Pondering the Passion Prognostications
by "Wildcat"
[Jesus and Contemporary Thought][Gethsemane and the Cup][The Parable of the Wicked Tenants][The Eucharist][The Sign of Jonah][Raise This Temple in 3 Days?][The Explicit Passion Predictions][Potential Pushbacks]


The historicity of Jesus' passion predictions has far-reaching implications for the study of the historical Jesus. Did Jesus predict his impending death, and if so did he believe that it would serve some sort of divinely-ordained purpose? Moreover, did Jesus believe that he would be vindicated from death? If so, did he make clear the nature of his anticipated vindication? Or, was the event of his crucifixion merely a tragic ending to a highly controversial, and in such a case, truncated ministry? The answers to these questions are very important if we are to receive any authentic glimpses into Jesus' mind-set regarding the importance and direction of his ministry. If Jesus did not view his impending death and vindication as significant to his ministry, this would rightly call into question not only the foundation upon which the assertions and approaches of evangelical scholars rest, but also that of the whole orthodox Christian faith itself. On the other hand, if Jesus did not only foresee these events to come, but also attributed a high degree of theological significance to them, then it is clear that the approaches made by some revisionist scholars are deemed irrelevant.

In what follows we will be defending the traditional Christian belief that Jesus did in fact predict his death and vindication, and that he also attached to these impending events great theological and eschatological significance. My main source for this endeavor is a book composed by German New Testament scholar Hans F. Bayer, titled in English "Jesus' Predictions of Vindication and Resurrection". We will attempt to keep this discussion on a relatively rudimentary level, but those that are interested in seriously delving into this subject to the extent of examining the numerous technical intricacies of the relevant Synoptic data (i.e. issues too intricate and time-consuming for us to concern ourselves with here) should consult Bayer's invaluable resource.

We will not be looking at all of the relevant predictions found within the Gospel traditions, but will include a discussion of 6 pertinent references following a discussion of some relevant background material. I originally hoped to discuss the various predictions in the chronological order in which they are purported to have occurred in the Gospel records. However, in light of the varying number of elements and the varying degree of specificity expressed in the different narrative episodes, I thought it best to organize the article thematically, beginning with what I thought were the least explicit references of Jesus to his impending death and/or vindication and working through to the more explicit references.

Section I: Jesus and Contemporary Thought

A. Martyrdom and Atonement in Second Temple Judaism

Before delving into the various sayings of Jesus, it is worthwhile to briefly consider some relevant background information. We'll start with the thoughts of at least some of Jesus' contemporaries on these and/or similar issues. From the Maccabean literature and the Suffering Servant figure in Isaiah, it becomes clear that the correlation of suffering and/or atonement with subsequent vindication would not have been unique to Jesus. Consider the following passages (all translations taken from Wright 1992; 276-278):

For we are suffering because of our own sins. And if our living Lord is angry for a little while, to rebuke and discipline us, he will again be reconciled with his own servants… I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our ancestors, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by trials and plagues to make you [i.e. Antiochus Epiphanes] confess that he alone is God, and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty that has justly fallen on our whole nation. (2 Macc. 7.32-33, 37-38)

You know, O God, that though I might have saved myself, I am dying in burning torments for the sake of the law. Be merciful to your people, and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification, and take my life in exchange for theirs. (4 Macc. 6:27-29)

These, then, who have been consecrated for the sake of God, are honoured, not only with this honor, but also by the fact that because of them our enemies did not rule over our nation, the tyrant was punished, and the homeland purified-they having become, as it were, a ransom for the sin of our nation. And through the blood of those devout ones and their death as an atoning sacrifice, divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been mistreated. (4 Macc. 17.20-22)

On the day when the Kittim fall, there shall be battle and terrible carnage before the God of Israel, for that shall be the day appointed from ancient times for the battle of destruction of the sons of darkness… And it shall be a time of great tribulation for the people which God shall redeem; of all its afflictions none shall be as this, from its sudden beginning until its end in eternal redemption. (1 QM 1.9-12)

Then there is the fourth Servant-song of Isaiah:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:3-6, 10-12)

Regardless of the identity of this "Suffering Servant", i.e. whether the Servant is to be understood as an individual or corporate Israel, the theme of atonement-wrought-from-suffering and subsequent vindication is very explicit. In Section I-B below we will show how this passage was understood by some later texts to be referring to the theme of vicarious suffering.

The theme of the vindication of Israel resulting from atonement bought by suffering more often than not referred to national vindication from exile or oppression, but it is clear that in at least one strand of thought in Second Temple Judaism the belief in vicarious suffering was present. And in fact, this line of thought should not at all surprise us given the importance that making animal sacrifices played in the ancient world, and in particular to that of Israel. N.T. Wright notes:

There are of course considerable differences between one sort of sacrifice and another. At one end of the scale there were the sacrifices at the heart of the great national festivals: the Passover lamb signified the past act and the future hope of redemption for the nation. At the other end were the individual sin-offerings whereby an Israelite, conscious of an accidental breach of Torah, or of something done in ignorance of its being forbidden, would have his or her membership in the people of God reaffirmed despite the lapse… Somewhere logically in between was the Day of Atonement, a time of both individual and corporate offering of sacrifice, in which the nation as a whole, and the individual within the nation, recognized that at every level Israel had sinned against her god, deserved his judgment, but instead could receive his forgiveness and reaffirmation through offering sacrifice. Thus, although no clear theory may have been consciously formulated as to how and why the killing of certain animals under certain circumstances effected this result, the large-scale participation in festivals, and the regular use of the individual sacrifices, indicates clearly that the average Israelite believed firmly that the practice was effective. (Wright 1992; 275; emphasis the original)

Thus the very rituals outlined within the Torah and therefore practiced by virtually every Jew in the Second Temple period conveyed the idea that vindication (or at least reenactment, in the covenantal sense) could be accomplished through sacrifice. As a result, while it is true that the above-quoted texts are speaking about human suffering and sacrifice as opposed to animal sacrifices (as are detailed in the Torah), it should not be too surprising that we discover that the correlations of suffering, atonement, and vindication as a result of human suffering became prevalent in Jewish literature of the Second Temple period. For more on this, see Wright 1992, 272-279. See also M. Brown 2000, 153-167.

So, the precedent of vindication through suffering was there to be taken up by Jesus and/or others of his time. When considering this crucial background information, the various statements in the Gospels attributed to Jesus regarding his looming suffering, death, and/or vindication are perhaps not as unusual as they might have otherwise appeared. On the other hand, the idea that atonement and vindication could be accomplished through suffering is to be distinguished from the concept of a suffering Messiah, and it is to this idea that we now turn.

B. The Suffering Messiah

We have but faint, and controversial, traces of a belief in a suffering Messiah in pre-Christian Judaism. Nevertheless, Martin Hengel has shown that in at least a few places in the pre-Christian period (or at least in the period roughly contemporary with early Christianity) there are hints of a belief in a suffering Messiah, particularly in connection with Isaiah 53.

Hengel demonstrates that there is evidence that Isaiah 53 was interpreted in some circles to be referring to an individual, eschatological redeemer that undergoes vicarious suffering on behalf of the unrighteous, subsequent to which he receives exaltation. Hengel finds evidence for this in the Greek translation of Isaiah 53 found in the Septuagint and possibly in the Armenian version of the Testament of Benjamin. In each case it is not clear whether or not this individual redeemer is to be properly understood as the Messiah, though it is in each case a distinct possibility. In the case of the former, Hengel states that "Although the motif of vicarious atoning suffering which effects salvation is weakened at a few points in the LXX over against the MT [Masoretic Text], it remains unambiguous." (Hengel 2004; 124; words in [] added). Among the phrases that support vicarious suffering that are retained in the Septuagint include "he bears our sins and is pained for us" in v. 4; "But he himself was wounded on account of our lawless deeds and he became sick because of our sins" and "by his wounds we were healed" in v. 5; and "he was led like a sheep to the slaughter" in v. 7 (ibid. 124; 2004). Furthermore, he adds that an "individual" interpretation is to be preferred:

But who is this "righteous one" in the eyes of the translator? A one-sided collective interpretation referring to Israel seems to me hardly possible188. Israel must be defined rather with the confession of the "we" group, which can hardly refer to the Gentile nations, since the Gentiles have no "report" to proclaim, as in 53:1 (ακοη ημων). Nor are the Gentiles healed by his "wounds" or "bruises" (53:5: μωλωψ); this can only apply to the people of God. The Servant will rather judge the kings and the nations, the wicked and the rich (Isa. 52:15; 53:9, 12). "The many" in 53:11-12 are the same as the "we" who make their confession in the first person plural in verses 1-7. They represent the doubting, straying Israel, for which the Servant has sacrificed himself. If the people of Israel repent, acknowledging and confessing their sins -- which is perhaps their spiritual "sin offering" (cf. εαν δωτε περι αμαρτιας, 53:10) -- then on the basis of the Servant's vicarious atoning suffering, they may share his exalted destiny. (ibid. 128-129)

Hengel concludes that it is possible that a Messianic interpretation may be found in the Septuagint translation, though this cannot be spoken of as certain. He goes on to argue that if a particular contemporary historical figure was in mind, it may be a reference to Onias III, "the last legitimate Zadokite high priest" (for a brief discussion of this possibility see ibid. 136-137). Hengel concludes:

If however the Septuagint text can already be related to an end-time figure whom we can call "messianic" in the widest sense, then this is all the more true for Aquila and Theodotion, whose revisions originated in the second century C.E., when the idea of a suffering messiah is clearly attested in Judaism. (ibid. 137)

The relevant passage from the Testament of Benjamin is found in 3:8:

In you [Joseph] will be fulfilled the heavenly prophecy which says that the spotless one will be defiled by lawless men and the sinless one will die for the sake of impious men. (Testament of Benjamin 3:8, Armenian)

It is possible (though not certain) that this text in its original form is Jewish in origin and is a reference to the Messiah ben Joseph (or Ephraim), who in later Jewish texts plays the role of the suffering Messiah. This text was likely later reworked by Christians, but in its original form Hengel argues that it is probably not of Christian origin since Christians would not likely attribute Messiahship to the lineage of Joseph, but rather to that of Judah (ibid. 137-139).

Hengel also examines the Aramaic Apocryphon of Levi, which is preserved in a number of extant fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls, to be dated roughly to about 100 B.C. Two fragments (i.e. 9 and 24) contain possible references to a suffering end-time eschatological priest-servant, which in turn display thematic and linguistic parallels to Isaiah 53. The details set forth by Hengel are too technical for us to reproduce here, but for those interested see Hengel 2004; 106-118. Nevertheless, Hengel's conclusion on these fragments is worth citing:

For Puech -- and we can hardly contradict him here, despite all the remaining uncertainties -- our text contains "the first and oldest midrashic exploitation of the Servant Songs of Isaiah interpreted in terms of an individual, in a current of Palestinian Judaism which more or less dates from the second century B.C.E. at the latest"158 At the same time the text sheds new light on previously disputed texts such as the Testament of Levi 4 and 18, the Testament of Benjamin 3:8 (see below [part] 9), and the Similitudes of 1 Enoch, but also on the Targum of Isaiah, which may in fact have a pre-Christian history that is unknown to us. This is suggested by the "sapiential coloring of the Servant figure"159 in both 4Q541 and the Targum of Isaiah, though this is also found in the Synoptic Gospels, above all in Q160. I believe that it would be worth considering whether the interpretation of Isaiah 53 in the Targum, which is oriented around the Pharisaic-rabbinic messianic expectation of the king from the house of David, might not have suppressed an older interpretation oriented around the priestly Messiah, whose wisdom-didactic features and motif of intercession for sinners the Targum retains. (ibid. 118)

Hengel's complete analysis of pre-Christian texts demonstrates that different motifs of Isaiah 53 were emphasized by the various texts. While there are texts that support the suffering of an individual, there are others in which a collective interpretation is plausible. Moreover, in certain cases, such as in the Similitudes of Enoch and the Wisdom of Solomon, the motif of vicarious suffering is suppressed in favor of that of exaltation (see below for more on this). We therefore agree with Hengel's summary of the data:

The expectation of an eschatological suffering savior figure connected with Isaiah 53 cannot therefore be proven to exist with absolute certainty and in a clearly outlined form in pre-Christian Judaism. Nevertheless, a lot of indices that must be taken seriously in texts of very different provenance suggest that these types of expectations could also have existed at the margins, next to many others. This would then explain how a suffering or dying Messiah surfaces in various forms with the Tannaim of the second century C.E., and why Isaiah 53 is clearly interpreted messianically in the Targum and rabbinic texts. (ibid. 140; emphasis the original) [1]

As Hengel made allusion to, there are a number of Jewish sources in the post-Christian period that expresses belief in a suffering Messiah, including references to specific Old Testament passages that were also understood by early Christians to be prophecies of Jesus as the Messiah. Consider the following:

[At the time of the Messiah's creation], the Holy One, blessed be He, will tell him in detail what will befall him: There are souls that have been put away with thee under My throne, and it is their sins which will bend thee down under a yoke of iron and make thee like a calf whose eyes grow dim with suffering, and will choke thy spirit as with a yoke; because of the sins of these souls thy tongue will cleave to the roof of thy mouth. Art thou willing to endure such things?

The Messiah will ask the Holy One, blessed be He: Will my suffering last many years?

The Holy One, blessed be He, will reply: Upon thy life and the life of My head, it is a period of seven years which I have decreed for thee. But if thy soul is sad at the prospect of thy suffering, I shall at this moment banish these sinful souls.

The Messiah will say: Master of the universe, with joy in my soul and gladness in my heart I take this suffering upon myself, provided that not one person in Israel perish; that not only those who are alive be saved in my days, but that also those who are dead, who died from the days of Adam up to the time of redemption; and that not only these be saved in my days, but also those who died as abortions; and that not only these be saved in my days, but all those whom Thou thoughtest to create but were not created. Such are the things I desire, and for these I am ready to take upon myself [Whatever Thou decreest]... [Pesikta Rabbati on Psalm 22. William G, Braude, Translator (New Haven: Yale University, 1968), Volume II, Piska 36.2, pp. 678-679, 680-681). This material was taken from Webster 2003; 177-178]

What is the cause of the mourning [mentioned in the last cited verse]?-R. Dosa and the Rabbis differ on the point. One explained, The cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, and the other explained. The cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination. It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son [(Zech. XII, 10) (The Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein, Editor (London: Soncino Press), Seder Mo'ed, Vol. III, Sukkah 52a, p. 246). This material taken from Webster 2003; 215; emphasis the original]

Zechariah xii.12: And the land shall mourn…That mourning? What was it all about? R. Yose and the (non-named) Rabbis differ on the point. The one says, It is for Messiah, the son of Joseph when he is killed; and the other says, It is for the Evil Yetzer (Desire)…when it is killed. All is clear in the case of him that says, It is for Messiah the son of Joseph when he is killed, for then we can understand what is written, "And they shall look upon him whom they pierced and they shall lament for him, &c. [(Zech. Xii.10) (The Yalkut on Zechariah, Edward G. King, Translator (London: Cambridge, Deighton, Bell & Co., 1882), Hint 581, pp. 69-70) This material taken from Webster 2003; 215-216; emphasis the original]

Is. 52:13-53:12: Behold, my servant, the Anointed One (or, the Messiah), shall prosper; he shall be exalted, and increase, and be very strong. As the house of Israel hoped (or, waited) for him many days, for his (text, their) appearance was wretched among the nations, and his (text, their) countenance beyond that of the sons of men: so shall he scatter many nations; kings shall be silent because of him (or, it); they shall set their hands upon their mouths: for the things which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived…

And the righteous shall grow up before him even as budding shoots; and as a tree that sendeth forth its roots by streams of water, so shall the holy generations increase in the land that was in need of him: his appearance shall not be that of a common man, nor the fear of him that of an ordinary man; but his countenance (or, complexion) shall be a holy countenance, so that all who see him shall regard him earnestly. Then shall the glory of all the kingdoms be despised and come to an end; they shall be infirm and sick even as a man of sorrows and as one destined for sicknesses, and as when the presence of the Shekinah was withdrawn from us, they (or, we) shall be despised and of no account. Then he shall pray on behalf of our transgressions and our iniquities shall be pardoned for his sake, though we were accounted smitten, stricken from the Lord, and afflicted. But he shall build the sanctuary that was polluted because of our transgressions and given up because of our iniquities; and by his teaching shall his peace be multiplied upon us, and by our devotion to his words our transgressions shall be forgiven us…Then will I divide unto him the spoil of many peoples and the riches of strong cities; he shall divide the booty, because he delivered his soul unto death and subjected the rebellious to the law; and he shall make the intercession for many transgressions, and the rebellious shall be forgiven for his sake [The Targum of Isaiah, J.F. Stenning, Editor and Translator (Oxford: Clarendon, 1949), pp. 178-180). This material taken from Webster 2003; 253-254; emphasis the original)]

Thus we see that several texts utilized by early Christians were also taken up in a Messianic sense by later Jewish sources. Notice though in this last case that, while the text of Isaiah 53 is considered by the Targum of Isaiah to be referring to the Messiah, it is presented in a much different light than that of the Christian understanding. It is often claimed by scholars that this is the result of an anti-Christian polemic. Zimmerli and Jeremias comment on this:

It can be seen how, step by step, in Targ. Isa. 52.13-53.12 is depicted the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom over Israel. The statements about the passion of the servant have been so radically and consistently removed by artificial contrivances that faint traces remain only in two places302. Even allowing for the targumic translation technique, the section Targ. Isa. 52.13-53.12 stands out by the unusual freedom of its paraphrase in the context of Targ. Isa. 40-66303, which elsewhere keeps more closely to the Heb.Text. For this violent reinterpretation of the text there is only one possible explanation: we have here a piece of anti-Christian polemic304. From the second century at the latest, Judaism was concerned in various ways to wrest Isa. 53 from its use by Christians as a christological scriptural text proof (cf. p. 75). The curious form of Isa. 53 in the Targ. shows to what extremes this attempt was carried through. The whole section was indeed messianically explained because the messianic interpretation of Isa. 52.13-53.12 was so firmly rooted that Targ. Isa. could not escape it, but the passages about suffering, in brusque contradiction to the original, are replaced by the current view of the Messiah. The fact that this thoroughgoing process of reinterpretation of Isa. 52.13-53.12 was applied to both the Greek (see pp. 65 ff.) and the Aramaic texts of Isa. 53 shows how firmly rooted in Palestinian Judaism was the messianic exegesis. (Zimmerly & Jeremias 1957; 70-71)

More recently, Michael Brown writes:

Targum Jonathan interprets Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (which, for simplicity in this discussion, we will simply call Isaiah 53) with reference to the Messiah, despite the fact that the Targum virtually rewrites the entire passage, changing the verses that speak clearly of the servant's sufferings so that they speak instead of the suffering of the nations. This means the Messianic interpretation of the passage must have been quite prominent when the Targum was being formed, since it would have been much easier to not add the explicit reference to the Messiah (in 52:13) rather than to virtually rewrite the verses that seemed to contradict the expected role of the Messiah. (M. Brown 2003; 59; emphasis the original)

On the other hand, Jostein Adna counters the claim that the Targumist's translation was reflective of an anti-Christian polemic by noting the apparent contradiction between Is. 52:13 and 52:14:

One might think that Isaiah 52:13 on its own deals with a purely triumphant and exalted figure. But do not matters look different when the following verses are included? How can the Servant of 52:13 be understood as the Messiah in the light of the suffering described in verses 14ff.? I believe we should follow Otto Betz in his view that on the basis of 52:13, which speaks of the Servant's success, the Targumist concluded that the statements of suffering and death (52:14 and 53:3-9) must apply to others. He found this understanding confirmed in the change of the person present in the Hebrew text from the third person in Isaiah 52:13, "my servant," to the second person in verse 14, "many were astonished at you..." (Adna 2004; 199; emphasis the original)

Adna then goes on to argue that, based on the above-derived hermeneutical principle, it can be shown how "The Targumist offers a theologically reflected and consistent interpretation of Isaiah 53 and is able thereby to retain an impressive proximity to the smallest components of the Bible text." (see ibid. 200-202) This finds further support in some observations made by Hengel. While the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 53 clearly retains the theme of vicarious suffering (see above), there is a change in the translation of Isaiah 53:9 so that instead of the Servant being given a grave with the wicked and his death with the rich, the text speaks of the Lord handing over both the rich and wicked to judgment. Hengel argues that the Lord is in fact giving the wicked over to the Servant himself (see Hengel 2004; 123 for discussion). Hengel further states that "In this way, the Septuagint explains a development toward the idea of judgment that culminates in 1 Enoch 62-63 and Wisdom 5177." (ibid. 123) Consider, for example, Wisdom 5:1-6:

Then the righteous man will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who have afflicted him, and those who make light of his labors. When they see him, they will be shaken with dreadful fear, and they will be amazed at his unexpected salvation. They will speak to one another in repentance, and in anguish of spirit they will groan, and say, "This is the man whom we once held in derision, and made a byword of reproach -- we fools! We thought that his life was madness and that his end was without honor. Why has he been numbered among the sons of God? And why is his lot among the saints? So it was we who strayed from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness did not shine on us, and the sun did not rise upon us. (quoted in Hengel 2004; 130-131)

Hengel notes that there are a number of verbal and conceptual parallels to the LXX of Isaiah 53 in this passage, including 1) The same word for "amazement" (εκστησονται) is used in Wisdom 5:2 and Isaiah 52:14, and in both cases this word is used in reference to the wicked persecutors of the Servant who are surprised by the latter's vindication; 2) In both cases the wicked do not repent until after the exaltation of the Servant (Wisdom 5:3ff.; Isaiah 53:3-5, 12); 3) The wicked's confession of going astray in Wisdom 5:6 resembles the statements in Isaiah 53:6 (i.e. "All of us like sheep have gone astray; each of us has gone astray in his own way"); and 4) The statement of the wicked in Wisdom 5:6 that "the light of righteousness did not shine on us" contrasts with the Servant being shown the light in Isaiah 53:11 (ibid. 131). While it is probable that this text has in mind Isaiah 53, it is noticeable that there is no mention of vicarious suffering. Rather, the text focuses exclusively upon divine justice, or the punishment of the wicked versus the justification of the righteous (ibid. 132).

