The Prophet and the Law in Early Judaism and the New Testament

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<ul><li><p>Cardozo School of Law</p><p>The Prophet and the Law in Early Judaism and the New TestamentAuthor(s): Bernard S. JacksonSource: Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Autumn, 1992), pp. 123-166Published by: Taylor &amp; Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Cardozo School of LawStable URL: .Accessed: 14/06/2014 10:20</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p><p> .</p><p>Cardozo School of Law and Taylor &amp; Francis, Ltd. are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve andextend access to Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature.</p><p> </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 10:20:08 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>The Prophet and the Law in Early Judaism and the </p><p>New Testament* Bernard S. Jackson </p><p>I. Introduction </p><p>Ancient debates between Judaism and Christianity have profoundly affected both Judaeo-Christian relations down to the present day, and the internal development of Judaism itself. Take, for example, the words of Paul, which have resounded down the centuries: </p><p>The qualification we have comes from God; it is he who has qualified us to dispense his new covenant - a covenant expressed not in a written document but in a spiritual bond; for the written law condemns to death, but the spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6, New English Bible) </p><p>Or, in the famous phrase of the King James version: </p><p>For the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. </p><p>Similarly, Romans 2:29 (New English Bible): </p><p>The true Jew is he who is such inwardly, and the true circumcision is of the heart, directed not by written precepts but by the Spirit; such a man received his commendation not from men but from God. </p><p>The "letter" comes to be associated with "the Law," and "the Spirit" with the Holy Spirit, and all too easily the phrase takes on connotations not merely of theological disputes (justification by works or faith; revelation via a written text or to the individual heart or conscience):' it even takes on connotations of "The Law killeth Jesus" and so gets mixed up with the deicide charge and the centuries of anti-Semitism which that charge was used to justify. </p><p>Theological understanding is thus vital to communal relations. This paper addresses a related issue to that of letter and </p><p>123 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 10:20:08 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>spirit, namely the tension between law and prophecy, as worked out in the various uses made of the tradition of the "prophet-like-Moses." </p><p>II. The Role of the Prophet in Relation to the Law in the Old Testament </p><p>A. Moses as Prophetic Medium of Divine Verbatim Revelation of Law </p><p>Recall the concluding words of the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 34:10-12): </p><p>There has never yet risen in Israel a prophet like Moses whom the Lord knew face to face: remember all the signs and portents which the Lord sent him to show in Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and the whole land: remember the strong hand of Moses and the terrible deeds which he did in the sight of all Israel. </p><p>Of course, the main function of Moses in the history of Israel was to mediate the law: it was for that purpose that God knew him face to face. Nevertheless, the accolade accorded to him is that of </p><p>supreme prophet. The "signs and portents" (ha'otot vehamoftim)2 are merely evidence that Moses gave the law as a true prophet;3 they are the means by which the prophet establishes his status, not the essential function he is there to perform. </p><p>A tantalizing story in Jeremiah 36:1-23 illustrates some of the </p><p>mechanics, in the period of the monarchy, of the continuation of this </p><p>prophetic function. </p><p>(1) In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah, King of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: "Take a scroll and write on it every word that I have spoken to you about Jerusalem and Judah and all the nations, from the day that I first spoke to you in the reign of Josiah to the present day. Perhaps the house of Judah will be warned of the calamity that I am planning to bring on them, and every man will abandon his evil course; then I will forgive their </p><p>wrong doing and their sin." </p><p>(4) So Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and he wrote on a scroll at Jeremiah's dictation all the words which the Lord had spoken to him. He gave Baruch this instruction: "I am prevented from going </p><p>m124 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 10:20:08 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>to the Lord's House. You must go there in my place on a fast-day and read the words of the Lord in the </p><p>hearing of the people from the scroll you have written at my dictation... " </p><p>(8) Baruch... did all that the prophet Jeremiah had told him to do... (10) Then Baruch read Jeremiah's words in the House of the Lord out of the book in the hearing of all the people; he read them from the room of Gemariah... in the upper court at the entrance to the new gate of the Lord's House. Micaiah son of Gemariah... heard all the words of the Lord out of the book and went down to the palace... There Micaiah repeated all the words he had heard... then the officers sent Jehudi... to Baruch with this message: "Come here and bring the scroll from which you read in the people's hearing." </p><p>(15) So Baruch... brought the scroll to them, and they said, "Sit down and read it to us." When they heard what he read they turned to each other trembling and said, "We must report this to the King." They asked Baruch to tell them how he had come to write all this. He said to them, "Jeremiah dictated every word of it to me, and I wrote it down in ink in the book." The officers said to Baruch, "You and Jeremiah must go into hiding so that no- one may know where you are." </p><p>(20) When they had deposited the scroll in the room of Elishama the adjutant-general, they went to the court and reported everything to the King. The King sent Jehudi to fetch the scroll. When he had fetched it from the room of Elishama the adjutant-general, he read it to the king and to all the officers in attendance... When Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the King cut them off with a penknife and threw them into the fire in the brazier. He went on doing so until the whole scroll had been thrown on the fire. </p><p>We are not told a great deal about the content of this scroll, except that it was likely to be offensive to the king (many things could qualify), but it is by no means to be excluded that the scroll would have contained some normative material. Particularly interesting is the light here cast upon the way in which holy books could be infiltrated </p><p>125 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 10:20:08 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>into the temple archive, with the complicity of court officers - despite their sensitivity to the political dangers. Perhaps