Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Ancient Jewish Lectionary: Passover, Resurrection, and the Ultimate Liberation

It was many years ago now in long message-board talks with a zealous and adamantly anti-Christian Jew that I first became aware of some interesting things about the Jewish lectionary. From references I have since found in the Talmud, I expect that the lectionary cycle with its selected readings was already taking shape before Jesus' birth.

I suspect the Spirit of God had a hand in the choice of readings. The prescribed readings included:
for haftarah on Passover the passage of the ‘dry bones’ (Megilah 31a)
If the disciples, any of of them, had gone to worship when Jesus was in the tomb, they would have heard from the appointed reading:
The hand of the LORD came upon me. He took me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the valley. It was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many of them spread over the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, "O mortal, can these bones live again?" I replied, O Lord GOD, only You know. And He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! Thus said the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live again." (Ezekiel 37:1-5, JPS)
The JPS study notes on this section helpfully add the reasons why this section was selected for the Passover reading in the ancient Jewish lectionaries:
mostly likely because the restoration envisaged here is interpreted as a second, liberating Passover-like experience or because the rabbinic tradition that the second, ultimate liberation would transpire on Passover.
If the disciples or Jesus' family had gone to worship when he was in the tomb, that is likely what they would have heard, and why they would have heard it.


Martin LaBar said...

Ah. Interesting!

BruceA said...


Weekend Fisher said...

Thank you both for the encouragement. There's a lot of interesting stuff buried in the Talmud ... and in the JPS commentaries ...

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF