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orion Orion: prophets etc.

Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 15:36:23 +0200 (IST)
From: habas@netvision.net.il (E. Habas)
Subject: Orion: prophets etc.


I haven't been receiving all the digests lately, and am responding to the
only communication referring to mine I have seen, concerning the formula in
Macc. 14:41.
>> >2) I Macc 14:41 limited the approval of the rule and priesthood of Simon
>> >"until a true prophet should arise."
>> Not exactly. It limited the *dynastic* aspect of the *threefold* leadership
>> the assembly granted Simon *and his offspring*, until God makes his will
>> known through his prophet.

>Another construction can be placed on "until God makes his will known
>through his prophet."

I would not place any construction on "until God makes his will known
>through his prophet", since it is a citation of my paraphrase, and *not*
>of the exact words of the text (which are Greek anyway, and what we need
>is the original underlying Hebrew expression, which, alas, we cannot be
>sure of, although 'ad asher yakkum n'vi emet' is a fair guess).

Anyway, the issue is not philological, for once, but simply a Jewish way of
making important national decisions that must be made, but limiting their
validity since the proper authority (=God, through His prophet) has not
made the decision. All such decisions are "legaly temporary", and allow
life to continue unparalysed, though it is common knowledge that they were
made for strictly pragmatic reasons. I don't see that the exact wording is
important in this case, and I'm not sure that a particular incident which
happened to by preseved in the records is indeed the antecedent (though
certainly *an* antecedent).

It is a construction that occurs earlier in First
>Maccabees, at the point where the Temple is cleansed. Most of the
>decisions about Jewish standards of practice are made on the spot by Judah
>the Maccabee or other priests. However, no one knows, or everyone argues,
>what to do with the stones of the altar that have been desecrated, so they
>are buried, until a prophet comes to decide the issue. I would suggest
>this as an antecedent to the later rabbis who made temporary decisions,
>such as the placement of a mezuzah on an angle, "until Elijah comes" [to
>decide the issue properly.]

Since the "spirit of prophecy" was considered lost after the destruction of
Jerusalem and the Temple (with few exceptions...), the most common term for
'waiting for a prophetic/divine decision became "the return of Elijah", the
ancient prophet who is supposed to come back to us, hopefully with good
news... (-:

>I suspect that First Maccabees records a common pietistic expression
>derived from the Book of the Law, a formula for setting aside insoluble
>problems, a manner of speaking.

I think, not "setting aside" but dealing with it rather cleverly. BTW, you
seem to agree here that it is just an expression of a normal Jewish
procedure (="common pietistic expression"), although I would not call it
pietistic but legalistic - remember the kind of decisions made by this

>That the sectarians in the Qumran texts believed that *the* true prophet
>had come, seems to me unlikely.

I agree. The question by "anonymous" (I apologize, I don't remember the
name by now):
>> >Was it the case that Essenes and/or
>> >Qumranites in the first century BCE and following considered that a true
>> >prophet had arisen?

Was trying, if I understood correctly, to offer the reason behind the
disaproval of the contemporary kings and high priests. I meant to say, that
it is not essential to assume this specific reason since others existed of
which we know *from the sources*. Also, it does not matter (for our
purpose) whether the   reasons given for such disaproval (e.g., the
captive-mother rumour), were indeed true, it is enough that they were
believed by some at the time and could be used effectively.
>> Again, not necessarily. There were enough other reasons (real or imaginary)
>> to disaprove of Herod's heirs as kings and/or high priests.

That they believed that their community
>and the individuals within it had access to the true prophecy for their
>times, the <italics>pesher</> or *real* prognostic meaning of an older
>prophetic meaning, is more probable in my view.

I don't understand - are you suggesting that pesharim were taken to convey
some "prophetic meaning"? I don't quite see what you mean by "prophetic
meaning" either.
It may be worth noting, though, that torah shebe'alpeh was considered
divine, and as 'given to Moses in Sinai', and in a *general* way all
exegesis was believed to possess a divine "spark", as did prophecies.
(sorry - I don't have the time for a long and exacting exposition). Of
course, Reuben's pesher is Shim'on's heresy, and thus, for example, R.
Hiyya said that if he ever found a torah written by R. Meir(!!) he would
burn it. If I understood the above comment correctly, this would not be a
specific "community" idea, but a general Jewish one, namely, not only the
Bible, but also the interpretation thereof is of divine origin.
("community", because I'm not prepared to enter the heated emotional
discussion of their identity right now).

E. Habas   [habas@netvision.net.il]