GOSPEL OF MARK 2018 07 CH 11, 12

RESOURCES:

Boring, M. Eugene.  Mark: A Commentary.  Part of the New Testament Library commentary series edited by C.Clifton Black and John T. Carroll.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2006).

Byrne, Brendan.  A Costly Freedom: A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2008).

Donahue, S.J., John R. and Daniel J. Harrington, S.J..  The Gospel of Mark.  Part of the Sacra Pagina biblical commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S.J.  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 2002).

Duran, Nicole Wilkinson Duran, Teresa Okure, Daniel M. Patte editors.  Mark.  Part of the Texts @ Contexts series edited by Athalya Brenner and Nicole Wilkinson Duran.  (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2011)..

France, R.T.  The Gospel of Mark.  Part of the New International Greek Testament Commentary series edited by I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner.  (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids MI, 2002).

Harrington, O.P., Wilfrid.  What was Mark At? The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary.  (Columbia Press, Dublin, 2008).

Hengel, Martin.  Studies in the Gospel of Mark.  Translated by John Bowden from the original German.  (Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene OR, 1985).

Myers, Ched.  Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus.  Twentieth Anniversary Edition.  (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1988/2008).

Myers, Ched & Marie Dennis, Joseph Nangle, OFM, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, and Stuart Taylor.  “Say to the This Mountain”: Mark’s Story of Discipleship. (Orbis, Maryknoll NY, 1996).

Perkins, Pheme.  The Gospel of Mark.  New Interpreter’s Bible Vol. VIII.  Part of the New Interpreter’s Bible commentary series convened by Leander Keck.  (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995).

Placher, William C.  Mark.  Part of the bible commentary serried Belief, A Theological Commentary on the Bible edited by Amy Plantinga Pauw and William C. Placher.  (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2010).

Ryken, Leland, James C.Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, General Editors.  Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An encyclopedic exploration of the images, symbols, motifs, metaphors, figures of speech and literary patterns of the Bible.  (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL, 1998).

Sweetland, Dennis.  Mark: From Death to Life. Part of the Spiritual Commentaries on the bible series edited by Mary Ann Getty-Sullivan.  (New City Press, Hyde Park NY, 2000).

Williamson, Jr.,  Lamar.  Mark.  Part of the Interpretation biblical commentary series edited by James L. Mays, Patrick d. Miller, and Paul J. Achtemeier.  (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1983)

 

 

VIDEO NOTES

This talk is by Linda Webster.

Jesus continually contrasts the behavior of those who live by the law as interpreted by the Pharisees and those who live by the law as interpreted by the prophets.

Strong images in these passages: cloak, fig tree, animals …   along with the crowd along the road.

To the Mount fled David from Absolam.

Bethany was about 2 miles from Jerusalem at the foot of the mountains.

Population of Jerusalem 80,000 permanent but swells on Pilgrimage festival days to 200,000

Chapter 11 chronicles 3 days – foreshadows time in the tomb

First day is full of acclaim and success.  Jesus acts as both prophet (predicting where the colt would be) and king (riding on a donkey).

Second day – was it even time for the fig tree to be bearing fruit?  The meaning is left to be revealed on the third day.  Sandwich idea.

A second visit to the temple area.  Confrontation with the Jewish leaders.  = fig tree?

Mark 11:15-16  “On entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area.”  Then Jesus began teaching.  Mark 11:18: “they feared him because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.”

Crowd following Jesus?  Or curious passers-by?  Authorities are uncomfortable and worried for their livelihood and power.

Crowds throughout the gospel – some friendly, some not, some just curious

Third day Peter notices the fig tree has withered and died.

Mark 11:27 “As he was walking in the temple area, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders approached him”.   She says that this group comprised the Sanhedrin.  (I think she means that members of these groups were on the Sanhedrin OR these were not the whole Sanhedrin (70 men) but were a part of it.)  They challenge his authority.

Public debate, the crowd to choose

DISPUTATION: a time honored method of finding some truth or agreement by setting up opposing points of view OR posing questions, then arguing definitions or various outcomes until both sides are satisfied with the answer.

Jesus provides elegant (short, on target) answers to the carefully constructed questions posed to him.

Mark 1:22  “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”

The point of this discourse is to intellectually outwit the opponent, not give the ‘right’ answers to any questioner.  (Peter – better to think that they are seeking the right answer, which neither one may have at the beginning, and to do so in an entertaining way.)

As ch. 12 begins, Jesus begins to speak in parables

Vineyard: an allegory for the House of God, the Messiah, the prophets.  There are many uses of the symbol of vineyard in OT

Then the Pharisees and Herodians arrive

Scribes: skilled teachers of the law and held in great respect.

Then come MORE questioners – Sadducees.  Mark 12:24  “Are you not misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God?

 

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Outline of chapter 11:

  • In Bethpage, near Jerusalem, advance preparations for obtaining a colt to ride
  • Triumphant arrival in Jerusalem
  • Fig tree in Bethany
  • Re-entry into Jerusalem and Temple area, confrontation with money changers and those selling doves
  • encounter with the cursed fig tree, teaching about faith and prayer
  • confrontation with chief priests, scribes, and elders

 

In Bethpage, near Jerusalem, advance preparations for obtaining a colt to ride

colt / donkey / ass / horse

Ryken p. 215: “Despite its widespread use by all, the donkey and the mule were also evidently a staple of ancient Near Easter royal ceremony.”

Ryken p. 215: “That Jesus rides not a war horse but the donkey of Zechariah 9:9 makes him (like Moses, who also rode an ass (Exodus 4:20) “meek”.  His chosen beast does not show him to be a poor or common man but a king, albeit one who does not conquer.  Clearly he is innocent of the charge of rebelling against Caesar.  A man on a donkey is not looking for war.  One is reminded of the Eastern iconographic tradition in which Christ rides his donkey sidesaddle – the traditional posture of a woman, not a warrior.”

Gen. 42:25,26 beast of burden

Then Joseph gave orders to have their containers filled with grain, their money replaced in each one’s sack, and provisions given them for their journey. After this had been done for them, 26they loaded their donkeys with the grain and departed.

 

Isaiah 30:23,24 plower of fields

He will give rain for the seed

you sow in the ground,

And the bread that the soil produces

will be rich and abundant.

 

On that day your cattle will graze

in broad meadows;

The oxen and the donkeys that till the ground

will eat silage tossed to them

with shovel and pitchfork.

 

Numbers 22:21-31 Balaam’s ass

So the next morning when Balaam arose, he saddled his donkey,* and went off with the princes of Moab. But now God’s anger flared up  at him for going, and the angel of the LORD took up a position on the road as his adversary. As Balaam was riding along on his donkey, accompanied by two of his servants, the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with sword drawn. The donkey turned off the road and went into the field, and Balaam beat the donkey to bring her back on the road. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow lane between vineyards with a stone wall on each side. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD there, she pressed against the wall; and since she squeezed Balaam’s leg against the wall, he beat her again. Then the angel of the LORD again went ahead, and stood next in a passage so narrow that there was no room to move either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD there, she lay down under Balaam. Balaam’s anger flared up and he beat the donkey with his stick.

Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that you beat me these three times?” “You have acted so willfully against me,” said Balaam to the donkey, “that if I only had a sword at hand, I would kill you here and now.” But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have always ridden until now? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way before?” “No,” he replied. Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, so that he saw the angel of the LORD standing on the road with sword drawn; and he knelt and bowed down to the ground.

 

I Kings 1:32-34

Solomon rides David’s mule to Gihon to be anointed king

Then King David said, “Call Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, son of Jehoiada.” When they had entered the king’s presence, he said to them: “Take with you the royal officials. Mount my son Solomon upon my own mule and escort him down to Gihon. There Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet shall anoint him king over Israel, and you shall blow the ram’s horn and cry, ‘Long live King Solomon!’

Zechariah 9:9-10

Exult greatly, O daughter Zion!

Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!

Behold: your king is coming to you,

a just savior is he,

Humble, and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

 

He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim,

and the horse from Jerusalem;

The warrior’s bow will be banished,

and he will proclaim peace to the nations.

His dominion will be from sea to sea,

and from the River* to the ends of the earth.

 

Triumphant arrival in Jerusalem

Sweetland p. 139  notes that the text in Mark does not imply that anyone in Jerusalem was paying attention or participating in Jesus’ arrival.  It was the followers of Jesus who were accompanying him that lay down their cloaks, along with leafy branches.

