MESSIANIC PROPHECIES LECTURES (CHRISTENDOM)
Puzzling things sometimes appear in the documents of Vatican II.
Specially fascinating is the fact that in DV paragraph 3 we read: "After
their fall, by promising redemption, He lifted them up into the hope of
salvation (cf. Gen 3, 15). "But in LG paragraph 55; "These primeval
documents, as they are read in the Church and are understood in the light
of later and full revelation, gradually bring more clearly to light the
figure of the woman, the Mother of the Redeemer." Now if we look closely,
DV paragraph 3 seems to mean that our first parents were given hope of
salvation, which they understood. But LG paragraph 55 seems to mean that
the Council is not sure that the writer of Gen 3: 15 understood what the
Church now sees, namely, a promise of salvation. So we ask: Did Vatican II
contradict itself, in one place saying clearly that Adam and Eve
understood the promise of salvation, in another place making it very
doubtful if the inspired author saw in the same passage a hope of
We are not going to charge contradiction. Since a General Council is in
the hands of Divine Providence, in the final documents it might even write
things it did not fully understand at the time. We think that is the case
To see this we recall Gen 3:8 which says that Adam & Eve heard God
walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze. This of course is
anthropomorphism, like the text of Gen 11:7 in which God said "Let us go
down" to confuse their languages. Of course He does not go down, nor does
He walk in the evening breeze. But we gather that He had associated
closely with Adam and Eve before the fall, since they heard Him in the
garden even after the fall. Therefore it seems He had made known to them
the real import of their sin and its consequences, namely the need of
redemption. Yet it is not hard to suppose that this knowledge which they
once possessed was not handed down to all later generations, was rather,
forgotten during some period, so that by the time Genesis was written
down, the knowledge of what 3:15 meant could have been lost to the writer
- for LG paragraph 55 indicates it is not sure if the writer knew what the
Church now sees in that text. For the Church sees the Mother of the
Redeemer only by the help of later and full revelation, and came to see it
gradually. If gradual, the clear knowledge must not have been had among
the Hebrew people continuously from the beginning to the date of
composition of Genesis.
This supposition would fit well with the proposal of the Schmidt school of
anthropology (cf. Wilhelm Schmidt, "Der Ursprung der Gottesidee" 12 vol. ,
Münster, 1919-54) which presented evidence that in many primitive tribes,
at the lowest level of material culture, there was monotheism and a lack
of many errors in the moral code. However, as a people advanced in
material culture, its religious understanding declined, so that polytheism
and superstition came in. A remarkable instance of this seems to appear in
the fact that the names for the chief god in Greece and Rome, "Zeus"
(possessive "Dios") and "Jupiter" were linguistically the same, going back
to an Indo-European "dyaus-p ter," which would mean "sky Father" exactly
in line with the findings of the Schmidt school in some monotheistic
tribes. That is, the Indo-Europeans would seem to have been monotheists at
one time, but later declined into polytheism while preserving the same
original name for the chief god.
In passing, we note that the Schmidt school, which really had such
evidence for a number of tribes, wanted to extrapolate, so as to suppose
that the whole human race at similar stages went through similar positions
of understanding about God. While many anthropologists objected to this
extrapolation, yet if they do not accept it, they are reduced to foolish
imaginings, e. g. , that primitive man was very stupid, that he came out
of his cave, perceived thunder and lightning, and thought those things
were gods. Precisely such an extrapolation as Schmidt proposed has been
reported in archaeology. Brian M. Fagan ("The Adventure of Archaeology,"
National Geographic Society, 1989, pp. 344-46) said: "Experimentation in
archaeology is not limited to state--of-the-art technology. 'New
archaeologists' seek innovative ways to study living societies in order to
construct models that describe the behavior of past ones."
We conclude: It is not at all farfetched to suppose that the Hebrew people
lost the knowledge once possessed by Adam and Eve about Gen 3: 15, so that
when that text was written down the inspired writer may no longer have
grasped the original import, which the Church today sees, and which Adam
and Eve had seen. This proposal we have just made need not require us to
suppose that the Fathers of Vatican II saw the points we have tried to
make. They themselves were willing to suppose that the inspired writers of
Genesis and Isaiah 7:14 wrote more than they saw, and there is even
impressive reason to think Vatican II in LG chapter 8 wrote more than it
saw. Hence under the action of Divine Providence what we have suggested is
at least possible.
Interestingly, it is possible that some other peoples kept much of an
early revelation. Cf. Don Richardson, "Eternity in Their Hearts," in which
the author gives his own experience and those of others, who went into
primitive tribes, and found a remarkable welcome from the elders, who had
been telling the people some day a white man would come with a book to
tell them what they needed to know.
Let us go ahead to consider the text of Gen 3:15 in itself. In it God
says: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring
and her offspring. He will strike at your head, you will strike at his
heel." Our question is: Could this text have been messianic, i. e., could
it have meant a promise of a redeemer in itself?
We first check how the ancient Hebrews understood this passage. There are
some few OT texts that might express original sin, but are quite doubtful.
Job 14:4: "Who can make clean from the unclean? Not one." The LXX reads:
"Who will be clean [coming] from uncleanness? But no one [is clean], even
if his life on the earth is one day."
In context, Job speaks of the frailty of humans. No connection is made to
the first humans. The mention of those born only one day being in a state
of uncleanness could imply a transmitted sin, but could easily refer to
the evil "yetzer," or else to levitical impurity from intercourse. So the
text is quite doubtful at best.
Psalm 51:7: " Behold, in iniquity I was brought forth, and in sin did my
mother conceive me." LXX: "Behold in iniquities I was conceived, and in
sins my mother was pregnant with me." Most likely stands for ritual
impurity from sex.
Sirach 15:23: "From the woman, the beginning of iniquity and because of
her we die together." LXX has the same sense. The mention of the first
woman does seem to refer to Genesis, but it is still not clear. However
the word together could help suggest original sin.
Wisdom 2:23-24: "For God created man in incorruptibility and made him the
image of his own eternity [variant "nature"]. By the envy of the devil
death entered into the world." Ibid. 10:1-2: "She [Wisdom] guarded the
first-formed father of the world... and delivered him from his fall, and
gave him the power to rule all."
The second text here seems to refer to the personal salvation of Adam. The
first does speak of death entering into the world, and so possibly could
refer to original sin. Yet it is not clear.
We turn to the "Intertestamental literature," though most of it is after
Christ, and is not as clear as we might desire..
Fourth Ezra (late 1st cent. A. D. ). The introduction in the edition by
Charlesworth: "... the seer believed that inevitably all have turned away
from God. This defection is due, in some way, to the sin of Adam (7: 
who possessed an evil heart... in which a grain of evil seed... had been
sown (4:30). Since all of Adam's descendants have followed his example in
clothing themselves with an evil heart (3:26) , each is morally
responsible. It will be seen that this view corresponds to the rabbinic
doctrine of the evil inclination or impulse ("yetzer ha-ra").
3.20: "Yet you did not take away from them their evil heart.... For the
first Adam, burdened with an evil heart, transgressed and was overcome, as
we also all who were descended from him. Thus the disease became
permanent; the law was in the people's heart along with the evil root, but
what was good departed, and the evil remained."
7:46-49: "It would have been better if the earth had not produced
Adam.... For what good is it to all that they live in sorrow now and
expect punishment after death? O Adam, what have you done? For it was
through you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone but ours also who are
your descendants." 7:48 has: "Now I see that the world to come will bring
delight to few, but torments to many. For an evil heart has grown up in
us, which alienated us from God and brought us into corruption and the
ways of death... ."
Second Baruch: (1-2 decade of 2nd cent. A. D. ): 48:42-43: "O Adam, what
did you do to all who were born after you? And what will be said of the
first Eve who obeyed the serpent, so that this whole multitude is going to
corruption. And countless are those whom the fire devours." 54:15-16:
"For although Adam sinned first and has brought death upon all who were
not in his own time, yet each of them who has been born from him has
prepared for himself the coming torment. And further, each of them has
chosen for himself the coming glory. For truly the one who believes will
Pseudo-Philo (1st cent. A. D. prob. original in Hebrew). Note c by D. J.
Harrington on p. 375 on 62:5: "In the rabbinic tradition Jesse, David's
father, is one of the four righteous men who did not die because of their
own sins but because the serpent caused Adam and Eve to sin. The present
sentence contrasts Jesse's righteousness with Saul's unrighteousness."
Conclusion thus far: Very little of original sin, still less of a promise
of a redeemer. All or nearly all could be understood of the yetzer ha-ra
and its leading people into personal sin.
Targums: They are ancient Aramaic versions of the OT, most of them free,
so as to have fill-ins which show how the Jews once understood them,
without hindsight, that is, without seeing them fulfilled in Christ, whom
they hated. Jacob Neusner in "Messiah in Context," made a great survey of
all Jewish literature from after 70 A.D. up to the Babylonian Talmud,
500-600 A. D. He found that up to the Talmud, there was no longer any
interest in a Messiah. In the Talmud, interest returns, but the only one
of the classic major points mentioned is that he should be of the line of
David. In contrast, the Targums see the Messiah in so very many OT texts.
It is evident, these parts of the Targums could not have been written in
the literally centuries in which there was no interest in the Messiah. So
they go back at least before 70 A.D. Some scholars think the beginning
was when Ezra read the Scripture to the people, and the Levites out in the
crowd explained it to them. This was in 5th century B.C, after the exile,
when some had stopped using Hebrew, had turned instead to Aramaic. This is
uncertain but very interesting.
The reason for Targums in general is debated. Some think that so many had
stopped using Hebrew that a version was needed; others think the reason
was to give a place to add interpretations - for in the Sacred Hebrew
text, read before the Targums, no such insertions would have been
permitted. It is uncertain how much Hebrew was known at the time of
"Targum Onkelos:" "And enmity I will put between you and the woman, and
between your son and her son. He shall be recalling what you did to him in
the beginning; and you shall be observing him in the end."
"Targum Pseudo-Jonathan:" "And I will place enmity between you and the
woman, and between the offspring of your sons and the offspring of her
sons. And it will happen: when the sons of the woman will observe the
precepts of the Torah, they will aim to strike you on the head; and when
they will forsake the precepts of the Torah, you will aim to bite them in
the heel. But for them there will be a remedy; whereas for you there will
be no remedy. And they will be ready to make a crushing with the heel in
the days of King Messiah."
"Fragmentary Targum:" "And it shall be: when the sons of the woman observe
the Torah and fulfill the commandments, they will aim to strike you on the
head and kill you; and when the sons of the woman will forsake the
precepts of the Torah and will not keep the commandments, you will aim to
bite them on their heel and harm them. However there will be a remedy for
the sons of the woman, but for you, O serpent, there will be no remedy.
Still, behold, they will appease one another in the final end of days, in
the days of the King Messiah."
"Targum Neofiti:" "And I will put enmities between you and the woman, and
between your sons and her sons. And it will happen: when her sons keep the
Law and put into practice the commandments, they will aim at you and smite
you on the head and kill you; but when they forsake the commandments of
the Law, you will aim at and wound him on his heel and make him ill. For
her son, however, there will be a remedy, but for you, serpent, there will
be no remedy. They will make peace in the future in the day of King
Texts of the Magisterium
Pius IX, "Ineffabilis Deus," 1854: "The Fathers and ecclesiastical
writers... in commenting on the words, 'I will put enmity between you and
the woman, and your seed and her seed', have taught that by this utterance
there was clearly and openly foretold the merciful Redeemer of the human
race... and that His Most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was designated,
and at the same time, that the enmity of both against the devil was
COMMENTS: We notice that Pius IX does not say in his own words that Gen
3:15 is messianic. He says that the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers say
Pius XII, "Munificentissimus Deus," 1950: "We must remember especially
that, since the 2nd century, the Virgin Mary has been presented by the
Holy Fathers as the New Eve, who, although subject to the New Adam, was
most closely associated with Him in that struggle against the infernal
enemy which, as foretold in the Protoevangelium, was to result in that
most complete victory over sin and death. Wherefore, just as the glorious
resurrection of Christ was an essential part and final sign of this
victory, so also that struggle, which was common to the Blessed Virgin and
her Son, had to be closed by the glorification of her virginal body."
COMMENT: He speaks of the struggle against the infernal enemy as foretold
in the protoevangelium, Gen. 3. 15. Even though he does so in passing, yet
he clearly takes it for granted that the protoevangelium does foretell
that victory, a victory which is an essential part of his thought.
Incidentally we notice the strong language on co-redemption -- the
"struggle" was a work in common, so much in common that there had to be a
common result from a common cause - glorification for both Him and for
her. [In passing: John Paul II, in his Allocution at the Sanctuary of Our
Lady of Guayaquil, Jan. 31, 1985, as in English "Osservatore Romano" of
March 11, 1985, p. 7: "In fact, Mary's role as co-redemptrix did not cease
with the glorification of her Son."].
(d) Pius XII, "Fulgens corona" (1953) : "... the foundation of this
doctrine [Immaculate Conception] is seen in the very Sacred Scripture in
which God... after the wretched fall of Adam, addressed the... serpent in
these words, which not a few of the Holy Fathers and doctors of the
Church, and most approved interpreters refer to the Virgin Mother of God:
"I will put enmity.... '"
COMMENT: If the IC is contained in Gen 3: 15, then of course she is
contained in it in some way.
Here is a good illustration of the providential work of the Holy Spirit.
If we had to work without the Magisterium, we would probably say that Gen
3: 15 might possibly speak of the Mother of the Redeemer and further,
might possibly speak of a victory in which she was involved, and might
possibly say that victory had to include the Immaculate Conception - but
we could not get across the gap from possible to certain. Similarly, and
even more so, with the "full of grace" text, whose translation is so much
debated. Patristic evidence has two things on the IC: 1) Some, not all
Fathers, have sweeping statements on her holiness, which could imply the
IC; 2) The New Eve theme could have included the reasoning : Since the
first Eve had an immaculate start, the new Eve all the more should have
it. But not one Father ever made such an argument. Hence St. Bernard was
able to flatly deny the IC, and so many medieval theologians with him,
until finally after the work of Duns Scotus, Popes began to intervene,
with statements of varying clarity until about a century and a half before
the definition of 1854, the whole Church peacefully believed in the IC.
We ask too: Did Our Lady herself know she was immaculately conceived?
Since the stiff-necked Jews could see Gen 3: 15 as messianic, as the
Targums show, she all the more would see it as Messianic. Then she would
be the Mother of the Messiah in it. And, if the Church, as seen in this
text of Pius XII, could see that this also implies the Immaculate
Conception, why could not she, full of grace, also see it?
The objection will be raised: Jews, as we have seen, seem not to have
perceived original sin in Gen 3: 15. But we reply: Even if they did not
see it, objectively it was there. God had given our first parents three
kinds of gifts, including the life of grace, which included His favor. But
they threw away all but basic humanity and so could not transmit
grace/favor to their children. To arrive in this world without God's
favor/grace is what we mean by original sin. Cf. the General Audience of
John Paul II of, Oct. 1, 1986 stating that original sin is a privation,
the lack of the grace that should be there.
As to the expression grace/favor - The most common OT word closest to
grace was "hen" , which at first meant a favorable attitude of God towards
us - then the expression of that attitude - then what He gives as a result
of that attitude, "hokmah" and "berakah" - wisdom and blessing. In the NT
the most common word is "charis." In secular Greek it first meant "charm,"
the quality that attracts favor. Then it picked up all the OT meanings,
and broadened to mean anything God gives as a result of that favor. The
result is this: both translations, favor and grace, are correct, one more
suitable at some times than the other. But at all times, if we render by
favor, we must keep firmly in mind that it does not just mean that He as
it were sits there and smiles, but gives nothing - so we would do good by
our own powers. That would be a Pelagian idea. So when we say favor, we
also mean what He gives, and that which He gives is grace. Hence we may
speak of favor/grace and say that a new baby arrives without that, and
that is what is meant by original sin. So even if the ancient Jews did not
see this connection, objectively it was there. So one full of grace should
surely have seen it. Hence it seems she should have seen that she was
immaculately conceived. (Pius XII in "Mystici corporis," AAS 35. 247) said
"her most holy soul was filled with the divine Spirit of Jesus Christ more
than all other creatures of God taken together").
(e) Vatican II, "Dei Verbum" 3: "After their fall, by promising
redemption, He lifted them up into the hope of salvation (cf. Gen 3, 15...)."
We spoke of this in our introduction and noted that yet LG paragraph 55
indicates we cannot be sure that the original writers of Gen 3: 15 and Is
7: 14 saw in those texts what the Church now sees. So this is possible: at
first Adam and Eve did perceive the promise of a Redeemer. Later, by the
time Genesis was written, that knowledge had been forgotten at last among
the Hebrew people. It is possible it survived elsewhere. For there is a
remarkable book, "Eternity in Their Hearts" by a Protestant missionary who
reports his own experience and that of some other missionaries, who came
to primitive tribes and met at once with a remarkable welcome: the people
said their leaders had been telling them a white man would come some day
with a book to tell them what they needed to know!
(f) Vatican II, "Lumen gentium" 55: "These primeval documents, as they are
read in the Church and are understood in the light of later and full
revelation, gradually bring more clearly to light the figure of the woman,
the Mother of the Redeemer. She, in this light, is already prophetically
foreshadowed in the promise, given to our first parents, who had fallen
into sin, of victory over the serpent (cf. Gen 3, 15)."
COMMENTS: 1) The council as we said was careful not to say flatly that the
original human author of Genesis saw Our Lady as the woman - hence the cf.
Yet later and full revelation, guided by the Holy Spirit, does see that
she is the one. We learn this explanation of the cf. from Charles M.
Miller, "As it is written"."The use of Old Testament References in the
Documents of Vatican Council II" (Marianist Center, St. Louis, 1973, pp.
2) In "Dei verbum" paragraph 12, the Council said: "Since however in
Sacred Scripture God has spoken through men in human fashion, the
interpreter of Sacred Scripture, to see what He intended to communicate
with us, must investigate attentively what the sacred writers really
intended to convey and what it pleased God to manifest by their words."
The Theological Commission (Cf. A. Grillmeier in H. Vorgrimler,
"Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II," Herder & Herder, 1969, III,
p. 220) commented on the underlined words "and what": "If "quidque" be
written [instead of "et quid"] the question [on the existence of a fuller
sense] would be settled in the affirmative. The expression [actually used]
is neutral." "Fuller sense" would be the position that the Holy Spirit,
the Chief Author might have in mind and intended to express more than the
human author saw. At this point, the Council had a chance to positively
endorse the idea of a fuller sense, but instead chose ambiguous
language."Quidque," using the enclitic "-que" to mean "and" would tie the
two clauses more closely than the actual "et quid" for "et" is a looser
conjunction. So all this means is that the Council at this point refused
to "explicitly" approve or disapprove the position of a fuller sense. But
yet in its "practice," as in LG 55, it did use it on Gen 3. 15 and Isa 7.
14. Really, it is clearly possible that the Holy Spirit, the chief author,
could have in mind more than the human writer saw. Jeremiah 31.31 ff. ,
the prophecy of the New Covenant, seems to be an example. Jeremiah hardly
saw that the essential obedience of the New Covenant would be that of
Christ. Also, St. Irenaeus, in his knot comparison (3.22. 4) implied
more than he likely saw. And it seems Vatican II also, in LG chapter 8,
said more than it realized. At the start, it said it would not settle
debates in "Mariology". Yet one can make a fine case that it did so: cf.
W. Most, "Mary's Cooperation in the Redemption" in "Faith and Reason,"
1987, pp. 28-61. In fact, Msgr. G. Philips of Louvain, one of the chief
drafters of that chapter, seems not to have fully understood what he
wrote: cf. ibid, pp. 54-55.
3) John Paul II, in "Mulieris dignitatem" II paragraph 11: "At the same
time it [Genesis] contains the first foretelling of victory over evil,
over sin. This is proved by the words which we read in Genesis 3:15... ."
Further, in "Redemptoris Mater" paragraph 24 he links together the use of
the word "woman" in Genesis 3:15, Cana, the foot of the Cross, and
Apocalypse/Revelation 12. The word seems chosen to show she is the same
one in each text.
4) We notice the words "prophetically foreshadowed". This could indicate
that the Council had in mind a typical sense, i.e., Eve was a type of
Our Lady, a prophecy in action of her who was to come. In such a case both
would be part of the literal sense, both would be real.
5) "The New Jerome Biblical Commentary" on p. 12 on Gen 3:15: "'He'
refers to offspring, which is masc. in Hebrew. Christian tradition has
sometimes referred it to Christ, but the literal reference is to the human
descendants of Eve, who will regard snakes as enemies." A rather pathetic
comment. Catholic scholars saw less in the text than the ancient Jews
did. The latter saw that in some way the text is messianic, even though
they clouded it a bit by injecting allegory. Yet even so, 3 out of 4 of
the Targums see the text as messianic, and also speak of a victory. Modern
scholars sometimes observe that the same Hebrew verb "shuf" is used with
both the snake and the son of the woman - and then they infer there is no
victory, just a tie. The Targums knew better, though the fourth Targum,
that of Onkelos, does not make the text messianic. Onkelos is very sparing
in seeing messianic implications - it sees them only for Gen 49:10
(Jacob's prophecy on Judah) and Numbers 24: 17 ff. (Balaam). The NJBC on
pp. 1097-98 has a rather good general article on Targums. On p. 1097 it
reports that Onkelos (on Pentateuch) and Jonathan (on prophets) were
reworked extensively in the Jewish schools of Babylonia c 5th cent. A. D,
and that Onkelos was the only targum officially approved in the talmudic
period, before 650 AD, when it lost many midrashic expansions it once had.
We observe in this connection that Jacob Neusner, a major Jewish scholar
of today, in "Messiah in Context" (Fortress, 1984) , as we noted above, in
his extensive review of all Jewish writings after 70 AD. found no
interest in the Messiah from 70 AD to c. 500. Then during the period
500-600 interest returned, but the only classic item on the Messiah
mentioned was that he should be of the line of David. No wonder the
revisers of that period removed most messianic references! And of course
they hated Christ. -- In spite of a rather good general article on Targums
in NJBC, when the commentary itself speaks of the major messianic
prophecies, not once does it make use of the Targums!
