14 April 2007

Jesus the Jewish Traditionalist?

[Taken from Athanasius Contra Mundum]
This little tidbit passed completely under my nose, until I came across the hysterical ravings of some fools who didn't know what they were talking about.

Pope Benedict said the following:
It is likely that Jesus followed the calendar of the Essenes of Qumran, possibly explaining some contradictions within the Gospel accounts of the Passover, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made this observation Holy Thursday in his homily during the Mass of the Lord's Supper at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

In his address, the theologian commented on the historical investigations on the manuscripts of Qumran, found in the Dead Sea in 1947.

"In the narrations of the Evangelists, there is an apparent contradiction between the Gospel of John, on one hand, and what, on the other hand, Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us," said Benedict XVI.

The Pope continued: "According to John, Jesus died on the cross precisely at the moment in which, in the temple, the Passover lambs were being sacrificed. His death and the sacrifice of the lambs coincided.

"This means that he died on the eve of Passover, and that, therefore, he could not have personally celebrated the paschal supper, at least this is what it would seem."

The Holy Father said that according to an interpretation of the texts, "still not accepted by all," Jesus "celebrated Passover with his disciples probably according to the calendar of Qumran, that is to say, at least one day earlier -- he celebrated without a lamb, like the Qumran community who did not recognize the Temple of Herod and was waiting for a new temple."

Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, former rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome, explained that in Jesus' time the calendar of the Essenes was more traditional that the one more recently adopted by the priests of Jerusalem. He said that this doesn't signify that Jesus formed part of the Essenes.

The new lamb

Benedict XVI, however, said that it does imply that Jesus "celebrated Passover without a lamb, no, not without a lamb: Instead of the lamb he gave himself, his body and his blood."

The Pope continued: "And he himself was the true temple, the living temple, the one in which God lives, in which we can find ourselves with God and adore him.

"His blood, the love of he who is at the same time Son of God and true man, one of us, this blood has the power to save. His love, this love in which he gives himself freely for us, is what saves us."

Benedict XVI urged those present to "ask the Lord to help us to understand ever more deeply this marvelous mystery, and to love it more and more."
Now, one is likely to ask, what is an Essene, and what does it matter?
An Essenite was a Jew who refused to follow the Greco-Romanized rites introduced in Jerusalem under the combination of Seleucid Greek and Roman rulers. The Pharisees and the Saducees followed a Greco-Romanized calendar based on the lunar calendar, rather than the traditional Jewish calendar. Perhaps they saw the signs of the times and decided to get modernize. In any event, the Essenes were essentially Jewish Traditionalists. They refused to follow the Greco-Roman calendar, and they refused to worship in the Herodian temple, since Herod was an Edomite, and the temple represented his wickedness among other things. They did not sacrifice a lamb, as they did not worship in the temple, but they were considered all holy by many, including the historian Josephus who remarked "The Essenes surpass us all." The Essenes were by no means a secret sect, as some hysterical people are claiming in various places, they were one of the main groups of Jews in the 1st century.

Notice too, that the Pope is careful not to say that the Jesus was an Essene, since that is unprovable. However one can make a very good case that Jesus followed the Essene rites, which is to say that Jesus was essentially a Traditionalist. Now Jesus gives very explicit commands in the Gospel to the apostles as to where to go in order to celebrate the Passover. Notice this is done without a physical lamb, and that it is done one day before the Jews celebrated their passover. Why? If Jesus followed the Essene rituals, this means that he said the passover prior to the date occuring on the Pharisees' new Greco-Roman calendar, and because he like the Essenes was waiting for a new temple, this would occur without the sacrifice of the lamb. As to where Jesus celebrated the passover, and the directions for the preparation he gives to the Apostles, it is interesting to note that this occurs within the Essene Quarter of Jerusalem. This is something that has only been known for 60 years. Concerning the location of the last supper and several of the apparent contradictions in the Gospel accounts, the Church Fathers said "we don't know". St. Augustine confessed he did not understand how to reconcile it. Yet today we know through archeology that Jesus said the last supper in the Essenite quarter, according to traditional rites as the Essenes were accustomed to do. This is perhaps the only way in which He could offer Himself as the paschal lamb, at the moment that the passover lamb was offered in the Temple, namely at 3:00, and that the temple veils were torn, something that signifies not just the destruction of the Old Testament system, but a judgment against that temple and the "Novus Ordoized" practices of the Pharisees and Saducees.

From this we can draw numerous other parallels and thoughts. God's presence was still in the Herodian temple, and Jesus still obeyed the high priest. In fact, before the crucifixion, John's Gospel records how Caiphas said that one man must die for the nation, fearing that the Romans would make war on account of some new movement, and he adds:
And this he spoke not of himself: but being the high priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation. And not only for the nation, but to gather together in one the children of God, that were dispersed. (John XI:51-52)
Jesus, when at his trial would not speak, until Caiaphas put him under oath. In the same way we might judge the situation of the Traditionalist in today's world. The authorities of the covenant, of God's Church, have adopted the practices and mindset of a world that knows it not and cares not, as the Jews adopted the practices of the Roman world which cared nothing for the covenant. The Pharisees and Saducees were essentially saying, you say "tomato", I say "tomoto", well, you have your traditions, and we have ours. That is in the past, this is the new way of doing things. The Essenes essentially said I don't think so. There is a meaning and a purpose to ancient rituals, and we will not abandon them just because some foreign power comes in and uses its influence. In the same way we stand against our present day authorities who say, well, this is the way the world is, and we should do things the "world's way".

Therefore, we must ask why would Pope Benedict, who is not a Traditionalist and not a Conservative make this point? Much the same way Caiaphas (the comparison goes no further than this by the way) in lieu of his high priestly office predicted Jesus' death, the Pope correctly makes a comparison that he no doubt didn't foresee (but hopefully would acknowledge). He perhaps only had in mind drawing the connections between the Essenite traditions and reconciling the Gospel accounts. When one learns of the Jewish rituals at the time, and sees how Jesus fulfilled them, it is really quite astounding. What is even more astounding is to see that in traditional Catechisms and commentaries of the Fathers all of these things are already expounded. We just need to read them. As for the Essenes and Pope Benedict, I think the latter would do well to reinvigorate the Church with the former's zeal for Tradition.

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