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Bezalel and Kothar-wa-Ḫasis

Published January 17, 2017 by amaic

 Kothar-wa-Khasis, Kothar, Kathar-Wa-Hasis, Kothar-u-Khasis, Kathar-Wa-Hassis, Kusorhasisu | They were here and might return | Scoop.it

 by

Damien F. Mackey  

 

 

“Reading Exodus’ description of Bezalel from a somewhat more historical-critical orientation than that of his predecessors, the early Jewish 20th century scholar Umberto (Rabbi Moshe David) Cassuto, in his commentary to the Book of Exodus, emphasized the similarities between Bezalel’s attributes and descriptions of the Ugaritic, artisan deity Kothar-wa-Ḫasis”.

 

 

Introduction

 

The Ras Shamra (Ugarit) series of tablets has been wrongly dated by historians and chronologists to c. 1550-1200 BC, which is some 500-600 years earlier than the series ought to have been dated. This is a situation common also to the El Amarna [EA] archive, dated to the 1400’s BC instead of to the 800’s BC, approximately. Dr. I. Velikovsky had discussed the chronological anomalies in both cases, in his Ages in Chaos, 1952 and Oedipus and Akhnaton, 1960.

In relation to the Old Testament, we have EA’s pharaoh, Akhnaton, thought to have pre-dated King David by some centuries, and hence the conclusion must be that his Sun Hymn, so like Psalm 104 in many places, must have been the inspiration for the biblical text.

And so we read, for instance (http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/2013/04/psalm-104-the-great-hymn-to-the-aten-2.html):

 

Today’s topic comes from Douglas A. Knight and Amy Jill Levine’s excellent book, The Meaning of the Bible.

On the wall of a 14th century BCE tomb in Egypt archaeologists found a beautiful hymn to the god Aten. The Aten’s claim to fame is that he is sole God of a monotheistic [sic] belief espoused by Pharaoh Akhenaten (1352-1336) in an era when most Egyptians believed in many gods.

What’s curious about the Great Hymn to the Aten is that it closely mirrors Psalm 104 in our Bible as a song of praise to the creator, though written hundreds of years before any of the Bible [sic]. Psalm 104, of course, is addressed not to the Aten but to YHWH, the god of the Hebrews. Here are some parallels highlighted by Knight and Levine’s book:

 

O Sole God beside whom there is none! – to Aten

O YHWH my God you are very great. – to YHWH

 

How many are your deeds … You made the earth as you wished, you alone, All peoples, herds, and flocks. – to Aten

O YHWH, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. to YHWH

 

When you set in western lightland, Earth is in darkness as if in death – to Aten

You make darkness, and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. – to YHWH

 

Every lion comes from its den – to Aten

The young lions roar for their prey .. when the sun rises, they withdraw, and lie down in their dens. – to YHWH

 

When you have dawned they live, When you set they die; – to Aten

When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die – to YHWH

 

You set every man in his place, You supply their needs; Everyone has his food. – to Aten

These all look to you to give them their food in due season. – to YHWH

 

The entire land sets out to work – to Aten People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening – to YHWH

 

The fish in the river dart before you, Your rays are in the midst of the sea. – to Aten

Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there – to YHWH

 

Birds fly from their nests, Their wings greeting your ka – to Aten

By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches – to YHWH

 

He makes waves on the mountain like the sea, To drench their fields and their towns. – to Aten

You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills … The trees of YHWH are watered abundantly – to YHWH

[End of quote]

 

This is quite the common view.

Revisionists, however, view it entirely the other way around – that King David had, in fact, pre-dated Akhnaton and EA by more than a century, and so could not have been influenced in his religious ideas by the curious pharaoh. Rather, it was Israel that was culturally influencing the nations of that time.

 

Ugarit (Ras Shamra)

 

 

The same sort of artificial “Dark Age” archaeological gap that the likes of Peter James et al. had discerned in the conventional Hittite history (Centuries of Darkness, 1990), Dr. Velikovsky had already – four decades earlier – shown to have been the case with the Ugarit-Cyprus connection. And so we read (https://www.varchive.org/schorr/ugarit.htm):

 

In the published volume of Ages in Chaos, Velikovsky made a strong case for challenging Ugarit’s conventional dates.1 He pointed out many 500-year problems in the literary texts uncovered at the site, and shows the difficulty relating to vaulted Cypriote tombs constructed in the style of those from Ugarit but set 500 years later. For those who have not read or were not already convinced by the material presented by Velikovsky for Ras Shamra-Ugarit, perhaps a couple of additional problems will suffice.

Let us again look at the vaulted tombs of Cyprus. Velikovsky has already mentioned some of these, especially the 7th-century example from Trachonas. The island of Cyprus has an “astonishing” number of these tombs2 which divide neatly into two series: those assigned to 1550-1200 B.C., and those beginning in 950 B.C. And continuing for some time.3 The first group of vaulted tombs (at Enkomi) corresponds closely in date and style to the Ugaritic tombs, and the type is thought to have come from Syria to Cyprus.4 The second group of Cypriote tombs corresponds to both the Ugaritic and earlier Cypriote examples, but a 250-year gap separates the inception of the second group from the end of the Bronze Age tombs. More important than the 250-year period when no tombs were built in Syria or Cyprus to connect the later tombs to the earlier ones, is the fact that the earliest tombs of each group (i.e., those of 1550 and 950 B.C.), separated by 600 years, are most similar.5

The Cypriote vaulted tombs from 950-600 B.C. seem to undergo the same development as the Enkomi and Ugaritic tombs with 600 years separating the corresponding phases. It has been postulated that the later tombs somehow copied the earlier Cypriote or Syrian ones, but the tombs presumably copied must have been buried and invisible for some 600 years.6

Similar tombs are found in Jerusalem, Asia Minor, and Urartu of the 9th-7th centuries, and again it is thought that they originated in 9th-7th-century Syro-Phoenicia.7 But the only tombs of this type in that region, notably the ones from Ugarit, are placed centuries earlier.

Leaving behind the regions bordering Syro-Phoenicia, we shall travel briefly to an actual Punic colony. In the 9th or 8th century B.C.,8 a group of Phoenicians sailed to North Africa and founded Carthage. One of the oldest archaeological discoveries from the site is a late 8th-century B.C. built tomb “closely related” to the Ugaritic tombs in architectural plan. 9 It is a “faithful miniature rendering” of the Syrian tombs both in design and, apparently, in arrangements for religious rites.10 It would hardly be surprising for 8th-century Phoenician colonists to bring over a current tomb type and burial customs from their motherland. The only similar tomb type and burial customs that their motherland can produce, however, are put 500 years earlier. By the accepted scheme, the colonists’ ancestors would have been very familiar with these matters, but by the 8th century B.C., the Ugaritic tombs must have been buried over, invisible, and forgotten. 11

How did these tombs of Ugarit serve as models for Cypriots, Israelites, Urartians, Anatolian peoples, and Phoenician colonists, if contemporaneity is denied, and they went out of use and were thus forgotten 500-600 years earlier?

The final items we will examine from Ugarit are a gold bowl and a gold plate, both beautifully decorated. Stratigraphically, they belong shortly before the destruction of the city during the Amarna period, and are thus assigned a date somewhere between 1450-1365 B.C.12 Stylistically, as well, they belong to the Mitannian-Amarna period and show scenes reminiscent of late 18th Dynasty Egypt, notably the time of King Tutankhamen. 13 Both stratigraphically and stylistically, then, a late 18th Dynasty date is necessitated. Since Velikovsky lowers that date by over 500 years, how are the gold bowls affected?

These two pieces are called “remarkable antecedents of the use of the frieze of animals on metal bowls” of Phoenician workmanship, firmly dated to the 9th-7th centuries B.C.14 What is more “remarkable” than the Ugaritic examples’ manufacture and burial over 500 years before the “later” series began, is the subject matter of the two items. Extraordinary conservatism was attributed to the Phoenicians, since the later group faithfully reproduced similar scenes and arrangement of the decoration,15 after a lapse of 500 years.