 

Fig tree in Bethany

Ryken p. 283: “These features of fruitfulness and shade make the fig tree a ready symbol for God in a covenant relation to his people, as is the vine, with which it is often linked.  Thus God is portrayed as having seen in Israel prospects of productivity as one “seeing the early fruit on the fig tree” (Hos 9:10), which, appearing in late spring, gives promise of later fruitfulness.  As covenant beneficiary, Israel could enjoy the God-given prosperity and security experienced in the Solomonic ideal: “each man under his own vine and fig tree”.”

Hosea 9:10

Like grapes in the desert,

I found Israel;

Like the first fruits of the fig tree, its first to ripen,

I looked on your ancestors.

But when they came to Baal-peor

and consecrated themselves to the Shameful One,

they became as abhorrent as the thing they loved.

 

 

I Kings 5:4-5

He had dominion over all the land west of the River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and all its kings, and he had peace on all his borders round about. Thus Judah and Israel lived in security, everyone under their own vine and fig tree from Dan to Beer-sheba, as long as Solomon lived.

Isaiah 36:16-17

Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria:

Make peace with me

and surrender to me!

Eat, each of you, from your vine,

each from your own fig tree.

 

Drink water, each from your own well,

until I arrive and take you

to a land like your own,

A land of grain and wine,

a land of bread and vineyards.

 

Zechariah 3:10

On that day—oracle of the LORD of hosts—you will invite one another under your vines and fig trees.”

Myers p. 298 quotes Telford’s analysis – the fig tree represents the godly man of Israel or collectively the nation of Israel itself.  Hence the shock – it is cursed by Jesus for not bearing fruit.

Re-entry into Jerusalem and Temple area, confrontation with money changers and those selling doves

Myers p. 290: “Jesus has arrived at the heart of the dominant order, and the time has come for a showdown in the war of myths.  The Lord is now visiting his temple, as promised by Malachi since the beginning of the story (1:2 / Mal. 3:1), and in his actions we will witness the one whom Gandhi referred to as “the most active resister known to history – this is nonviolence par excellence”.”

Malachi 3:1-5

Now I am sending my messenger—

he will prepare the way before me;

And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple;

The messenger of the covenant whom you desire—

see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts.

 

But who can endure the day of his coming?

Who can stand firm when he appears?

For he will be like a refiner’s fire,

like fullers’ lye.

He will sit refining and purifying silver,

and he will purify the Levites,

Refining them like gold or silver,

that they may bring offerings to the LORD in righteousness.

Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem

will please the LORD, as in ancient days, as in years gone by.

 

I will draw near to you for judgment,

and I will be swift to bear witness

Against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers,

those who deprive a laborer of wages,

Oppress a widow or an orphan,

or turn aside a resident alien,

without fearing me, says the LORD of hosts.

 

Mark 1:2

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way.

 

Hosea 9:10-17

Like grapes in the desert,

I found Israel;

Like the first fruits of the fig tree, its first to ripen,

I looked on your ancestors.

 

But when they came to Baal-peor

and consecrated themselves to the Shameful One,

they became as abhorrent as the thing they loved.

 

Ephraim is like a bird:

their glory flies away—

no birth, no pregnancy, no conception.

Even though they bring up their children,

I will make them childless, until no one is left.

Indeed, woe to them

when I turn away from them!

 

 

Ephraim, as I saw, was a tree

planted in a meadow;

But now Ephraim will bring out

his children to the slaughterer!

 

Give them, LORD!  give them what?

Give them a miscarrying womb,

and dry breasts!

 

All their misfortune began in Gilgal;

yes, there I rejected them.

Because of their wicked deeds

I will drive them out of my house.

I will love them no longer;

all their princes are rebels.

 

Ephraim is stricken,

their root is dried up;

they will bear no fruit.

Were they to bear children,

I would slay the beloved of their womb.

 

My God will disown them

because they have not listened to him;

they will be wanderers among the nations.

 

Myers p. 300 – Jesus is not surprised that there is commerce in the Temple area – the whole of Jerusalem is dependent on the Temple for jobs / sales / income.   It is the whole enterprise that Jesus is upset with and “overturns”.

