Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Explaining Why the Gospel of Jesus is called 'the Gospel of Jesus'

Ben Zion Wachholder ("The Calendar of Sabbatical Cycles during the Second Temple and the early Rabbinic period," HUCA 44 [1973] 153-196) on the basis of various texts tried to show that the Sabbatical year was consistently celebrated at regular 7-year intervals throughout antiquity. Thus he takes the first Sabbatical year in the Common Era to be from 1 Tishri CE (=AD) 6 to 30 Elul CE 7 (consistently with 163/2 BCE); all Sabbatical years thereafter would then end in a CE year evenly divisible by 7. Current usage in Israel, based on a medieval calculation, made the year CE 1972/3 Sabbatical (Encyclopaedia Judaica xiv; New York: Macmillan; 1971; 585), whereas on Wachholder's reconstruction the Sabbatical year would have been 1973/4. In a later article ("Chronomessianism: The timing of Messianic movements and the calendar of Sabbatical cycles," HUCA 46 [1975] 201-218) he suggests that various Messianic movements were consciously begun on a Sabbatical year. But he misses the possibility that Jesus' inaugural sermon at Nazareth was on a Sabbatical year (which on his reconstruction could only have been CE 27/ 28); for there (Luk4,18) he quotes Isa 61,1 "to proclaim liberty to the captives, which as we will see (II.28) picks up Lev 25,10 (Jubilee) "to proclaim liberty in the land."

The Seder Olam (second century) says quite explicitly that the temple was destroyed at the end of a Sabbatical year:

R. Yose says: A day of rewards attracts rewards and a day of guilt attracts guilt. You find it said that the destruction of the First Temple was at the end of Sabbath, at the end of a Sabbatical year, when the priests of the family of Yehoiariv was [sic] officiating, on the Ninth of Ab, and the same happened the second time [Sefer Olam 30]

This can only mean that we are speaking about a year which began in Tishri (the seven month) of 69 and continued through 70 CE. The temple was destroyed in the summer of 70 CE.

There are some other passages in the rabbinic writings that allow us the settle this question definitively. The first of these is in Abodah Zara 9b. In this passage, Rabbi Huna ben Joshua gives a formula that allows calculating the year of a Sabbatical cycle for any year subsequent to the destruction of the Second Temple. His formula is to count the number of years since the
destruction, add one, and then (in essence) to divide this number by seven. The remainder after dividing gives the year of the Sabbatical cycle. The important information that this conveys is that Year One after the destruction of the Temple was considered Year One of a Sabbatical cycle, so that the Temple was destroyed in a Sabbatical year. This shows how one of the contributors to the Talmud understood the Seder Olam 30 passage regarding the Sabbatical years associated with the two destructions of Jerusalem.

Yet most interesting of all is the fact that the oldest Samaritan chronology agrees with the Jewish sabbatical calculation. As my good friend Ruaridh Boid noted in an article I posted elsewhere there is a calculation found in the Hebrew pamphlet written in 1346 currently attached to the Tulîda, itself the earliest Samaritan chronicle. Boid notes:

As said, a Hebrew pamphlet stands in the mss. before the text of the much older Aramaic Tulîda. The author writes in the third month of the Islamic year 747 corresponding to the fourth month, which is July, of the civil year. [This would be 1346 AD = 1379 of the civil era]. This is said to correspond to 5778 AM = 714 Persian [Yezdegerd Era, starting in 632 AD]. This would make 1 AD = 5778 – 1345 = 4433. This is 9 years too late in comparison with the chronology of AF. This is said to be 2984 years since starting the observing of shemittot. That means from Entry. Years of the tables or almanac will be six years less, because these are listed from the seventh year of Entry. The period of counting of shemittot and Jubilees starts from the first day of the first month of the first year. Testing. 5778 AM starts 5,777 years from Creation. 5777 – 2984 = 2,793. The difference should be 2,794. If 5778 AM really is meant, and not 5778 years from creation, then either he means this is Year 2984 of Entry [not the year starting 2984 years from Entry], or his arithmetic is out by one year. The first explanation, careless expression, is more likely. This would make 1 AD = 2984 – 1345 = year 1639 of Entry

Yet if we think about matters another way, the pamphlet actually would have it that 1 CE = year 1640 of entry. Boid has merely corrected the pamphlet for what he presumes to be an error in the calculation of the creation of the world. But the reality is that the 'mistake' is mere semantics. There was no real 'creation of the world.' The author has just had a mental lapse in terminology. The dating of events should be correct; he just chose the wrong terminology to designate the time relative to the imaginary date of the beginning of the world.

We must allow the numbers to stand as they are (for he presumably was drawing from a tradition and just misreported again whether these dates were 'from Creation' or 'of Creation.' To this end, we should allow I CE to stand as 1640 of entry and thus 27 CE is 1666 of entry and certainly not only a forty ninth year (seventh in a series of seven sabbatical years) but the next year - i.e. in which Jesus was crucified - was a Jubilee.

So let's take things from the start. Wacholder found many different ways to confirm that 27 CE was a sabbatical year according to the ancient Jewish calendar system. We confirmed that with the oldest Samaritan historical chronicle, the Tulidah. 27 CE is a sabbatical year in both systems but in the Samaritan calculation it is confirmed as a 'forty ninth year' which fits the context of what is said with regards to Jesus 'proclaiming the year of favor' at the beginning of the original gospel of Jesus in the hands of members of the Marcionite tradition. Indeed in all numismatic evidence 'the fifteenth year of Tiberius' (Luke 3.1) = 27 CE.

So the point we are developing is that the reason the narrative of the ministry of Jesus is called 'the Gospel of Jesus' is because the content is tied up in the ancient system of calculating sabbatical and Jubilee years. To repeat once again for the last time - the end of the year starting in March 27 CE, must be 4460 years from Creation and 1666 years from Entry. So in March 27 AD a forty-ninth year starts and in March 28 AD a Jubilee Year starts. This is the year Jesus appeared crucified at the start of Passover and moreover it was the year in which Jesus's chosen disciple was initiated into the 'mysteries of the kingdom of God' culminating in his crossing of the Jordan into the Holy Land on the tenth of Nisan, just like Joshua of old.

This is why the narrative at the heart of Christianity is called 'the Gospel of Jesus.'

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