The chariot scene on the 14th-century gold plate is compared to similar scenes of the 9th-century Neo-Hittites and of the Assyrian King Assurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.).16 The elongated gallop of the horse is seen to be quite similar to depictions on Assyrian reliefs, but Assyrian influence “is chronologically impossible, all the Assyrian monuments presently known where horses are depicted at gallop being about half a millennium later than our plate” (174). The gold bowl (Fig. 7) with its combination of Aegean, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Levantine motifs is “an excellent example of Phoenician syncretism, half a millennium before Phoenicians in the proper sense are known”.17

Surely, it was thought, these golden objects, remarkably foreshadowing by 500 years similar metal bowls and similar scenes, “may be claimed as ancestors of the series of ‘Phoenician’ bowls of the ninth-seventh centuries B.C.”18 How can they be ancestors if they were buried and unseen for 500 years before the later series began, and the art was lost over those 500 years?

If metal bowls reproduced similar scenes in similar arrangements for 500 years, that would indeed be “extraordinary conservatism.” That 9th-7th-century Phoenicians should imitate so closely 14th-century bowls they never saw, after a 500-year gap, is merely “extraordinary.”

When their date is reduced by half a millennium, these bowls fit beautifully into the later series. If one keeps high dates for the Mitannians and the 18th Egyptian Dynasty, then this is yet another mystery to add to our list.

References

 

  1. Velikovsky, Ages in Chaos, pp. 179-222.
  2. Westholm, “Built Tombs in Cyprus,” Opuscula Archaeologica II (1941), p. 30.
  3. , pp. 32-51.
  4. , p. 57.
  5. , pp. 52-53. See also A. Westholm, “Amathus,” in E. Gjerstad, et al.. The Swedish Cyprus Expedition (henceforth SCE) II (Stockholm: 1935), p. 140, and E. Sjöqvist, “Enkomi” SCE I (Stockholm: 1934), pp. 570-73.
  6. Gjerstad, SCE IV.2 (Stockholm: 1948), p. 239; V. Karageorghis, Excavations in the Necropolis of Salamis I (Salamis, vol. 3) [Nicosia: 1967], p. 123.
  7. Ussishkin, “The Necropolis from the Time of the Kingdom of Judah at Silwan, Jerusalem,” The Biblical Archaeologist 33 (1970): 45-46.
  8. The foundation date was disputed in antiquity. Most ancient estimates fell within the range of 846-7 51 B.C. Of particular interest for our purposes is the fact that a number of ancient authors stated that Carthage was founded before the Trojan War.
  9. C. and C. Picard, The Life and Death of Carthage, trans. from the French by D. Collon (London: 1968), p. 47.
  10. , p. 52, and see C. Picard, “Installations Cultuelles Retrouveés au Tophet de Salammbo,” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 42 (1967): 189-99.
  11. Picard, “Installations,” sees close relations between the Ras Shamra and Carthage tombs but recognizes the chronological difficulty. His suggestion, pp. 197-98, that this tomb type came from Cyprus does not help matters. The Carthaginian settlers were primarily Syro-Phoenicians, not Cypriots. Besides, he seems not to realize that the type did not survive in Cyprus from Bronze Age times (contra, p. 197). Like the Carthaginian example, it “came back” after a mysterious chronological gap. Even if we make the Carthage example depend on Cyprus, not Syria, we are still left with the puzzle of how and why the Cypriots copied, yet did not copy, the 600-year extinct tombs of Ras Shamra or Enkomi.
  12. F. A. Schaeffer, Ugaritica II (Paris: 1949), pp. 5, 47. See H. Frankfort, The Art and Architecture of the Ancient Orient (Baltimore: 1963), p. 150 for their assignment to the Mitannian period, p. 140 for his dates for that period; D. E. Strong, Greek and Roman Gold and Silver Plate (Glasgow: 1966), p. 53.
  13. Frankfort, Art and Architecture, 150.
  14. Dikaios, “Fifteen Iron Age Vases,” Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, 1937-1939 (Nicosia: 1951): 137. 1 72. Schaeffer, Ugaritica II, p. 47.
  15. Vieyra, Hittite Art, pp. 45-46.
  16. Schaeffer, Ugaritica II, 22-23: “Une influence de ce coté est chronologique-ment impossible, tous les monuments assyriens actuellement connus où figurent des chevaux au galop étant postérieurs de près d’un demi-millénaire à notre patère.”
  17. Frankfort, Art and Architecture, 150.
  18. Strong, Gold and Silver Plate, 53.

[End of quote]

 

 

The conventional upside-down chronology for Ugarit has, as with EA, led to the inevitable – but wrong – conclusion that the pagan culture had influenced the supposedly later biblical writings.

The following is a typical example of this mind-set (https://www.britannica.com/place/Ugarit):

 

Ras Shamra texts and the Bible

 

Many texts discovered at Ugarit, including the “Legend of Keret,” the “Aqhat Epic” (or “Legend of Danel”), the “Myth of Baal-Aliyan,” and the “Death of Baal,” reveal an Old Canaanite mythology. A tablet names the Ugaritic pantheon with Babylonian equivalents; El, Asherah of the Sea, and Baal were the main deities. These texts not only constitute a literature of high standing and great originality but also have an important bearing on biblical studies. It is now evident that the patriarchal stories in the Hebrew Bible were not merely transmitted orally but were based on written documents of Canaanite origin, the discovery of which at Ugarit has led to a new appraisal of the Hebrew Bible.

 

[End of quote]

 

For a complete reversal of this view, though, see my:

 

Identity of the ‘Daniel’ in Ezekiel 14 and 28

 

https://www.academia.edu/29786004/Identity_of_the_Daniel_in_Ezekiel_14_and_28

 

With this new, revised, approach in mind, there may well be need further to re-assess Cassuto’s interpretation – following upon his most helpful comparisons between Bezalel and Ugaritic Kothar-wa-Ḫasis – of “the biblical material as a critique of Canaanite legends and polytheism.[15]”. Rather, I suggest, the Canaanite legends ought to be viewed as later, corrupt, polytheistic versions of the sublime Hebrew originals.

Baal Bronze figurine, 14th-12th centuries, Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit)

 

Rabbi Jeremy S. Morrison discusses Cassuto’s paralleling of Bezalel and Kothar-wa-Ḫasis in the following terrific article: http://thetorah.com/bezalel-and-the-impotence-of-foreign-deities/

 

Bezalel Ben Uri and the Impotence of Foreign Deities

 

Introduction – Bezalel’s Special Attributes

 

In this week’s parasha, Vayakhel, we encounter one of the Torah’s most enigmatic characters: Bezalel, the artisan and architect who oversees the building of the Tabernacle.  Our portion describes Bezalel as filled with divine spirit (ruach elohim), and endowed with wisdom (chochmah), discernment or technical know-how (tevunah) and with knowledge of every kind of work (u’v’da’at u’vchol melachah).[1]  The product that Bezalel makes further highlights his special characteristics.  As the constructor of the Tabernacle, a dwelling place for Yhwh, Bezalel builds a house that is unique from all other human-built houses.   Scholars stress the superlative nature of the Book of Exodus’s description of him: Bezalel has “the gift of originality” and he possesses “all the requisite qualities [of wisdom, discernment and knowledge] in supernatural measure.”[2]

There is indeed something “supernatural” about Bezalel, and the unique and surpassing description of this character provokes compelling questions: Who is Bezalel? Why does Exodus describe him in this manner?  And what is his relationship with God?

 

Human Creativity in the Bible

Biblical Creative Tensions

Within the Bible, creativity is frequently a realm in which God is in conflict with humans. In biblical texts, humans are denied originality [sic]. Knowledge that is generated independently by the human mind, and not installed there by God, “must be at best wrong, at worst possibly antagonistic to God.”[3] The Bible also expresses suspicion regarding human artisanship, particularly metalworking, which often leads to the construction of idols. [4] Bezalel, designated as both a metal worker (Exod. 36:32) and as a thinker “of thoughts or plans” (Exod. 36:35) would seem to embody the “creative tensions” that concern the writers of the Bible.  And yet, the description of Bezalel in Vayakhel is not infused with tension; rather, he is presented as an elevated, masterful artisan, skilled in a variety of creative processes, and capable of instructing others.[5]

 

Yhwh’s Relationship with Bezalel

 

The absence of tension between God and this particular artisan highlights the special character of their relationship, which is further indicated by the opening verse of the description.  As Moses states (35:30) to the Israelites: “See, Yhwh has called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri.”

