Revelation Judaism and Early Christianity

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it it a paper for Emergence course within Religious Roots of Europe



1. INTRODUCTION The word revelation comes from Latin language, revelo, revelation, it means to discover, to disclose a mystery, a secret or hidden plan. Being a conscious process, it involves the existence of one or more persons. Firstly, we can speak about a revelation realized on one individual level of human mind, a particular consciousness, as a result of the message interception. Secondly, we distinguish a revelation at the interpersonal level, it means it implicates more participants to the act of revelation, but it is also a different implementation and purpose of the revelation at macro level - social, cultural religious and so forth. The revelation, sometimes used with capitals, especially in Christianity, is being considered as the word, will and plans of God. At the beginning it concerned the Jews and then it included also the Christians and gentiles. On the one hand, there is the natural revelation, which represents the will, the message of God, realized by the natural way (humans contemplation or selective meditation toward Gods creation, laws of creation and thus making the connections to or reflection of God Creator). On the other hand, we are speaking of the supernatural revelation, realized as one direct discover (sometimes personally) of Gods plans concerning the mankind, process realized by the wonders, prophecies and other forms of supernatural communication. In this paper, I intend to trace a few general directions of divine revelation, from Judaism to Christianity. The first refers to the Gods chosen people and second to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Revelation. I will point out the referential moments from the history of revelation, such as the covenant between Abraham and his descendants and God; the Law of Moses or Torah and afterwards the restoration of their calling by the institution of Prophecy. Being firmly convinced, as Frederick Murphy has pointed out, that the prophecy and apocalypticism agree in being convinced that their messages come through direct revelation1, I will attempt to see the historical, cultural and social context of the revelation, during the interaction of Jews with other peoples, especially in its interaction with the Early Christianity. The institution of prophecy might be an interesting view toward the rising of Jews against the foreign and votary dominations, either Egyptian, Assyro-Babylonian, Greek or Roman. Thus it could be interesting to mention the pedagogical dimension of prophethood, being expressed on the one hand as a fight for freedom, on the other hand as recognition of their decline from the quality as chosen people, having to support the consequences and to restore its status. Being aware of the human weakness, they claim one Messiah or Savior, according to the old prophecies, (such as the one from Genesis 3: 15 or Genesis 49:10, and others). I will try to trace a study case by the interpretation of Revelation in the book of Daniel and Revelation of John. As a completion of my approach I will also attempt to a certain degree to discus about the claim of Christianity that the Law and prophecies have been completed through Jesus Christ. Conventionally, I will use the word Revelation with capitals, strictly speaking of the divine revelation, and simple, as revelation, in general, speaking of the process and human implications of this.


Frederick J. Murphy, Early Judaism from the Exile to the time of Jesus, Hendrickson Publishers, 2002, p.134


