John the Baptist Questions Jesus


This passage is an episode that both Luke and Matthew share in common, but which isn't in Mark.  Most scholars, both evangelical and liberal, think that both Gospel writers are copying from a common source here, usually referred to using the letter "Q", which is an abbreviation for the German word for "source".   In this passage we will be examining the nature of the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus. What is the relationship between them?   What did John and other Jews of his time expect the Messiah to be?  How did Jesus differ from that?  What did Jesus prolaim about his own and John's mission?

John the Baptist Sends His Disciples

Lk 7:18 John’s66 disciples informed him about all these things. So67 John called68 two of his disciples Mt 11:2 Now when John2 in prison heard about the deeds Christ3 had done, he sent a question4 by his disciples:
7:19 and sent them to Jesus69 to ask,70 “Are you the one who is to come,71 or should we look for another?”
11:3 “Are you the one who is to come,5 or should we look for another?”

Why is John the Baptist asking this question?  Many student's of the Bible have been uncomfortable with the idea that John had doubts about Jesus.   Calvin, for example, called the notion "foolish" (Harmony, loc cit).  However, a straight forward reading of the passage has the question resulting from what John had heard about Jesus (NET, notes loc cit).  Something about the words and deeds of Jesus seems not to have matched John's expectations of what "the one who is to come", whose sandels he was "not worthy to untie" (Lk 3:16) and whose "winning fork is in his hand to gather the wheat into his storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with inextinguisable fire."  (Lk 3:17) Or, if you wish to insist with Calvin that the question was for the benefit of John's disciples, then Jesus was not living up to those disciples expectations.

Either way, we are left with the question of what those expectations were.  What did a first century Jew expect eschatologically?  If we wanted to ask that question of Jews in Israel today, one would hire Gallup or some similar polling organization.   They would create a questionaire, then scientifically select a random sample of the population group to survey.  The answers would be collated and complicated statistical analysis techniques would be applied to let us know what they expected and how that correlated with various demographic variables, etc.

Unfortunately we can't go back in time and do this survey in Judea and Galilee in 27 AD.  Nor did anyone who was alive in 27 AD do such a survey (at least, if they did, the results are not extant).  Instead we must examine the extant remains of the era to look for clues as to what those expectations were.  Primarily, this means looking at the writings of the era.  This has several drawbacks, foremost that it is not a proper random sample.  The accidents of history can leave some writings abundantly extant, while eliminating others.  Those who hold one belief may be more likely to write about it (for a variety of reasons) then those who hold another.  The writings of some groups may have been actively suppressed.  We engage in this survey of the extant writings, therefore, with caution.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a cache of scrolls discovered hidden in caves in the Qumran region by the Dead Sea.  They were hidden there in 68 AD from the onslaught of the Roman soldiers putting down the Jewish rebellion.  It would appear that they constitute the library of the Essenes (some scholars dispute this, but if not the Essenes, then a sect very similar to the Essenes).

From the writings we find that they were a very apocalyptic cult.  They expected a future war in which Israel (that is, themselves) to conquer their oppressers, the Kittim (that is, Rome) and establish a Messianic kingdom on earth.  Some scrolls give elaborate battle plans and outline laws for the restored eschatological community.  Much of the material is now fragmentary, but we do find references to one or more Messiahs in them.   We don't find one single well-developed Messianic belief system in the scrolls.   Some seem to expect a single Davidic Messiah.  Others expect two Messiahs:   the Messiah of Aaron and the Messiah of Israel, and even a third figure who is a prophet.

The Rule of War quotes the messianic text Isaiah 10:34-11:1, then interprets it saying "[...] the Branch of David and they will enter into judgement with [...] and the Prince of the Congregation, the Br[anch of David] will kill him [... by strok]es and by wounds" (4Q285, fr. 5) (CDSSE, p. 189).  The Commentaries on Isaiah cite an overlapping passage (Isaiah 11:1-3) and then go on to say:

[Interpreted, this concerns the Branch] of David who shall arise at the end [of days] ... God will uphold him with [the spirit of might, and will give him] a throne of glory and a crown of [holiness] and many-coloured garments ... [He will put a sceptre] in his hand and he shall rule over all the [nations].  And Magog .. and his sword shall judge [all] the peoples.

And as for that which he said, He shall not [judge by what his eyes see] or pass sentence by what his ears hear:  interpreted, this means that ... [the Priests] ... As they teach him, so will he judge; and as they order, [so will he pass sentence].   .... (4Q161, frs. 506) (CDSSE, p. 467)

The War Scroll sites Numbers 24:17-19 ("A star shall come out of Jacob...") which was evidently understood to be Messianic (1QM, xi.5) (CDSSE, p.174).  Another document, the Florilegium, aka Midrash on the Last Days, sites some passages from 2 Samual and Amos and associates the future Messiah with another character called the Interpreter of the Law.  It is not clear if these two were equated with the Messiahs of Israel and of Aaron respectively.

The Lord declares to you that He will build you a House (2 Sam. vii, 11c).  I will raise up your seed after you (2 Sam. vii, 12). I will establish the throne of his kngdom [for ever] (2 Sam. vii, 13). [I will be] his father and he shall be my son (2 Sam. vii, 14).  He is the Branch of David who shall arise with the Interpreter of the Law [to rule] in Zion [at the end] of time.  As it is written, I will raise up the tent of David that is fallen (Amos ix, 11).  That is to say, the fallen tent of David is he who shall arise to save Israel. (4Q174, i.10) (CDSSE, p. 494)

Works which explicitly mention two Messiahs do so incidentally, so we don't get much clue as to what the theological reasoning is behind them or how they relate to the Davidic Messiah.  Were there competing Messianic theologies in the community throughout its history or did one belief suppant the other?  The Messianic Rule is typical of these fragments, giving rules for the future Messianic Banquet:

... When God engenders (the Priest-) Messiah, he shall come with them [at] the head of the whole congregation of Israel with all [his brethern, the sons] of Aaron the Priests, [those called] to the assembly, the men of renown; and they shall sit [before him, each man] in the order of his dignity.  And then [the Mess]iah of Israel shall [come], and the chiefs of the [clans of Israel] shall sit before him, [each] in the order of his dignity, according to [his place] in their camps and marches....

