A Catholic Jew Pontificates

I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lukan Delights: First Testament Motifs in Luke's Infancy Narrative




Luke’s Gospel speaks of the witnesses or original eyewitnesses to the Gospel right at the beginning of his Infancy Prologue.[1] Kuhn believes[2] that the characters of the Infancy narrative are also included in this term of original eyewitnesses.[3] I would like to extend that term to also include the First Testament characters drawn on by Luke. John’s Gospel speaks of Jesus saying that Abraham saw his day and rejoiced.[4] Hebrews 11:13 also claims that the saintly Israelite heroes saw the events of salvation. Some scholars believe that Luke himself or Theophilus the former High Priest (under the influence of Luke and Paul) wrote Hebrews.[5] Thus extending Kuhn’s idea I would see that the First Testament characters hidden behind the events of Luke’s Infancy narrative are the original or primordial prophetic eyewitnesses to the coming of the Jewish Messiah. In the light and power of the Incarnation and Resurrection beyond time and space these First Testament Patriarchs and Matriarchs become the primordial witnesses of the events of the life of the Messiah and his kingdom that is coming. In Jewish thought this is called “the bond of life” and in the Church the “communion of saints”. The First Testament motifs and allusions are so numerous in the Infancy narrative of Luke that this short research paper can only touch on a few examples.

Some scholars such as Raymond Brown believe that Luke’s Infancy narrative is a form of Jewish midrash. This kind of midrashic approach uses the First Testament texts to support a Second Testament concept of “fulfilment”. This approach isn’t primarily concerned about the original historical context of the First Testament text.[6] This method is found throughout the writings of the New Testament and the writings and teachings of the fathers, doctors and mystics of the Church.[7] It owes much to the Jewish concept of the four senses of Scripture called PaRDeS.[8] Pardes is a Persian word meaning Garden and is connected to the famous Rabbinic tale of the four Rabbis who entered the mystical Garden in Heaven.[9] The P represents Peshat the literal/narrative/historical level, the R is Remetz the allegorical level, D is Drash the moral/homiletical level and S is Sod the mystical/anagogical level of reading Scripture. Traditionally all four senses are used in the exegesis of Scripture in both Judaism and Catholicism. It is only in recent times that exegesis of Scripture has been handicapped by being limited to only the historical critical (peshat) level of analysis. Judaism sees the need for both masculine and feminine approaches to reflect the Divinity.[10] Peshat and Drash are more masculine approaches that needs to be balanced by the feminine approaches of Remetz and Sod. When the masculine approaches dominant at the expense of the feminine then Judaism associates this with the drying up of the feminine waters of Miriam’s well[11] which turns Torah study into dry intellectualism and moralism.

Kessler writes that he believes that the writings and insights of the female prophetesses like Miriam and Huldah of the First Testament are possibly hidden under the name of the male prophets.[12] Many writers have also claimed that behind the text of Luke’s Infancy narrative are the stories told by the Second Testament Miriam who is called the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Gentiles.[13] Warner states that when the Greek text of parts of Luke’s Infancy narrative is translated back into Hebrew, scholars discover it is in beautiful alliterative Hebrew poetry.[14] One writer speaks of Luke’s infancy as conceived in the feminine mind due to its contemplative tone.[15] The very name of Miriam for the mother of the Messiah alludes to the important place Miriam of the First Testament plays in Jewish belief. Miriam is a prophetess who played an important role at the Red Sea leading the women in song and dance.[16] Jewish tradition believes the handmaid Miriam beheld the Divinity without any veils as the God of salvation (as a naked prepubescent boy) when the mystical heavens parted for her at the same time that the earthly seas parted.[17] The concept of the handmaid of the Lord in Luke 1:38 alludes to both the virginal Miriams of the First and Second Testaments as well as to Rachel and other Hebrew matriarchs and female saints such as Judith, Esther and Abigail.[18]

When we read Luke’s Infancy on the mystical /anagogical level we return to the first chapter of Genesis (Bereshit) to Primordial or Original time in accord with a Jewish manner of interpreting Torah. Just as Christian tradition and art associated the Virgin and the mystery of the Incarnation as occurring at the well in Nazareth,[19] so the First Miriam was associated with the Rock that was called the Well of Miriam.[20] Jewish tradition teaches that the Well of Miriam was created on the twilight between the first and second days and that the mouth of Miriam’s Well was created on the Sabbath Eve of Creation week.[21] [22]This well is found in the Hebrew undertext of Genesis 1. When we count 4 x 26 starting with the final letter mem [ of the first use of the word waters (mayim מ׳ם) in the Bible, it spells out the name of Miriam [[מר׳ם. In this well or mystical womb is hidden the light of the Messiah.[23]