6) The citation from NJBC above says that Christian tradition has
"sometimes" referred the pronoun to Christ. Now Jerome's Vulgate reads in
Latin "ipsa," she. St. Jerome in other places reads "he", not "she". Why
this Vulgate version? In his exhaustive study, "The First-Gospel," Dominic
J. Unger (Franciscan Institute, St. Bonaventure, N. Y. 1954) wrote on p.
179: "The only adequate reason [for Jerome's "ipsa"] seems to be that he
referred the passage to Mary." Unger notices too that the Bull of
Definition of the Immaculate Conception by Pius IX in 1854 also uses
"ipsa." As to the Christian tradition in general, it is most heavily in
favor of the messianic interpretation, as Unger shows in fullest detail,
in spite of NJBC, which probably depends on the flawed study by Drewniak.
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from
between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and his shall be the obedience of
"Targum Neofiti:" "Kings shall not be lacking from the house of Judah...
until the time at which King Messiah will come." Targum Onkelos (which
sees messianism only here and in Numbers 24, 17-24, (Balaam) agrees, as do
Pseudo-Jonathan and the Fragmentary Targum.
Samson Levey, in "The Messiah: An Aramaic Interpretation," Hebrew Union
College, Cincinnati, 1974, p. 8: "Other rabbinic sources, both Midrashic
and Talmudic , also take this passage as Messianic."
"Genesis Rabbah" 98. 8: "Until Shiloh comes: he to whom kingship belongs."
"Talmud, Sanhedrin" 98b: "What is His [Messiah's] name? The school of R.
Shila said, 'Shiloh, ' as it is written, until Shiloh comes."
"Lamentations Rabbah" 1. 16. 51: "The school of R. Shila said: The
Messiah's name is 'Shiloh' as it is stated, "Until Shiloh come" (Gen
xxlix. 10) , where the word is spelt "Shlh"." Levey adds in note 23 (p.
149) "A play on the similarity of the name, thus rendering honor to their
teacher. The Talmud continues that the school of R. Jannai claimed the
messiah's name was Jinnon, and the school of R. Hananiah said it was
Hananiah, each quoting an appropriate proof-text." (A similar claim is in
Moore, "Judaism," II. pp. 348-49). COMMENT: The school of Shila does have
a solid base in the Hebrew text itself, and in the Targumic and Rabbinic
view, which the other proposals completely lack. Cf. Moses Aberbach and
Bernard Grossfeld, "Targum Onkelos on Genesis 49," (Scholars Press,
Missoula, l976, p. 14).
Jacob Neusner, "Messiah in Context," (Fortress, Phila. 1984) : "It is
difficult to imagine how Gen 49:10 could have been read as other than a
COMMENTS: 1) There may be echoes of Gen 49.10 in Ez 21.17: "It will not
be restored until he comes to whom it rightly belongs. To him I will give
it. : " and also Jer 33.14: "Behold the days are coming - Oracle of
Yahweh - and I will perform the good word which I spoke to the house of
Israel and the house of Judah."
2) Modern scholars object that the Hebrew text is corrupt because Shiloh
is feminine, while the verb is masculine. REPLY: Shiloh stands for a man,
so there is agreement by sense. Further, there are some parallels in the
OT: Jer 49.16 where a feminine noun, "tiplaset" (your horror) has a
masculine verb. Also: Ez 1.5-10 where the noun "hayoth" is feminine, yet
the suffixes in the next verses referring to the living creatures shift
between masculine and feminine. Cf. also Anchor Bible, "Daniel," p. 269.
This sort of shift was common in Mishnaic Hebrew.
3) History: The Jews did have some sort of ruler from the tribe of Judah
until Rome imposed Herod on them as Tetrarch in 41 B. C. Soon, in 37 B.
C. he became King. Herod was Jewish by religion - the Jews had forced
their religion on Idumea, but lived up to it poorly, and, most
importantly, by birth he was not of the tribe of Judah. He was half
Idumean, half Arab. The fulfillment would have been more glorious had they
not been so unfaithful so often. Neusner reports (p. 12) : "No one who
knows the Gospels will be surprised to learn of the intense, vivid,
prevailing expectation that the Messiah was coming soon."
The Hebrews had been wandering for 40 years since they left Egypt. They
might have entered the promised land years before, but lying spies of
theirs misled them about the peoples they might meet. So God decreed that
none of them, except Caleb and Joshua, should enter the land. The rest
were doomed to wait and let a new generation enter.
But now they are in Moab, across from Jericho. Balak, King of Moab fears
them, has heard so much of their previous victories. So he tries to hire
Balaam to put a curse on them.
The nearby nations did believe in the power of the spoken word, when
uttered by a person of authority. Thus in ancient Egypt one of the major
creation myths had said that Atum (Totality) stood on a mud hillock that
emerged from the primeval water, and named the parts of his body: thus the
gods came into being.
Balaam had a reputation, and so the King of Moab, Balak, son of Zippor,
sent messengers to Balaam, son of Beor, on the Euphrates, to offer him a
rich price of he would curse Israel. But God told Balaam not to do it.
Then came a second appeal with greater rewards promised. God told Balaam
he could go with them, but must do exactly what God told him. So Balaam
went off. God became angry at him, we suppose because Balaam intended to
really put the curse on Israel. But Balaam's ass saw an angel with sword
drawn on the road. So the ass turned off the road. Balaam beat the ass.
This happened three times. Finally the Lord made the ass able to speak,
and the ass asked: "What have I done that you should beat me three times
now?" Then God removed the veil from the eyes of Balaam and he too saw the
angel. The angel told him to go with the men, but say only what God would
Balak came to meet Balaam. The next morning Balaam told him to build seven
altars with seven bullocks and seven rams. The king did so. Balaam however
heard God's message and so said: "How can I curse those whom God has not
cursed?." Balak was distressed.
So they went to another place from which Balaam could see only some of the
Israelites, and again built 7 altars with victims. God then ordered Balaam
to bless Israel.
Balak then asked: "If you cannot curse them, at least do not bless them."
But Balaam, obedient to God, spoke a great oracle: "The oracle of Balaam,
son of Beor, the word of the man whose eye is true... and who knows what
the Most High knows... How good are your tents, O Jacob, your camps O
Israel.... He lies, crouching like a lion, or a lioness. Who shall arouse
him? Blessed is he who blesses you." We note the echo of the words of
Jacob dying in Egypt (Gen 49:9-10).
Then Balaam gave a fourth oracle, which included these words: "The oracle
of Balaam, son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is open, the
oracle of him who hears the words of God... who sees the vision of the
Almighty.... I see him, but not now; I behold him , but not nearby. A star
shall come out from Jacob, and a scepter will come up out of Israel. It
will crush the forehead of Moab, and break down all the sons of Sheth."
"Targum Onkelos:" "A king shall come from Jacob, and will be anointed the
Messiah out of Israel." COMMENTS: "Targum Pseudo-Jonathan" is very
similar."The Fragmentary Targum" says: "A king shall arise from the house
of Jacob, and a redeemer and ruler from the house of Israel." "Targum
Onkelos" is very sparing in messianic interpretations - only this passage
plus Gen 49.10 are messianic. This is not strange, for "Targum Onkelos,"
as we explained, was the only Targum officially approved by the later
rabbis, those of the Talmudic period, before c. 650 AD. By that time the
opposition of the Jews to the Christian uses of the Targums to favor
Christ had hardened. Hence the approval of only the Targum that saw few
messianic interpretations. In fact, that Targum seems to have been
extensively reworked in the Jewish schools of Babylonia around the 5th
century AD. This fits well with the results of Neusner's survey,
mentioned above, which found no interest in the Messiah in Jewish writings
from the fall of Jerusalem up to about 500 A. D. Then interest reappears,
but the only one of the classic prophecies it dealt with was the
prediction that he would be of the line of David.
"The Fragmentary Targum" says that a king will arise, but does not use the
word Messiah. However in context it seems to be the Messiah.
Behind all this there are some interesting points:
1) Israel is specially blessed by God. This is basically the same as God's
election or choice of Israel. Now this election must be carefully
distinguished from a promise of eternal salvation. The promise to Abraham
had been to give him and his descendants the land. The covenant of Sinai
said the same, but added broader favor. It is true that in the late part
of the OT period there was tendency to reinterpret these things to mean
basically eternal salvation. St. Paul shows this tendency in Gal. 3:15-29.
Yet in itself, there is a difference. election means the call of God to be
His People of God, who are to get favor on condition of obedience. Before
Christ, that call to be part of His people was given only to the Jews. But
under Christ it was broadened to include all, even the gentiles: cf.
Both in ancient and in modern times many confuse election with
predestination to heaven. The Fathers of the Church confused these two
things, and so took the parable of the banquet to refer to predestination
to heaven. Really, it meant only that all the Jews were invited to the
messianic kingdom, but few were coming in.
Moses told them (Dt. 7:7-8) that it was not because they were the largest
of all nations - they were the opposite - that God chose them, but simply
because He loved them (To love is to will good to another for the other's
sake). And again in 9:4-6 God said twice that it was not because of any
merit of theirs that God would give them the land: it was to punish the
wickedness of the nations then living there and to keep His oath to the
St. Paul insisted similarly in Romans 9 that God's choice of the people to
be His people was not due to any merit. We might wonder then: What was the
positive reason? We suspect it was because of their need. Many times Moses
or God Himself called them a stiff-necked people. In 1 Cor 1 Paul invited
the Corinthians to look at their community and see not many persons of
special worth there. Again, in Ezek 3:5-7 God told the prophet He was not
sending him to a people of difficult language - if He did, they would
listen. But the house or Israel would refuse to listen, for they will not
listen to God."The whole house of Israel is hard of brow and obstinate in
heart." The book of Jonah, regardless of its genre, shows that the pagan
Assyrians were less resistant to God than were the chosen people. We meet
the same theme again in Lk 10:30-37 (the good Samaritan parable) and in
Lk 17:11-19 in which out of the ten lepers cured, only one came back to
say thanks, and he was a Samaritan. And there is more.
We reach the unpleasant conclusion: God gives special help, full
membership in His People - which includes the Church today - to those who
need it more.
At a later period, some Rabbis seemed to attribute the election to merits.
A. Marmorstein, in "The Doctrine of Merits in Old Rabbinical Literature,"
KTAV, 1968 on p. 126 says some rabbis held that God foresaw that Israel
would receive the Law, otherwise He would not have created the world.
Similarly, on p. 128, just as the world was created for the sake of
Israel, so the existence of the world depended on the merit of Israel.
2) At the time of the second and final Jewish revolt against Rome, 132-35,
they named their leader Bar Kokhba, Son of the Star-with this Numbers
passage in mind. They seemed to think him the Messiah. And so they
distorted Isaiah 53, the prophecy of the Passion, turning the meek lamb
into an arrogant conqueror.
Some of this confusion persists today. E. P. Sanders seems to be affected
by it in "Paul and Palestinian Judaism."
Before turning to the great prophets, it is good to make a distinction.
There were two kinds of prophets in the OT, ecstatic and classic.
