Thursday, May 12, 2016

Blasphemy in the First Century CE (Darrell Bock)

What exactly constituted blasphemy in the first
century has been a cause of much debate among NT
scholars. One of the most thorough and helpful studies
I've read on this subject is Darrell Bock's Blasphemy
and Exaltation in Judaism: The Charge against Jesus in
Mark 14:53-65

Bock reports that one form of blasphemy (according
to m Sanh 6.4; 7.5) was improperly using the divine name (YHWH)
or pronouncing it at all(p. 234). But other acts
constituting blasphemy were acts of idolatry and
wanton disrespect for God and His chosen
representatives. With this historical data in mind,
Bock explains:

"Jesus' blasphemy [in Mk 14:53-65] operated at two
levels. 1) There was a claim to possess comprehensive
authority from the side of God. Though Judaism might
contemplate such a posiiton for a few, the teacher
from Galilee was not among the luminaries for whom
such a role might be considered. As a result, his
remark would have been seen as a self-claim, that was
an affront to God's presence. 2) He also attacked the
leadership, by implicitly claiming to be their future
judge (or by claiming a vindication by him). This
would be seen as a violation of Exod 22:27, where
God's leaders are not to be cursed" (p. 236).

Admittedly, Bock seems to think that the claims of
Christ in the Gospel of Mark differed from other
exalted figures of Judaism since Mark records that the Son
of Man would come "seated at the right hand of power
and coming with the clouds of heaven." Nevertheless, I
believe his discussion illustrates that the charge of
blasphemy was not as narrow as some imply.

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