Pompey enters the Temple

I have been reading Plutarch’s *Lives* this week. A few observations:

Plutarch interprets Pompey’s actions with regard to Metellus (then praetor of Crete) in terms of Achilles. Plutarch also remarks of the pirates whom Pompey cleaned out of the Mediterranean that they “.knew neither god nor law.” Plutarch is interpreting events in Rome in light of a text (The Iliad) and a tradition (Roman paganism) much like later Western culture would use the Bible and Christianity to view current events. The points of reference were very different but the concern to maintain the old order is the same.

Pompey entered the Temple in Jerusalem after conquering the city while in Judea. Josephus writes of this event:

“Of the Jews there fell twelve thousand; but of the Romans very few. Absalom, who was at once both uncle and father-in-law to Aristobulus, was taken captive; and no small enormities were committed about the temple itself, which, in former ages, had been inaccessible, and seen by none; for Pompey went into it, and not a few of those that were with him also, and saw all that which was unlawful for any other men to see, but only for the high priests. There were in that temple the golden table, the holy candlestick, and the pouring vessels, and a great quantity of spices; and besides these there were among the treasures two thousand talents of sacred money; yet did Pompey touch nothing of all this, on account of his regard to religion; and in this point also he acted in a manner that was worthy of his virtue. The next day he gave order to those that had the charge of the temple to cleanse it, and to bring what offerings the law required to God; and restored the high priesthood to Hyrcanus.” (Ant. XIV.IV.4)

Many years later in A.D. 70 Titus entered the Temple as flames were beginning to consume it and again entered the Holy of Holies. Josephus says of Titus:

“.he went into the holy place of the temple, with his commanders, and saw it, with what was in it, which he found to be far superior to what the relations of foreigners contained, and not inferior to what we ourselves boasted of and believed about it;” (Wars VI.V.7)

An interesting aside: Plutarch says of Caesar and his army: “He himself, with his army close about him, as if it had been his own body.” That jumped out at me. We all know the metaphor of the Church being the Body of Christ. In this case the legions of Caesar are compared to his own body.

Wright, Rome, etc.

If Tom Wright is right about justification (I think he is) than that doctrine no longer stands in the way of Catholic/Protestant relations. But to me, that seems to be one of the least important issues. What still divides us, as I see it are issues like:

  1. The notion of a priesthood apart from the laity.
  2. Idolatry–of statues and saints.
  3. The notion of repeated sacrifices of the Lord–which implies His once for all act was not enough.
  4. A universal head of the church on the earth.
  5. The infallibility of the Pope.

There are just so many problems that to me, the justification debate is minor. But still, if Wright is correct, it means that both Protestants and Catholics are in the wrong about this in some sense. So they would have to move just like we would.

The Prophets

The Prophets (Hebrew, nebi’ im) are the second section or “book” in the three sections of the Old Testament canon. Though we may be unfamiliar with the shape of the OT canon, a quick look at the NT will show us that this division was well known to the later authors of the NT. The three-fold division of the OT can be clearly seen in Luke 24:44:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.

The Law of Moses or Book of Moses is the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, the Prophets were the middle section of the canon, and the Psalms, or writings were the third division of the canon.
The books in the Hebrew canon are in a different order than what we currently have in our Old Testaments. This may not seem important, but actually I would argue that the intentional placing of the books in the order they were in taught a theological message, one that is harder to see in the now disjointed form of our current OT canonical order. The Prophets were reckoned as eight books in the following order:

1. Joshua
2. Judges
3. I & II Samuel
4. I & II Kings
5. Isaiah
6. Jeremiah
7. Ezekiel
8. The Twelve (the minor prophets taken as one book)

The hand of a later editor or editors at work in the shaping of the Prophets and the canon as a whole is wonderful to behold. Stephen Dempster has admirably demonstrated the thematic unity is this section of the canon , he writes:

Joshua 1:1-9 functions as an introduction to the book of Joshua but also to this section of the canon. The two-fold reference to the death of Moses (1:1, 2) not only continues Deuteronomy but also signifies the end of an era. The expression ‘Moses, my servant’ occurs twice in this text (1:2, 7). The only other time this expression is used in the entire TaNaK is at the end of this section of the canon (Mal. 4:4).

In other words, at the very beginning of this “book” of the Prophets in Joshua and at the very end in Malachi are references to “Moses, my servant” included with a call to observe the Torah he had given. The success or failure of Israel would be only judged by its following the Torah of Moses. And just as the land of Canaan was put under “the ban” in Joshua’s day (Joshua 6:18) so the Lord threatens to come to Israel and smite the land with a “ban of destruction” (Malachi 4:6).
Malachi in ending the Prophets and transitioning to the Writings (which begin with the book of Psalms) asks about distinguishing between “the righteous and the wicked” (Heb. rashaim and zedekim) in Malachi 3:18. This question is immediately picked up in the next section of the canon, Psalm 1, which distinguishes the righteous from the wicked once more in terms of meditation on the Torah. Thematic unity overarches the entire canon, what a glorious book we have in our possession!