Ecstatic prophets often acted in a wild way, the "spirit of God" came upon
them. Of course that language was just reflecting the popular speech. For
example, Saul when pursing David to kill him, sent men ahead to capture
David. They found a band of ecstatic prophets, led by Samuel. The frenzy
seized Saul's men, and they were helpless. Saul sent two more groups, with
the same result. Finally he went himself, and was also caught by the
frenzy, lay naked on the ground a day and a night (1 Sam 19:19_24). As we
said, the words "the spirit of God came upon them" were merely reflecting
the manner of speaking at the time -- like saying the sun rises in the
East even today. The real Spirit of God would not lead Saul to lay naked
on the ground for 24 hours and to act in a crazy manner. This is similar
to the phenomenon of "enthusiasm" in ancient Greece. The word meant having
a god in side, who might then cause the person to act in a crazed fashion,
but also could be the means of inspiring poets.
In contrast to this we find the classic prophets, who at least in general,
did not go in for ecstatic behavior - some of the things they feigned at
the order of God would not be cases of ecstatic action.
They were God's messengers. Part of their work was to foretell the future,
part to admonish the people. The earliest one to foretell the fall of the
northern kingdom was Amos, whose prophetic ministry probably belongs
before 760 B. C, whereas Samaria fell in 722/21. Plenty time for people
to call him a prophet of gloom and doom, and to say that so many years
have passed, and nothing happens.
In what way did God communicate with the classic prophets?
There are three kinds of appearances of God or the Saints that are
possible: 1) sensory or corporeal, in which the sense perceives a real
object which is normally invisible 2) Imaginative visions - produced in
the imagination by God or angels or Saints, during sleep or when the
recipient is awake. Often an intellectual vision accompanies, which
explains the meaning; 3) Intellectual visions - there is no sensory image
here, the effect is directly supernatural on the intellect, with more
clarity and force than what one would have from natural powers. These
intellectual visions may last a long time, days, weeks, even years. Cf.
St. Teresa, "Interior Castle" 6. 8. 3. They are apt to bring absolute
certitude that they come from God: cf. St. Teresa, Life 27. 5.
There are also three kinds of revelations: - of course we distinguish here
public from private revelation: 1) Auricular: A sound is produced in the
air by a good or evil spirit, and it may seem to come from a vision; 2)
Imaginary This does not mean it is false. Rather a locution is not
perceived by the ears but by the power of image making, when recipient is
asleep or awake; 3) Intellectual These are impressed directly on the mind,
with no images in senses or imagination. There are three classes,
according to St. John of the Cross (Ascent 2. 28-31) : successive (formed
by the reasoning soul, combined with the effect of the Holy Spirit) ,
formal (which seem to come from outside, while the successive seem to
originate in the soul) , and substantial (which are the same as formal
except that they produce in the soul the effects they signify; if God says
to the soul be quiet or humble, it becomes such.
Of course God can use any of these modes or still some other mode to
convey His message to His prophet.
There is a remarkable and illuminating instance in the revelation to the
Hebrews of retribution in the future life. It seems they did not perceive
this before the time of the persecution of Antiochus IV of Syria, c 170.
Before that, they had not known, it seems, of retribution in the future
life. In Psalm 73, for example, the psalmist says he was distressed at the
prosperity of the wicked, until he came into the temple and saw to what an
end they came. Now this is true, but not in every instance. During that
persecution, many Jews died horribly. we think especially of the Mother
and seven sons. Antiochus cut off arms and legs of some of them, and
cooked the rest in a large frying pan. Here no one could say: God made it
all right before their death. So there was a pressure towards an agonizing
reappraisal. Around the same time the Jews came into contact with the
Greek idea that a human has two parts. Now the various Greek theories were
all a bit incorrect, yet they could serve to help the Hebrews to finally
think beyond their previous unitary concept - a body plus breath of life.
(This did not mean lack of belief in survival, as we gather from their
persistent belief in necromancy).
By means of these two factors, God brought them to see what Wisdom 3: 1
said: "The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment can
When God gave Ezekiel his commission as a prophet (Ez 2:8-3: 4) God gave
him a book to eat, and Ezekiel ate it. Then God said: "Go now to speak my
words to the house of Israel." Did Ezekiel physically eat a book? Books
then would be harder to eat with their stiff texture, even with the help
of some honey. Probably this is a symbolic gesture, such as we find many
times in the prophets. God really filled Ezekiel with His attitudes and
thoughts, and then told Ezekiel to go and speak. As a result, Ezekiel
could say confidently: Thus say the Lord... even on occasions when he had
not had a direct explicit revelation.
In passing, we suspect that a parallel process may have been used in the
Mosaic legislation. It is not hard to suppose that God explicitly gave
Moses the decalogue. But what of the numerous other laws, and many of them
so similar to those of the Code of Hammurabi and other Near Eastern texts?
We wonder if some process may have been used similar to that we have seen
in the case of Ezekiel.
Was there just one Isaiah or three? The arguments used for two or three
are not very convincing. One is literary style. There is some difference
in style, but anyone who has once had the experience of reading the
Dialogue of Tacitus in the original Latin and comparing that style with
the Latin of the Annals and Histories of Tacitus -- and then seeing that
there are external reasons for saying the Dialogue is by Tacitus - one
with that experience can never again be much impressed by arguments from
The partisans of more than one Isaiah also point to the differences in
tone - threat of exile - exile itself - then hope and restoration. But
this is merely the well known Deuteronomic pattern which everyone knows.
Using it alone Isaiah could have threatened exile, then described it, then
given hope of restoration.
What of the fact that in Isaiah 44:28-45: 6 the prophet speaks clearly of
Cyrus, who was to come in 439 BC. Only those who on "principle" have to
deny everything supernatural, such as real prophecies, can use this as an
argument. Of course God could reveal the facts of Cyrus far in advance.
There is a parallel case in 1 Kings 13:2 which speaks of Josiah to come
later. Further, Josephus ("Antiquities" 11. 1. 4-6) reports that Cyrus
read the prophecy about him, and that this influenced Cyrus to fulfill the
We have not proved there was only one Isaiah: we have merely shown that
the arguments for three are very weak and prove nothing. Of course, we
admit the very loose concept of authorship in those days, in virtue of
which a later hand could add and leave the work under the original name
does leave the possibility of three authors.
Isaiah is surely the most profoundly messianic of the prophets.
We will begin with this passage 9:5-6 because of a special problem with
7:14, which will be more easily handled in the light of this passage from
"For a child is born to us, a son is given us, and the government will be
upon his shoulder, and his name will be called 'Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty-God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. '"
"Septuagint:" "A child is born to us, and a son is given to us, his
government is upon his shoulder, and his name will be called messenger of
the Great Council."
"Targum Jonathan:" "A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and his
name has been called from of old Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, He who
lives forever, Messiah in whose day peace shall increase for us."
COMMENT: 1. The sense of the Targum is disputed. We have rendered it
substantially as does J. F. Stenning ("The Targum of Isaiah," Oxford,
1949.) However Samson Levey ("The Messiah. An Aramaic Interpretation,"
(Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 1974) turns the sentence structure
around so as to read: "his name has been called Messiah.... by the Mighty
God." The difference hinges on the Aramaic words "min qedem" which can
mean either "by" or "from of old". As to the words "Mighty God" which the
New American Bible renders God-hero - that version is not defensible, for
the Hebrew "El gibbor" in the Old Testament always means only Mighty God,
never God-hero. Levey makes a similar change in sentence structure for the
Hebrew: "the Mighty God... has called his name 'Prince of Peace'." That
translation raises the question of which terms belong to whom.
"The Septuagint," which omits mighty God, testifies to the Jewish
discomfort. We recall that the LXX since Qumran is thought to be in
general a careful translation of the Hebrew, but of a Hebrew text
differing from our Masoretic text, for the text then had not yet been
2. Naturally, the ancient Jews, with their emphasis on monotheism, would
have difficulty calling the Messiah God. Yet there are some other OT
passages that could indicate divinity of the Messiah.
Psalm 80.15-18: God is asked to visit this vine "and the stock which your
right hand has planted.... Let your hand be upon the man of your right
hand, upon the son of man whom you have strengthened for yourself." Levey
here comments: "It would appear that the Targum takes the Messiah to be
the son of God, which is much too anthropomorphic and Christological to be
acceptable in Jewish exegesis." He notes that neither the earlier nor the
later rabbis took up this interpretation by the Targum. Rather, he says
that some of the later rabbis "carefully steer clear of any messianic
interpretation " by the Targum here. (In passing: we note that here the
Messiah is called Son of Man!)
Psalm 45.7-8: "Your throne, O God, is ever and ever.... God your God has
anointed you with the oil of rejoicing." Even though some think the Psalm
was occasioned by a royal marriage, the Targum saw it as messianic. Levey
even remarks that the Hebrew word for king, melech, in verses 2, 6, 12,
15, and 16 is understood as God.
Ezekiel 34.11: God Himself said: "For thus says the Lord God: Behold I, I
will search out my sheep and seek them out." We notice the repeated "I",
which seems to stress the thought that God Himself would come. But in
verse 23 of the same chapter: "I will set one shepherd over them, my
servant David." The Targum Jonathan does treat the psalm as messianic. Of
course this is far from clear, but there could be an implication that the
Messiah, called here "my servant David" would be God Himself.
Jeremiah 23.3: God said: " And I myself shall gather the remnant of the
my sheep from all the lands to which I have driven them." But in verse 5:
"I will raise up for David a righteous branch." That word "branch" is
often taken by the Targums to indicate the Messiah. Hence Targum Jonathan
on verse 5 does use "a righteous Messiah" instead of "branch". Then,
surprisingly, in verse 6: "And this is the name which He shall call him:
"the Lord is our righteousness." In the later Midrash, "Lamentations
Rabbah" 1.51 we read: "What is the name of the King Messiah? R. Abba b.
Kahana said: 'His name is 'the Lord'". In the Hebrew text of that passage,
the word for Lord is Yahweh! It is astounding to find a later rabbi doing
such a thing. (cf. Levey, op. cit, p. 70).
Jeremiah 30.11: "For I am with you - oracle of Yahweh - to save you." The
Targum clearly calls this passage messianic. Levey notices this, and
comments: "in v. 11 the apparent anthropomorphism of God being with
Israel, in the physical sense is softened by the use of the word Memra" -
Memra is a puzzling word in the Targums, which seems in general to refer
to the complex interplay between God's constancy and the fickleness of His
people - but a times, it seems to mean God Himself. (On Memra cf. Bruce
Chilton, "The Isaiah Targum," Glazier, 1987, p. lvi).
4) Jewish thought on the Preexistence of the Messiah:
a) Scripture: Micah 5. 2: "And you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah, you are little
to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come for me one who is to
be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from the days of
eternity." The Targum Jonathan on this verse reads: "whose name was spoken
from days of old, from the days of eternity." Samson Levey, a major Jewish
scholar ("The Messiah, An Aramaic Interpretation," Hebrew Union College,
Cincinnati, 1974, p. 93) comments that although there does not seem to be
a Rabbinic doctrine of a preexistent Messiah, yet the last words of the
Hebrew text do tend to suggest such a preexistence.
Malachi 3. 1: "Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way
before my face, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his
temple, the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight." R. H. Fuller
("The Foundations of New Testament Christology," Chas. Scribner's Sons,
NY, 1965, p. 48: The starting point for this expectation is Mal 4: 5 f.
(Mt. 3:23f. ). In this passage, an editorial note commenting on Mal 3:1,
Elijah appears as the forerunner not of the Messiah but of Yahweh
himself... followed by the coming of Yahweh to his temple for the
eschatological judgment." Fuller uses the number Mal 4. 5, following some
English versions and the Vulgate. The Hebrew has it at 3:23-24. Jesus in
Mt 11. 13 used a modified form of the text (by influence of the familiar
and similar sounding Ex 23.20, and makes clear that he is the one, the
Messiah, and by implication, is Yahweh Himself.
b) Intertestamental literature: First Enoch 48.1-6 (Charlesworth,
"Pseudepigrapha"I: (p. 35) : "... even before the creation of the sun and
moon, before the creation of the stars, he was given a name in the
presence of the Lord of Spirits.... he was concealed in the presence of
(the Lord of Spirits) prior to the creation of the world and for eternity.
(p. 9) Comments by editor of segment, E. Isaac: "The Messiah in 1 Enoch,
called the Righteous One, and the Son of Man, is depicted as a preexistent
heavenly being who is resplendent and majestic, possesses all dominion,
and sits on his throne of glory passing judgment upon all mortals and
spiritual beings." And also on p. 9 : "... it is clear that the work
originated in Judea and was in use in "Qumran before the beginning of the
c) Rabbinic thought: "Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim" 4.4. 54a: "Seven things
were created before the creation of the world, namely: Torah, repentance,
paradise, gehenna, the throne of majesty, the temple, and the name of the
Messiah." "Pesikta Rabati, Piska" 33. 6 (775-900 AD). From: W. Braude,
Yale Judaica Studies, 18., 1968, p. 641-43) : "You find that at the very
beginning of the creation of the world, the king Messiah had already come
into being, for he existed in God's thought even before the world was
created. But where is the proof that the king Messiah existed from the
beginning of God's creation of the world? The proof is in the verse, 'And
the spirit of God moved, ' words which identify the king Messiah, of whom
it is said, 'And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him (Isa 11.2)."
COMMENTS: 1. As Levey notices, Micah 5 implies preexistence of the
Messiah. Mal 3.1 as used by Jesus implies even divinity. The words of 1
Enoch do state a real preexistence. The Rabbinic texts are at least close.
For in Hebrew thought the name at times approaches identification with the
person. The naming of things brings them into existence: Is 40.26. To cut
off a person's name means not only death but obliteration of his
existence: cf. 1 Sam 24.22 and Ps 9.6.
2. We notice that in 1 Enoch the Messiah is called Son of Man.
Now even if the stiff-necked Jews did not understand the divinity of the
Messiah, what of Our Lady, filled with grace beyond all other creatures?
And at the annunciation she had readily learned her Son was to be Messiah,
for the angel said He would rule over the house of Jacob forever. But
further, the angel explained that the Holy Spirit would 'overshadow' her,
the same word used of the divine presence filling the tabernacle in the
desert, and that as a result of that, a unique reason, the Son would be
called son of the Most High. With the further help of the above texts, it
is hard to suppose she did not know of His divinity.
Isaiah 7.14: "Behold, the young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and
shall call his name Immanuel."
The date of this prophecy can be gleaned from the fact that it was spoken
to Achaz who reigned c 735-15 BC.
The Targum does not identify this passage as messianic. However, Jacob
Neusner, ("Messiah in Context" p. 173) quotes the great Hillel, one of the
chief teachers at the time of Christ, as saying that Hezekiah, son of
Achaz (to whom Isaiah spoke) had been the Messiah. So he considered the
text messianic. But then Neusner adds (p. 190) : "Since Christian critics
of Judaism claimed that the prophetic promises... had all been kept in the
times of ancient Israel, so that Israel now awaited nothing at all, it was
important to reject the claim that Hezekiah had been the Messiah". Thus
the Talmud, cited by Neusner, p. 173, quotes Rabbi Joseph as denying that
Hezekiah had been the Messiah. St. Justin Martyr in "Dialogue with Trypho"
77 has Trypho the Jew say the Jews believe Hezekiah was the Messiah.
Further, both Is 7.14 and 9.5-6 are part of the section on Immanuel,
which runs from 6.1 to 12.6. Hence it is generally accepted that the
child in 7.14 is the same as the child in 9.5-6. This means, of course,
that since 9.5-6 is messianic, so is 7.14. It was only the actions of
the Jews against Christians that caused them to stop saying 7.14 was
Who, then, is the child of 7.14? Some of the characteristics of 9.5-6
are too grand for Hezekiah. Further the use of the definite article before
"almah" in 7.14 seems to point to someone special, not just to the wife
of Achaz. On the other hand, a sign to come seven centuries later would
hardly be a sign for Achaz. We conclude: this is a case of multiple
fulfillment of prophecy: it refers to both Hezekiah and Christ.
Still further, the Septuagint uses parthenos to render Hebrew "almah"
(which means a young woman, of the right age for marriage, who at least
should be a virgin."Betulah" is the more precise word for virgin). R.
Laurentin ("The Truth of Christmas Beyond the Myths," Petersham, 1986, p.
412, claims the Septuagint sometimes uses parthenos loosely. But this is
not true. Actually, there are only two places in the OT where the
Septuagint translates "almah" by "parthenos." One is in Genesis 24.43,
where the context shows the girl is a virgin. The other is Is 7. 14.
There are several other places where "almah" is at least likely to be a
virgin. But the Septuagint is so careful that it uses instead of
"parthenos," a more general word, "neanis" in those cases. Laurentin in
the English version appeals also to Genesis 34.3 (in the French he had
appealed to 34.4, which does not have the word "parthenos" at all) ! But
the case is at least unclear, since 34. 3 is likely to be an instance of
concentric ring narration, common in Hebrew. And as we have just said, in
all clear instances the Septuagint is very precise in its use of
"parthenos," at times more precise than the Hebrew (as shown by the
Our conclusion: there are good reasons for taking 7:14 as meaning Jesus,
but also good reasons for taking it to mean Hezekiah. So this is probably
a case of multiple fulfillment of prophecies - on this pattern in general
cf. Wm. Most, "Free From All Error" (Libertyville, Il. 1990) , chapter 5.
"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch
shall grow out of his roots. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon
him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and
might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight
shall be in the fear of the Lord."
"Targum Jonathan:" A king will come from the sons of Jesse, and the
Messiah will be anointed from his children's children."
COMMENTS: Some scholars, disinclined to see a real prophecy, want to make
this refer to the great reduction in size of the Kingdom of Judah at the
time of Isaiah and Achaz - the king then controlled absolutely only
Jerusalem (Cf. John H. Hayes and Stuart A. Irvine, "Isaiah, the Eight
Century Prophet," Abingdon, Nashville, 1987, pp. 212-13. They point out
that the word which RSV renders "stump" is Hebrew "geza," a rare word,
found only three times in the OT, in this passage and in Job 14, 7 and
Isaiah 40.24. In the latter it means a newly planted tree; in Job it
means a felled tree. The Targum renders it by "sons", as we saw. But the
Targum also definitely makes it refer to the Messiah, and historically,
the line of David had lacked power for about 600 years by that time (from
586 BC to the time of Christ).
So, following the Targum interpretation, we see this passage as a real
prophecy that the Messiah would come from the sons of Jesse. But the line
of those sons disappeared after the exile. And so the Messiah did come
from a shoot from the withered line of the sons of Jesse.
Several times the Gospels speak of Jesus as being moved or led by the
Spirit, e.g., in Mt 4:1 He was led into the desert by the Spirit. In Lk
10.21, He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit. In Lk 4. 18: "The Spirit of the
Lord is upon me, " (referring to Is 61.1-2. Similarly, in Mt 12. 18 the
Evangelist says that His cures were to fulfil Is 42.1-4). In view of His
divinity, how is it that He would need or want the action of the Holy
Spirit? The answer is that He had a complete and perfect humanity, and
although His divinity could supply for anything, could even do the
functions of a human soul, yet the Father, in His love of good order,
willed that His humanity be full and fully provided for as such. This is
in accord with the principle of St. Thomas, Summa I. 19. 5. c in which it
is said that God wills that one thing be in place to serve as a title for
the second thing, even though that title does not really move Him.
Incidentally this same reasoning can account for many other things: the
role of the Mass and of Our Lady and the other Saints. Even though Jesus
paid for all forgiveness and grace in dying once for all (Heb 10: 12 & 18)
there are still two reason for the Mass and His command, "Do this in
memory of me) : 1) It is one thing for Him to earn forgiveness, another
for us to receive it. For that we need to be like Him, esp. cf. Rom 8: 17:
"We are heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer
with Him so we may also be glorified with Him." 2) God in His love of
holiness and good order loves to have one thing in place to serve as a
title for the second, as we said above on the basis of I. 19. 5. c.
Similarly the cooperation of Our Lady in Calvary was not needed, and her
entire ability to do that came from Him, so that her role did not ADD to
His. Yet the Father is pleased to have it to make the title for
forgiveness and grace more rich. It is similar for her role in the
subjective redemption, and for that of the other Saints.
The Four Servant Songs:
First: 42.1-7 RSV: "Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom
my soul delights. I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth
justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it
heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning
wick he will not quench. He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will
not fail or be discouraged until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law. Thus says the Lord... I have given
you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes
that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the
prison those who sit in darkness."
Second: 49.1-7: "Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples
from afar. The Lord called me from the womb..... He made my mouth like a
sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished
arrow, and in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, 'You are my
servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified'. But I said, 'I have labored
in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my
right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God: " And now the Lord
says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back
to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him... he says: "It is too
light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of
Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel. I will give you as a light
to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. Thus
says the Lord... to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the
servant of rulers: 'Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall
prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One
of Israel, who has chosen you."
Third: 50.4-11: "The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are
taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary.
Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear, to hear as those who are
taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned
not backward. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who
pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the
Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore I have
set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame."
COMMENTS ON FIRST THREE SERVANT SONGS: The Targum Jonathan identifies the
first of these as Messianic: "Behold my servant, the Messiah." The Targum
also identified the fourth as Messianic-- as we shall see below. It does
not mark the second and third as messianic.
The New Testament does not identify the second and third as messianic
either. But it does so for the first: In Mt 12.17-21, after Jesus has
worked many cures, and ordered them not to make it known, the Gospel
comments: "This fulfilled what was spoken by the Prophet Isaiah, 'Behold
my servant.... '" The NT also indicates that the fourth song was
messianic: Mt 8.17; Lk 22.37; Acts 8.32-33; Romans 15.21.
There are also other NT passages in which the Servant may be in mind,
especially the Servant of chapter 53: e.g., the words of institution of
the Eucharist; and Phil. 2.6-11 "He took the form of a slave")
There is no agreement among scholars on the identity of the Servant, in
spite of the help of the Targums. Some think the Servant is Israel - but,
especially in 49.1-7, the Servant has a mission to Israel (cf. the
boldface to words above in that text). Some would identify the Servant
with various individual figures, e. g. , Zerubbabel or Jehoiachin,
representing the dynasty of David, or Moses, or Jeremiah. It could even be
that the identity is not the same in all four songs. We add that it is
generally accepted that in the OT an individual may stand for, and
practically be identified with a group: hence the possible alternation on
the individual and Israel in 49. The identity of the Servant and Israel
could be paralleled by the relation of Jesus and the Church.
Fourth: Isaiah 52.13 - 53.12: The Hebrew OT here predicts a meek,
suffering Servant. The Targum changes it to an arrogant conqueror. Here
are some comparisons:
Hebrew v. 3: "He was despised and rejected by men." Targum: "Then the
glory of all kingdoms will be despised and cease."
Hebrew v. 5: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for
our iniquities." Targum: "He will [re]build the sanctuary, polluted
because of our sins, [and] handed over because of our iniquities."
Hebrew v. 7: He was "like a lamb being led to the slaughter". Targum: "He
will hand over the mighty ones of the peoples, like a lamb to the
COMMENT: Good Jewish scholars today admit that the Targum distorts the
Hebrew. (Cf. H. J. Schoeps, "Paul," Westminster, 1961, p. 129, and Jacob
Neusner, "Messiah in Context," p. 190, and Samson Levey, op. cit. p. 152,
note 10) One reason was that a suffering and dying Messiah was
unacceptable. The belief was widespread that the Messiah would live
forever. Hence at times they even spoke of two Messiahs. In the Talmud,
Sukkah 52a we read of a suffering and slain Messiah son of Joseph (in
comment on Zechariah 12.10). He was to be the precursors of Messiah son
of David, the herald of the true Messianic Age. In addition, the Targum
picture seems to reflect hopes for Bar Kokhba, leader of the final Jewish
revolt against Rome, who was thought to be Messiah. (Cf. Levey, pp.
However we should add that verses 10-11 do predict the resurrection of the
suffering Servant: "he shall see his offspring and prolong his days."
We can get help in the interpretation of Is 53 as a prophecy of the
Passion from other OT messianic prophecies:
Psalm 22:16-18: "Dogs surround me, a company of evildoers circles me.
They have pierced my hands and my feet, I can count all my bones. They
stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among themselves, and for
my clothes they cast lots."
There is a problem over the words "they have pierced my hands and my
feet". Most mss of the Hebrew would read: "like the lion my hands and my
feet." This clearly makes no sense. Some Hebrew "ms" have "kru" which
would mean pierced. The LXX has "oryxan," "pierced". How did this happen?
We saw above that three major Jewish scholars of today admit that when the
Jews saw Christians using Is 53, they deliberately distorted it, as they
did some other things. But that would come later than the LXX, which still
was willing to read correctly. So we accept the LXX reading. M. Dahood,
"Anchor Psalms" I. 140-441 takes "k'ry" as infinitive absolute from "kry"
with an archaic i ending, and calls the "aleph" intrusive. - All
Christians take this psalm as messianic except Theodore of Mopsuestia,
whom General Council Constantinople II called "wicked" for his view that
Jesus suffered disorderly emotions (DS 424) -- cf. the movie "The Last
As to the place of the nails, Aramaic "yadah" includes not only hands in
our sense but the forearm also.
Casting lots for garments is clear in John 17:24 which explicitly says
that this fulfilled the Psalm. However, we should not think the soldiers
did this "in order to" fulfill the Scripture. Rather, the "hina" here is
consecutive: "and so the Scripture was fulfilled."
Zechariah 12, 10
Haggai preached 4 sermons in 520 BC, after the return from exile in 539.
Zechariah began his ministry two months after Haggai began his. The chief
purpose of both of these prophets was to rebuke the people and motivate
them to complete the rebuilding of the temple. Zechariah is much
interested in spiritual renewal besides.
Zechariah had been born in Babylonia, and was among those who returned in
538-37 under Zerubbabel and Joshua. Later, when Joiakim was high priest,
it seems Zechariah followed his grandfather Iddo as head of that priestly
family. It is possible Zechariah continued his ministry into the reign of
Artaxerxes I (465-24).
Some have argued that chapters 9-14 are by a different author. The chief
arguments are from style and from historical features.. An example of the
latter is the mention of Greece in 9:13 as a dominant power, whereas the
chief power in the time of Zechariah was Persia. But that is a prophetic
passage and so the argument is not conclusive.
He is the most messianic and apocalyptic of all the prophets. He predicted
Christ's first coming in lowliness and humanity (6:12) - see below.
Zechariah also foretold His rejection and betrayal for 30 pieces of silver
(11:12-13) The shepherd, standing for the Messiah, speaks: "If it is good
in your eyes, give my price... so they weighed 30 pieces of silver for my
price. And the Lord said to me: Throw it to the potter" COMMENT: "Give me
my price," suggests severance pay, the end of relationship. The 30 pieces
would be the price of a slave, not a handsome amount. But it is given to
the potter - suggesting the potter's field bought with the money Judas
threw down in the temple.
Zechariah also predicted the Messiah being struck by the sword of the Lord
(13: 7) : "Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man close to me,
strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered."
COMMENT: "The man close to me" may mean my near neighbor, and could
suggest equality. This expression comes seldom in the OT -the thought then
would seem similar to that of John 10:30: "I and the Father are one." The
flock to be dispersed is the covenant nation, though Jesus applied it to
the scattering of the Apostles: Mt. 26:31 & 56, whence we see this is
In 12:10: "They shall look upon me, whom they have pierced, and they
shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son."
COMMENT: Most commentators are so disturbed by the shift from "me" to
"him" that they emend the text. Thus RSV changes "me" to "him" But St.
John's Gospel in 19.37 explicitly takes it to refer to Jesus: "And
another Scripture says: They will look on him whom their have pierced."
Similarly, Apocalypse 1.7 understands the line to refer to Christ:
"Behold he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, everyone
who pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of
The problem is that "me" seems to be spoken by God Himself", while the
"him" seems another person. David Baron, "The Visions and Prophecies of
Zechariah," Kriegel, Grand Rapids, 1971, pp. 438-48 contends that the "me"
does express Christ, as divine while the "him" indicates the difference of
persons within God. Really such a shift of pronouns is known elsewhere,
e.g., in St. Teresa of Avila, "Life" 25: In an interior locution: "the
soul has no remedy, even though it displeases me, I have to listen and to
pay such full attention to understand that which God wishes us to
understand that it makes no difference if we want it or not."
So these added texts from Zechariah, Apocalypse, and Psalm 22 do help to
clarify the prophecy of the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53.
Zechariah 6.12-13 RSV: "Thus says the Lord of Hosts: 'Behold, the man
whose name is the Branch: for he shall grow up in his place, and he shall
build the temple of the Lord. It is he who shall build the temple of the
Lord, and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule upon his throne."
In 9:9 Zechariah predicts the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey.
COMMENTS: The Targum says "Behold the man whose name is the Messiah."
Numbers Rabbah 18.12 says that from the tribe of Judah came Solomon who
built the first temple, and then Zerubbabel who built the second temple.
But "king Messiah will rebuild the Temple."
Haggai 2.9: Haggai wrote in 520 BC, shortly before Zechariah.
"The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former."
COMMENTS: The Targum does not mark this test as messianic. But yet the
historical fact was that the glory of the second temple was much inferior
to that of Solomon's temple. So St. Augustine is right in saying ("City of
God" 18. 45) that the glory of the later temple was greater because of the
presence of the divine Messiah in it. We might compare Malachi 3. 1:
"Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before my face,
and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the messenger
of the covenant in whom you delight." R. H. Fuller (in "The Foundations of
New Testament Christology," Chas. Scribner's Sons, N.Y. 1965, p. 48)
comments: " In this passage... Elijah appears as the forerunner not of the
Messiah but of Yahweh himself." Of course, Jesus Himself was and is God.
He came to His temple, and thus the glory was greater than that of the
first temple. (Jesus Himself quoted this text - with the modification
usual since the rabbis had combined it with Ex 23.20 - to refer to
Himself, with John the Baptist, whom in multiple fulfillment, He also
called Elijah, as His forerunner. On this multiple fulfillment, cf. Wm.
Most, "Free From All Error," Libertyville, IL 1985, 1990, chapter 5, and
on Jesus' use of the text cf. idem, "The Consciousness of Christ," Front
Royal, 1980, p 85).
Isaiah 61.1-2 RSV: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the
Lord has anointed me, to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent
me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and
the opening of the prisons to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of
the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who
COMMENTS: The Targum does not mark this text as Messianic. But in Lk 4.
17-21 Jesus Himself read the text in the synagogue at Nazareth and added:
"Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Micah 5.1-3. : He was a contemporary of Isaiah and "Amos, during the 8th
century B. C. a time of high economic affluence, but of deep spiritual
decadence. Under Jeroboam II of Israel (786-46) and Uzziah of Judah
(783-42) the territories of both kingdoms were almost as great as during
the time of Solomon. He stresses the sovereignty of the Lord, and the
Lord's self-consistency within the covenant. His treatment of the remnant
is a special contribution: a force that will ultimately conquer the world.
"But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are little to be among the clans of
Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from the days of eternity. So Israel will be
abandoned until she who is in labor gives birth."
"Targum Jonathan:" "whose name was spoken from days of old, from the days
COMMENTS: As we saw earlier, Samson Levey comments that the last part of
verse 1 as in the Hebrew text "would tend to support the doctrine of a
pre-existent Messiah." See also further data on rabbinic positions above.
The woman who is to give birth seems to be Our Lady. Even some Protestant
interpreters have agreed, though not all. Some object that there is no
mention of her in this prophecy. Yet we know it is Messianic, as the
Targum points out. And she is His Mother.
Psalm 72: This entire Psalm is taken messianically in the Targum.
Especially in verse 1 the Targum prays: "Give the King Messiah the laws of
your justice." And verse 17 says "his name was prepared even before the
sun came to be." The dominant rabbinic opinion, in addition to the Targum,
is that this Psalm is messianic.
St. Augustine makes a keen observation ("City of God" 17. 8). He notes
that 2 Samuel 7.8-16 which is related in thought, reports Nathan's
prophecy to David. In particular he observes in 7.12: "When your days are
fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your
offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will
establish his kingdom." But, notes Augustine, this verse speaks of a king
to arise after the death of David - but Solomon began to reign before his
death. So it must refer to another, to the Messiah, Christ.
Hosea 3.4-5 RSV: He prophesied to the northern kingdom, at least 753-715.
When he began no one would have thought the end of Jerusalem was near.
Jeroboam II (793-53) was a strong ruler, as was Uzziah in Judah. Peace had
come, and with it economic prosperity, and with that, religious decay.
"For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince,
without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the
children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David
their king; and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in
the latter days."
COMMENTS: Since the text speaks of the latter days, and tells of a period
when Israel will have no sacrifices, this must refer to the end time. The
Targum makes it messianic saying that the children of Israel will repent,
and "they will obey the Messiah, the son of David their king and he will
cause them to worship the Lord."
Hosea 14.4-8 RSV: "I will heal their faithlessness; I will love them
freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be as the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom as the lily.... they shall return and dwell beneath his
shadow, they shall flourish as a garden, they shall blossom as the vine,
their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon."
COMMENTS: The Targum identifies this text as messianic, saying in verse 7:
"They will be gathered in from their Scattering, they shall live in the
shade of their Messiah, and the dead shall live."
We notice the shifting back and forth from they to he. It is probable that
the he is the Messiah. RSV in puzzlement says in v. 7 "They shall return
and dwell beneath my shadow, " while admitting in a note that the Hebrew
In all, this text surely refers to the end times - cf. the end of the
Scattering, and the resurrection of the dead - and is related to the
conversion of the Jews to Christ, foretold by St. Paul in Romans 11.25-26.
It is interesting to compare with Romans 11.25-16 also the words of Jesus
in Luke 21:24: "Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, 'until
the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.'" the italicized words may well
means the same as the words of Romans 11:25-26: "... a hardening has come
upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles comes in."
The thought seems much the same in Daniel 12:7 (NRSV). Daniel had asked
when all these things would happen. The angel said: "When the shattering
of the power of the holy people comes to an end, all these things would be
1 Cor. 15.4: "He was buried, and according to the Scriptures, rose on the
A direct text predicting His resurrection on third day might be Hosea 6.
2: "After two days he will revive us; and on the third day he will raise
us up". In the original setting, the prophet is urging the people to
return to God, and He will save them. The liturgy applies this to the
resurrection of Jesus. Is it mere accommodation or multiple fulfillment of
prophecy? Probably the latter.
However, in Isaiah 53:10-11 we do have a prediction of His resurrection,
without mention of the third day. That day we can supply from the
excellent work of Fr. De Margerie.
An outstanding article by Bertrand de Margerie, S. J."Le troisième jour,
selon les Ecritures, Il est ressucité" in "Recherches des Sciences
Religieuses" (Strasbourg, 66, 1986, pp. 158-88) shows that the third day
was widely used in Scripture for the day of rescue. It was the day of the
rescue of Isaac from being sacrificed (Gen 22.4ff) and of the deliverance
given by Joseph to his brothers (Gen 42.17ff). The Hebrews were to go
three days into the desert to sacrifice (Ex 5.3-4). It was the day of the
revelation of the law at Sinai (Ex 19.16). It was the day the spies saved
by Rahab were delivered (Jos 2.22). David had sinned by ordering a
census, but chose a punishment of pestilence to end on the third day (2
Sam 24.13ff). It was the day on which Hezekiah would go up to he temple
again, after being delivered from death (Is 38.1-5). It was the day on
which Esther found favor with the king and saved her people (Esther 5.1).
It was the day of return from the exile at the time of Ezra (Esdr 8.32)
It was the day of deliverance of Jonah from the whale (Jon 2, 1). Jesus
Himself predicted His resurrection on the third day (Mt. 16.21; 20.19;
27.63). Interestingly, in Babylonia, in the "Descent of Ishtar," the
third day was the day of the reawakening of the fertility gods: ANET 55.
(Cf. Is 53:10; Ps 16:10).
THE BOOK OF DANIEL
Daniel is commonly thought of as a prophet. Really, the book contains two
very different genres, edifying narrative, and apocalyptic.
The pattern of the book is clear: chapters 1-6 are the edifying narrative
type. Chapters 7-12 are apocalyptic; chapters 13-14 are narrative
additions. We recall that Apocalyptic is a genre or pattern of writing in
which the author describes visions and revelations. It is not usually
clear if he meant to assert they were real, and not merely a vehicle for
his message. They contain bizarre, highly colored images. Often there are
figures of animals, to represent pagan empires, a horn to stand for a king
or a power, and they often include an angel who interprets images.
Apocalyptic is commonly a work to give consolation in time of severe
trial. God is presented as Lord of history. There may be prediction of
the future. Now if such predictions were made in a rather factual genre,
we would need to maintain that they really were made before the events.
However because of the highly colored imagery and fanciful nature of
apocalyptic, the predictions may be made after the events pictured,
without any dishonesty. It is understood such things may happen in this
The dating of the book is debated. Most scholars would give a second
century date, in the context of the terrible persecution of the Jews by
Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, of Syria; some others, especially the
evangelistic type, would hold for 6th century. The argument for the later
date depends much on the type of Hebrew used. But there are respectable
replies to the linguistic arguments.
Most of Daniel is in Hebrew, yet chapters 2-7 are Aramaic. The reason for
this is not fully clear. The suggestion has been made that the Hebrew
chapters were for the special concerns of the Jewish people, while the
Aramaic portions were intended especially for the gentiles - for Aramaic
was the international language of diplomacy at the time.
Inasmuch as there is much that is likely to be messianic prophecy in
Daniel, it is worth our while to give that data within the framework of a
survey of the book.
The edifying narrative genre can be used to explain the alleged defect in
chronology in Daniel 1:1.
Otherwise, chapter 1 tells of the dedication of 4 Jewish youths in the
exile to the dietary laws. Eating nothing but vegetables made them more
healthy. We must add: If the story is factual, it will not prove that
vegetarians always get such an effect: there, God miraculously supplied.
Chapter 2 contains the great vision of the four kingdoms, symbolized by
the kinds of metal in a huge statue, which the king saw in a dream. Many
have been tempted to see the 4th kingdom as Rome, so it may connect in
time with the messianic kingdom, which comes after it. But we must note
that the feet standing for that kingdom are part pottery, part iron -
which do not mix. This hardly fits the strong power of Rome. Most
interpreters take the four to be: Babylonian, Median, Persian, and
Hellenistic kingdoms after the death of Alexander. We observe: if one
follows that view, then there is a Median kingdom before the Persian,
which would imply that Darius the Mede, who in 6: 1 took Babylon, is a
historical figure. Most writers say Darius is fictitious, that Cyrus of
Persia conquered Babylon. If so, we would say the edifying narrative genre
could account for the matter. However, we must add that the Jewish
historian, Flavius Josephus, in his "Antiquities," 10, 245-49 (xi. 4) does
report that there was a Darius the Mede, a kinsman, who would have ruled
for Cyrus for a time while Cyrus was occupied with other things. Such an
action would be quite in character with the known policies of Cyrus.
Other narrative incidents - the three men in the fiery furnace, the vision
of the giant tree, and the stories in the appendix (chapters 13-14) ,
could have served the purpose of encouraging the Jews to perseverance in
fidelity to their laws at a time of persecution. The episode in chapter 4
of Nebuchadnezzar's temporary insanity (boanthropy) does seem strange. Yet
we notice that the Babylonian records carry no entries of activity on his
part between 582 and 575.
An objection used to be made about chapter 5: Belshazzar is presented as
the last king of Babylon before its fall. But it was said that the
cuneiform records showed the last king was Nabonidus. We now know that
Nabonidus in the third year of his reign, 553, made his son Belshazzar
coregent, and he himself left for Tema in Arabia, where he stayed for
about ten years, and never reassumed the throne.
With chapter 7 we enter the strongly apocalyptic portion of the book. The
four beasts rise from the sea, showing they are hostile and chaotic forces
opposed to God. They seem to represent the same sequence of kingdoms as
the vision of the great statue in chapter 2, except that here we get the
detail of the small horn that spoke arrogantly, which at least seems to
many to be Antiochus IV of Syria.
Chapter 7, verses 13-18 includes the famous vision of one like a son of
man, who receives from the Ancient of Days dominion, glory and kingship
that will never be taken away forever. Commentators, e. g. , Anchor Bible,
like to make this individual son of man just the "holy ones of the most
high." But this is unrealistic, the Jewish people never did get such a
kingship, one that will last forever. Nor would Jewish thought suppose a
headless kingdom. However if the figure is the Messiah, then we do have a
rational explanation. In Hebrew thought we often meet an individual who
stands for and as it were embodies a collectivity. This is often the case
in speaking of the Hebrew king. It is also the case with the singular and
plural of antichrist in the NT, and most probably with the woman clothed
with the sun in Apocalypse/revelation 12.
Jesus often used the phrase Son of Man to refer to Himself. This was part
of His deliberately gradual self-revelation.
Chapter 8 largely repeats the thought of chapter 7, in a more explicit
In chapter 9 we meet the famous enigmatic prophecy of 70 weeks of years.
We begin with 9:2 in which Daniel is told that the desolation of
Jerusalem is to last 70 years.
First, we notice that the number 70 is normally round, as is 40. How free
this can be can be seen from a comparison of the Hebrew text of Jonah 3: 4
where Jonah says Nineveh will be destroyed in 40 days - along side of the
Septuagint translation of the same line, where it is not 40 but 3 days.
The 70 years to Jeremiah 25:11 were the length of the exile - very
roundly, 70 years. But Daniel by inspiration sees that there is a further
fulfillment of the 70.
The Fathers of the Church commonly understood chapter 9 as a prophecy of
the Messiah - a view now usually dropped. Modern scholars want to make it
fit the events of the time of Antiochus IV who persecuted the Jews, and
desecrated the temple.
We can make most of it, but not all, fit rather well with the time of
1) Start with 605, the message to Jeremiah (25:11) - for 70 years they
will be enslaved to the king of Babylon. In one sense, which Jeremiah saw,
this meant the length of captivity - Daniel does not contradict, but
extends the prophecy by taking weeks of years instead of single years,
about 70 weeks of years.
2) 605 BC minus 62 weeks (434 years) extends to 171 BC, the death of
Onias, the High Priest, the anointed one (9:26).
3) Persecution for one week = 7 years, goes from 171-164 (death of Onias
to death of Antiochus). Antiochus makes the compact with many, the fallen
Jews (v. 27).
4) The half week in v. 27 is 167-65, the time of desecration of the
But, there must be a reference to Christ also. We note that 9: 24 is too
grand - there was no everlasting justice, nor expiation of guilt after end
of Antiochus. Now, St. Augustine wisely noted in "City of God" 17. 3,
that some prophecies refer partly to OT events, partly to Christ - we know
this, says St. Augustine, when they do not fit either one perfectly. So 9:
24 refers to Christ."A most holy" could hardly refer to Onias - it does
refer to Christ.
We add two details to the interpretation that takes the prophecy to refer
to the period up to Antiochus:
1) The he in v. 27 may mean Antiochus making a deal with fallen Jews - but
it might also vaguely refer to Jesus making the eternal covenant. After
half a week Jesus abolishes the sacrifices of the old law, and starts the
2) V. 25 says seven weeks of years remain until Cyrus, God's anointed (as
Isaiah 45: 12 said, in the sense that God empowered him to crush Babylon
and so to liberate the Jewish captives in 539). Jeremiah twice (25: 11,
dated in 605 BC, and 29: 10, dated between 597 and 587, probably in 594)
foretold the exile would last 70 years. From 594 to 539 is 55 years, not
precisely seven weeks or 49 years. However, in this sort of prophecy that
is a good enough approximation - we recall the case of Jonah 3: 4
mentioned above. Pius XII in "Divino afflante Spiritu" (EB #559) pointed
out that Scripture does use approximations.
We conclude: the prophecy of the seventy weeks works out rather well -
with allowance for some approximation - in reference to the times leading
up to Antiochus, yet verse 24 refers entirely to the time of Christ, and
there may be vague allusions to that same time in verse 26.
From 10: 1 to 11: 35 it is not hard to see a picture of the Hellenistic
wars. But from 11:36 to the end of that chapter we meet many things that
hardly fit Antiochus IV. The evil ruler in this passage magnifies himself
above every god - this does not fit Antiochus, who put not a statue of
himself but of Zeus in the Jerusalem temple. Verse 37 says he pays no
attention to any god -again, this does not fit Antiochus. St. Jerome in
his commentary on this passage thinks the figure is the Antichrist.
