JESUS' INTERPRETATION OF HIS DEATH

 

1. Selective Bibliography
2. Introduction
3. Jesus' References to His Impending Death

   3.1. Jesus' Threefold Prediction of His Death and Resurrection in the Synoptic Gospels
      3.1.1. Mark 8:31 = Matt 16:21 = Luke 9:22

      3.1.2. Mark 9:30-32 = Matt 17:22-23 = Luke 9:43-45
      3.1.3. Mark 10:32-34 = Matt 20:17-19 = Luke 18:31-34
   3.2. Jesus' "Hour" in the Synoptic Gospels
   3.3. J
esus' Prediction of his Death in the Gospel of John
      3.3.1. John 2:19-22

      3.3.2. John 3:14 
      3.3.3. John 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20; 12:23
      3.3.4. John 7:33-36
      3.3.5. John 8:21
      3.3.6. John 10:11, 15
      3.3.7. John 12:7
      3.3.8. John 15:24-25
      3.3.9. Upper Room Discourse
4. The Salvation-Historical Purpose of Jesus' Death

   4.1. Gospel of John
      4.1.1. John 17:1-5
      4.1.2. John 15:12-13
      4.1.3. John 12:24
      4.1.4. John 12:31-32
   4.2. The Synoptic Gospels
      4.2.1. Jesus as the Isaian Suffering Servant
         A. Ransom for Many (Mark 10:45 = Matt 20:28)
         B. Numbered with Transgressors (Luke 22:37)
         C. Son of Man Rejected (Mark 9:12)
         D. Removal of Bridegroom Mark 2:19-20
      4.2.2. Word over the Bread

 

 

1. Selective Bibliography

H. F. Bayer, Jesus' Predictions of Vindication and Resurrection (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1986); M. Bastin, Jesus devant sa passion, 1976; G. Dalman, Jesus-Jeshua: Studies in the Gospels, 1929; J. Denney, The Death of Christ, 1911; G. Friedrich, Die Verkündigung des Todes Jesu im Neuen Testament, 2d ed., 1985; N. Füglister, Die Heilsbedeutung des Pascha, 1963; J. Gnilka, Jesu ipsissima mors: der Tod Jesu im Lichte seiner Martyriumsparänese, 1983; A. J. B. Higgins, The Lord's Supper in the New Testament, 1952; J. Jeremias, Das Lösegeld für Viele (Mk 10,45)’, in Abba: Studien zur neutestamentlichen Theologie und Zietgeschichte, 1966, 216-29; id., The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, 3d. ed., 1966; K. Kertelge, "Die soteriologischen Aussagen in der urchristlicher Abendmahlsüberlieferung und ihre Beziehung zum geschichtlichen Jesus," TTZ 81 (1972) 193-202; E. Lohse, Märtyrer und Gottesknecht. Untersuchungen zur urchristlichen Verkündigung vom Sühntod Jesu Christi, 1955; T.W. Manson, The Servant Messiah, 1953;  id., The Teaching of Jesus, 1959; I. H. Marshall, Last Supper and Lord’s Supper, 1980; S. McKnight, Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory, 2005; B.F. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus, 1979; L. Oberlinner, Todeserwartung und Todesgewißheit Jesu: Zum Problem einer historischen Begrundung, 1980; L. Ruppert, Jesus als der leidende Gerechte; H. Schürmann,"Wie hat Jesus seinen Tod bestanden und verstanden?" in Orientierung an Jesus: Zur Theologie der Synoptiker,1973, 325-363; id., Gottes Reich-Jesu Geschick: Jesu ureigener Tod im Licht seiner Basileia-Verkündigung, 1983; B. Smith, Jesus' Last Passover Meal, 1993; id., Jesus' Twofold Teaching about the Kingdom of God, 2009; P. Stuhlmacher, "Existenzstellvertretung für die Viele: Mk 10,45 (Mt 20,28)," in Versöhnung, Gesetz und Gerechtigkeit: Aufsatze Zur Biblischen Theologie, 1981; V. Taylor, Jesus and His Sacrifice, 1939.


2. Introduction

Historically it is expected that Jesus would come to terms with the ultimate "failure" of his proclamation of the Kingdom of God and his consequent execution. Only if one assumes that Jesus had no mission could one argue that he did not reflect upon the salvation-historical significance of his death. Thus, two options present themselves: Jesus could have admitted failure and abandoned his mission or he could have interpreted his rejection as part of his mission. The gospels contain numerous traditions in which Jesus interprets his death as divinely ordained and in some of them he attributes a salvation-historical significance to his death. In other words, he interprets his role as the messenger and mediator of the Kingdom of God in light of his rejection: paradoxically, his death is part of his mission. Taken at face value, these imply that Jesus chose the second of the two interpretive options. As B. F. Meyer expresses it, "Jesus understood his immediate messianic task to be the division of Israel between faith and unfaith; and he understood his messianic destiny...to be scheduled for fulfillment only as the outcome and reversal of repudiation, suffering and death" (The Aims of Jesus, 216). Even though he offers the Kingdom of God to his contemporaries, Jesus believes that his real salvation-historical role is to die. Yet his death is conditional upon the rejection of the offer of the Kingdom of God by his generation. It should be added that, if Jesus spoke of his suffering and death, surely he would also have spoken of his vindication, given his belief in his being sent by God.


3. Jesus' References to his Impending Death

It has already been shown that, in a rejection context, Jesus explains that his generation's rejection of him and his message of the Kingdom of God will lead to his suffering and death (see, for example, Luke 12:50: "But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed") (see Jesus' Awareness of Rejection). There are other passages in which Jesus understands his impending death as divinely ordained, and not as a tragic accident of history. Even though he also holds his generation responsible for their decision, Jesus believes that it is God's will for him to be rejected and executed. In a rejection context, he interprets his death as the ultimate fulfilment of his calling as messenger and mediator of the Kingdom of God.

3.1. Jesus' Three Predictions of his Death and Resurrection in the Synoptic Gospels

In the triple tradition, there are three traditions in which Jesus explains privately to his disciples that he must die, but be vindicated by being raised from the dead. Some scholars hold that only one of these three traditions is original, the other two being secondarily formulated on the basis of the original tradition. The criterion used to determine which of the three is more original is that the tradition that least conforms to the Passion Narrative is the more original, on the assumption that the early church had the tendency to create vaticinia ex eventu (predictions after the event) or at least to assimilate sayings of Jesus to the actual events of the Passion. Since it most conforms to the events of Jesus' passion, the prediction of Jesus' death and resurrection in Mark 10:32-34 = Matt 20:17-19 = Luke 18:31-34 is judged to be the least likely to be original (being delivered over to the chief priest and scribes [see Mark 14:43-46; see also 14:10]; condemnation to death [see 14:64]; being handed over to the gentiles [see 15:1]; being mocked [see 15:20]; being spat upon [see 15:19]; being flogged [see 15:15]; death [15:37]; being raised [see 16]). This leaves only Mark 8:31 par or Mark 9:30-32 par as the candidates for being the original tradition; although not unanimous, Mark 9:31 is most often identified as being the original tradition. But it is unjustified to reject the historical authenticity of all three two predictions of Jesus' death and resurrection; each should be taken as providing data on Jesus' understanding of his impending death.

See G. Strecker, "Die Leidens- und Auferstehungsvoraussagen im Markusevangelium [Mk 8,31; 9,31; 10,32-34]," ZThK 64 (1967) 16-39; Jeremias, New Testament Theology, 281-82; Grundmann, Markus, 257; Hoffmann, "Mk 8,31. Zur Herkunft und markinischen Rezeption einer alten Überlieferung," in Orientierung an Jesus; Goppelt, Theologie des Neuen Testaments, 236-37; Kessler, Die theologische Bedeutung des Todes Jesu. Eine traditionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung; Grimm, Weil Ich dich Liebe 209-22; Patsch, Abendmahl, 194-95; Horstmann, Studien zur markinschen Christologie, 8-31; Oberlinner, Todeserwartung und Todesgewissheit Jesu, 140-46; McKnight, Jesus and His Death, 225-37. Cranfield wisely cautions against judging Mark 10:32-34 to be ex eventu (St. Mark, 334-35). First, he points out that, "There is no feature which could not readily have been foreseen as likely to happen in the carrying out of the death sentence under the circumstances of the time" (334-35). Second, Cranfield observes that the details described in Mark 10:32-34 are not in the same order in which they occur in Mark's Passion Narrative; if the prediction in Mark 10:32-34 is a vaticinium ex eventu, one would expect perfect correspondence, extending even to the order of the events. Third, he suggests that Jesus may have been influenced by Isa 50:6 and Ps 22:8(7) in his reflections about the destiny that awaited him; if so, then some of the details in Mark 10:32-34 derive from Jesus' pesher-type interpretation of these Old Testament texts and were not ex eventu. It is probable that the three predictions are three independent traditions reflecting three separate occasions on which Jesus explains to his disciples what awaits him in Jerusalem; they are not duplicates of one another but each has elements that the other two do not have (see Taylor, Mark, 377; Bayer, Jesus' Predictions of Vindication and Resurrection, 149-218; Hooker, The Son of Man in Mark, 134). Thus, Mark correctly considers these to be three separate events, each with its own historical context. For this reason it is not exegetically necessary to choose which of the three predictions is the most original and which are derivative of it.

3.1.1. Mark 8:31 = Matt 16:21 = Luke 9:22

Mark 8:31

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
 

Matthew 16:21

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Luke 9:22

And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." 

 

After Peter's confession of Jesus' messiahship at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus begins (Mark / Matthew) to teach his disciples that the son of man must suffer and be rejected at the hands of the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, but be raised "after three days." The fact that Jesus begins to teach his disciples implies a shift in perspective, a change of teaching context from non-rejection to rejection. In addition, what he says about the necessity of his death and his subsequent vindication by being raised from the dead is esoteric teaching, for he discloses this only to his disciples. In this context, the term "son of man" probably is a self-designation; this is how Matthew understood the term, because he changes Mark's "son of man" to "he" (autos). Jesus' statement that it is necessary (dei) that the son of man suffer many things implies that his death is divinely ordained, for Jesus sees his death as part of his salvation-historical calling.

It has been pointed out that the Greek dei probably translates the simple future in Aramaic, but with the sense of necessity. In the LXX dei is used to translate a simple future in Aramaic in Dan 2:28 and in Hebrew in Lev 5:17; Isa 30:29; in each case, however, the context implies a certain necessity qualifies the future event described. In rendering the simple future from Aramaic into Greek, however, it seems that dei was not always used. Probably, the simple future underlies the Greek of Mark 9:31, "He is delivered over," which Matthew and Luke make explicit by their change of Mark 9:31 to read "He is about to be delivered over" (melei paradidosthai) (Matt 17:22 = Luke 9:44). Luke also has the phrase dei paradidosthai in Luke 24:7, which likewise probably translates the simple future in Aramaic (see Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God, 238-39).

Jesus says that he must "suffer many things" (polla pathei) and be rejected (apodokimasthenai) (see the same description of Jesus' fate in Luke 17:25); nevertheless, he will be vindicated by rising from the dead (Mark: anastenai) or being raised from the dead (Matt/Luke: egerthenai). Ruppert points to a possible allusion to Ps 34:20 (LXX 33:20): "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but Yahweh saves them from all of them" (Jesus als der leidende Gerechte, 65-66). (Moreover, Ruppert argues that Jesus may have been influenced by the so-called Diptychon [Wis 2.12-20; 5.1-7], which Ruppert holds as originally written in Hebrew to defend Pharisaism against its Sadduccean aggressors during the time of Alexander Jannaeus, under whose reign many Pharisees were martyred [Jesus als der leidende Gerechte, 68-70]. Ruppert's view, however, seems overly speculative.) Matthew and Luke change Mark's phrase "after three days" to "on the third day." (The change of Mark's phrase "after three days rise" by the other synoptists to "on the third day be raised" produces a "minor agreement" between Matthew and Luke, but seems to be coincidental.) There appears to be no difference of meaning, however, between the two temporal adverbs; the phrase "on the third day" seems to have been formulaic in the early church (1 Cor 15:4), which may explain the change (see Fitzmyer, Luke, 781). Josephus, similarly, uses the phrases "after three days" (meth' hemeras treis or meta treis hemeras) and "on the third day" (tê tritê tôn hemerôn) synonymously (Ant. 7.280-81; 8.214, 218). This means that Mark's phrase "after three days" does not mean "on the fourth day."

3.1.2. Mark 9:30-32 = Matt 17:22-23 = Luke 9:43-45

Mark 9

30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, "The son of man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. 

Matthew 17

22 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, "The son of man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life." And the disciples were filled with grief.
 


 
 

Luke 9

43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 "Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The son of man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men." 45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it. 

While passing through Galilee, Jesus tell his disciples a second time that the son of man will be rejected, killed, and raised from the dead in three days. The disciples, however, do not comprehend his meaning, although Matthew indicates that they understood enough to be "filled with grief" (elupêthêsan sphodra ). The use of the phrase "son of man" again is probably self-referential, but may have messianic overtones. The use of the present tense "is delivered over" (paradidontai) in Mark 9:31 may represent the use of the Aramaic participle (mitmesar) to express the simple future; both Matthew and Luke make this explicit by their change of "is delivered over" (paradidontai) to "is about to be delivered over" (melei paradidosthai). The use of "is delivered over" (paradidontai) should be understood as a divine passive, implying that Jesus sees his death as ordained by God (see Rom 8:31-32). In Mark and Matthew, Jesus also predicts his resurrection, which is his vindication.

As noted above, Jeremias argues for the originality of Mark 9:30-32 over against Jesus' other two passion predictions (New Testament Theology, 281-82). His criteria for this judgment are its "brevity and indefiniteness" and its "terminology." He believes that the the briefest version of this tradition is probably the most original, on the assumption that additions would be made to the original tradition; likewise, the less definite is the more original, since details would be added to these sayings in reliance upon the actual events. Moreover, the fact that the Greek can easily be translated into Aramaic suggests that this is the original tradition. According to Jeremias, the original Aramaic phrase was mitmesar bar enasha lide bene enasha. The Greek verb in the present tense (paradidontai) points to the Aramaic participle used as a future tense (Matthew and Luke appropriately change Mark's present tense to melei paradidosthai). Jeremias points to Mark 14:41 as another version of this saying. There is also an originally-intended word play between son of man (bar enasha) and sons of men (bene 'enasha), translated simply as "men" (anthropoi) in Greek; this word play is obscured in later versions of this tradition. This short statement thereby becomes a mashal, a riddle for his disciples to unravel. Jeremias has not proved, however, that the other sayings could not also be authentic; surely, Jesus explained to his disciples about the divine necessity of his death more than once, which would find its way into the early tradition.

3.1.3. Mark 10:32-34 = Matt 20:17-19 = Luke 18:31-34

Mark 10

32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the son of man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise." 

Matthew 20

17 Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18 "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the son of man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will turn him over to the gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!" 
 
 

 

Luke 18

31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the son of an will be fulfilled. 32 He will be handed over to the gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. 33 On the third day he will rise again." 34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. 

 

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus predicts that he, the son of man, will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, who will condemn him to death and hand him over the gentiles, who will "who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him." It is not completely clear who the chief priests are, but likely they form a priestly hierarchy having authority over the Temple and its operations (see Josephus, War, 2.336). (They were also members of the Sanhedrin [Mark 14:53; Luke 22:66].) The scribes ("teachers of the Law") mentioned in the passages are probably experts in the Law who reside in Jerusalem; because of their expert knowledge they carry much authority among the Sanhedrin and maybe even were members of it. As already indicated, the fact that Jesus predicts accurately what the gentiles, i.e., the Romans, will do to him is not grounds for suspecting a vaticinium ex eventu, since this is the treatment that criminals sentenced to be crucified would typically have received. Luke says that the disciples did not understand what he was saying. Jesus also predicts his resurrection: "three days later he will rise" (Mark 10:34). In Luke's version, Jesus indicates that his suffering and death has been foretold in the prophets, implying the necessity of his impending fate.

Excavations at Sepphoris

Sepphoris (Zippori), the historical capital of the Galilee, is located in the center of the lower Galilee, 5 km west of Nazareth. It is situated the crossroads of two major ancient roads, the north/south Via Maris and the east/west Acre-Tiberias road. After it was destroyed by Varus, the Roman proconsul of Syria, Herod Antipas reconstructed Sepphoris and used it as his capital city until he built Tiberias.

3.2. Jesus' "Hour" in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 14:35-36, 41b = Matt 26:45b; Luke 22:53)

Mark 14:35: Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will"....41b The hour has come. Look, the son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Jesus refers to the time when he will be arrested and executed as his "hour" (hôra). He understands that God has appointed for him this salvation-historical task at a designated time, but, if possible, he would prefer to be spared this fate. In other words, Jesus does not see his impending death as a historical accident, a fortuitous turn of events, but as divinely appointed for him. He describes his impending execution as a cup that he must drink; he means by this metaphor a destiny of suffering (see Ps 75:9; Isa 51:17-22; Ezek 23:32-34) (see Jesus' Cup and Baptism) (Bayer, Jesus' Predictions of Vindication and Resurrection, 85-88).