The account in Luke of the Incarnation alludes to this Miriam motif found in the ancient Jewish mystical reading of Torah. Luke reveals that this new Miriam in the mystery of the Incarnation is the new Ark of the Covenant. Warner tells us that Luke uses the word ‘overshadows’ in recalling the annunciation which alludes to the overshadowing of the Shekhinah (Presence) of God over the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus 40:34. This Shekhinah itself is associated with feminine imagery and Miriam and the Matriarchs of Israel are identified with her.[24] [25] Luke again alludes to the concept of the Ark of the Covenant in the visitation. Elizabeth crying out in encountering the pregnant Virgin, “How am I worthy to have the Mother of my Lord come unto me?” alludes to the narrative in 2 Samuel 6 where David encounters the Ark of the Covenant and cries out, “How shall the ark of the Lord come unto me?”. Mary then staying with Elizabeth for three months parallels the Ark of the Covenant staying with the Gittite for three months.[26]

Luke’s infancy and Gospel demonstrates an author who is focused on the priestly aspects of the revelation of the Messiah. Some writers such as Strelan believe that Luke was a respected Jewish priest rather than a Gentile doctor.[27] Other scholars also consider Luke to have been a Hellenist Jew rather than a Gentile. [28] Wenham gives a number of reasons for identifying Luke with the Hellenist Jew Lucius of Cyrene.[29] Luke writes of the Holy Family in the Temple where Simeon blesses the Mother and Child. Simeon alludes to the holy High-Priest Simeon (Simon) the Just[30]. Zechariah and Elizabeth (Elisheba) also alludes to Elisheba the wife of the first High Priest Aaron. Zechariah also alludes to the martyred priest Zechariah ben Jehoiada.[31] Carmignac who for twenty five years researched the Hebrew origins of the Synoptic Gospels found when he translated the Greek of the Benedictus prayer of Zechariah back into Hebrew that it contained a Hebrew play on words. He discovered that the Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79) when translated into Hebrew consists of three strophes of seven stitches each. The first stitch of the second strophe is the word in Hebrew chanan (grace) which is the root of  Yochanan (John in English), zakar (remember) is the second stitch is the root of  Zechariah and Shaba (oath or swear) the third stitch is the root of the name Elizabeth (Elisheba). He also found elements which were reflected in usage in the Dead Sea Scrolls.[32]

The concept of the infertility of Elizabeth who then is blessed by God with a child alludes to a number of the Israelite Matriarchs. Many have pointed to the parallels between Hannah the wife of Elkanah and mother of Samuel and Elizabeth the wife of Zechariah and mother of John the Baptist.[33] [34] Warner also sees parallels with the birth of Samson and the birth of Rebecca’s twins as well as with Hannah. She perceives some significance that the mother of the Virgin was also called Hannah (St Anne). She also points out the parallels between Hannah’s song of praise and the Virgin’s Magnificat.[35] Warner also sees parallels with the song of Miriam and the Magnificat of the new Miriam of the Second Testament.[36] However many believe that the parallels between Abraham and Sarah and their son Isaac and Zechariah and Elizabeth and their son John is stronger.[37] [38] Mary’s almost child to parents relationship with Zechariah and Elizabeth (as the types of Abraham and Sarah) may allude to the mysterious and mystical daughter of Abraham called Bakol (with All) found in Jewish tradition based on the verse “Abraham was blessed with all”[39] (bakol also read as bat kol daughter of All).[40] This links her with the concept of the female Wisdom who is the artisan of All[41] and Shekhinah.[42]

Karris and Fitzmyer see allusions to Malachi in the references to the Temple and the Messiah being proclaimed there.[43] They also see parallels with Daniel 9-10 in regards to having visions (in Daniel) alluding to the vision of Zechariah in the Temple as well as an encounter with the archangel Gabriel (in Daniel) alluding to Our Lady’s encounter with Gabriel.[44] Luke 1:17 refers to John the Baptist as a type of Elijah who reconciles fathers and sons which refers to Malachi 3:23 and also Sirach 48:10.[45] Catholic Carmelite spirituality and exegesis has a rich tradition associating the prophet Elijah with the Virgin Mary and the foot or hand shaped cloud.[46]

The richness of the midrashic exegesis of Luke’s Infancy narrative can be seen in that just the one word “Rejoice” (Hail) used by Gabriel in his greeting to the Virgin, leads us to examine all the references in the First Testament that are connected to the concept of “Rejoice! Daughter of Zion”, as taught by Pope John Paul II[47]. Bock discusses how Luke using the midrashic exegesis approach with Luke 1: 28-33 and Zephaniah 3:14-17 proclaims the Virgin Mary as the Daughter of Zion. He sees the Hebrew word b’kirbek (meaning inner part or midst) as referring to the Greek en gastri (in womb or inner part) of Luke 1: 31.[48] The phrase “Be not afraid” of the angelic salutation also alludes to similar divine, angelic and human encounters in the First Testament beginning with Genesis 15:1 when God tells Abraham to not be afraid. Mary as the mystical Daughter of Abraham is greeted in the same manner as her forefather Abraham. Abraham was the one who entered into Covenant with the God who promised that from Abraham would come the Divine Seed (that was first promised to Adam in Genesis 3:15). Thus I would propose that the genealogy of Luke 3 should be considered as part of the Infancy narrative as it proclaims in a veiled manner that Mary is that Woman who as daughter of Abraham and daughter of Adam brings forth the promised Seed.

This leads us into the Davidic references of the Infancy narrative where Jesus is seen as the Messiah son of David and this alludes to Mary as the Davidic Queen Mother (G’birah).[49] Thus we see the parallels with Bathsheba the mother of Solomon the Davidic King who enthrones his mother as Queen beside him as an intercessor.[50] This practice of reigning and enthroned Queen Mothers becomes an ongoing feature of the Davidic Monarchy. Thus if Yeshua is the Davidic King Messiah then his mother must be the messianic Davidic Queen Mother. The mention of Joseph as the virginal father of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) alludes to the First Testament Joseph and there are many parallels of this Joseph with both St. Joseph and Jesus.[51] The choice of the name Yeshua (in Aramaic) or Yehoshua (in Hebrew) also alludes to Joshua the successor of Moses as well as the High Priest Yeshua mentioned by the prophet Zechariah.[52] Another clear motif from the First Testament is the concept of the firstborn son which is directly referred to in Luke’s Infancy as is the concepts surrounding circumcision. One immediately thinks of Isaac as the firstborn son of Sarah and of the firstborn sons of Israel and Egypt as well as the circumcision of Isaac on the eighth day. I would have also liked to draw our attention to the Temple motifs of Luke’s infancy narrative in more detail as well as a more detailed reflection on the Torah motifs especially in regards to Mary, Jesus and Joseph, but that would need another paper. Another motif I would have liked to explore further would be based on one of my favourite icons of Mary as the Burning Bush and the parallels between Moses divine encounter at the Burning Bush and Mary at the Annunciation and its connection with the burning pillar of fire (in Exodus) and the burning fire unto the heart of heaven (Deut. 4:11).

The term reshit meaning beginning or first mentioned in Luke 1:2 in regards to the eyewitnesses also alludes to the concepts of first fruits (of dough, of grain and of land) that Jewish tradition links to the concept of the mystical mother and Queen.[53] Thus the Holy Family and the other characters of Luke’s Infancy narrative along with their First Testament prototypes are presented by Luke as the first fruits of the Kingdom. In this short research paper I was only able to touch on some aspects of the First Testament motifs found in Luke’s Infancy narrative and offer them as a kind of first fruits offering (terumah). However I hope I have been able to demonstrate the very Jewish nature and purpose of author of the Gospel which would only be relevant to one immersed in the mind set and culture of the Jewish people.[54] It would seem very unlikely with such a midrashic Jewish approach that a non-Jewish physician writing to fellow Gentiles would be responsible for this infancy narrative or even the rest of the Gospel of Luke which also demonstrates such Jewish and Qumranic features and motifs.[55] [56]




Bibliography
  • Allen, David L. Lukan Authorship of Hebrews. B&H Publishing Group, 2010.
  • Anglin, Lise. "Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary's Queenship." Catholic Insight Jan. 2007: 44.
  • Antonelli, Judith S. In the image of God: a feminist commentary on the Torah. Jason Aronson, Incorporated, 1997.
  • Berlin, Adele. Marc Zvi Brettler, and Michael A. Fishbane. The Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. Oxford University Press, USA, 2004.
  • Bock, Darrell. Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament Christology. Vol. 12. A&C Black, 1987.
  • Caplan, Harry. "The four senses of scriptural interpretation and the mediaeval theory of preaching." Speculum 4, no. 03 (1929): 282-290.
  • Carmignac. Jean. The Birth of the Synoptic Gospels. Franciscan Press, 1987.
  • Chavel, C. (translator), Ramban Nachmanides: Commentary on the Torah, Genesis Brooklyn, NY: Shiloh Publishing House, 1999.
  • Doze, Andrew. Saint Joseph: Shadow of the Father. Alba House, 1992.
  • Elbaum, Dov. Into the Fullness of the Void: A Spiritual Autobiography, Jewish Lights Publishing, USA, 2013.
  • Ellis, E Earle (Professor). The Gospel of Luke USA: Eerdmans, 1980.
  • Van der Heide, Albert "PARDES: Methodological Reflections on the Theory of the Four Senses." Journal (The) of Jewish Studies London 34, no. 2 (1983): 147-159.
  • John Paul II, Palm Sunday of the Passion of our Lord, Homily, 13 April 2003, available at http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/2003/documents/hf_jp- ii_hom_20030413_palm-sunday.html
  • Karris, Robert J., “The Gospel According to Luke.” In The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Edited by Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990. 675-721.
  • Kessler, Ranier. "Miriam and the Prophecy of the Persian Period." The Prophets and Daniel: 77- 86.
  • Kuhn, Karl A. "Beginning the Witness: The αυτoπται και υπηρεται of Luke's Infancy Narrative." New Testament Studies 49, no. 02 (2003): 237-255.
  • Marie (of the Cross), Paul. Carmelite Spirituality in the Teresian Tradition. ICS Publications, 1997.
  • Novick, Leah (Rabbi) On the Wings of Shekhinah: Rediscovering Judaism's Divine Feminine Wheaton; Quest Books; 2008.
  • Patai, Raphael. The Hebrew Goddess, Detroit: Wayne State University, 1990.
  • Pitre, Brant. “Jesus, the Messianic Banquet and the Kingdom of God,” Letters and Spirit Volume 5 (2009), 136-7.
  • Scholem, Gershom Gerhard. Origins of the Kabbalah. Princeton University Press, 1991.
  • Strelan, Rick. Luke the Priest: the Authority of the Author of the Third Gospel. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013.
  • Subtelny, Maria E. "The tale of the four sages who entered the Pardes: A talmudic enigma from a Persian perspective." Jewish Studies Quarterly 11, no. 1/2 (2004): 3-58.
  • Warner, Marina. Alone of all her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary. Oxford University Press, USA, 2013.
  • Wenham, John. "The Identification of Luke." Evangelical Quarterly 63, no. 1 (1991): 3-44.
  • Williams, P. J. "The Original Language of the Lukan Infancy Narrative. By Chang-Wook Jung." The Journal of Theological Studies 58, no. 1 (2007): 220-221.
  • Wright, Nicholas T, Jesus and the Victory of God, USA: Fortress Press, 1996).


[1] Luke 1:2
[2] Against the opinions of Raymond Brown and Fitzmyer and others.
[3] Karl A Kuhn, “Beginning the Witness: The αὐτοπαι και ὐπηρεται  of Luke’s Infancy Narrative,” New Testament Studies 49:2 (April 2003), 237-255
[4] John 8:56
[5] David L Allen, Lukan Authorship of Hebrews, (B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 327.
[6]  Darrell Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament Christology. Vol. 12. A&C Black, 1987, 17.
[7] Harry Caplan, "The four senses of scriptural interpretation and the mediaeval theory of preaching," Speculum 4, no. 03 (1929): 282-290.
[8] Albert van der Heide, "PARDES: Methodological Reflections on the Theory of the Four Senses," Journal (The) of Jewish Studies London 34, no. 2 (1983): 147-159.
[9] Maria E Subtelny. "The tale of the four sages who entered the Pardes: A talmudic enigma from a Persian perspective." Jewish Studies Quarterly 11, no. 1/2 (2004): 3-58.
[10] Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler, and Michael A. Fishbane, The Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation (Oxford University Press, USA, 2004), 1978.
[11] See Numbers 20:1-2, Rashi loc. cit., B. Ta'anit 9a
[12] Rainer Kessler, "Miriam and the Prophecy of the Persian Period," The Prophets and Daniel: 77-86.
[13] Marina Warner, Alone of all her sex: The myth and the cult of the Virgin Mary. (Oxford University Press, USA, 2013), 7-8.
[14] Marina Warner, Alone of all her sex: The myth and the cult of the Virgin Mary, 8.
[15] Marina Warner, Alone of all her sex: The myth and the cult of the Virgin Mary,8.
[16] Exodus 15
[17] Dov Elbaum, Into the Fullness of the Void: A Spiritual Autobiography, (Jewish Lights Publishing, USA, 2013), 169.
[18] See Caroline N Mbonu, Handmaid: The Power of Names in Theology and Society. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010.
[19] Protoevangelium of James "And she took the pitcher and went forth to draw water, and behold, a voice said: 'Hail Mary, full of grace, you are blessed among women.'"
[20] Dov Elbaum, Into the Fullness of the Void: A Spiritual Autobiography, 167-168.
[21] Avot 5:6
[22] Judith S Antonelli, In the image of God: a feminist commentary on the Torah, (Jason Aronson, Incorporated, 1997), 178.     
[23] See Hebrew text of Genesis 1:2-5
[24] Zohar Chukat
[25] Rabbi Leah Novick, On the Wings of Shekhinah: Rediscovering Judaism's Divine Feminine (Wheaton; Quest Books; 2008), 64-65.  
[26] Marina Warner, Alone of all her sex: The myth and the cult of the Virgin Mary, 12.
[27] Rick Strelan, Luke the priest: the authority of the author of the third Gospel, (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013), 103-107.
[28] Professor E. Earle Ellis, The Gospel of Luke (USA: Eerdmans, 1980), 52-4.
[29] John Wenham, "The Identification of Luke." Evangelical Quarterly 63, no. 1 (1991): 3-44.
[30] Sirach 50
[31] 2 Chronicles 24
[32] Jean Carmignac. The Birth of the Synoptic Gospels. Franciscan Press, 1987.
[33] Karl A Kuhn, “Beginning the Witness: The αὐτοπαι και ὐπηρεται of Luke’s Infancy Narrative,” 679.
[34] Robert J. Karris., “The Gospel According to Luke,” in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, eds. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer and Roland E. Murphy (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990), 679.
[35] Marina Warner, Alone of all her sex: The myth and the cult of the Virgin Mary, 12.
[36] Marina Warner, Alone of all her sex: The myth and the cult of the Virgin Mary, 13.
[37] Marina Warner, Alone of all her sex: The myth and the cult of the Virgin Mary, 12.
[38] Karl A Kuhn, “Beginning the Witness: The αὐτοπαι και ὐπηρεται of Luke’s Infancy Narrative,” 242.
[39] Genesis 24:1
[40] Gershom Gerhard Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah. (Princeton University Press, 1991), 87.
[41] Wisdom 7:22
[42] Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Goddess, (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1990), 108.
[43] Robert J Karris, “The Gospel According to Luke,” 679.
[44] Robert J Karris, “The Gospel According to Luke,” 679.
[45] P. J. Williams, "The Original Language of the Lukan Infancy Narrative. By Chang-Wook Jung." The Journal of Theological Studies 58, no. 1 (2007), 220-221.
[46] Paul Marie of the Cross, Carmelite Spirituality in the Teresian Tradition, ICS Publications, 1997.
[47] John Paul II, Palm Sunday of the Passion of our Lord, Homily, 13 April 2003, available at
 http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/2003/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_20030413_palm-sunday.html
[48] Darrell Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament Christology, 17.
[49]  Lise Anglin, "Queen Mother: A Biblical Theology of Mary's Queenship." Catholic Insight Jan. 2007: 44.
[50] I Kings 2:19
[51]  Andrew Doze. Saint Joseph: Shadow of the Father. Alba House, 1992.
[52] Zechariah 3
[53] Rabbi C Chavel (translator), Ramban Nachmanides: Commentary on the Torah, Genesis (Brooklyn, NY: Shiloh Publishing House, 1999), 20-21. "Now Israel, which is called reshit as mentioned above, is the "Kneset Yisrael", which is compared in the Song of Songs to a bride and whom Scripture in turn calls daughter, sister and mother. The Rabbis have already expressed this in a homiletic interpretation of the verse, 'Upon the crown wherewith his mother has crowned Him [Song of Songs 3:11]', and in other places." Similarly, the verse concerning Moses, 'And he chose a first part for himself' [Deut. 33;21], which they interpret to mean that Moses our teacher contemplated through a Isparklarya (lucid speculum/ clear crystal mirror or looking glass), and he saw that which is reshit (the first) for himself, and therefore merited the Torah. Thus all the Midrashim above have one meaning."
[54] Robert Lindsey found the Gospel of Luke even easier than the Gospel of Mark to translate back into Hebrew. See Robert Lindsey, Jesus, Rabbi and Lord (USA:CornerstonePublisher, 1990) 17-18.
[55] Nicholas T Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, (USA: Fortress Press, 1996), 558.
[56] Brant Pitre, “Jesus, the Messianic Banquet and the Kingdom of God,” Letters and Spirit Volume 5 (2009), 136-7.