The description of Bezalel in this week’s portion is a repetition of a previous depiction of Bezalel given by God to Moses. There (Exodus 31: 1- 5), the first person account lends a greater sense of intimacy to the relationship between Yhwh and Bezalel.  God declares to Moses (Exod. 31:2), “I have called, by name, Bezalel.” God “calls” someone “by name” in only two other verses in the Bible: when God proclaims God’s own name (in Exod. 33:19) and also when God “calls” Israel “by name” (Isa. 43:1). In each of these contexts, the phrase indicates a distinctive relationship with the individual (Bezalel) or the people (Israel) that God is calling.

The meaning of Bezalel ben Uri’s name –“In the shadow of El, the son of my light”–lends credence to the notion of a special relationship between God and Bezalel. Furthermore, Moses’/God’s declaration (Exod. 35:30/Exod. 31:2) that God has “filled” Bezalel with the “breath/wind/spirit of God” (ruach elohim) places this artisan in a select category of biblical personages upon whom the “spirit/breath/wind of God” comes, including, Joseph, Saul, Ezekiel and Daniel.[6]

The description in Vayakhel, when taken together with the meaning of the name Bezalel, suggests, as Mark S. Smith has written, “an unusual intimacy between God and this otherwise shadowy figure.”[7]

 

Explaining Bezalel’s Unique Abilities

 

Since the early centuries of the Common Era, commentators have noted Bezalel’s unique qualities and have raised questions as to his identity.  This is clearly reflected, for example, in the later exegetical collection of midrashic collection on the book of Exodus, Shemot Rabbah (40:2), describes Bezalel as having been chosen by God at the beginning of time.[8]

 

Removing the Supernatural Description

 

Perhaps out of concern that the superlative nature of the description in Exodus was motivating comparisons between Bezalel and Greco-Roman gods, Josephus, in his Antiquities (1st Century, CE), took pains to recast Bezalel’s commissioning by God and removes God’s calling (kara) of Bezalel:

“[Moses] appointed construction supervisors for the works…their names…were these: Basaelos, son of Ouri of the tribe of Ioudas, grandson of Mariamme the sister of the general and Elibazos, son of Isamachos, of the tribe of Dan (Antiquities 3.104-5).”[9]

Whereas in the Bible, God chooses the architects for the building, in the Antiquities (3.104) Moses selects the architects “in accordance with the instruction of God,” thereby transforming Bezalel from a uniquely gifted craftsman to a humanly chosen member of a team of architects.[10] Perhaps he did so out of concern that the superlative nature of the description in Exodus motivated comparisons between Bezalel and Greco-Roman gods.[11]

 

Bezalel the Master Sage

 

The medieval commentator, Abraham ibn Ezra (1089–1164) (Exod. 31:3), notes that Bezalel, had great skill, knew all sorts of hidden mysteries…and understood mathematics, biology, physics, and metaphysics far beyond anyone else of his generation.[12]

According to ibn Ezra, Bezalal was simply a master scholar.

 

Bezalel the Ancestor of Artisans

 

The Protestant 20th Century German scholar Martin Noth, in A History of Pentateuchal Traditions, explains the illustrious description of Bezalel by positing that Bezalel was an ancestor of a distinguished family living during the Second Temple Period.[13] Similarly, Ronald E. Clements suggests that Bezalel and Oholiab are ancestors of artisan guilds.[14]

 

The Israelite Kothar

 

Reading Exodus’ description of Bezalel from a somewhat more historical-critical orientation than that of his predecessors, the early Jewish 20th century scholar Umberto (Rabbi Moshe David) Cassuto, in his commentary to the Book of Exodus, emphasized the similarities between Bezalel’s attributes and descriptions of the Ugaritic, artisan deity Kothar-wa-Ḫasis. In the Ba(al and Anat cycle, Yamm (the god of the sea) commissions Kothar-wa-Ḫasis to build him a palace. When Ba(al and Anat defeat Yamm, however, Kothar-wa-Ḫasis ends up building the palace for Ba(al. Cassuto sees Bezalal as an alternative to Kothar-wa-Ḫasis, and he interprets the biblical material as a critique of Canaanite legends and polytheism.[15]

The parallels between Bezalel and Kothar wa-Ḫasis should not be taken lightly.  Scholars have observed striking similarities between the portrayal of Bezalel and the descriptions of this Ugaritic deity, which are found in the Ugaritic creation myth, the Ba(al and Anat Cycle.[16]  Like Bezalel, Kothar–wa-Ḫasis’s skill set encompasses all crafts and he, like, Bezalel, builds a house for a deity, the Canaanite god of creation, Ba(al – Hadad.

Additionally, epithets for Kothar-wa-Ḫasis are analogous to elements of the description of Bezalel.[17] The Ugaritic deity is known as the “Wise One” (ss) (corresponding to chochmah); Kothar wa-Hasis is called “the deft one” (Ugaritic: rš yd) a name that corresponds to Bezalel’s being able to carve or craft (cheresh) stone, wood, or metal.

….

[1] For the complete description of Bezalel in this week’s portion see Ex. 35:30 – 35.

[2] See Benno Jacob, The Second Book of the Bible: Exodus (trans. W.Jacob; Hoboken, NJ: Ktav, 1997), 842; and W. Propp, Exodus 19-40: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible; New York, Doubleday, 2006), 488.

[3] See Michael Carasik, Theologies of the Mind in Biblical Israel (New York: Peter Lang, 2006), p. 221.

[4] This orientation towards human thinking and creativity is summarized in the Priestly statement: “The Lord saw… how every plan devised by [man’s] mind nothing but evil all the time (Gen. 6:5).” For other examples of the Bible’s pejorative orientation towards human creativity, see Isa. 65:2; Jer. 4:14; Jer. 18:12; Psa. 94:11; and Prov. 19:21.

[5] See Exod. 35:34.

[6] firstshould be rewritten to match the text}}Other biblical characters who experience God’s ruach include: Joseph (Gen. 41:38), Balaam (Num. 24:2), Saul (1 Sam. 10:10; 11:6; 16:5), Ezekiel (Ezek. 11:24), Daniel (5:11,14) and Zechariah (2 Chron. 24:20).

[7] See M. Smith, Kothar wa-asis, the Ugaritic Craftsman God (Dissertation; Yale University, 1985), 100.

[8]  ומה עשה הקדוש ברוך הוא הביא לו ספרו של אדם הראשון והראה לו כל הדורות שהן עתידין לעמוד מבראשית עד תחיית המתים, דור ודור ומלכיו, דור ודור ומנהיגיו, דור ודור ונביאיו, אמר לו כל אחד ואחד התקנתיו מאותה שעה, וכן בצלאל מאותה שעה התקנתיו, הוי ראה קראתי בשם בצלאל.

[9] See Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary: Judean Antiquities 1–4, tr. L. Feldman, ed. S. Mason (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999), 257–8.

[10] See Steven Fine, “‘See, I Have Called by the Renowned Name of Bezalel, Son of Uri…’: Josephus’ Portrayal of the Biblical ‘Architect’ ,”  In The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah: in honor of Professor Louis H. Feldman, edited by Steven (Leiden: Brill, 2011), p. 29 – 30.

[11] See Fine, p. 30.

[12]  והנה בצלאל היה מלא כל חכמה בחשבון, ומדות, וערכים, ומלאכת שמים וחכמת התולדת, וסוד הנשמה. והיה לו יתרון על כל אנשי דורו,

[13] See Martin Noth, A History of Pentateuchal Traditions (trans. Bernhard W. Anderson; Englewood Cliffs: New Jersey, 1972), 188.,

[14] See Ronald E. Clements, Exodus: The Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1972), 199.

[15] See Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus (trans. I Abrahams; Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1974), 402.

[16] See KTU 1.1 III; KTU 1.2 IV; KTU 1.4 V-VIII.

[17] See Smith, Kothar wa-asis, 51-100.

….

Huram-Abi and Oholiab

Published January 15, 2017 by amaic

 Image result for oholiab and bezalel bezalel

by

Damien F. Mackey

 
 

Ray Dillard has suggested that the Chronicler presents King Solomon as the new Bezalel, builder of the Ark of the Covenant, and Huram-abi as Bezalel’s technical assistant, Oholiab.

 

 

The Temple of Yahweh built by King Solomon was modelled on the Tent, or Tabernacle, of Moses, and these were in turn modelled on the Garden of Eden. These were physical replica of God’s heavenly abode. See Dr. Ernest L. Martin’s “The Temple Symbolism in Genesis”: http://askelm.com/temple/t040301.htm

So it is not at all surprising to find that the account of the building of the Temple as recorded in 2 Chronicles would parallel, to some extent, the account of the designing of the Tent in the Book of Exodus.

Nor is it too surprising that Solomon and Huram-abi might be depicted as, respectively, a new Bezalel and a new Oholiab.

There is no need to do what Laura Knight-Jadczyk has done in her “Tribe of Dan” article (http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/biblianazar/esp_biblianazar_14d.htm), and attempt to merge into one what are clearly two different scenarios well separated in time.

She has written:

An analysis of the genealogies in the Bible is very illuminating. According to the book of Chronicles there is no genealogy for the tribe of Dan. It has been observed by numerous scholars that many of the names occurring in the genealogies themselves are either blatantly geographical or connected with place-names; while others are definitely personal names.[1] But the case of the Tribe of Dan is special, and holds a clue for us in this matter of the Temple and the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant. In II Chronicles 2:11-14 the D historian writes:
Then Hiram the king of Tyre answered in writing, which he sent to Solomon, Because the Lord hath loved his people, he has made you king over them. Hiram said moreover, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, that made heaven and earth, who has given to David the king a wise son, endued with prudence and understanding, who should build a house for the Lord, and a palace for his kingdom.

 

And now I have sent a skilled man, endued with understanding, even Huram-abi, my trusted counselor, the son of a woman of the daughters of DAN; his father was a man of Tyre. He is a trained worker in gold, silver, brass, iron, stone, and wood, in purple, blue, and crimson colors, and in fine linen; also to engrave any manner of engraving, and to carry out any design which shall be given to him, with your skilled men, and with the skilled men of my lord David your father.

The above is supposed to be a letter from Hiram of Tyre to Solomon, discussing the attributes of a particular man, the trusted counselor of the great Hiram, who is being sent to help the son of David as a great favor. This man is presented as a great designer and architect. He is named, and his mother is designated as being of the tribe of Dan. He is going to be the architect of the Temple of Solomon. In other words, he is the model for the archetypal “great architectHiram Abiff of Masonic lore.
So, what is the problem?
Look at this next excerpt from Exodus 31:1-7:

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, To devise skilful works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in bronze, and in cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to work in all manner of craftsmanship.

 

And behold, I have appointed with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of DAN; and to all who are wise hearted I have given wisdom and ability to make all that I have commanded you: The tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furniture of the tent…

The above description of the command to build the Tent of Meeting and the Ark sounds almost identical to the purported letter from Hiram to Solomon, even including strong similarities in the names of the principal worker: Huram-abi of the tribe of Dan has become Hur of the tribe of Judah:

And Bezalel the son Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD commanded Moses. And with him was Aholiab, son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan an engraver, and a skillful craftsman, and an embroiderer in blue, and in purple, and in scarlet, and fine linen.

The next problem arises when we find in I Kings, chapter 7:13-21, the following most confusing information about Hiram:

And King Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre. He was a widow’s son of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass: and he was filled with wisdom, and understanding, and skill to work all works in brass.

And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work. For he cast two pillars of brass, of eighteen cubits high apiece: and a line of twelve cubits did compass either of them about. And he made two chapiters of molten brass, to set upon the tops of the pillars: the height of the one chapiter was five cubits, and the height of the other chapiter was five cubits: And nets of checker work, and wreaths of chain work, for the chapiters which were upon the top of the pillars; seven for the one chapiter, and seven for the other chapiter.

And he made the pillars, and two rows round about upon the one network, to cover the chapiters that were upon the top, with pomegranates: and so did he for the other chapiter. And the chapiters that were upon the top of the pillars were of lily work in the porch, four cubits. And the chapiters upon the two pillars had pomegranates also above, over against the belly which was by the network: and the pomegranates were two hundred in rows round about upon the other chapiter. And he set up the pillars in the porch of the temple: and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Jachin: and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz.

We see without too much difficulty that these passages are taken from the same source, though one refers to the building of a Temple and the other refers to the construction of a tent and an ark. One of the problems is, of course, that according to the Bible, the two events are separated by a very long period of time. We also note the curious name similarities between Huram-abi of the passage in II Chronicles, and Hur, the father of Bezalel, connected to Aholiab of the tribe of Dan.

 

Knight-Jadczyk does not help her thesis by trying to connect two different names, as follows:

 

Also curious is the name of Bezalel, which is so similar to Jezebel, who we have tentatively identified as the Phoenician princess, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre. More curious still is the claim of the Dan inscription that, in the destruction of the City of Dan, the House of David was destroyed. What was the connection of the Tribe of Dan to the House of the Beloved? Were they, as it seems from these clues, one and the same?

 

Bezalel (בְּצַלְאֵל) means “under the protection of God”, whereas Jezebel (אִיזֶבֶל), of dubious meaning, may be “unexalted”, “un-husbanded” (hardly seems appropriate, though).

For another view of Jezebel, however, see my:

 

Is El Amarna’s “Baalat Neše” Biblically Identifiable?

http://www.academia.edu/26077125/Is_El_Amarna_s_Baalat_Ne%C5%A1e_Biblically_Identifiable

 

Ray Dillard more sensibly, I think, has, whilst appreciating the parallels between the Exodus and Chronicles accounts, understood that the latter was modelling itself upon the earlier one (http://revmarple.com/chronicle-s-solomon/):

 

…. The third model is Solomon and Huram-abi as the new Bezalel and Oholiab.  Bezalel and Oholiab come from the story of the tabernacle, which I have noted before that the tabernacle story is a paradigm for the Chronicler’s Temple story in several ways.  Solomon is the new Bezalel as can be seen by the way both were singled out as chosen by God by name, both were of the tribe of Judah, and both get wisdom from God for this work (tabernacle/Temple construction).  Bezalel is only mentioned outside of Exodus in Chronicles – 1 Chron 2:20 and 2 Chron 1:5.  Indeed, Solomon goes seeking God at the altar built by Bezalel when he was given wisdom for building.  Of course, Kings told us about Solomon’s legendary wisdom in general, but Chronicles is very specific that it was wisdom for this task.  Thus Hiram does not praise God for giving David “a wise son over this great people” (1 Kings 5) but ”a wise son who will build” (2 Chron 2).

Huram-abi is also styled as the new Oholiab.  Chronicles does this by making three changes – as Dillard says, “arrival time, skill inventory, and ancestry.”  Kings only tells us about Huram-abi after the temple and palace were finished and Huram-abi only appears to cast bronze. Chronicles tells us that Huram-abi was involved from the beginning (like Oholiab) and that he did more than just cast bronze – in fact, he is given the skill inventory of Bezalel and Oholiab in Chronicles.  Moreover, Kings tells us that his mother was a widow from Naphtali but Chronicles says she was a widow from Dan (like Oholiab).

 

Zimri-lim’s Mari Palace and King Solomon

Published January 13, 2017 by amaic

 untitled

 

by

Damien F. Mackey  

 

 

The Mari palace of Zimri-Lim, biblical “Rezon” and some time foe of King Solomon,

may show evidence of Genesis (Garden of Eden) and Solomonic (Temple) imagery.

