KERUX: A JOURNAL
Editor: James T. Dennison, Jr.
Assistant Editors: Richard A. Riesen and David L. Roth
KERUX is a publication of Kerux, Inc. and appears three times each year. Editorial offices are located at 1131Whispering Highlands Dr., Escondido, CA 92027-4961. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $15.00 (U.S. and Canada); $20.00 (elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U.S. Funds. KERUX is: abstracted in Old Testament Abstracts, Washington, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.
ISSN 0888-8513 Vol. 8, No. 2
The Prologue of John's Gospel
James T. Dennison, Jr.
The inauguration of the fourth gospel is like an Alpine vista (some have suggested these verses are the Mt. Olympus of the gospels). We are raised to the heights of eternity from which we gaze out upon the evangelist's landscape. In the Prologue, we soar to the sempiternal, descend to Sinai, are transported to the Jordan only to ascend again to the infinite bosom of the Father. We are crossing the regions of eternity for the regions of creation. Nor is it creation generically considered. It is creation specifically in relation to the history of redemption: creation > law > prophets > gospel. The infinite and its embodiment; the eternal and its incarnation in history—in the fullness of Israel's history. The Prologue spreads out the principle themes of John's gospel: eternity, creation, Israel, new creation, new Israel, eternity.
Structure of the Prologue
What begins and ends in eternity has been variously described as concentric, chiastic, spiral, rhetorical. Attempts to outline the structure of the Prologue have generated no consensus, although Boismard's concentric pattern in the form of a great parabola (from eternity [v. 1], descending to the incarnation [vv. 13, 14], ascending to eternity [v. 18]) has generally been accepted for want of a more persuasive paradigm.
Verses 1-18 are a unit. This is clear thematically—v. 19 brings us back down to earth after ranging over the prospects of the Logos ("Word"). This is clear structurally—the use of theos ("God") in v. 1 and v. 18 forms an inclusio for this section which is enveloped by the intimate relationship of the
Word with God.
Peder Borgen proposes a neat chiasm (ABCC'B'A') of Logos (A-1:1, 2 with 1:14-18-A'), Creation (B-1:3 with 1:10-13-B'), Light (C-1:4, 5 with 1:69-C'). Roland Meynet argues for two concentric layers (1:1-11 and 1:14-18) bound by the impact of the Logos on mankind (1:12, 13). The rich diversity of proposed structures for these eighteen verses (Mlakuzhyil surveys more than twenty schemes for the entire gospel) is a dramatic testimony to the fascination which they possess for the Church. Verses I-18 are indeed a marvelously constructed introduction to the witness of the fourth evangelist to our Savior.
Even more interesting structural patterns emerge as we narrow our focus within the Prologue. Verse one contains a classic example of stairstep/staircase parallelism—discernible even in most English versions. The predicate of each phrase (Word [logos], God [theos]) is the subject of each subsequent phrase. As we "step" from the Word, we "land" on God. In fact, we learn the Word is God!
The stairstep pattern repeats itself (an inclusio?) in vv. 4 and 5. We "step" from life (zoe) to light (phos) and ultimately nullify the darkness (skotia). The Word who is God is full of creative power. Creation images dominate the unit—"in the beginning," "all things came into being," "life," "light," "darkness." Verses 1-5 declare the pre-existence of the Word; his distinct (but not separate) intimacy with God ("before the face of, in the presence of God," pros ton theon); his identity with God; his creative power which no cosmic force can overcome.
Theme of the Prologue: New Creation
In other words, John inaugurates his gospel with a carefully constructed declaration of a new creation via the Logos. Into the created order comes one who is no creature; he is above the cosmos, prior to the creature, of an order which is (in distinction from the order which "begins" to be). The dramatic clue and confirmation that John conceives the appearance of the Logos as the dawn of a new creation is displayed in his choice of opening words ("In the beginning," en arche)—a precise duplication of the opening to Genesis in the
Septuagint. As it was in the beginning of time, it is now in these times of the (incarnate) Logos. John's gospel announces from the beginning—a new beginning. This eschatological and soteriological new beginning for the cosmos is present in the One who is Logos-Theos. He creates life (for the lifeless) and brings light (for the darkness-dwellers) which dispels the uncomprehending (or unconquering?) gloom.
John leaves no doubt from the inception of his gospel that he is recording a new creation in Christ Jesus. The fourth gospel is a gospel of this new creation through the incarnation of the Logos. John reminds us of this dominant eschatological theme by Jesus' miracles ([new] creative acts), by his teaching (creative words), by his work (particularly as it relates to the moment of his "hour" as the reversal of Satan's dominance of this present cosmic order, 12:27-33). John begins with the new creation because every aspect of his gospel is an intrusion and revelation of the new creation which has dawned in Christ Jesus.
An eschatological order has penetrated from the above to the below. It is an eschatological order of life and light—an eschatological era of glory breaking forth in the darkness. Man's rebellious participation in the un-creation with its concomitant of death (un-life) and bleak darkness (un-light) has necessitated a sovereign Christocentric initiative. Into man's arena, into the fallen arena, into the alien cosmic arena comes Logos, Theos, Creator, Life, Light! And the former arena—the old order—is powerless to resist.
Behold!, John announces, the beginning of a new creation. God said, "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3). John says Jesus is the Light. God said, "Let there be life" (Gen. 1:11, 20). John says Jesus is the Life. God spoke the word. John says Jesus is the Word.
And in this gospel, John will draw out all the glorious eschatological and soteriological new-creation drama. The life which the Logos brings is joyous (2:10), regenerative (3:3), refreshingly transforming (4:29), eye-opening (9:30), nourishing (21:15-17). The light which the Logos brings is a revealer of truth (3:21), cosmic (8:12), directive (11:9), generative (12:35), a dispeller of darkness (12:46). The darkness of this present evil age cannot stand against the glory of this light. John's gospel is a revelation of the eschatologi-
cal conquest of the darkness.
John has woven his Prologue and his gospel into a seamless garment. What is highlighted in the Prologue is exegeted by the gospel. What is displayed by the gospel is epexegetical of the Prologue. The Prologue is more than an introduction to the gospel. It is a thematic summary of the eschatological character embodied in the life and ministry of the incarnate Logos. New life, new light, new order of the cosmos—all this has appeared with the advent of Logos-Theos. The Prologue is proleptic of the gospel. One must read the gospel retrospectively (to the Prologue). Yet one must also read the Prologue prospectively (anticipatory of the gospel as a whole).
Theme of the Prologue: New Era in Redemptive History
John declares not only a new order of creation with the appearance of the Logos, he declares a new order in the history of redemption with the incarnation of the Logos. The Logos transforms the created order and he transforms the history of the order of redemption. In v. 6, we move from the cosmic to the redemptive-historical arena. The transition at v. 6 is continued in the themes and persons of the history of redemption: "his own" (v. 11), "sonship" (v. 12), "tabernacling" (v. 14), "law" (v. 17), "Moses" (v. 17). The relationship of the Logos to the previous history of redemption is the relationship of the One who brings eschatological and soteriological fullness to that history. The element of contrast is evident in the structure of verses 6-18: John the Baptist not the light; his own do not receive him; begotten not of the flesh; the law through Moses—grace and truth through Jesus Christ. John's prologue makes a dramatic statement of the eschatological finality which has entered history through the institutions and relations of Israel's redemptive history. As Logos is greater than Cosmos, so he is greater than the law (Moses), the prophets (John the Baptist), the institutions of Israel (tabernacle).
The evangelist begins his treatment of the history of redemption proximately. John the Baptist is the last prophet of the former era. He is the transitional figure from the provisional era of Judaism to the permanent era of the
Logos. The evangelist begins with the Baptist because he stands in contact with the two eras—the end of the Old, the inauguration of the New. The Baptist is a retrospective and prospective witness. Retrospective to the appearance of the Logos, the history of Israel is incomplete, lacking fullness. The Logos, who is prior to Israel as he is prior to creation, is the glory of the Father's arena. John the Baptist's witness is a declaration that the glory has appeared. The era of the prophets is surpassed in the incarnation of the Word of the prophets. The era of the law is surpassed in the incarnation of the Truth of the law. The era of blood-and-flesh-descent is surpassed in the sonship/daughtership generated by the Only-Begotten. The era of Moses and tabernacle is surpassed in the enfleshment of Moses' Lord who is the dwelling place of God and man (Theanthropic Logos).
John the Baptist appears at the transition in the Prologue—from the eternal arena above the creation to the temporal arena in which God has revealed himself to Israel. John's transitional role will be drawn out by the evangelist as the Baptist decreases in this gospel so that the Logos may increase. The drama of redemptive-historical transition is to declare that better things are here—an eschatological Lamb (1:29), an eschatological Spirit-Baptiser (1:32, 33), an eschatological Bridegroom (3:29). In the light of such glory, the Baptist knows his role. And with him recedes the whole former era—not because it was invalid, but because it has been replaced with the fullness. John the Baptist stands in the shadows, knowing full well that the reality has come. From now on, "he must increase! "
Not only does the Baptist announce his recession; all that has proceeded the incarnation of the Logos is revealed as provisional, inadequate, temporary. Even Moses and the law are contrasted with Christ and grace-truth. Moses sees God's glory (Ex. 34:6; 33:19); the Logos is God's glory. Moses veils his face before the effulgence of the Most High; the Logos "exegetes" God from within the bosom of the Father. Moses is not allowed to see God face to face; the Logos is face-to-face God. Israel was God's adopted son by relationship with father Abraham. The Logos is un-adopted Son by ontic identity with the Father. The non-contingent Sonship of the Only (= Eternally) Begotten makes the eschatological sonship he brings eternal, permanent, abiding. The One who is always Son makes everlasting-life sonship
possible to those who are naturally sons of the Devil by entering the temporal arena so they may inherit the eternal arena. Israel's tabernacle, the tent of meeting where God condescended to dwell with his people, is displaced by a theanthropic resurrection-tabernacle. Here God and man are joined forever. John's gospel is an exegesis of the surpassing excellency of Christ in relation to the history of redemption. Christ is greater than Moses (chapter 6), greater than Abraham (chapter 8), greater than the tabernacle/temple (chapter 2).