Similarly, there is the Similitudes of Enoch [2]. Hengel notes (ibid. 99-100) that this source relates to the Servant motif of Isaiah, but primarily to the first two songs (i.e. Isaiah 42:1-3; 49:1-7), whereas its connection to Isaiah 53 is limited to the frequent expression of "the righteous One" found throughout the Similitudes in reference to the Son of Man (which could recall Isaiah 53:11 along with 42:1 and Zech. 9:9) and also perhaps the theme of judgment against the powerful and the kings. The most probable reference, according to Hengel, is the possible allusion in v. 62:5 of the Similitudes to Isaiah 52:13, 15:

One half of them shall glance at the other half; they shall cast down their faces...when they see that Son of Man sitting on the throne of glory. (ibid.100)

The reference to "the righteous One" may be more plausibly explained as a reference solely to Isaiah 42:1, particularly as the Similitudes make allusion to this passage more than Isaiah 53. Furthermore, the concept of the Son of Man being exalted above the powerful could just as easily be taken from Daniel 7. On the other hand, Isaiah 53 could at least be in the author's mind since it is within close proximity to the first two Servant Songs, both of which are clearly alluded to by the author. In the end, it seems best to assert that a connection between the Similitudes and Isaiah 53 is possible, but not certain.

Given that the Wisdom of Solomon and the Similitudes of Enoch post-date the Septuagint, we may suggest that an evolution in thought may have occurred regarding the suppression of the vicarious suffering wrought by the Servant of Isaiah 53 accompanied by the increasing emphasis on the Servant's exaltation. While the Septuagint retains the theme of vicarious suffering in Isaiah 53, it also in 53:9 transforms a statement about the Servant's death and burial into the handing over of the wicked into the Servant's hands. In Wisdom and the Similitudes, the theme of the Servant's exaltation is emphasized against the virtual disappearance of the theme of vicarious atoning suffering. In the post-Christian Targum of Isaiah, the transformation is complete as the whole 53rd chapter of Isaiah is reworked to emphasize the Servant's exaltation above and judgment of the wicked.

All of this should warrant us some caution in suggesting that this reworking in the Targum is the result of an anti-Christian polemic. However, it remains true that the most natural reading of Isaiah 53 entails that the Servant is exalted after and because of his undeserved suffering (compare 53:10-12 and 52:13-15) [3]. This, along with the fact that we find in the pre-Christian era some attestation to the theme of the vicarious suffering of an individual, quite possibly even in a Messianic sense, adds to the plausibility of Jesus taking up this theme himself. This finds further corroboration by the fact that we find in post-Christian Judaism key passages such as Psalm 22, Zechariah 12:10, and Isaiah 53 used clearly in reference to the Messiah. Given the importance that these passages played in the early church's theology of a suffering Messiah, it seems very unlikely that post-Christian Jews would have applied these same passages to the Messiah if such applications did not have pre-Christian roots. For a more in-depth treatment of the concept of a suffering Messiah in historical Judaism, see M. Brown 2000, pp. 220-231.

It is important to emphasize that Messianic beliefs in the Second Temple period were quite diverse (see e.g. the superb treatment in Collins 1995), and as such we cannot say with assurance what a given Messianic claimant at that time would believe about his mission and what specific collection of OT texts and themes he would draw upon to guide his thought-process(es). One constant, however, with Jesus being the exception that proves the rule, is that it seems that all potential Messianic claimants within a century on either side of Jesus thought the royal, military, and/or political aspects of Messiahship were crucial to their respective missions. Collins writes:

Each of the royal pretenders we have considered was the leader of a violent, armed uprising. Insofar as any of these people had a claim to be regarded as messiahs, the claim was grounded in their military leadership. In this respect, at least, the royal pretenders conformed to the usual paradigm for a royal messiah. The scepter of Balaam's oracle was supposed to smite all the children of Seth. Isaiah's 'shoot from the stump of Jesse' was supposed to kill the wicked with the breath of his lips. Despite attempts by some modern scholars to 'spiritualize' this image, its violent implications are picked up repeatedly in the Roman period. The Branch of David/Prince of the Congregation has a role in the final battle against the Kittim at Qumran. The one who will be called 'Son of God' in 4Q246 will bring peace to the earth, but he will do so by military victory: 'The great God will be his strength. He will make war on his behalf, give nations into his hand and cast them all down before him.' The 'son of David' in Pss Sol 17 is to 'purge Jerusalem from Gentiles,' and 'smash the arrogance of sinners like a potter's jar.' The man from the sea in 4 Ezra burns up all his adversaries with a stream of fire from his mouth. The messiah in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 'reddens the mountains with the blood of the slain.' To be sure, a real life messiah needed more mundane weapons than the breath of his mouth. But the violent destruction of the wicked is a standard element in the repertoire of the Davidic messiah. (Collins 1995; 203-204; for more on other Messianic movements roughly contemporary with the time of Jesus and the early Christians, see ibid.195-204. See also Wright 1992; 167-181)

However, we have seen that it is likely that there was a strand of thought in pre-Christian Judaism in which the concept of a suffering Messiah was present. It is possible that the two strands of thought could go together. For instance, perhaps some believed that the Messiah would die as a martyr in the Messianic battle, and receive some sort of vindication afterwards. This is obviously speculative, though it does appear that this is what the disciples of Jesus eventually came to understand just prior to their final march into Jerusalem (on this see Section VIII-B).

C. Jesus as the Suffering Messiah

Obviously, even if Jesus did not have a military campaign in mind, this does not mean that he intended to do just the opposite, i.e. suffer at the hands of the Romans. On the other hand, if we find indications within the Gospels that Jesus did understand his mission to entail such a fate, however out-of-the-ordinary it may seem, we should be prepared to seriously explore this avenue as a possibility. This is especially the case when we consider that the concepts of atonement and vindication (particularly on a national level) resulting from suffering were present within the Judaism of Jesus' day. This conclusion is that much more enforced if we are correct in arguing that the concept of a suffering Messiah existed in pre-Christian Judaism. With this in mind, let us now explore the New Testament data for the belief that Jesus was fulfilling the role of the Suffering Servant.

First of all, Isaiah 53 was a very important text to the early church, as can be seen from a number of both explicit and subtle allusions to the passage across the New Testament [4]. But, it is precisely because of the importance of the 4th Servant Song to the early church that a large number of scholars believe that the references to Isaiah 53 attributed to Jesus in the Gospels are spurious. However, it is at least as plausible to postulate that the importance of Isaiah 53 in the early church stemmed from Jesus' own allusions to the passage during his ministry. In fact, it is probably more plausible. Peter Stuhlmacher explains:

The view suggested above in thesis form is confirmed when one situates the debated texts within the formative process behind the synoptic tradition, as it has been newly explained over the last thirty years by H. Schurmann, B. Gerhardsson, M. Hengel, and R. Riesner. According to this new view, the decisive origins of the synoptic tradition lie in the "school" of Jesus, who taught as the "messianic teacher of wisdom" (so M. Hengel). The παραδοσεις or traditions of this school were transmitted to the primitive church in Jerusalem by the μαθηται whom Jesus himself had called. These traditions then formed an essential part of the "teaching of the apostles" (διδαχη των αποστολων) mentioned in Acts 2:4210. Since a carefully maintained continuity of tradition existed between Jesus' disciples and the Jerusalem church, and since the apostolic guarantors of the Jesus tradition remained alive until the outbreak of the first Jewish war, synoptic texts may be spoken of as subsequent "formulations of the church" only when it can be shown exactly who created them, when, why, and for what recipients they were created, and under what circumstances they were accorded equal authority with the Jesus tradition backed by the apostles. When one cannot provide the answers to these questions, one must reckon with authentic tradition in the synoptics. (Stuhlmacher 2004; 149; emphasis added; for more on the reliability of oral tradition see here and here)

With that in mind, let's take a look at a couple of references to Isaiah 53 attributed to Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels as well as one to Zech. 13:7. The first text we'll consider is Luke 22:35-38:

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." But he replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me." Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied.

The "And he was numbered with the transgressors" in v. 37 is a quote from Isaiah 53:12. R.T. France argues for the probable authenticity of this verse:

Jackson and Lake assume without argument that this quotation is the work of Luke, and Hooker117 writes, 'Unfortunately it occurs in a very obscure passage, of which both the meaning and genuineness are extremely doubtful', but does not explain the statement. Actual arguments against its authenticity are few. J. M. Creed118 suspects the passage Luke 22:35-38 as being obscure and clumsily constructed, and also because 'it is unlikely that Jesus seriously entertained the thought of armed resistance'. It is, however, still more unlikely that any early Christian would attribute to him a thought so out of character and embarrassing to Christian apologetics; the words of verse 36 are best explained as a metaphorical warning of dangerous times ahead119. Nor is it clear why the obscurity of a saying should mark it as unauthentic. V. Taylor120 has demonstrated clearly the appropriateness of the quotation in Jesus' situation on the night before the crucifixion, and J. Jeremias121 sees the quotation as indispensable to the context, where it stands 'between the two quite obviously ancient words about the swords'. The non-LXX character of the quotation further suggests a Semitic origin122. In the absence, therefore, of arguments to the contrary, this quotation may be taken as authentic. (France 1992; 114-115)

Some argue though that even if Jesus was quoting a particular verse within the fourth Servant song, this does not necessitate that he saw himself as fulfilling the redemptive role that the Servant plays in Isaiah 53, partiularly since Luke does not refer to any of the many parts of Isaiah 53 that contain implications of vicarious suffering. France responds by noting:

Two factors, however, tell against this conclusion. The first is the context: that Jesus on the eve of his death should quote from Isaiah 53 at all is surely significant, and indicates that he saw his death in the light of that chapter; that he should quote the phrase 'was numbered with the transgressors', far from indicating that vicarious suffering was absent from his mind, shows that he was preoccupied with the fact that he, who least deserved it, was to be punished as a wrong-doer. There may be the further identification with sinful mankind for their redemption. 'This thought is not explicit in His words, but it is a natural reflection in the mind of one who had pondered the Servant-conception and who quotes a passage immediately followed by the words: "yet he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isa. Liii. 12).'124 The second factor is the formula with which Jesus introduces the quotation: 'This scripture must be fulfilled in me…for what is written about me has its fulfillment.' This, one of the strongest fulfillment-formulae ever uttered by Jesus, is hardly the way to introduce a casual catch-phrase. If Jesus saw these words as destined to be fulfilled in him, and as written about him, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he identified himself with the one of whom they were written, the Servant of Yahweh. (ibid. 115-116)

As France alluded to earlier, this passage has been argued by some to advocate military action. J.P. Holding responds to this idea:

Here's another:

Luke 22:36 He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."

An advocation of war? We have addressed this matter in our trial piece -- some even think that Jesus equipped his followers with swords in anticipation of trouble, and note that Peter scuffled with the Temple police to aid in resisting Jesus' arrest. What an overstated case! The passage in Luke refers to only TWO swords - and during the so-called "scuffle," there was nothing but Peter slicing off a servant's ear, followed by Jesus instructing Peter to put his sword away! Raymond Brown [Death of the Messiah, 689] has rightly admonished those who read such things into this passage:

...such an isolated instance of spontaneous defense that could have occurred in a melee of any period is scarcely indicative of belonging to a resistance movement.

The swords in question, at any rate, were not the longswords [sic] of our medieval television programs. This would most likely have been a Jewish short sword - a dagger used as protection against wild animals and robbers, considered so essential that even the "peace-loving Essenes" carried it, and it was permitted to be carried on the Sabbath as part of one's adornment! [See Hengel, Was Jesus a Revolutionist?, 21] Needless to say, this weapon would not be much use against the Temple police - much less against any number of armed Roman soldiers! (Source)

The next passage we'll consider is that found in Mark 10:45. Below is the passage in its immediate context:

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45; emphasis added)

The authenticity of this verse is regularly denied. C. E. B. Cranfield summarizes the major objections:

(1) this saying is out of harmony with its context, which focuses on service; (2) the use of "elthen" ["come/came"] suggests a date after the lifetime of Jesus looking back on it as a whole; (3) "lutron" ["ransom"] and the ideas associated with it are found nowhere else in Jesus' teaching; and (4) the original form of the saying is found in Luke 22:27, and Mark 10:45 is a dogmatic recasting of it, perhaps under Pauline influence313. (Cranfield, Mark, 343; cited from Witherington III 1990; 252; words in [] added)

Witherington, however, refutes each of the above arguments. In regards to (1), he notes that "The literature dealing with the Maccabees makes it clear that some Jews believed the ultimate form of service to and for one's people was to give one's life for them" (ibid. 252; also see above). Jesus' use of "Son of Man" in this context also ran counter to the understanding of this apocalyptic figure in other Jewish literature of the time (as we show in section VII below). On the other hand, Witherington notes, drawing from C. K. Barrett, that since "Daniel as a whole is a book of martyrdom", Jesus is not departing from the larger framework of the book from whence we get our earliest extant mention of the "Son of Man" (ibid. 252).

In regards to (2), the use of elthen, Witherington notes:

First, some 'elthen' sayings are authentic (cf. Luke 12:49). Second, as Dodd has noted, 'elthen' with the infinitive purpose or equivalent 'hina' clause "is one of the most widely established forms in which the sayings of Jesus are transmitted."316 Furthermore, although "elthen" can be used retrospectively as in Matt. 11:18, it can also explain one's sense of purpose or mission without having the sense of providing an overview after the fact (cf. Mark 2:17). (ibid. 253)

As for (3) and the use of lutron, or "ransom", he writes:

Even though "lutron" is used only here in the Gospels, some of the ideas associated with it seem to be present in the so-called cup saying in Mark 14:24. The idea of a ransom is a familiar Old Testament concept, as is the idea of ransoming life back (cf. Exod. 30:12; 31:30; Num. 18:15; Lev. 25:51-52). (ibid. 253)

Finally, there remains the argument that Mark 10:45 may be under Pauline influence. Witherington again writes:

Furthermore, it is not true that "lutron" is a Pauline word. The only place where we have a cognate term, "antilutron", is I Tim. 2:6, and many scholars would call this material deutero-Pauline. This word and indeed the whole sentence in Mark 10:45 is thoroughly Semitic and can be translated as a whole back into Aramaic318...By comparison, 1 Tim. 2:6 seems to be a later Greek form of the saying.

Several other objections to the authenticity of this saying will not stand close scrutiny. As Stuhlmacher shows, it is not convincing to argue that this material derives from the church's Last Supper theology320. Those traditions do not use the key word "lutron", nor do we find in them "anti pollon" [pollon = many], but rather "hyper" or "peri pollon". Also missing in such material is any use of the phrase "Son of Man." Thus, Stuhlmacher is right to conclude, "There is no real foundation for a derivation of Mark 10:45 from the Last supper connection."321 (Witherington III 1990; 252-253; emphasis the original; words in [] added)

Sydney H.T. Page summarizes some positive arguments favoring the authenticity of this passage:

Absolute proof in this area is unattainable, but it should be observed that several features of the saying are consistent with its being authentic. The semitic character of the saying has been noted, and that is in keeping with its being dominical, though it could, of course, be accounted for in other ways. In this connection the use of the title 'Son of man' is of special interest, since it appears as a characteristic self-designation of Jesus in the Gospels. Secondly, the content of the saying accords well with the rest of the teaching of Jesus regarding His passion. Particularly significant is the way this saying corresponds with the cup-word at the Last Supper [though recall above where Witherington demonstrated that the terminology is different, though of course the concept remains the same]. Finally, a number of writers have been struck by the restraint of the saying, and have correctly observed that this would be expected in a saying of Jesus, but not in something formulated by the Church /72/. As Vincent Taylor puts it: 'the saying leaves many points open, and in no way characterizes the need or condition of the 'many'. As a 'community product', the saying is much too discreet; as an utterance of Jesus, it has just that air of mystery, and the note of provocativeness, constantly found in His words' /73/. The ransom logion shows little sign of reflecting the developed theology of the atonement found elsewhere in the NT, but may well be seen as the fountainhead of later developments. (Page 2003; 153-154; words in [] added; a still-more detailed refutation of the typical objections to authenticity than what we provided above can be found in ibid.137-154)

Interestingly, the passage under discussion may not even be a reference to Isaiah 53 in the first place. Witherington argues that this passage actually parallels Isaiah 43:3-4 better than Isaiah 53 for the following reasons:

In Isaiah 43 we find (1) "kofer", the Hebrew word that probably stands behind "lutron" (the Aramaic would be "purkan"); (2) the SMS root that stands behind the use of "diakonein" ["serve"]; and (3) "tahat", which lies behind the use of "anti (pollon)". Strikingly, there is also a reference in Isaiah 43 to Yahweh giving "a man" for Israel322.

All of this is important in view of the fact that we have no evidence the early church used Isaiah 43 to reflect on Jesus. By contrast, the servant in the Septuagint of Isaiah 53 is called "ho pais mou", and the word used for service is "douleuein", not "diakonein". Likewise absent from this text in the Septuagint is "lutron". Thus, the case that our saying was created by Hellenistic Jewish Christians out of the Septuagint of Isaiah 53 is weak. I conclude that the objections to authenticity of this saying fail. (Witherington III 1990; 254; word in [] added)

Thus if Jesus was in this case referring to Isaiah 43, the criterion of dissimilarity would further boost the probable authenticity of the reference.

Another passage from the Old Testament that Jesus appeals to which indicates his belief in impending death is Zechariah 13:7:

"Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!" declares the LORD Almighty. "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones.

Jesus quotes this passage just after the setting of the Eucharist:

"You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." (Mark 14:27-28)

The second part of v. 27 (which contains the allusion to Zechariah) and v. 28 are commonly held to be redactional insertions. Joel Green lists the reasons for this: 1) There is a continuity observed between vss. 27a and 29 (so that it would read "You will all fall away," Jesus told them...Peter declared, "Even if all fall away, I will not."); 2) Peter's words in v. 29 make sense as a reference to 27a, but his response betrays no knowledge of the OT citation by Jesus or of his prediction of vindication in v. 28; 3) Since 14:28 corresponds very closely to Mark 16:8, this suggests that the 14:27b-14:28 tradition is "free-floating"; 4) There is a correspondence in syntax between 14:28 and 1:14, suggesting that Mark may have been the author (i.e. redactor) here rather than relying on pre-existing tradition (Green 1988; 247-248). To this list it could be added that Mark's use of the word egeiro for "risen" increases the probability that 14:27b-28 are the words of the evangelist himself. In the other four predictions of vindication preserved in Mark's Gospel (which are demonstrably very ancient-see Section VII), the word anistemi is utilized instead in reference to Jesus' rising from the dead.

In response to problem #s 1-2 cited above, Green quotes Cranfield in saying that "...it would be natural for [Peter] to be too taken up with the implied slur on his loyalty to pay much attention to anything else". Green also notes a similar prediction found in John 16:31-33:

"You believe at last!" Jesus answered. "But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

This prediction is found in a different context than the one in Mark 14:27b-28, since the former occurs after Jesus' predicts Peter's threefold denial, and the latter just prior to that. Yet they both occur within the context of Jesus' table-fellowship with the disciples the night prior to Jesus' death. The wording of the two predictions is also different, though they share in common the concept of the disciples being scattered. Thus that Jesus appealed to Zech. 13:7 is multiply-attested. Green argues that since both evangelists testify independently to Christ's general prediction of the "falling away" of the disciples, this indicates that we are working here with primitive tradition (ibid. 249). R. T. France adds that Jesus' quotation of Zech. 13:7 "agrees with many uses by Jesus of the shepherd motif from the OT, and also with his frequent use of Zc. 9-14 during the passion." (France 1992; 107, n. 28) [5]

That Jesus may have seen the significance of Zech. 9-14 in his ministry is corroborated by his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1ff and par.) where he clearly is deliberately fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

R. T. France further argues that Jesus may have made an allusion to Zechariah 12:12 in Matthew 24:30 (ibid. 106-107). Below are both of the relevant texts:

"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives." (Zechariah 12:10-14)

"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30)

An allusion here in Matt. 24:30 to Zech. 12 is not certain, however. This saying of Jesus though could be a conceptual conflation of Zech. 12:10-14, Daniel 7:13-14, and perhaps even Psalm 110:1 (compare Mark 14:61-62). If Jesus did have the former text in mind, however, this would be yet another indication that he expected to die, and that his death served as the fulfillment of the "pierced one" in Zech. 12:10-14.

So, while the precise historical placement of Jesus' citation of Zech. 13:7 cannot be ascertained due to redaction-critical considerations, the combination of this allusion being multiply attested, Jesus' other applications of material within the block of Zech. 9-14 to himself, and his frequent use of the shepherd-motif throughout his ministry makes the cumulative case that Jesus did apply to himself the reference in question probable.