3.3. Jesus' Prediction of his Death in the Gospel of John

In the Gospel of John, a turning point in Jesus' public ministry occurs after Jesus' Bread of Life discourse (John 6:26-58). At that time, Jesus' experiences a mass desertion among his followers because of the difficulty of his teaching (see 6:60): "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him" (6:33). Nevertheless, unlike the synoptics, from the beginning Jesus speaks about the inevitability of his rejection and death (see Mark 8:31 pars), not simply after this sudden decrease in his popularity. He does so, however, in cryptic terms, so that no one could reasonably be expected to understand him as speaking about his death. Only just before and during his last Passover meal, does Jesus attempt to explain to his disciples in clear and easily understood terms that he must die, during his so-called Upper Room Discourse. This is consistent with the synoptic portrayal of Jesus as revealing in unambiguous terms that he is destined to be rejected and executed only in the latter part of his public ministry.

3.3.1. John 2:19-22

19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."20 The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" 21 But he spoke of the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

After cleansing the Temple, Jesus says enigmatically, "Destroy this Temple and I will raise it again in three days" (2:19). Jesus is referring to his body, but is not understood, for obvious reasons (John says that only later did the disciples understand Jesus' meaning [2:22b]). The accusation that Jesus threatened to destroy the Temple is brought against him at his trial and probably stems from this incident (Mark 14:57-59 = Matt 26:60-61; see also Mark 15:29 = Matt 27:40; Acts 6:14) (see Jesus before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin). He refers to his body, or himself, as the Temple, because he see himself as the presence of God in the world, in the same way that the Temple represents God's presence to Israel. In other words, God "dwells" in him in an unparalleled way. His point is that God will vindicate him after he has been executed by raising him bodily from the dead in three days. The phrase "in three days" could be taken literally, but also idiomatically as expressive of a "short period of time" (see Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God, 246-47).  Incidentally, the response, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" indicates that Jesus' conversation occurred c. 26/27 since Herod began his construction project in 20/19 BCE (Ant. 15.380).

3.3.2. John 3:14  (see also John  8:28; 12:32, 34)

Jesus says, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the son of man must be lifted up, in order that all who believe in him will have eternal life." His use of the term "the son of man" in this saying is self-referential, and being lifted up is an oblique allusion to his crucifixion. One should note, however, that "being lifted up" can also have the meaning of "being exalted or glorified, so that ironically Jesus' death is also his exaltation. (The Aramaic underlying the Greek psothenai is probably the Ithpeel or Ithpaal of zaqaf, which likewise has the double meaning of being hanged or crucified and being exalted [Barrett, St. John, 9, 214; Black, The Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts, 103].) The analogy between Jesus and the bronze serpent lifted up in the wilderness is that, like the former, Jesus' "being lifted up" will benefit all who "look" to him. Second-Temple Jewish tradition, in light of the later idolatrous use of the bronze serpent (2 Kings 18:4), emphasizes that it was not the object itself that saved from death but God, who made looking upon the bronze serpent a condition of being saved (Wis 16:6-7). In early rabbinic tradition, the looking upon the bronze serpent was interpreted as symbolic of looking towards "up" towards God in readiness to obey the Torah (m. Rosh Hash. 3.8). Jesus also indicates that his being "lifted up" is necessary (dei), implying that it is divinely ordained.

3.3.3. John 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20; 12:23

John 7:6 Therefore Jesus told them, "The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right....8 You go to the Feast. I am not yet  going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come....30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.  8:20  He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put.  Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come.....12:23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Jesus speaks about his "time" (kairos) (7:6, 8) and his "hour" (hôra) (12:23, 27; 17:1; see also 7:30; 8:20; 13:1 for use of "hour" by the author, John), by which he means the appointed time for him to be crucified, which he refers to ironically as his being glorified (doxasthein) (12:23) (see T. Jos. 10.3: "exalt and glorify him" [hupsoi kai dozazei auton]). In Jesus' view, his death is not an historical accident, but the purpose for which he was sent by God to accomplish. (For the use of hour to mean the beginning of his ministry see John 2:4.)

3.3.4. John 7:33-36

Jesus says, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I will go to the one who sent me. You will look for me but you will not find me and where I am you cannot come." Jesus was referring to his death and resurrection, but no one understood him correctly, because his words were so cryptic. His opponents thought that he was saying that he was planning to leave Palestine to teaching Hellenistic Jews: "The Jews then said to one another, 'Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? He is not intending to go to the dispersion among he Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is he?'" (John 7:35).

3.3.5. John 8:21

Jesus says, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come." Jesus was alluding to his death, but was not understood, since he was not explicit about what his going away meant.

3.3.6. John 10:11, 15

Jesus explains that he metaphorically is the good shepherd who will lay down his life for his sheep, intimating that he must die. In John 10:11 he says, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep," and in 10:15 he repeats, "I lay down my life for the sheep."

3.3.7. John 12:7

Mary (the sister of Martha) is criticized for using expensive perfume to anoint Jesus' feet: "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?" (12:5). Jesus defends Mary's action by saying that the perfume used was intended for his burial and need not to be sold and the proceeds given to the poor: "Let her alone, in order that she may keep it for the day of my burial" (12:7). (It was the common practice to put aromatic spices on corpses before placing them in a tomb.) Jesus' response presupposes his belief that his death is imminent and unavoidable.

3.3.8. John 15:24-25

In John 15:24b-25, Jesus interprets his rejection in spite of his works as anticipated in scripture: "But now they have seen, and hated me and my Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason' (Psalms 35:19; 69:4)." Jesus is alluding to the motif of the righteous man who suffers unjustly at the hands of the wicked, which implies that he believes that his death is unavoidable and even predestined.

3.3.9. Jesus' Upper Room Discourse

During his last Passover meal, Jesus explains to his disciples that he is leaving them. He refers to being glorified , which is Jesus' ambiguous way of referring to his impending execution (13:31-32). He also says that he will be leaving and will no longer be found by his disciples; they will not be able to go where he is going (13:33). Jesus, referring to his death and resurrection, tells his disciples that shortly they will no longer see him because he is going to the Father, and afterwards they will see him again (16:16-17). He adds that if he leaves, he will prepare a "place" (topos) for his disciples, and will return to take them to himself (John 13:31-32, 33; 14:3; 16:16-22).


Question

How does Jesus understand his death in relation to his mission as the one who proclaims the Kingdom of God?

 

4. The Salvation-Historical Purpose of Jesus' Death

Jesus interprets his rejection and impending death as having a salvation-historical purpose; paradoxically, his death becomes part of his mission. A new dimension of God’s salvation-historical purposes is brought into existence by means of the historically-contingent event of the rejection of the offer of the Kingdom of God and its messenger. In other words, the realization of God’s salvation-historical purposes through him is causally tied to the nation’s disobedience. This insight stands behind Jesus’ interpretation of his rejection and death. Although he offered the possibility of forgiveness before his death as a benefit of the Kingdom of God, Jesus now explains that his death is the basis on which God can forgive human beings. Inscrutably, the temporal sequence of cause and effect was reversed: forgiveness was offered before it was a possibility. He reveals this, however, only in a rejection context. Jesus also says that his death is the means of his glorification and by which Satan is ultimately defeated.

Jesus’ interpretation of Israel’s disobedience as the condition of the realization of God’s salvation-historical purposes has scriptural precedent. The very existence of Israel’s eschatological hope is causally tied to national failure, for if it were not for the national apostasy that led to the exile of Israel and then Judah, there would never have arisen the hope of an eschatological restoration and a Davidic Messiah. In fact, if it were not for Israel’s sin of rejecting Yahweh as their king, there would have been no Israelite kings, let alone a Davidic Messiah (1 Sam 8). God’s soteriological purposes are accomplished, not only in spite of, but actually by means of Israel’s covenantal failures. In line with this way of interpreting history, Jesus teaches that his contemporaries’ rejection of the Kingdom of God and him actually serves to accomplish God’s salvation-historical purposes, which are only revealed in a rejection context.

4.1. Gospel of John

4.1.1. John 17:1-5

1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your son, in order that the son may glorify you, 2 even as you gave him authority over all flesh, that to all whom you have given him, he may give eternal life. 3 This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work which you have given me to do. 5 Now, Father, glorify me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was.