We have been to the mountain-top as we finish our reading of John 1:18. We have ascended the heights of eternity where we have been given a glimpse of the ineffable, ontic relationship of filiation—everlasting Father, everlasting Son beholding one another face to face. We have stood above the created order on a vantage point which has permitted us to survey the cosmos. We have stood with the Godhead itself beholding the glory inherent in the un-created One—Father, Son (and Holy Ghost). We have been invited to gaze upon the mystery of intimacy which surpasses all logic—all human analogies. The intimacy of One who leans upon the bosom of his Father while being God Himself. Even the divinely inspired John can only express this relationship in identity (equal with God) and contrast (distinct from the Father and distinct from the creature). We have been summoned to sonship whose dynamic is ontological. We have been urged to be (re)born to a filiation which takes us up into an eternal foliation. If we may now call God "Father", surely it is on account of his ever-begotten, ever-beloved Son our Savior. The parabolic journey of the Logos-Son is unto our eschatological sonship. Athanasius got it right: the Son of God became man that we may become sons of God. The union of Logos-Theos with Anthropos is to seal the mystical union of sinners begotten again to a childhood which will never end.
And we have been on a pinnacle from which the landscape from Adam to Malachi is seen in its fullness at last. The Logos is the glory Moses beheld—is the glory which descended upon the tabernacle—is the glory which prophets longed to see. We are the beholders. What an inestimable privilege—that we have seen him who is the glory of the Father, who graciously receives us into his glory—the glory as of the only-begotten God.
Suggestions for Further Reading
M. E. Boismard, St. John's Prologue (Westminster, MD: Newman Press 1957).
Peder Borgen, "Observations on the Targumic Character of the Prologue of John. " New Testament Studies 16/3 (April 1970): 288-95.
R. A. Culpepper, "The Pivot of John's Prologue. " New Testament Studies 27/1 (October 1980): 1-31.
C. H. Giblin, "Two Complementary Literary Structures in John 1:1-18." Journal of Biblical Literature 104/1 (January 1985): 87- 103.
Roland Meynet, "Analyse Rhetorique du Prologue de Jean." Revue Biblique 96/4 (October 1989): 481-501.
George Mlakuzhyil, The Christocentric Literary Structure of the Fourth Gospel (Rome: Pontifical Institute, 1987).
Jeff Staley, "The Structure of John's Prologue: Its Implications for the Gospel's Narrative Structure." Catholic Biblical Quarterly 48/2 (April 1986): 241-64.
The Servant and the Serpent*
Meredith G. Kline
II. The Re-investiture of Joshua
A. Reckoning of Righteousness. 1. Removal of Sins: Zechariah 3:3 goes with the preceding verses. It repeats the opening statement that Joshua was standing before the Angel of the Lord (v. 1a), adding the alarming detail that he appeared at that awesome tribunal in filthy garments. By thus indicating what the basis was for Satan's accusations (v. lb), verse 3 underscores the wonder of God's elective grace revealed in his rejection of those charges (v. 2). But verse 3 also belongs with what follows, for the clothing imagery it introduces is continued in vv. 4ff. in the symbolic portrayal of the happy consequences of the Angel's rebuke of the adversary: the removal of Joshua's offending garb (v. 4) and his reclothing in priestly vestments (v. 5).
The process of Joshua's justification and reinstatement is patterned after the ceremony prescribed in the Law for the installation of Aaron and his sons as priestly guardians of the tabernacle. (Exodus 28-29 contains the relevant legislation; Exodus 39-40 and Leviticus 8 narrate the event.) Included in the ritual in both cases are the elements of divine choice, cleansing, clothing-crowning, and charism. Moreover, the setting of the two transactions is the same, for Aaron's consecration took place at the tent of meeting, the earthly projection of the heavenly court. It is then from this distinctly priestly perspective that Zechariah 3 presents the drama of man's salvation in Christ and interprets humanity's historical role and eschatological goal.
Concerning the high priesthood it is written: "no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" (Heb. 5:4). The Pentateuchal directives for the order of Levitical priests begin with a declaration of God's choice of Aaron and his sons to be peculiarly his own and to draw near and minister unto him (Exod. 28:1; 29:44). Similarly in the trial
scene in Zechariah 3, the Angel's favorable verdict, which results in Joshua's reinstatement as high priest, is traced to God's choice of Joshua/Jerusalem (v. 2).
In the performance of his office the priest finds himself standing at the place of judgment. For the temple is God's royal court where he is enthroned between the cherubim. Ministering there the priest comes under the direct scrutiny of the holy Judge of heaven and earth. Freedom from sin is therefore a prime prerequisite of the priestly calling. Such a state of righteousness characterized Adam at his creation, qualifying him for his priestly role at the holy mount in Eden. In his unfallen condition, without sin, he could stand unthreatened before the Glory-Presence and behold the beatific vision in rapturous delight and adoration. In the post-Fall world, priestly vocation requires first of all a restoration of righteousness to the sinner by the removing of the guilty stains which would otherwise prove his fiery undoing when he stood before God's face.
Accordingly, the regulations for the installation of the chosen Aaron and his sons as priests stipulated that Moses, having brought them to the entrance of the council tent, must first of all wash them with water (Exod. 29:4; 40:12; cf. Lev. 8:6). This ablution was a juridical rite symbolizing pardon of transgressions rather than subjective purification. Psalm 51 illustrates this kind of washing. There the plea to be washed (v.2) is preceded by the petition that transgressions be blotted out, erased from the criminal record (v. 1), and it is followed by a confession of transgressions (vv. 3, 4a[5, 6a]), all anticipating the divine tribunal (v. 4b[6b]). Similarly in the lawsuit of Isaiah 1:15-18, the washing to which the covenant breakers are summoned is a forensic cleansing from the crimson stains of their blood-filled hands and from their scarlet sins, a cleansing that will lead to the verdict of the Lord, their Judge, that they are whiter than snow (cf. Ps. 51:7).
The regulations for the Levitical priesthood also provided for a continuing ritual of cleansing from sins. In the instructions concerning the brass laver located between the altar and the tent of meeting, it was commanded that whenever Aaron and his sons were to minister at the altar or enter the holy tent they were to resort to the laver to wash their hands and feet, lest they die (Exod. 30:17-21; 40:30-32). Within the schema of the tabernacle's cos-
mological symbolism the laver represented the waters of the heavenly sea, which, flowing from the throne of God, are the instrument of divine judgment ordeal (cf. Rev. 15:1).13 They function as a curse, becoming a flood to wipe out life from the earth or a river of fire to consume the beast and the little horn. They also function as a blessing, taking the form of a river of life that makes glad the city of God, watering the trees of life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations in the eternal Eden. At the exodus these judgment waters performed both functions, destroying the Egyptian army but delivering the chosen, priestly nation of Israel. Paul identified these judicial waters of the exodus as a baptism (1 Cor. 10:2), reflecting the fact that baptism symbolizes the undergoing of a judgment ordeal. The waters of baptism are a death passage with forensic significance. Thus, for those who by faith undergo baptismal death in Christ's baptism-crucifixion, baptism is unto the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3).14 Such was the meaning of the washing of the Levitical priests at the brazen laver. It was a forensic baptism, signifying the judicial clearing of the record, the pardoning of the evil deeds of the hands which must minister at the altar, the forgiving of the evil paths trodden by the feet which must enter the house of God. And the legal ground of the judicial pardon was Christ's atoning sacrifice in the baptism of his death (Luke 12:50), typified in the sacrifices offered on the altar next to the laver.
There was an alternative ritual of purification in which uncleanness was symbolized by dirty clothing (cf. Isa. 64:6; Rev. 3:4), with laundering as the usual means of purification. When the Israelites were being constituted a holy kingdom of priests at Sinai, they were sanctified for the epiphany on the third day by the washing of their garments (Exod. 19:10, 14). Also, the cleansing of the Levites for their sacred service included the laundering of their clothes (Num. 8:7, 21), as did the ritual of restoration for various specific instances of defilement (cf., e.g., Lev. 11 :25; 14:8, 9; 16:26, 28; Num. 19:7ff.). The plea for cleansing in Psalm 51:2(4) uses a verb (kabas) that normally denotes the washing of clothes rather than the bathing of the body. It is this sartorial alternative that is found in Zechariah 3. The soiled clothing of Joshua serves as the symbolic equivalent of the defiled flesh of Aaron and his sons in the priestly installation ceremony on which the Zechariah 3 transaction is patterned. By the same token, the removal of Joshua's soiled
clothes—a variant of the laundering treatment—is the equivalent of the washing of the body which was the first step in the ceremony prescribed for the consecration of the priests.
The cleansing of Joshua clearly has forensic significance. Removal of his offending clothes answers to the rejection of Satan's accusations and therefore symbolizes the clearing of all recorded offenses from his judicial transcript. Explaining the act of divestiture, the Angel of Yahweh tells Joshua: "See, l have caused your iniquity to pass from you" (v.4b). The verb h'br is used here in the sense attested in passages dealing with the forgiveness of the sins of king David (2 Sam. 12:13; 24:10; I Chr. 21:8) and of Job (Job 7:21).15
Similar to the installation procedures of both Leviticus 8 and Zechariah 3 is Isaiah's inauguration to prophetic office (Isaiah 6). The setting is the heavenly court (vv. 1, 2) and again the dilemma is that of the unclean human who finds himself in the presence of the holy Lord of glory (vv. 3-5). As in Zechariah 3:4, 5 the cleansing, effected by applying a purificatory stone to the prophet's unclean mouth, is carried out by an angelic agent (vv. 6, 7a). Once again the cleansing is judicial, explained by the assurance: "Your iniquity is taken away and your sin is atoned for" (v. 7b). And as the priests' laver cleansing was based on atoning altar-sacrifice, so here the expiatory stone is obtained from the altar, which means that this cleansing too is grounded on sacrificial atonement. In the course of Isaiah's prophetic ministry he would eventually identify the suffering Servant of the Lord as the one who would accomplish this cleansing sacrifice. Likewise in Zechariah 3 attention is directed to this future messianic priest-sacrifice, the Servant-Branch of whom Joshua was a type (v.8).
