D More than a Prophet

There are several hints that Jesus may have seen his mission in terms transcending the category of prophet. It is difficult to gain a firm handle on the point, since the Evangelists themselves evidently did not regard the category of prophet as adequate for Jesus, as we see most clearly in Luke 24.19-27 and John 6.30-33, 49-51. But possibly they were building on hints within the tradition itself.

The most obvious of these are as follows: (1) Use of Isa. 61.1-3 may imply a claim to be not just another prophet, but the (eschatological) prophet. (2) The parable of the vineyard tenants (Mark 12.1-9 pars.) evidently trades on

Wright (Jesus, passim) and McKnight (New Vision 229-32) argue that Jesus took up the prophetic hope for Israel's restoration as the end of exile.

231. Trautmann, Zeichenhafte Handlungen; Sanders, Historical Figure 253-54; Schürmann, Jesus 136-56; Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus 431-36; Hooker, Signs 38-54; S. McKnight, 'Jesus and Prophetic Actions', BBR 10 (2000) 197-232.

232. Hooker, for example, instances Isaiah walking around naked (Isaiah 20), Jeremiah publicly smashing a pot (Jeremiah 19), and Ezekiel eating a scroll or lying on his side for many days (Ezek. 2.9-3.3; 4.4-6).

233. See also Mark 2.5 pars.; 2.8 pars.; 3.4 pars.; 3.16 pars.; 9.33-35; 10.21 pars.; 12.15 pars.; 12.43-44 par.; 14.18, 20 pars.; Matt. 12.15/Luke 11.17; Luke 19.5; John 1.47-48; 2.2425; 4.17-19.

234. Mark 10.39 par.; 13.2 pars.; 14.8 par.; 14.25 par.; 14.30 pars.; cf. Mark 5.36, 39 pars. On the 'Passion predictions' see below, § 17.4c.

235. M. Hengel, 'Jesus as Messianic Teacher of Wisdom and the Beginnings of Chris-tology', in Studies (here 'As messianic teacher and prophet he was the Spirit-bearer par excellence'(114); Witherington, Christology 45-46. See also Koester, cited above in chapter 7 n. 60. Contrast Cullmann's confident conclusion that 'Jesus did not identify himself in this way' (that is, as 'the Prophet') (Christology 37); similarly Flusser, Jesus 125.

the tradition of rejected prophets (12.2-5), but the climax features not the owner's chief steward, but his son (12.6-7), a suggestive graduation in cate-gory.236 (3) In a famous article Dodd also observed that Jesus is recalled as saying not only 'I was sent', but 'I came',237 and suggested that the latter indicated something more than prophetic commission, in the same way that 'I say to you' transcends the typically prophetic 'Thus says the Lord'.238 (4) This chimes in with the sense of eschatological newness which comes through in several of Jesus' sayings: something greater was happening than the repetition of prophetic hope; something greater than the prophet Jonah,239 whom Jesus may have offered as a sign 15.6b above). Which in turn strengthens the implication of Matt. 11.6/Luke 7.23 (§12.5c[l]) that Jesus saw himself, at least as proclaimer of the kingdom, to be part of the eschatological newness which he proclaimed — and its offensiveness.240

(5) This is probably the place where we should mention the tradition of Jesus' transfiguration (Mark 9.2-10 pars.), where Jesus is transformed (metamorphousthai) and discourses with Moses and Elijah. Particularly worthy of note is the fact that the two men who appear in his company are both prophets (no royal figure is involved). The point is strengthened by the echo of Deut. 18.15 generally detected in the heavenly voice's command to 'Hear him' (9.7): Jesus is the 'prophet like Moses'. Not only so, but Jesus on his mountain undergoes a greater transformation than did two of Israel's greatest heroes most famous for their mountain-top revelatory experiences:241 the brightness of his whole appearance more than matches that of Moses (Exod. 34.29-30), and Elijah heard only the 'sound of sheer silence' (1 Kgs. 19.12 NRSV).

What more can be said in regard to our present concerns? As Strauss long ago observed, this is a case where the theological significance of what is being

236. See further below, 16.2c.

237. Mark 2.17 pars. (§13.5); Matt. 11.19/Luke7.34 (§12.5c); Luke 12.49 (§17.4d); see also Mark 1.38 par.; 10.45 par. (§17.5d[2]); Matt. 10.34-36/(Luke 12.51-53); Matt. 5.17; Hampel finds in 'the Son of Man came' in Luke 19.10 Jesus' own self-designation (Menschen-sohn205-208).