Jesus interprets his impending death ("the hour") as the means by which God (the Father) would glorify him, which in turn would lead to God's being glorified. He prays, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your son, in order that the son may glorify you" (17:1; see 12:23; 13:31). This glory is the same glory that Jesus the son had before there was a world (17:5; see 17:24; 12:41). To glorify means to display and demonstrate the greatness of an individual. Ironically Jesus interprets his death as the means by which he will be glorified and in turn glorify God. This is because he interprets his death as his greatest work. (John also refers to Jesus' crucifixion as Jesus' glorification [7:39; 12:16].)

4.1.2. John 15:13

Jesus speaks about his death as voluntary and vicarious. He says, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." He freely chooses to die for his disciples as an act of love and his death will benefits them in some way.

4.1.3. John 12:24

Jesus compares his death to a seed that falls to the ground and dies, thereby producing many more seeds. He says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." The point of the metaphor is that Jesus' death will bring the benefits of eschatological salvation to humanity. Without his death there would be no such vicarious benefits.

4.1.4. John 12:31

Jesus interprets his death as the means by which the judgment of the world will occur and as the time of the driving out of the ruler (archôn) of this world. He says "Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out" (see 14:30; 16:11). Jesus' death is the means by which judgment is executed on the world, since Jesus bears vicariously the sins of the world (see 1:29). It is also the means by which Satan is defeated. Ironically, it is Jesus' "defeat" that will lead to the eschatological overthrow of Satan. (In the synoptic gospels, Jesus' exorcisms signifies his assault on Satan's spiritual rule [see Mark 3:20-27; Matt 12:22-29 = Luke 11:14-22].) What remains concealed is that the ultimate dethronement of Satan as the ruling power of this world is the result of Jesus' death on the cross. In one sense, Jesus' execution could be seen as the counter-attack of Satan against Jesus, the mediator of eschatological salvation (see Luke 22:3 "And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot"); ironically, however, Satan's "victory" turns out to be his irreversible defeat.

Heel Bone of Crucified Man

In 1968, construction workers in Jerusalem discovered the remains of a tomb from the first century. In  the tomb was a Jewish ossuary with the inscription "Johohanan, son of HGQWL." The occupant of the ossuary, a man in his twenties, had been crucified—likely by the Romans; this was obvious by the fact that a nail was found piercing the heel bone (calcaneum) of the victim. Crucifixion was recognized in the Roman world as a cruel and ignominious method of execution. Josephus calls crucifixion "the most miserable of deaths" (War 7.203), while the Roman Seneca argues that suicide is preferable to crucifixion (Epistle 101).

4.2. The Synoptic Gospels

4.2.1. Jesus as the Isaian Suffering Servant

In several passages in the synoptic gospels, Jesus interprets his death as that of the suffering Servant in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. He interprets the unidentified, mysterious figure in Isa 52-53, known only as the servant of Yahweh, as himself. This explains why Jesus sees his death as divinely-ordained.

A. Ransom for Many

In Mark 10:35-45 = Matt 20:28b, James and John request to be granted privileged positions of authority in the Kingdom, one sitting at the right of Jesus and the other at the left. (In Matthew’s version it is the mother of James and John who puts the request to Jesus on behalf of her ambitious sons.) The other disciples are indignant at their audacity, which leads Jesus to a discussion of servant-leadership. He explains, "Whoever wants to be great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever wants to be first, let him be a servant of all" (Mark 10:44 = Matt 20:26). Following this, he says, "The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom (lutron) for many" (Mark 10:45 = Matt 20:28). On literary grounds there is some evidence to conclude that the lutron-saying in Mk 10.45 is secondarily appended to 10.42-44. The evidence, however, is not so compelling as to preclude the possibility that 10.45 originally belongs to what precedes it.

Mark 10:45 may have been joined to Mark 10:42-44 by means of the link word diakonos ("servant") (10:43), diakonêthênai ("to be served") and diakonêsai ("to serve") (10:45) (Stuhlmacher, "Existenzstellvertretung für die Viele: Mk 10,45 (Mt 20,28)’, in Versöhnung, Gesetz und Gerechtigkeit: Aufsatze Zur Biblischen Theologie, 29; Pesch, Markusevangelium, 2.167; Patsch, Abendmahl, 172; Hampel, Menschensohn und historischer Jesus, 305). The connective kai gar is artificial and looks like a secondary literary connection (Arens, ELTHON-Sayings, 123). Patsch argues that Mark 10:43b-44 is a "Wanderlogion," which in different forms has parallels in Mark 9:35; Matt 23:11; Luke 9:48c; 22:26 (Abendmahl, 172). This is confirmed for him by the parallelism exhibited in 10:43b-44, which implies that 10:45 did originally belong to 10:43b-44. Similarly, it has often been pointed out that 10:45 does not belong thematically to 10:42-44, because 10:42-44 deals with the issue of servanthood whereas 10:45 with Jesus as servant; the transition from the theme of service to that of giving one’s life as a ransom for many is artificial, being a metabasis eis allo genos (see Arens, ELTHON-Sayings, 123-24; Taylor, Mark, 445). There is no unity in 10:42b-44 and 10:45; each has a parallel elsewhere in New Testament: Mark 9:33-35 = 10:42b-44; 1 Tim 2:5-6 = 10:45 (Hampel, Menschensohn und historischer Jesus, 305-306). It is also possible that the connection between diakonos ("servant") (10:43) and Jesus’ coming not diakonêthênai (‘to be served’) but diakonêsai (to serve) is original. The connection between 10:43-44 and 10:45 is not artificial, being merely verbal, as in the case of other of Mark’s sayings collections; rather, there is a thematic continuity from the one to the other, contrary to the claim that the transition represents a metabasis eis allo genos. The saying of the son of man’s giving his life as a ransom for many is a thematic expansion on the idea of service to include self-sacrifice (Taylor, Mark, 445-46). Patsch’s observation that the parallelism exhibited in 10:43a-44 is proof that it once circulated independently has some validity. But it is still not certain that originally the lutron-saying could not have been joined to 10:43-44, even going back to Jesus himself, since, as just noted, 10:45 develops and transforms theme of service (Morna Hooker, Jesus and the Servant, 75).

Moreover, it is possible that 10:45 itself is composite: 10:45b, the lutron-saying, may not originally belong to 10:45a. However, it does not matter much to the interpretation of Mark 10:45b whether is it is an isolated saying or not. According to Mark 10:45a, Jesus has come as a servant, and his giving of himself as a lutron is the ultimate act of his service (Mark 10:45b).

Evidence that Mark 10:45a did not originally belong to 10:45b is as follows: 1. Mark 10:45a is an ouk-alla construction, which is usually a self-contained saying that does not need a completion such as 10.45b: what is said first negatively (ouk) is reinforced by what is then said positively (alla); 2. The theme of 10:45a is service and is still connected to the concept of true greatness, which the disciples are supposed to imitate, whereas the theme of 10:45b relates to Jesus’ redemptive death and cannot be imitated; 3. The two sayings of 10:45 have different forms: 10:45a is a saying about the son of man’s activity on earth, whereas 10:45b is a passion prediction (Tödt, Son of Man, 206-207; Arens, ELTHON-Sayings, 130-32). As Schürmann suggests, Mark 10:45b, before its annexation to 10:45a, may have been something like: "The son of man came to give his life as a ransom for many" (Jesu Abschiedsrede, 91; see Lindars, Son of Man, 76-81). Contrary to Lindars, Mk 10:45a may also have begun with "The son of man came...," which provided Mark with the link by which to connect the two sayings (Son of Man, 77). But the evidence for the compositeness of 10:45 is only suggestive, not definitive.

    The case can be made that the saying in Mark 10:45b intertextually evokes the Hebrew text of Isa 52:13-53:12, in which case Jesus is interpreting his death as the death of the Isaian servant.

Grimm proposes that lutron anti in Mark 10:45 corresponds to the Hebrew "to atone for" (kpr tcht), which is nowhere to be found in Isa 53 (Weil Ich dich Liebe, 231-62; see Hampel, Menschensohn und historischer Jesus, 302-45). (The term "many" [polloi], however, does allude to the several instances of rbym in Isa 53:11, 12bis [236-37].) According to Grimm, the scriptural passage that Jesus has in mind when he refers to the giving of himself as a "ransom for many" (lutron anti pollôn) is Isa 43:3-4 (see Prov 21:18; Ps 48:8-9; Job 33:24; 36:18). Isa 43:3 promises that God will give certain nations as an atonement or ransom for Israel. Parallel to this passage, in Isa 43:4 the prophet says on behalf of God, "I will give man in exchange for you." Grimm suggests that Jesus’ version of Isa 43:4 may have read "sons of man," which would correspond to his use of "son of man" in Mark 10:45. Or Jesus may simply have interpreted "man" in this way. In other words, Jesus sees his death as the representative death for Israel foretold in Isa 43:3-4. Grimm’s position would be convincing only if lutron anti could not be the Greek equivalent of the occurrence of asham in Isa 53:10. Maurice Casey argues that Jesus sees his death as expiatory, along the lines of the Maccabean martyrs, without any allusion to Isa 52:13-53:12 (From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God, 64-67).