this casts light upon the famous incident a few years before, when, in the reign of King Josiah, a scroll (which many now identify with Deuteronomy) hitherto apparently unknown was discovered in the archive.4 </p><p>B. Prophet as Authorized Reformulator of the Law </p><p>A major role of the Old Testament prophet is to remind the people of some covenantal obligation which has been entered into at an earlier stage, and which the people appear to be violating. Take the following example, concerning Jeremiah in the reign of King Zedekiah (Jeremiah 34:12-14 ): </p><p>Then this word came from the Lord to Jeremiah: These are the words of the Lord the God of Israel: I made a covenant with your forefathers on the day that I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. These were its terms: "Within seven years each of you shall set free any Hebrew who has sold himself to you as a slave and has served you for six years; you shall set him free." </p><p>Jeremiah reminds the people of the law stated in Exodus 21:2 about the liberation of slaves, that a male slave taken for debt must be released in the seventh year. This is a law which, according to the narrative in Jeremiah 34, the people have neglected, and the prophet causes them to re-covenant. There may be a new act of covenanting. Nevertheless, the prophet clearly has the authority to use a different form of words to express the original law:5 </p><p>Jeremiah 34:14: "Within seven years (mikets sheva shanim) each of you shall set free any Hebrew who has sold himself to you as a slave and has served you for six years" - expressed in the apodictic form. </p><p>Exodus 21:2: "When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall be your slave for six years, but in the seventh year he shall go free and pay nothing" - expressed in a variety of the casuistic form. </p><p>Such a capacity to reformulate is significant, since there would come a time when the verbal formulation, as well as the substance, of the law would become inviolate from change. Clearly, the Biblical prophet retained the capacity, in reminding the people of the law, to use his own words to express it.6 Indeed, there is a talmudic source which suggests that it is of the essence of prophetic revelation that its </p><p>126M </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 10:20:08 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>formulation is unique: "I have a tradition from my grandfather's house that the same communication is revealed to many prophets, but no two prophesy in the identical phraseology."7 </p><p>C. The Prophet as Amender of the Law: the "Prophet-like-Moses" Tradition </p><p>In the course of his valedictory address, Moses enunciates God's promise that in the future there will arise prophets like Moses (kamoni), whom God will inspire to communicate his commandments (Deuteronomy 18:15-19): </p><p>These nations whose place you are taking listen to soothsayers and augurs, but the Lord your God does not permit you to do this. The Lord your God will raise up a prophet from among you like myself, and you shall listen to him. All this follows from your request to the Lord your God on Horeb on the day of the assembly. There you said, "Let us not hear again the voice of the Lord our God, nor see this great fire again, or we shall die." Then the Lord said to me, "What they have said is right. I will raise up from them a prophet like you, one of their own race, and I will put my words into his mouth. He shall convey all my commands to them, and if anyone does not listen to the words which he will speak in my name I will require satisfaction from him. But the prophet who presumes to utter in my name what I have not commanded him or who speaks in the name of other Gods - that prophet shall die." If you ask yourselves, "How shall we recognize a word that the Lord has not uttered" this is the answer: When the word spoken by the prophet in the name of the Lord is not fulfilled and has not come true, it is not a word spoken by the Lord. The prophet has spoken presumptuously; do not hold him in awe. </p><p>The passage contains a double admonition to obey such a prophet: elav tishme'un in verse 15,8 and the threat to require satisfaction from anyone not obeying him (v.19). </p><p>The coming of such a prophet is not described in Deuteronomy as a one-off, once-and-for-all event; the "prophet-like- Moses" is not an eschatological prophet. There is no suggestion in the text of a Messiah figure who will come to herald the end of days. Nor is this a second coming of Moses himself. It is a promise that, from time to time, prophets will arise who will have an authority </p><p>127 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Sat, 14 Jun 2014 10:20:08 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p></p></li><li><p>comparable to Moses, as the bearers of divine commands. The rabbis were to identify at least three historical figures whom they consider to have possessed just this kind of authority, and in each case they allude to a command by that prophet contrary to the Mosaic law:9 the first (even before Moses) is Abraham, who commanded the sacrifice of Isaac;10 the second, the prophet Micaiah, who ordered a colleague to smite him;11 the third (the locus classicus), the prophet Elijah, who ordered sacrifice outside the Temple.12 </p><p>This text was to prove of enormous significance in the subsequent history of both Judaism and Christianity. </p><p>D. Opposition: the False Prophet </p><p>There was a fine line in the Bible between the genuine and the false prophet, but, given the authority enjoyed by the genuine prophet, this was a line which it was vital to draw. We have seen in the case of Moses the stress laid upon his capacity to perform otot and moftim (A. above), and the "prophet-like-Moses" passage itself explicitly raises the question of recognition, and offers non-fulfillment of a "word" (which could certainly include, and perhaps in the context does not go beyond, a promise to perform miracles) as a </p><p>falsification.13 However, the absence of such a falsification does not entail recognition of the prophet's status. According to Deuteronomy 13:1-5: </p><p>When a prophet or dreamer appears among you and offers you a sign or a portent and calls on you to follow other Gods whom you have not known and worship them, even if the sign or the portent should come true, do not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer. God is testing you through him to discover whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul... That prophet or that dreamer shall be put to death, for he has preached rebellion against the Lord your God... </p><p>Even success in performing otot and moftim is no sufficient condition of true prophetic status; there is also a test as to the content of his teaching: not even a true prophet has the authority to command idolatry. The theme of the relationship of the prophet to Mosaic law is central to this passage, too. For the verse immediately preceding this passage is the famous (in rabbinic terms) bal tosif: "See that you observe everything I command you: you must not add anything to it, nor take anything away from it." Indeed, in the chapter division...</p></li></ul>


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