Scribal Kingdom

Living in the light of the Kingdom of God

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Author: scribe (page 1 of 5)

Jesus the Blasphemer, or Blasphemed?

I discovered what I think is a notable insight from the Gospel of Luke when I was reading through it in Greek. An attentive reader of a translation could also pick up on this, but reading it in Greek just made it jump out to me more — as I find so often happens. This is the text that initiated my observation:

καὶ ἕτερα πολλὰ βλασφημοῦντες ἔλεγον εἰς αὐτόν. (Luke 22:65)

“And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.”

I noticed that Luke the Evangelist does something remarkable in telling the story of the trial of Jesus before his crucifixion compared to the other Synoptic Gospels. Bear with some relevant observations below.

In Matthew and Mark they tell how the High Priest, upon hearing Jesus’ own testimony during his first “trial” before the Jewish leadership where he claimed that he was the Son of Man, tore his garments and said: “What further witness do we need? You have heard his blasphemy (τῆς βλασφημίας). What is your decision?” (Mark 14:63b-64a); cf.He has uttered blasphemy (Ἐβλασφήμησεν). What further witness do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy (τὴν βλασφημίαν). What is your judgment?” (Matthew 26:65b-66a).

Keep in mind here that the text reports to the reader that Jesus is the one being accused of blasphemy.

It is clear from context that the Jews here are picturing blasphemy as an offense specific to God as its recipient. While there are occurrences of blasphemy elsewhere in Scripture which are simply directed toward another human or even angelic beings (Jude 8), the context tips the balance here in favor of understanding this to be blasphemy of the divine. They were premising their accusation on Jesus’ identification with the divine Son of Man (Matthew 26:64), and calling for judgment on the basis of the Law of Moses which declares that those guilty of the specific crime of blasphemy against God should be killed (Leviticus 24:16).

Note then what Matthew says in a proximately connected account, which we will then compare to Luke: “They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” (Matthew 26:66b-68).

Let us then note the amazing reversal that occurs in Luke in both parallel passages to Matthew! He omits something Matthew includes in 26:65, but also includes something Matthew did not in 26:66-68.

Firstly, observe what is absent as Luke reports a summary of the agreement of what all of Christ’s accusers said (“they said” vs. 71), instead of the words of the High Priest: “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips” (Luke 22:71).

No mention of Caiaphas’ accusation of blasphemy is given here, as Matthew had reported.

But secondly, look where we notably do find an indictment of blasphemy in his account. Luke adds a comment that Matthew did not: “They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’ And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him (βλασφημοῦντες)” (Luke 22:64-65).

Luke has intentionally reported his account, I think, in such a way that it is shown that Jesus is clearly not the blasphemer but rather the Jewish leaders. This importantly has one further major implication: Jesus is God! Blasphemy against the Son of Man (Luke 22:22, 48, 69) denotes speaking against God. It was Jesus’ very identification with the Son of Man before Caiaphas that led him to accuse Jesus of blasphemy (Matthew 26:64), because of that title’s association with divinity. Yet in Luke we see a total reversal of the assertion of blasphemy.

I don’t think I had ever seen this passage as a testimony to the divinity of Jesus, yet as I examine it closely: there it is. This is a remarkable thing for Luke to highlight that is worth pondering on when considering whose claims truly dishonored, offended, and misrepresented God during Jesus’ passion.

Hebrew Bible Reflections: Take Hold of the Gates

While listening to Robert Alter’s translation of Genesis I encountered a coincidental but interesting conceptual parallel. I would say terminological parallel but the verbs are different, though they have some semantic overlap.

Genesis 22:17:
 זַרְעֲךָ֔ אֵ֖ת שַׁ֥עַר אֹיְבָֽיו (va’yirash)

“Your offspring shall possess (Alter: “take hold of”) the gate of their enemies.”

Genesis 24:60:
 זַרְעֵ֔ךְ אֵ֖ת שַׁ֥עַר שֹׂנְאָֽיו (va’yirash)
“And may your descendants possess (Alter: “take hold of”) the gate of those who hate them.”

“Take hold of” along with “gate” is what sparked a memory association with the story of Samson, who quite literally took hold of the gates of the enemies of Israel in Gaza:

Judges 16:3:
וַיֶּאֱחֹ֞ז בְּדַלְתֹ֤ות שַֽׁעַר־הָעִיר֙ (va’yehoz)
“and took hold of the doors of the city gate”

Where אָחַז (cf. va’yehoz), in Judges, can mean either to take hold of or to possess. The word יָרַשׁ (cf. va’yirash), in Genesis, however, seems more narrow, with the meaning of to possess or inherit, but is not literally (despite Alter’s translation) “take hold of” – so far as I can tell.

Nonetheless, it is quite interesting to muse whether God had a mighty but flawed man such as Samson in mind even partially among the promised “seed” who would take possession of the gates of Israel’s enemies.

Daily Meditations: Continuous Means of Grace

The phrase “means of grace” has unfortunately been hijacked and made something less comprehensive and normal in the economy of God than it should. The reality is that God is a God of grace who continuously deals in grace, and he doesn’t do a one-and-done work of grace in our lives.

He uses many, many, many means and ways and circumstances and opportunities to continually show us his grace OVER and OVER again, both directly from Himself and through those who are called His children who show God’s grace to one another in love, forgiveness, encouragement, empathy (weep with those who weep; rejoice with those who rejoice), etc. I.E. Grace upon grace!

Soli Deo Gloria.