteous,
Walking in all the Commandments and Ordinances of YHVeH,* blameless(ly).
No child was theirs, because Elizabeth was barren,
And both were well-advanced
[Gk., probebakotes] ** in their days.

It came to pass, namely in his serving as priest in the order of his daily course [at the Temple] before G-D.
According to the Custom of the Priests,
(his) lot was to burn incense --

[ http://www.templeinstitute.org/day_in_life/daily_lotteries.htm
pp. 3-4, 8, 19-20, 23-24 adds other details not mentioned in the text, known or obvious to hearers and readers when the Temple was as yet still standing, fully functional, and unthreatened].

Entering into the Temple of YHVeH.*

All the multitude was praying outside at the hour of incense.

[This use of the word “multitude” suggests a detail not given us by the Temple Institute…that on memorial days, the priests were accompanied by more than just a single family or clan of service. Rather, perhaps here, are all the priestly clans and families gathered on a solemn occasion, such as the 9th of Av, 6 B.C., making John the Baptist’s coming birth in the spring of 5 B.C., and Jesus’ birth in the fall of 5 B.C.]

But to him, an Angel of YHVeH appeared standing out from the altar of incense on the right.
Seeing (this), Zacharias was stirred up emotionally with great alarm and dread
[Gk., etarachthe], ***
and fear fell upon him.

The Angel said to him, Do not fear.
Zacharias, your request and petition has been heard;
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son;
You shall call his name Yochanan [John].

He shall be your joy and exultation, and many will rejoice over the birth of him.
He will grow great. ****
In the sight of YHVeH, wine and intoxicants he may not at all drink.
The Holy Spirit will fill him while he is yet in the womb of his mother.
He will turn many of the Sons of Israel on (to) YHVeH their G-D.
He will go ahead before Him in spiritual power of Elijah:
to turn the hearts of the fathers upon (their) children,
the disobedient to just wisdom,
making YHVeH prepared for a people already having been made ready.

Zacharias said to the Angel,
By what shall I know this? I am quite old, and my wife is well-advanced in her days.

Answering, the Angel said to him,
I am Gabriel -- the One standing before G-D.*****

I was sent to speak up along-side with you,
to give good news to you of these things.
[Look and see! -- Cf. Heb. V'Hinneh!]
You will be silent, not able to speak,
Until which day these things begin to come into existence,
Because you believed not my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.

The multitude(s) were expecting Zacharias,
and they marveled in his delay of coming out of the Temple.
He was not able to speak to them, but they knew that he had seen a visionin the Temple;
He was signaling (this) to them, but remained a mute.

And it came to pass, when the days of his service was fulfilled, he went away to his house
[which was located in a city of Judah. verse. 39]

After these days, his wife Elizabeth conceived, but she hid for 5 months, saying,
Thus has YHVeH done to me in the time which He saw (fit) to remove the reproach of me (from) among men.

In then, the sixth month
[Adar II], the Angel Gabriel was sent from G-D into a city of Galilee, the which named Nazareth, up to and along-side a virgin having been betrothed to a man (by) name, Joseph, out of David’s house: and the name of the virgin: Mariam [Mary].

And (upon) entering, the angel up toand along-side of her said, Hail highly favored (one of grace), YHVeH* is with thee: blessed (art) thou among women.

She then beholding (him), was troubled upon his word and its reasoning behind or in it, and cast her mind (as to) what manner of salutation this should be. And the Angel said unto her, May (you) not greatly fear Miriam, for thou hast found favor with G-D.

And behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bear a Son, and you will call His name Y’shua [Jesus].

This One will grow to be Great, and will be called Son of the Most High;
And YHVeH Elohim will give Him the throne David, the father of Him;
And He will reign and rule upon the House of Jacob to the Ages;
And of His Kingdom, there will never be an end.”

* Gk. Kurios - L-RD, translated back into Hebrew here would be the Tetragrammaton: YHVH / YHWH.

** Gk. Probebakotes - the low end Septuagint use of this word appears to be that of a 70 year old King David in 1 Kings 1:1, and a high end use of a 110 year old Joshua in Joshua 23:1,2 (cf. Joshua 24:29). It appears that because of a low birth rate in this family group, the age of 60 was waived as a limit for priestly service…and her barrenness is reason behind Elizabeth’s reproach from men of the priesthood, as if secret sin were the cause instead of righteousness and the will of G-D for the miraculous of reminiscence of the matriarchs Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel. .

*** The Greek word, “etarachthe” is rendered as “destruction” in 1 Samuel 5:9 of the Septuagint. The Hebrew word that is translated here is “Mehuma”. Mehuma is used only 6 times in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel, its use suggests something more than just a rottenness of outward boils upon the groin, or in the arm-pits (after the manner of the Bubonic Plague. Rather than a past tense happened event, Mehuma should be viewed as a present tense “happening now” event. This would be likened to watching the body and skin rolling back and forth as if suffering an earthquake upon the skin and flesh, until the boils and tumors (in minutes) bubbled up into huge appendages and settled.
Although the boils and tumors did not settle upon Zacharias, defiling his pure and unblemished flesh, Zacharias did feel as if such an event were moving back and forth upon his skin. In other words, the presence of Gabriel made his skin crawl, and made Zacharias want to jump out of his skin (as it were). This sensation is found to be associated with the Hebrew word “Charada” and its event in Daniel 10:7-8, at the presence of both Michael and Gabriel. In that event, we see the same horrific fear suffered by the Babylonians and the Prophet Daniel which was a precedent to that experienced by the Roman Guard at Jesus’ Resurrection Tomb in Matthew 28:4. The only difference between the Babylonians and the Romans was that the Romans were assigned under penalty of death to stay and defend a location, whereas the guard with Daniel was but an escort free to flee in the few seconds they had opportunity to, before being sapped of all strength (as they suffered the sensation of corruption and rolling boils and a severe nervous system attack).

**** Cf. the Gk. megas with the Hebrew gadol in prophetic usage, such as in Micah 5, etc.

***** Reminiscent of the Gabriel that was familiar to pre-1st Century Jews as most recently discovered through the Hazon Gabriel stone:

Table of Contents | Biblical Archaeology Review


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