The key features we have noted in the episodes involving Aaron and Joshua are met again in the vision of Revelation 7:11-17. Induction into priestly ministry, the heavenly court setting, the symbolism of priestly clothing, and judicial washing accomplished through atoning sacrifice—all these elements come together in the imagery of the redeemed myriads, white-robed, standing before the throne and the Lamb, appointed to serve God in his temple day and night, and identified as those who "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (v. 14).
Strange detergent, staining blood. But such is the forensic chemistry of the justification of God's chosen priesthood. Jesus, lamb of God, must pour out his blood in the baptism-judgment of his crucifixion that there might be a baptismal laver filled with blood, a fountain opened where sinners lose all their guilty stains (cf. Zech. 13:1). By this blood the accuser of the brethren is overcome in the court of heaven (Rev. 12:10, 11). "Unto him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (Rev. 1:5b, 6; cf. 5:9,10). This is the doxological climax of the biblical testimony concerning God's Servant, the bruised and bleeding but serpent-crushing seed of the woman promised in Eden (Gen. 3:15); the coming Shiloh of Jacob's blessing on Judah, with whom the prophecy associates a donkey slain to ratify covenants and a mysterious washing of garments in the blood of grapes (Gen. 49:10, 11).
The trajectory of judicial ablutions along which the vision of Zechariah 3 finds a niche thus extends from Genesis to Revelation.
2. Robes of Righteousness: In the cleansing rituals that involve the washing of garments the very act that purges away the dirt produces the clean robes (cf. Rev. 7:14). But in Zechariah 3, where the dirty clothing is removed rather than laundered, a second, separate step is needed to complete the process—an act of reclothing. It is the Angel of the Lord who continues to exercise the sovereign initiative in this further action. Explaining to Joshua the meaning of the removal of his offending garments (v. 4b), he appends the promise that he will reclothe him in new apparel (v. 4c)16 As Zechariah watches the visionary drama unfold and recognizes that the new garments are high priestly vestments, he interjects the prayer that the high priest's mitre in particular be placed on Joshua's head (v. 5a).17 A statement that this specific act of crowning took place (v. 5b) is followed by a general summary of the re-investiture (v. 5c) and a concluding observation that the Angel of the Lord stood there (v. 5d).
Since the divestiture and investiture of Joshua are complementary acts, mahalasot, the rare term used for the new clothes, must denote something opposite to the soiled garb it replaces. We know that it is the regalia of the high priest in which Joshua is being robed. This plus the fact that in its only
other appearance mahalasot refers to elegant finery (Isa. 3:22) suggest that this term denotes garments of a special ornate character that would be kept in mint condition. As such the mahalasot serve here as an apt antonym to dirty clothing. Significantly, the one specific item singled out the special attention, the head-dress, is described as a "clean" mitre.
The complementary relationship of the divestiture and investiture also provides an index to the precise theological significance of the reclothing. Removal of the unclean clothing symbolized the legal blotting out of sins, the rebuttal of Satan's accusations, forgiveness, the imputation of the sins of God's elect to Christ. As the complementary act to that, the reclothing will signify the judicial declaration of their righteousness, justification through the imputation to them of the righteousness of the messianic Servant, the righteousness of his active obedience in fulfillment of the probationary task of vanquishing the serpent. Chosen Joshua's reclothing was his vindication as the one who was in the right in the sight of the heavenly Judge in the case of Satan against God's elect. "I will greatly rejoice in Yahweh, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has put on me a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns himself like a priest" (Isa. 61:10; cf. Ps. 45:13,14[14,15]; Isa. 52:1; Matt. 22:11, 12).
B. Re-creation in the Glory Image. From the entire context it is evident that the reclothing of Joshua is a ritual of reinstatement as high priest;18 his new clean clothes are high priestly vestments. While the reclothing viewed as the complement of the symbolic removal of sins signifies the reckoning of righteousness, a further soteric grace is discovered in the symbolism of reinvestiture when we focus on the nature of the new clothes as the official regalia of high priesthood.
The production of these vestments (as recounted in Exodus 28 and 39) is the second of a remarkable pair of replications of a divine archetype. The archetype is the Glory-Spirit, the heavenly Glory-temple whose earthly manifestation is the Shekinah. Replication of this Spirit-Archetype is a major motif in the biblical record of the original creation process. It was the likeness of the Spirit-temple that was reproduced in the structuring of the heaven and earth as a cosmic temple (cf. Gen. 1; 2; Isa. 66:1) and again in the fashioning of mankind in the image of God's Glory.19 This phenomenon recurs in
redemptive history. The forming of Israel as a priestly nation at the exodus is a re-creation event. The Glory-Spirit of Genesis 1:2 appears again, hovering over Israel in the tohu-like wilderness (cf. Deut. 32:10, 11), and presently, by the fiat-command of God, the tabernacle is brought into existence, a cosmic temple in symbolic miniature, a replica of the Glory-Spirit constructed according to the archetypal design revealed to Moses on the mountain of the Glory-theophany.20
Next in the biblical account, following immediately upon the directions for the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 25-27), are the prescriptions for Aaron's sacred garments and his investiture (Exodus 28-29; cf. 39:1-13). And when examined these high priestly vestments turn out to be a scaled down, sartorial version of the tabernacle—and thus another replication of the Glory-Archetype.21 Their likeness to the tabernacle can be traced in the aspects of their materials, form, function, and general purpose. Their identity as a replication of the Glory-theophany is most strikingly displayed in the impression of radiance they conveyed, the effect of their flame-colored materials with the gleam of the precious gem-stones and gold. It was indeed the explicit design, stated at the beginning and close of the prescriptions concerning them (Exod. 28:2 and 40), that they were "for glory and beauty" and both of these terms are elsewhere applied to the Glory-theophany (cf. Isa. 4:2; 28:5). By commanding into being the figure of the high priest so adorned, the Lord was, in symbolic idiom, re-creating man in the divine image. The exodus history repeated the creation history in its reproduction of the Glory-Spirit likeness in both the cosmos and humanity.
In the ordination of Aaron the putting on of the holy garments followed as the second step after the washing at the laver (Exod. 40:12, 13; Lev. 8:6-9). Correspondingly in Zechariah 3 the removal of the filthy garb (the equivalent of the laver lustration) is followed by Joshua's investiture, which must then be understood, like that of Aaron, as a putting on of the image of God.
To be created in the divine image includes, ultimately, three glory components present in the Glory-Spirit-Archetype. One is the ethical glory of purity and truth. That is the component Paul focuses on when he adopts this metaphor of putting on God's likeness like clothing (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).
Interestingly, in the apostle's adaptation of the theme, the putting on of the clothing of holiness follows, as in Zechariah 3, a putting off of unfit clothing (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9).
A second component of the image of God is dominion comparable to that exercised by God and the Elohim-like angels of the divine council (cf. Ps. 82:1, 6). Agreeably, Joshua's re-investiture was an appointment to the office of the high priest, which afforded admission into the holy of holies, with a place in God's court. This is mentioned in the commission given to Joshua: he was to govern God's courts and to be given access among the angel-attendants of the heavenly King (Zech. 3:7). Of the high priest's vestments it was the mitre in particular that expressed the royal, governmental aspect of his office. The terms used for this turban are also used for a royal diadem (cf. Isa. 28:5; 62:3; Ezek. 21:26). Special attention is called to the mitre by Zechariah's request for its inclusion in the reclothing of Joshua (v. 5). And this singling out of the mitre prepares for the climactic role to be played later in the vision by this majestic head-dress, or more specifically by the golden consecration "stone" affixed to its forefront and most distinctly imparting to the mitre the nature of a royal crown (v. 9; cf. Zech. 6:11). Joshua's re-investiture proclaims that all who are created anew in God's image are crowned with the dignity of dominion; they live and reign with Christ.
The third component of the Glory likeness is the visible glory of transfiguration, an outward luminosity befitting and bespeaking the lucid purity and integrity within, a physical radiance that manifests the majesty of regal station. This visual glory, not included with the other two elements in the original creation endowment of man, is an eschatological honor. It is the Spirit-wrought glorification the redeemed will experience when they behold Jesus, arrayed with the Glory-Spirit, coming in the clouds of heaven. It was portrayed by the dazzling beauty of Aaron's holy garments. In the vision of Zechariah 3, Joshua, by being re-invested with the radiant high priestly regalia, is transfigured into the brilliant Glory-likeness of the messianic Angel of the Glory-Presence before whom he stands.
Our introductory comments on Zechariah's fourth vision noted its root-age in Genesis 3. Another link is the investiture motif. There too we read of
human defilement, registered in a sense of shameful nakedness, and of a divine covering of the guilty pair with skin clothing (Gen. 3:21), symbolizing the restoration of the image of God.22 The term for "skin" is part of a three-cornered pun, also involving the term "naked" used for Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:25) and the term "subtle" used for the serpent (Gen. 3:1). By the paronomasia it is suggested that as a result of the Fall the culprits had lost their original likeness to the Glory-Spirit (cf. Gen. 1:26, 27) and had taken on the image of the devil, but by God's grace were to be renewed in likeness to their Creator. The holiness component of the imago Dei is prominent (cf. Rev. 3:18; 16:15), but the glory of royal-priestly dominion is also present. Priestly office and function had been given to man; he was to be the guardian of God's sanctuary-garden (Gen. 2:15). This office he had forfeited by the loss of original righteousness so that he had to be expelled from the sanctuary, his priestly task now taken over by the cherubim (Gen. 3:24; cf. Exod. 20:26; 28:42). In this context the act of clothing in the divinely provided garments of skin takes on the nature of a re-investiture with priestly status and dominion.
Clothing made of animal skin had to be procured through sacrificial death; an act of atonement was the judicial basis for the priestly reinstatement and restoration of divine image and righteousness. From the nearby context we also learn that it was the messianic seed of the woman who would undergo the necessary substitutionary, sacrificial suffering (Gen. 3:15). Only at the cost of the bruising of his heel would he trample the head of the serpent. Only by his atoning death for the sins of the rest of the woman's seed, the Joshua-people of Zechariah 3, does the Servant silence the serpent. Only through this rebuking of Satan by the Messiah is the way opened for Joshua to be re-invested as high priest and to enter once more into the holy courts of the Lord.
