Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Incompatibility of Genesis 49:10 With Jesus

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One of the most popular messianic prophesies in early Christianity is Genesis 49:10 which in the LXX version employed by the earliest Christians reads "A ruler shall not fail from Juda nor a Prince from his loins until there come the things stored up for him; and he is the expectation of the nations." The scripture is also responsible for the naming of celebrity babies as 'shilo' (שילה) found in the majority of ancient Hebrew MSS is a numerological equivalent of Moses (מֹשֶׁה‎). Some copies of the Hebrew text, however, have shelo, which can mean either “he to whom it belongs” or “that which belongs to him.”

The point is that someone who is the equivalent of Moses will be the last king of Israel. This messianic interpretation was clearly developed in relation of Marcus Julius Agrippa who (a) was the last king of Israel and (b) had a praenomen 'Marcus' which when rendered in certain forms of Palestinian Aramaic (מֹרקה) which had the exact same numerological value as 'Shilo' and 'Moses' and is recognized as such by the Samaritans to this day.

Now Christians have always applied this scripture to Jesus as a result of seeing all their earliest Church Fathers do the same. But this makes absolutely no sense when you think about it because Jesus was crucified long before the end of the Jewish royal line. For instance if we take a standard view of history, Jesus died around 33 CE when Herod Antipas was king of Judea. Antipas was followed, according to Josephus by Agrippa I, a series of Roman appointees and finally Agrippa II who died in the early second century.

How then can Origen (who has clearly read copies of Josephus or some other Jewish historian which identify Agrippa as the messiah) develop the following argument for Jesus as Shilo:

And what need is there to mention also that it was predicted of Christ that then would the rulers fail from Judah, and the leaders from his thighs, when He came for whom it is reserved (the king dom, namely); and that the expectation of the Gentiles should dwell in the land? For it is clearly manifest from the history, and from what is seen at the present day, that from the times of Jesus there were no longer any who were called kings of the Jews; all those Jewish institutions on which they prided themselves— I mean those arrangements relating to the temple and the altar, and the offering of the service, and the robes of the high priest having been destroyed. For the prophecy was fulfilled which said, The children of Israel shall sit many days, there being no king, nor ruler, nor sacrifice, nor altar, nor priesthood, nor responses. And these predictions we employ to answer those who, in their perplexity as to the words spoken in Genesis by Jacob to Judah, as sert that the Ethnarch, being of the race of Judah, is the ruler of the people, and that there will not fail some of his seed, until the advent of that Christ whom they figure to their imagination. But if the children of Israel are to sit many days without a king, or ruler, or altar, or priest­hood, or responses; and if, since the temple was destroyed, there exists no longer sacrifice, nor altar, nor priesthood, it is manifest that the ruler has failed out of Judah, and the leader from between his thighs. And since the prediction declares that the ruler shall not fail from Judah, and the leader from between his thighs, until what is reserved for Him shall come, it is manifest that He has come to whom (belongs) what is reserved— the expecta tion of the Gentiles. And this is clear from the multitude of the heathen who have believed on God through Jesus Christ.[De Principiis 4.3]

Origen's arguments are manifestly untrue and so explicitly contradicted by what is written in Josephus, it is hard to believe that he would develop such a bald face lie. But later things get even stranger when he writes:

For a proof that grace was poured on His lips is this, that although the period of His teach ing was short— for He taught somewhere about a year and a few months— the world has been filled with his teaching, and with the worship of God (established) through Him. For there arose in His days righteousness and abundance of peace, which abides until the consummation, which has been called the taking away of the moon; and He continues ruling from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the ends of the earth. And to the house of David has been given a sign: for the Virgin bore, and was pregnant, and brought forth a son, and His name is Emmanuel, which is, God with us; and as the same prophet says, the prediction has been fulfilled, God (is) with us; know it, O nations, and be overcome; you who are strong, be vanquished: for we of the heathen have been overcome and vanquished, we who have been taken by the grace of His teaching. The place also of His birth has been foretold in (the prophecies of) Micah: For you, Bethlehem, he says, land of Judah, art by no means the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler, who shall rule My people Israel. And according to Daniel, seventy weeks were fulfilled until (the coming of) Christ the Ruler.[ibid 4.5]

But this section can be read in light of Origen's consistent two advent theology to argue that Jesus was merely represented the first advent of Christ in the form of a 'suffering servant.' For clearly Origen is well known for interpreting 'Agrippa' as the mashiach nagid (מָשִׁיחַ נָגִיד) or 'ruler' here of Daniel 9:26.

Origen was a very sensible man. He could not have held that the Jewish line of rulers ended with Jesus nor could he have 'changed his mind' about Agrippa being the messiah of Daniel. Was St. Mark secretly remembered as Marcus Julius Agrippa, the last king of Israel? I don't know but it certainly is interesting to consider based on other evidence.

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