KERUX: A JOURNAL
Editor: James T. Dennison, Jr.
Assistant Editors: Richard A. Riesen and David L. Roth
KERUX is a publication of Kerux, Inc. and appears three times each year (May, September, December). Editorial offices are located at 1131 Whispering Highlands Dr., Escondido, CA 92027~4961. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $15.00 (U.S. and Canada); $20.00 (Elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U. S. Funds. KERUX is: abstracted in Old Testament Abstracts, Washingon, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in Religion Index One, Evanston, IL and the Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.
ISSN 0888-8513 September 1996 Vol. 11, No. 2
Jesus and Lazarus*
John 11:17-48, 53
James T. Dennison, Jr.
We respond to the reading of the story of Lazarus with a smile. It is a story with a happy ending. The death of Lazarus has been miraculously reversed—he who was dead is raised up to life. But before Jesus arrived in Bethany—before Jesus stood at the mouth of that tomb—death appeared irreversible.
Death! What a tyrant is death—a seeming omnipotent tyrant. Does not death lay all down under its power? Does any escape death? Is there anyone living who will not die? Is not every sickness a reminder that there is a sickness unto death—a sickness from which there is no escape—no recovery. Tyrannical death seems so invincible, so universally victorious. Not one of us has been unaffected by death—a loved one, a relative, a sibling, a friend, a neighbor. Death has touched even us and we too sense its power—our helplessness—its potency.
Even Jesus seems helpless in the face of Lazarus's death. Is not Lazarus his friend? Is not Lazarus Jesus' friend whom he loves very much? Yet Lazarus gets sick and Jesus does nothing—Jesus passively does nothing. Is not Lazarus
*A slightly revised version of a message delivered at Westminster Theological Seminary in California on May 16, 1996 in memory of Dr. John H. Gerstner, who died at his home in Ligonier, Pennsylvania on March 24, 1996. Et civitatem sanctum Ierusalem novam vidi ....
Jesus' beloved friend, yet Lazarus dies and Jesus does not prevent it. Jesus seems helpless to prevent the victory and power of death.
Is there ever so slight a tone of disappointment in the voice of Martha, "Lord if you had been here." Is there ever so slight a tone of anguished, heartfelt disappointment in the voice of Mary as she falls at his feet, "Lord if you had been here."
What is Jesus doing? Lazarus, his friend, his beloved friend, his friend for whom he weeps (v. 35), Jesus' friend Lazarus is silent, passive, helpless, shut up in the darkness of a tomb. What irony! What incongruity! Jesus helpless, Jesus passive, Jesus powerless before death the tyrant, death the leveller, death the entomber. Why?! Why is Jesus so apparently helpless, so apparently passive, so apparently powerless? This Jesus who is the I AM—this Jesus who is God. Why is he so like us in the face of death? Why is he so like . . . so like Lazarus? Helpless, passive, powerless.
We know the end of the story. Jesus is not helpless, he is not passive, he is not powerless. This stupendous miracle proves who Jesus is—he is God with power over the grave. This magnificent miracle is unimpeachable evidence that Jesus is not powerless to prevent death. No, he is omnipotent beyond death—Almighty to raise the dead! Jesus is death's Lord. He says to tyrant death, "I am stronger. You cannot hold those I love; those I weep over will live. Death be not proud—I am your robber, your despoiler, your conqueror. Whoever believes in me will live—never die." Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He has proved it at the tomb of Lazarus. You can trust him— though you die, yet shall you live. Lazarus's tomb is for you—your faith; written on your hearts is life, not death—resurrection life, not eternal death—everlasting life, not sempiternal destruction.
Oh, Mr. Dennison, I know Jesus is the resurrection and the life. I know Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave. But, Mr. Dennison, why did he wait so long? Why did he seem so helpless, so passive, so powerless? Mr. Dennison, why did Jesus do this this way?
John's gospel is Christocentric. Jesus is the center. Martha comes to Jesus (v. 20); Mary comes to Jesus (v. 32); the crowds look upon Jesus when he weeps (vv. 35, 36); Lazarus comes to Jesus (v. 44). There is no other to whom
to turn—no one else to whom to go. In the face of sickness, death, tears, the grave—Jesus remains the center—the focus.
And yet even as Jesus is the center, he is also the substitute. I have drawn out the passivity and helplessness of Lazarus in the tomb; I have labored the passivity and helplessness of Jesus before he arrives at the tomb. I have done that on purpose because John does it—this chapter does it. Have you noticed this "imitation of Lazarus" in Jesus? Lazarus helpless—Jesus seemingly helpless. Lazarus passive—Jesus seemingly passive. Lazarus dominated by the grave—Jesus seemingly daunted by the grave. You see, Jesus is entering into the helplessness, the powerlessness, the passivity of Lazarus so that he can deliver Lazarus from helplessness, powerlessness and passivity. Jesus is identifying with Lazarus so that Lazarus may be identified with Jesus. The transformation from death to life is a transformation which occurs in Jesus. The reversal from the grave to resurrection is a reversal which takes place Christocentrically. Jesus enters into death that he may live; he appears helpless before the tomb that he may come forth from the tomb; he is passive under the curse that he may be raised up a blessing to those who love him, believe on him, have been transformed—yea, have undergone the death-life reversal in him.
When Jesus commanded that the stone on Lazarus's tomb be removed (v. 39), he was opening himself to death. "Come death!" he was saying. "Come to me! Death, come out from that darkness and possess me. Come death, wrap yourself around me, bind me, tie me up in your puissance. I will rob you, death. l will conquer you, death. I will drain the death from you, O death. I will bind you, O death, and in your place, I will leave life. Lazarus, come forth—for I have taken your death. Your death, dear Lazarus, comes upon me and in its place I give you what is in me; I give you life; I give you resurrection life; I give you new life; I give you life from the dead."
The death which Jesus takes from Lazarus is a prophecy of the death he will die on Calvary. The subtler irony here is that the resurrection of Lazarus will be the occasion of the death of Jesus. What poignant reversals! Jesus raises Lazarus from death to life; the Sanhedrin plans that the life of Jesus will end in death. The death-life of Lazarus becomes the paradigm of the life-death of Jesus. In Jerusalem (near to Bethany, note v. 18)—in Jerusalem,
there will be another death—another tomb—another passive victim—silent before his accusers—helplessly nailed to a cross—wrapped and bound in gravecloths, laid in a tomb with a stone rolled across it.
Jesus did this for you. What he did for Lazarus, what he endured himself, he did for you that in his death you may die and in his resurrection-life you may be raised to life—eternal life—everlasting life—life in heaven before the face of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost forever and ever and ever.