So, in sum we have examined two possible allusions by Jesus to the Suffering Servant figure of Isaiah 53 [6], though the one found in Mark 10:45 may have Isaiah 43 in mind instead [7]. We have also examined an allusion Jesus made to Zech. 13:7, which would further support the historicity of his expectations to die in accordance with the Scriptures. At the end of the day, it is probable that Jesus saw in himself the Suffering Servant figure of Isaiah 53, the Smitten Shepherd of Zech. 13:7, and possibly the Pierced One of Zech. 12:10-14. If Jesus did indeed see himself fulfilling the role of Isaiah 53 in particular, then this means that he thought that it was his divinely-ordained mission to 1) suffer unjustly; 2) undergo an atoning, sacrificial death; and 3) be subsequently vindicated by God.

D. The Historical Circumstances of Jesus' Ministry

It is also prudent to point out that the circumstances that Jesus found himself in during his ministry, particularly as it progressed, likely would have forced him to strongly consider the possibility that he would have to face an imminent death and/or how this might fit in with his divinely-ordained mission. Joachim Jeremias summarizes the situation perfectly:

One thing may be taken as certain: the external course of his ministry must have compelled Jesus to reckon with the possibility of a violent death. The charge against him that he cast out demons with the help of Beelzebub (Matt. 12.24 par.) meant that he was thought to practice magic and to merit stoning [(5)-Sanh. 7:4]. The accusations that he blasphemed God (Mark 2.7), was a false prophet (Mark 14.65 par.)6 and a rebellious son (Matt. 11.19 par.; cf. Deut. 2.20f.), and that he deliberately broke the sabbath, all cite misdemeanours which were punishable by death [(7)-By stoning (Sanh. 7:4); only the false prophet is strangled (11:1)].

We have numerous illustrations that Jesus broke the sabbath [(8)- Mark 2.23-28 par.; 3.1-6 par.; Luke 13.10-17; 14.1-6; John 5:1-13; 9:1-41, cf. Luke 6.5 D]. The little complex of tradition in Mark 2.23-3.6, which gives two sabbath stories, the rubbing together of the ears of corn and the healing of the man with the withered hand in the synagogue, depicts a particularly vivid situation. It must be recognized that according to contemporary Jewish law a capital crime could only be brought to judgment if the perpetrator had demonstrably been warned before witnesses and if it had been made certain in this way that he had acted deliberately [(1)- Chief passages: Sanh. 5.1; 8.4; 12.8f. ( = Makk. 1.8f.) ; Tos. Sahn. 11:1-5; b. Sanh. 40b-41a; j. Sanh. 22c, 53ff.; Siphre Num. 113 on 15.33...]. The first of the two sabbath stories reports the giving of the warning to Jesus (Mark 2.24 ουκ εζεστιν, cf. John 5.10) and his explanation that he was breaking the sabbath as a matter of conviction (vv. 25-28). The next breach of the sabbath would therefore inevitably bring him into mortal danger, especially as it is said that he was kept under observation (3.2 παρετηρου&nu αυτον). In fact his death was resolved upon after the second breach of the sabbath (3.6). It cannot be objected against this conclusion that the Jews could not carry out death sentences passed by their courts because they did not have the ius gladii (John 18:31)2. This held only in the area under the jurisdiction of the Roman governor, i.e. for Judaea and Samaria, and not for Galilee. No one could prevent Herod Antipas from carrying out the death penalty in his own kingdom, as the beheading of John the Baptist makes clear. The warning 'Herod seeks to kill you' (Luke 13.31) was therefore to be taken quite seriously.

Above all, when Jesus decided to carry out the cleansing of the temple he must have been clear that he was risking his life; and that was in fact the occasion for the definitive official action against him3. The Fourth Gospel is quite right in applying Ps. 69.10 to the situation: 'Zeal for thy house will consume me'1 (John 2:17). So we can see that Jesus forfeited his life in many ways; he was constantly threatened; he must regularly have had the prospect of a violent death.

But it was not only the course of his ministry that must have compelled Jesus to reckon with a violent death; in addition there was something else: his view of salvation history. We saw in [chapter] 9 how he repeatedly presented himself as the last messenger of God, in the tradition of the prophets. His contemporaries were becoming more and more inclined to see the prophets as martyrs2; the time of Jesus was that of the great 'tomb renaissance', and everywhere in Palestine people were building memorials to the prophets and the other martyrs as expiation for their murder3. Jesus shared this view of history. He regarded martyrdom in Jerusalem as part of the prophetic office (Luke 13.33). Even more, he agreed with the wisdom saying which regarded salvation history as an unbroken chain of martyrdoms of the righteous and the messengers of God from Abel to Zechariah the son of Jehoiada (Matt. 23.35 par.). At the end of this chain stood the Baptist, with whose fate Jesus must have been particularly preoccupied, as he had been associated with him. Would Jesus, who believed himself to be the last of the prophets sent by God (see above, pp. 82-85), have expected a better fate for himself? (Jeremias 1971; 278-280) [8]

In addition to the impressive summary provided by Jeremias, we may add to consideration Jesus' saying in Mark 8:34 that his followers "must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it". If Jesus thought that his followers would be persecuted, even to the point of death, it is likely that he would have reckoned with the possibility of the same fate befalling him as well.


Our results for this section have yielded the following points: 1) Atonement-through suffering was a viable concept within the Judaism of Jesus' day; 2) It is quite possible that the idea of a suffering Messiah, with use of Isaiah 53 and possibly other texts, was alive in that time period; 3) A solid, cumulative case can be made that Jesus saw in himself the fulfillment of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, as well as the Smitten Shepherd of Zechariah 13:7, and possibly the "Pierced One" of Zech. 12:10-14; and 4) That Jesus saw himself and his mission in such light is corroborated by the fact that he often found himself in very precarious circumstances as the course of his ministry progressed, even to the point where his final journey to Jerusalem was practically inviting death to come along for the ride (see Section VIII-B below where it can be shown that even the disciples anticipated great peril in this final trip), further accentuating the probability that Jesus would have reflected on what was probably to become of him.

These observations are very important to keep in mind as we approach Jesus' more specific passion predictions, for it should at this point come as no surprise whatsoever for us to discover that he foretold his death, the atoning significance that it would have, and that he would subsequently be vindicated by God, now that we have established these several pieces of key background information. In light of all of this, we should in fact expect to find such predictions made by Jesus within the Gospel Tradition.

Section II: Gethsemane and the Cup

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch. "Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" (Mark 14:32-42)

When considering the Synoptic narratives that detail Jesus' and the three disciples' (Peter, James, and John) trip to Gethsemane the night of Jesus' arrest (Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46), it is evident that Jesus was anxiously anticipating an upcoming period of great distress [9].

Before considering historicity, we might want to consider briefly the nature and meaning of the "cup" that Jesus felt was his divinely-ordained function to drink. Given the Jewish background of Jesus and the importance that Scripture played in it, the best place to look for references in order to gain insight into what is meant by this "cup" would be the Old Testament itself. Bayer notes that there are 20 metaphorical references to "cup" in the OT, with 17 of these being maledictory in nature, and the other 3 being benedictory (Bayer 1986; 70-72). All 3 benedictory references are found in the Psalms:

The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips. LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. (Psalm 16:4-6)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:4-6)

How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:12-15)

While there are maledictory references to the "cup" in the Psalms as well (e.g. Ps 11:6; 75:8), Bayer states that all metaphorical references to the "cup" in the prophetic literature (in contrast to the Psalms) are maledictory in nature. Consider the following:

This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them." So I took the cup from the LORD's hand and made all the nations to whom he sent me drink it: Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a ruin and an object of horror and scorn and cursing, as they are today; Pharaoh king of Egypt, his attendants, his officials and all his people, and all the foreign people there; all the kings of Uz; all the kings of the Philistines (those of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the people left at Ashdod, Edom, Moab and Ammon; all the kings of Tyre and Sidon; the kings of the coastlands across the sea; Dedan, Tema, Buz and all who are in distant places; all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the foreign people who live in the desert; all the kings of Zimri, Elam and Media; and all the kings of the north, near and far, one after the other-all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. And after all of them, the king of Sheshach will drink it too. "Then tell them, 'This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Drink, get drunk and vomit, and fall to rise no more because of the sword I will send among you.' But if they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink, tell them, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: You must drink it! See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that bears my Name, and will you indeed go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I am calling down a sword upon all who live on the earth, declares the LORD Almighty.' (Jeremiah 25:15-30)

Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger. Of all the sons she bore there was none to guide her; of all the sons she reared there was none to take her by the hand. These double calamities have come upon you-who can comfort you?-ruin and destruction, famine and sword-who can console you? Your sons have fainted; they lie at the head of every street, like antelope caught in a net. They are filled with the wrath of the LORD and the rebuke of your God. Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine. This is what your Sovereign LORD says, your God, who defends his people: "See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, 'Fall prostrate that we may walk over you.' And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over." (Isaiah 51:17-23)

Bayer summarizes the concepts that can be gleaned from the OT metaphorical references to "cup":

Whereas the Psalms proclaim that judgment and exaltation befall the unrighteous and the righteous respectively, the prophets unanimously underline the fact that Jerusalem is not spared the cup of divine wrath158. A common element between the Psalmic and prophetic references to the cup lies in the fact that the cup of judgment does not necessarily imply final destruction or a violent death159. While some prophecies tend to imply that final destruction and death are inaugurated by the cup of wrath (cf especially Je 25:27.31.33)160, other prophecies identify the cup of judgment as a temporary calamity to be borne (cf especially Is 51:17.22)161. Thus the cup of divine judgment does not necessarily refer to an apocalyptic context162.

The maledictory metaphor of the cup in the OT refers thus generally to divine punishment which may include, and begin with, the chosen people of God163. (ibid. 72)

Given the physical and mental anguish that befell Jesus during his time at Gethsemane, as well as his asking his Father to remove the cup, it is safe to conclude that Jesus' reference to the "cup" that he was to drink was of a maledictory nature, one which implied divine judgment.

So, what can be said regarding the historicity of this pericope? First of all, when considering the Synoptic parallels to this event, we are likely dealing with multiple attestation. Bayer notes that Matthew and Luke share many features in common against Mark in their versions of the Gethsemane pericope. First, the prayer in Mark 14:35 is not found in the Matthean or Lukan versions. Second, while all three accounts use the same Greek word for "Father" (pater), unlike Mark, Matthew and Luke do not precede this with Abba, the Aramaic word for "Father". Third, Matthew and Luke each have "the common ει-clause regarding the cup". Fourth, the word Matthew and Luke use for "yet" (plen) is different from the word Mark uses (alla). Bayer elaborates on this point by stating "It is important to observe that besides Mt 26:39 par only Mt 11:22 par (Q) contains [plen] in a Matthew/Luke parallel. The possibility that [plen] in Mt 26:39 par hints at a separate source is increased by the fact that the adversative conjunction used by Mark (alla) is not uncommon in Matthew and Luke". Finally, regarding Jesus' comments about God's will being done, Matthew 26:42 and Luke 22:42 share in common the Greek words thelema and ginomai, corresponding to "will" and "done", respectively (though it should be noted that Matthew in 26:39 shares thelo, also for "will", in common with Mark 14:36). (Bayer 1986; 68)

A third source could possibly be reflected in a passage found in the epistle to the Hebrews:

Raymond Brown quotes Hebrews 5:7-10 and then comments on its independence from the Synoptic accounts:

[7] Who in the days of his flesh, having brought prayers and supplications, with a strong clamor and tears to the One having the power to save him from death, and having been heard from fear, [8] despite his being Son, learned obedience from the things that he suffered. [9] And having been made perfect, he became to all who obey him the cause of eternal salvation, [10] being designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

A study of the Greek vocabulary in this passage shows that the author of Hebrews did not make up the passage from wording that he found in any of the canonical Gospels, nor did any evangelist make up his PN [passion narrative] account of Jesus' prayer(s) from this passage. The words I have [emphasized] in the passage described key actions of Jesus or things done to him as he faced death; yet not one of them describes anything done by or to Jesus in the PN of any Gospel, or indeed (with the exception of "suffer") throughout the whole Gospel accounts of the ministry. (Note: a verb related to "tears" is used of Jesus in John 11:35; the verb "to suffer" [paschein] is used in the passion predictions [Mark 8:31; 9:12] and at the Last Supper [Luke 22:15].) (R. Brown 1994; 227-228; emphasis the original; words in [] added)

Brown lists a number of similarities between the passage in Hebrews and the Gethsemane pericope as it is contained in the Gospels (ibid. 231), though he lists a number of differences as well:

Hebrews speaks of a "strong clamor" to God, and this does not occur in the Gethsemane prayer. In Hebrews Jesus' prayer to be saved from death is heard, presumably in the sense that he emerges from death victoriously; that does not apply readily to the Gethsemane prayer despite Omark's attempt ("Saving" 43-49) to argue that Luke's strengthening angel can be interpreted as a savior from death. The answer to the prayer about the hour or cup in all four Gospels confirms that Jesus must face death; the issue of whether or not he will be annihilated by death does not come to the fore. Moreover, at this stage in the passion Jesus has not really learned obedience through the things he has suffered, even if in Mark/Matt he is in the process of doing so. (ibid. 232; emphasis the original)

Brown argues for the plausibility that the passage in Hebrews has as its source an early Christian hymn (similar to what we find in Phil. 2:6-11) which was constructed from reflection on a number of texts in the Psalms (Brown points out especially Ps 116, but also Ps 22:24; 31:23; 39:13) while having in mind the prayers of Jesus not only in Gethsemane but also on the cross (see ibid. 227-233). Bayer points out a few linguistic peculiarities suggestive of a separate source underlying the Hebrews passage as well, which probably contains some post-Easter reflections (Bayer 1986; 69) [10].

Another reference to the "cup" worth mentioning is found in John 18:11, where Jesus asks the rhetorical question in response to Peter's drawing of the sword at the time of Jesus' arrest, "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?". John does not contain the Gethsemane pericope, yet here he demonstrates knowledge of Jesus' use of the "cup" as a maledictory metaphor. This could give us yet a fourth independent witness to Jesus' understanding that he must endure a certain measure of divine wrath.

In sum, the Synoptic narratives likely betray the usage of two separate sources for the Gethsemane pericope. Additionally, a third source (perhaps an early Christian hymn reflecting on the Gethsemane event) is probably reflected in the epistle to the Hebrews, while a fourth source from John 18:11 gives us yet another glimpse of Jesus' belief that he must drink the "cup of divine wrath". If the postulation that there was an early Christian hymn is correct, and that it was constructed through reflection not only on the knowledge of Jesus' actual prayers during his passion, but also through the adoption of motifs found in the Psalms, it is likely that this source is later than the traditions underlying the Gethsemane narratives themselves. While the former contains some post-Easter reflections (such as the allusion to Jesus being saved from death), there is no obvious implication of this found in the latter. The absence of OT motifs (other than perhaps Jesus' vague reference to the will of the Father being accomplished) in the Gethsemane narratives (as opposed to the hymn) supports this assertion. This also amplifies the possibility that the traditions of Gethsemane in the Synoptics are very old.

Besides multiple attestation, and the likely antiquity of the traditions, we can appeal to at least two factors which lend further support to the historicity of the core narrative based on the "criterion of embarrassment". First, it is unlikely that the early church would fabricate the story of the disciples' falling asleep and thus failing to keep watch as Jesus had instructed them, particularly during one of his most agonizing moments. This would obviously not reflect well upon three of the most important key pillars of the early church. Perhaps the strongest indicator of historicity in this narrative, however, is the mental and physical anguish that Jesus underwent as "the hour" approached. It is especially unfeasible to assert that Jesus' prayers for the circumvention of the events of his impending passion would have been invented by the early church, since it was these very events that served as most of its core theology (i.e. the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus). Raymond Brown contrasts this episode in the life of Jesus with contemporary accounts of Jewish martyrs, such as the Maccabean martyrs and Eleazar (II Macc 6:19-20, 28), along with some examples recorded by Josephus (War 1:33.3; #653; 2.8.10; #153; 7.10.1; #417-18), which indicate that they went to their deaths without reluctance (R. Brown 1994; 217-218). Brown also writes that this episode served as a target of derision to a prominent ancient pagan critic of Christianity:

We have an ancient example of the treatment of Gethsemane as a mark against Jesus in Celsus, a learned pagan of ca. AD 170 who had Jewish sources and whose work against Christianity was refuted by Origen. We hear objections like these: How can one who is divine "mourn and lament and pray to escape the fear of death, expresing himself thus, 'O Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me'?" (Contra Celsum 2.24). How can he "be deserted and delivered up by those who had beeen his associates and with whom he had shared all things in common?" (2.9). Why was he caught hiding; and if he foresaw that such things would happen to him, why did he not avoid them? (2.9,17). (ibid. 218)

The last of the objections by Celsus is a simple one to answer, and that is that Jesus also saw it as his divinely-ordained mission to suffer an atoning death, and be subsequently vindicated (as we argue in other sections of this article). Nevertheless, the objections of Celsus emphatically demonstrate the Christological difficulties that this episode poses, as well as the weakness of the disciples. The historicity of this episode in the life of the historical Jesus thus rests upon an unshakeable foundation (for the problem of how the disciples could have heard Jesus' prayer see here).

From this passage we learn that Jesus anticipated undergoing, as part of his mission, a measure of divine wrath. We have seen from Old Testament references that the "cup" of divine wrath, while sometimes implying total destruction, at other times indicates that the "cup" could be removed or transferred (as in the case of Isaiah 51:17-23). From this narrative alone, it is difficult to determine which Jesus had in mind here, though Bayer states "The very fact that Jesus addresses God as his Father (Mk 14:36) suggests that while he is judged as the unrighteous, he is vindicated as the righteous one (cf Ps 11.6.7)." (Bayer 1986; 77) The fact that Jesus elsewhere refers to his own vindication (as we establish in other sections of this article) also supports the view of transference. It is probable that, in light of Jesus' belief in the atoning significance of his death (see Section IV), he saw his death as opening the way of salvation for many, while in light of his pronouncements of judgment against Jerusalem (see esp. Mark 13 and par.), the transference of divine judgment from him would be unleashed on those responsible for rejecting the Son of God. This is, of course, similar to Isaiah 51:17-23, where divine judgment falls on God's chosen people at the hands of foreign powers, but finally this "cup" is transferred to those foreign powers.

Section III: The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

"Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." (Matthew 21:33-43)

The "Parable of the Wicked Tenants" is found in each of the three Synoptic Gospels as well as in the Gospel of Thomas. While there are some differences among the various versions [11], the core of each version is essentially the same, with a landowner planting a vineyard, renting it to farmers, sending a parade of servants to collect the harvest, which are beaten or killed by the farmers, and finally sending his son who is also killed by the farmers. Each of the Synoptic evangelists also place Jesus' telling of this parable to the questioning Jewish authorities shortly after Jesus' cleansing of the Temple. Our primary concern here is to evaluate the historicity of Jesus' telling of this parable. Those wishing to take an in-depth look at this parable regarding such issues as the parable's cultural setting, which version of the four found in the Synoptics and Thomas likely is the most primitive, and how all of the various elements are to be properly interpreted should consult "The Parable of the Wicked Tenants" by Klyne Snodgrass. For our purposes, we will only refer to Snodgrass's evaluation of historicity.