... let no man extend his hand over the firstfruits of bread and wine before the Priest.... Thereafter, the Messiah of Israel shall extend his hand over the bread..... (1QSa ii.) (CDDSE, p. 159)

Another document, The Community Rule mentions also the third prophetic figure:

They shall depart from none of the counsels of the Law to walk in all the stubbornness of their hearts, but shall be ruled by the primitive precepts in which the men of the Community were first instructed until there shall come the Prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel. (1QS, ix.10.) (CDSSE, p. 110)

The Damascus Document refers to "the Messiah out of Aaron and Israel" (CD B ii) (CDSSE, p. 134), which is ambiguous whether it refers to one or two Messiahs.

One very intriguing fragment is from An Aramaic Apolcypse.   This fragment refers to someone as the "son of God" and the "son of the Most High".  Its interpretation is highly debated.  Some hold it is a reference to a Messiah, others that it is more of an Antichrist like figure.

The son of God he will be proclaimed (or: proclaim himself) and the son of the Most High they will call him.  Like the sparks of the vision, so will be their kingdom. They will reign for years on the earth and they will trample all.... until the people of God will arise and all will rest from the sword.  Their (the people of God's) kingdom will be an eternal kingdom... (4Q246 ii) (CDSSE, p. 577)

In summary, the sect of the Dead Sea Scrolls looked forward to an apocalyptic future where God would aid them in conquering the foreign occupier of the land and establish an ideal Israelite kingdom.  They expected one to three leaders in this time, either a Davidic Messiah, or a pair of Messiahs (of Aaron and Israel) and a third prophetic figure.  These figures are men annointed by God for these roles in the last days.

Early Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha

Great caches of literature from the other branches of early first century Judaism have, unfortunately, not been discovered.  However there are some works from this time known as the Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha.

One such work is the called the Psalms of Solomon.   Dispite the title, the book makes no pretensions about being actually written by Solomon.  In fact it contains explicit historic allusions to the Roman General Pompey conquering Jerusalem in 63 BC and to his death in 48 BC.  (OTP, p. 2:640-641) The collection was probably completed shortly afterwards, in the second half of the first century BC.  The ascription "of Solomon" should be understood as describing the work's character as wisdom literature rather than as ascribing its authorship, much as in English we might refer to any complex mechanism as a "Rube Goldberg Device".

The first part of the 17th Psalm recalls the promise to David and how Israel's sins had caused David's kingdom to end (OTP, p. 2:665-666).

17:4 Lord, you chose David to be king over Israel,
             and swore to him about his descendants forever,
             that his kingdom should not fail before you.
17:5 But (because of) our sins, sinners rose up against us,
             they set upon us and drove us out......

Then the psalmist prays for a new king (OTP, p. 667).

17:21 See, Lord, and raise up for them their king,
               the son of David, to rule over your servant Israel
               in the time known to you, O God.
17:22 Undergird him with the strength to destroy the unrightious rulers,
               to purge Jerusalem from gentiles
               who trample here to destruction;
17:23      in wisdom and in righteousness to drive out
               the sinners from the inheritance;
17:24 To shatter all their substance with an iron rod;
           to destroy the unlawful nations with the word of his mouth;
17:25 At his warning the nations will flee from his presence;
               and he will condemn sinners by the thoughts of their hearts.
17:32 And he will be a righteous king over them, taught by God.
          There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days,
               for all shall be holy,
               and their king shall be the Lord Messiah.

The psalmist is clearly expecting a political figure who would reestablish the Davidic kingdom and continue the Davidic dynasty.  In contrast to the Dead Sea Scroll community, the psalmist was not expecting this to be established by war (OTP, p. 668).

17:33 (For) he will not rely on horse and rider and bow,
               nor will he collect gold and silver for war.
          Nor will he build up hope in a multitude for a day of war.
17:35 He will strike the earth with the word of his mouth forever;
               he will bless the Lord's people with wisdom and happiness.
17:36 ....
          He will expose officials and drive out sinners
               by the strength of his word.

There was a fad among Jewish doomsday cults to write books of apocalyptic visions in the name of Enoch.  One such collection of works, originally written in Hebrew and/or Aramaic, but preserved primarily in Ethiopic, is called the Ethiopic Apocalypse of Enoch, or 1 Enoch, to distinguish it from other similar works.  Parts of this work have been found with the Dead Sea Scrolls, but it probably didn't originate with the Qumran community.  One very symbolic vision describes the whole of Israelite history up to the Maccabean revolt (prophecy after the fact) and then describes the rise a something like a Messianic figure, symbolized by a horn (OTP, p. 1:69-70).

90:9 I kept seeing till those lambs grew horns; but the ravens crushed their horns.  Then I kept seeing till one great horn sprouted on one of those sheep, and he opened their eyes; and they had vision in them and their eyes were opened.  ...  90:12 Those ravens gather and battle with him (the horned ram) and seek to remove his horn, but without success.

90:13 I saw thereafter the shepherds coming; and those vultures and kites cried aloud to the ravens so that they should smash the horn of that ram.  But he battled with them, and they fought each other; and he cried aloud, while battling with them, so that (God's) help should come.

A similar fad was to write in the name of the Greek mythical Sibyl.  There are several books of these Sibylline Oracles extant.  The third book, dating to the second century BC contains a prediction of a Messianic king and eschatological prophetic figures (OPT, p. 1:360, 376-379).

And then God will send a King from the sun
who will stop the entire earth from evil war,
killing some, imposing oaths of loyalty on others;
and he will not do all these things by his private plans
but in obedience to the noble teachings of the great God.

And then, indeed, he will raise up a kingdom for all
ages among men, he who once gave the holy Law
to the pious, to all of whom he promised to open the earth
and the world and the gates of the blessed and all joys
and immortal intellect and eternal cheer.

Prophets of the great God will take away the sword
for they themselves are judges of men and righteous kings.

In the intertestmental period there was a conciousness that prophecy of the Old Testament kind had ceased.  In the Dead Sea Scrools we saw a eschatological prophetic figure along side the Messiahs in some texts.  The apocryphal 1 Maccabees also contains a couple of allusions to a future prophet.

4:45 And they thought it best to tear it down, so that it would not be a lasting shame ot them that the Gentiles had defiled it.  So they tore down the altar, 4:46 and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until a prophet should come to tell what to do with them.

14:41 The Jews and their priests have resolved that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until a trustworthy prophet should arise...

The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs was originally a Jewish work, but was taken over and reworked by a Christian cult.  Some fragments of this work were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  This work provides some of the background for the idea of two Messiahs because it heavily emphasises the dual leadership role of Levi and Judah.  For example the Testament of Gad 8:1 reads "Tell these things to your children as well, so that they will honor Judah and Levi, because from them the Lord will raise up a Savior for Israel."  The prophetic figure is found too. Testament of Benjamin 9:2 reads "But in your allotted place will be the temple of God, and the later temple will exceed the former glory.  The twelve tribes shall be gathered there and all the nations, until such time as the Most High shall send forth his salvation through the ministration of the unique prophet."

Historical Revolts

We can find several clues about Messianic expectations from the various Jewish revolts, and attempts at revolts.  I will first discuss the revolt of Simon bar Kosiba in 132-135 AD because it is the most explicitly Messianic.  Then we'll examine some revolts recounted by Josephus.

Simon bar Kosiba was the leader of the Second Jewish Revolt of 132-135 AD (The First being the one of 66-73 AD when the temple was destroyed).  To be sure, there were more than two revolts while Rome occupied Judea, these two were the only ones to meet any measure of success.  Unlike the first revolt, which is documented in so much detail by Josephus, there is no extensive account of the second revolt.  We know that Simon managed to secure a good piece of Judea, although there is some uncertainty if he ever conquered Jerusalem.  His government was able to mint coins and carry on other governmental functions.

What interests us here is the fact that Rabbi Akiba declared Simon to be "King Messiah", and his followers knew him by the Messianic title "bar Kokhba", which means "son of a star" (Num 24:17 "I see him, but not now / I behold him, but not close at hand, / A star will march forth out of Jacob, / and a scepter will rise out of Israel. / He will crush the skulls of Moab, / and the heads of all the sons of Sheth.").  (See "Bar Kokhba", "Bar Kokhba Letters", and "Messianic Movements in Judaism" in ABD, and "Revolutionary Movements" in DJG).

Josephus records accounts of several earlier insurrectionists, many of which appear to have had Messianic pretensions.  Josephus avoids the use of the word Messiah (or Christ) in conjunction with them, for reasons that will be discussed below.  A selection of these insurrectionists are presented here (from Whiston's translation).

Antiquities 18.4.1. (85) But the nation of the Samaritans did not escape without tumults. The man who excited them to it, was one who thought lying a thing of little consequence, and who contrived everything so, that the multitude might be pleased; so he bade them get together upon Mount Gerizzim, which is by them looked upon as the most holy of all mountains, and assured them that, when they were come thither, he would show them those sacred vessels which were laid under that place, because Moses put them there. (86) So they came thither armed, and thought the discourse of the man probable; and as they abode at a certain village, which was called Tirathaba, they got the rest together to them, and desired to go up the mountain in a great multitude together. (87) But Pilate prevented their going up, by seizing upon the roads with a great band of horsemen and footmen, who fell upon those that were gotten together in the village; and when they came to an action, some of them they slew, and others of them they put to flight, and took a great many alive, the principal of whom, and also the most potent of those that fled away, Pilate ordered to be slain.

Antiquities 20.5.1. (97) Now it came to pass, while Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain magician, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the river Jordan; for he told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it; (98) and many were deluded by his words. However, Fadus did not permit them to make any advantage of his wild attempt, but sent a troop of horsemen out against them; who, falling upon them unexpectedly, slew many of them and took many of them alive. They also took Theudas alive, and cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem. (99) This was what befell the Jews in the time of Cuspius Fadus’s government.

Antiquities 20.8.6. (167) These works, that were done by the robbers, filled the city with all sorts of impiety. And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, (168) and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God. And many that were prevailed on by them suffered the punishments of their folly; for Felix brought them back, and then punished them. (169) Moreover, there came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem, one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives, as it was called, which lay over against the city, and at the distance of five furlongs. (170) He said farther, that he would show them from hence, how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down; and he promised that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were fallen down. (171) Now when Felix was informed of these things, he ordered his soldiers to take their weapons, and came against them with a great number of horsemen and footmen, from Jerusalem, and attacked the Egyptian and the people that were with him. He also slew four hundred of them, and took two hundred alive. (172) But the Egyptian himself escaped out of the fight, but did not appear any more. And again the robbers stirred up the people to make war with the Romans, and said they ought not to obey them at all; and when any persons would not comply with them, they set fire to their villages, and plundered them.

Reject this flavor of Messianism, Joseph instead reinterprets the Messianic expectation to refer to the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who was proclaimed Emperor while he was in Judea putting down the Jewish Revolt of 66-73 AD.

Wars 6.5.4 ... (312) But now, what did most elevate them in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how, “about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth." (313) The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination. Now, this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea. (314) However, it is not possible for men to avoid fate, although they see it beforehand. (315) But these men interpreted some of these signals according to their own pleasure; and some of them they utterly despised, until their madness was demonstrated, both by the taking of their city, and their own destruction.

Justin's Dialog with Trypho

Written in the mid second century AD, this is an account of Justin, a Christian, debating Trypho, a Jew about Christianity.  It gives some hints of what Jews believed about the Messiah.  By that time, Jews regarded the Messiah to be a man who won't even know he is the Messiah until Elijah announces him.

(Trypho speaking) Chapter VIII: "...But Christ -- if He has indeed been born, and exists anywhere -- is unknown, and does not even know Himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint Him, and make Him manifest to all.  And you, having accepted a groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves, and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing." (ANF, p. 1:198)

Chapter XLIX: And Trypho said, "Those who affirm him to have been a man, and to have been anointed by election, and then to have become Christ, appear to me to speak more plausibly than you who hold those opinions which you express.  For we all expect that Christ will be a man [born] of men, and that Elijah when he comes will anoint him.  Bit if this man appear to be Chrsit, he must certainly be known as man [born] of men; but from the circumstance that Elijah has not yet come, I infer that this man is not He ]the Christ]." (ANF, p. 1:219)

(Justin speaking about Mic. 4) Chapter CX: And when I had finished these words, I continued: "Now I am aware that your teachers, sirs admit the whole of the words of this passage to refer to Christ; and I am likewise aware that they maintain He has not yet come; or if they say that He has come, they assert that it is not known who He is; but when He shall become manifest and glorious, then it shall be known who He is.  And then, they say, the events mentioned in this passage shall happen, just as if there was no fruit as yet from the words of the prophecy. (ANF, p. 1:253)

Late Pseudepigrapha

Except for the Dead Sea Scrolls, which represent only a single sect of Jews, the amount of early first century material is obviously very scarse, although it does have some consistency in expecting one or more political figures that would rule Israel as Messiah(s) and free Israel from its oppressors, either by war, or by the force of their word.  After the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, we begin to find a larger number of extant writings of various cults.  These cults typically have a non-political Messiah.  Their Messiah is usually some sort of transendant heavenly figure.  It is likely that it is purely an accident of history that none of the early first century documents contain such a view (assuming none of these documents actually date that early, which some may).

A number of pseudepigrapha (and apocrypha) were written in the name of Baruch (Jeremiah's scribe) and Ezra.  This is because these figures were prominant in the 6th century BC Babylonian captivity.  Babylon was often used as a code word for talking about Rome without being overtly subversive.  One such work is called 2 Baruch, to distinquish it from other works attributed to Baruch.  In it, Baruch claims that it has been revealed to him that he would live till the end of the world, although he kept this secret from his contemporaries, even his own son. (OTP, p. 1:615-652)

13:2 Stand upon your feet, Baruch, and hear the word of the mighty God. 13:3 Because you have been astonished at that which has befallen Zion, you will surely be preserved until the end of times to be for a testimony...

25:1 And he answered and said to me: You also will be preserved until that time, namely until that sign which the Most High will bring about before the inhabitants of the earth at the end of days....

43:1 You, however, Baruch, strengthen your heart with a view to that which has been said to you, and understand that which has been revealed to you because you have many consolations which will last forever. 43:2 For you will go away from this place and leave the regions which are now before your eyes.  And you shall forget that which is corruptible and not again remember that which is among the mortal ones....

44:2 Behold, I go to my fathers in accordance with the way of the whole earth....

46:7 But with regard to the word that I shall be taken up, I did not let it be known to them at that time, not even to my son....

It is likely that the cult leader himself claimed to be this Baruch.  Several passages describe a Utopic vission of the Messianic kingdom.

29:3 And it will happen that when all which should come to pass in these parts has been accomplished, the Anointed One will begin to be revealed... 29:5 The earth will also yield fruits then thousandfold.... 29:6 And those who are hungry will enjoy themselves and they will, moreover, see marvels every day. 

30:1 And it will happen after these things when the time of the appearance of the Annointed One has been fulfulled and he returns with glory, that then all who sleep in home of him will rise... 30:4 But the souls of the wicked will the more waste away when they shall see all these things.  30:5 For they know that their torment has come and that their perditions have arrived....

39:5 After that a fourth kingdom arises whose power is harsher and more evil than those which were before it, and it will reign a multitude of times like the trees on the plain, and will rule the times and exalt itself more than the cedars of Lebanon.... 39:7 And it will happen when the time of its fulfillment is approaching in which it will fall, that at that time the dominion of my Anointed One which is like the fountain and the vine, will be revealed.  And when it has revealed itself, it will uproot the multitude of its host....

40:1 The last ruler who is left alive at that time will be bound, whereas the entire host will be destroyed.  And they will carry him on Mount Zion, and my Anointed One will convict him of all his wicked deeds and will assemble and set before him all the works of his hosts.  40:2 And after these things he will kill him and protect the rest of my people who will be found in the place that I have chosen. 40:3 And his dominion will last forever until the world of corruption has ended and until the times which have been mentioned before have been fulfilled...

72:2  After the signs have come of which I have spoken to you before, when the nations are moved and the time of my Anointed One comes, he will call all nations, and some of them he will spare, and otheres he will kill... 72:6 All those, now, who have ruled over you or have known you, will be delivered up to the sword.

73:1 And it will happen that after he has brought down everything which is in the world, and has sat down in eternal peace on the throne of the kingdom, then joy will be revealed and rest will appear. 73:2 And then health will descend in dew, and illness will vanish, and fear and tribulation and lamentation will pass away from among men, and joy will encompass the earth... 73:7 And women will no longer have pain when they bear, nor will they be tormented when they yield fruits of their womb.

The Messiah (Anointed One) that Baruch proclaims appears to be a pre-existant figure who will be "revealed" in the end times.  He will "sit down in eteranal peace on the thrown of the kingdom".  With the elimination of illness and lamentation, it appears that everyone in this eschatological kingdom will be immortal.

4 Ezra, like 2 Baruch above, was written in the name of a hero of the earlier Babylonian captivity, but was actually about the Roman occupation.  Scholars regard the reference to the thirtieth year and Babylon to be not about the thirtieth year after Babylon captured and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC, but about Rome having destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD.  Accordingly, the date this book was actually written was about 100 AD.  (OTP, p. 517-559)

3:1 In the thirtieth year after the destruction of our city, I Salathiel, who am also called Ezra, was in Babylon.  I was troubled as I lay on my bed, and my thoughts welled up in my heart, 3:2 because I saw the desolation of Zion and the wealth of those who lived in Babylon. ...

The cult leader here was concious that his pseudepigraphon's existence needed explaining because it had not been known for the past six and a half and more centuries as the canonical books had.  So he created an origins myth for his "scripture".   In the captivity, Israels scriptures had been lost, so he claims, and Ezra was given a miraculous memory and redictated all scripture again.  First the twenty-four canonical books, that had been openly known (remember that 1-2 Samual, etc are a single book in Hebrew), then another seventy books that were intrusted to "the wise among your people".  The cult leader, naturally, would have claimed to be of that secret order of the wise and was inducting his followers into its secrets and mysteries.

...14:41 and my mouth was opened, and was no longer closed.  14:42 And the Most High gave understanding to the five men, and by turns they wrote what was dicted, in characters which they did not know.  They sat fourt days, and wrote during the daytime, and ate their bread at night.  14:43 As for me, I spoke in the daytime and was not silent at night.  14:44 So during the fourth days ninety-four books were written.  14:45 And when the forty days were ended, the Most High spoke to me, saying, "Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first and let the worthy and the unworthy read them; 14:46 but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people....

4 Ezra's Messiah is paradoxically both a being "kept until the end of days ... for many ages" and also "from the posterity of David".  When he is revealed, the nations will stop fighting each other and gang up on him.  He will reprove the nations and "destroy them without effort  by the law".   Afterwards, the world will live in an Eden-like paradise for four hundred years.   At the end of the four hundred years, the Messiah and everyone on earth will die, and remain dead for seven days.  Afterwards, is the resurrection of all the dead.