 

 

If Hammurabi were, as the biblical artisan, Huram-abi, involved in the technical enhancement of Solomon’s architecture, then we might expect that the contemporary palace of Mari, belonging to Zimri-Lim (see my):

 

Hammurabi and Zimri-Lim as Contemporaries of Solomon

https://www.academia.edu/18306131/Hammurabi_and_Zimri-Lim_as_Contemporaries_of_Solomon

 

would exhibit some degree of Solomonic influence. Accordingly, one will read at: http://publications.mi.byu.edu/publications/studies/4/S00001-507d876e576a3Bradshaw.pdf

 

A number of scholars have found parallels in the layout of the trees in the Garden of Eden and certain features of Israelite sanctuaries.75 Significantly, the holiest places within the temples of Solomon and of Ezekiel’s vision were decorated with palms.76 Indeed, the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple contained not only one but many palm trees and pillars, which Terje Stordalen says can represent “a kind of stylised forest.” 77 The angels on its walls may have represented God’s heavenly council,78 mirrored on earth by those who have attained “angelic” status through the rites of inves­titure. Such an interpretation recalls the statues of gods mingling with divinized kings in the innermost sanctuary of the Mari pal­ace.79

 

And again at: http://cojs.org/jerusalem_as_eden-_lawrence_e-_stager-_bar_26-03-_may-jun_2000/

 

On the mountain of Yahweh, Mt. Zion,a the indissoluble triad of creation, kingship and Temple find their most profound visual and literary expression. Nowhere in ancient Near Eastern art is this triad more brilliantly illustrated than in the wall paintings of the Old Babylonian palace at Mari, built almost a millennium before [sic] Solomon’s palace and Temple in Jerusalem. In the palace at Mari, located on the banks of the Euphrates, in modern Syria, a large, sunlit courtyard decorated with wall paintings led into a vestibule in front of the king’s throne room. The courtyard enclosed a garden of live potted palm trees. According to one scholar, a tall, ornamental but artificial palm tree stood in the middle of the garden (compare the location of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden). This artificial tree had a wooden core and was plated with bronze and silver leaf.4 At eye level, just to the right of the doorway leading from the courtyard to the vestibule of the throne room, a large wall painting portrayed the relationship of divinity, royalty and creation. Luxuriant orchards and fantastic creatures surround the building in which the investiture of the king is taking place. In the upper register of the central panel, the goddess Ishtar as warrior, with weapons strapped to her shoulders, scimitar in one hand and “the ring and the rod” in the other, presents the emblems of authority to the king. Ishtar rests one foot on a recumbent lion, her emblem. Three other deities witness the ceremony. In the register below, two lesser goddesses hold vases from which four streams of water flow and vegetation sprouts. The setting for the ceremony is a paradise garden with date palms and stylized papyrus stalks. Guarding the garden and the palace are winged sphinxes, griffins and bulls. At the outer edges of the scene, two goddesses of high rank stand with upraised arms—a gesture of protection for all within the garden precincts.

[End of quotes]

 

I would suggest that the above would be only the tip of the iceberg of potential similarities between the religious imagery of the Mari era (revised) and that of the Solomonic era.

Huram-Abi and Hammurabi

Published January 13, 2017 by amaic
Hiram Abiff with Jachin & Boaz

by

Damien F. Mackey

 

Explores the possibility that the biblical Huram-abi was King Hammurabi.

 

Abrahamic Connection

Hammurabi’s possible Amorite ancestry, tracing back to Abraham, might account for why we have been finding that the great king had been so influenced by Hebrew Law and protocol.

Herb Storck has shown, in an important article “The Early Assyrian King List … and the ‘Greater Amorite’ Tradition” (Proc. of the 3rd Seminar of Catastrophism & Ancient History, C & AH Press, Toronto, 1986, p. 43), that there is a genealogical link among:

(i) Abraham;

(ii) the genealogy of king Hammurabi; and

(iii) the Assyrian King List.

Storck commences his article with the following explanation:

The Assyrian Kinglist (AKL) is one of the most important chronographic texts ever uncovered. Initially it was thought to represent a long unbroken tradition of rulership over Assyria. A closer look at the AKL by Benno Landsberger (1890-1968) … however, dispelled this somewhat facile approach to AKL tradition. Subsequent studies by Kraus … and Finkelstein … have demonstrated a common underlying Amorite tradition between parts of the AKL and the Genealogy of Hammurapi (GHD). Portions of this section of the AKL containing 17 tent-dwelling kings have also been compared to biblical … and Ugaritic … Amorite traditions.

Storck’s purpose will be “to take a closer look at the 17 Assyrian tent dwellers and the greater Amorite tradition, as evidenced primarily in the genealogy of the Hammurapi [Hammurabi] Dynasty and other minor traditions”. The names of all 17 tent-dwelling kings are preserved in various lists. What is striking is that many of these names can be linked with names in the GHD, which gives the names in couplet form. Thus, for example, names 3 and 4, Janqi (Janqu) and Sahlamu are given in GHD as Ya-am-qu-us-ha-lam-ma. Name 11, Zuabu, may be connected with Sumuabi, an ancestor of Hammurabi. Thus Storck:

Poebel sought to connect the name with Su-mu-a-bi, the name of the first king of the first dynasty of Babylon, even though in our list it is written with the sign ZU. …. Kraus, however, expressed his personal doubts as to whether this would work …. But in a recently published fragment of this portion of the AKL (E) this name was indeed written with an initial SU for ZU, thus supporting Poebel’s contention somewhat. “Nevertheless, the genealogy edited by J.J. Finkelstein has Zu-um-ma-bu in the apparently parallel line, hinting that the reverse may be the case. The presence of ma as restored eases the interpretation of the name Sumu-abu” ….

Storck concluded the first part of his study by claiming that: “Nine of the 17 tent-dwelling AKL kings can reasonably be identified with GHD ancestors of Hammurapi. This would appear to be sufficient to establish that these two genealogies drew upon a common ‘Amorite’ tradition”.

That there was still that nomadic inclination within the kings of the Hammurabic era may perhaps be gleaned from the fact that Shamsi-Adad I of that time had no really fixed capital, but moved from place to place.

And we have found that Iarim-Lim (Hiram), though stationed in the west, had a political reach that extended all the way to Elam.

Who Was Hammurabi?

Who, then, was this Hammurabi, likely a non-indigenous ruler of Babylon, of Amorite, or northern Canaanite background, who had deepy absorbed Hebrew traditions and culture, and who was contemporaneous with the biblical King Hiram (Iarim-Lim) and, hence, with David and Solomon of Israel?

The most likely candidate for Hammurabi, I now think, would be that famous biblical artisan of very similar name, Huram-abi (Hiram-abi) – the fabled Hiram Abiff of the Freemasons – who was probably somewhat younger than King David, but older than King Solomon.

King Hiram had told Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:13-14):

‘I am sending you Huram-Abi, a man of great skill, whose mother was from Dan and whose father was from Tyre. He is trained to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, and with purple and blue and crimson yarn and fine linen. He is experienced in all kinds of engraving and can execute any design given to him. He will work with your skilled workers and with those of my lord, David your father’.

From I Kings 7:13, it appears that Huram-abi was located in Tyre at the time: “King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram …”. Tyre would, of course, be a geographical problem obstructing an identification of Huram-abi with Hammurabi the king of Babylon.

Could he have become king of Babylon later? That is only surmise. But also see comments above re Shamsi-Adad I’s nomadic tendencies and Iarim-Lim’s power. Plus, our knowledge of Hammurabi’s Babylon is seriously disadvantaged by the high water table in Babylon at that archaeological level, preventing excavation.

I Kings 7:14 gives a variation on 2 Chronicles’ account of Huram-abi’s mother, “from Dan”, by telling us that his “mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali”.

That Huram-abi was a man with the technical skills necessary to assist King Solomon is abundantly apparent from the continuing narrative of I Kings 14:14-50:

Huram was filled with wisdom, with understanding and with knowledge to do all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.

He cast two bronze pillars, each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits in circumference. He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars; each capital was five cubits high. A network of interwoven chains adorned the capitals on top of the pillars, seven for each capital. He made pomegranates in two rows encircling each network to decorate the capitals on top of the pillars. He did the same for each capital. The capitals on top of the pillars in the portico were in the shape of lilies, four cubits high. On the capitals of both pillars, above the bowl-shaped part next to the network, were the two hundred pomegranates in rows all around. He erected the pillars at the portico of the Temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz. The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed.

He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it. Below the rim, gourds encircled it—ten to a cubit. The gourds were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea.

The Sea stood on twelve bulls, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south and three facing east. The Sea rested on top of them, and their hindquarters were toward the center. It was a handbreadth in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It held two thousand baths.

He also made ten movable stands of bronze; each was four cubits long, four wide and three high. This is how the stands were made: They had side panels attached to uprights. On the panels between the uprights were lions, bulls and cherubim—and on the uprights as well. Above and below the lions and bulls were wreaths of hammered work. Each stand had four bronze wheels with bronze axles, and each had a basin resting on four supports, cast with wreaths on each side. On the inside of the stand there was an opening that had a circular frame one cubit deep. This opening was round, and with its basework it measured a cubit and a half. Around its opening there was engraving. The panels of the stands were square, not round. The four wheels were under the panels, and the axles of the wheels were attached to the stand. The diameter of each wheel was a cubit and a half. The wheels were made like chariot wheels; the axles, rims, spokes and hubs were all of cast metal. Each stand had four handles, one on each corner, projecting from the stand. At the top of the stand there was a circular band half a cubit deep. The supports and panels were attached to the top of the stand. He engraved cherubim, lions and palm trees on the surfaces of the supports and on the panels, in every available space, with wreaths all around. This is the way he made the ten stands. They were all cast in the same molds and were identical in size and shape.

He then made ten bronze basins, each holding forty baths and measuring four cubits across, one basin to go on each of the ten stands. He placed five of the stands on the south side of the Temple and five on the north. He placed the Sea on the south side, at the southeast corner of the Temple. He also made the pots and shovels and sprinkling bowls.

So Huram finished all the work he had undertaken for King Solomon in the Temple of the Lord:

the two pillars;

the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;

the two sets of network decorating the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;

the four hundred pomegranates for the two sets of network (two rows of pomegranates for each network decorating the bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars);

the ten stands with their ten basins;

the Sea and the twelve bulls under it;

the pots, shovels and sprinkling bowls.

All these objects that Huram made for King Solomon for the Temple of the Lord were of burnished bronze. The king had them cast in clay molds in the plain of the Jordan between Sukkoth and Zarethan. Solomon left all these things unweighed, because there were so many; the weight of the bronze was not determined.

Solomon also made all the furnishings that were in the Lord’s Temple:

the golden altar;

the golden table on which was the bread of the Presence;

the lampstands of pure gold (five on the right and five on the left, in front of the inner sanctuary);

the gold floral work and lamps and tongs;

the pure gold basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, dishes and censers;

and the gold sockets for the doors of the innermost room, the Most Holy Place, and also for the doors of the main hall of the Temple.

If Hammurabi were Huram-abi, then it would be no wonder that he dealt in bonze and that he favoured artisans and craftsmen, and that he imported his wood from Lebanon (http://www.fsmitha.com/h1/ch03-ham.htm):

Babylon was a city where trade routes crossed. Under Hammurabi it became a bronze-age city of commerce and agriculture. It was a city with skilled artisans, architects, bricklayers and businessmen, with an efficient secular administration and a chain of command. The city was at the hub of an intricate network of canals. It was surrounded by great fields of barley, melons, fruit trees and the wheat the Babylonians used in making unleavened, pancake-like bread. From their barley, the Babylonians made beer. They sheared wool from their flocks of sheep. And they imported wood from Lebanon and metals from Persia.

 

Hammurabi was a king of artisans: (https://prezi.com/uuaatljvjity/ancient-mesopotamia/): “Hammurabi had artisans carve almost 300 laws into a stone stele. This writing is now known as Hammurabi’s code”, with rules for artisans:

  1. If an artisan take a son for adoption and teach him his handicraft, one may not bring claim for him.
  1. If he do not teach him his handicraft, that adopted son may return to his father’s house.
  1. If a man hire an artisan, the wage of a … is 5 SE of silver; the wage of a brickmaker (?) is 5 SE of silver; the wage of a tailor is 5 SE of silver; the wage of a … is … SE of silver; the wage of a … is … SE of silver; the wage of a … is … SE of silver; the wage of a carpenter is 4 SE of silver; the wage of a (?) is 4 SE of silver; the wage of a (?) is … SE of silver; the wage of a mason is … SE of silver; so much per day shall he pay.

According to: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/Assyria/Hammurabi.html “craftsmen” (artisans) occupied the highest class in Babylon:

The Code contemplates the whole population as falling into three classes, the amelu, the muskinu and the ardu. The amelu was a patrician, the man of family, whose birth, marriage and death were registered, of ancestral estates and full civil rights. He had aristocratic privileges and responsibilities, the right to exact retaliation for corporal injuries, and liability to heavier punishment for crimes and misdemeanours, higher fees and fines to pay. To this class belonged the king and court, the higher officials, the professions and craftsmen.

  1. van de Mieroop (The Ancient Mesopotamian City, p. 179) writes of ‘most craftsmen being employed by palaces and temples’ (reminiscent of the case of Solomon and Huram-abi):

 

The specialized class of artisans needed to be exempt from the tasks of primary food production, and this was only possible in an urban economy. It is clear that craft specialization took place in the early stages of the development of urban society, and that the sustainable size of the class of craftsmen was directly related to the size of the urban economy. It is often stated in current literature that, at least until the late second millennium Bc [sic], most craftsmen were employed by the central institutions of palace and temples, as only these rich organizations were able to support them ….

Nathanael and Stephen

Published January 10, 2017 by amaic

Saint Stephen Protomartyr

St. Stephen a true Israelite

 by

Damien F. Mackey

 

Stephen of the New Testament’s Book of Acts is tentatively identified here with Nathanael of Cana who appears in the Gospel of John.

 

 

Introduction

 

Achior, a leading player in the Book of Judith, was not, as I argued in my article:

 

Achior the Ephraïmite

https://www.academia.edu/30750723/Achior_the_Ephra%C3%AFmite

 

a pagan Ammonite, as he is generally thought to have been, but was none other than Ahikar (Vulgate “Achior”) of the Book of Tobit – the very nephew of Tobit, of the tribe of Naphtali.

Achior was thus a northern Israelite, an Ephraïmite.

St. Stephen, for his part, is typically taken to have been a Greek-speaking Jew, a Hellenist. And so we read for instance at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Stephen

 

The name Stephen is Greek, and Acts 6 tells us that he was a Hellenist; that is, a foreign-born Jew who spoke Greek. He lived in Jerusalem and had become a Christian. The Hellenists, who probably formed a minority in the Christian community, complained that the care of their elderly widows was neglected. The apostles presented the matter to the congregation and, pleading the press of responsibilities, instructed it to select seven deacons for this community service. They were chosen and ordained, and Stephen, who became the best known of the seven, was recognized as a man with special gifts as an evangelist. He engaged in religious discussions among the adherents of synagogues of Diaspora Jews in the capital. Growth in the number of Jewish converts, including “many of the priests,” provoked a reaction; he was summoned before the Sanhedrin, the supreme rabbinic court in Jerusalem, and charged with speaking against “this holy place and the law.” The charge is very general; the report of his defense before the Sanhedrin is the primary resource for learning what Stephen stood for.

[End of quote]

 

Whilst “Stephen” (Steven) is indeed a Greek name, from Στέφανος (Stéphanos), meaning “wreath, crown, honour”, Acts 6 does not specifically tell us that Stephen “was a Hellenist”. It merely says that (v. 6): “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraïc Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food”.

The apostolic solution to this problem (vv. 2-4):

 

So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word’.

 

Stephen appears to have been the foremost amongst the subsequently chosen “seven men” (vv. 5-6):

 

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

 

Was he the oldest? According to Orthodox belief, Stephen was indeed the oldest of these seven and was therefore called “archdeacon”.

The Book of Acts is our only primary source for information about Stephen, qua Stephen.

 

Jews with Greco-Roman Names

 

From a reading through of this New Testament book, Acts, one will find that most of the names it contains are Greco-Roman.

Paul appears therein as both “Paul” and “Saul”; Simon Peter, as “Peter”.

EWTN’s article on St. Stephen (https://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/STEPMART.HTM) is adamant, however, that he “was a Jew”:

 

ST STEPHEN, THE FIRST MARTYR
Feast: December 26
[See Acts vi. vii., and Tillemont,, t.. ii. p.. I, Cave, &c.]

 

That St. Stephen was a Jew is unquestionable, himself owning that relation in his apology to the people. But whether he was of Hebrew extraction and descended of the stock of Abraham, or whether he was of foreign parents incorporated and brought into that nation by the gate of proselytism, is uncertain. ….

[End of quote]

 

In Acts 18, Paul will meet a Jew with the Roman name of Aquila (“Eagle”).

Vv. 1-2: “After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them …”.

Just as Achior’s detailed account of the history of Israel – which I provided in full in the above article, “Achior the Ephraïmite” – would most unlikely have arisen from a pagan Ammonite, so, too, would I agree with EWTN that St. Stephen’s “apology” would identify him as “a Jew” (though possibly hailing, like Achior, from northern Israel).

Achior’s speech often gets compared to Stephen’s. For example, Robert Hall has written (Revealed Histories: Techniques for Ancient Jewish and Christian Historiography, p. 28):

 

…. Achior the Ammonite [sic] makes just such a speech before Holofernes in Judith 5.5-21, and Holofernes rebukes him for prophesying on behalf of the Israelites (Jud. 6.2). …. Stephen, a man full of wisdom and the Spirit (Acts 6.10), makes just such a speech in Acts 7.

