Κυριακή, 5 Μαρτίου 2017

Richard Carrier : The Dying Messiah Redux


The Dying Messiah Redux

The following article has been revised and corrected, with appreciation to the critiques and analyses of Thom Stark. Revisions may continue so as to perfect the content and make this article of greatest utility. Latest revision: June 29 (2012).
Last year I made the case that the idea of a “dying messiah” was not wholly anathema to Jews and even already imagined by some before Christianity made a lot of hay out of the idea. I made small revisions to that article (The Dying Messiah) to make its claims and evidence clearer. This year, Thom Stark (a seminary graduate) wrote a response (The Death of Richard Carrier’s Dying Messiah) and discussion on his blog has continued since (culminating in It Is Finished for Richard Carrier’s Dying Messiah). His analysis has changed my opinions and conclusions on several matters, and identified several errors in my original analysis (now corrected or removed), but does not change the overall thesis. Some of his replies also get wrong what I said or quote me out of context or go off on irrelevant digressions, but I won’t waste words on that. I’ll just cut to the chase and deal with the relevant evidence and argument.

The Dying-and-Rising Messiah ben Joseph

The evidence from the Talmud cannot be dismissed so easily. If b.Sanhedrin 98b explicitly says the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is the messiah (and it does), and if b.Sanhedrin 93b says the messiah will endure great suffering (and it does), and b.Sukkah 52a-b likewise has a dying-and-rising “Christ son of Joseph” ideology in it (and it does), even saying (quoting Zechariah 12:10) that this messiah will be “pierced” to death (and it does), then my statement “only when Jews had no idea what Christians would do with this connection would they themselves have put it in there” becomes obviously correct: there is no plausible way later Jews would invent interpretations of their scripture that supported and vindicated Christians. They would not invent a Messiah with a father named Joseph who dies and is resurrected. They would not proclaim Isaiah 53 to be about the messiah and admit that Isaiah there predicted the messiah would die and be resurrected. That was the very chapter Christians were using to prove their case (and which scholars like Bart Ehrman keep insisting only Christians saw as messianic). So we have evidence here of a Jewish belief that predates Christian evangelizing, even if the evidence survives only in later sources.
The alternative is to assume an unbelievable coincidence: that Christians and Jews, completely independently of each other, just happened at some point to see Isaiah 53 as messianic and preach an ideology of a messiah with a father named Joseph (regardless of whether literal or symbolic) who endures great suffering, dies and is resurrected (all as the savior in Isaiah 53 does). Amazing coincidences like that are very improbable. Whereas a causal chain is not: if this was a pre-Christian ideology that influenced (and thus caused) both the Christian and the Jewish ideologies, then we have only one element to explain (the rise of this idea once), instead of having to believe the same idea arose twice, purely coincidentally. Two improbable events by definition are many times less likely than one. That means one of these theories is many times more likely than the other. Conversely, if we do fall on this sword and insist, against all probability, that yes, the same ideas arose twice independently of each other, then this entails the idea was very easy for Jews to arrive at, which then entails it was not an improbable development in the first place. And thus neither will it have been for Christians, any more than it was for Talmudic Jews.