Do you see? The power Jesus unleashed at Lazarus's tomb was the power to make the dead alive. And Lazarus was reborn from the dead; Lazarus was regenerated—made alive again from the dead. And the power which was unleashed on that first Easter morn in Jerusalem was the power to make the dead alive. Jesus was reborn from the dead; Jesus was regenerated—made alive again from the dead. And the power which is at work in you who believe on the crucified/risen Son of God is the power of a new birth—the power of regeneration—the power of resurrection—the power of life from the dead. Rebirth from the deadness of your trespasses and sins is yours because Jesus was reborn from death to life. New life—life in which the old things have been put to death and new things have sprung forth is yours because Jesus has received a new life through his resurrection from the dead. Your regeneration is your union with the death and resurrection of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Your rebirth is your possession of that life Christ now lives—an endless resurrection life. Your history has been united to his history even as his history was united to your history. Jesus entered into Lazarus's story that he might transform Lazarus in the resurrection unto life. Dear friends, loose yourselves in the grave that in Christ you may find yourselves in the resurrection of an endless life.
"I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."
A Glimmer of Hope
Jeong Woo (James) Lee
The genealogy which we have before us is quite different from the famous genealogy we find in the New Testament, in the first chapter of the gospel according to Matthew. Although in Matthew we have an even briefer account of the lives of those belonging to Jesus' lineage summarized in the famous "begettings", each name, at least in the first fourteen generations, evokes in us many familiar biblical memories and stories. Starting with Abraham, we know how God supernaturally granted the birth of Isaac upon Abraham's long expectant waiting of twenty-five years. We know also of all the struggles and the drama involved in Jacob becoming the heir instead of his twin older brother, Esau. Furthermore, we are quite surprised to find out that the line of the Messiah continues through Judah, the fourth, not the eldest son of Jacob, and that through his humiliating affair with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. And so on and on ....
However, the genealogy which we find in Genesis 5 is not imbued with any biblical memories familiar to us. The names we read remain empty and distant, for we hardly know anything about their lives—except their ages and their respective heirs. Nevertheless, this genealogy is an important part of the antediluvian history, not merely as a document but also as a story in its own right, speaking through its selected voice and silence. More importantly, this
history gives us, as all of Old Testament history does, a glimpse of Christ our Lord.
First of all, the genealogy in Genesis 5—that of Adam through Seth— speaks to us through its obvious contrast with the previous genealogy of Cain found in Genesis 4. In Genesis 5, the genealogy begins with the reminder that Adam was created in the image of God. The glorious beginning of man destined for eschatological union with God comes into view. Although Adam was created out of the dust of the ground, he was created different from all other creatures. In the creation of other creatures, the creative commands were given in the third person jussive: "Let there be .... " However, when the moment comes for the creation of man, God prefaces the act of creation in the cohortative: "Let us make ...." This use of the cohortative in the creation of man shows how much more intimately God was involved in it than in the creation of all other creatures. Not only that, the repeated prescription for God's creation of all other living things—"after its (or their) own kind"—comes to an abrupt end as God declares that he will create man in his own image and according to his likeness. Man from the very beginning, was meant to have a special, unique connection with God as imago Dei. The very purpose of the probation in the garden was to confirm and perfect the imago Dei in man for a more intimate union between God and man. Since God dwells in the eschatological arena, the union too will have to be eschatological in order to be consummated.
Cain's genealogy, on the other hand, begins with an ominous note: "Cain went away from the presence of the Lord" (Gen. 4:16). The separation from God is the beginning of Cain's genealogy. And it ends with Lamech's blasphemy in which he lifts himself above God: "Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times" (Gen. 4:23, 24). And that is it. We no longer find any mention of Cain's genealogy. It is as though the lineage dissipates into thin air, never to be seen again. Indeed, they would perish in the great deluge and the line of Cain would be gone forever. And how the blasphemous and indolent boasting of Lamech rings hollow now, swept away by the raging waters, the thunderous roar of God. Seth's lineage (and more importantly the line of the faithful remnants) found in chapter 5, however, continues through Noah
even until now. (Although the division between the seed of woman and the seed of the serpent still remains according to God's decree in Gen. 3:15, the seed of the serpent faces its inevitable doom as did the descendants of Cain).
Another point of contrast concerns the respective contents of the two genealogies. Cain's genealogy is filled with the accomplishments of the antediluvian patriarchs. The first city was built by Cain; Lamech's son, Jabal, became the first organized livestock breeder; his brother, Jubal, was the first musician; and their half-brother, Tubal-Cain, became the first bronze-and-iron smith. We celebrate scientific breakthroughs and inventions as a testimony to human potential and ability, and rightly so. Indeed, it is God who has given us the cultural mandate to subdue the earth and rule over other creatures. However, we must remember that to do so is in submission to the cultural mandate of God, as his servant-kings, not as independent, autonomous masters of our own destiny. The defiant spirit which permeates Cain's brief genealogy makes us wonder what drove the patriarchs to bring about such achievements. Could it be that beneath these glittering accomplishments lies the rebellious spirit which cannot humbly accept the divinely imposed common curse upon them and attempts to make the best of their cursed state, so well expressed by John Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost: "to make heaven of hell, and hell of heaven"? Separated from God and banned from the garden, the children of Cain embark on ambitious projects to make the best of their cursed life east of Eden—in defiance of God's curse. So they build, make and invent. Such has been the history of the sinful human race. And we continue to rebel against God.
Seth's genealogy, however, consists of simple, succinct records which mechanically tell of the genealogical succession from one generation to another. The only information that is mentioned in this story of the genealogy is the fact that they fathered their respective heirs and other children to continue their line—as if to continue the line for the seed of the woman to come and vanquish Satan is the most important mission in their lives. Concerning their other activities, there is only silence. If the spirit of the Cainites is self-reliance and autonomy, the spirit of the Sethites is quiet dependence and waiting, summarized in the phrase: "They called upon the name of the Lord" (Gen. 4:26).
There are other interesting minor contrasts drawn between these two genealogies. One obvious contrast is that there are two Lamechs—one in each genealogy. Both of them take a prominent place because they are the only ones who speak in their genealogies. Cain's Lamech sings a song of arrogance and blasphemy. The Lamech of Seth speaks as well—full of sorrow but not without hope. So in Genesis 4:23-24, the Lamech of Cain sings: "Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times." But listen to the Lamech of Seth (he named his son Noah and said), "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed" (Gen. 5:29). In these words, we can see how this godly Lamech feels the very curse, possibly because he has been reminded through his family stories of the glory of the garden of Eden. Remembering through his imagination the great bliss his first parents must have experienced in the garden of Eden, he feels more acutely the very pain of the curse placed upon him and the rest of humanity, all the while longing for a time of comfort, longing for the promised Child who will bring deliverance from the curse.
The true counterpart of the Lamech of Cain, however, is Enoch. Interestingly enough, Lamech and Enoch are both the seventh generation from Adam. That is, they were most likely contemporaries (even if not chronologically so, they are placed side by side in these genealogies.) The most rebellious spirit is met with the most pious spirit. The empty boasting of Lamech in defiance against God is met with the quiet walking of Enoch with God. That contrast is indeed striking.
However, as much as the genealogy of Seth differs from that of Cain, we cannot lose sight of a very important fact concerning the genealogy of Seth. Although the genealogy of Adam through Seth shows God's faithful preservation of the seed of the woman, a dark cloud of death hovers over it through every generation. The first patriarchs of history are given longevity—lifespans nearing a millennium. Nevertheless, God has not forgotten the sin of Adam and the curse he placed upon this protological sinner and his descendants. Invariably, each patriarch, even Seth, humbly submits to the curse of death. Except Enoch! In the midst of the catalogue subsumed under the dark shroud of death, there shines a glimmer of hope.