2. THE REVELATION IN JUDAISM The territory of the Holy Land has been certified since the 7000 BCE. In the third millennium a Semitic2 population came from Syria, but around 2200 BCE, a new wave of nomads had settled there. When Abraham came in Canaan, around 18th century BCE, Canaans people were living there, surrounded by the other Semitic people, organized in votary tribalkingdoms. Abraham had previously settled to Haran and afterward to Canaan. In this context, the primordial revelation has come about. God supported this revelation previously as a covenant between God and Abrahams people (berith), expressed by the Law or Torah in a monotheist religion. Broadly speaking, Moses Law and the whole Old Testament and all the legislative or moral prescriptions, they originated from Gods revelation, but in different ways. Thus, the laws registered by Moses in the Pentateuch bear the divine inspiration, some of them being directly delivered from God (The Decalogue), other deriving from the natural law and the traditions of neighbor nations (for instance those related by slavery, marriage and Sabbath) and others being inspired by the legislations of the nations who interacted with the Jews. Thus, the Law of Moses, is being divine in its essence, and human in its elaboration. The law came down from God (Deuteronomy 1:17) and this will influence the history of Jews by creating of one theocratic state, after their release from Egyptian bondage. In this situation, based on the primarily social patriarchal organization accomplished by the new legal prescriptions throughout the divine revelation, and sometimes being perceived as a direct assistance (realized through Moses), the organization of the Jews has been done. At the same time, the name of Gods chosen people claimed the building of the Tabernacle, a symbol of Jewish unity and the monotheism. It will prefigure the Temple from Jerusalem. During history, the chosen people has been recognized as one whimsical, rebel people (as they proceeded in the case of lacking food supplies during their straying in the desert, or when they have created themselves a god, namely the golden calf). Thus, the entire history of revelation of Jews is, on the one side, a succession of moments of recognition and fulfillment of the Law reviled by God, plans achieved by the Patriarchs, Judges or Kings, and on the other side, moments of slavery and foreign domination or even self-destruction, as a result of insubordination, obstinacy, and further of Gods punishments. These successions of failure and raising of the Jews will stamp the entire history of revelation. Perhaps, because this is the mankind existential condition. Returning to the revelation, after the Patriarchs, it was somehow necessary that other bridges were realized for a better communication between God and His people. These bridges have been achieved by the Judges and Kings. We will not momentarily attend to king David and his famous work, Psalms, which better express the divine revelation, in spite of the modern biblical criticism, and we will only mention the building of the Temple from king Solomon, the symbol of unity and the monotheistic religion of Israel. The Temple from Jerusalem, as the axis mundi and the city Jerusalem as the heavenly Jerusalem were sharply marked by the revelation. The decline of Israel, generated by the temptation of idolatry, (probably that is how we might explain why in the Old Testament, through a prophylactic approach, there are not many accounts of the angels or of anything which may lead to a portrait) demands that the revelation has to be

The term Semitic is provided by the Biblical tradition, according which Sem, the son of Abraham it would be the ancestor of the Semitic peoples. The term has been firstly used in 1781 from the German historian August Ludwig von Schlzer, who was inspired by the peoples genealogy accordingly of the Biblical tradition.



nuanced and reformulated. This act could be realized by the prophetic institution. This institution has fought for keeping the national idea and Gods calling as two intrinsically realities alive. At the same time, we should agree that while we speak about Revelation, we should speak about the apocalyptic approach. Full of conflicts, foreign expansion and slavery, the people start to search for answers either in the underworld or in heaven, through dreams, visions or other supernatural experiences, obviously as part of the divine revelation. Perhaps that happened due to the immediate expectation that Messiah would save his people3. Before analyzing the book of Daniel, we should mention that it is not possible to make abstraction of Daniels prophecy and his approach to the rest of Prophets and other prophetic works, such as the Epistle of Enoch, Ezekiel so forth. Daniels book is organized in two parts. The first part covers chapters 1 to 6, and has an emphasized biographic character. We find out about the two special dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, the vision of the king Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, and about Daniel in the den of lions. It is a passive depicting to some extent, speaking of the prophetical experience, even though, always under Gods assistance, Daniel could correctly interpret the dreams. In the second part, from chapter 7 to the end, the book of Daniel narrates the visions of Daniel and his prophecies about to the nations, Antichrist, and the end of the world. It is an eschatological approach and Daniel is the person-receptacle of Revelation here. Regarding the first part of Daniels book, namely the second chapter, as I mentioned above, there is a vision or prophetic dream of the king Nebuchadnezzar, the enormous statue with a body made of four elements or metals. Those metals express the endurance, the resistance of the statue. According to the scholars, the source of the account in Daniel 2 is to be found in Greek thoughtand also among the Persians and is characteristic of the teaching of Zoroastrism4. More precisely, the schema of the four-kingdoms smashed by a rock is identified by Murphy: the first kingdom, represented by gold, is that of Nebuchadnezzar. The second kingdom (the Medes) is silver, the third (the Persian) is bronze, and the last (the Greek) is a mixture of iron and clayThe four-kingdom schema comes from Hellenistic political prophecy5. These remarks could lead us to the authenticity of the author of Daniels book, and to the fact that the book attributed to him would have been written later than The Babylonian domination6, namely between the second and first centuries BCE. For our approach it is not important to see if theWe find a pertinent explanation at Frederick Murphy, namely because apocalypticism is dissatisfied with the state of the world and expects God to intervene soon to change things radically, earlier scholarship thought that it was the worldview of fringe groups, groups persecuted by the broader society. Many scholars imagined small conventicles, communities apart from, and opposed to, the world at large. More recent scholarship has successfully challenged these assumptions, noting that apocalypticism is a scribal phenomenon, requiring, for example, extensive knowledge of traditions and the ability to read and write, traits characteristic of the upper classes, especially the scribal classes, of ancient society. We now realize that dissatisfaction with the world is possible even among the ruling classes, in the face of foreign domination, for instance, where political reality clashes with native traditions. Alternatively, upper-class factions might resent the greater power or authority of other more powerful factions within their own society (Frederick J. Murphy, page 127). 4 Gerhard F. Hasel, The Four world Empires of Daniel 2 against its Near Eastern Environment, article in Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 1979, p.17 5 Frederick J. Murphy, p.154 6 The critic studies of Daniels Book are very numerous, beginning with Porphyry until the modern biblical criticism. Even Frederick Murphy is sharing the same opinion, he sustains that the work of Daniel would be written later, namely in the time of Greek domination. Otherwise, some scholars would agree the date 165 BCE, the book being written to encourage Hasideans, under Maccabean dynasty, during their war against to Antiochus IV Epiphanes.3


dream about the statue built from four elements would represent the kingdoms Assyria, Media, Persia, Macedonia and finally Rome, neither if this representation emphasizes the development of an Eastern pattern, influenced by the Greek or Persian cultures. We would rather focus on the national idea expressed by the revelation of prophets. The fight and the hope of the Jews concerning their rehabilitation as Gods chosen people may be inferred throughout this image of the destroyed statue. And the stone which destroyed the statue could be considered the Messiah, perceived by the Jews as a human or military leader and subsequently as Jesus Crist by the Christians (Ephes.2:20). Chapter 5 tells of Belshazzars feast, in which cryptic writing appears on the wall during a royal banquet and only Daniel is able to decipher it (hence the familiar phrase to read the writing on the wall)7, and also we can see the prophecy of the end of Assyrian kingdom, as a punishment for raising against God of Jews. In the second part (chap. 7-12) of Daniels book, as I mentioned above, we are dealing with the direct experiencing of dreams or visions revealed by God to Daniel. Predominant is also number four, which is expressed by the four cardinal points, the world or the succession of four kingdoms enumerated above8. The series climaxes with the fourth beast, representing the Seleucid kingdom (7:7). History leads up to the time in which the author writes, and this time is the culmination of history. Things are at their worst because history has reached its culmination9. We can make this statement by carefully watching the history of the Seleucid domination (2 Maccabees) and its consequences, but the same is valid during the Roman domination (see Josephus, Orosius or Dios Cassius). The sea represents the chaos and disorder, and a divine force must set restoration of good10. This mythical motive is common in Ancient Orient. The patterns would explain why forces of good were not easily victorious, but they would also give assurance that good would ultimately prevail11. Hence the picture of thrones developed many debates among scholars, perhaps because of the similarities with the book of Revelation12. Furthermore, the discussion of Murphys has focused on the identity of the son of man who appeared on the sky after God punished the beasts and restored the harmony on the earth. It sounds like the millenarianism, a common train of thought with the Ancient and modern peoples as well. There are many opinions regarding the son of man. Some scholars argue that in Daniels text there is no account of Jesus Christ, but on the contrary, this figure can be a human being or even an angel. Despite of the sensitive representation in Old Testament, the angels have beenFrederick J. Murphy, p.154 By comparison, In Johns Revelation, there are four cherubim around the Throne of God, who according to Ezekiel 1:10, they have a zoomorphic representation, and they are in New Testament the authors of Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. 9 Ibidem, p.1...


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