238. C. H. Dodd, 'Jesus as Teacher and Prophet', in G. K. A. Bell and A. Deissmann, eds., Mysterium Christi (London: Longmans, 1930) 53-66 (here 63).

239. Matt. 13.16-17/Luke 10.23-24 and Matt. 12.41-42/Luke 11.31-32 (both cited in §12.5b). That Jonah came from Gath-Hepher (2 Kgs. 14.25), which can be located near Sepphoris and where his tomb is popularly located (see particularly Reed, 'Sign of Jonah' 204208), may be significant: Jesus is compared favourably with two of the greatest northern prophets — Elijah and Jonah.

240. Taking 'symbol' in its 'thick' sense, Meier concludes, 'All these symbolic-prophetic acts of Jesus were understood by him to unleash the powers of the kingdom which they foreshadowed' (Marginal Jew 3.624).

241. Exodus 33-34; 1 Kings 19.

narrated dominates the pericope.242 Whether some historical reminiscence lies behind it is a question which can be posed but hardlv answered with anv confi-dence.243 The tradition is certainty a further affirmation of the theme 'more than a prophet', even than the greatest prophets. And as we have seen, it can be stronglv maintained that the theme itself originated in verv earlv perceptions of Jesus' mission, including comments that Jesus was recalled as himself making. But if anvthing, it was more likelv these perceptions which gave rise to the storv than vice-versa.

In short, there need be little doubt that Jesus was regarded as a prophet bv manv, that he saw himself in the tradition of the prophets, and probablv also that he claimed a(n eschatological) significance for his mission (and thus himself) which transcended the older prophetic categories.244

242. Strauss, Life 540-46. The Jesus Seminar follow a well-trod path in suggesting that the transfiguration 'mav have been a resurrection stoty relocated bv Mark' (Funk, Acts of Jesus 464). See also J. P. Heil, The Transfiguration of Jesus: Narrative Meaning and Function of Mark 9:2-8, Matt 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36 (AB 144; Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 2000).

243. B. E. Reid, The Transfiguration: A Source- and Study of Luke 9:28-36 (Paris: Gabalda, 1993) concludes that 'the most that can be said with certaintv[!] about the historic^ of the transfiguration event ... is that the disciples had a revelation concerning Jesus' identitv and mission, in which Jesus' passion, death, and resurrection were understood as mandated bv God in accord with the divine plan of salvation' (147). In line with his thesis ofJe-sus as an adept practitioner of mvsticism, the transfiguration for Chilton 'represents the mature development of Rabbi Jesus' kabbalah' (Rabbi Jesus 192-93). Cf. E. Fossum, 'Ascensio, Metamorphosis', The Image of the Invisible God (NTOA 30; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1995) and the critique bv D. 'Bedeutung und religionsgeschichtlicher Hintergrund der Verwandlung Jesu (Markus 9:2-8)', in Chilton and Evans, eds., Authenticating the Activities of Jesus 303-21 (with bibliographv 303 n. 1). J. J. Pilch, 'The Transfiguration of Jesus: An Experience of Alternate Realitv', in P. F. Esler, ed., Modelling Early Christianity: Social Scientific Studies of the New Testament in Its Context (London: Routledge, 1995) 47-64, suggests that the episode mav be understood in terms of the model of 'altered states of consciousness' drawn from psvchological anthropologv.

244. Sanders sums up a fair consensus when he notes: 'Manv scholars have agreed that, of various roles which we can identifv, Jesus best fits that of "prophet"' (Jesus 239); 'a charismatic and autonomous prophet' (Historical Figure 238); cf, e.g., C. G. Montefiore, described bv Hagner as 'the champion of Jesus the prophet' (Jewish Reclamation 238); Becker, Jesus 212-16, 227; the subtitles of Allison, Jesus ofNazareth: Millenarian Prophet, and Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet; B. Witherington, Jesus the Seer (Peabodv: Hendrickson, 1999) 27790. The basic proposition of Schillebeeckx's Jesus was that 'in his life on earth Jesus as the eschatological prophet from God' (245; see also particular^ 185-88, 441-49, 475-80, 48699). Similar^ Meier finds that his three volumes investigating the Jesus tradition support the self-chosen portrait of Jesus as 'the Elijah-like, miracle-working, eschatological prophet' ('From Elijah-Like Prophet to the Roval Davidic Messiah', in D. Donnel^, ed., Jesus: A Colloquium in the Holy Land [New York: Continuum, 2001] 45-83).

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  • Holly
    How to identifv the climax from the short storv?
    9 months ago

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