 

Here is Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin in full (Acts 7:1-53):

 

Then the high priest asked Stephen, ‘Are these charges true?’

 

To this he replied: Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. God spoke to him in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs. Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food. When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit. On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.

As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.’ He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.

At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for by his family. When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.

When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’

But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.

Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’

This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.

This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.

But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:

 

‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel? You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship.

Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.

 

Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him.

However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:

 

‘Heaven is my throne,

and the earth is my footstool.

What kind of House will you build for me?

says the Lord.

Or where will my resting place be?

Has not my hand made all these things?’

 

You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him — you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.

 

 

Did St. Stephen also

have a Hebrew name?

 

 

Introduction

 

Nathanael of Cana is commonly thought to have been the same as the Apostle Bartholomew – a view also with some Church tradition in support of it. Indeed, the Gospel account of the call of Nathanael (John 1:45-51) is customarily read on the feast of St. Bartholomew.

St. Augustine, however, did not share this view. In his seventh tractate on St. John’s Gospel, Augustine argues against Nathanael’s bring Bartholomew. (And, from memory, one of the popes Gregory also rejected the view that Nathanael was Bartholomew).

To the question:

 

Are Bartholomew and Nathanael the same?

 

As posed at: http://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/23458/are-bartholomew-and-nathanael-the-same we are given the following pros and cons:

 

Popular thought on the subject agree that Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person. While there is no passage in the Bible that directly says “Bartholomew is Nathanael,” circumstantial evidence points in that direction. Arguments can be made either way; church tradition points toward them being one and the same.

 

Arguments for:

 

First, regarding the names themselves. Bartholomew seems like a family name or last name. In Hebrew, the name would be Bar-Tholmai, or Son of Tholmai. Nathanael seems like a first name, meaning Gift of God.

 

Second, Bartholomew and Nathanael seem to be mutually exclusive. Bartholomew makes appearances in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts. Each reference is in a list of the 12 Disciples. Nathanael makes appearances in the book of John, which has no formal list of the 12 Disciples. In John chapter 21, Nathanael is included in a list of disciples (John 21:2 “There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.”) In John, Nathanael does what one of the 12 Disciples might be expected to do: he goes fishing with some of the others in the 12 Disciples.

 

Third, there is a relationship between Philip and Bartholomew in the lists of disciples in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts. There is also a relationship between Philip and Nathanael in John (Nathanael is the friend Philip brings to Jesus when Philip first learns of Him).

 

Arguments against:

 

First, Bartholomew is a perfectly reasonable first name. It has been used many times since.

 

Second, Nathanael is never listed in a formal list of the 12 Disciples. Certainly, there were many disciples of Jesus who are not included in the 12 Disciples. This was one of the requirements to be considered for Judas’ replacement in the 12 Disciples after Judas betrayed Jesus.

 

Third, the link between Philip and Bartholomew in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts is hardly strong — their names are simply grouped together. Even if the link were strong, it’s not as if Philip cannot have two good friends. ….

[End of quote]

 

John’s Account of Nathanael

 

We read in John 1:43-51:

 

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me’. Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’. ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.

‘Come and see’, said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit’. ‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you’. Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel’.

Jesus said, ‘You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that’. He then added, ‘Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man’.

 

This last verse (v. 51): ‘Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man’, is what has triggered in my mind the possibility that Nathanael, promised this Jacob-like vision with a Divine certainty (‘Very truly I tell you’), was the same as Stephen ‘Protomartyr’, who would receive this very vision as he was dying (Acts 7:55-56): “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look’, he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’.”

If this deduction is correct, then Stephen’s Hebrew name was Nathanael (Nathaniel), meaning “God has given”.

This Nathanael was, geographically speaking at least, a northern Israelite, from Cana in Galilee (John 21:2), Cana being situated some 13.5 km. from Nazareth where Jesus had grown up.

Both Cana and Nazareth lay in the territory of Zebulun.

It would appear from the narrative in John 1 (above), however, that Nathanael – who would have been a disciple of John the Baptist – was, up to that point in time, little aware of his Galilean ‘neighbour’, Jesus.

 

 

Progression from Nathanael to Stephen

 

 

John the Baptist might well remind one of David’s bosom friend, Jonathan, who, despite his greatness, was prepared to accept David as the truly anointed king of Israel.

The Baptist, who had accumulated many disciples, knew that he was merely preparing the way for the true King of Israel, Jesus: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’.

 

(John 3:30)

 

 

Introduction

 

Isaac’s question: ‘But where is the lamb?’ (Genesis 22:7) resounded down through the centuries until it was taken up by John the Baptist when he “saw Jesus coming towards him” (John 1:29): ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’

John the Baptist is the head of the Old Testament.

Greater than all of his predecessors (Luke 7:28): ‘I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John’, he was foretold by the prophet Malachi as the new Elijah (4:5-6): “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” An angel told John’s father, Zechariah, that his son would be a new Elijah (Luke 1:17): ‘And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord’.

But he was not the actual Elijah having returned.

Nor was he the Messiah. All of this John made abundantly clear when he was questioned as to his identity by the priests and Levites (John 1:19-27):

 

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah’.

They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’

He said, ‘I am not’.

‘Are you the Prophet?’

He answered, ‘No’.

Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord’.’

Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, ‘Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’

‘I baptize with water’, John replied, ‘but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie’.

 

So John’s mission was entirely to prepare the way for the One who was to come, and who had indeed now come. Far from being jealous, John the Baptist – just like Jonathan the son of Saul (I Samuel 18:1): “… the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” – rejoiced in his friend’s office of Chosen One.

 

John 3:26-29:

They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him’. To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete’.

 

 

Disciples of the Baptist

 

Formerly disciples of John the Baptist, many of those who would become Apostles and disciples of Jesus, including Nathanael of Cana, were steered in the direction of Jesus by the Baptist himself.

John knew that that was his designated task on earth (John 1:30-34):

 

‘This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’.  I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel’. Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit’. I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One’.

 

Nathanael of Cana was amongst those former disciples of John the Baptist, those who hailed from the region of Galilee. Yet he apparently, too, like John the Baptist, “did not know him”. Two disciples who were with John when he had proclaimed: ‘Behold! The Lamb of God!” immediately left John and followed after Jesus. Here is the account of it in John 1:37-46, including the scriptural introduction of Nathanael:

 

When the two disciples heard [John] say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’

They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means “Teacher”), ‘where are you staying?’

‘Come’, he replied, ‘and you will see’.

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me’.

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.  Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’.

‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.

‘Come and see’, said Philip.

 

This already tells us something about Nathanael, apart from his prejudice towards the town of Nazareth. He must have been one whom Philip knew to have been a searcher of the Scriptures, a student of Moses and the prophets, striving to ascertain the identity of the One to whom they were all pointing.

No doubt John the Baptist had helped to school Nathanael in his quest for the truth.

 

The Baptist’s rôle was now finished, his joy complete.

The Old Testament was also complete. And so it was only fitting, symbolically speaking, that John the Baptist, the head of the Old Testament, should now be beheaded.

 

 

 

 

A disciple of Jesus Christ

 

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, He said of him, ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit’.

‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you’.

Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel’.

 

John 1:47-49

 

Introduction

 

Why would the fact that Jesus had seen Nathanael under a fig tree prompt the latter to make so bold a statement of faith: ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel’ [?]

Surely Nathanael’s positive response was due in large part to the fact that John the Baptist, whom the likes of Philip and Nathanael had been following (refer back to Part Three (a)), had recently identified Jesus as the “Lamb of God”, the ‘One who was to come and who would take away the sins of the world’.

And there were probably other reasons as well, pertaining to the significance of the fig tree.

 

The Fig Tree

 

The fig tree is highly meaningful in the Scriptures, beginning with Adam and Eve, and Jesus’s seemingly strange cursing of the barren fig tree at a later date is actually loaded with symbolical import in relation to the Garden of Eden and the Fall.

On this, see my:

 

Jesus Curses the Barren Fig Tree

 

https://www.academia.edu/27607974/Jesus_Curses_the_Barren_Fig_Tree

 

which is heavily based upon the insights of Dr. Ernest L. Martin.

Jesus identifies Nathanael firstly as “an Israelite”, and secondly as one “in whom there is no deceit”, or guile.