Sweetland p. 142: “If the sacrificial animals cannot be purchased, there can be no sacrifice.  If the money proper for paying the half shekel temple tax cannot be obtained, then monetary support of the temple and its priesthood would end.  If no vessels can be moved within the temple, then cultic activity must cease.  Mark presents Jesus as the prophet who strikes at the center of the Jewish religion; he shuts the temple down.  The chief priests and scribes understand the symbolism involved in Jesus’ act.”    Note – it’s the week before the great Passover festival!

Sweetland p. 143 argues that the “den of thieves” does NOT refer to the commercial activities but to the reality that thieves have taken refuge in it – i.e. the people commit sins and then run to the Temple to make an offering and do not genuinely repent.

encounter with the cursed fig tree, teaching about faith and prayer

Harrington p. 112 – the sandwiching of the cleansing of the Temple story with the fig tree (cursed, found withered) indicates that Mark wants us to understand that it is the Temple that is at the heart of all of this.  The Temple and the cult and mind-set of those in charge of it and Judaism itself have come under judgment by God and found lacking.  “Its time had run out.” (p. 113)   If the Temple does not save them what does?  Prayer and faith.

confrontation with chief priests, scribes, and elders

Outline of chapter 12:

  • Conflict with the Temple authorities: Parable of the vineyard with murderous tenants
  • Conflict with the Pharisees and Herodians: Do we pay the tax to Caesar or not?
  • Conflict with the Sadducees: at resurrection, whose wife will she be?
  • Scribe: What commandment of the Law is the greatest?
  • Conflict with the scribes: Messiah as Son of David, love of honor
  • widow’s mite

 

Vineyards

Isaiah 5: 1-2

Now let me sing of my friend,

my beloved’s song about his vineyard.

My friend had a vineyard

on a fertile hillside;

He spaded it, cleared it of stones,

and planted the choicest vines;

Within it he built a watchtower,

and hewed out a wine press.

Then he waited for the crop of grapes,

but it yielded rotten grapes.

 

Psalm 80

O Shepherd of Israel, lend an ear,

you who guide Joseph like a flock!

Seated upon the cherubim, shine forth

upon Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.

Stir up your power, and come to save us.

 

O God, restore us;

light up your face and we shall be saved.

LORD of hosts,

how long will you smolder in anger

while your people pray?

You have fed them the bread of tears,

made them drink tears in great measure.

 

You have left us to be fought over by our neighbors;

our enemies deride us.

O God of hosts, restore us;

light up your face and we shall be saved.

 

You brought a vine out of Egypt;

you drove out nations and planted it.

You cleared out what was before it;

it took deep root and filled the land.

 

The mountains were covered by its shadow,

the cedars of God by its branches.

It sent out its boughs as far as the sea,

its shoots as far as the river.

Why have you broken down its walls,

so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?

 

The boar from the forest strips the vine;

the beast of the field feeds upon it.

Turn back again, God of hosts;

look down from heaven and see;

Visit this vine,

the stock your right hand has planted,

and the son whom you made strong for yourself.

 

Those who would burn or cut it down—

may they perish at your rebuke.

May your hand be with the man on your right,

with the son of man whom you made strong for yourself.

 

Then we will not withdraw from you;

revive us, and we will call on your name.

LORD God of hosts, restore us;

light up your face and we shall be saved.

 

Gospel of John 15:1-5

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.

He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,

and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.

 

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.

Remain in me, as I remain in you.

Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine,

so neither can you unless you remain in me.

 

I am the vine, you are the branches.

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,

because without me you can do nothing.”

 

This vineyard parable is a continuation of the confrontation between Jesus and the Sanhedrin in chapter 11.

France p. 456: While drawing on Isaiah 5 passage there is a difference – it is not the vineyard that has failed but the tenants.  The tenants are those responsible for tending the vineyard – here directed at the authorities overseeing the people and the faith.

Vines take awhile to settle in, grow roots and become productive – hence the delay in the owner sending for his due rent (a sizable portion of the crop).

France notes (p. 460) the tradition that Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and Amos were martyred (not necessarily by their own people).  Also John the Baptist.  Point may be that evil seeks to put to death those who speak the Word of God.

France p. 461: “J.D.M. Derrett has argued alternatively that under Jewish law possession of a property without payment of rent for four years constituted a title to ownership, and the killing of the son gave them time to seize the crucial fourth year’s harvest; the legal basis of his argument has, however, been disputed.  But in any case it is probably not appropriate to read Jesus’ story in terms of formal legal claims; this is instinctive piracy rather than reasoned policy.”

 

Cornerstone

Job 38:1-7

Then the LORD* answered Job out of the storm and said:

Who is this who darkens counsel

with words of ignorance?

Gird up your loins now, like a man;

I will question you, and you tell me the answers!

 

Where were you when I founded the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its size? Surely you know?

Who stretched out the measuring line for it?

Into what were its pedestals sunk,

and who laid its cornerstone,

While the morning stars sang together

and all the sons of God* shouted for joy?

 

Psalm 118: 19-25

Open the gates of righteousness;

I will enter and thank the LORD.

This is the LORD’s own gate,

through it the righteous enter.

 

 

I thank you for you answered me;

you have been my savior.

*The stone the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone.

 

By the LORD has this been done;

it is wonderful in our eyes.

This is the day the LORD has made;

let us rejoice in it and be glad.

LORD, grant salvation!*

LORD, grant good fortune!

 

Jesus concludes the parable with the reference to Psalm 118 to introduce a note of triumph that would be impossible to place within the parable / story itself.

France p. 464: “The second verse of the quotation might serve as a motto for the whole of Mark’s gospel.  It is the gospel of paradox, of human amazement at the unexpected work of God.  The kingdom of God has been shown especially in chapter 10 to demand the reversal of human values and expectations.  In it the first are last and the last first, the rejected stone becomes the most important of all, and “we” are left gazing in wonder at the inscrutable ways of God as they are being revealed not only in the teaching but also in the experience of his Messiah.”

 

Do we pay the tax or not?

France p. 465 ff: This was a relatively new tax imposed by the Romans in places like Judea where they exercised direct rule over the subjected peoples.  Galilee, home of Jesus, was not subjected to this tax.  The temple authorities send delegates to test and trap him – as an ‘outsider’, what does he think about it?  Where does he stand with regard to Roman rule and the desire to overthrow it within many in Judea (particularly the Zealots)?

In responding Jesus traps the would-be trappers.  They produce a coin with the image of the emperor on it – something no good Jew should have in his pocket.   At a higher level Jesus’ response indicates that there is no necessary clash between the civic rule of the Romans and God’s rule.

France, in a footnote, disputes Myers’ position on this text.  “Myers, p. 312, asserts that the obligations to Caesar and to God are ‘stated clearly as opposites’, and on this ground rejects the ‘bourgeois’ exegesis which has Jesus approving the payment of the tax.  While this conclusion suits Myers’ ideological position, he offers no explanation as to why he sees the halves of Jesus’ exhortation (joined by ‘and’ Greek kai) as ‘opposites’.”

Sadducees / Resurrection / levirate marriage

Sadducees are not widely attested but appear to represent aristocratic / educated / priestly views and interests.  In particular – a holding to the primacy of the written Torah and within it the 5 books of Moses.  A rejection therefore of the Pharisees and the developing oral tradition they espoused.  In the 5 books of Moses there is a strong emphasis on the covenant and the sacrifices in the Temple and no mention at all of resurrection.

France p. 470: “Probably only two passages in the OT clearly express a belief in resurrection and life after death (Is. 26:19; Dn. 12:2), though several poetic texts (notably Pss. 16:9-11, 49:15; 73:23-26; Job 19:25-26) may be seen with hindsight to be pointing in that direction.  From the second century B.C. onwards such a belief becomes increasingly frequent and explicit especially in apocalyptic works and in the traditions concerning the martyrs of the Maccabean period.”

Isaiah 26:19: 10-19

The wicked, when spared, do not learn justice;

in an upright land they act perversely,

and do not see the majesty of the LORD.

LORD, your hand is raised high,

but they do not perceive it;

Let them be put to shame when they see your zeal for your people:

let the fire prepared for your enemies consume them.

 

LORD, you will decree peace for us,

for you have accomplished all we have done.

LORD, our God, lords other than you have ruled us;

only because of you can we call upon your name.

Dead they are, they cannot live,

shades that cannot rise;

Indeed, you have punished and destroyed them,

and wiped out all memory of them.

 

You have increased the nation, LORD,

you have increased the nation, have added to your glory,

you have extended far all the boundaries of the land.

LORD, oppressed by your punishment,

we cried out in anguish under your discipline.

 

As a woman about to give birth

writhes and cries out in pain,

so were we before you, LORD.

We conceived and writhed in pain,

giving birth only to wind;

Salvation we have not achieved for the earth,

no inhabitants for the world were born.

 

But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise!

Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust!

For your dew is a dew of light,

and you cause the land of shades to give birth.

 

 

Daniel 12: 1-2

“At that time there shall arise Michael,

the great prince,

guardian of your people;

It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress

since the nation began until that time.

 

At that time your people shall escape,

everyone who is found written in the book.

Many of those who sleep

in the dust of the earth shall awake;

Some to everlasting life,

others to reproach and everlasting disgrace.

Deuteronomy 25:5- 10      Levirate marriage  (live together as in a clan, with common property)

When brothers live together and one of them dies without a son, the widow of the deceased shall not marry anyone outside the family; but her husband’s brother shall come to her, marrying her and performing the duty of a brother-in-law. The firstborn son she bears shall continue the name of the deceased brother, that his name may not be blotted out from Israel. But if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go up to the elders at the gate and say, “My brother-in-law refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel and does not intend to perform his duty toward me.” Thereupon the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” his sister-in-law, in the presence of the elders, shall go up to him and strip his sandal from his foot and spit in his face, declaring, “This is how one should be treated who will not build up his brother’s family!” And his name shall be called in Israel, “the house of the man stripped of his sandal.”

France points out (p. 472) that while the example is humorous and impossible the problem of re-marriage and an afterlife is not.  (See the case of Sara however in Tobit 3:8.)  Jesus points out that our resurrected life will be “similar but different” from this life (as is the case with resurrected bodies as we see in the Easter accounts).

Scribe: What commandment of the Law is the greatest?

This is a case of potential conflict / trickery but has a positive ending – perhaps just for some variation on the theme?

This question may have dominated encounters between rabbis and others learned in the law for centuries.   Sort of like baseball fans discussing “who is the greatest baseball player ever?”  Rabbis even today talk of “heavy” and “light” commandments, make distinctions between positive (do this) and negative (do not …) commandments, analyze which commandments incorporate others etc.

There is a rabbinic story that goes this way.  A woman approached Rabbis Shammai and Hillel and asked “Teach me the whole Torah while I am standing on one leg.”  Shammai dismissed her brusquely (as was his nature) while Hillel was kind.  He responded “Do not do to your neighbor what is hateful to you; this is the whole Torah: the rest is commentary.”

 

Conflict with the scribes: Messiah as Son of David, love of honor

Psalm 110 (in its entirety) with two footnotes.  From the NAB / Bishops website.

A psalm of David.

The LORD says to my lord:

“Sit at my right hand,

while I make your enemies your footstool.”

 

The scepter of your might:

the LORD extends your strong scepter from Zion.

Have dominion over your enemies!

Yours is princely power from the day of your birth.

In holy splendor before the daystar,

like dew I begot you.

 

The LORD has sworn and will not waver:

“You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.”

At your right hand is the Lord,

who crushes kings on the day of his wrath,

Who judges nations, heaps up corpses,

crushes heads across the wide earth,

Who drinks from the brook by the wayside

and thus holds high his head.

 

widow’s mite

France p. 489: “The ostentation of the scribes described in verses 38-39 appropriately prepares for Jesus’ comments on the highly visible generosity of affluent visitors to the temple treasury.  The scene is in the Court of the Women, so-called not because it was specifically for women but because it was the nearest point to the temple building proper which was open to women.  Here stood a range of thirteen “trumpet chests”; (so-called  presumably from their shape)  designed to receive monetary offerings, including not only the half-shekel temple tax but also “freewill offerings”.  The half-shekel was obligatory for men, but any contribution to the other chests was voluntary, and would be noticed by anyone who, like Jesus and his disciples, was watching.  Perhaps it was a recognized tourist attraction.”

How did the scribes and others take advantage of the widows and the poor?  Not clear.  Some possible ways include: legal fees for interpretations of the laws and documents, mismanaging or taking from estates they are managing for deceased husbands on behalf of the widows, promoting sacrifices which cost money on all the people, exploiting their hospitality.  Who knows?  But it appears to have rung true in those times to those opposed to the temple cult in general.

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