Several features of the sartorial symbolism under survey are curiously combined in Ezekiel's marriage allegory of God's covenanting with Israel at the exodus (Ezekiel 16). The Lord finds Israel in a helpless state, cast out and naked (vv. 6, 7). He washes and anoints her and covers her nakedness (vv. 8, 9). He clothes her in bridal adornments, which are designed to resemble in a variety of details both Aaron's vestments and the tabernacle. And so the bride
is fashioned into an ectypal image of the archetypal Glory of the Groom. Her beauty, the Lord declares, was perfect, by virtue of his placing his splendor on her (v. 14).23
Similarly in the allegory of the messianic king and his bride-people in Psalm 45 special attention is given to the bride's finery (vv. 13, 14[14, 15]), the terms for which are elsewhere in the Old Testament mostly confined to descriptions of the priests' regalia and the tabernacle. A corresponding emphasis on the apparel of the king (vv.3, 8[4, 9]) suggests that the royal splendor is a paradigmatic glory that is replicated in the bride's raiment. Reinforcing this is a further parallel: praise of the king's surpassing beauty (the verb yapah, v. 2; cf. Isa. 33:17) is echoed by a reference to the beauty of the bride (cognate noun, yopi, v. 11; cf. Ezek. 16:13, 14). Since the king is divine (cf. v. 6), this bridal investiture is a metaphor for re-creation in the image of God.
Originating in Genesis 3:21 and surfacing in various genres in Pentateuchal law, the psalms, Zechariah 3 and elsewhere in the prophets, the theme of priestly re-investiture in the image of God continues into the New Testament, culminating in the Apocalypse, where it is a fundamental motif. Towards the close of that book it appears combined with nuptial imagery, as in Psalm 45 and Ezekiel 16. The church-bride, ready for the marriage of the Lamb, is arrayed in fine priestly linen (Rev. 19:7, 8). Other details of priestly dress are interwoven in the description of the bridal adornments in Revelation 21 and 22. As seen in this final portrait, the bride-church appears clothed in priestly glory, a replica of the likeness of Christ as he is delineated in the opening epiphany, with transfigured high priestly robes, invested with the Glory-Spirit (Rev. 1:13-16).24
The account of Joshua's reclothing concludes: "and the Angel of Yahweh was standing" (Zech. 3:5d). This verb ('amad), a common technical term for participation in various roles in judicial procedures, had already been used for Joshua (vv. 1, 3), Satan (v. 1), and the angel attendants (v. 4, cf. v. 7). The first vision, which corresponds to the fourth in many ways including the theme of renewal in the divine image, speaks of the messianic figure as "standing"—in the midst of the myrtles (God's people) over against the deep (the hostile powers).25 Commander of the angelic hosts (cf. Josh. 5:13),
he was present with his people as their Immanuel-Advocate and that meant vindication and victory for them while it spelled the devil's doom (cf. Exod. 14:19; Zech. 14:4). Similarly the reference to the Angel's "standing" at the close of Joshua's re-investiture in Zechariah 3 accents the dominance of his presence and the decisiveness of his advocacy for Joshua's justification and reinstatement. With respect to Satan, the messianic Angel's "standing" there at the end of the judicial encounter proclaims that the Servant tramples the serpent and is the victor in final judgment.26
III. Revelation of the Messiah
A. Proposal of a Celestial Priesthood. According to the Pentateuchal accounts, after the installation ceremonies of washing, putting on the holy vestments, and anointing, Aaron was given instructions concerning his cultic duties (cf. Exod. 29:38ff.). So it is in Zechariah 3. After the re-investiture of Joshua the divine Angel addressed to him a solemn charge, recommissioning him to his high priestly functions (vv. 6, 7).
Joshua's duties are expressed as conditions whose fulfillment would bring high privilege and honor. The transaction was tantamount to a covenant of grant proposal, offering special reward in recognition of faithful services to be rendered. Joshua's recommissioning took this form because the high priestly order epitomized the Torah-covenant with Israel and therefore, like it, was informed by the works principle. As previously observed,27 the Mosaic Covenant was indeed a covenant of works at the level of Israel's typological kingdom. In that respect it recapitulated the original covenant of works with Adam. Hence the proposal made to Joshua was also after the pattern of that covenant of creation with its proposal of a grant of heightened blessings to be merited by Adam's obedient discharge of the stipulated services, particularly the priestly guardianship of God's sanctuary.
There is disagreement as to how many of the five clauses in Zechariah 3:7 after the messenger formula, "Thus says Yahweh of hosts," describe the conditional duties. Clearly the first two do so, but the question is whether the next two belong with them in the protasis or with the fifth clause in the apodosis. In other covenantal formulations with similar stipulations a change of person in the subject of the actions marks the transition from obligations
imposed or undertaken to benefits promised, or vice versa (cf., e.g., Gen. 17:1-21; Deut. 26:16-19). In Zechariah 3:7 the second person subject continues through the first four clauses (underscored by an emphatic "you" at the beginning of the third clause), changing to the first person only in the fifth clause (cf. Gen. 17:9). On the other hand, evidence for starting the apodosis with the third clause is found in a similar syntactic construction in Psalm 132. This psalm abounds in parallels to Zechariah 3 in theme, terminology, and imagery; in fact the passage in question (v. 12) is, like Zechariah 3:7, part of a divine commitment involving a charge to a theocratic appointee (protasis) and a promise of perpetual tenure (apodosis). And the introductory particle used to introduce the apodosis in Psalm 132:12 also introduces the third and fourth clauses in Zechariah 3:7.
To walk in God's ways and keep his charge (the duties mentioned in clauses one and two) are at times equivalent to the general requirement of keeping the covenant (cf. Deut. 8:6; 10:12; 26:17; 28:9; 30:16; Mal. 3:14), but they could refer here specifically to the guardian function of the priesthood (cf. Num. 3:7). Judicial governance and guardianship of the temple complex are clearly described in the third and fourth clauses, and even if regarded here as promised honors (i.e., as part of the apodosis) they are still indicative of the functions of the office with which Joshua was being charged. Like Adam's probation mission in Eden (Gen. 2:15), Joshua's commissioning set him on guard against the hostile incursion of the evil one into God's holy house. He must stand against Satan's challenge at Har-Magedon.
As the reward for fighting the good priestly warfare against the devil, God promised: "I will grant you access among these who stand by" (Zech. 3:7f.). This is the acme of honor even if the royal privileges of the third and fourth clauses are also construed as part of the promised grant. The word translated "access" (derived from halak, "walk") seems more literally to mean a passageway or entryway (cf. Ezek. 42:4). To be accorded entree among the angelic attendants standing by the Lord is to be admitted into the heavenly court, into the very presence of God and a close, confidential relationship with him. That prerogative was the supreme privilege vouchsafed to prophets. Zechariah was experiencing this exalted privilege as he received the night visions. But on the occasion of his entering the holy of holies the
high priest also enjoyed this entree into the presence of the Lord enthroned between the cherubim standing by the ark-throne. Malachi speaks of faithful priests walking (halak) with God (Mal. 2:6; cf. Mic. 6:8; Gen. 5:22; 6:9).
The final fulfillment of the Angel's promise to Joshua is found in the New Jerusalem, the celestial city constituted a temple by the presence of the Lord God enthroned in the midst of the heavenly hosts (Revelation 21-22). There God tabernacles with his people, who (as we have seen) are portrayed as a bride-priest, the wife of the Lamb, her bridal garments priestly vestments, the ultimate realization of redemptive renewal in the image of the Lord of Glory.28 In a word, the Joshua-priesthood was promised heaven. There God's holy servants dwell eternally in the secret place of the Most High, under the shadow of the Almighty. There the longing spirit finds rest and says "Amen and amen" to the psalmist's word of faith, hope and love: "Afterwards you will conduct me into your Council; yea afterwards you will take me up into your Glory. Having you, what else need I in heaven; having you, what more do I desire on earth?" (Ps. 73:24, 25).
Heaven, however, was not to be attained through the Mosaic covenant of works. Israel, like Adam, failed to fulfill the stipulated probationary conditions; the Aaronic priesthood, embodied in Joshua in the days of Zechariah, did not faithfully discharge its commissioned duties. The proposed grant was forfeited and the curse of the covenant was incurred instead. Adam was driven out of Eden's garden-sanctuary; Israel, with its priesthood, was expelled from its symbolic paradise. Heaven must be won by another, a promised one yet to come, mediator of a new covenant of grace.
B. Prophecy of the Coming Day. 1. Joshua. Sign of the Servant: The covenant of works proposal to Joshua lifts our thoughts above to the Father's covenantal proposal to send his Son to replace the Aaronic priesthood and to be a second Adam. This Son-Servant would be an obedient Adam, keeping his covenant of works, faithfully performing his priestly charge, and thereby he would merit for himself and those the Father gave him the promised place of acceptance, audience, and access in heaven. And in God's typological arrangements under the old covenant, Joshua, high priest of Israel, was a sign of that coming Servant of the Lord.
"Hear now, Joshua the high priest—truly you and your colleagues who sit before you are a prophetic sign [literally, men of a sign]—behold, I will bring forth my Servant the Branch" (Zech. 3:8). The announcement proper, marked by "behold," is that God will send the Servant (v. 8c), while the statement about the symbolic nature of Joshua (v. 8b) is parenthetical. Yet their logical relationship is that the prophetic announcement identifies what Joshua symbolizes: he is a prototypal portent, a type, of the coming messianic Servant.
More specifically, the sign consists of Joshua—the high priest consecrated and commissioned to his office (vv. 4-7)—presiding in a judicial council.29 Whether or not the colleagues are priests, their sitting before him indicates they are under his authority. A passage in the Qumran document, The Manual of Discipline, dealing with protocol in various communal situations, insists on the presence and prerogatives of a priest in these gatherings and describes the others as sitting in his presence (IQS vi, 4-6; cf. 2 Kgs. 4:38; 6:1; Ezek. 8:1). The term "sit" in Zechariah 3:8 is probably used in the sense of sit in judgment (cf. Exod. 18:13, 14; Isa. 28:6; Dan. 7:9, 10; Ps. 122:5; Ruth 4:4). It is the royal-judicial aspect of the high priesthood that is prominent here as it was in the charge to Joshua (v. 7). It is Joshua the priest-king, invested with authority over God's courts, who is a prophetic type of the coming One.