The Super-Christ of the Jonathan Targum

I had only cited the Targum as (additional) evidence that some first century Jews saw Isaiah 52-53 as messianic (because Jonathan actually inserted the word “messiah” into it, unless that was done by later redactors, for some unspecified reason). I did not use the Targum as evidence of a belief in a dying messiah. Nevertheless, the Targum, which otherwise downplays the suffering-and-dying element (transforming the figure into a more awesome one, eliminating all the pathos of the original), still says “he delivered up his soul to death” (53:12, as Stark’s own quoted translation reads) and that this somehow effected his victory. When this was pointed out, Stark resorted to special pleading about what the Aramaic might instead mean, exposing the fact that this is really more ambiguous than he let on at first. Now the issue hinges on whether the Aramaic translates as “he delivered up his soul to death” (as expert translators conclude) or as “he was willing to face death” (or “something similar”) as Stark suggests.
I was open to being corrected on this. Until I decided to research the targumim and other background elements and found Stark’s case a great deal weaker than he lets on. He appeals to two arguments, context and linguistic precedent. Regarding context he (now) says:
All the suffering of the original Servant is transmuted to either his enemies or to Israel everywhere else in the targum; he is said quite clearly to have conquered his enemies in the targum; and directly after the phrase, “he delivered up his soul to death,” it is said that he divides up the spoil of his enemies and is given his share (which would be difficult to do if he were dead, and no mention whatsoever is made of any resurrection).
The first point is too weak to credit. The figure’s death would still be a known element from the Hebrew (and even Septuagint) versions of this passage. The Hebrew in fact would often have even been read out loud before turning to the targum. It’s not as if all the Jews reading this Targum would not be aware of that. Jonathan or his redactors might well have been retaining the bare element of the original (the sacrificial death), while transforming the remainder into something more triumphant (“interpreting” as much as possible as being about Israel or its enemies). Any interpretation we make has to take this into account: many readers of the targum would know the original text (even if only through a Greek translation). A targum is not meant to be a literal translation but a paraphrase or explanation of the original Hebrew.
Stark seems to imagine Jews pulling the wool over each other’s eyes by sneakily rewriting the entire passage to say something completely different and hoping no one would notice. Not even the scholars who troubled to continue copying and preserving Jonathan’s Targum? Not even the hearers who knew the Hebrew or the Greek? That’s essentially impossible. The Targum can only be understood as an interpretation of the Hebrew text. Not an attempt to replace it (as if Jonathan knew better than Isaiah what God had really said to him). In that cultural and literary context, we cannot assume Jonathan intended to wholly eclipse the death of the “Servant” (the “Arm of God”) that too many of his readers would already know is clearly declared in the original Word of God. We would need a better argument than that before concluding something so extraordinary.
Of course, it’s entirely possible Jonathan chose an ambiguous phrase precisely so he could have it both ways (concealing the death from ignorant hearers, without contradicting that death in the presence of informed hearers). But above all, Jonathan himself knew full well what the Hebrew said. Yet he chose to declare this chapter to be messianic anyway. Again, a strange coincidence, given that we see the same thing in the Talmud. Jews were thus more than willing to see Isaiah 53 as messianic, and could so easily come upon the idea, that they did so at least three separate times (the Talmudic doctrine, the Jonathan doctrine, and the Christian doctrine). Unless these are not three independent arrivals at the same idea, but all causally derived from a single idea preceding them all. Either way, we must conclude, what Jonathan did, anyone else could do, and may well have done before him.
For example, anyone who read his Targum, and then the Hebrew (or Greek), could put two and two together: “this servant is the messiah” + “this servant dies and is buried and then exalted” = “the messiah dies and is buried and then exalted,” the very doctrine we see in the Talmud (as discussed above), which just happens to be the same doctrine adopted by Christians. Stark wants this to be a total, amazing, incredible coincidence. But coincidences are by definition improbable. That all three instances reflect developments in different directions of the same original thought (that Isaiah 53 is about the messiah) is the more probable hypothesis, because it requires (at most) only one improbable event rather than two, much less three. And in that event, what Jonathan actually meant to say with his Targum is irrelevant to my point that Jews were seeing Isaiah 53 as messianic independently of Christianity, and some would recognize that this meant the messiah’s death and burial had been prophesied.
Accordingly, Stark’s second contextual argument is a non-starter. The original Hebrew also has the dead servant “dividing up the spoil of his enemies and being given his share” (and without explicit mention of a resurrection). And yet the original clearly and unmistakably means to say he did indeed die (and was even buried: 53:8-11) and yet is then rewarded–literally God says “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” (NIV 53:12). Since Isaiah had said earlier that “he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted” (52:13), yet nothing like this occurs until after his death (in the Hebrew text), one must infer that he divides the spoil after being resurrected from the dead (or somehow symbolically, in the success of his progeny). Certainly that is what a first century Jew would most likely make of this passage. And if that’s true in general, it would be true of Jonathan and his (more educated) readers.
At any rate, since the original Hebrew clearly has a dead guy dividing the spoils, we cannot infer the Targum intended anything else when it says the same thing. It does no good to say that the authors of Isaiah meant this death to be a metaphor for Israel’s demise (and restoration), because Jonathan is identifying this person as the messiah, not Israel (transferring only some characteristics from one to the other). Likewise the Talmudic rabbis. And what we are concerned to know is how the passage was being interpreted, not how it was intended.
So much for the argument from context. What about from the language? Stark says:
I originally stated that it is like the Aramaic phrase should be translated, “he was willing to face death,” or something similar. I then looked into it, asked some friends who work in Aramaic, and checked the secondary literature, and as it turns out, my guess is confirmed: whenever that phrase occurs in the Aramaic Targums, it is unambiguously idiomatic for “he risked his life,” or “to put oneself in danger.” (E.g., Tg. Onq. Deut 24:15; Tg. Ps.-J Num 31:5; Tg. Judg. 9:17 and Tg. Ps. 99:6.) So, while I wouldn’t say it’s 100% impossible that the text means “he died,” I would say that almost certainly it just means that he is being rewarded for risking his life.
Stark’s own argument from context would refute his own argument here: since nowhere in the Targum is there any mention of this messiah risking his life or putting himself in danger, either. He is uniformly invincible and triumphant. So “he died” would make just as much sense as “he risked his life,” neither having any precedent in the preceding verses. So why are we to prefer Stark’s interpretation over the one that actually corresponds to the Hebrew this targum is interpreting? I am not an expert in Aramaic, but the passages he cites as precedents aren’t contextually similar (e.g. the Numbers passage refers to future possibility, not past fact, hence “willing to surrender their lives” is how the Liturgical Press translation reads), nor do they all “unambiguously” mean risk and not gave.
The Psalms Targum for example reads (according to a professional translation by Edward Cook, endorsed by the International Organization for Targumic Studies), “Moses and Aaron are among his priests who gave their life for the people of the Lord, and Samuel prayed for them before the Lord, like the fathers of old, who prayed in his name; they would pray in his presence and he would answer them” (9:6). The David Stec translation published by Liturgical Press (The Targum of Psalms, pub. 2004) reads, “Moses and Aaron were among his priests who surrendered their lives for the sake of the people of the Lord; and Samuel prayed for them before the Lord, like the fathers of old who prayed in his name; they were praying before the Lord, and he was answering.” So Stark cannot say the meaning of this phrase is “unambiguously” not what these translators say it is. Clearly it can mean both, and context is determinate. And we just saw where context gets us. (And this point holds even if we conclude that Cook and Stec have both mistranslated the Psalms Targum 9:6, since their translations still entail that more than one expert agrees the phrase can mean that, even if for some reason it doesn’t there.)
Ironically, I had originally assumed this Targum did not preserve the dying-messiah element and only attested the early understanding of this servant as the messiah. Yet after Stark’s argument led me to investigate further, I am actually more doubtful of that conclusion. So in effect, Stark’s attempt to argue against the existence of a dying messiah in this text has actually made the case for the existence of a dying messiah in this text stronger. I do not conclude it is a certainty, since there remains some ambiguity. But on present evidence it looks to me like the odds favor retention of the concept, and just a softening of its pathos. And either way, this Targum (especially in conjunction with the Talmud) proves how easily Jews could conclude Isaiah 53 was about the messiah, and thus there cannot be anything improbable about the Christians having done so.
There is a separate issue of date, and that’s more complex. Stark argues (here and subsequently) that one verse here suggests a post-war date (and some scholars conclude the same, dating it to the late first century) because in this version it is said the messiah “will build up the Holy Place, which has been polluted for our sins, and delivered to the enemy for our iniquities” (53:5; technically “the enemy” is not in the text, but it’s reasonably inferred). Part of the problem with this is that in The Glory of Israel: The Theology and Provenience of the Isaiah Targum, Bruce Chilton finds several places in it where the temple is assumed to still be standing and others where it is assumed to have been destroyed, and he assembles other like evidence to conclude that this targum has been redacted over time.
So it’s entirely possible Jonathan did not write verse 53:5 as we have it (Jonathan ben Uzziel was famously a student of Hillel, d. c. 10 A.D., and a contemporary of Shammai, d. c. 30 A.D., and thus certainly did not compose his original targum after the Jewish War, which began in 66, and resulted in the temple’s destruction in 70). It all becomes a question of which parts of chapters 52-53 were redacted and when. And when it comes to the verses assigning this passage to the messiah and declaring his possible death, Chilton says (emphasis added):
[It] is not that Aramaic phrase unequivocally means the messiah did die, but merely that it is susceptible of the interpretation that he did so, and that therefore the Targumic rendering of Isaiah 53 should not be characterized as univocally anti-Christian (and post-Christian).
This again, entails an ambiguity that can’t be resolved. Some scholars even propose that Jonathan’s treatment of Isaiah 53 was rewritten later to construct an anti-Christian polemic, although that is overly speculative and doesn’t fit all the evidence. But alas, that again introduces uncertainty. In the end, what we can say for certain is that the Targum evinces that some first century Jews did understand Isaiah 53 to be about the messiah (and many of those same Jews would have known that the original Hebrew of the Word of God said that this same figure would die and be buried). Which was all I intended it to prove. At most, I have to concede the possibility that the text post-dates the origin Christianity by a generation or two, and thus does not conclusively prove pre-Christian Jews were thinking along these lines (although neither would a later date prove they weren’t). But since my argument was first for the possibility (and thus against the extreme argument, as we see from Bart Ehrman, that “no Jews would ever think this”) and my case for the actuality was based on a different text entirely (treated below), very little difference is made to my argument overall.
And I think we can be even more certain than that, when we consider how improbable it is that two (much less three) separate sets of Jews (Christians, Jonathan, and the Talmudic rabbis) would all independently conclude that Isaiah 53 is about the messiah. It is more likely this was already a notion developed by pre-Christian Jews, and subsequently developed in three different directions, than that the same thing happened two or three times. And even if we resort to insisting on the latter, we are declaring such a realization to be so likely, such a notion so easily imagined, that we need no other explanation for how Christians would come upon the idea.