The verb diakonêsai ("to serve") hints at an intertextual allusion to 'bdy ("my servant") in Isa 52:13 and 53:11. Although diakonêsai ("to serve") does not occur in LXX Isa 52:13-53:12, and the verb or a cognate is not used in the LXX to translate the verb 'bd ("servant"), it is probable that the two instances of the verb "to serve" in Mark 10:45b allude to the Isaian servant. In fact, in the LXX, Targum, Peshitta and Symmachus the verb "to serve" is used in the fourth servant song rather than the noun "servant," which supports the position that the use of the verb "to serve" in Mark 10:45 alludes intertextually to the Isaian servant. The phrase dounai tên psuchên ("to give his soul") is the equivalent of the Hebrew 'm-tsym npshw ("if he renders...his soul") in Isa 53:10, even though it is not a direct translation. The clearest connection to the fourth servant song is pollôn ("many") which is translation of the Hebrew rbym (Isa 53:11, 12 bis). The last and most important allusion to Isa 52:13-53:12 is the phrase lutron anti (‘ransom for’), which arguably is the equivalent of the Hebrew asham in Isa 53:10. It is arguable that lutron anti (‘ransom for’) is a free translation of asham with the general meaning of a compensatory equivalent given to God. To call the servant an asham in Isa. 53.10 is a metaphorical use of the Levitical sense of asham), since the servant is not literally a guilt-offering (only an animal could be one). According to the context, what the servant as asham does is to give his own life on behalf of the many, in order that the many may be declared righteous (53.11). This results because the servant carries ‘their iniquities’ (53.11) and bears ‘the sin of many’ (53.12). So it would certainly not be inappropriate to call his death a lutron anti, since the servant’s death on behalf of the many serves as a compensatory equivalent given to God for the transgressions of the many. The Greek phrase lutron anti in 10.45b is a possible translation of this metaphorical use of asham in Isa. 53.10. Jesus interprets his impending death as a compensation paid to God, like the death of the Isaian servant, so that his death is on behalf of others. Such an interpretation of himself as the Isaian Servant is only possible, however, in a context of rejection.

There is no reason to deny the authenticity of Mark 10:45b (contrary to Tödt, Son of Man, 202-11). First, the saying contains three Semitisms: 1. The use of tên psuchên autou ("his soul") as reflexive ("himself"), including larger meaning "his life" (see 1 Macc 2:50; Sir. 29:15; Jer 45:5). This stands in contrast to the more Hellenistic use of the reflexive pronoun heauton 1 Tim 2:6; 2. The use of anti is a literal translation of Aramaic chlp and Hebrew tcht; 3. The use of polloi to mean innumerable people or "all" corresponds to the Hebrew rbym; 4. The use of a paratactic "and," used epexegetically to mean by giving his life as a ransom (Jeremias, "Das Lösegeld für Viele (Mk 10,45)," 216-29; Lohse, Märtyrer und Gottesknecht, 117-22; Patsch, Abendmahl, 170-80; Gundry, Mark, 588). The claim that Mark 10:45 is a secondary revision of Luke 22:27 is unjustified (Jeremias, "Das Lösegeld für Viele (Mk 10,45)," 224-25; Lohse, Märtyrer und Gottesknecht, 118). Second, the concept of dying and/or suffering for others is consistent with Palestinian religious-historical context. Third, the saying is coherent with Jesus’ teaching in a rejection context because it provides an expected datum that accounts for how he interprets his impending death. To those who claim that continuity with the early church’s theology should disqualify this tradition as authentic, it can be countered that, unless Jesus interpreted his death in this manner, it is improbable that that the early church would have begun to believe that his death was salvation-historically significant, especially given that a dead Messiah would be incongruous to a Jewish hearer.

B. Numbered among Transgressors

Jesus explicitly quotes Isa 53 in relation to his approaching death, indicating that he understands his fate as that of the Suffering Servant (Luke 22:37). This saying occurs in the context of Jesus' explanation to his disciples after the Last Supper of how matters have changed in light of his imminent arrest and execution. Contrary to his previous teaching when he sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal, Jesus tells them now to carry a purse and a bag and even to buy a sword. The point is that his mission, at least from one perspective, has been a failure since his message has not been received, and now what he said previously no longer obtains. In other words, he is warning the disciples that their situation after his death will be perilous, different from when they traveled about as proclaimers of the Kingdom of God.  In Luke 22:37, Jesus then cites a portion of Isa 53:12 as predictive of his own imminent execution: like the Servant he is to be numbered among the lawless, referring to his impending execution as a criminal.

10 Yet it was Yahweh's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though Yahweh makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of Yahweh will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will make many righteous, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

    The disciples misunderstand his point, and Jesus cuts short the conversation. If he cites a Servant text as predictive of his execution, doubtless, Jesus intends that his hearers draw further parallels between himself and the Servant, especially in Isa 53:10-12; in particular, they are to understand that Jesus' death as an asham for the many (see France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 114-16; Taylor, Jesus and His Sacrifice, 191-94; Manson, The Sayings of Jesus, 340-42).

There is evidence of non-Lukan linguistic usage in Luke 22:35-38 (see Schürmann, Jesu Abschiedsrede, 116-39; Jeremias, Sprache, 292-93). "And he said to them" (kai eipen autois) is non-Lukan, since Luke prefers to use de rather than kai and pros autous rather than autois (22:35). Luke avoids the simple use of  hote, preferring de hote (22:35). The use of alla nun (22:36) is also avoided by Luke, who prefers kai nun.  Likewise, the use of the verb agorazein in 22:36 is untypical of the Lukan style. The formula legô gar humin hoti is non-Lukan. The quotation from Isa 53:12 (in particular the phrase meta anomon) appears to derive from the Hebrew text and not the LXX (en tois anomois), which is uncommon for Luke, who generally quotes from the latter. There are other, more debatable examples that could be produced, but the above are the least likely to be instances of Lukan composition and are therefore indices of the traditional origin of Luke 22:35-38. There is, nonetheless, linguistic evidence of Lukan redaction. The use of the  preposition ater ("without") (22:35) is Lukan, as is the use of the neuter perfect participle as substantive to gegrammenon (22:7).  The  use of telein in the sense of "to fulfill," i.e., the scriptures is unique to Luke's writings (see Fitzmyer, Luke,1209, 1432).

There have been attempts to remove the reference to Isa 53:12 from Luke 22:37 as a Lukan redaction. Hahn sees Luke 22:35-38 as a conglomerate of tradition, Lukan redaction and Lukan composition; he provides a detailed reconstruction of the Lukan redactional process. Luke 22:35 was taken from material related to Luke 10:4a (relating to the mission of the seven-two). Luke 22:36a was the product of Lukan redaction and traditional material ("lukanische Überarbeitung"), which explains why this saying corresponds with Luke 22:35, whereas the saying in Luke 22:36b ("The one who does not have...") did not originally stand in relation to Luke 22:36a. The former had no tradition-historical connection with the mission of the seventy-two, being rather Luke's redactional contribution; rather, Luke 22:36b originally belonged to a tradition in which the disciples are warned against the eschatological tribulations that are to come upon them (e.g., Mark 13:16). Because of its parallelism with Luke 19:11 (a Lukan composition, according to Hahn) and its "Zusammenhangs" with Luke 22:49-51, Luke 22:38 is determined to be a Lukan composition. Finally, according to Hahn, Luke introduces the citation from Isa 53:12 from an often-quoted Old Testament text in the community tradition (Gemeindetradition) (Hoheitstitel, 167-70). Similarly, Patsch argues that there was originally no explicit quotation from Isa 53:12 in Luke 22:37. He reasons that the reference to the necessity of the fulfillment of scripture (to gegrammenon dei telesthenai) and the subsequent quotation of a portion of Isa 53:12 (to kai meta anomôn elogisthê) represents a duplication of forms ("Koppelung der Formeln"), which in turn may be interpreted as the presence of a further reflection ("eine fortgeschrittene Reflexion am Werk"). In other words, the second reference, that to Isa 53:12, was a later addition to an original text that merely referred to the Old Testament as a whole as being fulfilled in Jesus' death (Patsch, Abendmahl, 162). Hooker explains the passage away in a most tendentious way (Jesus and the Servant, 86).

Tradition-historical reconstruction tends to be highly speculative. It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine on purely internal grounds the origin and history of Luke 22:35-38. Two considerations, however, suggest that Luke took over Luke 22:35-38 largely as it now stands. First, that there is a certain amount of obscurity in the passage tells against its being a Lukan creation, for surely Luke would have striven for more perspicuity of meaning (France, Jesus and the Old Testament, 116). Second, the manner of Luke's handling of his sources for traditions that he has in common with Matthew indicates that Luke was not inclined to create new units of tradition from disparate pieces of tradition. Patsch's suggestions founders on his erroneous assumption that the early church did not concern itself with individual texts from the Old Testament to serve as "proof" for Jesus' Passion.

Mosaic Floor in House in Jerusalem

During excavations from 1969-83 ruins of several aristocratic houses were discovered below present-day street level in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem. These houses are dated to the Herodian period, and some of their rooms were decorated with mosaic floors in the "Herodian-Roman style": geometric or floral motifs but no depictions of human beings or animals.

 

C. Son of Man Rejected (Mark 9:12)

Jesus agrees with his disciples that Elijah must come to restore all things, consistent with Jewish eschatological belief, but then asks this question, which is really more of a statement: "How is it written about the son of man that he is to suffer many things and be rejected?" (Mark 9:12, but absent from its parallel in Matt 17:11). In other words, Jesus is asking his disciples to incorporate his impending death into their eschatological beliefs. Jesus' use of the term "son of man" is probably self-referential, being a circumlocution for "I." He claims not only that he must suffer and be rejected by Israel, but also that this has been foretold in scripture. To which scripture he is alluding Jesus does not say, but there is a possible clue in his use of the word "to be rejected" (exoudenêthê), which could be an allusion to Isa 53:3 "He was rejected and forsaken of men" (nibzeh; Aramaic: yhy lbwsrn).  If so, then he is probably identifying his destiny with that of the Isaian Servant. It is true that the LXX translates the Hebrew nibzeh as to eidos autou atimion, but, as Cranfield points out, exoud(th)êne(o)ô is used to translate the Hebrew bazah in other Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible: "Symmachus and Theodotion use it to translate bazah ('despise') in Isa xliv. 7, and Symmachus uses it twice to translate that verb in Isa liii. 3 (while Aquila and Theodotion use it once)" (St. Mark, 298).  If "to be rejected" (exoudenêthê) represents an allusion to Isa 53:3, then Jesus' is interpreting his death in terms of the fate of the Servant.

There is some evidence that the Davidic Messiah was understood as the "servant" in the second-Temple period, sometimes in dependence on a messianic interpretation of some of the Isaian servant songs. In the Old Testament, the eschatological Davidic king is called "my servant David" (Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25) and "my servant the branch" (Zech 3:8). (In 2 Sam 3:18, God calls David "my servant," and even calls Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian King, "my servant" in Jer 27:6.) Not surprisingly, in the post-destruction text 2 Baruch the Davidic messiah is called "my servant the Messiah" (70:9) Likewise, in 4 Ezra the Davidic Messiah is referred to as "my son" (filius), possibly a translation of the Greek pais, which may in turn be the translation of the Hebrew word for servant ('ebed) (7:28; 13:32, 37, 52; 14:9). In the Isaiah Targum, which may preserve Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text of Isaiah from the second-Temple period, three of the references to the servant in servant songs in Isaiah are interpreted of the Davidic messiah (Isa 42:1; 43:10; 52:13). The term "my servant" in these three passages is paraphrased in Aramaic as "my servant the Messiah." Evidence of the messianic interpretation of the Isaian servant also occurs in the Similitudes of Enoch (1 En 37-71), where the Davidic Messiah is described in terms that originate in the Isaian Servant Songs. In addition to being called the "son of man" and the messiah, he is called the "elect one,' which may be an allusion to a messianic interpretation of Isa 42:1. Similarly, he is called the "righteous one," which may be dependent upon Isa 53:11 "my righteous servant." Corroborative evidence of the influence of the Servant Songs on the depiction of the Davidic Messiah in the Similitudes of Enoch is that in 1 En 48:4 the son of man is called the "light of the nations," which is an attribute of the servant of Yahweh in Isa 42:6; 49:6 and that in 1 En 48:3 the son of man is said to have been named before creation "in the presence of the Lord of the spirits," which appears to be an interpretation of Isa 49:1 "He named my name when I was not yet born." Similarly, like the servant (Isa 49:2), the son of man is also said to be hidden (1 En. 48:6). But it is important to note that the suffering of the servant in Isa 52:12-53:12 is not attributed to the Davidic Messiah in the extant literature of early Judaism. Some scholars have claimed to find references to a suffering messiah interpeted in light of the Isaian suffering servant in 4Q541 frgs. 9 & 24, but these are not convincing since the individual who suffers in these two texts is not identified.

D. Removal of Bridegroom

Jesus refers enigmatically to the "removal of the bridegroom," at which time his disciples will fast (Mark 2:19-20). He compares the time of his presence to that of a wedding celebration, when it would be inappropriate to fast, but with his departure his disciples will begin to fast. He describes his departure, no doubt referring to his death, as being removed: "The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away (aparthê) from them." It is possible that Jesus is alluding to the fate of the servant in Isa 53:8. This is because the Greek word in Mark 2:20 to describe Jesus' departure is apairein, and the related verb airein occurs twice in LXX Isa 53:8 to describe the Servant's destiny of death: "By oppression and judgment he was taken away (erthê); and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off (LXX airetai; Hebrew gazar) from of the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken" (see Cranfield, St. Mark, 110-11).  

Apart from the theme of the Suffering Servant in Isa 52:13-53:12, Jesus had other religious-historical precedents by which to interpret his death as vicarious and atoning. First, in second-Temple Judaism the suffering and death of the Jewish martyrs is sometimes understood as being vicarious and/or atoning. The author of 2 Maccabees, Jason of Cyrene, views the Antiochean persecution as being the result of the Jewish involvement with Hellenism. In 2 Macc 4, he describes how the people abandoned the laws, and then concludes that it was for this reason that disaster overtook the people (4:16). He then warns, “It is no light thing to show irreverence to the divine laws—a fact that later events will make clear” (4:17). In Jason’s interpretation of history, Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews and desecration of the Temple was God’s punishment on his disobedient people. Only after the torture and death of the martyrs does God’s anger against His people turn to mercy (8:5, 27); this is why Judas is able to defeat the superior Seleucid forces (see 8:13-15, 18, 24; 10:29-30; 12:14-16, 22, 28; 13:10-12, 14; 14:15, 34; 15:1-27). Thus these innocent sufferers assume the salvation-historical role of being the means by which God is able to turn in mercy again to His people; their suffering and death are vicarious.

Testament of Moses purports to be Moses' prophetic foretelling of the course of Israel's history, interpreted according to the principle of retributive justice. With the exception of chapters 6 and 7, which seem to be interpolations originating in the period after the death of Herod the Great, it probably dates from the time of Antiochus' persecution. This national crisis is interpreted as the second punishment that will come upon Israel on account of its sins, the first being the Babylonian exile. In this future historical context, the mysterious figure of Taxo will appear. Taxo is convinced that, if he and his seven sons, though innocent, willingly submit to death at the hands of the unrighteous, God will avenge their blood, which will be coterminous with the advent of the Kingdom of God: "There let us die rather than transgress the commandments of the Lord of Lords, the God of our fathers. For if we do this, and do die, our blood will be avenged by the Lord. Then his kingdom will appear throughout his whole creation. Then the devil will have an end. Indeed, sorrow will be led away with him" (9:6-10:1). At this time Israel's gentile enemies will be destroyed on the earth, while Israel looks on from its exalted place in heaven with God (10:2-10). It is probable that behind Taxo’s assertion is found the promise in Deut 32 that God would avenge the suffering of His people even without their repentance, as in 2 Macc 7. Nothing is said in this text about the ultimate compensation of Taxo and his sons, who suffer in order to induce God to give reprieve to the guilty nation and bring the kingdom of God. Rather, the few righteous suffer vicariously for the benefit of the many wicked. But it is probable that the author assumes that Israel's exaltation includes those righteous, now resurrected from the dead.

