Well, maybe God did answer the last two prayers about illuminating
the text and showing me the real Jesus. Sometime after making those requests,
maybe minutes, maybe weeks, I saw connections between verses that I either
hadn't seen before or whose possible significance I hadn't considered.
After a while I put them down on paper and on disc, and they make up the
rest of this letter. It seems very possible that I've been barking up the
wrong tree (Christianity) all these years.
It has occurred to me that the New Testament is a well-designed fraud.
Maybe God allowed it in order to test people, and maybe He made sure that
there would be tell-tale flaws in it so that either by virtue of a reader's
honesty and intellect, or spiritual perception, or by God's grace, the
reader would notice something amiss and avoid being snared.
Just a quick summary/overview comment or two here...
'Conspiracy' theories about Jesus and the early church are much,
much harder to prove than normal theories, because:
2. you have to give evidence that they had motives for this, as well
as continuing motives for spending something like 70 years working
on this (in spite of NO ostensible "gains" other than persecution, deaths
as criminals, fleeing from the authorities, lions, virtually penniless
existence and poverty-level lifestyles, etc...)
3. you have to give evidence that they were fraud-level 'bad characters'
4. you have to explain how a conspiracy wide enough to cover all the
books of the NT (multiple authors) and all the decades represented there
could have been conceived, orchestrated, and controlled within first-century
Jerusalem(!)--without even a formal church authority at the time
5. you have to explain how a 'new testament' that was only collected
into a unity as such a century after the main apostles had died,
COULD have somehow perpetuated this conspiracy;
6. you have to explain how--in a church where divergent voices were
always heard (either in the church or around the 'edges' of the church)--NO
ONE knew about this and NO ONE blew the whistle
Well, if the NT is a sham, I wish I could say that my honesty and intellect showed me, but I'd have to acknowledge God's grace. My entry into the realm of (quasi?)-Christian faith was through a portal of fear. Although I was conscious that the emotional pitch of the AoG minister after the scary movie was a manipulative situation, I was still afraid that the fear might be legitimate.
See, this is what makes me believe that faith might never had been a
part of your experience at all, and that your awareness of the fear dominance
is a clue that you need to write this prior experience off as useless (or
at least 'educational')...
Maybe some of that fear, extended over the years to include fear of anything that would cause me to doubt that the NT is of God, has inhibited me from doing something final about this theology that hasn't delivered on its promises.
Again, this doesn't at all sound like faith...this doesn't sound like
you had ANY confidence in the NT at all. This looks like you had no confidence
and was afraid of getting anti-confidence as well.
I wonder if I'm like someone who bought a used car 24 years ago, still hasn't gotten the thing to start, but can't accept that it has been a waste of his time, money and effort. This has occurred to me, but I've neither accepted nor rejected the analogy.
Don't wait any longer--get rid of that car, man, and get the right one!!!!
Someone scared you into buying a lemon--get rid of it. I admire your perseverance,
but wish you had invested that in something with higher potential--like
a REAL relationship with the Living and Loving Lord!
I'd like to have your thoughts on any of the above or below. If you just don't have the time or inclination to try to answer this, please let me know of a book, article, web site, or person who you think might be able to help me.
As I indicated above, it sounds like you started off in a pathological
setting (btw, I experienced the same type of event when I was a college
student, but I just kept arguing with them until they wrote me off as an
unrepentant heathen. It left such a bad taste in my mouth. A couple of
years later I trusted Christ and found a huge difference between what I
experienced that earlier night, and what I have experienced for the last
25 years!). I can only encourage you to clear as much of that garbage out
of your head and try to approach the issue a-fresh (as difficult as that
will probably be).
Let's see if I can help give you some starter-answers or information for the below questions...
I've looked at some things Jesus did in light of the Old Testament
and for a while now I've been stumped by a question arising out of the
2 considerations below. The question is , "Is it possible that Jesus is
the type of prophet AGAINST whom God warns us?". Please address the question
with respect to these considerations, but if you think there are problems
with the individual considerations or the way I've presented them, please
feel free to deal with them as you see fit.
1.) In the Old Testament God warns His people that He will test them
with false prophets who may announce to them a miraculous sign or wonder.