Historically, perhaps the most widely argued obstacle to the authenticity of this parable is the claim that this parable falls more into the category of "allegory" rather than "parable" due to the various metaphorical associations contained therein, such as that of the vineyard owner, the vineyard itself, and the servants. It has been argued by previous scholars that allegorizing was a common tendency of the post-Easter church whereas it was not a common practice utilized by the historical Jesus. Snodgrass writes:

Jülicher combated this perversion by denying that Jesus used allegory or even allegorical traits. Where these are found, the evangelists are to blame. According to Jülicher, the parables are simple and straightforward comparisons that do not require interpretation. There can be no question of several points of comparison between the imagery and the idea, for parables illustrate only a single point of contact between the two. Allegory, in contrast to the authentic speech of the parable, is inauthentic speech in that it means other than the actual meaning of the words. The allegory is an artificial figure, and for this reason it is unlikely that Jesus used it. (Snodgrass 1983; 14)

In response, Snodgrass demonstrates that the line drawn by Jülicher between "parable" and "allegory" is too artificial, and that it ignores the evidence that this parable of Jesus took on the same form as those parables found in the Old Testament (e.g. Isaiah 5; II Samuel 12,1f.) as well as in rabbinic parables. Snodgrass even lists two rabbinic parables that are similar to the "Parable of the Wicked Tenants":

1. This is to be compared to a king who had a field and he gave it to tenants. The tenants began stealing it. He (the king) took it from them and gave it to their sons. They turned out to be worse than their predecessors. He took it from their sons and gave it to their grandchildren. They, in turn, were worse than their antecedents. A son was born to him (the king). He said to them (the tenants), 'Go forth from the midst of that which belongs to me. It is not my wish that you be in its midst. Give me my portion that I may make it known as my own.' (SDt. 32, 9 § 312 (134b)) [Cited from Snodgrass 1983; 25]

2. Like a king who had a small son; also he had a possession. The king wished to move to a foreign land. He spoke to a tenant; he should guard the possession and enjoy its produce until his son should wish it to be delivered to him. When the son of the king was grown, he claimed the possession. Immediately the tenant began to cry woe! Even so when the Israelites lived in Egypt, the Canaanites lived in the land of Israel and guarded it and ate its fruit; but when they heard that the Israelites had come out of Egypt, they began to cry woe! (Tanch B nuic 7 (29a), S-B, I, 874f.) [Cited from ibid. 25-26]

Consider also the following comments from Philip Barton Payne:

Jülicher's definition of parable came straight from Aristotle, allowing only one point to a picture; but it must be considered improbable that Jesus formed His parables after Aristotle's rules. Even in classical writing the precise distinctions of Aristotle's rhetoric were by no means always followed. Quintilian said that allegory was popular and understood by even simple people (Instit. Orat. VIII,1,51) and the most beautiful genre of discourse is that which mixed the qualities of similitude, allegory, and metaphor (Instit. Orat. VIII,6,48-49). In fact, Jülicher contradicted his own sharp dichotomy between authentic parable and inauthentic allegory by an example he cited, the allegory of Ebrard, Cheirisophos' Reise durch Böoten. It is interesting both for the one who takes it as a literal description of Boetia in the year 400 B.C. and the one who recognizes it as a commentary on Bavaria /23/…

The rabbis made no distinction in category between comparison, common saying, parable, allegory, riddle, and mixed form /25/…

…It became more and more recognized that there were various degrees of allegory and that a mixing of parable and allegory was entirely appropriate in the Semitic world /29/. A growing number of scholars have affirmed that Jesus did use allegory /30/. (Payne 2003; 335-336)

Payne goes on further to argue that, contrary to the arguments of many, the Gospel evidence indicates that Jesus did in fact utilize allegorical elements in his parables:

In fact, the evidence from the gospels supports the view that Jesus used allegorical elements in His parables freely and that allegorical features in the gospels should not be held in automatic suspicion. The highest degree of allegory is found, not in the latest gospels to be written, as one would expect if the church had gradually allegorized the parables, but rather in the earliest gospels, Mark and Matthew. Luke has far fewer allegorical elements and the Gospel of Thomas the least of all. The earliest evidence we have shows the parables to contain various degrees of allegorical elements. Even Jeremias, who is of the opinion that 'the allegorical interpretations can be recognized as almost certainly secondary' /37/, has to admit the 'strange result: the discourse-material in Matthew and Luke, the Markan material, the special Matthean material, the gospel as we have it in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all contain allegorical interpretations, but the Lucan special material and the Gospel of Thomas have none' /38/. (ibid. 2003; 337)

As far as the "Parable of the Wicked Tenants" is concerned, Bayer argues further that the allegorical features contained therein are detectable in the parable's most primitive form (see Bayer 1986; 93-95). We'll consider the one particular ("allegorical") reference that is of most acute concern for us here. Bayer writes in regards to this:

Regarding 1): Steck, among other scholars, has argued that the reference to the '(beloved) son' may reflect a Hellenistic Son of God Christology21. Based on Dodd's argumentation22, Hengel argues, however, that the reference to the '(beloved) son' (Mk 12:6)23 may very well reflect earlier tradition since the introduction of the 'son' in the parable follows naturally after the repeated sending of the servants24. Furthermore, Snodgrass has rightly stressed that 1 QSa 2:11-22 and 4 QFlor illustrate the fact that 'Son of God' was interpreted Messianically in pre-Christian Judaism25. (Bayer 1986; 94; for more on the title 'Son of God' in regards to pre-Christian Jewish Messianic expectation, see Collins 1995; 154-172)

It is likely that OT passages such as 2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2 contributed to the attribution of this title to the Messiah in Jewish circles. Moreover, it is historically likely and accepted by most scholars that Jesus understood himself to be God's "son" in some special sense of the term. This issue is beyond the scope of this article, so we can only give a couple of examples in cursory-fashion. That Jesus understood himself as the "Son of God" in some sense is supported by noting, for instance, that the saying of Jesus in Mark 13:32 (where Jesus identifies himself as the "Son") is widely accepted to be authentic since it is unlikely that the church would have invented a saying about Jesus' not knowing the time of the parousia. Another passage where Jesus refers to his unique Sonship is found in Matthew 11:27:

"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

Witherington notes that this is part of Jesus' use of the Jewish Wisdom Tradition as it parallels the following statement found in Wisdom 2:13-16:

He claims to have a knowledge of God, and calls himself a son of the Lord…and boasts of having God for his father"

Given the very Jewish nature of the Wisdom Tradition, as well as the solid body of evidence that exists which supports the assertion that Jesus saw himself in this light (see the above link), the saying in Matt. 11:27 (par. Luke 10:22) has a solid claim to authenticity (Witherington 1990; 222-223; see the whole discussion in ibid. 221-228 for a more in-depth treatment).

In addition to these considerations, the "Parable of the Wicked Tenants" itself, as well as the historical context in which it was stated, lends credibility to the fact that Jesus was referring to himself as the "Son" in the parable. Given that the surrounding historical narratives, such as the episodes of Gethsemane and the Last Supper, where Jesus was anticipating his death, as well as the fact that Jesus understood himself to be preaching an important message of eschatological judgment to his countrymen (which fits well as a parallel with the nature and purpose of the parable), it is most plausible to suggest that Jesus was here again referring to his own impending death at the hands of the Jewish authorities.

Thus the objection to the authenticity of this parable on the basis of allegory is unfounded (See Snodgrass 1983; 13-26 for further discussion on this topic). As for positive indicators of historicity of the core tradition of the parable, Snodgrass lists the following:

1) In the New Testament the method of teaching in parables is confined to the earthly Jesus. The early Church dropped the parabolic form and spoke openly and propositionally.

2) This parable is hardly the work of a group. While there have been later additions, the basic form of the parable stems from an expert in parable construction. Indeed, it is one of the most artistic of the parables with its reversal and the force with which it makes its point. In the context of Jesus' life, the parable is as forceful and powerful as any. Placed, however, in the later context of the early Church after the events of the cross and resurrection, it is rather limp and without force. The speech of Peter in Acts 4, 10-12 reveals how the church used Psalm 118.22 with force.

3) The introductory formula to the quotation uses ανεγνωτε which occurs only on the lips of Jesus.

4) The images of the son and judgment, particularly in the Matthean account, are too imprecise to be vaticinia ex eventu. Even with the citation of Psalm 118.22, there is nothing on the significance of the death of Jesus and the all important reference to the resurrection is missing. If this were an early Church product, some reference to both would have been included.

5) The slant of the parable against the Jewish leaders rather than the nation as a whole (or the unbelieving element) is more in keeping with Jesus' message than that of the Church.

6) Most important is that the message of the parable, the wordplay, and the place of Psalm 118.22 in the passion predictions and the lament over Jerusalem and its connections with the title 'Son of Man' are much too complex and subtle to be accidental or the work of a 'creative community.' One would have to assume a rather deliberate and highly sophisticated endeavor to accept that these nuances are the work of the community. (Snodgrass 1983; 108-109)

N.T. Wright lists his reasons for accepting the parable as an authentic parable of Jesus, containing some overlap with Snodgrass, as follows:

As with so much of this material, it is open to anyone to object that the parable has been written up ex post facto, and that Jesus could not have told a story about himself, even cryptically, which ended this way. I reply (1) that this begs the question; (2) that the story fits so well with so many strands of Jesus' work and prophetic self-understanding that it is hardly straining historical credibility to ascribe it to him; (3) that the death of the son is not an addition, bolted on to the story from the outside, but belongs at its very climax; (4) that what may be the earliest version, that of Mark, does not have the son being first cast out of the vineyard and then killed (as Matthew does, reflecting perhaps later Christian awareness of Jesus being taken out of the city and then crucified), but rather the reverse, which can hardly be regarded as a Christian retrojection; and (5) that the parable is remarkably free of any later Christian atonement-theology, focusing instead on the close connection between the death of the son and the destruction of the vineyard. I conclude that the prophetic narrative symbolism of this parable belongs to Jesus' awareness that his challenge to the Temple would result in his own death, as the guardians of Israel's traditions refused to respond to the message which he (of course) believed was from YHWH himself. (Wright 1996; 566)

So what can we say about the authenticity of the appendix to the parable where Psalm118:22 is quoted (besides what is listed in the summary of Snodgrass we provided above)? While the authenticity of the parable itself is widely regarded (even in some highly liberal circles like the Jesus Seminar), historically the appendix has been widely disregarded as a secondary addition, resulting from the church's desire to add a reference to Jesus' vindication from death. Bayer disagrees, however:

We must stress, however, that there exists no source or tradition which omits the citation of Ps 118:22 or places the citation other than directly following the parable. Nothing speaks against the pre-Markan provenance of Mk 12:10(f?) since according to Acts 4:9-11, Ps 118:22 was known and used Messianically in the early Palestinian Jewish Christian church…Furthermore, a comparison between Mk 12:1-10 and Acts 4:8-11 reveals that Ps 118:22 is cited in Acts 4:11 as a direct and overt identification of the Jewish leaders as the 'builders' of Ps 118:22 (note the addition of υμων in the citation of Ps 118:22 in Acts 4:11). In Mk 12:10, however, the subtle hint lies in the correlation between the tenants of the parable and the builders in Ps 118:22. Mk 12:10 exhibits therefore an enigmatic, suggestive use of Ps 118:22, whereas Acts 4:11 employs Ps 118:22 in explicit terms. (Bayer 1986; 100-104; emphasis added)

There is also a Semitic wordplay, or paronomasia, found between the word "stone" in the Psalm 118:22 quote and the word "son" in the actual parable. N. T. Wright elaborates:

In case it may be thought that the interpretative thread has now been stretched beyond breaking point, we may note finally that the 'stone' is in fact also closely linked with the 'son' of the parable. The Aramaic for 'stone' in Daniel 2 is 'eben' (the word is the same in Hebrew); the normal Hebrew for 'son', as for instance in 2 Samuel 7, is 'ben'. It did not take much skill in biblical interpretation for the pun to be observed and exploited. (Wright 1996; 501)

Such a connection also apparently has precedent in the inter-testamental literature:

Cf. 4 Ezra 13.36f., 52: the 'mountain carved out without hands' is a clear reference to Dan. 2.34, and is immediately linked with the Messiah, described as 'my Son', and referred to in terms of Ps. 2. The son/stone pun is presumably one explanation for the various messianic interpretations of Daniel's 'stone' in the rabbis (above, n.83). The oblique reference to Dan. 2, seen in the light of the subsequent Danielic references in Mk 13.25 par., 14.62., seems to belong with the messianic reading of the 'son of man' in Dan. 7,…(ibid. 501, n. 85; for a more technical discussion on this issue see Snodgrass 1983; 113-118)

Bayer states that such wordplays are also attested in the OT in such places as Exodus 28:9f, Joshua 4:6ff.20f, I Kings 18:31, Lamentations 4:1f, Isaiah 54:11ff, and Zechariah 9:16 (Bayer 1986; 105). He also adds 5 further arguments which support the authenticity of this quotation at the end of the parable:

To these two significant factors, we add the following observations in support of our argument: 1) The Semitic, introductory phrase 'can it be that you have never read this text' appears to be a typical way in which Jesus refers to the OT (cf Mk 2:25, 12:26.35). 2) Parts of Ps 118 were most likely recited by Jesus subsequent to the Last Supper (Mk 14:26). This probability together with the Messianic interpretation of Ps 118:22 in Rabbinic traditions supports an early provenance of the citation following the parable. 3) We submit below that Mk 8:31 conveys the concept of the rejection by the Jewish rulers in a pre-Markan tradition which includes, but is not limited to, an allusion to Ps 118:22. Based on our arguments in Chapter VI, Mk 8:31 may be an early Palestinian Jewish Christian tradition which is independent from - yet parallel to - the reference to Jesus' rejection by the Jewish rulers in Mk 12:10. 4) Gundry submits that it is not uncommon to find the metaphors of farming and building side by side [Bayer here references Gundry, Matthew, 429, where the latter refers to Je 1:10; 1 QS 8, 5; 1 Cor 3:9; Col 2:7]. 5) Pedersen argues that the legitimizations of divine messengers in the first and second century AD exhibit the common element of referring to the OT to justify their mission.

In light of this cumulative evidence we conclude that Ps 118:22 in Mk 12:10 is an authentic polemical explanation which identifies the wicked husbandmen ('tenants') as the rulers of Jerusalem. (ibid. 105-106; words in [] added)

Wright states that this psalm was "clearly designed to be sung by pilgrims going to the Temple", and at verses 19-27 "it is all about building the Temple, celebrating in the Temple, and ultimately sacrificing in the Temple." (Wright 1996; 498) This saying of Jesus would thus fit in well with the historical context of the Temple-cleansing occurring at no less a significant time as that of a major festival (i.e. Passover). Wright further notes:

We should not forget, either, that processing into Jerusalem singing songs of praise was as much a 'political' as a 'religious' act. It was what the Maccabees had done after their victories, and their example was followed by those who won the remarkable early victory against the Romans in AD 6673. (ibid. 498-499)

To all of the above arguments it may be added that, if it was the post-Easter church's intent to falsely attribute to Jesus a declaration of his impending resurrection, they didn't do a very good job of it. While the quotation of Psalm 118:22 seems to clearly hint at vindication, such is only implicit. Furthermore, the nature of this upcoming vindication cannot at all be deciphered from the mere reference to the Psalm by itself. We'd expect a post-Easter invention to be much more explicit than this. N. T. Wright concludes regarding the matter:

The complex riddle comes full circle. The prophetic story of the rejected servants climaxes in the rejected son; he, however, is the messianic stone which, rejected by the builders, takes the chief place in the building. Those who oppose him will find their regime (and their Temple) destroyed, while his kingdom will be established. The psalm text indicates, cryptically, what will later become clear: when the owner of the vineyard acts against the wicked tenants, the son will be vindicated. The whole picture serves as a further, and richer, explanation of what Jesus had been doing in the Temple, and why. I submit that such an essentially elegant and yet richly textured explanation is far more likely to go back to Jesus - who, after all, had long planned and meditated his climactic symbolic action - than to any subsequent writer or thinker86.

[86] Indeed, had a subsequent writer been inclined to 'touch up' the parable, we might well have expected that, among other things, the 'son' would be vindicated more explicitly. (ibid. 501)

So, from this parable we discover that Jesus believed that, along with a host of previous prophets that had come before him, he would be killed by the Jews (i.e. tenants), and that he believed himself to be the final and most important of all of these prophets. Moreover, from the appendix to the parable where Psalm 118:22 is quoted, we can conclude that Jesus expected some sort of vindication which entailed him becoming a very prominent figure in God's eschatological plan [12].

Section IV: The Eucharist

Another significant episode in the life of Jesus, occurring on the eve of the crucifixion, is the Last Supper, or Eucharist. Here are the four New Testament sources:

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me-one who is eating with me." They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely not I?" "It is one of the Twelve," he replied, "one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God." (Mark 14:17-25)

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me." They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?" Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you." While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:26-29)

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him." They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this. (Luke 22:14-23)

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. (I Corinthians 11:23-27)

The tradition of the Last Supper enjoys a high degree of probable historicity. The account almost universally accepted by scholars to be the earliest written rendition of the Last Supper comes from I Corinthians 11, written about 55-56 A.D. Furthermore, since Paul in this letter states that he had already delivered this tradition to the Corinthians, and that he is addressing the abuse of this sacrament that some are apparently applying to it in Corinth, we know that the tradition must be even older than that. Since Paul had visited Peter and James in Jerusalem about 3 years after his conversion (see Galatians 1:13-18), it is likely that he would have received the tradition there. The Corinthians also had previous (and perhaps ongoing) contact with other apostles such as Peter (i.e. Cephas) and Apollos (see I Cor. 1:12), so they would have experienced with them first-hand confirmation of the observance of the Lord's Supper as we find it expounded by Paul. There is further evidence that Paul was passing along a pre-established tradition in I Cor. 11. First, his use in I Cor. 11:23 of the terms "receiving" and "delivering" (as in I Cor. 15:3), is common when referring to the passing along of tradition. Also, in this account of the Last Supper the reference to the "body" refers to the actual body of the earthly Jesus, whereas "the body of Christ" elsewhere in Paul's writings refers to the Christian community (e.g. Romans 7:4; I Cor. 11:15f; Col. 1:22). Besides the above observations, Joachim Jeremias lists several idioms in Paul's account of the Lord's Supper that are otherwise foreign to Paul, indicating further that Paul was passing along pre-established tradition (Jeremias 1966; 103-104). Thus, from the Pauline evidence we can establish with reasonable certainty that the Lord's Supper tradition is very old, stretching back to the earliest days of the church, and likely originating with Jesus himself on the night that he was betrayed (I Cor. 11:23) [13].

The likely early origin of the tradition is also confirmed by certain characteristics of the Markan version of the Lord's Supper. In fact, Rudolph Pesch goes as far as to state that Mark 14:12-26 is the oldest tradition of the early church! Pesch is well known for his work on the pre-Markan passion narrative, which he argues to have been composed no later than 37 A.D. Here is what he says regarding the Lord's Supper tradition as it appears in Mark:

Mark 14:22-26 presupposes that the hearer/reader has the following information already at his or her disposal:

1. That Jesus was staying with his disciples in Bethany (14:3), in the vicinity of Jerusalem (11:1);

2. that this stay occurred at the time of the Passover (14:1);

3. that the Passover meal had to be observed in Jerusalem ("the city"' 14:13c, 16b) in the evening, as the Passover lamb had to be killed "before it is evening" (Jub. 49:1);

4. that, in keeping with prescribed custom, Jesus wanted to spend the Passover night on the Mount of Olives (14:26) within the city limits, which on this night includes the Mount of Olives;

5. that "Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve" (vv. 10, 20b) sought to betray him and in fact did betray him (v. 43);

6. that, coming from Bethany, one could encounter a water carrier at the Gihon- spring;

7. that the Passover meal consisted of a preliminary course and a main meal and that bread was eaten only during the latter (vv. 18, 22);

8. that the Passover was concluded with the singing of the hallel-psalms (v. 26); and

9. that with a view to the danger which threatened Jesus (11:18; 12:12; 14:1f., 10f.) it was well advised to keep the place of the Passover a secret.

As a rule, such an accumulation of concrete givens does not make for traditions which are independent, late, or removed from the place where the relevant events occurred. For a scholar not to reckon with the probable provenance of such a tradition from the primary circle of tridents in Jerusalem (cf. above, the first page of the present essay) and its responsibly supervised (as well as interpreted) transmissions, would be biased-in the final analysis, unscholarly-and unwarranted sceptisism which cannot do justice to the responsibility of the historian and the theologian and to the witnesses of tradition. (Pesch 1991; 147-148)

Maurice Casey, in his study of the Aramaic traditions underlying Mark's Gospel, supports the conclusion of Pesch:

It gives a literally accurate but abbreviated account of the original event, and shows no serious signs of rewriting in the interests of the early church in general, or the community to which Mark belonged.

The following conclusions may therefore be suggested. It is possible to produce an Aramaic substratum of Mark 14.12-26, such that normal translators using conventional methds might produce the Greek text of Mark. When conventional Jewish assumptions are applied to this source, it makes excellent sense as an historical account of extracts from Jesus' final Passover with his disciples. This includes a coherent interpretation of Jesus' death which is necessary to understand his actions during the final days of his life. Indeed, the point of the account is to explain how and why Jesus died, and a fuller picture of the meal could be reconstructed by anyone who knew what normally happened at a Passover meal, knowledge assumed by the author of this account. It does not, however, include two main points that would be required if we were to regard it as in any serious sense a product of the early church. There is no mention of the effect of Jesus' death on Gentiles, and no mention of any institution of the Eucharist. Nor is there any significant smaller indication of secondary development. We must infer that the proposed Aramaic source is genuine and reliable. (Casey 1998; 250; see ibid. 219-252 for the full discussion)

In addition, it is likely that we are dealing with multiple attestation of this tradition, as many scholars argue that the version used by Mark and Matthew is independent of that utilized by Paul and Luke [14]. The primary reason that stands out is the difference in the order of the elements which comprise the Lord's Supper narrative (as well as the proceeding Passion Narrative) in Luke vs. that of Mark. Joachim Jeremias writes in regard to this:

…whenever Luke follows the Markan narrative in his own gospel he follows painstakingly the Markan order, pericope for pericope. Up to the passion narrative there are only two insignificant deviations: Luke 6.17-19; 8.19-212. But in these two small sections it is not the case that Luke has changed the Markan order but rather that he had introduced two things from a section of Mark which he otherwise omits, Mark 3.7-35, at what seemed to him to be appropriate places3. Luke was therefore, in contrast to Matthew, an enemy of rearrangement. Deviations in the order of the material must therefore be regarded as indications that Luke is not following Mark. Now, in the Lukan account of the Last Supper there are to be found a great many such deviations from the order of Mark: the 'eschatological prospect' is placed before the words of institution (22.15-18), the announcement of the betrayal (incidentally, correctly4) follows them (vv. 21-23); the lament over the traitor (v. 22) precedes the speculations of the disciples (v. 23); the prophecy of the denial (vv. 33f.) comes before the departure to Gethsemane. These deviations in the order of the material show that the Lukan narrative from 22.14 onwards is no longer built upon a Markan basis but comes from "Urlukas"; only the preceding account of the preparation of the room (vv. 7-13) still belongs to the fourth block of Markan material1. We have therefore in Luke 22.14ff. an independent passion narrative which can be set beside Mark/Matthew and John. (Jeremias 1966; 98-99; see also Taylor 1972; 122-125 for fuller discussion)

There exists, however, a textual issue over the Lukan version, as some have argued that Luke 22:19b-20 is a later interpolation and not part of what the evangelist originally had recorded. The fact that the disputed text contains the crucial atonement theology associated with the Last Supper makes the question of whether or not Luke 22:19b-20 is original important. In favor of the shorter text Metzger lists the following factors: 1) A general tenet of textual criticism is that the shorter reading is to be preferred; 2) The words in the disputed text are very similar to Paul's words in I Cor. 11.24b-25, which suggests that I Corinthians may have served as the source for a later interpolation into the Lukan text; and 3) The disputed text is characterized by several "non-Lukan" linguistic features (Metzger 1994; 150).

The evidence in favor of the longer text, however, appears to be very strong. First, the external evidence vastly favors it. Metzger writes, "the longer, or traditional, text of cup-bread-cup is read by all Greek manuscripts except D and by most of the ancient versions and Fathers;" and "The external evidence supporting the shorter reading represents only part of the Western type of text, whereas the other representatives of the Western text join with witnesses belonging to all the other ancient text-types in support of the longer reading." (ibid. 148) Second, Metzger points out that it is more likely that a Bezan editor would eliminate the repetition characterizing Luke's version of "cup-bread-cup", despite the inverted order of "bread-cup" that would remain, than that a later editor would try to correct an inverted order by bringing in from Paul the second mention of the cup while keeping the first mention in the text (thus introducing the repetition in the first place). Finally, Metzger notes that the shorter version "can be accounted for in terms of the theory of disciplina arcana, i.e. in order to protect the Eucharist from profanation, one or more copies of the Gospel according to Luke, prepared for circulation among non-Christian readers, omitted the sacramental formula after the beginning words." (ibid. 149-150).

Metzger concludes on the matter regarding the opinions of the textual committee:

A minority preferred the short text as a Western non-interpolation…The majority, on the other hand, impressed by the overwhelming preponderance of external evidence supporting the longer form, explained the origin of the shorter form as due to some scribal accident or misunderstanding. The similarity between verses 19b-20 and I Cor 11.24b-25 arises from the familiarity of the evangelist with the liturgical practice among Pauline churches, a circumstance that accounts also for the presence of non-Lukan expressions in verses 19b-20. (ibid. 150)

Prominent textual critics Kurt and Barbara Aland concur:

Most (though not yet all) of the exegetes under the influence of nineteenth-century theories have yielded to the overwhelming evidence attesting the originality of Luke 22:19b-20 in the Gospel text, recognizing that for the presentation and perspective of the gospel of Luke it is not the "shorter," but the "longer" account of the Last Supper that is authentic. (K. and B. Aland 1995; 311; emphasis the original) [15]

In addition to the above factors, Jeremias states that "It is astonishing in the few lines which the eucharistic words occupy we come upon not less than three peculiarities which present the most distinctive characteristics of Jesus' manner of speaking." (Jeremias 1966; 201). Jeremias' lists the following: 1) The Greek for "I tell you the truth" (αμην λεγω υμιν) in Mark 14:25 "is a completely new idiom of Jesus, which is without parallel in the entire Jewish literature and in the New Testament outside the gospels"; 2) Regarding "[until] it finds fulfillment" (πληρωθη) in Luke 22:16: "The use of the passive for the reverent circumlocution of the activity of God…is met only very seldom in rabbinic literature. Dalman, in 1898, adduced only a single example,2 to which Billerbeck, in 1922, added 53, and Dalman himself in 1930 added a further example4. Even if the material is not exhausted5, nevertheless, the rabbinic examples are extremely sparse. The frequency of the passive for the circumlocution of the name of God, which is found in the words of Jesus in all five lines of tradition represented in the gospels (Mark, Sayings tradition, Matthaean special material, Lukan special material and John), is completely without parallel and therefore is to be taken as an indication of his own manner of speaking."; and 3) "The predilection for similitudes, comparisons and parabolic expressions which is presupposed in the words of interpretation is likewise an express peculiarity of Jesus."6 (Jeremias 1966; 201-202)


The tradition of the Eucharist and the characteristic sayings of Jesus associated with it are to be dated very early. Pesch and Casey demonstrate the probability that the tradition as it is found in Mark is traceable to the earliest stages of the church. That the Lord's Supper tradition in general is very early is confirmed by the evidence that comes from I Cor. 11:23-26. This version of the event contains non-Pauline characteristics as well as indicators that Paul was passing along older tradition, which he would have in all likelihood received when he visited Peter and James in Jerusalem a few years after his conversion. From this alone the tradition can safely be traced back to Peter, who would have been present at the Last Supper on the eve of the crucifixion. Furthermore, this tradition is multiply attested, as literary observations strongly suggest the independence of the Markan and Lukan accounts. Finally, Jeremias has shown that there are several characteristics of Jesus' speech in these accounts that are without significant parallel elsewhere, further pointing to authenticity.

From this account we can conclude that Jesus not only foresaw his impending death, but attached to it great eschatological significance, as his blood would be "poured out for many", indicating that he saw in his upcoming death some kind of atoning significance. We also notice that Jesus expected some sort of vindication, as he believes that he will "drink it anew in the kingdom of God" (Mark 14:26). However, this is very vague, and could be interpreted in a number of ways (e.g. that this would take place after the final resurrection on the last day). Thus we can take from this event a clear prediction of an atoning death, but only a vague indication of subsequent vindication, which, in the absence of more explicit evidence (which we do find in other predictions), could be interpreted in a variety of ways.

Section V: The Sign of Jonah

The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it." (Mark 8:11-12).

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:38-41; emphasis added)

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." (Matthew 16:1-4)

As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11:29-32)

What the above passages have in common is the rebuke of Jesus to his Jewish opponents for seeking a miraculous sign, or a sign from heaven. However, these rebukes come in two apparently different contexts. The material found in Mark 8 and Matt. 16 follows Jesus' miraculous feeding of the four thousand (Mark 8:1-10; Matt. 15:29-39) whereas that found in Matt. 12 and Luke 11 are placed after Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees over whether or not Jesus' power to exorcise demons comes from Beezebul (Matt. 12:22-37; Luke 11:14-28). This suggests either that Jesus may have made similar rebukes on two different occasions, which is scarcely inconceivable, or that one tradition (or memories of one particular incident in the life of Jesus) was placed within two different contexts of the Gospel tradition. The similar historical context shared by Mark 8 and Matt. 16 indicates that Matthew had knowledge of the tradition found in Mark as well. However, in both Matt. 12 and Matt. 16, the evangelist differs with Mark regarding whether or not a sign would be given. In the latter Jesus says that no sign would be given at all, whereas in both versions of the former this statement is qualified by the indication that the Jews would be given the sign of Jonah. Luke 11 agrees with Matthew here, so it is likely that Matthew and Luke are also reliant on the same tradition (Bayer 1986; 114-115).

On the surface it would seem most plausible to suggest that the saying contained in Luke 11 should be given priority over that found in Matt. 12. It would make more sense for Matthew to elaborate upon the simpler form found in Luke than for Luke to omit the definition of the sign of Jonah that is provided by Matthew. It has been argued though that because of the tension between the "three days and three nights" statement and the actual chronology of Jesus' passion contained in the Gospels, including Matthew's (i.e. that Jesus was only technically in the tomb for two nights and one day), the Matthean version should be given priority. In fact, it could be argued that Luke's omission was the result of recognizing this tension. Bayer points out though that Matthew here is most likely quoting from the LXX version of Jonah 2:1 (ibid. 121). This, along with Matthew's propensity to connect the events of Jesus' ministry with the OT, could undermine somewhat the significance of this tension, though this isn't sufficient to remove it completely from consideration.

So, what of the question of the relation of Luke 11 to Mark 8? Taking the Gospels at face-value would suggest that Jesus made similar rebukes to his opponents on two different occasions. Matthew indeed contains both. Thus the debate over priority is rendered irrelevant if this is the case. However, if this is a misplaced tradition (in one context or the other), which version has priority? Bayer, reporting the conclusions drawn by I. H. Marshall, states that Mark 8:12b with its absolute negative statement constitutes a Hebrew oath form while the version in Q (i.e. Luke 11/Matt. 12) constitutes an Aramaic form of speech given that it contains a qualified absolute negative, and that based on these literary forms the version in Q contains the older tradition of the two (ibid. 125). Bayer also lists numerous reasons for believing Luke 11 to have priority, including that 1) a Markan abbreviation is more easily explained than the addition of an enigmatic saying and 2) it is unlikely that a qualification-clause of Jesus' statement would be created in light of the fact that it indicates (at least) a partial acquiescence of Jesus to the Pharisees' demand for a sign. Bayer also adds:

Scholars arguing in support of the priority of Lk 11:29b.30 over Mk 8:12 suggest various reasons for Markan abbreviation: (1) Shultz refers to Mk 1:12f, in which Mark exhibits a similar tendency to abbreviate Q tradition114. (2) Colpe states that, provided Mk 8:11f belongs to the same group of sayings as Lk 11:16.29ff par, Mark omitted the reference to the sign of the Son of Man "because he laid special stress on Jesus' mighty deeds as full proof of His Messiahship and the threat of a miracle of accreditation was thus unnecessary"115. (3) Marshall complements this argument and suggests that Mark omitted the reference to the "sign of Jonah" due to his understanding of the Messianic secret, wishing to stress "that Jesus offered no hint of divine legitimation of himself to the Jews until the trial scene with its prophecy of divine vindication"116. (ibid. 126)

So, if we are correct in affirming that Jesus did speak of the Sign of Jonah, the question remains as to what exactly he meant by it. Matthew gives us his definition (12:38-40) [16], which may well have comported more or less with how such a phrase would have been understood in that day and time, i.e. divine vindication. On the other hand, it could be argued that this is simply the evangelist's spin on an otherwise enigmatic saying of Jesus as the former viewed it through the lens of what transpired during Jesus' passion and the events of Easter. Thus it would be helpful to have some corroboration for Matthew's understanding of the "Sign of Jonah". When considering the events that are narrated in the book of Jonah, it seems remarkable that the Ninevites would have responded so favorably to Jonah's pronouncement that God was going to destroy their city, driving them to the point of repentance in ashes and sackcloth. It seems unlikely that Jonah would have gotten such a response merely by delivering the brief message as it is contained in Jonah 3:4-5. This suggests that there might be more to the story than is contained within the brief summary found in these verses. Bayer states, in regards to this:

Merrill suggests a further reason for the immediate response of the Ninevites to Jonah's preaching and possible explanation168; since 'Nineveh' denotes 'fish' and the city had a fish-symbol, identifying Nineveh's mythological roots, the tale of a sojourn in the belly of a fish must have proven most overwhelming to the Ninevites, leading to immediate repentance169. Of particular interest are Merrill's elaborations on the mythological traditions regarding the founder of Nineveh. Assyrian mythological traditions identify the founder of Nineveh as a fish-god who is possibly identical with Oannes. The Ninevites thus may have participated in the Oannes-myth, placing great significance on fish-symbolism. Merrill concludes: "Such a sign (regurgitation from a fish) would be particularly convincing to a people whose aetiology taught them that their city had been founded by a fish-god"170 We must stress, however, that Merrill's entire argument rests on the above-stated conjecture that Jonah spoke to the Ninevites of his miraculous survival in the depths of the sea (ibid. 135).

And indeed it is conjectural, as we are not told that they were told of this in the actual book of Jonah. However, it remains likely that such a positive response of the Ninevites entailed that something more took place to influence them than a mere pronouncement of doom that we are told about in Jonah 3:4-5. If this is true, news of Jonah's miraculous fish story could have fueled the impetus of belief by the Ninevites that Jonah was to be taken seriously.

Bayer also surveys some literature from the inter-testamental and Rabbinic periods in hopes of further elucidating the Sign of Jonah. Of the references discussed, the following two are worth quoting:

3 Mac 6:8 refers to the fact that the contemporaries of Jonah are believed to have heard about the miraculous recovery of Jonah from the depths of the sea177. Jeremias translates 3 Mac 6:8 as follows: "On Jonah, who passed into the belly of the monster which lived in the depths, thou, O Father, didst direct thine eyes …, and thou didst show him unharmed to all his hearers."178 Vögtle challenges Jeremias' rendering of οικειοιζ as 'hearers', suggesting the rendering of 'relatives' instead179. However, according to the word usage and context180, the most appropriate rendering for οικειοιζ is 'associates' (Genossen), suggesting that the miraculous resuscitation of Jonah became known to the sailors. (ibid. 136)

The rendering of οικειοιζ as 'associates' would harmonize with PRE 1, 10181 which states: "… the sailors saw the signs ([ôwth]) and great wonders which the Holy One - blessed be He - did to Jonah"182. We agree with Vögtle that PRE 1, 10 only refers to the sailors, not to the Ninevites183. Nevertheless, it is significant that Jonah's resuscitation from the belly of the fish is identified as [ôwth]/σημειον. Despite the apparently late date of the PRE, it is likely that prior to the recording of this tradition the Rabbis believed that the miracle of Jonah's resuscitation had been known to the sailors and that this miracle was considered to be an [ôwth]. (ibid. 137; emphasis added; note: PRE = Pirque de Rabbi Eliezer)

Thus it is quite possible that the audience of the Gospels (as well as contemporary Jews) would have automatically understood the "Sign of Jonah" to be referring to Jonah's resuscitation and escape from being trapped inside the giant fish. So, Jesus' reference to the "Sign of Jonah" likely carried implications of his own impending passion with subsequent vindication, even if the actual "three days and three nights" saying that we find in Matthew's Gospel is a parenthetical comment added by the evangelist, or even a later scribal insertion.

Section VI: Raise This Temple in 3 days?

Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.' " Yet even then their testimony did not agree. (Mark 14:57-59)

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'" (Matthew 26:59-61)

Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!" (Mark 15:29-30)

Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God." 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." (Acts 6:11-14)

Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (John 2:18-22)

Without this passage in John we would have no clarification from Jesus' followers of the charge leveled against him by the Sanhedrin's witnesses. According to John, this rather cryptic saying of Jesus occurred within the context of a dispute Jesus had with the Jews following his cleansing of the Temple. Before we can assess the historicity of this saying, it behooves us to consider the related problem of John's placement of Jesus' cleansing of the Temple. Unlike the Synoptic accounts which place this event just days before Jesus' arrest and execution, the account in John apparently places the incident at the beginning of his ministry. So how are we to account for the discrepancy? Is there a mistake in chronology made by John or the Synoptic authors, or is there another explanation?

There are at least two routes taken by commentators in harmonizing the problem. The most popular today is that John deliberately relocates the Temple-cleansing event in his Gospel for thematic purposes. Craig Keener elaborates on why John may have done so:

The mention of Passover is critical here, framing the unit (2:13, 23)242; this context significantly informs Jesus' words about his death in this pericope (2:19)243. Together with the final Passover (13:1; 18:28, 39; 19:14), this Passover (2:13) frames Jesus' ministry in the Fourth Gospel. Interpreters have traditionally insisted that the repeated Passovers of the Fourth Gospel provide a chronological outline of Jesus' public ministry244, but they miss the symbolic significance John finds in the Passover245. Not only we who have read the Synoptics and their Markan passion outline, but presumably all early Christians who celebrated the Lord's Supper, were familiar with the paschal associations of the events of the Passion Narrative (I Cor 5:7; 11:23-25). More than likely, they also knew of the temple cleansing in this context246. It is historically implausible that Jesus would challenge the temple system by overturning tables yet continue in public ministry for two or three years afterward, sometimes even visiting Jerusalem (although in John's story world, Jesus does face considerable hostility there: 7:30-52; 8:59; 10:20-21, 31-39; 11:46-57). More than likely John alludes to common knowledge about the place of the temple cleansing in the tradition, and opens Jesus' ministry with it for theological reasons. Now Jesus' entire ministry is the Passion Week, overshadowed by his impending "hour"… (Keener 2003; 518-519)

This possibility is strengthened by the following observations: 1) This event in John's Gospel is placed within a loose chronological context. Craig Blomberg notes that this is the first pericope in John's Gospel that lacks an unambiguous time reference, and that there is no time-indication that would necessitate that Jesus' discourse with Nicodemus follows it; 2) The Synoptic writers often organize their material in a thematic way rather than adhering to strict chronology [17], so it would not be surprising to discover that John performed the same practice on occasion; 3) The second major section of John's Gospel also begins with a passage which appears in a context that is different from its Synoptic counterpart (see John 12:1-11 vs. Mark 14:1-10), corroborating that chronological rearrangement was in harmony with Johannine literary praxis (Blomberg 2001; 88). Against this Blomberg notes that the following discourse between Jesus and Nicodemus most likely took place in Jerusalem (since a leading Pharisee that is a member of the Sanhedrin would likely reside there) and thus the dialogue could be understood to be the sequel to the Temple-cleansing incident. Furthermore, an explicit temporal link is given in 3:22 following this dialogue (ibid. 88-89). Of course, the likelihood that the dialogue with Nicodemus took place in Jerusalem near the beginning of Jesus' ministry does not automatically negate all of the above considerations that John may have deliberately relocated the Temple-cleansing incident for thematic purposes. Even though the dialogue with Nicodemus could serve as a sequel to the event, this certainly is not required to be the case.

The other approach taken to resolve the discrepancy is the suggestion that there were actually two very similar Temple-cleansing incidents. Blomberg elaborates on the likelihood that John's account is independent of that of the Synoptic Gospels:

The words the two accounts have in common are those one would expect in a description of an incident involving the protest of corruption in the Jerusalem temple, even if two different events are in view: 'sellers', 'tables', 'doves', 'money changers', 'drove out', 'temple' and 'house'. Otherwise, one is struck by the differences. Only John speaks of cattle, sheep, a whip of cords, and coins. The key sayings attributed to Jesus are entirely different - a protest against commercialism (v. 16) and a cryptic prediction of his death and resurrection (v. 19). A different Old Testament passage is cited (v. 17 - Ps 69:9) and different questions on the part of the Jewish leaders appear (vv. 18, 20). The synoptic accounts, in contrast, focus on the combination of quotations from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 (a house of prayer vs. a den of robbers). (Ibid. 89-90)

The differences could be due to the result of the use of different sources and/or different points of emphasis by the various evangelists referring to the same incident, but they could also be due to the possibility that these were separate events. Supporting the historicity of the account in John, Blomberg also notes (drawing on the work of John A.T. Robinson who argued using evidence from Josephus) that the 46th year since Herod began rebuilding the Temple would be A.D. 28, or two years prior to a common dating for Jesus' crucifixion at A.D. 30. Also, a "garbled recollection" of what Jesus said on the part of the Sanhedrin's witnesses would be more probable if the saying in question took place 2 years prior to the trial rather than only a matter of days (ibid. 89).

The major obstacle for the "two cleansings" theory is explaining why Jesus was not arrested after the first one (as Keener pointed out - see above), whereas the second one most likely was one of the key precipitators of his subsequent arrest and crucifixion. In response, Blomberg points out that the Synoptic account seemingly entails the destruction of the sacrificial system while the Johannine account indicates a less serious protest against corrupt trading. Moreover, drawing on Leon Morris, Blomberg points out that at the time of the first cleansing Jesus would have been relatively unknown and perceived as less of a threat than at the time indicated by the Synoptic account (ibid. 90-91). Additionally, by the time of the end of Jesus' ministry (when the Synoptic Temple-cleansing took place), Jesus' action in the Temple was merely the culmination of a string of words spoken and actions performed by Jesus that greatly agitated the authorities against him (see the summary of Jeremias in Section I-D).

A third possible solution noted by Blomberg is that drawn from Raymond Brown, that John conflated two episodes in the life of Jesus: that "early in his ministry Jesus uttered a prophetic warning against the temple, at the end of his life he physically cleared it,…" (ibid. 89)

Regardless of which solution one opts for, that Jesus' saying about the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple in 3 days is an accurate historical recollection is probable. First, it would explain the charge made against Jesus by his enemies at the trial (Mark 14:57-58 and par.) and elsewhere. It is not likely that this charge by the Sanhedrin's witnesses would have been fabricated. Even though the evangelists' attribute the accusation to false witnesses, it would not make sense to deny a specific accusation that had not actually been made. Furthermore, we find this charge by Jesus' enemies in several contexts, as it appears not only in the trial, but also while Jesus is on the cross (Mk 15:29-30) and when Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6:11-14), though in the latter case the "three days" component is absent. This increases the probability that the tradition is based on an actual saying of Jesus. That the Jews would have asked Jesus for a sign to demonstrate his authority for performing such an action as cleansing the Temple is consistent with what we find elsewhere in the New Testament (I Cor. 1:22; Mk. 8:11-12/Mt. 16:1-4; Mt. 12:38-39; Lk. 11:29-30; John 6:29-30). Additionally, the cryptic nature of the saying as it is reported in John supports authenticity. The evangelist admits that it was only after the resurrection that the disciples recalled and understood Jesus' saying. And, in fact, it is just such a cryptic saying as we find it reported in John that could have led to such a misunderstanding on the part of Jesus' opponents in the first place. This is especially the case if this statement was made in the context of an actual Temple-cleansing by Jesus. Since Jesus was expressing his anger against the current Temple-establishment, it is not difficult to imagine how such a cryptic statement which implies the destruction and replacement of the current Temple could have been misconstrued (especially as it would not at all have been obvious at that time that Jesus was referring to his body as "this Temple".) Furthermore, even though Jesus' statement as it is found in John implies that it was the Jews that would be the destroyers, the Jews would clearly not have conceived of such a possibility, especially as it was Jesus (and not them) that expressed disdain for the current establishment.

So then, the question must be answered as to whether or not the disciples' understanding is the correct one over and against that of Jesus' opponents. Is it possible that Jesus truly did predict the destruction and replacement of the actual Temple building in three days? It is very probable that Jesus did in fact predict the Temple's destruction. The "mini-apocalypses" of the Synoptic Gospels (Mk. 13; Mt. 24; Lk. 21) are clear about this [18]. However, nowhere within the Olivet Discourse do we find any indication of a rebuilt Temple. In fact, if Jesus was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem (along with the Temple) in regards to his not knowing the day or the hour when this would be accomplished (cf. Mark 13:32), is it likely that he would have known that it would be rebuilt in 3 days? Moreover, Jesus states that the place of worship will soon no longer be important in his conversation with the Samaritan woman:

"Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:19-24)

Since Jesus expresses his belief here that the city in which one worships is no longer important, this represents further evidence against his belief in a newly built Temple in Jerusalem (or any one place for that matter). If he believed that he was to build a great eschatological Temple building (one constructed "without hands") on the Earth, it is difficult to account for Jesus' claim that the geographical location of woship is completely inconsequential.

On the other hand, D.A. Carson explains how Jesus' identification of himself with the Temple fits in perfectly with the Johannine portrait of Jesus:

John explains that what Jesus was really referring to (in v. 19) was his own body, that body in which the Word became flesh (1:14). The Father and the incarnate Son enjoy unique mutual indwelling (14:10-11). Therefore it is the human body of Jesus that uniquely manifests the Father, and becomes the focal point of the manifestation of God to man, the living abode of God on earth, the fulfillment of all the temple meant, and the centre of all true worship (over against all other claims of 'holy space', 4:20-24). In this 'temple' the ultimate sacrifice would take place; within three days of death and burial, Jesus Christ, the true temple, would rise from the dead. (Carson 1991; see comments on John 2:21)

This understanding is further corroborated by Jesus' statement that he is greater than the Temple:

Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (Matthew 12:5-8)

That Jesus would have responded to the demand for a sign with a prediction of his death and vindication is also consistent with his response to the Jews in the "Sign of Jonah" context (see above, section V). Furthermore, the "three day motif" in regards to death and subsequent vindication is also supported elsewhere in the Gospel quotations of Jesus by the evangelists in the form of the explicit passion predictions (on which see below), but once again no such motif is found in regards to the Temple building. It thus seems more probable than not that Jesus' prediction in John 2:18-22 is authentic and that John and the other disciples interpreted his prediction correctly, though of course not until after Easter.

Section VII: The Explicit Passion Predictions

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Mark 8:31-33)

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9:30-32)

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise." (Mark 10:32-34)

These passages, along with their Matthean and Lukan parallels (Mt. 16:21-23/Lk 9:22; Mt. 17:22-23/Lk. 9:43-45; Mt. 20:17-19/Lk. 18:31-33), constitute a not-insignificant corpus of explicit predictions by Jesus of his death and subsequent rising within 3-4 days. In what follows we will offer some arguments in favor of the authenticity of these predictions (or at least of one core tradition). We will then briefly discuss the issue of how many explicit passion predictions Jesus might have made and the authenticity (or lack thereof) of the three that we find in the Synoptic Gospels.

A. General Considerations

The results of the previous sections examined in this article make it clear that we have many authentic implicit predictions of death and/or vindication made by Jesus within the Gospel Tradition, and that these occur in a variety of literary forms and historical circumstances (i.e. a parable, several riddles, multiple allusions to Scripture, in a prayer, while sharing the Passover meal with the disciples, in response to challenges by opponents to provide a sign that would prove his authority). It would therefore seem more probable than not that, at some point, Jesus would outline more clearly what he expected to become of him for the sake of his disciples. So, when we discover that the Gospel Tradition does indeed contain such explicit predictions, it behooves us to take them as probably authentic (in the absence, of course, of decisive pointers to the contrary). Thus, the first important consideration that points to the authenticity of the explicit passion predictions is the integrity of the many less explicit references found in the Gospels.

Second, there is the "Son of Man" motif that characterizes all three of the explicit predictions. The majority of New Testament scholars consider Jesus' use of this title to be authentic due to the fact that it was rarely used by the early church in reference to Jesus, and therefore the reference is unlikely to be a result of the creation by the early church. Raymond Brown elaborates:

The Gospel usage of this title for Jesus presents statistics that are dramatically different from the statistics discussed in relation to "the Messiah" and "the Son of God." The acceptance or usage of those titles during Jesus' lifetime is difficult to discern even from the surface evidence of the Gospels, in part because of their infrequency; but "the Son of Man" appears some 80 times in the Gospels and in all but 2 partially debatable instances (Mark 2:10; John 12:34) clearly as self-designations by Jesus. It has been estimated that these constitute some 51 sayings140, 14 of which are in Mark and 10 in the Sayings-Source (Q). Outside the Gospels the phrase occurs only 4 times, viz., Heb 2:6; Rev 1:13; 14:14; Acts 7:56; and only in the last of these (which is a Lucan borrowing from the Gospel usage) does it have the definite article as in the Gospels. The debate whether the historical Jesus used this title of himself or whether it is a product of early church reflection retrojected into Jesus' ministry has raged throughout the last hundred years. If one takes the latter view, one faces two major difficulties: Why was this title so massively retrojected, being placed on Jesus' lips on a scale far outdistancing the retrojection of "the Messiah," "the Son of God," and "the Lord"? And if this title was first fashioned by the early church, why has it left almost no traces in nonGospel NT literature, something not true of the other titles? (Brown 1994; 90)

Thus the passion predictions in this sense meet the very significant "criterion of dissimilarity". In fact, this is doubly so. While we have evidence that the "Son of Man" motif (likely drawn from Daniel 7) was used in contemporary Judaism in a Messianic sense [19], there is no indication that it was understood by Jews contemporary with Jesus to be referring to a suffering Messiah. That there was a belief in a suffering Messiah during the Second Temple period is probable (as we argued in Section I-B). Nevertheless, we have no evidence that the "Son of Man" was ever expected to be a suffering figure in contemporary Judaism. Consider what George Eldon Ladd has to say on the subject:

In two first century A.D. apocalypses, the heavenly Son of Man and the Davidic Messiah are clearly conflated. The Apocalypse of Ezra, or 4 Ezra, is an apocalypse written after the fall of Jerusalem…This age is under the relentless control of evil powers, and God's people, righteous though they are, can expect nothing but suffering. However, at the end of this evil age, God will intervene to punish the wicked and reward the righteous in a blessed Age to Come. The agent of this redemption will be "my son the Messiah [who] shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath. And the world shall be turned to primeval silence for seven days, as it was at the first beginnings that no one shall be left" (4 Ez. 7:28-30). After seven days of silence, the Age to Come will be inaugurated; corruption shall perish; the dead will be raised, both the righteous and the wicked; God will hold judgment; the wicked will be sent to the furnace of hell, while the righteous will enter into the paradise of delight in the Age to Come (4 Ez. 7:31-44)…

The text does not say that the Messiah brings the Kingdom; nor is the fact emphasized that he reigns in the Kingdom, although this may be assumed. Here is the clearest passage in Jewish literature which speaks of a temporal earthly kingdom before the establishment of the Kingdom in the eternal Age to Come. At the end of this "messianic" kingdom, all human beings die, including God's son, the Messiah. Here is the one passage in Jewish intertestamental literature which speaks of a dying Messiah. However, he dies, he does not suffer. He lives an unusually long life of four hundred years and then dies with the rest of men. His death has no theological significance. While he is a heavenly being like the Son of Man, he is a mortal being like the Messiah. After his death, he disappears from sight. Apparently, he is raised from the dead along with the righteous to enjoy the blessing of the Age to Come, but his presence is not noted. The most important fact is that while he dies, he does simply as a man, not as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. (Ladd 1975; 67-69; emphasis the original; in light of our arguments in Section I-B, we would modify Ladd's comments about a dying Messiah slightly to there being no explicit references to a dying Messiah, though our analysis of some of the pre-Christian and post-Christian texts affirms the probability that the belief was there, in at least some strands of thought)

There are a good number of scholars, as Ladd also acknowledges (ibid. 66), that argues that there is a "suffering motif" in Daniel 7, that the "Son of Man" figure represents the people who earlier in the chapter suffer at the hands of the four beasts (i.e. empires). See e.g. Wright 1996; 510-519 for an excellent exposition of this view, though for a contrasting view see France 1992; 128-130. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there is no evidence that contemporary Jews understood the "Son of Man" in this way, but rather treated him as a heavenly, even quasi-divine, figure (See Collins 1995; 275-289). That this is a "Son of Man" saying and that it is used in the context of Jesus' predictions of suffering thus supports authenticity due once again to its dissimilarity with the early church and antecedent Judaism [20].

A third argument that favors authenticity is that all of the versions of the explicit passion predictions in the three Synoptic Gospels (save for Matt. 20:19) use the non-specific word apokteino, i.e. "killed", in reference to Jesus' impending death. We'd expect a prophecy written after the fact to be more specific, yielding also the mode of execution. This is underlined by the use of "crucified" [stauroo] in the Matthean parallel to Mark 10:34 as well as in the angels' reiteration of Jesus' passion prediction in Luke 24:7 [21].

Fourth, the consistent use of the word, anistemi, to describe Jesus' rising from the dead in each of the three major Markan passion predictions may also be significant. Another word that conveys essentially the same meaning, egeiro, appears to have been the preferred term of the two for referring to Jesus' resurrection by the early church. This term is used in early confessional material that we find in e.g. Romans 4:24-25; I Corinthians 15:4; and I Thessalonians 1:10. In fact, egeiro is Mark's preferred term in reference to the concept of "rising from the dead" when not quoting a passion prediction of Jesus [22]. This suggests at least that the passion predictions are pre-Markan. Yet, there is an additional factor to consider. The early church probably preferred egeiro for theological reasons as it implies that God was the Author of Jesus' resurrection [23]. Even the times that anistemi was used by the early church in reference to Jesus' resurrection, it is still obvious from the context in most cases that it was God that was its Author [24]. But, contrary to the references we find by the early church, this is not at all obvious in Mark's use of anistemi. Given that Mark's versions of the passion predictions remain ambiguous as to the Author of the resurrection, contrasting with the early church, this suggests that the traditions he used are very early, which increases the probability of authenticity (Evans 1997: 94). [25]

Fifth, there are some key theological elements missing from the predictions that we might expect to be imported if they are mere prophecies written after the fact. For one, we find no direct reference to Scriptural fulfillment in the passion predictions (other than Luke's version of the 3rd prediction, cf. Lk. 18:31), even though we do find this already in the ancient creed preserved in I Cor. 15:3-5. Second, the predictions lack any obvious soteriological elements. Gerald O'Collins notes that it is "not stated that 'the Son of man must suffer and be killed for us and for our sins, and then rise again'. This standard soteriological reflection from the very early Church which Paul endorses repeatedly does not turn up in the three passion predictions." (O'Collins 2002; 87; emphasis the original) This fact speaks against pious fiction and in favor of historical eyewitness reminiscense.

Sixth, in the Markan versions of the passion predictions, a less specific time frame is indicated as to when Jesus would rise from the dead. In the Markan versions we find the less precise use of "after three days" rather than "on the third day" as we find in Matthew and Luke. It is reasonable to suggest that Mark's tradition is the most original on this count. Mark's reference is vague and could just as easily be interpreted to indicate that Jesus would rise on Monday rather than on Sunday. Furthermore, we find that the phrase "on the third day" is taken up in the ancient creed quoted in Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians (15:3-5). This creed is universally declared by scholars to be very early, reaching back to within the first few years of the genesis of the church [26]. Thus, the use of "on the third day" in reference to Jesus' resurrection is very ancient. Furthermore, it is implausible to suppose that a relatively vague time-frame would be formulated after the adoption of the more precise "on the third day" formulation utilized by the early church. So, Mark's "after three days" is probably very old, reaching at least as far back as the earliest stages of the Jerusalem church. In fact, the best explanation for the existence of an imprecise time formulation in the first place seems to be that it has a pre-Easter provenance [27].

B. One prediction, or more?

It is argued by many scholars that Jesus made only one explicit passion prediction, and the versions of this one prediction that we now have in the Gospels all stemmed from this one original saying. It is typically argued that the version as it is found in Mark 9:31 and par. is the most primitive (see below) and that it served as the template for others. However, Craig Evans argues that "We seem to have at least two strands: one that speaks of the rejection of the son of man by the Jewish authorities (the first prediction and part of the third prediction) and one that speaks of the betrayal of the son of man into the hands of his enemies (the second prediction and part of the third prediction)." and "Common to all three predictions is the confident expectation of being raised up after three days." (Evans 1997; 85). We show below that each of the three predictions can be argued to have its own intrinsic claim to authenticity, and it is to these three individual predictions that we now turn.

C. Mark 9:31ff and par.

We'll start our analysis with this one since it is argued by many that this prediction likely retains the most authentic core of what was actually said by Jesus. Luke's version (in 9:44) is often said to be the most primitive. There are a number of reasons for this: 1) Luke records Jesus' prediction about his betrayal, but not his death or rising. It is thus postulated that this, if anything, more likely represents what Jesus actually said, and that the references to his death and rising were added later; 2) There are possible signs of a break between Mark 9:31a and 9:31b [28], suggesting that the reference to Jesus' betrayal and that to his death and resurrection were originally separate traditions; and 3) Mark 14:41 is a parallel to the saying found in Mark 9:31a and Luke 9:44, thus corroborating the possibility of an independent unit consisting of just the prediction of betrayal.

Bayer notes, however, in response to 3) that Mark 14:41 would exceed its immediate contextual limits by referring to Jesus' death and resurrection given that the subject of the immediate context is merely the betrayal. It is therefore more likely that Mark 14:41 is an abbreviated version of Mark 9:31 than the reverse, based on this consideration alone (ibid. 197-198). In response to 1) and 2), Bayer demonstrates that the alleged literary inconsistencies between 9:31a and 9:31b have been overemphasized and thus it can still be argued that the whole of 9:31 was from at least very early on a unit (see ibid. 171). Furthermore, Matthew also contains the reference to the death and rising, and it is probable that he used the same source that Luke did. Bayer notes that they each share against Mark the phrase μελλει ... παραδιδοσθαι "which may reproduce the future tense of an Aramaic participle" (ibid. 193). The version found in Matthew and Luke is thus in the future tense versus the present tense of Mark's version. (see ibid. 188, 193-94 for further observations that support the case for a separate tradition).

Joachim Jeremias argues that the first part of this saying (i.e. Mk 9:31a; Lk 9:44) is formulated in the form of an apocalyptic riddle (or masal) since "Son of Man" can be understood either generically (i.e. as simply "human being" or "man") or as a title. He writes:

If the phrase was understood generically, the saying announced the disorders of the eschatological time of distress, in which the individual would be surrendered up to the mass. If it was understood as a title, the sentence spoke of the delivering up of the Son of man. We have, therefore, an apocalyptic riddle. (Jeremias 1971; 282)

The enigmatic nature of the saying thus supports authenticity, since this was a common mode of speaking for Jesus (examples of Jesus speaking in a similar manner listed by Jeremias include Luke 22:22; Mark 14:21; Mark 9:12/Luke 17:25; and Luke 24:7 [ibid. 282]). There is also a wordplay (or paronomasia) in the original Aramaic between "Son of Man" and "men". The saying could thus be understood to mean "The man is going to be handed over to the men." James Dunn argues that this wordplay points toward an Aramaic original, which would demonstrate its antiquity (Dunn 2003; 801). Dunn also points out that the phrase "handed over into the hands of" is a Semitic construction, further supporting the possibility of an early Palestinian Jewish provenance for the saying (ibid. 801). Raymond Brown cautions us from taking too much from these observations though since the wordplay is present in the Greek from Mark's version as well as in Aramaic, and that the phrase "handed over into the hands of" also appears in the LXX (i.e. Septuagint), which suggests that the phrase could have a Hellenistic provenance (reflective of the Semitized Greek of the Septuagint) just as easily as a Palestinian Jewish one. (R. Brown 1994; 1482). However, Brown does go on to state that "'the Son of Man' is scarcely a believable creation in Greek and surely represents the Aramaic..." (ibid. 1482) Thus we are likely dealing with a very early provenance for this saying, which likely goes back all the way to Jesus given that it comes down to us in the enigmatic form of an apocalyptic riddle. Finally, Jeremias notes that Jesus' use of παραδιδοται, which is a divine passive (i.e. that Jesus would be handed over to the men by God is implied, not directly stated) supports authenticity since this is another characteristic way of speaking that is preferred by Jesus {Jeremias 1971; 282).

It could be further added that Mark, who utilized Peter as a source (see discussion below of Mark 8:31), and Matthew (or a member of the so-called Matthean community, whichever view one holds to Gospel authorship), would have been privy to the actual historical circumstances here, and thus the extended account of this passion prediction in their respective Gospels is likely authentic as well. In any case, at a minimum we can take from this reference that Jesus predicted his betrayal, which probably implies that he foresaw his impending death. Aside from the probability of multiple attestation, an early Aramaic original underlying this tradition, and several stylistic features distinctive of Jesus' manner of speaking, the historicity of this prediction is further supported by the "criterion of embarrassment," as per the mention of the disciples' lack of understanding that is attached to it.

D. Mark 8:31ff and par.

The material contained in Mark 8:31-33 is, according to Bayer, "firmly embedded in the context of the retro satana discourse in Mk 8:32f par." and "the prediction may be linked to the preceding confession of Peter [that Jesus is the Messiah] (Mk 8:29 par)". (Bayer 1986; 200; words in [] added) There are a number of reasons to believe that this discourse is authentic. From a literary standpoint, the following are listed by Bayer: 1) the word for "suffering" in 8:31, πολλα παθειν, is unique in its reference to the passion of Jesus, and therefore could indicate an origin earlier than that of the pre-Markan passion narrative; 2) the chronology of "suffering" and then "rejection" as it appears in the prediction is reversed since the "rejection" preceded the "suffering" in the passion narrative, further supporting that the prediction pre-dates the pre-Markan passion narrative, and enhancing the possibility of a pre-Easter provenance as well (since the course of events of Jesus' passion would likely have been well known by the early church even before it was committed to writing); 3) Jesus refers in this prediction first to the elders, followed by the chief priests and scribes (i.e. teachers of the law). In other references to Jesus' trial in Mark, including in the 3rd prediction, the chief priests are mentioned first (see e.g. Mk 11:27; 14:43, 53; 15:1). Given the chief priests' prominence over the other two groups, the formulations placing them first would be expected. While the formulation found in 8:31 is certainly just as technically accurate, the fact that the elders here are mentioned first could betray an actual historical reminiscence, as we'd expect a later insertion to conform to the otherwise dominant pattern (ibid. 160, 180). I don't think too much weight can be attached to any of these factors, but they nevertheless are considerable against the backdrop of the more substantial arguments listed below.

The geographical reference associated with this event is another indicator suggestive of authenticity. This is the only reference in the Gospels to Caesarea Philippi, and given the apparent absence of any theological reasons for fabricating this place as the location where such a significant discourse took place, it is best explained as the result of an authentic historical remembrance.

It is also probable that this tradition enjoys multiple attestation. Bayer points out that there are a number of departures from the Markan narrative in the Matthean pericope (16:13-23), and that the great number of Semitisms discernable within the Matthean tradition betrays its early origin (cf. ibid. 182-188). In addition, Matthew and Luke may yet again be utilizing a similar, non-Markan tradition. Bayer notes that, in contrast to Mark, 1) Matthew and Luke share απο ["from"] in common against Mark's use of υπο ["by"]; 2) they omit the articles to the chief priests (αρχιερων) and scribes (γραμματεων); 3) they also share the "on the third day" phrase in common against Mark's "after three days" (ibid. 192; emphasis the original) and 4) utilize egeiro in reference to Jesus' rising from the dead instead of Mark's anistemi. This last point appears especially significant since Luke, like Mark, seems to prefer anistemi in reference to Jesus' passion predictions (cf. Lk. 18:33; 24:7, 46), with the reference in 9:22 serving as the only exception.

Perhaps though the strongest argument for the authenticity of this pericope is the presence of the so-called retro satana of Mark 8:33 (par. Mt. 16:23). This rebuke by Jesus directed at Peter obviously places the latter in a negative light, clearly fulfilling the "criterion of embarrassment". It is scarcely plausible to imagine the early church inventing a saying of Jesus that associates arguably its most prominent leader with Satan, even though by this Jesus probably only meant it in the sense of "adversary" rather than with the actual fallen angel. It has been argued though by some critical scholars that this tradition is derived from "anti-Petrine" circles within the early church. However, there exists no hard evidence for such an assertion and there is plenty of evidence against it. For one, there is both solid external and internal evidence that the Gospel of Mark reflects the authority of Peter. Consider the following points made by the great Tübingen scholar, Martin Hengel:

1. Peter is the first disciple to be called immediately after Jesus' public appearance. His name is also the last of the disciples to appear in Mark (Mark 1:16; 16:7).

2. In Mark 16:7, the and Peter, according to Hengel "disrupts the narrative and is completely superfluous", and it is notable that this unnecessary addition is omitted by Matthew. Hengel states that it is also odd that only here when the disciples and Peter are mentioned together that Peter is mentioned at the end, whereas elsewhere he always is mentioned at the beginning. From this Hengel concludes that Mark structured his gospel so that Peter would be named at the beginning and end in order to give it Peter's stamp of authority.

3. Mark's gospel is predominantly Galilean in character compared with Luke and John, which is significant since Peter served as the "spokesman of the Galilean disciples."

4. According to Hengel, the "disciples" are mentioned a total of 43 times, but Peter is emphasized as he is mentioned 25 times. Matthew also mentions Peter 25 times, but the "disciples" in his gospel are mentioned 75 times. Plus, Matthew's gospel is 70% longer than that of Mark. In an end-note, Hengel cites the work of Feldmeier, who determined ratios for the number of times Peter is mentioned per the number of words in the three Synoptic gospels. The ratio is substantially higher for Mark at 1:443, with that of Matthew and Luke standing at 1:772 and 1:648, respectively. Of course, if the Markan priority paradigm is accurate, then this is that much more significant since the emphases that Matthew and Luke also place on Peter could be largely the result of their use of Mark as a source.

5. Finally, Hengel states that the mentions of Peter tend to accumulate at important parts of Mark's gospel, such as at the beginning of Jesus' activity (ch. 1), the denouement in chs. 8 & 9, and of course, the passion narrative in ch. 14.

From this, Hengel concludes:

Only secondarily is it to be noted that the period of tradition between Jesus and the time of Mark is not more than forty years and the remembrance of the ministry of Jesus in Galilee and Jerusalem was still vivid. In other words, the fact that the name of Simon Peter has been quite deliberately and massively retained in his Gospel is grounded not only in the importance of Peter for the evangelist, but also in remembrance and historical reality. For Mark, the chronological distance from Jesus of about forty years could still be surveyed relatively easily, and hardly more than five years separate him from the martyrdom of Peter, his teacher. Even if we did not have the reports of Irenaeus, the two Clements and Justin, the Papias note and I Peter 5.13, we would have to assume that the author of the Second Gospel is dependent upon Peter in a striking way, for historical, theological, and quite personal reasons. (Hengel 2000; 82-85)

Obviously, Mark would have been in a "pro-Petrine" circle rather than the opposite. Furthermore, Matthew preserves the retro satana in his Gospel, and an "anti-Petrine" bent for Matthew is virtually impossible to maintain given that Jesus declares Peter to be the foundation of the church within that very pericope:

"And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-19)

In sum, the cumulative evidence for the historicity of the first explicit passion prediction is very good. Here Jesus expresses his belief in his impending death followed by vindication within 3-4 days.

E. Mark 10:34ff and par.

The amount of details contained in this prediction persuade many scholars that it is not authentic (at least in its present form), but rather is a summary of the events to follow during the actual passion of Jesus (retrojected after the fact). Bayer argues, however, that "only a superficial comparison with Mark's passion narrative seems to support this view while further study exhibits a difference regarding the sequence of events and the terms used." (Bayer 1986; 172; emphasis added) The differences noted by Bayer include the following: 1) The words used to indicate the beating (or "flogging") in 10:34 and in the actual passion narrative in 15:15 are different (machomai in the former case and phragelloo in the latter case); 2) the use of anistemi in 10:34 vs. egeiro in 16:6; 3) In the passion narrative, Jews as well as Gentiles mock Jesus, whereas in 10:34 it is implied that only the Gentiles will do so; 4) While this prediction (along with the others) refers to the Son of Man, the passion narrative lacks this phrase (ibid. 173).

Furthermore, most of the details of this prediction which are specific, and in turn arouse the suspicion of it being "prophecy after the fact" (at least part of it) are the references to the flogging, mocking, and spitting. Raymond Brown points out, however:

Under A1f above we discussed sayings in which Jesus saw himself in a servant role, and so passages (including Isa 53) that spoke of a servant type could have shaped his thought. And indeed the Servant passage in Isa 50:4-11 may also have been part of the background. Most scholars look on the specific outrages predicted in III as retrojections from the actual PN accounts of what was done, e.g. that they would spit on Jesus and scourge him; but Isa 50:6 has the Servant say, "My back I gave to scourges...I did not turn my face from the shame of spitting." (Brown 1994; 1480; see also above Section I-C)

If Jesus believed himself to be fulfilling the role of the "Suffering Servant", as we argue in Section I-C, it would not be surprising (and indeed would be expected) that he would find the descriptions of suffering found in the other related Servant songs to be indicative of his impending fate. In this light the authenticity of the added details of Jesus' suffering in this prediction become less improbable. Brown notes further regarding this:

What is interesting is that if Isaiah influenced any or all of I, II, and III [that is, the three Synoptic passion predictions], the atoning soteriological aspect of the Isaian Suffering Servant's role so beloved of the early church (our infirmities, our sufferings, our sin, we were healed, guilt of us all) has not been taken over into those predictions. In that sense they could be looked on as less theologically developed than Mark 10:45 ("as a ransom for many"; see A1f above); or Rom 4:25 ("given over for our transgressions"); or Rom 8:32 ("God gave him over for [hyper] us all"). (ibid. 1480-81; emphasis the original; words in [] added)

Thus, if we propose that the transmitters of this tradition were compelled to beef it up with more specific details of what was about to happen to Jesus, it remains puzzling as to how they nevertheless practiced such remarkable restraint by not importing Christian theology into it. We should thus be cautious before writing off this particular prediction as a summary of the passion narrative drafted "after the fact". Even if this tradition as we have it has been added to, however, it does not disprove the possibility that it remains authentic at its core. In fact, that this prediction occurs just prior to Jesus' and the disciples' final trip to Jerusalem (where we will show below that even the disciples were anticipating potential martyrdom there) supports the probability that Jesus would have uttered a passion prediction in this particular historical context. Unlike with the other references, however, we likely cannot detect in the Synoptic parallels (Mt. 20:18-19; Lk 18:31-33) a second source for this prediction (see ibid. 188-189; 194-195).


In sum, a solid argument can be made that we have three explicit passion predictions made by Jesus that each indicate that he was to die and rise again after three days. While it has been argued by some that one prediction served as the source for the development of the other two, we have seen that there is good reason to maintain that each has its own intrinsic claim to authenticity. The early Palestinian Jewish provenance for the predictions is established by the presence of Semitisms detectable within a couple of the traditions. Furthermore, there are numerous literary observations (with varying degrees of weight) found within the predictions that support authenticity. Two of the three passion predictions are probably attested in multiple traditions. The predictions meet the "criterion of embarrassment", as the historical references to the disciples' puzzlement would very likely not be created by the early church, and this is emphatically more the case when it comes to the retro satana episode associated with the first passion prediction. Finally, the "Son of Man" motif meets the "criterion of dissimilarity", not only between Jesus and the early church, but also between Jesus and antecedent Judaism. All of these elements considered cumulatively give us a very high degree of confidence that Jesus did indeed make at least one explicit passion prediction, and probably more.

Section VIII: Potential Pushbacks

A. Why are their no clear passion predictions in Q?

This argument is probably the easiest with which to dispense. Given that we have no hard copies of the Q document, and what we know of it can only be gleaned from the materials we have in the Gospels, we cannot be too certain of what is not in it. Furthermore, we have demonstrated the likelihood that Luke and Matthew are in fact relying (at least partially) on non-Markan tradition, not only for material contained within the Gethsemane pericope, but also for the first and second explicit passion predictions of Jesus. Thus there may well be clear passion predictions in Q. Even if this is not the case, however, it could be simply a matter of Luke and Matthew preferring Mark for their material on this subject. Thanks also to the extensive and painstaking analyses of Bayer, it has also been demonstrated that most of the relevant narratives in the Gospels that we have considered in this article are based on primitive material likely stemming from an early Palestinian Jewish Christian provenance. Thus the traditions underlying the passion predictions are probably more ancient than the Q document itself. Finally, it should be noted that while the scholarly consensus tends to operate under the Q-Markan priority paradigm, skepticism over this Q document is increasing in at least some circles (see Goodacre & Perrin 2004). Thus to try to build a case against the authenticity of the passion predictions based on speculations about Q would be akin to attempting to build a castle in the air.

B. Why were the disciples so distraught after the crucifixion if Jesus predicted this would happen?

As we noted in the relevant sections, the Gospel authors were quite candid in admitting that the disciples did not understand (or at least fully comprehend) what Jesus was saying. They were anticipating a triumphant Messianic victory rather than to see Jesus go quietly and peacefully with his captors and eventually to the cross. We have argued in Section I-B that there are good reasons to believe that the concept of a suffering Messiah existed in Second Temple Judaism, at least in certain strands of thought. But, if this is the case, the question must be answered as to why the course of the passion events transpired in a way that eluded the disciples' expectations despite the fact that Jesus himself was even predicting his death. It is quite possible that the disciples expected to suffer martyrdom along with Jesus, though to do so in battle. Zimmerli and Jeremias argue that the disciples expected suffering and martyrdom for themselves and Jesus, but afterwards a "corporate triumph" (Zimmerli & Jeremias 1957; 101-102, n. 472). One passage they point out is Mark 10:39. Here is the verse in its immediate context:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared." (Mark 10:35-40)

This passage is very cryptic, as it is unclear whether or not John and James would have even understood what Jesus meant by "cup" or "baptism". However, given that the metaphorical use of the "cup" is fairly widespread in the OT (see above section II), and that it was more often than not used in a maledictory manner, it is possible that in this passage we have attestation to the belief that the disciples (or at least James and John) expected to suffer despite hopes of eventually sitting on Jesus' right and left in glory. That this verse comes within the context of Jesus' third explicit passion prediction just prior to their final trip to Jerusalem corroborates this possibility. But, given the cryptic nature of this passage and the fact that Jesus was often misunderstood by the disciples, we probably can't attach too much weight to this reference.

Fortunately, there are perhaps more promising examples:

You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: " 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." Peter declared, "Even if all fall away, I will not." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "today-yes, tonight-before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times." But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same. (Mark 14:27-31)

So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:14-16)

In the first case we have Peter (and apparently the other disciples also) indicating the belief that death may be the result of the disciples' entry into Jerusalem. Of course, Peter didn't turn out to be as brave as he thought he would, as he later denied Jesus three times as the latter predicted, but that's neither here nor there. In fact, Peter seems to express his belief that Jesus would die in v. 31, as per the previous predictions of Jesus. The second reference from John appears somewhat more difficult to interpret, coming as it does within the context of the Lazarus episode, though yet again here we have an indication by a disciple of the expectation of impending death. Craig Keener writes in regards to this:

In v. 16 Thomas64 ironically understands Jesus correctly; for Jesus to raise Lazarus will cost him his life, and Thomas and the other disciples should (though will not) follow him to the cross. The disciples recognized that Jesus had faced most of his opposition in Judea (11:7-8)65; the recent stoning attempt to which they refer would be 10:31-32, with 8:59 not far behind, both in Jerusalem. "Going" (11:7-8, 11, 15-16) is often associated with Jesus' death in the Farewell Discourse (13:3, 33, 36; 14:2-5, 28, 31; 16:5); he calls his disciples to follow (14:31). (Keener 2003; 842)

Nevertheless, it is clear that the disciples did not anticipate "going down without a fight", as when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and assaulted one of the soldiers (see John 18:10-11; Mark 14:57 & par.). Thus it seems likely that the disciples may have finally realized that the dawn of the Kingdom would come only after a costly battle, though they probably thought that this entailed being vindicated after giving up their lives.

Another point of consideration is that the disciples likely could not comprehend a crucified Messiah. While we established in Section I that the belief in atonement being wrought through the death(s) of righteous martyrs was prevalent in that era, the fact that Jesus died by crucifixion would have been very problematic despite this paradigm being in place. Not only was being hanged on a tree a proof of being accursed of God according to the Torah (see Deut. 21:23), but the belief regarding crucifixion according to Roman culture in general was one of shame:

As Martin Hengel has amply shown us in his monograph, Crucifixion, the shame of the cross was the result of a fundamental norm of the Greco-Roman Empire. Hengel observes that "crucifixion was an utterly offensive affair, 'obscene' in the original sense of the word." (22) As Malina and Rohrbaugh note in their Social-Science Commentary on John [263-4], crucifixion was a "status degradation ritual" designed to humiliate in every way, including the symbolic pinioning of hands and legs signigfying [sic] a loss of power, and loss of ability to control the body in various ways, including befouling one's self with excrement. The process was so offensive that the Gospels turn out to be our most detailed description of a crucifixion from ancient times - the pagan authors were too revolted by the subject to give equally comprehensive descriptions - in spite of the fact that thousands of crucifixions were done at a time on some occasions. "(T)he cultured literary world wanted to have nothing to do with [crucifixion], and as a rule kept silent about it." (38) It was recognized as early as Paul (1 Cor. 1:18; see also Heb. 12:2) that preaching a savior who underwent this disgraceful treatment was folly. This was so for Jews (Gal. 3;13; cf. Deut. 21:23) as well as Gentiles. Justin Martyr later writes in his first Apology 13:4 --

They say that our madness consists in the fact that we put a crucified man in second place after the unchangeable and eternal God...

Celsus describes Jesus as one who was "bound in the most ignominious fashion" and "executed in a shameful way." Josephus describes crucifixion as "the most wretched of deaths." An oracle of Apollo preserved by Augustine described Jesus as "a god who died in delusions...executed in the prime of life by the worst of deaths, a death bound with iron." (4) And so the opinions go: Seneca, Lucian, Pseudo-Manetho, Plautus. Even the lower classes joined the charade, as demonstrated by a bit of graffiti depicting a man supplicating before a crucified figure with an asses' head - sub-titled, "Alexamenos worships god." (The asses' head being a recognition of Christianity's Jewish roots: A convention of anti-Jewish polemic was that the Jews worshipped an ass in their temple…

Hengel adds: "A crucified messiah...must have seemed a contradiction in terms to anyone, Jew, Greek, Roman or barbarian, asked to believe such a claim, and it will certainly have been thought offensive and foolish." That a god would descend to the realm of matter and suffer in this ignominious fashion "ran counter not only to Roman political thinking, but to the whole ethos of religion in ancient times and in particular to the ideas of God held by educated people." (10, 4) (Source)

Ben Witherington sums up the matter well:

In short, in early Judaism there was no expectation of a crucified messiah; in fact, one who was crucified was assumed not to be the Anointed One of God, because crucifixion meant to be cursed by God. Indeed, if someone wanted to scotch the rumor that Jesus was the Messiah, there was no better way to do so than to have him crucified. Notice that in Luke 24:20-21, the disciples going to Emmaus assume that Jesus' crucifixion made it clear that he was not the one to redeem Israel. (Witherington III 2001; 155-156)

Recall also that in Jesus' explicit predictions of his passion and vindication, while he tells the disciples that he would be killed, he does not specify the mode of death. Witherington again writes:

Notice too that the disciples would not necessarily have anticipated such a conclusion to Jesus' life on the basis of the passion predictions (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34), if they are historically grounded. These predictions do not mention crucifixion, but only the killing of the Son of Man. There is no evidence, even in Mark 10:45 or Luke 9:44, that Jesus predicted his death by crucifixion. (ibid. 156) [29]

Thus, even if the disciples "caught on" (as appears to be the case from the verses we cited above) to the fact that Jesus was to die, they nevertheless must have felt that something went terribly wrong when he was crucified, which explains their feelings of dashed Messianic hopes in the days following the crucifixion.

To this it should also be added that even if the disciples believed that Jesus would still undergo vindication subsequent to death, it would likely not be understood as a resurrection from death. According to Jewish beliefs at the time, the resurrection (where the righteous arose to receive immortal, glorified bodies) would not take place until the last day. An isolated resurrection in "the middle of time", so to speak, was not part of their eschatological expectations.

Therefore, Jesus' predictions of "rising on the 3rd day" (or "after three days") would have been somewhat vague, particularly from a pre-Easter perspective. It is more likely that the disciples would have anticipated a direct exaltation of Jesus into heaven rather than a resurrection (for details on this, see here).

C. Why did Jesus say "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (in Mark 15:34 and par.) if he felt that it was his divinely-ordained mission to suffer and die?

This is probably the strongest pushback that could be offered to the historicity of the passion predictions, though even this argument is deflated rather quickly when we consider what it is that Jesus was quoting. It is virtually certain that what we have here is a quote from Psalm 22:1. This psalm is indeed one of suffering. The author expresses his anguish over apparently being forsaken by God and then goes on to describe (probably metaphorically) the depths of his suffering at the hands of his enemies. However, later in the psalm we find that the psalmist expresses a rejuvenated confidence in God's intervention on his behalf:

But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. (Psalm 22:19-24; emphasis added)

Thus while the psalmist asks why the Lord has forsaken him at the beginning, after describing in some detail his sufferings, he indicates later, especially in v. 24, that God actually has listened to his supplications, implying that he would be (or has been) vindicated.

Given his earlier predictions of death and vindication, it is therefore likely that Jesus had in mind the scope of the entire psalm when quoting it from the beginning. Just like the psalmist, Jesus would be vindicated by God despite being apparently forsaken by him in the midst of suffering.

Conclusions and Implications

The passion predictions of Jesus' death and/or subsequent vindication are very well attested throughout the Gospel Tradition. They are found in several well-attested Scriptural allusions made by Jesus. They are found in cryptic sayings such as in the saying of the Temple being destroyed and raised within 3 days as well as in the saying about the Sign of Jonah. They are found in one of Jesus' parables (i.e. that of the Wicked Tenants) and other riddles. They are found within the context of memorable historical events like the Last Supper. And finally, they are found in sayings which detail the events to come in quite explicit terms (i.e. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34 and par.). We have found that there is a very substantial body of evidence pointing to the authenticity of most (if not all) of these predictions. Moreover, we have shown in the opening section of this article that there is sufficient evidence from contemporary Judaism that supports Jesus' mode of thinking regarding an atoning death, and that there exists a reasonable possibility that the belief in a suffering Messiah predates Christianity. There can be no doubt then that Jesus expected to die and believed that his death would have great eschatological import. Moreover, Jesus expected to be vindicated from death, probably within 3-4 days. However, it cannot be said with certainty, based on the predictions alone, that he believed this vindication would be in the form of a resurrection (as opposed to perhaps an exaltation) [30]. The closest we come to the conveyance of the idea of resurrection would seem to be in Mark 14:28 and par. where Jesus predicted a post-mortem appearance to the disciples in Galilee. If Jesus expected to undergo a heavenly exaltation, it would not seem to be necessary for an appearance to take place in a specific geographical location. Nevertheless, this reference remains somewhat vague, and therefore we probably can't hang enough weight on it to reach the definitive conclusion that Jesus' predictions of vindication were referring to resurrection as opposed to exaltation. This, however, does not subtract from the fact that we do have multiple authentic predictions of Jesus in reference to his upcoming vindication. The bottom-line here is that any theory regarding the person, aims, and/or beliefs of the historical Jesus that fails to take into account his belief in the importance of his death and vindication is missing quite a substantial piece to this important puzzle.

Before concluding, it is perhaps appropriate to consider the implications that this data might have for the historical veracity of the resurrection itself. It has been shown elsewhere that the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus is very good [31]. It is very interesting then to consider that the evidence for an actual resurrection within human history also points to an individual that predicted that he would be vindicated only shortly after his death, probably within 3-4 days. While someone that preached his atoning death would not necessarily have been as unusual in the milieu of first-century Palestine as it would be today (see Section I), a prediction of subsequent vindication, especially one to occur so soon after death, would have been quite bold (and that's probably a huge understatement!). Jesus' predictions of vindication ultimately established a standard whereby his message would be confirmed or disconfirmed. If Jesus' body remained in the grave, especially after a crucifixion, he would have been perceived as another failed Messiah. Therefore, for Jesus to have made such bold predictions about his vindication (to the point of even giving a "deadline" to when it would occur!) indicates that, for whatever reason, he had very strong convictions that it was part of God's plan. Jesus did apparently have this enigmatic belief about his divinely-ordained fate, and few today would question his sanity. Moreover, it is surely an interesting phenomenon that it was this man's tomb that was found empty approximately 36 hours after he was laid in it, and for whom we also have numerous early reports of his appearing alive to a number of people and on a variety of occasions - both to individuals and to groups.


1. At the very least, these texts do give us additional corroboration of the belief in vicarious suffering in the Second Temple period, as we discussed briefly in Section I-A.

2. There is some controversy as to the date of the Similitudes of Enoch. It is possible that it was written after the start of the Christian era. Hengel provides a date range of 40 B.C. to 66 A.D. (Hengel places this as the upper limit apparently because of its lack of mention of the destruction of Jerusalem) Nevertheless, the possibility is left open that the Similitudes are of Christian origin, though Hengel writes that "the identification of the Son of Man with Enoch makes it absurd to presuppose a Christian origin." (See Hengel 2004; 99)

3. "In response to the claim that the speakers of Isaiah 53 are the gentile nations, Brown responds:

"First, there is a fundamental theological flaw in the interpretation that the Gentile kings are the speakers in Isaiah 53. According to Jeremiah 30:11, God would completely destroy the nations among whom he scattered his people. While he promised to discipline his people-hence their scattering among these nations-he would eventually judge those nations for their sins against Israel. So, God's people would suffer for their own sins, often at the hands of their enemies, but then the Lord would destroy those enemies. This is the opposite of what Isaiah 53 states: The servant was guiltless, suffering for the sins of his guilty people, who are then healed by his suffering. How then can the Gentile kings-kings who are promised judgment, not blessing, for inflicting pain on the Jewish people-be pictured as speakers in this chapter? If they were the speakers, they should have said, 'We inflicted great suffering on the people of Israel, who were guilty of great sin against God, but we went too far in our punishments, and now Israel's God will utterly destroy us.' Now that's quite a difference!"[22]

Brown then gives a couple of examples. Isaiah 10:5-34 describes the use of Assyria by God to judge Israel and Judah. However, as a result of their excessive pride and malice, God brought judgment against them. Another example is with that of Nebuchadnezzar, leader of Babylon, who is referred to as God's servant in Jeremiah 27:6. However, Babylon's judgment and destruction by God is described later in Jeremiah 50-51[23]. Similarly, we are told that God gave the Israelites the land of Canaan because of the Canaanites wickedness. Also, the reason that Israel was removed from their land both times was due to their own turning away from God. In other words, while God used Israel to punish the Canaanite nations, He also used various pagan nations to punish the Israelites for their own sins. God is not impartial.

Brown also notes:

"Second, there is a serious contextual and grammatical flaw in this viewpoint. Look carefully at the consistent language of the entire passage. First person singular is only used by God: MY servant(52:13), MY righteous servant(53:11), therefore *I* will.(53:12). The same holds true for MY people in 53:8. God himself is speaking about his servant suffering for his people Israel, rather than the kings speaking of their people individually. This becomes even more clear when we realize that the onlookers in this passage(according to this objection, the Gentile kings) always express themselves in the first person plural: OUR message(53:1); to attract US.that WE should desire him(53:2; WE esteemed him not(53:3); OUR infirmities. OUR sorrows. WE considered him(53:4); OUR transgressions. Our iniquities. brought US peace. WE are healed(53:5); WE all. each of US. the iniquity of US all(53:6)-and then this language stops in verse 6. No more "we, us, our"-not once-indicating that whatever group is speaking, be it the people of Israel as a whole or the alleged kings of the nations, they are no longer speaking after verse 6. The narrator must be either the prophet or (much more likely) God, speaking in the first person singular and describing the sufferings of the servant in the third person singular. And this means that the only possible meaning of my people in Isaiah 53:8 is that the servant of the Lord suffered for the people of Israel, not that the servant was actually the people of Israel themselves."[24] (Source)

4. See e.g. Matt. 8:17; Acts 8:27-35; Rom. 10:16; I Peter 2:21-25 for explicit allusions; more subtle allusions may include Rom. 4:25 and I Cor. 15:3b-5. For thorough treatments of the references to Isaiah 53 in the New Testament see Stuhlmacher 2004 regarding the references in the Gospels and Acts and Hofius 2004 regarding the references in the New Testament epistles.

5. Regarding Gospel references of Jesus' use of the shepherd-motif, France writes:

The metaphor is taken up and used both by Jesus and the rest of the New Testament. Its normal application by Jesus is to his disciples as the flock and himself as the shepherd: this we have seen in Mark 14:27, where he quotes Zechariah 13:7; it appears also in Mark 14:28156; Luke 12:32 (with a possible allusion to the 'little ones' of Zc. 13:7 and/or the 'poor of the flock' of Zc. 11:7, 11)157; John 10:1-16, 26-28, and is probably implied in the parables of Matthew 8:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7158. Correlative to this use is the description of Israel as lost sheep in Matthew 10:6 and 15:24, since this implies their need to be included in the flock over which Jesus is shepherd. One other and derivative use is that in John 21:15-17, where the pastoral office is delegated to Peter. (France 1998; 208)

6. France also believes that a third allusion of Jesus in Mark 14:24 to Isaiah 53 is "virtually certain". (see France 1998; 121-123)

7. Stuhlmacher sees in Mark 10:45 an allusion to both Isaiah 43:3-4 and 53:11-12.

8. With regards to Jesus' breaking the Sabbath, we should clarify that this entailed his lack of adherence to some of the many rules and regulations imposed upon it by his contemporaries, not that he did not necessarily adhere fully to the injunctions found within the Torah itself.

9. On the the unity of the Markan version of the Gethsemane pericope, see Bayer 1986; 61-70

10. It has become common for Muslim apologists to use Heb. 5:7-10 in conjunction with Jesus' request to circumvent his drinking of the "cup" in the Gethsemane narratives to demonstrate that God "saved him from death" not through a resurrection, but rather by saving him from having to undergo death in the first place, in apparent support of Surah 4:157 of the Qur'an. However, Jesus makes it clear in the Gethsemane narrative that, despite requesting, if it be possible, for the cup to pass him by, the most important thing is that the will of his Father be done. In fact, later in Matthew Jesus states that he must go through with what is to come for the will of his Father to be accomplished (Matthew 26:52-54). As for the Hebrews passage, while it is true that (in the absence of indicators to the contrary), the Muslim interpretation could be sound, the fact that the author elsewhere refers to Jesus' death (Heb 2:9, 14; 9:15; 13:12) requires that some sort of vindication subsequent to death be in mind in this passage.

11. For a discussion on why the peripheral differences may exist using the principles of form, redaction, and midrash criticism, see Blomberg 1987, 66-72.

12. There are a number of other "riddles of the cross" (to quote N.T. Wright) made by Jesus other than the Parable of the Wicked Tenants which probably indicates Jesus' belief in his subsequent death. Wright argues, for instance, that the "Great Commandment" of Mt. 22:34-40/Mk. 12:28-34 indicates, (along with) "Jesus' kingdom-agenda, with the love of YHWH and of neighbour at its heart, suggested that the sacrificial system was about to be made redundant" which "both confirms the meaning of the Temple-action and hints at the meaning of the supper-action. This one was an act of judgment; the other, a pointer towards the Temple's replacement." (Wright 1996; 566-567). Other such riddles include the woman's anointing Jesus for burial (Mt. 26:6-13/Mk. 14:3-9/Lk. 7:36-50/John 12:1-8); the "Green Tree and the Dry" saying in Lk. 23:27-31; the "Hen and the Chickens" saying in Mt. 23:37-39/Lk. 13:34-35; and the sayings alluding to (eschatological) "Baptism" and/or "the cup" in Mt. 20:22-23/Mk. 10:38-40 and Lk. 12:49-50. Wright concludes by noting:

The early church was not reticent in speaking about Jesus' death, and in developing a rich and multifaceted interpretation of it. The first Christians had no need to speak of it in riddles. The cross was public knowledge, and, though it might be a scandal, it was a nettle that was grasped, not a strange fact that could be alluded to only with cryptic sayings. Putting this the other way around, the riddles are remarkably free of even the beginnings of that early atonement-theology which we see, for instance, so clearly in Paul. Indeed, some of them speak simply of approaching tragic death, without any sense of a redemption thereby achieved. (ibid. 573-574).

The cryptic nature of the sayings and the lack of theological elaboration thus point to the authenticity of the riddles, further supporting our case that Jesus spoke of his impending death. For the whole discussion of these riddles individually, see Wright 1996; 566-574.

13. According to Stuhlmacher, Paul may betray knowledge of both the Lukan and Markan versions of the Lord's Supper in his first epistle to the Corinthians. While I Cor. 11:23-26 has much in common with what we find in the Lukan version, Stuhlmacher states that the comments by Paul in I Cor. 10:16-17 show verbal similarities with the Markan account (Stuhlmacher 2004; 152).

14. That Mark and Matthew rely on the same tradition for their respective accounts, see Bayer 1986; 29-30. For arguments demonstrating that Luke and Paul rely on the same tradition for their respective accounts, see Taylor 1972; 52-56.

15. For a more thorough, if somewhat dated, analysis of the textual issue, see Jeremias 1966; 139-159.

16. For the sake of argument as well as simplicity, I'm going to remain agnostic about whether or not the "three days and three nights" comment was part of the actual saying of Jesus or a parenthetical comment by Matthew.

17. The chronological rearrangement of material was common in ancient biography. Keener writes:

In contrast to modern historical biography, ancient biographers also did not need to follow a chronological sequence; most felt free to rearrange their material topically100. Some scholars maintain that Peripatetic biographies were literary biographies ordered chronologically, insofar as was possible101; Alexandrian biographies were arranged more systematically or topically102. Although these types were never followed exactly, and chronological biographies appear to have been rare103, Luke seems to fall into the former category (following the order of Mark almost exactly except for several very significant exceptions), whereas Matthew (who is influenced more by Jewish encomium conventions) follows the more common topical format (compare his five topical discourse sections). Many Jewish interpreters doubted that the biblical accounts of Moses at Sinai were arranged chronologically (cf. 4Q158)104. Nor did early Christians expect the Gospels to reflect chronological sequence; Augustine suggested the evangelists wrote their Gospels as God recalled the accounts to their memory (Cons. 21.51; for Mark, see Papaias in Eusebius "His. Eccl." 3.39)105. (Keener 2003; 12-13)

For more on this see here.

18. A discussion of the authenticity and interpretation of the Olivet Discourse is beyond our scope, but good discussions are found in Keener 1997; 559-564 and Wright 1996; 339-368. See also here

19. See the excellent discussion of Daniel 7, The Similitudes of Enoch, and 4 Ezra in Collins 1995; 175-189. See also the discussion in Witherington III 1990; 238ff. for a discussion of Daniel 7 and The Similitudes of Enoch in relation to Jesus.

20. The only possible pushback that I'm aware of to this conclusion is the possibility that the Similitudes of Enoch refers to Isaiah 53, though as we've seen in Section I-B, this connection is far from clear, and even if the connection is present, it remains the case that it is the exaltation of the Servant/Son of Man that is emphasized in the Similitidues, not his (vicarious) suffering.

21. In Matthew's version of the third passion prediction, we find that he uses the Greek word for "crucified" rather than "killed" as in Mark. However, it is likely that this is due either to a variant in the oral tradition or to Matthean redaction, as it is more likely that a vague historical reference by Jesus would be specified by an author writing after the events transpired than that a specific historical reference made by Jesus would be subsequently expressed more vaguely by an author writing after the fact.

22. Mark utilizes the word, egeiro, in describing the concept of rising from the dead (whether the subject is Jesus, John the Baptist, or the general resurrection) when not referring to Jesus' major passion predictions (Mk. 6:14, 16; 12:23, 25; 16:6). The only exception is that anistemi is retained in Mk 12:26. On the other hand, of the five explicit predictions by Jesus of vindication in Mark's Gospel (8:31; 9:9; 9:31; 10:34; 14:28), only in Mk 14:28 is the word egeiro used against anistemi.

23. The use of anistemi in the Gospel passion predictions indicates Jesus' belief that he will "rise again", but egeiro indicates that Jesus will "be raised". The latter term thus implies that God is the Author of the resurrection, which is consistent with the theology of the early church, though see note 25 below.

24. The verses where the early church referred to Jesus' resurrection using anistemi are Acts 2:24, 30, 32; 3:26; 10:41; 13:33, 34; 17:3, 31; Rom. 14:9; and I Thes. 4:14. However, in all of these references except for three (Acts 17:3, Rom. 14:9, and I Thes. 4:14), the context still makes it explicitly clear that God is the One that raised Jesus from the dead. Plus, in one of the exceptional verses, the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead still seems implicit:

As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. (Acts 17:2-3a)

That God was the Author of the resurrection here seems implicit, since this passage describes Paul proving from the Scriptures that Jesus must rise from the dead.

25. Bayer argues that, with the exceptions of Mk. 8:31 and 9:9, neither of the anistemi or egeiro strands of tradition clearly speak in "active" or "passive" (i.e. "rise again" vs. "be raised") terms. He argues rather that the forms of both terms are conveyed slightly towards a passive meaning (other than the noted exceptions which are in their active forms). Because of this, he concludes that "Both strands display primitive features. We note especially that they do not identify the author of the resurrection since both strands neither speak in clearly active or passive terms. We stress that the early formula in I Thes 1:10 already identifies God as the author of Jesus' resurrection from death79." (Bayer 1986; 210; see ibid. 209-210 for full discussion).

26. Gary Habermas summarizes the position of a number of scholars on the dating of this tradition:

Critical scholars usually agree that this tradition introduced by Paul had a remarkably early origin. Joachim Jeremias calls it "the earliest tradition of all." (79) Ulrich Wilckens declares that the material "indubitably goes back to the oldest phase of all in the history of primitive Christianity." (80) Walter Kasper even states, "We have here therefore an ancient text, perhaps in use by the end of A.D. 30." (81) Most scholars who provide a date think that Paul received this creedal tradition between two and eight years after Jesus's death, or from approximately A.D. 32 to 38. (82)

Even skeptics frequently agree. Gerd Lüdemann thinks that "the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus…not later than three years after the death of Jesus...[T]he formation of the appearance traditions mentioned in I Cor. 15.3-8 falls into the time between 30 and 33 CE." (83) Michael Goulder states that Paul's testimony about Jesus's resurrection appearances "goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion." (84) Thomas Sheehan agrees that Paul's formula "probably goes back to at least 32-34 C.E., that is, to within two to four years of the crucifixion." (85) Such skeptical agreement is not rare (86). (Habermas 2003; 17-18)

James Dunn even suggests that the tradition was formulated within months of the crucifixion! (Dunn 2003; 854-855)

27. It is possible that the "third day" motif is not to be taken literally. A common proposal is that such references are only intended as vague allusions to a short period of time, so that the reference could be taken to mean e.g. "in a few days", or "after several days". Jeremias favors this approach and argues that it serves to increase our confidence in the historicity of Jesus' claim (Jeremias 1971; 285-286). There are a host of Old Testament texts that can be considered in this vein of thought, including the following:

Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. (Genesis 22:3-4)

So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: "Go through the camp and tell the people, 'Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.'" (Joshua 1:11)

Now she had said to them, "Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way." (Joshua 2:16)

So David said, "Look, tomorrow is the New Moon festival, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow...Then Jonathan said to David: "Tomorrow is the New Moon festival. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. (I Samuel 20:5, 19-20)

Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city-a visit required three days. (Jonah 3:3)

After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. (Hosea 6:2)

In the New Testament, there is also John 16:16-19:

"In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." Some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean by saying, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,' and 'Because I am going to the Father'?" They kept asking, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying." Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, "Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me'?

Could the "little while" in John be synonymous with the "third day" motif in the canonical Gospels? This is possible since the first "little while" seems to be referring to the crucifixion, with the second one referring to the post-mortem appearances. But, to connect the two is speculative. Likewise, the Old Testament texts we listed could, it seems to me, just as easily be referring to literal time periods as referring merely to an undefined short period of time. However, the most promising possibility for this interpretation is found in Luke 13:31-33:

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day-for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

At this point in Jesus' ministry, there appears to be nothing significant that would happen on the third day from that point. His crucifixion was certainly well over three days away from occurring from that point in time. Thus this understanding of Jesus' "third day" predictions may carry some plausibility.

Against this view, however, is the fact that the author of Matthew in Mt. 27:63-64 (where the chief priests' request that Jesus' tomb be guarded) seems to treat Jesus' prediction of his resurrection as a literal time indicator. Even if this episode is not historical, the author's recording of this episode in the way that he did betrays his understanding that the time reference in the prediction(s) is to be taken literally. If the episode is historical, however, it at least provides some attestation that the enemies of Jesus understood his predictions to be referring to a literal time period (see also John 2:18-22). These considerations have some force, though are not decisive since it could be argued that Matthew's understanding could have been shaped by the Easter events themselves rather than by what Jesus initially intended when providing the time reference, and it is clearly not inconceivable that the disciples and/or enemies of Jesus misunderstood him in this regard (as such misunderstandings were fairly common according to the Gospel Tradition). Furthermore, it is possible that Hosea 6:2 (quoted above) could have served as a template for Jesus' prediction of his own vindication after a specific time period:

Goppelt argues that Ho 6:2 was used only around 100 AD as a Scriptural proof for the resurrection after three days53. It is, however, possible that the Rabbinic interpretation of Ho 6:2 regarding the eschatological resurrection 'on the third day after the end of the world', reached into the times of the primitive church and Jesus54. Furthermore, it is very likely that Jesus and the disciples were acquainted with the more general teaching that God does not tolerate more than three days that the righteous should suffer. The illustrating references in [Genesis Rabbah] 91 to Joseph, Jonah, Mordecai and David can hardly be understood as a then new Biblical Midrash. (Bayer 1986; 206-207)

At the end of the day, I'm inclined to believe that the reference of Jesus could be referring to an unspecified short period of time, especially in light of Lk. 13:33. Nevertheless, in light of the considerations to the contrary, I think it more probable than not that Jesus originally was referring to a literal 3-4 day time period.

28. Bayer here lists several, such as the change from the present tense in Mark 9:31a to the future tense in 9:31b (Bayer 1986; 169-170).

29. Against this assertion is the fact that in Matthew 26:2, we find that Jesus states that he is to be "handed over to be crucified". However, it is doubtful that a single explicit reference of Jesus to the crucifixion would have been enough to overcome the cultural and theological stigmata (pun intended) that would have made such a fate of Jesus impossible in the minds of the disciples. Additionally, the statement says that Jesus would be "handed over to be crucified", perhaps signifying in the minds of the disciples that the actual crucifixion could still have been prevented at that time. This is corroborated by Peter's initial refusal to accept Jesus' first passion prediction (cf. Mark 8:31 and par.) as well as his drawing and using his sword on those that came to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane. Again, while it can be demonstrated that the disciples expressed a belief that they were in danger of death, probably in the context of battle, it remains unlikely that they could have conceived at that time their master being crucified. Finally, it is possible that Matthew here has taken up a tradition or redacted one that was originally less specific, as we find to be the case in his use of the Markan tradition in Matt. 20:19.

30. That Jesus would have expected to be resurrected at some point is probable given his Jewish context and belief in the general resurrection of the dead (Mark 12:18-27) [See Evans 1997; 91-97], but it is not clear from the predictions alone that the mode of vindication he expected to receive within three days or so after his death would be that of resurrection.

31. To discuss the historical veracity of the resurrection in any depth here would take us too far adrift of the main point of this article. However, to briefly illustrate the point, consider the following list of facts regarding the resurrection that are accepted by virtually all New Testament scholars (save for #4 which is accepted by 75% of NT scholars):

1) Jesus died by Roman crucifixion;

2) He was buried, most likely in a private tomb;

3) Soon afterward, the disciples were discouraged, bereaved, and despondent, having lost hope;

4) Jesus's tomb was found empty very soon after his interment;

5) The disciples had experiences that they believed were actual appearances of the risen Jesus;

6) Due to these experiences, the disciples' lives were thoroughly transformed, even being willing to die for this belief;

7) The proclamation of the resurrection took place very early, at the beginning of church history;

8) The disciples' public testimony and preaching of the resurrection took place in the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified and buried shortly before;

9) The Gospel message centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus;

10) Sunday was the primary day for gathering and worshipping;

11) James, the brother of Jesus and a former skeptic, was converted when, he believed, he saw the risen Jesus; and

12) Just a few years later, Saul of Tarsus (Paul) became a Christian believer due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus (Habermas 2003; 9-10; this data was compiled by Gary Habermas in a study spanning the past three decades or so of more than 2,000 scholarly studies on the resurrection written in English, French, and German).

To the above list it could be added that the plausibility of the standard naturalistic explanations of the data (e.g. the Swoon theory; the "wrong tomb" theory; the subjective visions theory, etc.) is also rejected by the majority of New Testament scholars. Habermas, in another source, writes regarding this:

Exhibiting an amazing amount of consensus, most researchers across a very wide conceptual spectrum have rejected naturalistic approaches as explanations for the earliest Christians' belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Even a small sample of these scholars over recent decades forms an impressive list41. Accordingly, the path of alternative theories is definitely a minority approach. (Habermas 2006; 86)

Habermas in an end-note then goes on to list a "small sample" of about 30 NT scholars and their respective works. Nevertheless, it behooves us to emphasize that a scholarly consensus is only as valuable as that of the evidence upon which it is based. We mention it here only to demonstrate that, given the implications of conceding the historicity of many of the items that the above list contains (particularly for scholars of the non-evangelical stripe), it is quite remarkable that we find such agreement by evangelicals and non-evangelicals alike. But, for what's truly important (i.e. the data itself!), consider the resources contained at the following links:




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Aland, Kurt and Barbara; Rhodes, Erroll F. (translator). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. 2nd ed. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, MI. 1995.

Bayer, Hans F. Jesus' Predictions of Vindication and Resurrection: The Provenance, Meaning and Correlation of the Synoptic Predictions. J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck) Tübingen. 1986.

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Brown, Raymond E. An Introduction to New Testament Christology. Paulist Press. 1994.

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Evans, Craig. A. "Did Jesus Predict His Death and Resurrection?" in Porter, Stanley E., Michael Hayes, & David Tombs (eds). Resurrection. Sheffield Academic Press. 1999. 82-97.

France, R. T. Jesus and the Old Testament: His Application of Old Testament Passages to Himself and His Mission. Regent College Publishing. Vancouver, British Columbia. 1992.

Goodacre, Mark and Nicholas Perrin (eds). Questioning Q: A Multidimensional Critique. InterVarsity Press. Downers Grove, Illinois. 2004.

Green, Joel B. The Death of Jesus: Tradition and Interpretation in the Passion Narrative. J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck) Tübingen. 1988.

Habermas, Gary R. The Risen Jesus & Future Hope. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2003.

Habermas, Gary R. "Mapping the Recent Trend toward the Bodily Resurrection Appearances of Jesus in Light of Other Prominent Critical Positions" in Stewart, Robert S. (ed). The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright in Dialogue. Fortress Press. Minneapolis. 2006. 78-92.

Hengel, Martin. The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ. Trinity Press International. 2000.

Hengel, Martin; Bailey, Daniel P. "The Effective History of Isaiah 53 in the Pre-Christian Period" in Janowski, Bernd and Peter Stuhlmacher (eds). The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Sources. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2004. 75-146.

Hofius, Otfried. "The Fourth Servant Song in the New Testament Letters" in Janowski, Bernd and Peter Stuhlmacher (eds). The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Sources. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2004. 163-188.

Jeremias, Joachim. The Eucharistic Words of Jesus. Charles Scribner's Sons. New York. 1966.

Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus. Charles Scribner's Sons. New York. 1971.

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