A Distinction Between Hypothesis and Evidence

Notably, Stark agrees with me against Ehrman on the matter of possibility, saying:
I have never argued that “no one could think of a suffering messiah before Jesus.” I have consistently said that anything is possible, but what we need is evidence that anyone did have a conception of a suffering messianic figure prior to Christianity, in order to advance the thesis that, well, someone did have a conception of a suffering messianic figure prior to Christianity. I’ve never argued that such a thing would be impossible.
Stark still, however, confuses explanation with evidence. I advanced two different theses in my original article: first, that it is possible; second, that we have evidence of it. Stark is right that I need to present specific evidence for a pre-Christian notion of a dying messiah among the Jews to maintain that. But I do not need that to propose it as an explanation of Christianity. “Christianity arose from a sect of Jews that came to expect a dying messiah” remains a plausible hypothesis even if we can’t prove such a sect existed, because (a) we know there were many diverse sects of Jews with many diverse notions against the leading orthodoxy and we know nothing about most of them, therefore (b) an argument from silence to the conclusion “no such sect existed” is invalid, and (c) the scriptural inspiration and logic for such an idea is easily discerned (and if it’s easy for us, it would have been easy for at least someone to have noticed it during centuries of thousands of Jews scrambling to look for God’s secret messages in scripture; that later Talmudic Jews hit upon many of the same conclusions independently would only verify this point). For (c) I detail the evidence in Not the Impossible Faith (pp. 34-44; although Stark correctly notes I have there misread Isaiah 49, so it should no longer be included in its evidence). For (a) (and therefore (b)) I survey the evidence and scholarship in The Empty Tomb (pp. 107-13).
In logical terms, “Christianity arose from a sect of Jews that came to expect a dying messiah” is a hypothesis that we can then test against the evidence. If it explains the evidence better than alternatives, then it is more probably true than alternatives (and as a hypothesis it’s already more likely than, for example, “Christians only started believing this because Jesus actually rose from the dead”). It therefore does not require direct evidence of “there was a sect of Jews that came to expect a dying messiah.” Because if all the other evidence is better explained by the proposition that “there was sect of Jews that came to expect a dying messiah,” then that other evidence is evidence that “there was a sect of Jews that came to expect a dying messiah.” Indirect inference is routine in historical argument, and known in every other field (even subatomic particles are inferred from indirect evidence, never actually seen). For example, that Henry assassinated William II is a hypotheses, which we can argue for from whether it explains the evidence of what happened better, without requiring a confession by Henry or an eyewitness to the deed (Proving History, pp. 273-75).
The fact is, we lack evidence detailing the beliefs of dozens of Jewish sects, and no evidence at all naming (much less describing in detail) which sect Christianity grew out of (e.g. what sect Peter was most enamored with or devoted to before he joined the movement; or, on a historicist thesis, what sect or sects Jesus originally came from or was educated in; or even what sects Paul was influenced by, if any before the Christian sect, that led him to abandon the Pharisee sect). So we know it’s very likely we won’t have evidence of such a thing as that the seminal sect Christianity grew out of was already expecting a dying messiah. Thus, whether it was or not, is either unknowable (in which case it can’t be denied as a possibility), or can be inferred from evidence we do have (such as that the crucifixion of the messiah was always said to have been discovered in scripture: 1 Cor. 15:3-4 and Rom. 16:25-26; or that there was already a firstborn son of God named Jesus in heaven since the beginning of all creation in some pre-Christian Jewish theology, cf. NIF, pp. 250-51).
Again, in principle. Whether the evidence actually is better explained this way remains to be seen (and is what I will explore in my next book On the Historicity of Jesus Christ). Here my point is only that it has enough plausibility to at least ask that question. We must compare this hypotheses with all others before coming to a conclusion.
Thus it’s important to distinguish a case for plausibility from a case for actuality. The Talmud and Targum (and the case made in NIF) are all evidence for plausibility, not actuality (although they do make a cumulative probabilistic case in support of the actuality). And they therefore must be evaluated as such. But I do make a more direct argument for actuality, too. And that I make from the Melchizedek scroll recovered from Qumran, which dates to the first century B.C. and thus definitely predates Christianity. So to that we now turn…

The Dying Christ in 11Q13

In a fragmentary scroll transcribed by Jewish sectarians at least a century before Christianity and recovered last century from the caves of Qumran, we have a particular pesher, which is a document recording an attempt to discover hidden messages in the Scriptures by finding secret links among disparate and previously unrelated verses, which together communicate God’s plan, most commonly his plans for the coming messiah, the defeat of evil, and the end of the world. There are many such pesherim at Qumran, and this one (called the Melchizedek Scroll, because it speaks repeatedly of a cosmic Melchizedek figure) reports that the “messenger” of Isaiah 52-53 who will bring an end to sin (presaging God’s final victory) is the same man as the messiah of Daniel 9 who dies around the same time an end to sin is said to be accomplished (presaging God’s final victory), after which (the pesher says) God will overthrow all demonic forces. Thus, this pesher predicts that a messiah will die, and this will mark the final days in which God’s agent(s) will defeat Belial (Satan) and rescue his elect.
Though fragmentary, every possible reconstruction of this section of the scroll entails that it said the one who “brings the gospel” in Isaiah 52:7 is the “Christ” in Daniel 9:25-26. From Isaiah it is clear the one who “brings the gospel” and “declares salvation” in 52:7 is the “Arm of the Lord” who brings “salvation” in 52:8-12 (cf. 52:10), and in 53:1 this same “Arm of the Lord” is identified as the “servant” in 52:13-53:12 (both verses 52:13 and 53:11, which frame the narrative, identify the same figure as God’s “servant,” and he is said to be God’s “arm” right in between, at 53:1). The RSV translation renders this most clearly (Is. 52:6-10):
Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; “here am I.” How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of [the messenger] who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” Hark, your watchmen lift up their voice, together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Isaiah says there will come a special day when people will see God’s presence among them, by realizing it is him speaking. Speaking how? Through the messenger who announces salvation and peace and brings “the good news” (literally “the gospel,” as he will “evangelize,” in the Septuagint) and announces that in his coming God now reigns in Jerusalem. Isaiah then says the guards of the city will thus see in this messenger the return of the Lord, and Isaiah calls on them to break into song at this sight. Because it means God has redeemed them. How has he redeemed them? He has “bared his holy arm” before their eyes, and therefore salvation has come (“God’s salvation,” incidentally, being a cognate of “God’s savior,” which is the name of Jesus). The holy arm is therefore the messenger.
Stark argues that this refers to Cyrus the Great (who liberated Israel and announced that their God can reign in Jerusalem again and thus manifested God’s might), and I agree. But that confuses what the original authors of Isaiah meant, with what the author of 11Q13 understood it to mean. We are here only interested in the latter. Even in its original meaning, Cyrus was the messenger who published salvation and declared to Jerusalem that its God now reigns, and thus the messenger and savior in Isaiah 52 are the same person. But that event was long past, and the author of 11Q13 thinks Isaiah is talking about something that hasn’t yet happened. So he cannot be reading this as about Cyrus anymore. He also thinks this messenger is someone the prophets all spoke of, someone who is Anointed in the Spirit and spoken of in Daniel 9, so obviously he doesn’t think it’s just some random messenger.
We must take all of this into account when deciding how the author of 11Q13 is reading Isaiah. The text of Isaiah as written asks who has believed this message and sees the Arm of Jehovah (53:1), then immediately has this Arm being executed and buried (53:2ff.), then twice calls this same person (the one who is executed and buried) God’s exalted servant (52:13 and 53:11-12). The pronoun/verb of verse 2 should grammatically refer to the last subject named in verse 1, which is the Arm of Jehovah. Stark argues that despite this, the subject has nevertheless changed (without explicit indication), from Cyrus to Israel (in fact that transition will have occurred at verse 52:13, with 53:1 as a mere interjection). Which may indeed be what the authors of Isaiah intended, but we’re only concerned with what the author of 11Q13 thought Isaiah meant.
The key element of this section is that this messenger comes on a special day, the very day that redemption and salvation come. What happens on that special day? The text of Isaiah, read without the change of subject, says that this “arm of God” who brings salvation and redeems Israel will be despised, executed even though innocent, and buried. Then he will be exalted and rewarded (by the time this pesher was written, that would most readily be taken to mean that he was resurrected). As the text of Isaiah says (53:12), God will “divide him a portion with the great” such that this dead savior “shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors: yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Thus everyone’s sins are forgiven because of his sacrifice, which is an actual death, that atones for all sins. As Isaiah explains (53:10-11), “it was the will of the LORD to bruise him” and put him to grief (by killing him), and “when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand,” amazing things to accomplish if you’re dead (hence by the first century B.C. a Jew who read this as referring to the messiah would normally infer God will resurrect him, thereby “prolonging his days” and allowing God’s will to prosper “in his hand”), and his death will “make many to be accounted righteous” because “he shall bear their iniquities” and thus Jehovah “will be satisfied.”
Why would the author of this pesher think this was the same guy spoken of in Daniel 9:24-27? Because many of the same things are said there (here using the ASV translation):
Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity [i.e. “atone for sins“], and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times. And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off, and {shall have} nothing [the Septuagint instead reads:and {i.e. even though} there is no judgment upon him“]: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined. And he [i.e. the prince] shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate.
Note the important introduction here of a timetable: seventy periods of seven years will pass between the “word of restoration” (regarding the rebuilding of Jerusalem) and a special day when there will be made “an end to sin” by a special “atonement” that produces “everlasting righteousness.” Isaiah 52 also speaks of a special day when there will be made an end to sin by a special atonement: the atoning death of God’s “servant,” which on a grammatically literal reading is the messenger who announces salvation on that very day, and is seen to be the vessel of God coming to reign in Jerusalem. (It doesn’t matter that the authors of Isaiah didn’t say this atonement will be permanent, because it is the author of 11Q13 who is concluding that it is, by connecting it with the “end” of sins in Daniel 9 through the timetable of 9:24, and all the pesher’s own talk about a final Day of Atonement, which is now said to be the day spoken of in Isaiah. Again, 11Q13 is saying this. Not Isaiah. Stark has a hard time grasping these distinctions.)
Both might have another thing in common: according to the second century translation of Theodotion, in both cases the one killed, at the very time this final atonement for sins is accomplished, is killed even though innocent. The extant Hebrew of Daniel reads literally “the anointed one shall be cut down and [there is] nothing for him” which is unclear (it can have many interpretations, only one of which is “shall have nothing”). But Theodotion’s translation shows that at least one Jewish reader (Theodotion) understood it as “nothing was the judgment upon him,” i.e. he will be killed even though in fact innocent. Unfortunately, of all the fragments of Daniel recovered from Qumran, none include this part of the book, so we don’t know what form of the text was being used there. And Stark is right, we cannot establish that anyone before Theodotion thought the same as he. But it is again a remarkable coincidence, that 11Q13 saw the atonement day of Isaiah 52-53 (which atonement day involved the death of an innocent) as involving the Christ of Daniel 9, and that Theodotion (independently?) likewise saw the Christ of Daniel 9 as the death of an innocent.
This is the background. So let’s look at what the Dead Sea pesher says. I will here use the translation and reconstruction of Géza Vermès in The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (6th ed., 2011; I have the 7th ed. on kindle, which will be available in print later this year, but there is no significant difference for our purposes), pp. 532-33. The relevant section of this fragmentary scroll reads (interpreting the “Jubilee” of Leviticus 25:13):
[He] will assign them to the Sons of Heaven and to the inheritance of Melchizedek, f[or He will cast] their [lot] amid the po[rtions of Melchize]dek, who will return them there and will proclaim to them liberty, forgiving them [the wrong-doings] of all their iniquities. And this thing will [occur] in the first week of the Jubilee that follows the nine Jubilees. And the Day of Atonement is the e[nd of the] tenth [Ju]bilee, when all the Sons of [Light] and the men of the lot of Mel[chi]zedek will be atoned for.
The text goes on to describe this Melchizedek as a divine figure, an eschatological savior, and celestial judge who will battle and defeat “Belial” and “the spirits of his lot” (Satan and his demons). At which it continues:
This is the Day of [Peace/Salvation] concerning which [God] spoke [through Isa]iah the prophet, who said: “[How] beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion: ‘Your God [reigns]’” [Is. 52:7]. Its interpretation: the “mountains” are the prophets […] and the “messenger” is the Anointed One of the spirit, concerning whom Dan[iel] said, […] [the text is lost at this point but it can only have been Daniel 9:25 or 9:26].
This pesher thus concluded that the “messenger” of Isaiah 52:7 is the same person as the “Christ” described in Daniel 9:24-27, and that this same man has been discussed by all the prophets (he has literally walked upon them, and it was beautiful). This is not only explicit. It is also implicit in the use of the Danielic timetable to interpret the Jubilee. The pesher says that a great “Day of Atonement,” when all sins (of the elect) would be forgiven, will take place at the end of the tenth Jubilee, in other words at the end of 490 years (a Jubilee being 49 years, ten Jubilees makes 490 years). Daniel also says that all sins will be atoned for in seventy periods of seven years, in other words after 490 years (Daniel 9:24). This is not a coincidence. The pesher’s author clearly understands these to be speaking of the same sequence of events (however reinterpreted), and thus is using a lot more from Daniel 9 than the material quoted.
The pesher then says this great “Day of Atonement” is the same singular “Day” spoken of in Isaiah 52-53 (cf. 52:6-7), the day in which, once again, all sins are atoned for–evidently by the death of God’s servant who “brings salvation” (Is. 52:7, 10; Is. 53:1, 9-10). Since the author of this pesher understood both Daniel 9 and Isaiah 52-53 to be speaking of the same day of atonement, and in both (Daniel and Isaiah) that atonement occurs in conjunction with the death of God’s chosen one (his “messenger/arm/servant” who brings “salvation” in Isaiah; and his “christ/messiah/anointed” in Daniel), it cannot be denied by any reasonable argument that this pesher’s author thought an eschatological Christ-figure would die to atone for the sins of God’s elect, before Satan was defeated and God’s messianic reign would begin. The logic of his analysis entails nothing else. We have two days described, during which a chosen one of God dies (his servant; his anointed), and all sin ends by a singular atonement. And the pesher explicitly says these two days are the same day, which will occur at the end of the same 490 year period.
This scroll therefore says a messiah will die. And not just die, but die to atone for all sins, once and for all, and thereby usher in the end of the world. Does that sound familiar? Stark’s attempt to claim that pesherim never consider the context of the verses they cite and never intend readers to infer that the context matters, does not fit what is going on here. It would be the bizarrest of coincidences that all these parallels just happen to exist between (a) Daniel 9:24-27 and (b) Isaiah 52:6-53:12 and (c) the pesher’s argument as to when the final Day of Atonement would come, and yet the pesher’s author was unaware of it, uninfluenced by it, and never intended it to be understood. He just got incredibly, stupefyingly lucky. And was so incredibly, stupefyingly dense he never noticed it himself, even when reading the text of Isaiah and Daniel. Odds on all that? Low.

Thom Stark’s Reply

Stark argues that it matters whether Daniel 9:25 or 9:26 was quoted in the missing section. I did not believe so, but Stark has more than demonstrated that many early commentators saw the Christs in those two verses as different people, in which case it may indeed matter. However, if both verses were taken by this pesher’s author as the same Christ, and if (as he then says) the “messenger” in Isaiah is this Christ, then the pesher is saying he is the same Christ that dies. The author would not need to quote 9:26 to indicate that. A quotation of 9:25 would do just as well. That’s what follows if verses 25-27 are taken to refer to the same people and events, which occur by the same timetable (the very timetable that the pesher is explicitly concluding applies to Isaiah 52-53). But is that what the pesher’s author understood?
I would say that if we assume not, then it’s 50/50 which it is. Since either verse 25 or 26 has an equal chance of fitting the text. Stark’s attempt to argue otherwise rests on conjectures about what followed the quotation, but we really don’t know, the text is missing, so we don’t know how much of Daniel was quoted (in fact we don’t even know the quotation began immediately after Daniel’s name was written, there could have been more words of preface or explanation). Thus on the textual evidence alone it’s as likely as not that the scroll quoted 9:25 or 9:26. However, Stark produces a very good theoretical interpretation of what the author of 11Q13 is saying, which conforms to a very plausible reconstruction of the text as quoting this much of Daniel 9:25: “until an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks,” which intends the reader to check the text and know, not only the context established by verse 24 (of the entire timetable leading up to the day of “atonement” that the pesher is talking about), but also the rest of verse 25, particularly the preface, that it is “from the word that went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks.” How this makes my case I’ll get to shortly. But first we must get the rest out of the way.
Stark says the “pesher scrolls at Qumran routinely took snippets of verses out of context, with no regard to their original meaning, and made them to say what they wanted them to say for their own agenda” and therefore (we’re supposed to infer) they did not intend the reader to look at the original context. That’s false. What he says is correct (their original meaning was indeed thus disregarded), but what he wants us to infer from it is not (that the literary context of quoted verses was therefore irrelevant). And Stark’s own reconstruction here is a case in point: as he presents the text, it does not quote the whole line, or the surrounding verses, yet still clearly expects the reader to know them and understand their relevance. Thus the pesher quotes one piece of a line and expects the reader to go and look to see what is said about that event or person, knowing now that it is being said about the event or person the pesher identifies (seen now with the pesher’s new reinterpretation). Thus, for example, it quotes one line from Isaiah 52 and says this is about the same man spoken of in Daniel 9. The reader then knows to apply everything said about that man in Daniel to everything said about that man in Isaiah 52 and thus understand what God was really revealing through the prophets.
This is obvious already from the pesher saying “this day” means the day referred to in Isaiah 52, without quoting verse 6 that mentions it being about a special day. It just quotes verse 7, knowing the reader will look it up and see that this section speaks of a special Day of Atonement, the very same thing the pesher has been going on about and says is the day spoken of here (verse 6 saying it is a special day of God’s arrival, and subsequent verses spelling out how the special great atonement will be achieved in that day, by the “savior’s” death, for which he will be exalted). Note that it is the pesher that is saying “that day” is the Day of Atonement (thus what the original authors of Isaiah meant is wholly irrelevant).
Likewise when we are then told in this pesher that the “messenger” spoken of in this section is the same man spoken of in Daniel 9:25-26, we are meant to do the same thing: go check the context and see what is said about that man. And there we see again a special (Day) of Atonement is mentioned (once again in a verse the pesher does not cite but clearly has in mind, verse 24, because it is using its timetable of 490 years and connecting it to a final day of atonement also mentioned in that verse) and this day is then linked closely (even if not exactly) to the day that a Christ dies, just as the savior in Isaiah dies to effect atonement on that day–both their deaths ushering in God’s triumph and “salvation,” and both their deaths (the pesher is now telling us) occur at the end of the same 490 years. The pesher is saying the “day” or event spoken of in both sections is the same day or event (even though that is not what the texts themselves say, it’s what the pesher’s author has concluded they say). Thusly informed, we can read Daniel 9 and Isaiah 52-53 and see that they are speaking about the same day, and the same events that will transpire, involving the same man. That’s the secret the pesher aims to reveal. That’s what it’s saying.
In other words, this pesher’s author is very clearly saying that the suffering-and-dying savior who dies on a special Day of Atonement in Isaiah 52-53 is the same person as the dying messiah whose death also closely corresponds to a special Day of Atonement in Daniel 9, which the pesher says is the same Day of Atonement that occurs at the end of the same 490 years (whether counting up those years sequentially or in some concurrent fashion).
Stark doesn’t grasp how improbable all this is as a coincidence, yet he keeps insisting it’s a coincidence. I prefer the more probable hypothesis: it’s what the author intended. Stark also repeatedly confuses authorial intent and the pesher’s interpretation, as if they are the same thing (ironically, for someone who repeatedly denies pesherim ever do that). Even the fact that most Jews interpreted Daniel differently has nothing to do with my argument, which is that some Jews could and would have seen it differently (as all the other evidence attests, and this scroll confirms). I have always been consistent on this point. For example, in Not the Impossible Faith (p. 35) I say “we have evidence this text was probably understood by some in just this way” (not “by all”).
The forgers of Daniel 9 thought so. They were saying Onias III was a Messiah and his death would presage a universal atonement after which would come the end of the world. That’s already just one or two tweaks away from the Christian gospel. One of those tweaks would be simply equating the messiah who dies with the savior who returns to complete God’s plan: which in Daniel 12 is the archangel Michael, who could be read as being the “prince” of 9:26-27, if the events of 12:11-12 are assumed to follow the event of Michael’s “rising” in 12:1, which in the Septuagint is exactly the same word used of Jesus’ resurrection in Mark 9:31 and 10:34. But even before such a connection is made, the notion that a Christ was expected to die to presage the end of the world is already clearly intended in Daniel and would be understood by all subsequent readers of Daniel.
Once that idea is out there, there is no getting that cat back into the bag. And in Daniel’s originally intended case, the end of the world did not come (in fact everything after that did not occur as the forgers’ prophecy predicted), so later Jews had two options, and two options only: either reject Daniel as a false prophecy (and there is no evidence any Jews did that) or conclude “Daniel” wasn’t talking about Onias III but some other Messiah in the future (necessitating attempts to reinterpret the 490 year timetable to figure out what time in history Daniel was actually talking about). In other words, Daniel was plainly saying, and was continually read as saying, that the last Messiah was to die–shortly before the final end when God’s agent (in Daniel, the archangel Michael) would descend from heaven, defeat the forces of evil once and for all, and resurrect the dead.
The latter is the only option we have evidence the Jews took, and it entails some Jews would transfer the same idea (of a dying messiah presaging the end of the world and a final atonement for all sin) to that future messiah. The author of 11Q13 must necessarily have done so: he sees Daniel’s 490 year period as clearly predicting the end of the world, and Daniel’s timetable clearly says the last messiah dies just before the end of it. Other Jews (I would assume the more militaristic, and the most arrogant) obviously tried to find ways to make it fit their military ambitions against Rome instead. But clearly some Jews saw it the other way around.

The Brilliance of Thom Stark’s Final Proposal

Stark’s new analysis makes all of this even more certain than I had imagined. His reconstruction is so effective at confirming my thesis I’m willing to grant it outright. Let’s indeed say that the original text of 11Q13 (line 18-19) originally read:
And the “messenger” [of Isaiah 52:7] is the Anointed of the Spirit, as Daniel said, “Until an anointed prince, there will be seven weeks” [Daniel 9:25]. And the messenger of good who announces salvation is the one about whom it is written… [then quoting Isaiah 61:2].
Stark argues this would not only perfectly fit the missing space on the scroll, but there would then be verbal similarities in the earlier section of the scroll:
The same word is used there as here–dabar: [Daniel reads] “from the time the word went out…until an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks.” In [the 11Q13] line 6-7 we have, “And this word will be given in the first week of the tenth jubilee. And the Day of Atonement is [the end of] the tenth jubilee.”
That’s just brilliant. Because this means the pesher’s author clearly thought that this “seven weeks” runs at the end and not (as Daniel’s authors originally meant) the beginning of the 490 year period. He is therefore no longer imagining two messiahs, but one messiah who comes at the end of a final 49 year period. Which therefore can only be the same messiah who dies in verse 26 (there being no other: the one in Daniel 9:25 is on this interpretation the one who comes at the end, and the end is then described in 9:26; and no one else is called “messiah”). In other words, this pesher is saying that a “word” of restoration will occur in the first week of the tenth Jubilee, and that this is the “word” of restoration mentioned in Daniel 9:25, and therefore seven weeks later (49 years, the end of the tenth Jubilee) the Messiah will put an end to sin. Which has to be the same Messiah who dies in verse 26.
Why can we be sure the scroll’s author isn’t just skipping over the extra Messiah in verse 26? Because the Messiah it would then be talking about in verse 25 has to be Melchizedek, who it says promises to liberate and atone for Israel’s elect at the start of that 49-year period (11Q13, lines 4-7). And then Melchizedek will at the end of those years ‘make an end of sin’ (11Q13, lines 6-8) on a great Day of Atonement, which corresponds exactly to what Daniel 9:24 says will happen, and the very thing Isaiah 52-53 also says will happen on God’s day of salvation, which 11Q13 says is the very same Day of Atonement it’s talking about. And that atonement is said in Isaiah to be effected by the death of God’s subsequently-exalted “servant.” This makes all these features line up even more perfectly than I had thought, which is even more improbable to imagine as a coincidence.
Given the conjunction of historical context and the most plausible options, the scroll’s author most likely thought the “sixty-two sevens” (434) of years is the period from when the second temple was given a wall (445 B.C. according to Nehemiah 2:1-9, thus interpreting Daniel 9:25), which would entail he expected the world to end in the year 11 B.C. (assuming he had sound chronologies to work from). That also means he expected a messiah who will die after the same “sixty-two sevens” (434) of years, as that is the only way Daniel 9:26 could then be read. Because the “seven weeks” and the “sixty two weeks” on Stark’s reading have to overlap, and terminate at the same time. So the author of 11Q13 is overlapping the 7 and 62 at the end, just as Daniel’s authors originally overlapped the 7 and 62 at the beginning (then to get the timetable to fit Onias III)–all in order to get a date that this scroll’s author wanted (or thought could be made to fit recent events).
In fact it’s even cleverer than that, because he has created a Russian doll out of the seventy sevens, in order to get everything to work out the way he wanted: because 11Q13 doesn’t say the promise is made merely at the start of the 49 years, but through the first week (7 years) of the 49 years. How could Stark and I have overlooked that detail? This author has created an extra 7-year period in his scheme. Why would he do that? To dispense with the last week of years. He has folded the 70th week of years into the beginning of the 7 weeks of years, which he folds again into the end of the 62 weeks of years, for a total of 70 weeks of years (although it’s mystical math, not calendar math: he counts concurrently [62 x 7] + 7 = 441 to get 9 Jubilees, and “after that,” i.e. after we have added all those up and accounted for them, then we have left over the 10th Jubilee to account for, overlapping the rest).
This means the author of 11Q13 is not counting the last week in Daniel 9:27 as part of the 490 year timetable, but as the apocalypse itself, reinterpreted as an additional seven year period that begins at the end of the 490 years. Thus he has eliminated any seven year discrepancy (between a death in year 483 and the end in year 490, as traditionally interpreted), thereby making the death in Dan. 9:26 correspond with the atonement declared in Dan. 9:24 and thus with the atoning death on God’s “day” of salvation in Isaiah 52-53, which this author has concluded all refers to the same Day of Atonement. Odds that all that is a coincidence now? Virtually zero.
The only thing counting against this are the mathematical contortions it requires (including having the first week after the ninth Jubilee also the last week of the ninth Jubilee), although fanatics trying to extract timetables from the bible have always been fond of such contortions, so it has ample precedent. So that lowers this theory’s prior probability significantly, but I don’t think enough. Because it’s the only way to get Stark’s reconstruction to work: we have to account for the one “week” that 11Q13 goes out of its way to mention, and then add the “seven” and “sixty two” weeks in Daniel 9:25 (those same sixty two weeks that appear again in Daniel 9:26) , and 1 + 7 + 62 = 70. Again, not a likely coincidence. Moreover, since the “seven weeks” in verse 25 must now encompass the entire last Jubilee (to fit 11Q13, lines 6-7, and Stark’s reconstruction of 11Q13, line 18), the only other way the author of 11Q13 can be counting the preceding nine Jubilees as already having preceded that tenth Jubilee is by having added the additional one week somewhere in before those final “seven weeks” (to get 62 + 1 = 63 = nine Jubilees). He cannot be imagining it comes after (as Daniel is traditionally interpreted). So even if we reject this Russian doll analysis, we still must conclude the author of 11Q13 has placed that extra week somewhere earlier (perhaps in the preceding sections of the scroll, now lost). And therefore he is certainly not counting the week following the death of the messiah in verse 26 as part of the timetable.
Importantly, this also means the author of 11Q13 is interpreting “the prince who will come” and “make a covenant” in verses 26 & 27 as the very Christ who dies in verse 26 (thus not as as a separate person, but the same person, reading 9:25, “Anointed Prince,” as describing the same “Anointed” and “Prince” in 9:26), which means, again, Melchizedek (obviously, returned from the dead), who will pour out his wrath over those additional seven years. This is corroborated in 11Q13, line 24, where Melchizedek is said to be the one to establish that final covenant. Which is further confirmed by linking this same figure again to the one spoken of in Isaiah 61:2 (11Q13, line 19-20), who is also an “anointed” one who “proclaims liberty to the captives” (61:1), through whom God will exact vengeance and restore the world (61:1-8), and establish an eternal covenant (61:8). This is therefore what happens after the atonement. Which, we know from Daniel 9 and Isaiah 52-53, is effected by the messiah’s death (according to this pesher).
Since 11Q13 clearly is using Daniel 9:24, 9:25, 9:26, and 9:27 as all referring to Melchizedek and what will transpire toward and at the end of the world, and never once brackets out the dying Messiah in verse 26 (so as to explain away why that detail is there, when this author is clearly making use of all the others), we have to conclude that 11Q13 isn’t “skipping over” that dying Messiah, but assuming it will be understood as all part of the same sequence of events, and in particular the events that 11Q13 emphasizes (a Day of Atonement, followed by an apocalypse). There is only one interpretation that makes sense of that. The one I have been proposing. Essentially, 11Q13 is saying Melchizedek will consume the first week of years of the final Jubilee announcing his plans, then will die in the last year of that Jubilee (and even if not him, some messiah will), accomplishing a final Day of Atonement, then will return to wreak havoc and restore God’s reign, enacting a new covenant.
Stark says he doesn’t understand how there can be a death for a celestial being like Melchizedek, but obviously that would be accomplished by his assuming a body and becoming incarnate, as the Jewish theologian Philo describes angels and demons could do in his treatise On the Giants, and as the Jewish text of the Ascension of Isaiah imagines happens to another archangel of God (named, incidentally, Jesus), and as standardly happened to several gods in cultures well known to the Jews, from the Roman national deity Romulus to the Egyptian god Osiris. (Can it really be a coincidence that this is just what Jesus is said to have done in Philippians 2:5-11? That’s rhetorical. I’ll leave that question for another day.)

Which Messiah Would Die?

This is now moot (from the analysis above). But it’s worth repeating. Stark has made a strong case that the Messiah in Daniel 9:25 was originally meant to be (and taken to be by several later interpreters) a different person from the Messiah in Daniel 9:26. As the RSV says “from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.” Or using only punctuation, NRSV reads “from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time,” which implies the same thing. Stark reports this punctuation is in the current Hebrew text (although we can’t confirm that was the case in the pre-Christian era, or in all the copies of Daniel at Qumran).
The thinking behind this is that the “seven weeks” (a 49 year period) marks when the first priest is newly anointed after the exile (in biblical legend, Jesus ben Jehozadak), so this means that guy, while the next anointed is the last priest, Onias III, who is the guy meant in the next verse. To fit Onias, of course, this still requires the 7 and 62 to be overlapping and not sequential periods, and that is in fact why the 7 is there to begin with, to make the math work out, when the “word of rebuilding” means Jeremiah’s prophecy that is being here interpreted, per Daniel 9:2-4 (and that the math then works out perfectly to the year of Onias’ actual death in 171 B.C. is too massively coincidental to be accidental; this is therefore certainly what the authors of Daniel intended, despite Stark’s persistent incredulity on this point–he again confuses what Jeremiah meant, with what the authors of Daniel were taking him to mean, which was that “the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years,” and thus Jerusalem would be rebuilt after seventy years: Dan. 9:2; which they then “reinterpret” to fit known facts: Dan. 9:24-25). This then predicted the world would end in 164 B.C. But once that date had passed and the prophecy didn’t fit, Jews could no longer use that math but had to start counting sequentially to get a later year, one not yet come. They likewise had to start finding other “words of rebuilding” to make the timetable fit future events (like the decree in Nehemiah 2).
This is not necessarily how the Jews always read the text. For example, the Septuagint says the Christ will come after the 62-and-7 weeks as one period, in which scheme there was only one Christ, the same Christ in both verses. Even if that translation comes from a Jewish translator of the 1st or 2nd century A.D., it still demonstrates the verse could be read that way even by a Jew. I still also wonder whether “Anointed Prince” in verse 25 may have originally been “an Anointed and a Prince,” due to the fact that in the next verse there are two men, an Anointed and a Prince (exact same word, in both the Hebrew and the Greek). In other words, verse 25 may have meant two men will come after 69 weeks, a Christ and a Prince. Verse 26 then says the Christ will die and the Prince will destroy the temple. But I will admit this is not something we can conclude with any certainty, as if it is what was intended, it was lost before the manuscript record we have, and the alternative can still be made to fit the historical facts.
Whether that’s the case or not doesn’t matter, however. Because regardless of what the authors of Daniel meant, or other later Jews or Christians read, all that matters is what this pesher assumes. And the author of 11Q13 did exactly the opposite, collapsing both men (the Anointed and the Prince) into one man in verse 26, to match the one man (Anointed Prince) in verse 25. Which means 11Q13 was reading verses 25 and 26 as being about the same man (in line 18 identifying him with the Anointed in verse 25, and in lines 20 and 24 identifying him with the Prince in verse 26). Thus the Melchizedek Scroll is saying that the Christ in Daniel 9 is a future figure, who is to appear (and, so it certainly appears, die) at the special Day of Atonement that the pesher says will take place after all the 490 years prophesied in Daniel are counted up, and not after the first seven years of those 490 years. The pesher therefore cannot possibly mean the first priest after the exile (Jesus ben Jehozadak), who was centuries dead by the time this pesher was composed. It can only mean a figure who will be alive on the last Day of Atonement occurring at or near the end of the tenth Jubilee. That means the pesher can only have been reading Daniel 9:25 the way it is now translated in the ASV. Which entails that this pesher assumes the Christ in 9:25 is the same Christ in 9:26. (Either that or it was quoting Daniel 9:26 all along.)
For this same reason, of course, the pesher’s author has obviously abandoned any notion of this Christ having been Onias III (which is why it is absurd of Bart Ehrman to claim that is what the pesher means). Yes, that is probably what the authors of Daniel meant. But that ship had sailed. Daniel could not be understood anymore as referring to Onias III, as that would entail Daniel was a false prophet. It would also deprive everyone of the timetable for calculating the end of the world. The only way Daniel’s timetable could still be interpreted as predicting when the end would come, is by rejecting the original interpretation and coming up with another, one that imagined the 490 years as working out to some time in the future. Which entailed believing Daniel’s Christ was not Onias, but someone else, someone yet to come. And that is what the pesher assumes: he will be someone present at the end of the world, on the final Day of Atonement. The last of all Christs.

Conclusion

On any sound analysis, which attends to the actual context and construction of the pesher in question, 11Q13 expects a Messiah who will die to atone for the sins of God’s elect, shortly before the end of the world. It argues this by connecting Isaiah 52:6-53:12 with Daniel 9:24-27, telling us the same man is being spoken of in both contexts, and that both prophesies speak of the same final Day of Atonement, and that the man who in both contexts dies will die at the end of the same sum of 490 years, after which will ensue God’s final judgment. The pesher also says this man, the same man spoken of in both contexts, is someone so important he has been beautifully spoken of by all the prophets (the “mountains” on which he has trod). There is simply no other sound way to read this text but as an announcement of a dying messiah, atoning for mankind’s sins, at the end of the world. At least a hundred years before Christianity began.
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SOURCE: http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/1440

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