Now we turn our attention to this person, Enoch, who stands out like a dissonant chord in the middle of a steady harmonic progression. Indeed, the genealogy of Adam through Seth plays like a song with a refrain. There is a certain pattern which is meticulously followed throughout this genealogy. First, there is the age of the patriarch until fathering the heir. So we have this formula: A lived x years and fathered B. And that "verset" (according to Robert Alter) or "colon" is followed by another which gives the span of life after the fathering of the child. So we have this formula: A lived y years after fathering B and had other sons and daughters. It is then followed by the span of life en toto: so A lived x plus y years. Then the stanza of the patriarch's life ends with an ominous refrain that comes to us again and again at a very steady tempo: "Then he died." That was the final refrain for the biographical notes on the patriarchs and it is the end of every man. No matter how much we try to prolong our lives—how much we exercise, how much we control our diet, how much we invest in health insurance—we shall someday all die.
But all of a sudden, that steadily recurring, dirge-like progression of this genealogy is met with something of a refreshing modulation when it comes to Enoch. The same pattern is used but with some minor changes all too significant. The beginning of Enoch's life is the same as all the others: "Enoch lived sixty-five years and became the father of Methuselah" (v.21) [A lived x years and fathered B]. However, the second verse, "A lived y years after fathering B and had other sons and daughters" has a small variation produced by an insertion, "Then Enoch walked with God" (v. 22). Then we go back to the standard formula for the total years of the patriarch's life: "So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years" (v. 23). This return to the standard formula after a brief variation, we quickly learn, was only to set us up for the climactic, triumphant appearance of the cacophony to the all too monotonous progression of the music of human history. The refrain which ends the biographies of all other patriarchs is missing in Enoch's stanza. "Then he died" is nowhere to be found. Instead we find: "And he was not, for God took him" (v. 23). There is the wonderful refreshing dissonance! That steady beat of death is broken off when it comes to the seventh generation of Adam. He does not merely live, but he walks with God. He does not die, for God takes him away from the grip of death!
"Walked with God" is a special phrase in the Old Testament. Only three people "walked with God" according to the Old Testament: Enoch (Gen. 5:22) Noah (Gen. 6:9), and Levi (Mal. 2:6). (But Levi here does not refer to an individual, the son of Jacob, but is a symbolic representation of the obedient priesthood at the very beginning of God's courtship with Israel. God reminisces about that time when Israel, out of that pure, innocent, virgin zeal for God, obeyed the commands of the Lord.) Yes, many people walked before the face (or presence) of God, but not many are given the privilege of being called as people who walked with God. And Enoch walked with God. He did not just live; he did not just continue his mere existence—being born and begetting, living and dying as others in the genealogy did. Enoch walked with God. (And he preached about the coming judgment of the Lord against the generation of Lamech, Jude 14-15.)
We should not spend too much time on this concept of "walking with God" at this time—what it might be, what Enoch might have done—because the very brevity of the description is a message in and of itself. When God and Moses chose not to elaborate upon this great event of Enoch being translated directly from this world to the heavenly place, when God's word keeps silent about this event, maybe there is a purpose behind it. Many details are left out. For what purpose? It must have something to do with the historically progressive nature of God's revelation. At this early stage of revelation, Enoch's translation from this world to heaven was to remain as a mere glimmer of hope—until the reality would come. And we are only to understand and be comforted by the fact that God allows an intimate communion between himself and his people, his own beloved children; how we are destined (from the moment of our creation in imago Dei) to go beyond the world into heaven itself where God dwells in his fullest glory; that the enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman is not for the wealth of this world, nor for continuing posterity on this earth, nor even for the promised land. God tells us, through this brief story of Enoch, that the warfare we are involved in is a spiritual warfare, and that the paradise we should look for is not the paradise of Communism or Socialism or Democracy or even Capitalism, but the paradise of the very communion with God in heavenly places. Our goal is not to walk forever upon the dusty land, but to walk with God.
Yet, who can walk with God so perfectly as to be translated into heaven without experiencing the curse of sin—death? For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That was the verdict given by the inspired Paul upon the whole of humanity, starting from Adam down to this age and through the end for the world. Surely Enoch was not perfect. If Paul is right (and he definitely is!), Enoch was a sinner like us. His walk with God started only at the age of sixty-five when he fathered his son, Methuselah: "Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah" (v. 22).
Indeed, there is no one who is righteous, no one who is able to enter into heaven on his own merit, on his own righteousness—no one except One. And that One is not Enoch, nor Elijah. That One is none other than Jesus Christ. Listen to what Jesus himself says and you will understand how Enoch was taken up to heaven. Jesus says to Martha who is weeping because of the death of her brother, Lazarus: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (Jn. 11:25-26). "Whoever lives and believes in me will never die." And he has given this glorious preview of our life, of our future life in Jesus Christ. Even if you die, you will be resurrected. But if you continue to live on this earth at the time of Christ's return, you will be gloriously translated and transferred to heaven without dying. Enoch was given the great privilege of experiencing this future glory in advance; and this not because of his own righteousness but because of Jesus Christ, the Life and the Resurrection. Enoch was to be a preview of our glorious resurrection and the direct translation from here to eternity in Jesus Christ, which we shall experience at the time of his second coming. In Jesus Christ, the glimmer of hope we see in Enoch is realized.
But our hope is not just in a far distant future. Because of Christ's death and resurrection, we are given the privilege to walk with God now. The privilege that was given to only three persons in the entire Old Testament is now given to all those who are in Christ Jesus. That is how much more glorious the new covenant is in Christ. And so, Paul says, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). Because we are in the Spirit, we walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. We belong to a different world because we are surrounded by the very environ-
ment of heaven—the Spirit. So how do we walk in the Spirit? Hebrews 11:56 tells us: "By faith, Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away." The same principle remains with us, as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:7: "We live by faith, not by sight." It is by faith we possess the invisible reality of the resurrection life which is more real than what we can see. Revelation 21:23-24 shows us the fixed destiny of our future: "And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it ...."
We do not have to wait until we go to heaven to experience eternal life because heaven itself has entered into our lives in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Such is the glory of the new covenant that we have in Jesus Christ. And this is how the genealogy of Matthew (the New Testament) is different from the genealogy of Genesis 5. Whereas the Genesis genealogy ends with death—except one—the Matthean genealogy has no mention of death. Why? Because of the One who died and rose again for his people. As Christ himself said, "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. Do you believe this?" That is why Matthew records the genealogy of the Messiah in a different way. Although they died, they lived because of the One who died for them. Yes, in the genealogy of Genesis 5, everybody died except one. But in our new covenant genealogy, because One died, we all live and walk with God. This is your genealogy if you belong to Christ.
Again and again, even from the very first pages of Genesis, the Scripture tells us how this world is passing away. Your hope is not in amassing wealth in this world. You are right in the middle of the antithesis between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman; between this age and the age to come; between this earth and the heavenly place. Your life is more than being born, living, working, begetting, and dying. You are called to walk with God by faith. If Enoch was able to do so in the midst of a perverse generation, we who have the fullness of hope realized in Jesus Christ can do so even more faithfully through his Spirit.
New Life Mission Church
of La Jolla, PCA
La Jolla, California
The Tree of Life: Protological to Eschatological
In the Genesis narrative, in the midst of the lush, oasis-like forest of Eden, towering in significance over the multitude that shared the nourishing, paradisaical waters, stand two trees. One tree, its branches laden with fruit, promises life; the other, equally laden with fruit, threatens death. Through the demonically encouraged choice of the primeval man, the dark shadow of death eclipses the glorious promise of life, driving man from its now forbidden fruit. Thus, the dark shadow of the tree of death hangs ominously over redemptive history. Yet, even immediately following that disastrous choice, the glory of the Edenic tree of promise is seen to periodically pierce the shadowy darkness of death. Here and there are seen glimpses of the "Tree of Life," the tree which promises life, its life-giving glory gaining intensity with each unfolding of revelation. Finally, in the Christian Scriptures, it was in the epiphany of the eschatological Adam and death's inability to overshadow him, that the life-giving tree triumphs, its glory eliminating at last the shadow of death. Thus, in John's apocalyptic vision of the new heavens and the new earth, there grows a lone tree—the Tree of Life (Rev. 22:2). Once again the Tree of Life stands tall, sharing its glory with no other tree in the garden, its fruit promised to those who overcome (Rev. 2:7).
In this way, although obscure and even unseen at times, the imagery of the Tree of Life "therefore chronicles man's long exile from paradise and the
means of his return."1 This is made manifest through an examination of the biblical usage of the "Tree of Life" as well as the setting in which it is found, the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8) or "the paradise of God" (Rev. 2:7). The Tree of Life does, indeed, promise the restoration of paradise, but this is much more than merely a return to the garden.
The proto-typical description of the Tree of life finds its locus in a temple-sanctuary, like its eschatological manifestation in the book of Revelation. Rather than conceiving of Eden as some metaphorical non-existent location, a biblical "utopia" (ou and topos, Grk.) as some are wont to do,2 based on the troublesome geographical details, it is perhaps best to acknowledge the difficulties involved in locating Eden without abandoning its reality and simply attempt to understand its imagery.
Eden was surely a place of "delight," as the name implies,3 a place of fertility (‘adhan [Heb.], Gen. 18:12). Describing Eden as "a garden" follows, as in "the Middle East the garden represented nature in its ideal form."4 The proto-typical Eden is pictured as a walled enclosure, set high upon "the holy Mount of God" (Ezk. 28:13-14), its walls apparently oriented to the four points of the compass (Gen. 2:8; 3:24). Filled with fruit-bearing trees of all types, Eden was well-watered and beautiful to behold (Gen. 2:9-10). The paradisaical life involved an abundance of nourishment, man's unchallenged dominion over creation, as well as harmonious relations between the man and the woman. Negatively, Eden was marked by the "absence of shame (Gen. 2:25) . . . and death."5 The proto-typical Eden was, however, as Claus Westermann explains,
1Jennifer O'Reilly, "The Trees of Eden in Mediaeval Iconography." In A Walk in the Garden: Biblical, Iconographical and Literary Images of Eden, ed. P. Morris and D. Sawyer (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992), p. 180.
2Yairah Amit, "Biblical Utopianism." Union Seminary Quarterly Review 44/1-2 (1990): 11-17.
3Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, trans. E. Robinson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951), p. 726.
4Donald E. Gowan, Genesis 1-11: From Eden to Babel (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988), p. 40.
5X. Leon-Dufour, Dictionary of Biblical Theology (NY: Seabury Press, 1973), p. 403.
It was in Eden that Adam was placed, not for leisure, but to serve (le'abhedhah, Heb.) and to guard (leshamerah, Heb.). These duties of Adam point to the fact that Eden was not primarily created as "an abode for man,"' but rather as a sanctuary where man might enter into fellowship with God. Eden was to serve as the earthly copy of the heavenly temple. This is supported by the cultic connotations of the verbs used to describe Adam's responsibilities as Eden's guardian (shomer, Heb.). Moses himself, in ordering the priesthood, speaks of the Levitical priesthood at the tabernacle-sanctuary revealed at Mount Sinai as that of service (Num. 4:23, 25, 26, etc), echoing the Edenic duty of Adam. In the same way, the original Mosaic commission to Aaron was that he and his sons were to attend to and guard (shameru, Heb.) the tabernacle-sanctuary. If anyone apart from the Levites were to draw near, they were to be put to death (Num. 3:10; 18:7). Here then, in Genesis 2, Adam's divinely ordained responsibilities prefigure those of the Levitical priesthood, pointing to the sanctuary nature of Eden in its original conception. Thus, as M. G. Kline has argued, Eden was the "cultic site of God's special Presence,"8 the dwelling place of the Lord God, a "holy tabernacle, a microcosmic house of God,"9 an "archetypal sanctuary."10
This conclusion is supported by the prophetic authors referring to Eden as "the Garden of God" (gan-'elohim [Heb.], Isa. 51:3; Ezk. 28:13; 31:8). Eden is Elohim's garden11, his sanctuary, the place where his theophanic presence was made manifest. The Septuagint's consistent translation of the Hebrew gan with paradeisos (Grk.) also points to Eden's cultic nature. Derived
6Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11, trans. John J. Scullion (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1985), p. 81.
7Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991), p. 27.
8M. G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue (S. Hampton, MA: self-published, 1991), p. 32.
9M. G. Kline, Images of the Spirit (S. Hampton, MA: self-published, 1986), p. 36.
10Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), p. 86.
11Taking elohim as a genitive following the construct gan, thus functioning as a possessive genitive. Bruce Waltke and M. O'Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), p. 145.
from the old Persian pardez,12 the Greek paradeisos originally denoted "an enclosed garden, especially a royal park . . . planted with fruit trees, laid out regularly, and often stocked with animals of the chase,"13 often serving as a place in which royalty would stroll. This connotation is seen in the Septuagint translation of Nehemiah 2:8. There Asaph is said to be "the guard of the paradise which is for the King," referring to Artexerxes. Interestingly, Asaph is, in the Hebrew text of Nehemiah 2:8, described as the "guardian" (shomer, Heb.), again a possible pointer back to Adam's role in Eden. In the poetic Song of Songs 4:12, the beloved is spoken of metaphorically as "a barred or bolted garden," which the Septuagint translates as "a shut or locked garden" (kepros kekleismenos, Grk.) and is paralleled in verse 13 with paradeisos. Thus with Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:23), the Lord installs a number of cherubim as gatekeepers (leshemor, Heb.) to guard his temple-sanctuary and prevent access to the Tree of Life (v. 24), in a sense fulfilling the role which Adam had abdicated. Interestingly, the text does not state that the cherubim are "placed" or "set" at the entrance, but rather are said to "dwell" (Gen. 3:24) before the entrance to Eden, a possible allusion to their guarding the presence of the Lord.
The movement from paradeisos being used in reference to a royal garden to that of a cultic garden, or vice versa, would be a natural one in a culture where royalty is considered deity, such as the Persian and Greco-Roman societies. In this way the royal park or garden was, in pagan thinking, "a sacred enclosure in whose innermost heart the deity was present."14 As Ramsay explains, the presence of trees in this sanctuary follows naturally, as the tree was considered "the seat of Divine life and the intermediary between Divine and human nature."15 This was an imitation of, or an attempt to recreate, the Edenic sanctuary, albeit as a pagan shrine. Filled with fruit-bearing trees and amply
12Colin Brown, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), 2:760.
13Colin Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in their Local Setting (Sheffield: JSOT, 1986), p. 50.
14Hemer, p. 55.
15William M. Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia (Minneapolis, MN: James Family Publishing, 1978), p. 248.
watered, the imagery of Eden quite naturally lent itself to the pagan mythological conceptions of the ideal conditions enjoyed by their gods (e.g., the fields of Elysium). This in turn led to attempts to create a human paradeisos, whether it be for nobility or royalty to dwell in.
One of the earliest Greek examples of a paradeisos is the one detailed by Xenophon in his Anabasis dating from the end of the fourth century B.C. Xenophon explains how he had been inspired by the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and thus built a replica of the altar and temple near Scillus.16 Following the Ephesian pattern, within the sanctuary grounds (obviously implying some boundaries or walls), there are specifically said to be "tree-covered mountains,"17 pointing back to Eden. Again in the following verse, it is stated that immediately surrounding the temple there was "a grove of tame or cultivated trees planted" which, like those prophesied in Ezekiel 47:12, bear many "dessert fruits in their season."18 Also worthy of notice is the fact that Xenophon chose the site upon which he built his replica paradeisos because of its affinities to the Ephesian site, specifically its river, alongside of which he built his temple,19 thus providing water for the sacred grove (cf. Gen. 2:10; Ezk. 47:12).
Interestingly, it is to the church at Ephesus in the Apocalypse of John that the exalted Christ is seen to promise "to those who overcome" access to the Tree of Life which is "in the paradise of God" (Rev. 2:7)—the very place where Xenophon had found the paradigm for his "paradise." Apparently the Ephesians would have been familiar with the conception of the paradeisos as a walled sanctuary. Archaeology has uncovered in Ephesus the remains of the Artemis shrine, in the center of which was located "an ancient tree-shrine . . . surrounded by an asylum enclosed by a boundary wall."20 In classical times,
16Xenophon, Anabasis: Books I-VII, trans. Carleton L. Brownson (Cambridge: University Press, 1980), V. iii. 9, p. 370.
17Xenophon, V. iii. 11, p. 372.
18Xenophon, V. iii. 12, p. 372.
19Xenophon, V. iii. 8, p. 370.
20Hemer, p. 51.
criminals were allowed to seek refuge at the asylum,21 and were granted immunity as long as they remained within the sanctuary enclosure. Yet it is not to this earthly asylum that John refers in his announcement to Ephesus, with its hope of temporal asylum, but rather to the eternal asylum of a heavenly sanctuary.
It was to this Heavenly Eden that the prophets looked with expectation. The coming age promised to be that of paradise regained. With the entrance of sin into God's creation, the human race had been banished (Gen. 3:23) from the Eden sanctuary, but there always remained the hope of return. Thus, the restoration of "the Edenic city upon the cosmic mountain fully expresses the great redemptive hope"22 of the prophetic promise. Metaphorically, with the Fall, the earth, as well as Eden, had returned to the state of being symbolically "formless and empty" (Jer. 4:23; cf. Gen 1:2). Yet the prophets foresaw that the wasteland that Zion had become would one day again blossom and flourish. Her deserts would again be "like Eden" and the wasteland that was the Arabah would become "garden of the Lord" (Isa. 51:3; cf. Ezk. 36:35). The river which had once sprung from underneath the Edenic temple (Gen. 2:10) would again bring waters of abundance to the Land (Ezk.47:1ff.), "living waters" (Zech. 14:8) filling the seas and making them fresh. Once again the trees of Eden would bring forth fruit, not merely once a year, but each and every month (Ezk. 47:12). Like the metaphorical tree of Psalm 1, these trees, planted on the shores of the "living waters," would never again wither nor fail. Zion would indeed enjoy her jubilee!
The heavenly temple-city which Ezekiel envisions perched high "on the mountains of God" (Ezk. 40:2), in all its eschatological glory, is emphatically said to be completely surrounded (Ezk. 40:5) by a wall over ten feet high, reflecting the enclosed sanctuary of Eden. This visionary temple, like the Edenic sanctuary, is shown to have each of its walls oriented towards the four points of the compass (Ezk. 40:6, 20, 24). At each of its three gates, approached by ascending seven steps (Ezk. 40:22, 26) are two sets of three alcoves built into
22Warren Austin Gage, The Gospel of Genesis (Winona Lake: Carpenter Books, 1984), p. 51.
the walls (Ezk. 40:7, 21, 25), apparently for the guardians of the sanctuary.
Within the walls of this eschatological Eden, the pine, the fir, and the cypress will all adorn the Zion-temple, the walled paradeisos which the Lord calls "the place of my sanctuary" (Isa. 60:13). Within its walls grow every kind of tree, thus demonstrating its eschatological character "by the presence together of trees which never occur elsewhere together"23 outside of Eden (Gen. 2:9). Of prime importance however, is the implied promise of the presence of the "Tree of Life" within this new garden-sanctuary. In the midst of all the trees (Gen. 2:9), amongst the great forest (Ezk. 47:7) of the heavenly paradeisos, it is not difficult to imagine the "Tree of Life" standing, as did the writers of the Old Testament pseudepigrapha (Test. Lev. 18:11; Eth. Enoch 24:4; 25:4). As Henri Blocher explains, while the term "Tree of Life" is not used in the prophetic expectations of that future garden-paradise, "the thought could not have been far away."24
This eschatological hope of paradise regained finds its realization in the vision given to John in the Book of Revelation. The access to this eschatological Tree of Life which is offered as a reward to the "overcomers" (Rev. 2:7), is portrayed in all its splendor in Revelation 21 and 22. Here, as it was revealed to Ezekiel, is the Lord's temple-city descending upon a "mountain great and high" (Rev. 21:10; cf. Ezk. 40:2). As the anti-typical paradise of God, it too has a "great, high wall" (Rev. 21:12), as wide as it is tall (Rev. 21:16; cf. Ezk. 40:5), oriented again to the points of the compass (Rev. 21:13). Stationed at each of the twelve gates are angelic guardians (angelous [Grk.], Rev. 21:12), just as there had been in its Edenic manifestation after the Fall (Gen. 3:24), as well as in Ezekiel's eschatological vision (Ezk. 40:7, 21, 25). Here too within its gates, is the "water of life" (hydatos zoes [Grk.], Rev. 22:1) flowing from the midst of the paradeisos-sanctuary; from the very foot of "the throne of God" (Gen. 2:10; Ezk. 47:1; Zech. 14:8). Although here the "water of life" is pictured not as watering a vast, dense forest, but the lone25
23 Gage, p. 54.
24Henri Blocher, In the Beginning (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984), p. 125.