If that sign or wonder takes place, they must not listen to him when he
tells them to follow other gods. (Deut.13:1-5). The relevant point is that
even a false prophet can correctly announce signs and wonders. This warning
is given again in the New Testament in Matt. 24:24, Mark 13:22, and in
Rev. 13:13-14, where the false prophet actually performs the wonders himself.
When Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub
he reasons with the people, saying that a kingdom divided against itself
cannot stand. The devil is not going to allow one of his servants to undo
the work of his other servants. Therefore Jesus must be doing it by the
power and authority of God. That sounds reasonable, but perhaps it's not
that simple. In war, physical or spiritual, deceptive tactics are used.
In the demonic realm, one tactic for spiritual attack could start with
afflicting someone. If that wasn't enough to get the person to doubt, hate,
or reject God, a healing or exorcism could be staged in a way which might
lead the grateful victim to worship the apparent healer. If the apparent
healer was not God, then the demons would have perhaps succeeded in snaring
the victim's soul, which is more valuable to their kingdom than temporal
misery. The people listening to Jesus' response probably weren't soldiers,
much less officers, so they probably couldn't have seen the fallacy of
his reasoning. Here's the point: Jesus appears to be using specious reasoning,
and that is hard to reconcile with his claim to be "...the way, the TRUTH,
and the life." (John 14:6)
My job title in the firm I work for is "Vice President, Strategy and
Research". One of the maxims of market competitive "warfare" concerns a
strategy you mention above. When a competitor tries a new product or service
in what is called a 'test market', a firm tries to evaluate whether they
can 'beat' the new product or not. If they CAN, they deliberately
let the 'test market program' SUCCEED--exactly the strategy you
describe above. If they CANNOT beat it, they try other tactics to cause
the pilot program to fail. A typical way to make the test market product
LOOK GOOD (by selling successfully) is to make the firm's competitive product
LOOK WORSE. This is typically done by raising prices in that market, reducing
advertising, slowing deliveries. In this way it LOOKS LIKE the new,
test product is winning, and hopefully the competition will be 'deluded'
into rolling the product out worldwide.
It is important to note that when the firm makes their own product LOOK
BAD, they only do so IN THAT TEST MARKET. In other words, they do
NOT raise prices worldwide to discourage sales(!!!), but only do so
in that test market (hoping to sustain those losses with their other global
This is almost a standard marketing competitive tactic in the very large
consumer goods market. And your comments note that this is a possible construal
of Jesus' actions in the passage. The main problem with such an interpretation
can be seen in the scope of the exorcism ministry of Jesus and His disciples.
Jesus' exorcism ministry was extensive as opposed to a single event
or two. This would be a clear indication of a direct assault on Satan's
sphere of influence.
BBC (in. loc. Matt 12.25-26) summarize it thus:
And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill (Matt 8.16)
And when evening had come, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city had gathered at the door. 34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.(Mark 1.32)
And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.(Mar 1.39)
And while the sun was setting, all who had any sick with various
diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on every one of them,
He was healing them. 41 And demons also were coming out of many,
crying out and saying, "You are the Son of God!" And rebuking them, He
would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.(Lk
And they went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.(Mark 6.12)
Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent
them two and two ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself
was going to come...And the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord,
even the demons are subject to us in Your name." 18 And He said to
them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19 "Behold,
I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and
over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you. 20 "Nevertheless
do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice
that your names are recorded in heaven."(Luke 10.1,17-20)
Furthermore, it should be noted that Jesus would not let the demons do 'evangelism' for him. If His use of this 'strategic retreat' strategy had been as you conjectured, He would have had more to gain by letting the demons 'witness' for Him with high melodrama perhaps. But instead we note:
And while the sun was setting, all who had any sick with various
diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on every one of them,
He was healing them. 41 And demons also were coming out of many, crying
out and saying, "You are the Son of God!" And rebuking them, He would
not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.(Lk
These two considerations build quite a strong case that the (1)
assault on Satan's kingdom was very, very real; and (2) that correspondingly,
the argument of Jesus was entirely on track. [Actually, a similar type
of argument shows up in the rabbinical literature: the minor/extracanonical
tractate (of the Babylonian Talmud) Massekhet Derekh Erets Zutta
5: "A house in which there is disunity will assuredly be destroyed at the
So, it would seem that this individual problem doesn't actually exist,
when seen in the bigger picture. We simply have no reason to doubt Jesus'
honesty, and indeed have reasons to trust it.
Let's now turn to the second issue....
What bothers me is that despite this pattern of behavior, when Yeshua
is speaking to the high priest, he says in John 18:20: 20"I have spoken
openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or
at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret."
(I looked at 6 versions of both passages, and for Mark 4:11, three used
"secret" and three used "mystery". All 6 used "secret" in John) It just
doesn't appear to be true that he said nothing in secret.
Obviously Jesus had some private conversations one-on-one with people,
and no doubt had private 'teaching' type conversations with individuals
with specific questions or individualized needs. But what is view in John
18 is the denial of some secret 'cult' that was different that the message
He had proclaimed to the world.
If you look at Jesus' teaching practice, there was nothing
that was any different from rabbinical models, with the exception of
the nature of the authority (i.e., He did NOT trace his authority
back through the lineage of sages back to Moses; rather HE was the authority
behind His statements!--cf. "He taught them as one having authority and
not as the scribes" Matt 7.29):
1. He spoke in parables to the crowds (like a rabbi--we have 2,000 rabbinic parables on record!):
"Sometimes Jewish (and other ancient) teachers had some special esoteric teachings that they could confide only in their closest pupils, because they were not for public knowledge. (REF:BBC, in. loc. Mark 4.33)
"Jewish teachers often explained more mature subjects to their disciples
in private. (REF:BBC, in.loc. Mark 9.28-30)
The summary verse in 33 points out that the 'private' instruction to the disciples were explanations of the public teaching in parables:
Now, your letter refers to the 'secret' theme in 4.10-11, so let's look at that briefly:
(2) the 'secret' is simply the understanding of the publicly-given parables,
some private esoteric teaching.
"And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona,
because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who
is in heaven. (Matt 16.17)
"Both groups were confronted by Jesus and His message (cf. 1:14-15). God enabled the disciples to see in Him the 'secret" (mysterion) about the kingdom. This refers to the disclosure of God's present kingdom plan which is to be an Age of 'seed-sowing' (cf. 4:13-20; 13:10). It was previously hidden to the prophets, but now was revealed to people of His choice (cf. Rom. 16:25-26).
"The basic 'secret,' common to all the kingdom parables, is that in Jesus, God's rule (kingdom) has come into human experience in a new spiritual form. The disciples had believed in Jesus. God had already given (dedotai, perf. pass.) them this 'secret,' though so far they understood little of its full impact.
"On the other hand those blinded by unbelief saw in Jesus nothing but a threat to their existence. They rejected Him and did not come to know the 'secret' of God's kingdom. Jesus' parables served to conceal its truths from them.
"Jesus' audiences were not denied the opportunity to believe in Him.
But after they persistently closed their minds to His message (cf. 1:15),
they were excluded from further understanding of it by His use of parables.
even the parables, which veiled the truth, were meant to provoke thought,
enlighten, and ultimately reveal it (cf. 12:12). They uniquely preserved
people's freedom to believe, while demonstrating that such a decision is
effected by God's enabling (cf. 4:11a).
So, as in the first issue we looked at, there doesn't seem to be
any reason to doubt Jesus' honesty at all.
Let's look at the third issue...
2.) In the OT God repeatedly forbids the eating of blood, and in Lev. 17:10-12 says that one who does so must be cut off from his people. Being cut off, whatever that means, is the same penalty as is required by Lev. 18:29 for the previously mentioned sins of incest, adultery ( a serious enough sin to be included in the Ten Commandments), homosexuality, and bestiality, in verses 6, 20, 22, & 23 respectively. It's also the penalty for a violation of the Sabbath, another of the Ten (Ex. 31:14).