The serpent in the Garden was, by comparison, full of guile or deceit. He was utterly “crafty” (Heb. עָרוּם).

Some commentators have suggested that Jesus regarded Nathanael as a new Jacob (or Israel), by way of contrast with his wayward brother, Esau. A Jacob connection seems to be intended by the ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ imagery of John 1:50-51: “‘You will see greater things than that’. He then added, ‘Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man’.”

Others point to Jacob’s own deceptions and craftiness, and refer in this regard to Jeremiah 9:3’s apparently unfavourable estimation of the patriarch.

Nathanael, on the other hand, is without deceit or guile. He is what an Israelite ought to be. He is “truly an Israelite”.

Likewise, Achior (or Ahikar) – with whom I am making some comparisons with Nathanael (Stephen) in this series – praised by his uncle Tobit for his almsgiving (“Ahikar escaped the deadly trap which Nadin had set for him, because Ahikar had given generously to the poor”: Tobit 14:10), will promise to give “Holofernes” a truthful report (Judith 5:5): ‘Sir, if you will please be so kind as to listen to me, I will tell you the truth about these people who live in the mountains near your camp. I will not lie to you’.

Later, Stephen (Nathanael) will be identified as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5).

What was Nathanael actually doing under that fig tree, perhaps in his own home, when Jesus had first spotted him?

We are not told.

The following flowery estimation by C. H. Spurgeon may not be too far from the mark:

https://answersingenesis.org/education/spurgeon-sermons/921-nathanael-and-the-fig-tree/

 

  1. Nathanael and the Fig Tree

by C. H. Spurgeon on December 16, 2011

 

…. We are told that he was a guileless man, “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile,” that is to say, like Jacob, “he was a plain man,” and not like Esau, “a cunning hunter.” Some minds are naturally serpentine, tortuous, (b) and slippery; they can only think in curves; their motives are involved and intricate, and they are of a double heart. These are the men who look one way and row the other; they worship the god Janus with two faces …. They cannot speak a thing plainly or look you in the face while they talk, for they are full of mental reservations and prudent cautions. They guard their speech; they dare not send abroad their own thoughts until they have mailed them with armour up to the throat with double meanings. Nathanael was just the very opposite of all this, he was no hypocrite and no crafty deceiver. He wore his heart upon his sleeve; if he spoke, you might know that he said what he meant and that he meant what he said. He was a childlike, simple hearted man, transparent as glass. He was not one of those fools who believe everything, but on the other hand, he was not of that other type of fools so much admired in these days, who will believe nothing, but who find it necessary to doubt the most self-evident truth in order to maintain their credit for profound philosophy. These “thinkers” of this enlightened age are great at quibbles, mighty in feigning or feeling mistrust concerning matters which common sense has no doubts about. They will profess to doubt whether there is a God, though that is as plain as the sun at noonday. No, Nathanael was neither credulous nor mistrustful; he was honestly ready to yield to the force of truth; he was willing to receive testimony and to be swayed by evidence. He was not suspicious, because he was not a man who himself would be suspected; he was true hearted and straightforward; a plain dealer and plain speaker. Cana did not have within her gates a more thoroughly honest man. Philip seems to have known this, for he went to him directly, concerning a man who was likely to be convinced and worth winning to the good cause.

 

  1. In addition to being thus a simple hearted man, Nathanael was an earnest seeker. Philip found him because he felt that the good news would interest him. “We have found the Messiah,” would be no glad news to anyone who had not looked for the Messiah; but Nathanael had been expecting the Christ, and perhaps had so well understood Moses and the prophets, that he had been led to look for his speedy coming. The time when the Messiah would suddenly come in his temple had certainly arrived, and he was day and night with prayer, like all the faithful of the twelve tribes, watching and waiting for the appearing of their salvation. He had not as yet heard that the glory of Israel had indeed come, but he was on the tiptoe of expectation. What a hopeful state of heart is yours, my dear hearer, if you are now honestly desirous to know the truth, and intensely anxious to be saved by it! It is well indeed for you if your soul is ready, like the photographer’s sensitive plate, to receive the impression of the divine light, if you are anxiously desiring to be informed if there is indeed a Saviour, if there is a gospel, if there is hope for you, if there is such a thing as purity and a way to reach it; it is well, I say, if you are anxiously, earnestly desiring to know how and when and where, and determinately resolved, by God’s grace, that no exertion shall be spared on your part to run in the way that shall be marked out, and to submit yourself to the will of God. This was the state of Nathanael, an honest hearted lover of plain truth, seeking to find the Christ.

 

  1. It is also true that he was ignorant up to a certain point. He was not ignorant of Moses and the prophets, these he had well considered, but he did not know that Christ had come as yet. There was considerable distance between Nazareth and Cana, and the news of the Messiah’s coming had not travelled there; if it had been bad news, it would have flown on eagles’ wings, but being good news, its flight was slower, for few people are so anxious to tell the good as much as the evil. He had not therefore heard of Jesus of Nazareth until Philip came to him. And how many there are even in this country who still do not know what the gospel means, but are anxious to know it, and if they only knew it would receive it! ….

[End of quote]

 

If Nathanael had been praying and/or searching the Scriptures under the fig tree – perhaps even teaching there as the great Deborah had formerly done under a tree (Judges 4:5) – specifically in order to know about the Messiah, then Jesus’s reference to the fig tree would have had further significance for him.

 

Marriage Feast at Cana

 

Immediately after the account of the call of Nathanael, who was from Cana, John the Evangelist proceeds to tell (3:1): “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee”. Undoubtedly Nathanael, who had just proclaimed his belief in Jesus as “the Son of God”, would have been amongst those “disciples” said to be attending that wedding (vv. 1, 2): “Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding”.

 

For a wonderful explanation of this famous New Testament event according to a Marian context, see Rev. Stephen Hartdegen (OFM)’s Marian Significance of Cana (John 2: 1-11): http://ecommons.udayton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2513&context=marian_studies

 

This, Jesus Christ’s first miracle of nature, famously turning the water into wine, would only have served to have strengthen the belief in Him of Nathanael and the other disciples (John 2:11): “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him”.

And that “first of the signs” was given in Nathanael’s own home town of Cana.

 

His Martyrdom

 

Nathanael, having witnessed the many “signs” worked by Jesus, would later, as Stephen, perform his own marvels (Acts 6:8): “Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people”.

And, as it was with Jesus, the authorities, instead of recognising these signs for what they were, as a manifestation of “the finger of God” (cf. Exodus 8:19), would instead, just like the hard-hearted pharaoh before whom Moses stood, utterly reject the worth of them.

In the case of Stephen (Acts 6:9-10):

 

Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

 

So, once again (cf. Mark 14:57-58), false witnesses had to be introduced.

Acts 6:11: “Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, ‘We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God’.”

Stephen, who had once, as Nathanael, retorted to Philip’s (John 1:45): ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’. (v. 46) “‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked”, was now, according to his accusers, acclaiming “this Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 6:12-15):

 

So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the Law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, ‘This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us’.

All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

 

It was at this point that (7:1) “… the high priest asked Stephen, ‘Are these charges true?’”

Achior had promised to tell the chief authority confronting him, ‘I will tell you the truth about these people who live in the mountains near your camp. I will not lie to you’. But Stephen, instead, proceeds to do what Achior had done immediately after that, to give an abbreviated account of the history of Israel – Stephen, for his part, connecting Jesus to Moses and the prophets. (Recall Philip’s words to Nathanael in John 1:45: ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law …’).

The reaction to the historical account was the same in both cases:

 

Achior

 

Judith 5:22: “When Achior had finished his speech, all the people standing around the tent began to protest. Holofernes’ own senior officers, as well as the Moabites and those from the Mediterranean coast, demanded that Achior be put to death”.

 

Stephen

 

Acts 7:54: “When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him”.

 

Both were seized and taken “out of the camp/city”:

 

Achior

 

Judith 6:10-11: “Then Holofernes ordered his men, who were waiting in his tent, to seize Achior, take him to Bethulia, and hand him over to the Israelites. So the men seized Achior and took him out of the camp into the valley”.

 

Stephen

 

Acts 7:57-58: “At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him”.

 

“At this” – at what? At this (vv. 55-56): “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look’, he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’.”

Had not Stephen once, as Nathanael, been given this very promise [?]: