The King of Stories -- Blood of Kings and Children

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

Time for my favorite secondary characters in all the Gospels to arrive! {g!}

Blood of Kings and Children

Now when the eight days were fulfilled (the Scholar says), to circumcise the Child, His name was called 'Jesus'--as called by the angel before His conception in the womb.

And when the days of her purification were also completed (from the birthing blood), according to the Law of Moses, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord; for it is written (says the Scholar, referring to precepts delivered in the books of Exodus and Numbers) that "Every first-born son opening up the mother shall be declared holy to the Lord". Also, they gave a sacrifice (for thanks and sin atonement) according to the declared law of the Lord (in Leviticus): "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."

Now look!--there was a man named Simeon in Jerusalem!--a man of fairness and devotion, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and a holy spirit was on him. [See first comment below for extended footnote here.]

And the Spirit of the Holy (One) had alerted him (as of a secret), that he would not see death before he saw the Lord's Anointed King.

So into the Temple he came, within the Spirit.

Now as the parents are bringing in the Baby Jesus, in order to do for Him what was the custom of the Law, Simeon (perhaps acting as their priest for this ritual) receives Him into his arms; and blessing God, he says:

Now You dismiss Your slave in peace, O my Owner!--
just as You said!--
For my eyes have seen Your Salvation
Which You are making ready to fit
the face of all the peoples!
Yes! the Light (as it is written) for revelation to the nations;
and the glory of Your people Israel!

And Joseph was marveling, along with His mother, at the things being said about Him; and Simeon blesses them...

...but to Miriam, His mother, he said:

"Look here! This One is appointed for the fall and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed--and you also shall be pierced with a sword to your heart!--so that the reasonings of many hearts shall be revealed."

At that very moment, the prophetess Hannah came up to them--Hannah, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, far advanced in her years to the age of eighty-four, widowed after seven years of marriage, and (virtually) living since then in the Temple, serving with fasting and prayers day and night. And she also began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of this Boy (carrying onward, as a prophetess herself, the word given through Simeon) to all those who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

Now when they had accomplished everything according to the Law of the Lord (says the Scholar), they returned to the Galilee region, to their own city of Nazareth.

Now, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea (says the Disciple, taking up his turn of the tale, adding another piece to the story), in the days of Herod the king--

Behold! Magoi ('great ones') from the East are arriving in Jerusalem!

And they are asking: "Where is He Who is born King of the Jews!? For in the East, we perceived His star; and we have come to worship Him!"

Now, when King Herod heard of this, he was troubled; and all Jerusalem with him.

So, gathering all the chief priests and scribes of the people, Herod began questioning them: "Where is the Anointed King to be born??"

They answered him: "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written through the prophet (Micah):

'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah
are you in any respect least among the mentors of Judah?
For out of you shall come "Mentor"
Who shall shepherd My people Israel!'"

[Footnote: Hebrew/Aramaic has "Ephrathra" instead of "land of Judah", which is from the LXX.]

Then Herod, secretly summoning the magoi, inquired of them as to the timing of the appearing star; and then sent them on to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and make careful search for the little boy. And if ever you find him, report back to me, so that I may also be coming to bow before him!"

Now having heard the king they went.

And look!--the star they had perceived in the East is going on before them, until it comes to stand over where the little Boy is! And seeing the star, they are rejoicing with exceeding great joy!

Now they are coming into the house (Joseph not having left the region yet), and they see the Child with Miriam His mother; and falling, they worship Him. And opening their treasures, they bring Him approach-presents (like ascent-offerings in a temple)--gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

But being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they depart for their own country by another road.

While they are departing for their own country, look! Joseph is having a dream! A messenger of the Lord is appearing to him, saying: "Get up! Take the little Boy and His mother, and flee to Egypt (50 miles south-southwest of Bethlehem or so), and stay there until I speak to you again--for Herod plans to search out the Child, to destroy Him!"

So, being wakened, he took the Boy and His mother and fled for Egypt by night; staying there (probably in a Jewish settlement just over the border) until the death of Herod.

And this happened (says the Disciple) so that the declaration by the Lord through the prophet (Hosea) might be accomplished: "Out of Egypt did I call My Son."

Then Herod, seeing the magoi had scoffed at him, became exceedingly furious; and sending forth (his soldiers), he slew all the children in Bethlehem and its nearby settlements (such as the caravanserai), from two years old and younger, according to the timing he had learned from the magoi.

[Footnote: the options being (a) they had seen the sign two years ago, so Herod decided to be thorough in his typical paranoia, or (b) the family lived in Bethlehem for about two years, with Joseph's people, before fleeing to Egypt briefly to escape the wrath of Herod.]

This (believes the Disciple) fulfilled the declaration through Jeremiah the prophet:

A sound in Ramah is heard!
Lamentation and much anguish;
Rachel lamenting her children;
and she would not be comforted,
--for they are not.

But at the death of Herod (in the spring of 4 BCE), look!--an angel of the Lord is appearing to Joseph in Egypt, again in a dream, saying: "When you awake, take along the little Boy and His mother, and return to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the soul of the Boy are dead."

So when he woke, he did take the Baby and His mother and go into the land of Israel. But, hearing that Archelaus now reigned in Judea in the place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there (to Bethlehem where his own family was.)

So being once more warned in a dream, now he departs for the Galilee region (says the Disciple), and goes to live in the city of Nazareth.

And this happened (adds the Disciple) so that what was spoken through prophets might be fulfilled: "He shall be called a Nazarene."

[Footnote: the Disciple is taking "Nazareth" to be an extra fulfillment, by verbal pun, of the Messiah being a "branch" of David. i.e. descended from David, but also coming from Nazareth. The Disciple has a tendency to look for clever 'hidden' prophetic links after-the-fact, and do midrashic topical commentary on them. Most of those are here in the Matthean Nativity prologue, but there are a couple of others scattered through GosMatt, too.]

So (continues the Scholar)... the Child grew, becoming strong in spirit and filled by Wisdom; and the grace of God was on Him.

Now the Boy's parents went every year up to Jerusalem, for the Feast of Passover (in the spring).

One year, when He was twelve, they went up to the Feast, as was their custom; and after spending their full number of days there, they were returning home--but the Boy Jesus had remained behind in Jerusalem, and His parents did not know this, figuring He must be elsewhere in the caravan.

At the end of the first day's journey, they began searching for Him among their relatives and friends; and not finding Him, they returned to Jerusalem, hunting for Him.

Three days later, they found Him in the Temple!--seated amidst the rabbis, listening to them and asking questions, and amazing everyone who heard Him with His understanding and His own answers.

Seeing Him there, his parents were astonished; and His mother said to Him: "My son!--why did you do this to us!? Don't you see that your father and I have been in pain, seeking for you!?"

Yet He said to them, "Why were you seeking Me? Hadn't you seen that I must be among My Father's things?"

But they did not understand He had made a declaration to them.

So He went down with them out of Jerusalem, and returned to Nazareth, and continued to be under their authority.

But His mother was treasuring all these words in her heart as well, pondering over them.

(And giving them later, by implication, to the Scholar...)

Matthew 1:25b
Matthew 2:1-23
Luke 2:21-51

[Next time: The Forerunner of the King.]


Jason Pratt said…
.......[extended footnote from main text follows here]

Possibly this is intended to be Simeon ben Hillel, father of Gamaliel I. The Hillel branch of Pharisaism was more amenable to spiritualizing the keeping of the Law and less amenable to formal halakhah i.e. traditional teachings obligatory to keeping the Law. They would have been more inclined to promote haggadah i.e. informal teachings intended as an aid to keeping the Law, believing that rabbis shouldn't presume to treat their own codes as being as important (or even more important!) than the Torah.

The family and school of Hillel was suspected for centuries afterward of having secret Christians among them. Saul of Taursus, later known as the Christian apostle Paul, was reported in Acts to have learned his former Pharisaism from Gamaliel I; and this is the same Sanhedrin member also found in Acts cautioning some moderation in handling Peter and the apostles. Gamaliel's grandson, Gamaliel II, is largely credited for rescuing and restructuring rabbinic Judaism after the fall of the Temple in 70 CE.

One of the more interesting things in all four canonical Gospels, is the nuanced fashion in which Jesus' relationship with rabbinism is portrayed; including a significant number of followers and hopefuls among the rabbis (including the Pharisees) themselves (including in GosJohn). This might be the first link to rabbinic support in the story, though. (Or it might only be some random old guy named Simeon. {g} But Hannah wasn't some random old woman; she was a descendent of one of the 'Lost' tribes--the one deemed most fit in tradition, due to the beauty of their women, to marry kings and priests.)

Frank Walton said…
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