Already in 8:17 the angel- interpreter told Daniel that the vision
referred to the end-time. But we could make Antiochus a weak prefiguration
of the horror of the Antichrist. In 11:45 the evil ruler will come to a
sudden end, with no one to help him, seemingly at the beautiful holy
mountain, which probably means Zion. But Antiochus met his end in Persia.
Some fanciful interpretations would make the "King of the North" in 11:40
ff to be Russia.
Chapter 12 opens with a prediction of a great tribulation before the
parousia of the Messiah such as has never been before. This would fit with
the time of the great Antichrist. Mt 24:21 speaks similarly of the
tribulation at the end. There seems to a conflict between the angels in
charge of various places, with Michael victorious. It seems best to take
this conflict as purely apocalyptic unless we make some of the angels to
be fallen angels, which does not seem to fit well.
In 12:2-3 a resurrection is clearly predicted. It is not clear if the
"many" means the whole human race (cf. Hebrew "rabbim") , or only the
just. We recall a similar prophecy in Isaiah 26:19. Chapter 12:4 tells
Daniel to seal the prophecy, and says many will fall away and evil will
increase: Again we are reminded of Mat 24:12, Lk 18.8, and 2 Tim 3. ff.
Especially puzzling are the words of 12:7. Daniel in verse 6 had asked how
long it would be until these things would happen. The angel said it would
be a time, and times, and half a time, which seems to stand for three and
a half - a frequent symbolic number in the Book of Apocalypse/Revelation.
And then, still in v. 7, come words whose translation has caused problems:
The things will happen, "when the scattering of the power (hand) of the
holy people has been completed [i.e., has come to an end]." "Anchor Bible
Daniel" suggests that the line was mistranslated from an Aramaic original,
and wants to read: "When the power of the desecrator of the holy people is
brought to an end." But there is no need to suppose a mistranslation -
Hebrew "klh" can mean to complete, to finish. Hence it is quite possible
to render as we did above. Then the sense will be that the things
predicted are to happen when the dispersion of the Jews finally comes to
an end, before the end of time. This brings to mind the odd incident in 2
Macc. 2:4-8, which quotes an extrabiblical source telling how Jeremiah
hid the ark, and later when his followers tried to find it, said it was to
remain hidden until God would gather his people together again. Since only
an extrabiblical source is quoted, inspiration guarantees only that the
story was found in some such source. It does not guarantee that the story
is true in itself.
Of course, we are not certain, but this is an interesting speculation. The
original RSV substantially agreed with our translation. NRSV "when the
shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end... ."
We naturally are tempted to speculate: are we now at that point in time?
The Jews seem to have been brought back from their scattering - at least,
many of them. (There is a problem of the relation of all modern Jews to
those of whom Scripture esp. Romans 11:15-16 speaks. Paul says there is a
blindness in part "until the fullness of the gentiles enters". We are
inclined to compare with this the similar words in Lk 21:24: "Jerusalem
will be trodden by the gentiles until the times of the gentiles are
THE AGE OF THE MESSIAH
We wish to consider two kinds of material: 1) highly idealized pictures;
2) prophecies that seem to indicate all gentiles will join Judaism.
First, the idealized picture: Isaiah 11:6-9 says the wolf will be a guest
of the lamb and the leopard with be with the kid, and a calf and lion will
eat together, with a child to lead them, while the baby plays at the
Cobra's den. There will be no harm anywhere, and they will even beat their
swords into ploughshares (2:4).
What shall we say? First, we know the Semites had powerful imaginations,
and could exaggerate more than Hollywood. In fact, the dire language of
Matthew 24 about the sun being darkened, the moon giving no light, and
stars falling from the skies -- all these are found in the descriptions of
much milder events. Isaiah 13:10 speaks of the fall of Babylon thus: "The
stars in the sky and the constellations will not give their light. The sun
will be dark when it rises, the moon will not give its light." Similarly,
Isaiah 34:4 said in speaking of the judgment on Edom: "All the stars will
be dissolved, the sky will roll up like a scroll, and the host of the
heavens will fall like dried leaves from the vine." Again, Ezekiel 32:7-8
foretells the judgment on Egypt thus: "When I blot you out, I will cover
the heavens and darken the stars... the moon will not give its light."
Which is the more powerful, the more exaggerated imagery? That about the
wolf and the lamb, or about the sun and moon? Hard to say.
In passing, some leftwing authors like to say that Joel 3:10 contradicts
Isaiah 2:4. Joel says they will beat their ploughshares into swords. A
simple distinction will help. Even the nonconservative NAB in a note on
Joel 4:10 (= NRSV 3:10) explains that warlike weapons are made in reply
to God's call to armies to expel forever the unlawful invaders, from the
land of the chosen people. Isaiah looks to a different situation: the
heavily idealized age of the Messiah.
But our second problem is much more complex. Many times over the prophets
foretell all the nations being converted to God. Objectively and
actually, that meant that the gentiles would be called to be part of God's
people. But that was new. Ephesians 3:5-6 tells of a secret not revealed
to past ages: that Gentiles are also called to be part of the people of
But to read Isaiah, for example, things would sound different. For example
Isaiah 2:2-5 says the mountain of the Lord will become the highest
mountain, and all nations will stream toward it. They will say: Now let us
go up the mountain of the Lord... that He may teach us in His ways and we
will walk in His paths. Teaching shall go forth from Zion and the word of
the Lord from Jerusalem."
No wonder the first Christians had a hard time understanding. Yes, Jesus
had told the Apostles to go and teach all nations. But we fear Peter and
the others thought this meant all nations would become proselytes. So in
Acts 10, Peter, after not understanding the vision of the sheet let down
from the sky, went to the Roman centurion Cornelius. Jewish Christians
were shocked that he would associate with Gentiles. Clearly the
commission of Mt 28:18-20 had not registered on them at all.
Let us not accept the foolish proposal that Jesus after the resurrection
never spoke words at all, that He just used interior locutions; and that
only in time did Peter and others come to understand. This will not do at
all, and only someone ignorant of mystical theology could say such a
thing. St. Teresa of Avila, who had much experience with locutions,
explained (Life 25): "When God speaks in this way, the soul has no
remedy, even though it displeases me, I have to listen, and to pay such
full attention to understand that which God wishes us to understand that
it makes no difference if we want or not. For He who can do everything
wills that we understand, and we have to do what He wills." She added
("Interior Castle" 6. 3. 7): "When time has passed since heard, and the
workings and the certainty it had that it was God has passed, doubt can
come" about the authenticity of the message. So Peter would have had to
understand clearly at once , if Jesus had used an interior locution, and
later could begin to doubt. But the foolish proposal has that turned
We have already seen at least a glimpse of the truth: the OT prophecies
could easily give the impression, not that gentiles would be accepted into
the Church as gentiles, but that they would all become proselytes.
But now we must ask: How and why did Jesus and the Scriptures speak in
away so readily misunderstood? We add that toward the end of His public
life some in the crowds began to suggest He might be the Messiah. But
others said no, for the Messiah must come from Bethlehem (John 7: 40-44).
He could so easily have said on that occasion: But I was born in
Bethlehem. But He did not.
So we ask why? God wants faith to be free, not coerced. He could have
arranged to have His resurrection take place with all Jerusalem, including
His enemies, assembled before the tomb. This would have bowled them over.
There would have been no freedom left to such a faith.
To understand, we need to notice that there are two main kinds of evidence
that lead us to accept something as true: compulsive and noncompulsive.
Compulsive evidence, such as the fact that 2 x 2 = 4, forces the mind,
does not leave it at all free. But noncompulsive evidence is different,
Further, there is a broad spectrum of noncompulsive evidence running from
some things at the top of the scale, where the evidence is so strong that
no one actually doubts, e. g. , that Washington crossed the Delaware. But
at the low end of that scale there are things where feelings can enter, e.
g. , if one would say, about the original Mayor Daley of Chicago, that he
was a good honest politician, those who received favors would agree he was
good and honest. The opposition would say quite the opposite.
Now the evidence for things of our faith is objectively adequate, but
definitely noncompulsive. It lies somewhere on that scale we mentioned
where it is rational to believe, but one's dispositions can enter into the
This in turn is the same sort of framework we can see with the parables.
If we wanted to follow the chronology of Mark - we are not sure of it of
course - Jesus at first taught rather clearly. But then the scribes
charged He was casting out devils by the devil. Then He turned to
parables, and all three Synoptics quote Isaiah 6: 9-10, in varied forms,
saying the same thing: It is so that seeing they may not see, and hearing
they may not understand.
This was not deliberate blinding by Him. Otherwise why would He later weep
over Jerusalem for not understanding the time of their visitation (Mt
No, He was setting up a marvelous divine device for dividing people
according to their dispositions. We might speak of two spirals, in
opposite directions. Let us think of a man who has never been drunk
before, but tonight he gets very drunk. Next day - for this is the first
time - he has guilt feelings. There is a clash between his moral beliefs
and his actions. Our nature abhors such clashes, and something will have
to give. Either he will align his actions with his faith, or his faith
will be brought into line with his actions. This goes on and on, like a
spiral that gets larger as it goes out, and feeds on itself. In other
words, the man is getting more and more blind. In time he will lose
perception of other moral truths and even of doctrinal truths. Sadly,
before the Pope's visit to Denver in August 1993, homosexual organization,
which explicitly had contradicted the Church, and said homosexuality is
not wrong, but is good, issued a public statement that said: The Pope is
only the titular head of the Church. We are the Church.
Here is another remarkable thing. We know that God is identified with each
of His attributes, so He does not have love, but is love. Similarly He is
justice, and He is mercy. How is this possible? We can begin to understand
as we are now explaining. The man who goes out on the bad spiral is
getting more and more blind. This is justice, he has earned the blinding.
But it is also mercy, for the more one knows about religion at the time of
acting, the greater the responsibility. So his responsibility is
mercifully being reduced. And in one and the same action, we find both
mercy and justice exercised.
On the good spiral we also see both. The man who lives strenuously
according to faith, which says the things of the world are worth little
compared to eternity, he will go farther and farther on the good spiral.
His ability to understand spiritual things gets greater and greater. This
added light is, in a secondary sense, merited, and is justice. We say
secondary, for in the most basic sense, no creature by its own ability can
establish a claim on God. So all is basically mercy. Yet as we said,
secondarily there is justice: God in the covenant has promised to reward
those who keep His covenant law. So again, in one and the same action,
there is both mercy and justice exercised.
So it seems we may have found at least some insight into God's ways in
these matters. One example is that He wants Scripture to be difficult, so
we may work on it more, and get more out of it (cf. EB 563) but still
more, so that those well disposed will be justly rewarded, while those who
ill-disposed will lose the little they have. To him who has, it will be
given. From him who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away
Here we might borrow a line from St. Paul (Romans 11:33-34): " O the
depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
incomprehensible are His judgments, and unsearchable His ways." We have
had the privilege of seeing, not all things about His wisdom, but some
little corner, like Moses who had the privilege of seeing God from behind