Corresponding to the dual priest-king office of Joshua is the compound designation of his antitype, "my Servant the Branch" (v. 8), a dual title that identifies him as both priest and king. The mission of the antitypical, messianic priest-king would be set in motion by God: "Behold, I will bring forth" (literally, "cause to come;" cf. Jer. 32:42). This note of God's sovereign initiation was already sounded in the earliest disclosure concerning the Messiah and his salvation: "The Lord God said unto the serpent . . . I will put enmity" (Gen. 3:14, 15).
The designation "my Servant" summarizes the sublime Isaianic message of the suffering Servant of the Lord. The Zechariah 3:8 announcement, "behold, l bring forth my Servant" recalls the introductory "Behold, my Servant" in Isaiah 42:1 and 52:13. As delineated in Isaiah's climactic passage (52:13-53:12), the Servant's ministry is priestly: he presents an offering for sin, he
sprinkles many nations, he makes intercession for transgressors. Central to the portrait is his passive obedience unto death during his state of humiliation as he fills the role of priest and sacrifice. But there is a second stage in his history. The reward for his priestly service is highest exaltation; the Servant-priest is crowned with royal glory (52:13; 53:12; cf. 49:7). He is a priest-king.
The name-title, "the Branch" (semah) brings out more distinctly the royal dimension of the Servant title to which it is joined in Zechariah 3:8. For this title encapsulates the teaching of previous prophets concerning Messiah as scion of the stock of king David, son of Jesse. Isaiah used such plant imagery: "A shoot shall come forth from the stump of Jesse and a branch (neser) from his roots will bear fruit" (Isa. 11:1). Again, "the branch (semah) of Yahweh will become beauty [a term applied to a royal crown in Isa. 28:5] and glory for the remnant" (Isa. 4:2). Two similar passages in Jeremiah, each beginning "Behold the days come" and prophesying of the advent of the messianic king of David's dynasty, call him the Branch (Jer. 23:5, 6; 33:14-17). In Jeremiah 33:15 the metaphor is verbal: "I [Yahweh] will cause a shoot of righteousness [i.e., a legitimate royal heir] to shoot forth (samah) unto David" (cf. Zech. 6:12).30 Similarly, Psalm 132:17 (as customarily rendered) presents God's promise that in fulfillment of his covenant oath to David he will make a horn sprout forth (samah) to him.
Combining the priestly Servant and royal Branch titles was natural enough since they overlap conceptually in various ways. We have observed that Isaiah's suffering Servant is at last elevated to highest royal honor. Like the Davidic Branch his origins are as a tender plant and root out of dry ground (Isa. 53:2). Messianic "David" is also called "my servant" (Ezek. 34:23; cf. Pss. 78:70; 89:3, 20). Attributed to both Servant and Branch are endowment with the Spirit, wisdom and success, deliverance of those bound in prison and darkness, and the bringing of salvation to Israel and all nations and of judgment and righteousness to the earth (Isa. 42:1-4, 6, 7; 49:6-12; 52:13; 53:11; 61:1-4 and Isa. 11:2-4, 11; Jer. 23:5, 6; 33:15, 16). The fact is that the two titles refer to one and the same individual.
The New Testament bears witness that this combination of suffering priest and righteous king seen in Zechariah 3 (and 6:9-15; 9:9-11; 11; and
13:7) and elsewhere in the Old Testament (notably Psalm 110 and Dan. 9:24-27) finds its realization in Jesus the Christ. At his baptism the Father's voice identified him in a blend of phraseology drawn from God's inaugural decree to his King-Son in Psalm 2:7 and his word of approbation to his Servant in Isaiah 42:1 (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Jesus himself summarized all that was spoken of him in the law, the prophets, and the psalms in terms of this dual identity and function—the sufferings and the glory that would follow (Luke 24:25-27, 44-47). And Jesus, identifying himself as the majestic Son of Man of Daniel 7 declared repeatedly that the Son of Man must undergo sufferings to ransom the many, as was foretold of the Servant in Isaiah 53. As seen by John in apocalyptic vision (Rev. 5:5, 6), Jesus was both the slain lamb (cf. Isa. 53:7) and the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David (cf. Gen. 49:8-10).
2. The Stone: Seal of the Spirit: A second "behold" (ki hinneh) at the beginning of Zechariah 3:9 marks part two of the Angel's prophetic announcement. As in part one, a typological sign of what is predicted in the announcement proper is first introduced, viz., the stone.31 A series of declarations follows concerning the antitype, the true one-for-all event. Insertion of an additional "behold, I" in the midst of this series emphasizes the point that the Lord God is the author of the antitypical fulfillment of the stone's symbolism.
The relation of the sign-types in the two parts of the Angel's announcement (v. 8 and vv. 9, 10) reflects the structure of the previous re-investiture ritual with its general symbol of the vestments as a whole but also its particular focus on the head-dress. Thus, in v. 8 the figure of the presiding Joshua harks back to the over-all reclothing in v.4 while the stone in v.9 resumes (as we shall see) the special attention directed to the turban in v.5. This relationship between the earlier and later portions of the vision and, in particular, the fact that the stone belongs to the symbolism of the reclothing is demonstrated by the last clause in v. 9. There the significance of the stone is expounded in terms of a divine removing of iniquity, a clear reference to v. 4 where the symbolism of Joshua's reclothing is explained in the same way. Once this relationship is recognized, along with the thoroughgoing dependence of the Zechariah 3 investiture procedure on the regulations for the installation of the
high priest in Exodus 28 and 29, there should be no difficulty (the great variety of interpretations notwithstanding) in perceiving the identity of the stone.
Pursuing the suggested connection between the stone and the high priestly mitre placed on Joshua, we turn back then to the Exodus account of Aaron's investiture and discover that the unusual combination of images and ideas that expound the meaning of the stone in Zechariah 3:9 appears there in the legislation concerning the high priestly head-dress (Exod. 28:4, 36-38; 29:6; cf. 29:30, 31; Lev. 8:9).
On the forefront (mul peney) of the mitre was affixed (natan, "give," Exod. 29:6) a plaque of pure (tahor)32 gold, called a "blossom" (sis) as an ornamental flowering of the mitre. In the ancient Near East kings and gods, and they alone, are depicted wearing tiaras decorated on the front with blossom-shaped phylacteries. In Isaiah 28:1-5 sis is used as a parallel to crown. Isaiah prophesies that the crown of Ephraim will be overthrown but in that day Yahweh of hosts will be a diadem of beauty for the remnant. This same prospect is presented in Psalm 132:18, which foretells the blossoming (verb sis) of the crown of the Messiah whom God makes to branch (verb samah) from David's line. Such blossoms were carved on the walls and doors of God's royal house (1 Kgs. 6:18, 29, 32, 35). With its gem-like sis, the mitre was a crown exhibiting the royal character of the high priestly office.
The golden plaque was also called a nezer, "consecration" and "crown" (as a sign of consecration). Its significance as an emblem of sanctification to God's service was spelled out in the inscription "Holy to Yahweh" which was engraved on it like the engravings of a signet-stone (Exod. 28:36; 39:30). The mitre being placed on Aaron's head, its frontal diadem would be positioned on his forehead (Exod. 28:38). There it must be whenever he came before God bearing the iniquity ('awon) of Israel's holy gifts, so that the Lord's eyes might fall at once on the holy seal of consecration and accept the priestly ministry.
Unmistakably it is this Exodus legislation concerning the golden plaque on the high priest's mitre that is the source on which Zechariah 3:9 draws and that provides the identification of the stone. The stone appertains to the high
priest; it is something which "I [the Lord] have given before [natan with lipney] Joshua." This may simply mean it was committed to Joshua's possession.33 But the choice of words seems to reflect their use in the passages concerning the mitre-diadem, in which case the idea is that the stone was positioned over Joshua's forehead. There is then a natural connection to the next statement, "upon one stone will be seven eyes": the eyes of the Lord would look directly upon the stone on the forehead of the high priest standing before him. The identification of the seven eyes (not as seven facets of the stone or seven letters of its inscription or seven springs of water but) as the sevenfold Spirit of God is clear from Zechariah 4:10 and Revelation 5:6. The one chosen stone was the focus of the full sevenfold divine concentration.
"Eyes of the king" was a title for certain officials in Persia and elsewhere whose duty was to be informants. Often they would be accusers, an imperial analogue of Satan. But in their general function of surveillance these royal officials provided a model to depict God's reconnaissance of the earth conducted through his angelic agents with a view to ordering all things for the good of his people (2 Chr. 16:9; Ezra 5:5; cf. Zech. 4:10; I Kgs 8:29; Ps. 11:4; Jer. 24:6; I Pet. 3:12).34 In Zechariah 3 the seven eyes of the Lord submit to the Angel-Judge a counter-report to that of Satan.35 Satan's eyes fastened on Joshua's soiled garments but the seven eyes of Yahweh look on the stone on Joshua's forehead, the stone that wins acceptance before the throne in heaven.
In Zechariah 3:9 God's fastening his gaze on the stone on Joshua's forehead leads to the promise that he will remove the iniquity of the land in one day. This is the counterpart to the assurance given the similarly crowned Aaron of acceptance in his role of bearing iniquity in behalf of Israel. Further, God's declaration that he would engrave the stone's engraving corresponds to the engraving of Aaron's diadem-stone and was a promise that he would effect in Joshua the sanctification signified by the plaque's inscription, "Holy to Yahweh."