At the last supper Jesus institutes a ritual that is symbolic of
drinking blood. (Luke 22:19) Today this element of communion is so well
established and accepted that perhaps we need to look at it from a fresh
perspective in order to see an aspect of it that has been overlooked. Here's
an imaginary (PG-17 rated) scenario for this purpose. Suppose you're a
committed Christian and OT student familiar with Lev. 17-18, and you're
visiting a new church. After a few hymns or songs the leader tells everyone
to "stand up and (perhaps you're expecting him to say "greet your neighbor")
while remaining in place, turn to anyone but your spouse and make a few
pelvic thrusts in their direction." Would you think to yourself, "The motion
is only symbolic, so there's no problem here."? Could such a spiritual
leader be perfectly attuned to God's heart and word? If that leader had
performed some signs and wonders, would you have been wise if you had trusted
in him wholeheartedly?
At this point I have to confess that I am impressed with your apparent
honesty to face these questions. Although these questions don't actually
turn out to be real problems, the fact that (1) you can see them in the
passages at all; and (2) that they seem to bother you, suggests
an honest and truth-loving heart...and, it shows that you are thinking
about what is going on in the text--the first real step to coming heart-to-heart
with the radical message of Jesus Christ.
Now, about this question...
The short answer is: the event WAS symbolic, but not of drinking Christ's blood. It was symbolic (in the Jewish context of the 1st century) of sharing in His covenant-effecting sufferings.
Let's look at the background and detail of this event.
First, the relevant passages:
And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." (Matt 26.26ff)
And when the hour had come He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22.14ff)
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you,
that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24
and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is My body,
which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same way
He took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant
in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of
Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you
proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. (1 Cor 11.23)
2. First of all, the image of 'blood' would carry an
association with 'violent death'--NOT with actual 'blood'. After
studying the usage of 'blood' (dam) in the Tanaak/OT, Morris (Apostolic
Preaching of the Cross, 113-114) summarizes:
3. But sacrificial elements (via this death motif) are nonetheless
present, since the Passover Lamb was considered a sacrifice and since the
text refers to the 'blood of the covenant'. This latter term shows up in
two OT passages: Ex 24.8 and Zech 9.9-11.
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of
the earth. As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. (Zech 9.9-11)
4. This 'violent death' and sacrificial death is linked to the
'New Covenant' of Jeremiah 31:31...
"This means that Jesus understands the violent and sacrificial death
he is about to undergo (i.e., his "blood"; cf. Morris, Apostolic Preaching,
pp. 112-28; A.M. Stibbs, The Meaning of the Word `Blood' in Scripture
[London: Tyndale, 1954]) as the ratification of the covenant he is inaugurating
with his people, even as Moses in Exodus 24:8 ratified the covenant of
Sinai by the shedding of blood. (Carson, EBC, in.loc. Matt)
Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He *said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." 39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt." 40 And He *came to the disciples and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 "Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done." (Matt 26.36ff, and parallels)
Simon Peter therefore having a sword, drew it, and struck the high
priest's slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus.
11 Jesus therefore said to Peter, "Put the sword into the sheath; the
cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John
[Jeremias had pointed out earlier how the modern church often reads her 'modern' sacramental theology back into New Testament images, and this is not far from a case in point.]
10. And this 'sharing' motif is exactly what the 'elements' of
the Passover are about. So BBC, in.loc. Mark 14.22:
11. We may note Bock's summary of the themes in his two-volume
commentary on Luke (2.1729). He weaves these elements together into what
was likely to be understood by the participants:
Again, a closer, more detailed look at the historical context shows us that Jesus is still drawing upon identifiable Tanakh/OT images, motifs, and scriptural warrants as He accomplishes His work for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He again does not manifest anything that would even slightly qualify Him as a 'false' prophet.
[New material added here on March 24, 2000 and May 7th, 2000]------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
There is another passage which has a similar set of images and issues,
and one in which the issue SHOULD be even more pronounced--John 6. Let
me cite a few verses from it (John 6.26-63). I will highlight the 'physical'
images (metaphorical) in BOLD and the spiritual (literal) phrases
"Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. 27 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal.” 28 They said therefore to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 30 They said therefore to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 They said therefore to Him, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 “But I said to you, that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. 41 The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 And they were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 “Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 “I am the bread of life. 49 “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” 52 The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me. 58 “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever.” 59 These things He said in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum. 60 Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 ”What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before? 63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. "
Notice several things about this passage:
1. The images shift back and forth between "eating/drinking" and "accepting/believing".
2. The metaphor of flesh/blood are 'mixed', the standard tip-off to metaphor (e.g., "I am the living bread", "I am bread which descended from heaven", bread is actually 'flesh', eating/drinking somehow don't consume Jesus since that is the condition for 'abiding' in Him and since He would still be around at the 'last day').
3. The "participation" theme is quite explicit, especially since it is paralleled to Jesus' dependence on the Father (vs.57). The "as...so" parallel construction there highlights this point: Just as Christ draws His life from the Father through participation in His life, so too the follower of Christ is to draw life from Jesus. The first term of the comparison (i.e. Jesus drawing life from the Father) makes the second term (i.e. drawing life from Christ because of absorption of His life and death) obvious.
4. The objections of the grumblers in the passage have nothing to do with the offensiveness of cannibalism; they get lost in either the logistics (e.g., how can a living person share His flesh and still continue to live?) or in the demands for total dependence on Christ for eternal life ("you have no life, if you don't have me"). If they were understanding this rather completely literally (as opposed to some "moving metaphor complex" of "bread/flesh/life/object of trust") their objections and responses would have been markedly different. In fact, they were arguing among themselves about his meaning, indicating that it was certainly not an obvious reference to cannibalism. Carson has an interesting image of this (his comm. on John, Eerdmans):
"The Jews began to argue sharply among themselves. The very (emachonto) is very strong. Any dullard could see that Jesus was not speaking literally: no-one would suppose Jesus was seriously advocating cannibalism and offering himself as the first meal. But if his language was figurative, what did he mean? Perhaps one argued for this view, another for that, all of them repeating the same literal, unintelligent question to get at the point: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
5. It is interesting to note that Jesus expands the metaphor of 'bread/flesh' to include the 'blood' (symbol of His violent and sacrificial death) in vs.53. This would highlight the necessity of participating in His death--not just in His victorious future life.
6. But there may be something stronger is this reference to "drinking of blood"--perhaps a reference to violence against Jesus.
If we look at references to "drinking of blood" (and eating of flesh) in the OT, a number of passages make reference to this (without, by the way, Cannibalistic or ritualistic overtones):
This might indicate further that Jesus is alluding to His coming rejection and death. [The passage in 1 Chr 11.19: "nevertheless David would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord; 19 and he said, “Be it far from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.” Therefore he would not drink it. ", shows the link between accepting responsibility for someone's death (or risk of death) and "drinking blood"--it was a way of saying "I am responsible for this death", not "I am a cannibal"...]
- Behold, a people rises like a lioness, And as a lion it lifts itself; It shall not lie down until it devours the prey, And drinks the blood of the slain.” [numbers 23.24, in which Israel, under the figure of a lion, will "drink blood"]
- And the sword will devour and be satiated And drink its fill of their blood; [Jer 46.10]
Jesus' usage of this metaphor here is quite in keeping with Jewish and proto-rabbinic usage of the day, and not at all sacrilegious:
1. Rabbinic literature would use the 'eating and drinking' metaphor for absorption in Torah and good works. The midrash on Ecc. 2:24 says specifically that "All references to eating and drinking in the book of Qohelet signify Torah and good works." Jesus' use of 'eating and drinking' herein would have been in good rabbinic style.
2. . Bread is also very frequently used metaphorically in the rabbinics for 'doctrine'. For example:"It is written: For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah stay and staff every stay of bread, and every stay of water,’ the mighty man, and the man of war; the judge and the prophet, and the diviner, and the elder; the captain of fifty; and the man of rank, and the counsellor, and the wise charmer, and the skillful enchanter. And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. 27 ‘Stay’ — this means the masters of the Bible...Every stay of bread’ — this means the masters of Talmud, 31 for it is said: Come, eat of My bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled" (Chagigah 14a)3. Even Josephus could refer metaphorically to 'drinking of blood' without it being a problem:For hitherto they [warriors of the Jewish resistance before the fall of Jerusalem] had fed themselves out of the public miseries, and drank the blood of the city. [Wars of the Jews, 5:344]
4. And, to be even more clear, the rabbi's even spoke of 'eating the Messiah' when he appeared (and without any cannibalistic overtones or objections), and by that meant a sharing and enjoying of His benefits--exactly what Jesus is referring to here:
"R. Giddal said in Rab's name: The Jews are destined to eat [their fill] in the days of the Messiah.[ lit. "Israel shall eat the years of Messiah"] R. Joseph demurred: is this not obvious; who else then should eat — Hilek and Bilek? — This was said in opposition to R. Hillel, who maintained that there will be no Messiah for Israel, since they have already enjoyed him [literally, "devoured him"] during the reign of Hezekiah. [Sanh. 98b, Hillel's words repeated in 99a]
Again, as we saw in the Last Supper, the idea is that of intimacy with the Messiah--the closest possible alignment and identification with His life and scandalous death. The images and metaphors used were part of the rabbinic 'stock' of ideas by which to express messianic and salvific hopes (although some of the way Jesus used them seemed to be aimed at 'shocking' them into listening to what he was saying--instead of operating on their own messianic models.). One main difference, however, is that the intimacy/participation is with His comprehensive mission (including His humiliation--cf. 'take up your cross and follow Me'), not just the politically 'victorious' one.
Let's look at the fourth/last issue now...
In case I haven't given you enough to read, here's another question:
Is there anything in the OT or in Jesus' words to indicate that God would
be inspiring another set of written scriptures?
The answer to your question is "Yes" and "Yes"--we have data to support both. Let me give a quick run-through of some of the main pieces of evidence. Since scripture was produced by prophets (mostly), all we have to do is show that future prophetic activity was expected by the OT and/or by Jesus.
[We must also keep in mind that the Tanaakh/OT itself was not 'indicated'
beforehand by God. God did mention prophets in the giving the Law in Deuteronomy,
and He commanded Moses to write the Law down, but the vast majority of
the OT canon (major and minor prophets, and the writings) were not 'foretold'
as a 'set of written scriptures'--it only occurred as the situation demanded
God's in-breaking Word. So, we will look for a similar pattern: prediction
of prophetic activity, without much precision of content or scope.]
1. Let's look at the Tanakh/OT expectations first;
there was definitely an expectation of prophetic activity in the future.
Secondly, we should note the promise of the 'prophet like
unto Moses' (Deut 18) that was still considered unfulfilled
by the Jews of Jesus' day.
Thirdly, to this we can add the obvious promise of the reappearance
of the prophet Elijah in Malachi 4.5:
Secondly, some of the more popular understandings of Jesus at
the time were of these same 'future' prophetic roles:
So the answer to your question is "yes" and "yes"--both the Tanakh/OT
and Jesus predicted future prophetic activity (i.e., future direct revelation
Thank you for your time and effort in trying to help me deal with
You are certainly welcome, friend, although I don't have a good sense
that what I have said will help much. If these last four questions had
come alone, I would have assumed that your questions were purely 'intellectual'.
But when coupled with the initial story of your lack of spiritual experience,
it leads me to think that you need to re-think your starting point and
method. To begin with a fear-induced view of the faith and a fear to question
the New Testament, and then to end up thinking that God had graciously
revealed to you--through the New Testament written in Jesus' honor--that
Jesus was dishonest, fraudulent, and conspiratorial, seems bizarre in the
extreme to me (and probably to you as well!). I cannot begin to speculate
at what other factors might have gone into this process, based on the very
little data in your letter.
I really think you should consider 'starting over', by abandoning the
virtually indefensible 'hoax' theories, and then evaluating the New Testament
and the person of Christ afresh. Harness your honesty and your apparent
interest in knowing God--on His terms. I hope I have helped encourage you
(in these few questions) that there are probably reasonable and honest
understandings of some of these kinds of issues, and that in following
this process with me, that you might have developed some beginning confidence
in the historical documents, and indeed, in the honesty and character of
Yeshua. If I might be able to try to help again in the future, please let
me know...I personally have experienced myself the kind of discomfort/agony
you have felt in this torturous process...for I too have attempted, and
do attempt, the road of honesty.
Glenn Miller, June 29/98
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