25Because the tree is said to be tou potamou enteuthen kai ekeithen many have argued for the collective use of zylon here, referring not to a single tree, but a grove, lining the banks of the river. In addition to destroying the Edenic imagery, this view also imposes a literalism upon the
"Tree of Life" (zylon zoes, Grk.), straddling its shores (Rev. 22:2), "transplanted, as it were, from Eden."26 In fulfillment of the prophetic promise, the Tree bears its fruit "every month" (Rev. 22:2), providing healing for the nations.
It is in its eschatological manifestation that this "new paradise" is fully revealed in its true sanctuary nature. Here it is explicitly described, no longer as a "microcosmic house,"27 but rather as the macrocosmic dwelling of the Lord Most High. It is here, within its walls of asylum, that the Shekinah-glory of God burns brightest (Rev. 21:23; 22:5), eliminating the blackness of the metaphorical night of sin. In the midst of his sanctuary, "the throne of God and the Lamb" has been placed (Rev. 22:3). Once again, God has established his "Edenic temple-city upon a great mountain . . . [a] sanctuary-city, founded and built by God alone,"28 the "epitome of the glory of the consummation."29 It is in this setting that the Lord's eschatological Tree of Life stands tallest.
However, its journey here has been a strange one. The unfolding of "the Tree of Life" in the text of biblical literature is indeed a mysterious one. Many scholars, such as Skinner, seeking to remove this mystery, deny its authenticity altogether, declaring that its presence in the text of Genesis only "creates fresh embarrassment."30 Likewise, Speiser dismisses the tree as simply "a motif from the Primeval Age based on foreign myths."31 Yet, rather than merely being an "inconsistency"32 in the text, the Tree of Life is, in the Zion-centric
vision never intended by its Revealer. To argue that a single tree cannot grow simultaneously on both banks of a river is to ignore the fact that in its eschatological setting, the tree grows without the benefit of sunlight (Rev. 21:23)!
26R. Laird Harris, ed. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:689.
27Kline, Images, p. 36.
28Gage, p. 54.
29Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1967), 5:770.
30John Skinner, Genesis ICC (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1969), p. 52.
31E. A. Speiser, Genesis: The Anchor Bible (GardenCity, NY: Doubleday & Co.,1964), p. 27.
32Howard N. Wallace, The Eden Narrative (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1985), p. 103.
universe of Scripture, truly "the World Axis."33 Here the Tree of Life stands already, even in its protological manifestation, in the very center (bethok hagan, Heb.) of God's garden-sanctuary (Gen. 2:9), a looking forward, if you will, to its eschatological function. As Vos explains, it stands there symbolizing the "the higher, . . . unchangeable, . . . eternal life."34
As Westermann has detailed, the Tree of Life, along with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, corresponds to the twin clauses of the Adamic probation.35 The blessing of God's command to Adam was that "eating you shall eat" (Gen. 2:16) from all the trees of the garden and thus live. This then is the verbal parallel to the visible representation of the Tree of Life. Over against this, the covenant curse would come with the violation of prohibition against eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:17). Contrasted emphatically with the life-giving tree, the tree of covenant curse promises death—"dying you shall die."
Immediately, two questions arise which must be dealt with briefly before continuing. First, the nature of the benefits derived from eating from the Tree of Life must be determined. That is, how is it that life was conveyed through the eating of its fruit? Second, it must be decided whether or not Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Life prior to their expulsion. Taking the latter first, it has been occasionally argued that because it was given to Adam and Eve to eat "from all the trees of the garden" (Gen. 2:16), it would be "logically contrary" to think that the Tree of Life was not one of those "allowed and given to the man,"36 and therefore that they naturally ate of its fruit. Yet, following the Fall, God's establishment of an angelic guardian to prevent man's approach to the Tree of Life clearly contradicts this idea (Gen. 3:24). To argue that man had to repeatedly eat of the fruit in order to possess eternal life, and therefore, that the Lord's actions following the Fall were designed to prevent Adam and Eve from continuing to partake of the fruit is unconvin-
33S. D. Fohr, Adam and Eve: The Spiritual Symbolism of Genesis and Exodus (NY: University Press of America, 1986), p. 124.
34Vos, p. 28.
35Westermann, p. 290.
36Blocher, p. 123.
cing. The use of the perfect tense for "unique or instantaneous action"37 in the reason stated for their expulsion points to a single act of eating.38 In addition, the explicit use of "also" (gam, Heb.) in the divine counsel (Gen. 3:22) points to Adam and Eve's not having as yet tasted the fruit of the Tree of Life, as they had the Tree of Knowledge. In the same way, Christ's eschatological promise of the fruit of the Tree is made "to him who overcomes" (Rev. 2:7), and Adam's failure in the probationary testing of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil39 can in no way be construed as a victory. The right to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life is secured only through obedience—obedience which the first Adam failed to render, but which the Last Adam is pictured as having delivered in full (Rom. 5:19).
As to the nature of the fruit itself, it is plain to all that what was to be conveyed is "living forever" (Gen. 3:22), whether it is understood literally, allegorically, or otherwise. Blocher dismisses the Tree and its fruit as merely figurative, with neither being actually physically present in the garden. He claims that the tree only "represents communion with God, the inexhaustible source of life. "40 Others view the text as teaching that, regardless of whether or not they actually believe it, the fruit possessed some magical power, conveying eternal life ex opere operato. Yet the entire Genesis record, and likewise all of Scripture, excludes the idea of an element of any kind possessing, in and of itself, magical power. "The Old Testament has no room for blind forces, only for the acts of God."42
37 Paul Jouon, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, trans. T. Muraoka (Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istitutto Biblico, 1993), 2:360.
38Note also the Septuagint's translation of 'akhal (Heb.) by the Aorist Subjunctive phage denoting punctiliar action or aspect. Cf. F. Blass and A. Debrunner, Greek Grammar of the New Testament, trans. R. W. Funk (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), p. 166.
39Vos, p. 28
40BIocher, p. 125.
41Gerhard Von Rad, Genesis (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972), p. 78.
42Derek Kidner, Genesis (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967), p. 62.
The judicial banishment of Adam from the garden generally, and from the Tree of Life specifically, points to the significance of its fruit. That Adam had not eaten of its fruit prior to the probation (see above), and the subsequent prohibition against doing just that (Gen. 3:24) both point to the proper understanding of the Tree of Life as that of "the sacramental seal of man's participation in the glory of immortality."43 As Calvin argues, "there never was any intrinsic efficacy in the tree."44 The fruit was to serve as a sign and seal of the blessing of the confirmation in holiness merited through covenantal obedience during Adam's probation. Had this probation been successfully passed, Adam and Eve would have then entered into a confirmed state of eschatological life—life without the threat of imperfection, life within the realm of consummated or confirmed holiness and perfection,45 signified and sealed to them by means of the fruit of the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:24).