The use of 'eben, "stone," for metal objects, gems and weights (cf., e.g. Zech. 4:10; 5:8; Exod. 25:7; 35:9) helps explain its use for the mitre plaque, an object of gold, in Zechariah 3:9. Noteworthy in view of the diadem nature of the plaque is the phrase "stones of a crown" in Zechariah 9:16. Also, the
plaque was engraved and in the Exodus background of Zechariah 3 precious "stones" of the high priest's vestments are engraved too (cf. Exod. 28:11, 21; 39:6, 14). Of special interest is the signet seal design of the plaque, for signet seals were usually precious stones. Evidence that the plaque was patterned after signet seals is the specification that its engraving be that of a signet seal (Exod. 28:36; 39:30). Also, the plaque was suspended on a cord (Exod. 28:37; 39:31), as was, for example, Judah's engraved signet seal (Gen. 38:18, 25). Further, the plaque's inscription, "Holy to Yahweh," expressed ownership, a function of signet-stones.36
Other data support our seeing signet-seal imagery in Zechariah 3:9 and at the same time suggest further reasons why the plaque was called a stone. Signet imagery was in vogue; just two months before Zechariah's night visions God's word through Haggai likened Zerubbabel to a signet (Hag. 2:23). In Zechariah's own next vision he pictures Zerubbabel with a plumb stone in his hand (Zech. 4:10), an object whose form (i.e., a stone hanging on a line) matched that of a signet-stone on its cord. (Was the symbolism of the golden plaque polyvalent, portraying the plumb line standard of holiness that prevailed in God's house37 as well as the signet seal of sanctification and ownership?) In fact, in Zechariah 4:10 the seven eyes of the Lord look upon Zerubbabel's plumb stone as they do upon Joshua's stone in Zechariah 3:9, suggesting that the choice of "stone" in Zechariah 3:9 was with a view to calling attention to this parallelism between these two similar objects and thereby highlighting a paired set of priestly and royal typological symbols of the Messiah.
The identity of the stone as the signet-seal on the high priest's mitre explains Zechariah's zealous concern that this head-dress be bestowed on Joshua (Zech. 3:5). For it was the Lord's seal of acceptance (Exod. 28:38). It was a stamping of God's name (signet impressions being signatures) upon the forehead of his priestly servant, acknowledging him as his own personal possession, sanctified unto him.
In Pauline theology sealing is synonymous with the anointing of the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:21, 22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2 Tim. 2:19). This sealing is a stamp of ownership which reserves believers unto the eschatological redemption (Eph. 1:13, 14).38 Reflecting on this in 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul quotes from
Numbers 16:5, where the Aaronic priesthood is identified as belonging to the Lord, accepted as holy into his presence. Read in the light of this sealing with the Spirit, the placing of the signet-seal on Joshua in Zechariah 3:9 fills out the ritual pattern of high priestly installation with the act of anointing, climactic in the ritual of Exodus 28 and 29.39 With this symbol of Spirit-anointing on Joshua's head, the messianic typology of high priestly investiture is completed. Joshua stands before us as a prismatic sign of the Anointed One, Messiah the Servant-Branch, Christ our priest-king.
The imagery of the sealing of God's people for priestly service by the stamping of God's name upon their foreheads reappears in the Book of Revelation (7:3; 14:1; 22:4). The connection between the sealing and the name is established by the fact that the same ones who receive a seal on their foreheads in 7:3 are said to have the name of the Lamb and his Father on their foreheads in 14:1 (cf. 22:4).40 Those so marked by God are his "servants" (7:3; 22:3), "purchased for God" (14:4). The priestly nature of their service is plain—they stand before his throne and see his face (14:3; 22:4).
A further point of contact between the sealing with God's name in the Apocalypse and the stone in Zechariah 3:9 is that such sealing is equivalent to recreation in the image of the Glory-Spirit.41 "The equivalence of the bearing of God's name and the bearing of God's image appears strikingly in Revelation 22:4. Here, in the midst of the description of the glorified covenant community, renewed after the image of the Lord, it is said: 'They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads.' This marks the fulfillment of Christ's promise to incorporate the overcomer in his temple as a pillar and to 'write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my new name' (Rev. 3:12). The church's bearing of Christ's new name is exponential of its new nature as the new city-temple, the priest-bride arrayed in tabernacle-glory, the image of the Glory-Spirit-Lord, the glory of the bridegroom-Son. Behind the imagery of Revelation 22:4 are the figures of Moses and Aaron. Aaron bore on his forehead the name of the Lord inscribed on the crown on the front of the priestly mitre. The very countenance of Moses was transfigured into a reflective likeness of the Glory-Face, the Presence-Name of God, when God talked with him 'mouth to mouth' (Num. 12:8) out of the
Glory-cloud. As the Name and the Glory are alike designations of the Presence of God in the theophanic cloud, so both name and glory describe the reflected likeness of God. To say that the overcomers in the New Jerusalem bear the name of Christ on their forehead is to say that they reflect the glory of Christ, which is to say that they bear the image of the glorified Christ."42
Within the high priestly investiture symbolism the stone, the name of God sealed on Joshua's forehead, is the supreme sign of renewal in the glory-image of the Spirit. It is the type par excellence of restoration to royal priesthood with dominion over creation and governance of God's cosmic courts. By crowning Joshua with this diadem stone the divine Angel was symbolically fashioning Joshua in his own archetypal image—and at the same time was constituting this regal priest a portent-sign of himself in his future manifestation as the Lord's Anointed, crowned with glory and honor, all things in subjection under his feet, set over the house of God as a Son (cf. Heb. 2:6-9; 3:5, 6).
The diadem nature of the stone-plaque centers attention on the royal dominion aspect of the image of God and thus on God's inheritance grant to his people of a kingdom of glory, productivity and peace. "In that day, says Yahweh of hosts, you shall invite each one his neighbor under the vine and under the fig-tree" (Zech. 3:10). Blessing sanctions in the old covenant regularly include the outward realm as well as the spiritual sphere.43 So did prophetic promises concerning the consummation phase of the new covenant (cf., e.g., Deut. 30:9; Jer. 32:40, 41).
Zechariah's picture of the coming day is drawn from the prosperity of Solomon's days, when "Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree" (1 Kgs. 4:25 [5:5]). Micah had already used the same typical imagery (Mic. 4:4) when prophesying of the kingdom "at the end of the days" (4:1)—the eschatological formula behind Zechariah's "in that day." Later in Zechariah's prophecy we hear repeatedly a reprise on the theme of paradise restored (cf. 8:3-5, 12; 9:17; 10:10; 14:8-11).
Antitypical fulfillment and eschatological finality are keynotes in the announcements of Zechariah 3:8-10. Through the coming One, the messianic Son sent from heaven in the power of the sevenfold Spirit, God would bring
to pass all that was symbolized by the typical priesthood of the order of Aaron. A divine engraving would replace the work of the Israelite craftsman of old: "I will engrave its engraving" (v. 9c). By his Spirit-anointed Servant God would accomplish in truth the sanctification of his elect which was expressed by the inscription on the golden plaque, "Holy to Yahweh." "In one day"44 by the priestly offering of Jesus, God would effect once and for all the removal of the iniquity of that land (v. 9d),45 perfecting forever them that are sanctified (cf. Heb. 7-10; esp. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10). What the "land flowing with milk and honey" prefigured, God would bestow as an antitypical cosmic inheritance on the joint-heirs of Christ (v. 10). In that day, Messiah the Branch, the righteous king, would bring forth justice and security, prosperity and peace, in all the earth.
The mission of the messianic priest-king has a double portrayal in Zechariah 3. It is typified by the figure of Joshua and his diadem-stone, but it is also set forth by the acts of the Angel of the Lord described in verses 1-5. All that the divine Angel is seen doing for Joshua in the vision he would later do as the incarnate Servant-Son. In that day he would in historical fact vanquish the serpent, accuser of the brethren; remove the guilty stains of his people and clothe them in righteousness; seal them with his Spirit, renewing them in the image of God; and restore them as a royal priesthood, heirs of heaven's glory, blessed with access into the throne-presence of the Lord their God. Behold the Angel of the Lord, the coming One. Behold my Servant, the Branch.
"Arise, O Lord, from your Sabbath-throne, you and the ark of your sovereignty.46 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, let your consecrated ones shout for joy" (Ps. 132:8, 9).
* This is a continuation of an article begun in Kerux 8/1 (May 1993), pp. 20-37.
13. Cf. my Images of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), p. 41.
14. Cf. my By Oath Consigned, pp. 65ff.
15. The choice of this verb in Zechariah 3:4b was probably prompted by the fact that it is also used for the removing of clothing. An example that provides an interesting comparison to the case of Joshua the high priest is Jonah 3:6, which narrates the removal of the royal robe by the king of Nineveh, to be replaced by sackcloth and ashes. Cf. Ezek. 26:16.
16. The verb (halbesh) is understood with imperative force (and the object is changed to "him") on the view (supported by LXX) that v. 4c does not continue the Angel's explanation to Joshua (v. 4b) but resumes the directives to the angelic attendants (v. 4a).
17. It was noted previously (cf. Kerux 8/1 [May 1993], p. 21) that this intervention by the prophet in the visionary action is one of the features peculiar to the three hinge sections in this book. There is considerable support in the ancient versions for a different textual reading which would make v. 5a a continuation of the Angel's words in v.4.
18. Cf. Numbers 20:26, where the transfer of the high priestly office is effected by stripping Aaron of his holy garments and placing them on Eleazar.
19. For an elaboration of this subject see my Images of the Spirit.
20. Cf. ibid., pp.35-42. For a discussion of the tabernacle as a replica of the Glory-temple and the theme of re-creation in the image of God, see also the earlier comments on Zechariah's first vision in Kerux 5/3 (Dec. 1990), pp. 18-21.
21. Cf. Images of the Spirit, pp. 42-50.
22. See further my Kingdom Prologue (1991), pp. 93-95.
23. For detailed discussion see Images of the Spirit, pp.50-53.
24. See further ibid., pp. 48, 49.
25. On Zechariah 1:8 see Kerux 5/2 (Sept. 1990), pp. 2-20 and 5/3 (Dec. 1990), pp. 9-28.
26. The verb 'amad has at times the meaning of "endure," "hold firm."
Like the statement about Joshua's standing before the angel in v. 3, v. 5d is a transition, concluding what precedes but introductory to what follows.
27. See Kerux 8/1 (May 1993), pp. 32-34.
28. Cf. Images of the Spirit, pp. 48-56.
29. Only Joshua is addressed in the summons to attention (v. 8a) and he is the main subject ("you") of the parenthetical statement. The subject (including the colleagues) is placed before the introductory ki, which in such cases has emphatic force ("truly"). The third plural pronoun at the end does not single out the colleagues, for a third person pronoun can be used to strengthen a previous pronoun of first or second person (cf., e.g., Isa. 43:25; Jer. 49:12; Zeph. 2:12).
30. Jeremiah 33:17 links royal and priestly roles in an affirmation of the perpetuity of the Davidic Covenant.
31. In v. 9a the stone is the immediate object referred to by hinneh, "behold," which then also seems to do double duty (reinforced by another hinneh at v. 9c), introducing the announcement proper.
32. Cf. the use of tahor (Exod. 28:36) in Zechariah 3:5 for the mitre itself.
33. Note the use of natan in Exodus 29:6 for placing the crown on the mitre.
34. Cf. Kerux 5/2 (Sept. 1990), p. 7 and 6/1 (May 1991), p. 17.
35. According to Revelation 5:6 it is Christ, the Lamb, who has the seven Spirit-eyes and according to Zechariah 1:10, 11 it is the messianic Angel who sends the surveillance agents on mission and to whom they report.
36. Bearer of God's signet-seal, the high priest was God's steward-representative with authority to stamp God's mark of ownership (consecration) on persons and things.
37. If the binding of the covenant stipulations as a symbol to the forehead (Deut. 6:8; 11:18; cf. Exod. 13:9, 16) is a cognate practice, it supports understanding the mitre plaque as a holy standard.
38. For divine protection as a correlate of divine ownership, authenticated by sealing, cf. Revelation 7:3; 9:4; Ezekiel 9:4-6.
39. This is another parallel between Zechariah's fourth and fifth visions, for Spirit-anointing is the dominant motif in Zechariah 4.
40. The Satanic pseudo-equivalent is the mark-name of the beast on the forehead or right hand of his followers (Rev. 13:16, 17). Inclusion of the right hand in this counterfeit supports the cognateness of the Deuteronomy 6:8 practice to the mitre plaque (mentioned above, note 37).
41. Renewal in God's image is implicit in Paul's explanation of sealing as anointing with the Spirit. On the correlation of the biblical concepts of the image of God and Spirit-anointing of messiahship, see Images of the Spirit, p. 70.
42. Ibid., pp. 54, 55.
43. Of interest for the connection of verses 9 and 10 in Zechariah 3 is the way Deuteronomy 11 attributes the productivity of the land (a blessing associated with covenantal fidelity, vv. 8, 13) to "the eyes of Yahweh your God" being upon it all year long (v. 12).
44. Decisive victory accomplished in a single day was a distinguishing mark of the great king in the ancient Near East. Cf. Douglas Stuart, "The Sovereign's Day of Conquest," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 221 (Feb. 1976), pp. l59-164.
45. Instead of its inhabitants, the land, as a type of heaven, is mentioned in Zechariah 3:9, preparing for the paradise-land theme in v. 10.
46. Cf. Numbers 10:35, 36. Solomon's quotation of the psalm (2 Chr. 6:41) is prefaced by a request that the Lord's eyes be upon his suppliant people (v. 40; cf. Zech. 3:9).
Seminary, S. Hamilton, Massachusetts
Westminster Theological Seminary in California, Escondido
What Should I Read on the Song of Solomon?
James T. Dennison, Jr.
The meaning of the enigmatic Canticle continues to fascinate and elude the church. Since Origen's profound sermons on Solomon's Song (The Song of Songs, Commentary and Homilies, Ancient Christian Writers Series, Paulist Press, 1957), the church has struggled with how to approach this book. Is it narrative; is it allegory; is it drama; is it merely a love poem; does it belong in the canon? In the last twenty years, a flurry of commentaries and studies on Solomon's "sublime song" have expanded our understanding and appreciation for the book. Tragically, it is a book ignored and neglected by the church—either from fear of its candid sexual imagery or from the inability to deal with its difficult structure and development. Numerous methods have been advanced in explanation of the work from the pornographic to the allegorical to the dramatic. In order to assist our readers with the literature, I propose a brief review of the status quaestionis re Canticum canticorum ("state of the question with respect to the Song of Songs").
The principle issue in current research is to decide the literary genre of the Canticle, i.e., what kind of book is it? Marcia Falk (1990) provides a survey of the options. The allegorical view has been present in the synagogue and church from an early time. The male figure ("Beloved") is identified with God or Christ; the female figure ("Lover") is identified with Israel or the church. In the church, this view was developed by the Alexandrian school of Origen and dominated the patristic interpretation of the book into the middle ages where it found its supreme expression in the sermons of Bernard of
Clairvaux. Reformation and Puritan expositors still depended on the allegorical view for application of the book to their readers/hearers. While endorsing grammatical-historical exegesis, 16th and 17th century Protestants nevertheless subtly imported an allegorical application of the contents to their time (Luther regarded the book as a poem of praise for a monarchy in a state of Shalom ["peace"]; Theodore Beza explained the work as a prophetic allegory of the history of the church from the early church fathers to the Reformation). (Note: the history of interpretation of the Song of Solomon is usually surveyed in every commentary. Outstanding treatments are found in: Christian D. Ginsburg, The Song of Songs and Coheleth [New York: KTAV, 1970 reprint], 20-126; H. H. Rowley, "The Interpretation of the Song of Songs," The Servant of the Lord and Other Essays [Oxford: Blackwell, 1965], 195-245; Marvin H. Pope, Song of Songs [New York: Doubleday, 1977], 89-229; Roland E. Murphy, The Song of Songs [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990], 11-41. The reader may also consult the standard Old Testament Introductions as well as Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias.)
The dramatic view attempts to discern a narrative or story line in the book centering around two or three characters. Some believe the book recounts the story of Solomon and his Shulammite. Others argue that the book portrays a love-triangle, i.e., Solomon, the Shulammite and the Shulammite's unnamed shepherd lover. This latter view, very popular in the 19th century—the era of romanticism—suggests the following scenario: Solomon takes the Shulammite into his harem, depriving her of her shepherd lover. The Canticle is the record of her pining and longing for her rustic paramour. Since the 19th century, some scholars have portrayed the Song as a cycle or compilation of songs for a wedding celebration. Similar to the current Arabic custom of exchanging songs at a wedding celebration, Canticles is considered a mutual celebration of the male and female lovers.
While there is a wedding celebration at the center of the Song (5:1), the elements of movement in the royal and pastoral milieu suggest a narrative more complex and developed than a mere wedding song-cycle.
With the release of Marvin Pope's massive Anchor Bible commentary on the Song (Song of Songs, Doubleday, 1977), a rather perverse view of the book has been advanced. Pope regards the book as a liturgy from a fertility
cult ritual or funeral feast, i.e., the sacred marriage to the gods reenacted cultically. He provides a plethora of obscene poems and pornographic graffiti from the Ancient Near East in support of this dubious thesis. In truth, one learns more about Professor Pope's fantasies than about the content of Solomon's inspired Song.
The final views of the book are variations on a theme. Most modern scholars now regard the book as a love poem expressive of the passion between a man and a woman. Some regard the two lovers as Solomon and his Shulammite; others regard the names in the book as "idealized." The other view of the work as a love poem regards it as a collage or compilation of numerous love lyrics arising from numerous settings. The difficulty with this latter view is that the unity of the Canticle depends on a very skillful redactor or editor. Why not the skill of a single author?!!
My own view of the book is that it is a divinely inspired love poem of the affection between Solomon and his Shulammite bride. The sexual imagery of the book is appropriate to a man and his wife experiencing what God gave to that first man and woman in the garden of Eden. We have a canonical poem celebrating marital love after the fall—"and behold it is very good!" Garden imagery in a fresh-blooming world is emblematic of the protological setting for man and woman in their unashamed intimacy.
Every chapter of the Song is fraught with images that strike our senses—sight (flowers), sounds (animals and birds), smells (perfumes), taste (fruits) and touch (physical attractiveness). Love—marital, sexual love—is the exploration and intoxication of all the senses. Our lovers are delighting in one another as God intended from the beginning. They possess one another, longing and yearning for that union which fittingly consummates their love. They taste something of the mystery which exists at the heart of intimate union—a mystery expressed by Paul as reflected in the union of Christ and his Bride, the Church (Eph.5).
Solomon's Song contains a retrospective, introspective and prospective dimension. It returns us to the garden where we realize how God created our sexuality ("good"). It reminds us that in our marriages, we are invited to experience a union that surges to rise above a fallen creation. It testifies of an
eschatological arena where love is perfected in blessed, mystical union with our Heavenly Lover, Jesus Christ.
Recently, there have been four significant attempts to explore the structure of Solomon's Song. The seminal study of Cheryl Exum first appeared in 1973. "A Literary and Structural Analysis of the Song of Songs" (Zeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 85 : 47-79) was her attempt at describing the development of the book in six poetic units. William Shea modified her conclusions by proposing a chiastic arrangement of six units ("The Chiastic Structure of the Song of Songs," Zeitschrift fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 92 : 378-96). Edwin C. Webster reduced the book to a chiasm of five poetic units ("Pattern in the Song of Songs," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 22 : 73-93).
However, the most convincing analysis of the Song's structure comes from the pen of David A. Dorsey ("Literary Structuring in the Song of Songs," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 46 : 81-96). Dorsey focuses on the dramatic element of scene shift and the consistent pattern of the lovers (1) apart from one another, (2) yearning for one another, (3) united with one another. The threefold pattern is a motif found in each of the seven chiastic units of the book (A - 1:2-2:7; B - 2:8-17; C - 3:1-5; D - 3:6-5:1; C' - 5:2-7:10; B' - 7:11-8:4; A' - 8:5-14). In my opinion, future work on the structure of the Canticle must begin with Dorsey's article.
The study of literary structure is not an end in itself. Structure has been divinely inspired to contribute to understanding—theological understanding. Commentaries will increasingly interact with these articles in order to unlock the development of the love relationship in the book and reflect upon its protological and eschatological dimensions.
Commentaries and Special Studies
John G. Snaith has written the most recent commentary on the Song (New Century Bible Commentary: The Song of Songs [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1993]). Unfortunately, Snaith is bound to critical presuppositions which make it impossible for him to discern a theological dimension to the book. His explanations are safe (i.e., critical orthodoxy: the book is not "Solomon's;" it has no discernible literary structure; it is dependent on Egyptian love poetry so that the scholar must use comparative world literature to unpack its meaning) and predictable. While he often catches the correct dimension of the Hebrew text, his conclusions are bland and matter-of-fact. Solomon's book is about human passion. Snaith seems to have little! Most serious is his failure to interact with much of the important literature—his bibliography shows no awareness of Exum's 1973 article, Webster's 1982 piece and Dorsey's l990 article. Though he is aware of conservative Lloyd Carr (The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, IVP, 1984), he seems unaware of Craig Glickman's important Song for Lovers (IVP, 1976). Nor does he interact with Timothea Elliott's The Literary Unity of the Canticle (Peter Lang, 1989). All in all, Snaith hasn't done his homework.
Elliott's work is superb. That a Catholic nun could unlock the imagery of this marital poem is a testimony to her sensitivity and dogged determination to meticulously work over the Hebrew text. Elliott's work is a section-by-section, close reading of the Hebrew original. Her attention to poetic devices—alliteration, onomatopoeia, inclusio, parallelism, etc.—shows her skill with the Hebrew idiom. Though I disagree with her structural outline of the book, her insights are so rich, sane and stimulating, I cannot praise the work enough. My criticism is directed to her publisher who has charged an exorbitant $66.00 for a 383 page paperback, which appears to have been merely photographically reproduced from the sheets of Elliott's doctoral thesis. This volume deserves a publisher who will make it available to pastors and laypersons in a paperback edition reasonably priced. Conservatives will rejoice in this work which endorses the unity of Solomon's love song. Preachers using this volume in combination with Dorsey's structural outline will find a rich source of imagery on the loveliness of the marriage relationship.
Roland E. Murphy's new commentary in the Hermenia Series is a workmanlike production from a moderately critical point of view. Eschewing the eroticism of Pope's Anchor Bible contribution, The Song of Songs (Fortress/Augsburg, 1990) is Murphy's definitive treatment of a book that has occupied much of his scholarly career. The strength of the Hermenia series is its format: fresh translation of the original text; detailed notes on the text; interpretative comments verse-by-verse; summaries which direct the reader to how the pericope may be preached. This commentary is helpful in directing the Christian reader to the theological dimension of the Song. If it is bound by critical assumptions, it is a mark of a scholar bound by his critical context and not more open to the text itself.
Several other works deserve mention. Frances Landy, Paradoxes of Paradise (Almond, 1983) is a detailed examination of the imagery of the work. By directing our attention from the Canticle to the Garden of Eden, Landy points us in a promising theological dimension. But by focusing on the alleged eroticism of the poem, Landy becomes preoccupied with the peripheral. Michael D. Goulder, The Song of Fourteen Songs (JSOT, 1986) suggests that the Canticle is a collection of fourteen love songs. Goulder endorses the unity of the book as a narrative of royal courtship. Theological exegesis is sparse in this small book which concentrates on the erotic. Marcia Falk has contributed a moderately feminist reading of the Song in Song of Songs (Harper and Row, 1990). Falk is the major proponent of the collection view, i.e., the song is composed of different love poems from different speakers assembled in a collage of love poetry. Finally, an interesting and stimulating work: Michael V. Fox, The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs (University of Wisconsin Press, 1985). Fox presents a reading of Solomon's Song which is informed by comparisons with Egyptian love poems. He provides a verse-by-verse interpretation of the Canticle which is often quite sane and responsible. The relationship between Egyptian and Hebrew love poetry may be over-stressed, but Fox has some rewarding insights worthy of consideration.
One book not directly related to the Song but extremely valuable in working with the Hebrew text is Wilfred G. E. Watson's Classical Hebrew Poetry: A Guide to its Techniques (JSOT, 1984/1986). Watson surveys He-
brew poetic technique throughout the Old Testament. He provides lucid treatment (from biblical examples) of meter, parallelism, imagery, sound and much more. The Scripture index at the back of the book provides access to the treatment of numerous verses from the Song of Solomon. Watson's volume is as valuable as many commentaries in assisting the preacher with the poetic drama of a passage.
The reader will conclude that a rich vein of materials on a neglected book of the canon is currently available. The preacher of the "whole counsel of God" may not neglect a work so problematic as Solomon's Song. The church's understanding of marital sexuality will be enriched and deepened even as she longs to fathom the eschatological love between the Heavenly Lover and His Beloved.
Marianne Meye Thompson. 1-3 John. Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1992, 168 pp., $14.95 cloth. ISBN: 0-8308-1819-7.
The stated purpose of this commentary series is to provide commentaries that "seek to move from the text to its contemporary relevance and application" (p. 9). The author finds in First John (and, by extension, the Second and Third letters of John) the "words of a pastor concerned about congregations of believers for which he has responsibility, but which lie at some geographical distance from him" (p.34).
Professor Thompson (Ph.D., Duke Divinity School, Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary) understands these three letters to be contextually defined as confronting errors in the young church(s) (not clearly identified as to location by the author of the commentary) for which, as noted earlier, the author of the letters has "responsibility." These errors, in her understanding, include but are not limited to the classically understood Gnostic and Cerinthian heresies.
In her introduction, Thompson follows current and recent scholarship and poses the usual questions pertaining to just who "the elder" is who wrote these three letters. Thompson steadfastly refuses to concede unquestioned Johannine authorship, following instead the scholarly convention of referring to him throughout the commentary by his own self-designation "the Elder."
I found the commentary easy to read, popular in style and clear in its exposition of the text. The outline of I John is:
1:1-4 — Witness to the Word of Life
1:5-2:27 — Walking in the Light: The Fundamental Pattern
2:28-3:24 — Remembering Who We Are: The Children of God
4:1-5:12 — Walking in the Light: Belief and Love
5:13-21 — Closing Exhortations
This outline neither slavishly holds to more familiar commentaries' suggested outlines nor radically departs from them. The outline was helpful in discerning the overall message of the letter.
Thompson provides many cross-references to other relevant Scripture passages throughout her commentary on the three letters of John, drawing especially from John's gospel. I think, however, that the cross-referencing is more topical in nature than an attempt to provide a biblical-theological basis for understanding these epistles.
Thompson's treatment of the Second and Third Epistles is understandably brief. Perhaps her best contribution lies in the discussion of verses 7- 11 of Second John. In this section Thompson is discussing the nature of "truth" and answering the question posed by C.H. Dodd: "Does Truth prevail the more if we are not on speaking terms with those whose view of the truth differs from ours—however disastrous their error may be?" (p. 155). In answering Dodd's subjective and situational view of the nature of truth, Thompson is right on when she states: "Truth is neither an arbitrary construct of the human mind nor impossibly obscure" (p. 156). Further, she speaks to the liberal(izing) passion for "tolerance" by quoting from a commentary by Robert Kysar who says: "Tolerance must finally have its limits."
I would say that overall this commentary is readable and would be useful for the lay Christian in his or her private devotional study. There are better commentaries available for more serious study of the letters.
—Dennis W. Royall
Christian Reformed Church
Cape Coral, Florida
David L. Peterson and Kent H. Richards. Interpreting Hebrew Poetry. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992, x, 117 pp., $6.95 paper. ISBN: 0-8006-2625-7.
An addition to the Old Testament Series of the Guides to Biblical Scholarship, this book is an introduction to current debates about how to understand biblical poetry. Chapter 1 presents methodological issues, chapters 2-4 discuss Hebrew poetic techniques, and chapter 5 gives sample analyses of three biblical texts. A brief, basic bibliography, an author index, and a scripture index are included.
The book's strength is its sane assessment of recent discussions about the nature of Hebrew poetry and its demonstration of how stylistic devices functioned. Parallelism is perceived as a variety of potential morphological, syntactic, and semantic correlations between pairs of poetic lines. None of the old or new schemes of cataloging these relationships is judged satisfactory. Rhythm in Hebrew poetry is viewed as too variable to form into a meter mold. Since meter does not distinguish Hebrew prose from poetry, the latter is identified by a greater density of short rhythmic patterns, parallelism, and stylistic devices. The section on simile is instructive.
A shortcoming in the book's handling of poetic techniques is the pleading of scholarly uncertainty about how biblical poems were arranged into wholes. Enough has been written about chiasms and other aesthetic patterns used to organize biblical texts to warrant discussion, not in the chapter on stylistic devices, but in the chapter on parallelism, which is a subset of larger forms of organization.
The analyses in chapter five of Ps. 1, Is. 5:1-7, and portions of Dt. 32 illustrate how useful the techniques discussed in the preceding chapters can be in understanding the intricacies of poetic constructions. They also demonstrate, however, how limited the authors' idea of interpretation is.
The book's title is deceptive. Where's the interpretation? Discussion restricted to the bun of poetic craft and the pickle of the putative results of liberal criticism, but missing the interpretational meat, is a minimal Kantian phenomenal burger.
In addition to espousing traditional critical dogma of non-Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and the impossibility of predictive prophecy, the
authors take a Kantian tack evident in their merely descriptive, superficial sailing through the turbulent currents of contemporary hermeneutics. While correctly warning against reductionistic assessments of poetry limited to poet, poem, reader, or reality, the book's eclectic approach glosses over the disastrous implications of some current interpretational approaches for a conservative doctrine of inspiration.
The author's philosophical sunglasses also filter out the rich biblical-theological connections of the passages they selected for detailed study. Readers of Kerux, interested in tracing literary images and theological concepts throughout Scripture, will find Interpreting Hebrew Poetry a barren wasteland. When discussing Dt. 32:10-14, the authors are oblivious to Mosaic use of vocabulary from Gen. 1:2 and the resulting wealth of (re)creation imagery that should enter their presentation. Similarly, the book does not relate vineyard imagery of Is. 5:1-7 to teaching in the Gospels, nor does it correlate the fruitful tree and life-giving waters of Psalm 1 with Old or New Testament passages. Covenantal concepts in the three passages selected for detailed examination have been totally overlooked.
Interpreting Hebrew Poetry will help you to understanding how poetic skill builds images, but not how to interpret Hebrew poetry, to realize why contemporary analysis of Hebrew poetry can be the high point of technical erudition and the low point in church history of exegetical substance.
—Meredith M. Kline
South Hamilton, Massachusetts