7:27 And everyone who has been delivered from the evils that I have foretold shall see my wonders.  7:28 For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years.  7:29 And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath.  7:30 And the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days, as it was at the first beginnings; so that no one shall be left.  7:31 And after seven days the world, which is not yet awake, shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish. 7:32 And the earth shall give up those who are alseep in it; and the chambers shall give up the souls which have been committed to them...

... 12:11 The eagle which you saw coming up from the sea is the fourth kingdom which appeared in a vision to your brother Daniel...

12:31 And as for the lion that you saw rousing up out of the forest and roaring and speaking to the eagle and reproving him for his unrighteousness, and for all his words that you have heard, 12:32 this is the Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the posterity of David, and will come and speak to them; he will denounce them for their ungodliness and for their wickedness, and will cast up before them their comoptemptuous dealings.  12:33 For first he will set them living before his judgment seat, and when he has reproved them, then he will detroy them. 12:34 But he will deliver in mercy the remnant of my people hose who have been saved throughout my borders, and he will make them joyful until the end comes, the day of judgment, of which I spoke to you at the beginning....

13:25 This is the interpretation of the vision:  As for your seeing a man come up from the heart of the sea, 13:26 this is he whom the Most High has been keeping for many ages, who will himself delvier his creation; and he will direct those who are left.  13:27 And as for your seeing wind and fire and a store coming out of his mouth, 13:28 and as for his not holding spear or weapon of war, yet destroying the onrushing multitude which came to conquer him, this is the interpretation: 13:29 Behold, the days are coming when the Most High will deliver those who are on the earth.  13:30 And bewilderment of mind shall come over those who dwell on the earth.  13:31 And they shall plan to make ware against one another, city against city, place against place, people against people, and kingdom against kingdom.  13:32 And when these things come to pass and the signs occur which I shoed you before, then my son will be relealed, whom you saw as a man coming up from the sea.  13:33 And when all the nations hear his voice, every man shall leave his own land and the warfare that they have against one another; 13:34 and an innumerable multitude shall be gathered together, as you saw, desiring to come and conquer him.  13:35 But he will stand on top of Mount Zion. 13:36 And Zion will come and be made manifest to all people, prepared and built, as you saw the mountain carved out with hands.  13:37 And he, my Son, will reprove the assembled nations for their ungodliness (this was symbolized by the storm), 13:38 and will reproach them to their face with their evil thoughts and with the torments with which they are to be tortured (which were symbolized by the flames); and he will destroy them without effort by the law (which was symbolized by the fire)....

Enoch is another figure that is used as a pseudonym by the authors of pseudepigraphic apocalypses.  We first encountered this book earlier because fragments of it had also been found amoung the Dead Sea Scrolls.  On section of it, 1 Enoch 37-71, has not been found at Qumran.  However, it is not clear if this is simply because it was written later or because the Messianism of it was not compatibile with Essene theology.

In it, the Messiah is clearly a preexistant heavenly being who is sent to the earth to dwell among men. (OTP, p. 5-12, 29-50)

45:4 On that day, I will cause my Elect One to dwell among them
        I will transform heaven and make it a blessing of light forever
45:5 I shall (also) transform the earth and make it a blessing,
        and cause my Elect One to dwell in her.
        Then those who have committed sin and crime shall not set foot in here...

The author expands greatly on the "one like a son of man" in Daniel, and makes extensive use of the Son of Man title for the Messiah.

47:4 This Son of Man whom you have seen is the One who would remove the kings and the mighty ones from their confortable seats and the strong ones from their thrones.  He shall loosen the reigns of the strong and crush the teeth of the sinners.  46:5 He shall depose the kings from their thrones and kingdoms.  For they do not extol and glorify him, and neither do they obey him, the source of their kingship.  (See also 47:1-6).

48:5 All those who dwell upon the earth shall fall and worship before him; they shall glorify, bless, and sing the name of the Lord of the Spirits.  48:6 For this purpose he became the Chosen One; he was concealed in the presence of (the Lord of the Spirits) prior to the creation of the world, and for eternity.  48:7 And he has revealed the wisdom of the Lord of the Spirits to the righteous and the holy ones, ...48:9 I shall deliver them into the hands of my elect ones like grass in the fire and like lead in the water, so they shall burn before the face of the holy ones and sink before their sight, and no place will be found for them.  48:10 On the day of their weariness, there shall be an obstacle on the earth and they shall fall on their faces; and they shall not rise up (again), nor anyone (be found) who will take them with his hands and raise them up.   For they have denied the Lord of the Spirits and his Messiah.  Blessed by the name of the Lord of the Spirits!  (See also 48:2-49:4, 51:1-4)

52:4 And he said to me, "All these things which you have seen happened by the authority of his Messiah so that he may give orders and be praised upon the earth."...

62:7 For the Son of Man was concealed from the beginning, and the Most High One preserved him in the presence of his power; then he revealed him to the holy and the elect ones....

69:27 (Then) there came to them a great joy.  And they blessed, glorified, and extolled (the Lord) on account of the fact that the name of that (Son of) Man was revelaed to them.  He shall never pass away or perish from before the face of the earth.... 69:29 Thenceforth nothing that is corruptible shall be found; for that Son of Man has appeared and has seated himself upon the throne of his glory; and all evil shall disappear from before his face....

One intriguing passage at the conclussion may indicate that this eschatological Son of Man is Enoch himself.  M. A. Knibb translates it (AOT, p. 256):

71:14 And that angel came to me, and greeted me with his voice, and said to me, You are the Son of Man who was born to righteousness, and righteousness remains over you, and the righteousness of the Head of Days will not leave you.

Another book of Sibyline oracles, 5 Sibyl, which dates to the early second century has a passage which seems to refer to a similar sort of Messianic figure, coming from the heavens.  (OTP, p. 390-405).

For a blessed man came from the expanses of heaven
with a scepter in his hands which God gave him,
and he gained sway over all things well, and gave back the wealth
to all the good, which previous men had taken.


The accidents of history dictate what is and is not preserved of the written documents of the first century.  We must therefore be cautious about how we interpret those documents that do survive as they may not accurately reflect the actual demographics of first century Jewry.

We see significant variety in the documents.  One, two, or even three human figures are predominate in the earliest ones.  The simple mortal human Messiah was seen as being another David, a political figure estabilishing a political kingdom and reestablishing a Davidic dynasty ruling over it.  In some surviving literary documents, he establishes his rule by his word rather than his sword.  In the Dead Sea scrolls, the Messianic age is establish by warfare, although no extant document places the Messiah in charge Israel's armies during this conflict.  However, it is not necessarily so that a non-warrior Messiah was the dominate expectation.  The fact that David himself was a warrior would suggest to most otherwise.  The long series of leaders of revolts had Messianic overtones, played down by Josephus, but explicitly seen in the records of the last, bar Kockba.  They show that a would-be warrior Messiah would find no shortage of followers.  The disasterous lack of success of these false Messiahs prompted Josephus to downplay their Messianic claims and proclaim the Roman Emperor Vespasian as the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies instead.

At some point a different view of the Messiah became popular, especially common in literature that could be described as cultic.  Based on Danial's "one like a son of man", these cult leaders, seeking to avoid the political disasters of those who claimed to be Messiah themselves, proclaimed a future Messiah who was something more than a mere human, either an angelic being of some sort, or perhaps even the translated Enoch.   Although we know this view only from post 70 AD documents we can't rule it out from early first century or before since such a small amount of material exists from that time.   Jesus himself used the "son of man" terminology and the Daniel passage to speak of his own role.  Books such as 1 Enoch don't seem to be derivative from Christian belief in other ways, and so we may presume this belief extends back to the early first century independantly of Christianity.

The Disciples Come To Jesus

Lk 7:20 When72 the men came to Jesus,73 they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask,74 ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’”75
7:21 At that very time76 Jesus77 cured many people of diseases, sicknesses,78 and evil spirits, and granted79 sight to many who were blind.


Matthew has characteristically condensed the passage by omitting unimportant details.  He leaves it implied that the men actually came to Jesus and asked the question as well as what Jesus was doing when they arrived.  It doesn't seem likely that Lk 7:21 was Luke's invention to flesh out the details.  If it were, one would expect the list of miracles to correspond more exactly to the list in Jesus' answer in Lk 7:22 || Mt 11:5.

Are You The One Who Is To Come?

John proclaimed a message of impending Judgement.

Mt 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came into the wilderness of Judea proclaiming, 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Lk 3:7 So John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? ... 3:9 Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” ... 3:16 ... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 3:17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clean out his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with inextinguishable fire.”

This would appear to be consistent with the Messianic expections we've seen in our examination above.  Jesus seemingly failed these expectations in many ways.

Although it was given to John to announce Jesus as the Messiah, and testify to this fact, he did not have a full understanding of just what this meant.  When he heard (from prison) what Jesus was doing and saying, it must of confused him and tried his faith.

Jesus Responds From Isaiah

Lk 7:22 So80 he answered them,81 “Go tell82 John what you have seen and heard:83 the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the84 deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news proclaimed to them. Mt 11:4 Jesus answered them,6 “Go tell John what you hear and see:7
11:5 the blind see, the8 lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.
7:23 Blessed is the one85 who takes no offense at me.” 11:6 Blessed is the one9 who takes no offense at me.”

Jesus' reply is not in the form of direct quotation of OT scripture, but the allusions to Isaiah are clear.  We will examine each passage in Isaiah, looking especially at its context and what that might have meant to John the Baptist in particular.  John's eschatological views were informed primarily from Isaiah.   In John 1:23 (compare with Mt 3:3), John explicitly cites Isaiah 40:3 as describing his own ministry.

Isaiah 35:5-6a

The greater context here is Isaiah 35:1-10.  The passage alluded to in particular is verses 5-6a.

35:5 Then blind eyes will open,
deaf ears will hear.
35:6 Then the lame will leap like a deer,
the mute tongue will shout for joy;

Chapter 35 is the last poetic oracle before Isaiah's Prose section.   The message in this chapter is purely positive, but look at verse 4 and compare to John's message earlier.

35:4 Tell those who panic,
“Look, your God comes to avenge!
With divine retribution he comes to deliver you.”

John's message had focused on the avenging part.  Recall "You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? ... Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." in Mt 3:7, 10.  The oracle of this chapter is eschatological, anticipating a utopian future.

Isaiah 26:19

See Isaiah 26:7-21 for a fuller context of this allusion.

26:19 Your dead will come back to life;
your corpses will rise up.
Wake up and shout joyfully, you who live in the ground!
For you will grow like plants drenched with the morning dew,
and the earth will bring forth its dead spirits.

The context here again is eschatological judgment and restoration.   The two verses that immediately follow this are:

26:20 Go, my people! Enter your inner rooms!
Close your doors behind you!
Hide for a little while,
until his angry judgment is over!
26:21 For look, the Lord is coming out of the place where he lives,
to punish the sin of those who live on the earth.
The earth will display the blood shed on it;
it will no longer cover up its slain.

Again, the focus of these verses matches the focus of John's ministry, but Jesus is pointing out a greater context to John.  To use a modern idiom, John had failed to see that his and Jesus' ministry were two sides of the same coin.

Isaiah 29:18-19

Isaiah 29 is a judgment oracle against Jerusalem, symbolically called Ariel, which sounds like the word for altar-hearth (see v. 2c).   After predicting the destruction of Jerusalem that was fulfilled by the Babylonians in 586 BC, Isaiah's prophecy suddenly shifts.

29:17 In just a very short time
Lebanon will turn into an orchard,
and the orchard will be considered a forest.
29:18 At that time the deaf will be able to hear words read from a scroll,
and the eyes of the blind will be able to see through deep darkness.
29:19 The downtrodden will again rejoice in the Lord;
the poor among mankind will take delight in the sovereign king of Israel.
Those who stray morally will gain understanding;
those who complain will acquire insight.

The view here, although spoken about in somewhat elevated language, does not appear to be eschatological, but rather refers to national repentence and restoration, which happened a few decades after the fall of Jerusalem in the 6th century BC, when Cyrus conquered the Babylonians and allowed the Jews to return to Israel.  Here the references to the deaf and blind are not literal, but rather figuratively refering to those who are spiritually deaf and blind.  See especially verse 24 where the metaphoral use is made more explicit.

Jesus also used his healings to convey a similar metaphorical meaning.   See John 9:39-41, where Jesus is talking to the man he had recently healed of blindness:

9:39 [Jesus said,] “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may gain their sight, and the ones who see may become blind.”

9:40 Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and asked him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 9:41 Jesus replied, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now because you claim that you can see, your guilt remains.”

Isaiah 61:1

Isaiah 61 is one of Isaiah's Messianic Servant Songs.  Once again, the positive is adjacent to judgment in the oracle.

61:1 The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has chosen me.
He has commissioned me to encourage the poor,
to help the brokenhearted,
to decree the release of captives,
and the freeing of prisoners,
61:2 to announce the year when the Lord will show his favor,
the day when our God will seek vengeance,
to console all who mourn,

Isaiah 42:7

For some reason, most commentators seem to disgregard this passage as a possible allusion.  Isaiah 42:1-7 is another Messianic Servant Song.

42:6 “I, the Lord, officially commission you;
I take hold of your hand.
I protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people,
and a light to the nations,
42:7 to open blind eyes,
to release prisoners from dungeons,
those who live in darkness from prisons.

Here, the blindness appears to be metaphorical again (assuming Isaiah doesn't picture the Messiah being a literal lightbulb to the nations in the verse 6.   The reference to dungeons and prisons would have been directly relevent to John, since he was imprisoned.  The reference to the reed in verse 3 is significant too, since Jesus is going to use this same image in the next verse of the passage under consideration too.


Jesus' miracles are to be interpreted on multiple levels.  The prophecies in the Old Testament are not just simplistic predictions that some guy will show up and work some magic.  They are part of of a wider drama in Isaiah's writting.  In this drama, evil is defeated and a "Utopic Kingdom" is established.  John's ministry had focused on the wrath of God part.  Jewish expectations generally thought in terms of military defeat of Israel's political enemies, namely Rome in the first century.

John didn't see how Jesus was fulfilling this.  Jesus responded by pointing out the other half of the equation.  The miracles served multiple purposes.  First, they demonstrated that Jesus had the power to establish the Messianic kingdom.   Second, they were themselves the first glimmers of that kingdom.  Third they were acted out parables regarding another aspect of Jesus' ministry, namely the removal of "spiritual blindness".  As history demonstrates, the defeat of Rome proved not to be a military defeat, but a spiritual defeat.  The Kingdom of God is not a political entity, nor is it some future post-apocalyptic kingdom, but the rule of Jesus in the hearts of Christians.  It is the Church Invisible.

Jesus Speaks About John


Lk 7:24 When86 John’s messengers had gone, Jesus87 began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness88 to see? A reed shaken by the wind?89 Mt 11:7 While they were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness10 to see? A reed shaken by the wind?11
7:25 What90 did you go out to see? A man dressed in fancy91 clothes?92 Look, those who wear fancy clothes and live in luxury93 are in kings’ courts!94 11:8 What12 did you go out to see? A man dressed in fancy clothes?13 Look, those who wear fancy clothes are in the homes of kings!14
7:26 What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more95 than a prophet. 11:9 What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more15 than a prophet.

Luke and Matthew read almost word-for-word the same.

Jesus is using some humor here.  To put it in an American context, one might paraphrase Lk 7:24|| Mt 11:7 as "You didn't go out into the desert to look at the cacti did you?" or "You didn't go out into the swamp to check out the mosquitoes did you?"  Some commentors think the reference to a "reed" is referring to John, but Jesus certainly didn't view John as a "reed shaken by the wind" as we will see in the next several verses.  John was neither a flimsy reed, nor a rich and powerful man (by the world's standards).  He wasn't even a run-of-the-mill prophet, but something more than a prophet!  It was who John was that drew the people to him.

Jesus Cites Malachi 3:1

Lk 7:27 This is the one about whom it is written,

Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,96 who will prepare your way before you.’97

Mt 11:10 This is the one about whom it is written:

Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,16
who will prepare your way before you.17

In this verse, Jesus applies Malachi 3:1 to John.  However, the way Jesus quotes Malachi also provides a subtle insight into who Jesus is as well.

Mal 3:1 “I am about to send my messenger, who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant whom you long for is coming,” says the sovereign LORD.

In Malachi the way is prepared before "me", "me" being "the sovereign LORD", that is, God.  Jesus has changed the pronoun to "you" (singular).  This makes little sense if addressed to Israel as the "you".  Jesus is applying the passage to his relationship to John.   John is preparing the way before Jesus, who is God incarnate.

None Greater Than John

Lk 7:28 I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater98 than John.99 Yet the one who is least100 in the kingdom of God101 is greater than he is.” Mt 11:11 “I tell you the truth,18 among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least19 in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.

It is common in Judaism to avoid direct reference to Deity by way of circumlocution.  Matthew does this frequently, including in this verse by refering to the kingdom of God as the kingdom of heaven.  The two terms are synonomous.

This verse has important implications regarding what the kingdom of God is.  John is not regarded as in the kingdom of God: the least in the kingdom is greater than he, which, by logical implication, excludes himself from being in the kingdom.  Thus the kingdom can't be the afterlife in heaven after then end of the world since I think we can reasonably expect John to be there.  Nor can it be in a future Millenial kingdom as conceived by Dispensationalists (such as LaHaye, the author of the Left Behind series), since they view that as a post-resurrection entity, so we would expect John to be there too.

Instead, as envisioned in Daniel, Jesus sits ruling at the right hand of God today.  The kingdom of God is the rule of Jesus over the church and is active today.  John saw the coming of the Messiah as a future event.  We, today, on the otherhand, live in the Messianic kingdom if we allow Jesus to rule in our hearts.

Parenthetical Asides

Between Lk 7:28 || Mt 11:11 and Lk 7:31 || Mt 11:16, Matthew and Luke insert  different material (Lk 7:28-30 and Mt 11:12-15) that does not parallel each other.  I'll not spend a lot of time on these verses right now because the focus of this series of studies is intended to be the Q material.

Enigmatic Saying

Lk 16:16 “The law and the prophets were in force51 until John;52 since then,53 the good news of the kingdom of God54 has been proclaimed, and everyone is urged to enter it.55 Mt 11:12 From20 the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and forceful people lay hold of it.21
11:13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John appeared.22

 Mt 11:12-13 is difficult to understand.  A comparison of English translations will show rather divergent interpretations.  It will go too far afield of the interests of this study to examine the difficulties of understanding this passage.   For the purposes of this study it will suffice to note that it speaks of the kingdom of heaven not as some post-resurrection political entity but has something much closer, being inaugerated in Jesus' ministry.

Some commentors believe Luke 16:16 is a paraphrase, some of the wording being similar.  This is far from certain however.  They seem rather to have different points to make and should probably be dealt with as separate sayings.

John is Elijah

Mt 11:14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, who is to come.
11:15 The one who has ears had better listen!23

Jesus is here referreing to another passage from Malachi:

Mal 4:5 Look, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 4:6 He will encourage fathers and their children to return to me, so that I will not come and strike the earth with judgment.”

John himself did not claim to be Elijah.  In fact, he denied it entirely (John 1:21).  He may have understood the concept being that the translated Elijah would return, and knowing himself to not literally being the Old Testament prophet, did not apply this passage to himself.  Jesus understood the passage differently, that is, not as Elijah literally but one like Elijah, that is a prophet who walks closely with God.

Response to John

Lk 7:29 (Now102 all the people who heard this, even the tax collectors,103 acknowledged104 God’s justice, because they had been baptized105 with John’s baptism. Mt 21:31b Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth,46 tax collectors47 and prostitutes will go ahead of you into the kingdom of God!
7:30 However, the Pharisees106 and the experts in religious law107 rejected God’s purpose108 for themselves, because they had not been baptized109 by John.110)111 21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe. Although48 you saw this, you did not later change your minds49 and believe him.

Luke's insertion here is a parenthetical remark about the responses to John.  It is similar to a passage from another place in Matthew that is a quote from Jesus.  This remark ties into the following parable which tells of the response to both Jesus and Elijah.

Parable of the Children's Game

The Parable

Lk 7:31 “To what then should I compare the people112 of this generation, and what are they like? Mt 11:16 “To24 what should I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to one another,25
7:32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to one another,113

‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance;114
we wailed in mourning,115 yet you did not weep.’

11:17 ‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance;26
we wailed in mourning,27 yet you did not weep.’

Jesus was always using similes  from everyday life.  In this case it is the pretend games of children playing, and not cooperating in the choice of game.  To transmogrify it into more modern children's games, we might say "we wanted to play house, but you wanted to run around hooping and hollering, so we played cowboys and Indians, and you wanted to sit down and eat."

The Interpretation

Lk 7:33 For John the Baptist has come116 eating no bread and drinking no wine,117 and you say, ‘He has a demon!’118 Mt 11:18 “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’28
7:34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him,119 a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’120 11:19a The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him,29 a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors30 and sinners!’31

John focused on the negative, and Jesus on the positive, yet neither was good enough for the Jewish religious parties.


Lk 7:35 But wisdom is vindicated121 by all her children.” Mt 11:19b But wisdom is vindicated32 by her deeds.”

Here we see the only significant difference between Lk and Mt.  Where Luke has "children", Matthew has "deeds".  The use of "child" or "son" in such a context is typical Semitic idiom.  A "son of wisdom" is a wise person.  Matthew's reading is interpretive of this.  How is wisdom vindicated by wise men, if not by their actions (in contrast to those who rejected the ministries of John and Jesus)? 

The evanagelists were first and foremost theologians, not historians.   This is not to say they cared not abou historical accuracy.  They cared very deeply about conveying what Jesus actually taught, but they cared primarily about conveying the concepts accurately, and less about the exact wording.


We've covered a lot of diverse territory in this Bible study.  One may well ask why spend so much time looking at early Jewish writings, much of which can be considered the writings of cult leaders.  It is important in understanding the context of the New Testament.  John was not the only one who had difficulty understanding the true nature of Jesus' messiahship.  Even the Twelve Apostles, as late the Jesus ascension to heaven asked "Lord, is the the time when you are restoring the kingdom of Israel?" (Acts 1:6).  The irony was that that was the moment when Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel, coming in clouds to the right hand of God where he now rules the Kingdom of God, and where Stephan saw him in Acts 7:56

"Look!" he [Stephan] said.  "I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"

Jesus' mission was so simple as to just give the Jews their political independence and punish Israel's enemies.  It was much grander than that.  Jesus came to reconcile the whole world to God.  As Isaiah prophesied:

49:6 he [God] says, "Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant
to reestablish the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the remnant of Israel?
I will make you a light to the nations,
so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth"



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Green, J. B., ed. 1992. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. (InterVarisity Press).
          Hurtado, L. W. "Christ", p. 106-117.
          Heard, W. J. "Revolutionary Movements", p. 688-698.
          Bauer, D. R. "Son of David", p. 766-769.
          Bauer, D. R. "Son of God", p. 769-775.
          Marshal, I. H., "Son of Man", p. 776-781.
Hagner, D. A. 1993. Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13. (Word).
Roberts, A. 1885. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. (Eerdmans).
Rogers, Cleon L. Jr. 1993. "The Promises to David in Early Judaism", p. 295-302 in
               Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol 150, Issue 599 (Jan-Mar 1993).
Schiffman, Lawrence H. 1995. Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Doubleday).
Shanks, Hershel, et al. 1990. The Dead Sea Scrolls After Forty Years. (BAS).
Shanks, Hershel, ed. 1993. Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Vintage).
Sparks, H. F. D. ed. 1984. The Apocryphal Old Testament. (Oxford).
          Knibb, M. A. "1 Enoch", p. 169-320.
          Pennington, A. "Apocalypse of Abraham", p. 363-392.
          Brock, S. P. "The Psalms of Solomon", p. 649-682.
          Charles, R. H., rev. by. L. H. Brockingston. "Syrica Apocalypse of Baruch", p. 835-896.
          Shutt, R. J. H. "Apocalypse of Esdras", p. 927-942.
Vermes, Geza. 1997. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. (Penguin).
Whiston, William. 1867. Josephus: Complete Works.
Wise, Michael, et al. 1996. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. (Harper).
Wright, N. T. 1992. The New Testament and the People of God. (Fortress).
Wright, N. T. 1996. Jesus and the Victory of God. (Fortress).


ANF. Ante-Nicene Fathers. (Roberts and Donaldson).
. The Apocryphal Old Testament. (Sparks).
. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English. (Vermes).
DJG. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. (Green).
NET. New English Translation. (Biblical Studies Foundation).
. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. (Charlseworth).