Yet, in their rebellious eating of the anti-sacramental Tree (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), the Tree of Life became for them a curse, the eating of which would sacramentally seal them in a state of unrighteousness and damnation.46 Had Adam and Eve been allowed to "sacrilegiously . . . partake of the tree"47 they would have been confirmed in their now sinful state. In this way, the Lord's judicial banishment of Adam and Eve from both his garden-sanctuary and its sacramental tree, is viewed not only as cleansing of his temple,48 but also as a gracious act, protecting them from a fate far worse than death. It is in this curse nature that the Tree of Life later reappears in Scripture.
The phrase, "the Tree of Life", itself occurs in the Hebrew Bible outside of Genesis 2-3 only in the book of Proverbs (3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4). In the
43Kline, Kingdom Prologue, p. 58.
44John Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of Genesis, trans. John King (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1948),1:184.
45Ibid., p. 59.
46Murray, Collected Writings (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), 2:55.
47Ibid., p. 54.
48E. A. Speiser, Genesis: The Anchor Bible (Garden city, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1964), p. 27.
wisdom literature, the Tree becomes equated with wisdom as the highest virtue of life, something that ought to be "laid hold of" (3:18). In this way, the Tree of Life is seen as bestowing "fullness of life in all its dimensions,"49 not at all unrelated to its Edenic manifestation, but certainly lacking, to some degree, its eschatological focus. In Proverbs 11:30, the wisdom conception of the Tree most closely echoes that of the Genesis prohibition, stating that "the fruit of righteousness is a tree of life."
While the terminology of the Tree of Life is absent from the rest of the Hebrew Bible, this is not to say that the imagery is absent elsewhere. The imagery of a tree, while not necessarily that of the Tree of life, is central to the tabernacle, as well as to the temple (which James Jordan suggests "are themselves arborescent theophanies").50 It may in fact be argued that "the tabernacle is a renewed version of the Garden of Eden."51 In any case, within the "tent of Meeting" just outside the "shielding veil" (Ex. 39:34; 40:21) which barred the way to "the Holy of Holies," stood a stylized, golden almond tree with buds, blossoms, almond flowers, and fruit all at once52 (Ex. 25:31-36), symbolizing the fullness of life lost in the Fall. Here the lampstand-tree appears as a reminder of the Lord's initial theophanic visit to Moses, as was his presence in Eden and upon the mountain of God (Mt. Horeb, Ex. 3:1ff.). The tree of the tabernacle-temple is thus revealed as an "institutionalized burning bush."53 And like its archetypal forerunner, nearby stand the cherubim (Ex. 26:31), embroidered on the curtains standing before "the Holy of Holies" (Ex. 39:34; 40:21), which like the cherubim of Eden, "tear the way into God's presence."54 The effects of the Fall are thus dramatically revealed in the architecture and furnishings of the earthly tabernacle.
49Howard N. Wallace, The Eden Narrative (Atlanta GA: Scholars Press, 1985), p. 108.
50James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, 1988), p. 85.
51Vern Polythress, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, 1991), p. 19.
53Jordan, p. 86
54Polythress, p. 19.
The truth that the tabernacle portrays visually, is revealed verbally throughout the Hebrew Bible. Whereas, what had been intended to be "a seal of everlasting life"55 in the purity of the Edenic "archetypal sanctuary,"56 becomes in the post-lapsarian world of sin and misery," a sign of a curse."57 The symbolism of the tree is no longer that of the giving of life, but rather that of an instrument of curse—the cross. While the "LXX [Septuagint] never uses the word stauros,"58 crucifixion is frequently implied by the impaling or hanging of the victim upon a "tree-cross."59 Pharaoh's chief baker is "impaled upon a tree" just as Joseph had prophesied (Gen. 40:18-22). In the Deuteronomic covenant renewal, Moses is said to lay out the stipulations intended to protect the sanctity of the land-sanctuary the Israelites were to establish in Canaan. The Lord pronounces a curse upon anyone who is "executed . . . [and] then fixed to a stake"60 (Dt. 21:22). The body must not remain upon the tree overnight, as this would cause them to desecrate the sanctity of the land (Dt. 21:23). Therefore, the unclean rulers of the Canaanite forces that opposed the people of God in the conquest are defeated and marked with the curse of God by their being hung or impaled "upon a tree" (Jos. 8:29; 10:26). In each case it is specifically stated that their bodies remained only until evening in order not to desecrate the land.
In the Exilic period, the wicked Haman plots to destroy all God's covenant people, particularly Mordecai by hanging or impaling him "upon a tree" (Est. 5:14; 6:4), reflecting the "oriental custom."61 Clearly, this is not a tree in the botanical sense, since it is stated that Haman had it made (5:14), yet the
55Murray, p 48.
56Wenham, p. 86.
57X. Leon-Dufour, Dictionary of Biblical Theology (NY: Seabury Press, 1973), p. 403.
58Colin Brown, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), 1:393.
59O'Reilly, p. 178.
60John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), p. 81.
61Colin Brown, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), 1:394.
author's use of "tree," along with "hung" (6:4; 7:9, 10; 9:13) clearly point back to the curse of Dt. 21:23. It is by means of "the tree" that Haman (7:10), along with his ten sons (9:13), receive their just punishment, marked with the sign of the Lord's curse.
Like so much of Scripture, what is implicit in the Old becomes explicit in the New, and this certainly is true of the imagery of the Tree of Life. The apostolic preaching of the cross is inextricably linked to the concept of zylon (Grk., "tree"). As one scholar has remarked: "It is no accident that human sin which began at the foot of a tree... (Gen. 2:9ff.), found its resolution on another tree, the cross of Calvary."62 The "idiomatic word for 'tree' in New Testament times"63 was dendron, and yet none of its twenty-five uses in the New Testament is ever in reference to the cross. John himself uses dendron four times, all in Revelation and each refers to actual, botanical trees (7:1, 3; 8:7; 9:4). In contrast, of the twenty-one uses of zylon, only five refer to actual trees or wood (Lk. 23:31; 1 Cor. 3:12; Rev. 18:12), while six refer to instruments of pain or punishment, either clubs (Mt. 26:47, 55; Mk. 14:43, 48; Lk. 22:52), or stocks (Acts 16:24). The remaining uses are exclusive to the idea of the cross or the Tree of Life.
In Luke's record of the growth of the early Church, the phrase "hung on the cross" has become an essential element of the apostle's "kerygmatic formula."64 This is the identical phrase used by the Septuagint to translate "impaled upon a tree" throughout the Hebrew Bible.65 Peter's preaching before the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:30), and to the God-fearing Gentiles of Cornelius's house (10:39) both avoid the technical terminology of crucifixion (stauros, stauroo [Grk.], which occur some twelve times in Luke-Acts; twice in the preaching of Peter alone), choosing rather to make reference to the Deuteronomic curse aspects of the atonement. Likewise Paul, when speaking to the "sons of
62Harris, T.W.O.T., 2:689.
