Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What is the context of Jesus' divine authorization?

This question can also be asked in this way, "What is the 'Christness' of Jesus?" For 'Christness' embraces annointment, appointment, commission, or authorization.

Here is another except from my essay on the question "Compare and contrast the presentation of Jesus as Teacher in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark" (the gist is in the endnote!):

Both gospels attribute the highest authority to Jesus by testifying about the divine recognition and favour endowed to Jesus through “a voice from heaven” prior to his ministry (Mk 1.11/Mt 3.17), and again, in a much more dramatic fashion through the appearance of Moses and Elijah, during his transfiguration before his arrest (Mk 9.2-8/Mt 17.1-8).[7] His authority was further shown through the disciples’ immediate affiliation to him when they were called (Mk 1.17-20/Mt 4.18-22), and also through the subversive symbolic acts he performed against the governing elite, particularly through his exorcisms and healing of the sick.[8] He was being portrayed as constantly engaging those who were in the powerful religious, social, and political positions of his day, not to mention the corrupted religious authorities. The clashes between the authority of Jesus and other influential personas are found throughout the two gospels, with its climatic scene being the cleansing of the temple (Mk 11.15-18/Mt 21.12-14).


[7] The sounding of “a voice from heaven” during Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration echoes the epiphanies of YHWH speaking to the forefathers of the Jews through his appointed agents. These invocations point specifically to Moses and Elijah given their prominent appearances at the transfiguration (Deut 4.12-14, 5.22-27/1 Ki 19.13-18). The gospels’ authors experienced Jesus as the one divinely authorized in the like of these two ancient great men. Add to that, there was already a general perception among the Jews in the New Testament period that Moses was their foremost teacher/intellectual leader, who also functioned as a socio-political magistrate (Mk 12.19, Mt 23.2); while Elijah was their most anticipated prophet who would bring about socio-political renewal (Mal 4, Mt 17.10-11, Mk 9.11-12). Approximately in that same period, Philo of Alexandria also considered Moses as parallel with influential Greek philosophers, such as Plato, who were deem socio-politically significant in the empire (Alan J. Hauser and Duane Frederick Watson, eds., A History of Biblical Interpretation: The Ancient Period (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003), 16-17). These seems to cast John Yieh Yueh-Han’s paralleling the “divine commission” between Matthew’s Jesus and that of Qumran’s Teacher of Righteousness as being a bit stretching however supplementary it can be to the position of this essay. (John Yueh-Han Yieh, One teacher: Jesus' Teaching Role in Matthew's Gospel Report (Germany: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co., 2004), 127-129).

[8] Santiago Guijarro, “The Politics of Exorcism,” in The Social Settings of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Wolfgang Stegemann, Bruce J. Malina, and Gerd Theissen, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), 159-174.

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