Writing possibly in the early first century, the author of 4 Maccabees re-tells the stories of the martyrdoms of Eleazar and the mother with her seven sons. It is the author's thesis that the Maccabean martyrs prove by their willingness to die for the law that reason can rule the passions; were this not so, these nine individuals would have recanted the religion of their ancestors. Although it may be reasonable for a person to die for the Law (see 6:27), the suffering and death of the Maccabean martyrs is also accorded a distinct salvation-historical function. Eleazar is condemned to death by burning because of his refusal to violate the Torah. At the point of death, he petitions God, "Be merciful to your people and let our punishment be a satisfaction for them. Make my blood a purification (katharsios) and take my life as a ransom (antipsuchon) for theirs" (6:28-29; see also 1:11). Likewise, concerning these martyrs the author comments towards the end of 4 Maccabees: "They became, as it were, as a ransom (antipsuchon) for the sin of our nation. And through the blood of those pious ones and the atoning value (hilasterios) of their death, divine providence saved Israel, which had been exceedingly mistreated" (17:21-22). The nation as a whole suffers justifiably on account of national sin. Unexpectedly, however, righteous individuals within the nation, those who refuse to disobey the Law even under the threat of torture, also suffer and die, becoming thereby the means by which cleansing comes to the nation. God assigns to the righteous minority the salvation-historical task of suffering undeservedly on behalf of the unrighteous, who really ought to be the ones suffering (see also 9:4; 12:18; 18:3-4). Their suffering and death are not only vicarious but also atoning (hilasterios is probably the equivalent of the Hebrew kpr). (Although 4 Maccabees stems from Hellenistic Judaism and many of the ideas therein derive from Stoicism, E. Lohse argues plausibly that the idea of representative death stems from Palestinian Judaism (Märtyrer und Gottesknecht, 71. D. Seeley takes exception to Lohse’s conclusion, arguing that the notion of vicarious and expiatory death is Hellenistic (Noble Death, 84-85). If there was some Hellenistic influence on the development of Jewish martyrology, however, it had been thoroughly assimilated, however, before the Christian period.)

Second, in early rabbinic tradition, suffering and death were conceived as means of atonement. (Although the early rabbinic writings are post-Christian, it is reasonable to suppose that many of the traditions contained therein reach back to the time of Jesus and earlier, given the conservative nature of rabbinic tradition [see Bastin, Jesus devant sa passion, 99].) In m. Sanh. 6.2, it is stated that, if a condemned person confesses his sin, his death will become an atonement for all his sins; death has an atoning benefit on the condition of confession of the sin for which one is being executed. Similarly, since they are only habitually obedient to the Torah, not perfectly so, in this age God manifests his mercy to the righteous before the final judgment by allowing their sufferings, when received with equanimity as from His God (see Mek. Bahodesh 2:114-17; Sipra Shemini Mekhilta DeMiluim 36), to atone for the guilt generated by previous sins. Thus, it is affirmed that a person ought to rejoice more in corrections than in prosperity because, “If one is prosperous all his life, no sin of his will be forgiven. What brings forgiveness of sin? Corrections by suffering.” R. Eliezer ben Jacob is then quoted as interpreting Prov 3:12 as follows: “Scripture says, `For whom the Lord loves he disciplines, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights'. What causes the son to be delighted in by his father? Corrections by suffering” (Sipre Deut 32; Mek. Bahodesh 10.26-32). In this interpretation of Prov 3:12, God's correction has an atoning effect. Because of their atoning value, therefore, corrections by suffering are above all the means of obtaining a place in the world to come (Sipre Deut 32; Mek. Bahodesh 10.48-53).R. Nehemiah argues that chastisements actually exceed sacrifices in their atoning value: “Indeed sufferings appease even more than sacrifices, for sacrifices involve one's money, while suffering involves one's body.” A passage from Job is cited as proof: “Skin for skin, and all that a man has he will give for his life” (Sipre Deut 32; Mek. Bahodesh 10.52-58). Likewise, R. Ishmael identifies suffering as a condition of atonement.In an effort to systematize different statements in scripture about atonement, R. Ishmael categorizes sins into four types, each having different conditions for its atonement. For one category of sin, suffering forms a part of the atoning process (Mek. Bahodesh 7:17-46).Ps 89 reiterates God's promise to David that he will not fail to have a descendant as king; verse 33 stipulates, however, that, if one of David's descendants fails to obey God, God will “punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging.” R. Ishmael understands the discipline referred to in Ps 89:33 to be atoning, and incorporates it as one of the components required for the possibility of being forgiven of a transgression of a positive commandment that is liable to death or being cut off:“Both repentance and the Day of Atonement together bring half a pardon. And chastisements secure him half a pardon” (7:35-36). Repentance, the Day of Atonement and chastisements together atone for this type of sin. In another place in Mekilta, R. Ishmael argues from minor to major (qal vahomer) that suffering obtains pardon from heaven. He reasons that, since a slave can obtain his freedom if physically injured by his master, the one who suffers at the hand of God should all the more obtain pardon (Mek. Nezikin 9.65-67).

In the early rabbinic sources, sometimes death is interpreted as being a vicarious atonement (Such material, however, does not exist in great abundance).R. Jochanan is recorded to have said that King Ahab's death on the battlefield atoned for the sins of Israel on that day (Bacher, Die Agada der Tannaiten, 2.124; Lohse, Märtyrer und Gottesknecht, 79). R. Sadok the elder relates a story in which a man whose son had been found dead between two villages, and the inhabitants of neither village bothered to bury the body. The man is said to have declared to the guilty villagers, "That I could be your atonement" (Sipre Num 35:34 (161). This suggests that the bearing of the guilt of another was a conceptual possibility. Similarly, R. Nathan taught that the fathers and the prophets—Moses and David—offered their own lives on behalf of Israel when the latter had incurred the wrath of God (Mek. Pisha 1.103-13). His interpretation of these biblical figures in terms of vicarious death again suggests that this interpretive category was available in the first century. In Mek. Nezikin 10.172-81, R. Ishmael, alluding to Isa 43:3 ("I will give Egypt for your atonement"), said that God would give the gentiles as an atonement for the Israelites. This is not the death of the righteous for the unrighteous, but the death of the more unrighteous for the less unrighteous. Nevertheless, the idea of vicarious and atoning death is clearly present.Finally, the death of an innocent child was believed to atone for the sins of its father (see Lohse, Märtyrer und Gottesknecht, 92-94).

4.2.2. The Word over the Bread

The more original version of the word over the cup is probably: "This cup [is] the new covenant in my blood." Likewise, the more original version of the word over the bread is probably: "This is my body (given) for you" (see Smith, Jesus' Last Passover Meal)

    At his last Passover meal, Jesus pronounces the blessing over the bread, breaks it, distributes it and unexpectedly interprets it with reference to his own body: "This is my body (given) for you." To interpret foods eaten at Passover was not unusual; Jesus would have done something similar during the recitation of the Passover haggadah (see Jesus' interpretation of the cup: New Covenant). But after the blessing of the bread and its distribution, normally nothing would be said of an interpretive nature. Jesus’ departure from procedure would have made an impression on those present. The term to sôma mou (‘my body’) is probably the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew/Aramaic gwpy ("my body") meaning "myself."’ Jesus’ statement could be paraphrased as follows: "This bread represents the giving of myself in death for your benefit." Jesus takes advantage of a place in the meal when he, as the paterfamilias, would have the attention of all those present for the meal, during the blessing said in common over the bread. Moreover, Jesus chooses the broken bread with which to compare himself, because it offers an appropriate metaphor for what is about to happen to him. The tertium comparationis is the fact that the bread is broken, i.e. destroyed, as his physical self is about to be.

    Taken by itself, Jesus’ word over the bread is a self-contained statement about the meaning of his impending death as vicarious, as benefiting others. But when placed against a paschal background, his meaning can be further elucidated: Jesus may be interpreting himself as the eschatological Passover lamb that will bring about eschatological redemption for Israel. Just as R. Meir sees the original sacrificial lambs as expiatory for the generation of the exodus, Jesus views his own death as the corresponding eschatological expiation for sin (Exod. Rab. 12:1 [15.12]). It is as an expiatory sacrifice for sin that Jesus sees his death as as vicarious, as benefiting others. Similarly, parallel to the way in which Isaac's sacrifice or willingness to be sacrificed was seen as the expiatory ground of the Passover sacrifices in Egypt, Jesus saw his own death as typologically fulfilling the original Passover sacrifices as their eschatological counterpart, as giving them their true salvation-historical meaning. The tradition of the binding of Isaac would have made Jesus' communication to his disciples of his own understanding of his death as antitypical of the original Passover sacrifices relatively simple. It is just a matter of replacing Isaac with himself, and making a few necessary alterations.

Mt. Moriah, the place where Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed, was identified in second-Temple interpretation as the site where David would later build the Temple. Josephus makes this explicit (Ant. 1.226), and Targum Neofiti on Gen 22 also makes the connection between Mt. Moriah and the Temple mount, including being the place where the antediluvian altars built by Adam and Noah. Jubilees likewise makes a point of identifying the mountain of the Lord on which Abraham bound Isaac (Jub. 18.7-18) with the mountain on which the Temple would later be built—Mt. Zion (Jub. 18.13). The theological point is clear: the binding of Isaac is related salvation-historically to the cultic centre of the world where the expiation of sin takes place. At some point in the development of Jewish haggadah, the binding of Isaac and its expiatory value was brought into relation with the Passover (Geza Vermes, "Redemption and Genesis XXII," in Scripture and Tradition in Judaism; Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History, 141-49; Le Déaut, La nuit paschale; Füglister, Heilsbedeutung des Pascha). The blood of the Passover lambs was viewed as efficacious as a result of Abraham’s prior willingness to sacrifice Isaac and Isaac’s willingness to be sacrificed (see Josephus, Ant. 1. 22-236; 4 Macc 13:12, 16:20; Sipre Deut. 6.5 (32); LAB 18.5; 32.2-4; 40.2). The Fragmentary Targum on Gen. 22 puts the following prayer in Abraham’s mouth after he sacrificed the ram caught in the thicket: "And now I pray for mercies before you, O Lord God, that when the children of Isaac offer in the hour of need, the binding of Isaac their father you may remember on their behalf, and remit and forgive their sins, and deliver them out of all need." The hour of need probably refers to the Egyptian slavery. Similarly, the Mekilta interprets the phrase in Exod 12:13 "And when I see the blood" as "(when) I see the blood of Isaac" (Mek. 12.13 [Pisha 7.78-82]). Later it interprets "blood," in the phrase "And when he sees the blood" in Exod 12:23 also to mean the blood of Isaac: when Abraham named the place where he bound and was willing to sacrifice Isaac "The Lord will see," what he meant, according to R. Ishmael, was that God would see the blood of Isaac when the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites (Mek. 12.23 [Pisha 11.92-96]). According to the Mekilta, Isaac’s blood was actually shed before the ram was substituted for him. Genesis Rabbah, however, states that not a drop of Isaac’s blood was shed; it was his readiness to be sacrificed that was meritorious (22.12). At any rate, Isaac’s act was seen as being the basis of the expiatory value of the Passover lambs. The same idea occurs in the poem of the four (Passover) nights in the Palestinian Targums, where it is specified that the binding of Isaac took place on Passover night. The occurrence of the Passover on the same night in which Isaac was offered up was not coincidental, but derives from the fact that both events belong together salvation-historically. Jubilees confirms this connection between Passover and the binding of Isaac, when it says that the incident on Mt. Moriah involving Abraham and Isaac occurred on Nisan 15 (Jub. 17/18; see also Exod. Rab. 15.11). Similarly, R. Meir brought Gen 22:8 ("God will provide Himself a lamb...," i.e. a substitution for Isaac) into association with Exod 12:5 ("Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year"). Previously, in his midrash on Exod 12, R. Meir said that the Passover lambs made expiation for Israel; by extension Isaac is really the expiatory ground of the Passover sacrifices (Exod. Rab. 17.3). Even the striking of the two side-posts is said to have been effective as a result of the merit of Isaac and Jacob; it was for them that God did not allow the Destroyer to enter (Exod. Rab. 12.22 [17.3]). The merit of Isaac likely was his binding. Not only did his binding render efficacious the Passover offerings, other sacrifices were intended to be a memorial of Isaac’s willing offering of himself and they derived their efficacy from this event (see Vermes, ‘Redemption and Genesis XXII’; Füglister, Heilsbedeutung des Pascha, 210-15).

    Jesus' word over the bread situated at the beginning of the main course and his word over the cup situated at the completion of the main course are a climactic parallelism. The word over the bread establishes that Jesus, as the eschatological paschal sacrifice, will die a expiatory death for the benefit of his disciples. The word over the cup builds upon this proposition, adding that this expiatory death will be the means by which the Jeremian new covenant will be realized (see New Covenant). Each member of the parallelism is understandable in itself, but the second member furthers the meaning of the first.

    Whether Jesus speaks more explicitly about the typological correspondence between his impending death and the Passover sacrifices in Egypt is difficult to prove. The sources are silent in this regard. If Jesus says nothing more than the word over the bread and the word over the cup, it would be difficult for his disciples to understand his meaning. For this reasons it is suggested that during the Passover haggadah, Jesus speaks at length concerning himself as the eschatological Passover lamb. Since during the Passover haggadah, elements of the meal, including the Passover lamb, are interpreted as symbolic of some aspect of the experience of the generation of the exodus, Jesus may have taken this opportunity to speak about his death in terms of the original Passover sacrifices. Although this point cannot be proven definitively, it is probable that Jesus does not restrict his comments concerning his death to the words of institution. Jesus' words are simply too cursory to be fully meaningful.

The words of institution have never been a strong candidate for authenticity. The foremost argument against their authenticity is that they do not meet the criterion of discontinuity. The early church conceived Jesus' death as expiatory. Since there is so much overlap between the "Gemeindetheologie" and the portrayal in the synoptic gospels of Jesus' understanding his death in expiatory terms, the suspicion is aroused that the words of institution, as they stand, represent the retrojection of the theology of the early church into the life of Jesus. The eschatological outlook (Mark 14:25 = Luke 22:15-18) is often preferred as being what the historical Jesus says at his last meal, since it meets the criterion of discontinuity. The criterion of discontinuity is, however, a coarse methodological sieve. It might be said that the commonest error respecting non-historicity turns on a false analogy. It is the assumption that, since discontinuity with the transmitting church establishes historicity, continuity with the transmitting church establishes non-historicity. In the case of the words of institution, it is possible that the stress laid upon Jesus’ expiatory death was the result of Jesus’ own understanding of his death in such terms. In fact this is a much more viable explanation of the data than the contrary.

Another major objection to the authenticity of any of the present versions of the words of institution is that they do not meet the criterion of coherence. The hypothesis that Jesus understands his death as an expiation for sin runs counter to his message as the preacher of the Kingdom of God. It is argued that the paucity of references to Jesus’ expiatory death in the gospels and the incompatibility of Jesus’ understanding of his death as a condition of the forgiveness of sins with his preaching of the unconditional love of God tells against the acceptance of the view that Jesus interprets his death as an expiation for sin. On this interpretation, Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God has drawn near, wherein God freely forgives sinners without any longer requiring expiation for those sins. It cannot be true that Jesus both teaches this and that he interprets his death as an expiatory sacrifice. Since it is so poorly attested in the tradition, Jesus' explanation of his death in expiatory terms is judged be secondary. The application of the criterion of coherence is circular, since what one knows about Jesus is a function of what one has reconstructed from the so-called authentic material. But the possibility must be considered that by excluding the datum of Jesus' understanding of his death in expiatory terms as inauthentic, one cannot fully appreciate how Jesus makes sense of his vocation as the preacher of the Kingdom of God in light of his approaching death. What needs to be taken into account is the shift in the orientation of Jesus’ ministry as a reaction to the resistance and rejection that he experienced. In a rejection context, Jesus sees his death as part of his salvation-historical mission, even though that death is also the result of the historical contingent event of the rejection of him and his message of the Kingdom of God by his generation. Jesus interprets his role as the mediator of eschatological salvation as extending into death.

It is certain that Jesus anticipates his own rejection and violent end. The execution of John the Baptist and Jesus’ own earlier association with John's mission, in addition to the resistance that Jesus experiences to his own ministry, combined to make the probability of his own execution unquestionably high. Moreover, Jesus understands his mission after the historical paradigm of the prophets. Since they were put to death, so Jesus must suffer the same fate. It would be surprising if Jesus does not foresee and expect his own death. Therefore, any reconstruction of Jesus’ teaching that does not deal with how he understands his approaching death in light of his role as the messenger of the Kingdom of God is historically questionable. The words of institution represent a very early statement of how Jesus interprets his role as the messenger of the Kingdom in light of his rejection. In conclusion, there is no reason to reject their authenticity.

 
 

Questions

How does Jesus understand the salvation-historical significance of his death in the Gospel of John? How does Jesus understand the salvation-historical significance of his death in the synoptic gospels?

 

 

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