63Hemer, p. 41.
64John B. Polhill, The New American Commentary: Acts (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), p. 262.
65Gen. 40:19; Dt. 21:22.23; Jos. 8:29; 10:26; Est. 5:14; 6:4; 7:10; 9:14.
Abraham" and God-fearing Gentiles of Pisidian Antioch, uses the language of curse (tou zylon, Grk.) to speak of the death of Jesus (13:29). In this manner Paul can then explicitly declare that the Christ has become "a curse" because, quoting Dt. 21:23, "cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" (Gal. 3:13). Peter also, in his first epistle, speaks not of the "cross," but rather the "tree" by which our metaphorical wounds are healed (cf. Rev. 22:2), enabling us to die to sin and live for righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).
Clearly, the "tree" "receives a new content in Christian use."66 In the mind of the early Church, the "Tree of Life was readily identified with the cross."67 "Tree" in the preaching of the apostles is not to be thought of as a botanical item or a mere piece of lumber, but it is the cross, the instrument of cursing, through which the curse of Genesis 3 is borne by Jesus and undergoes reversal. Once the sign of God's cure, death on the cross becomes "the saving event which radically transforms the world"68 (cf. Wisdom 14:7), announcing eschatological forgiveness and peace.
It is primarily in the book of Revelation, given to John by prophetic commission (1:11, 19) that the image of the "Tree of Life" and the cross become one. The technical terminology of crucifixion is startlingly absent from the Apocalypse; the cross is not to be found, and "crucifixion" appears only once (11:8), while the "Tree of Life" appears repeatedly. Once more the Tree of Life is seen in the midst of the garden, "the paradise of God" (Rev. 2:7; 22:2; cf. Gen 2:9). In the midst of God's heavenly temple-sanctuary, the Tree of Life again blossoms and bears fruit (Rev. 22:2). Like Adam and Eve in a sense, the Tree also had been banished from God's garden. Driven outside the walls of the protological paradeisos, the Tree of Life had become the Tree of the Curse, sacramentally sealing the covenant violator in divine judgment (Dt. 21:23). Man, mercifully barred from the Tree's fruit, was forced to wander "the earth [which] had taken on the character of a wilderness"69 due to the
66Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1967), 5:40.
67O'Reilly, p. 170.
68Colin Brown, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971), 1:397.
69Kline, Prologue, p. 85.
cosmic effects of his sin. Longing to return, the cherubim with flaming swords (Gen. 3:24) were frightful reminders that only One who was able to endure the judgment-ordeal of a righteous and holy God, passing through the flaming sword-judgment of the Lord, was worthy to eat its fruit.
So it is the eschatological Adam who mounts the Tree of the Curse planted outside the walls of the earthly Zion (Heb. 13:12),70 and takes upon himself the Edenic curse, thus becoming "the curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). In the Last Adam, his elect pass through the judgment-ordeal (Rom. 6:4). In him, his elect become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). In this way, the guardian cherubim sheath their swords of fire. The "great, high wall" of the heavenly Zion (Rev. 21:12), once an unapproachable obstacle, becomes a comfort. The angelic guardians (angelous, Grk.), stationed at each of the city's twelve gates no longer bar the way with flaming swords, but welcome the weary sojourner entering his eschatological rest (Heb. 4:1). Here the curse which hung like a veil over creation (Isa. 25:7), and barred man from "the Holy of Holies" (Ex. 26:33) is torn asunder (Mt. 27:51), reversing "the verdict of Eden."71
Thus, Jesus Christ, himself pictured as the conqueror, promises "to those who overcome," those who "even though [he] externally marches from defeat to defeat,"' are truly victorious by faith "in Christ," who gives them "to eat from the Tree of Life" (2:7). What had been previously forbidden is now offered freely to those who overcome, to those that remain faithful throughout their time of trial. The fruits of the Tree of life are now to be enjoyed. "The way is open which leads to paradise regained,"73 and so much more.
Having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb (Rev.7:14), who himself passed the eschatological probation, the elect may now, through the sacraments "to eat from the Tree of Life" (Rev. 2:7), enter into a state of life for
70 cf. also Mt. 27:33; Mk. 15:20; Lk. 23:33; Jn. 19:17.
71 Hemer, p. 43.
72 Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1967), 4:942.
73 Leon Dufour, "Tree," p. 612.
which the first Adam only hoped. The barren cross again becomes a verdant Tree, no longer a tree of death, but "the Tree of Life" nourished by the "water of life" (Rev. 22:1) in the splendor of God's glorious heavenly city-sanctuary, towering over the center of the New Jerusalem. Unlike its pagan imitation, the true Tree of Life provides soteriological asylum to the faithful. In the shade of its leaves, healing is found for the nations (Rev. 22:2). Illuminated by the Shekinah-glory of God (Rev. 21:23; 22:5), in the midst of the eschatological "sanctuary-city, founded and built by God alone,"74 the "Tree of life" stands tall, the "epitome of the glory of the consummation."75 Its presence declares that God's redemptive plan has come full circle.
San Jose, California
74 Gage, p. 54.
75Gerhard Kittel, ea., Theological Dictionary of the lVew Testament, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmar~s, 1967), 5:770.
Lamentations: A Review
James T. Dennison, Jr.
Claus Westermann, Lamentations: Issues and interpretation. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994, 252 pp., paper, $14.00. ISBN: 0-8006-2743-1.
Like the New Testament book of Jude, the Old Testament book of Lamentations has suffered from neglect. It was 1954 when Norman Gottwald published Studies in the Book of Lamentations (Studies in Biblical Theology series) that interest in this book of sorrowful songs was rekindled. Westermann's volume is the latest product of this school of liberal-critical fundamentalism. The rigid critical scholasticism of this approach to Scripture is, by now, familiar to all students of the Old Testament: (1) whatever the Judaeo-Christian tradition or the particular book of the Bible itself claims about authorship cannot be credible (as all truly "scientific" critics acknowledge); (2) the book of the Bible in question is a construct of diverse religious interests reflecting various and sundry Jewish stages of national self-awareness; (3) the particular book in question has been assembled like a patchwork quilt, i.e., from various authors (usually unknown), in various stages of literary and thematic harmony (usually called redactors or editors), with various and often contradictory theological emphases. With respect to the book of Lamentations, this higher critical fundamentalism concludes: (1) Jeremiah is certainly not the author; (2) the book is the compilation of several distinct poems assembled by a redactor following the destruction of Jerusalem (586 B.C.); (3) there is virtually no theological aspect to the book save the lament over divine judgment.
Westermann has fallen lockstep into line with this liberal-critical agenda: (1) Jeremiah is not the author ("the traditional view of Jeremianic authorship has for all intents and purposes been abandoned," p. 58); (2) the book is a compilation of several poetic forms—dirge, plaintive lament, communal lament, even prayer (pp. 8, 61)—all of which may be identified and isolated by the skilled form critic; (3) theologically, Lamentations is a book of negation—a therapeutic catharsis of guilt (p. 91). It is "not even theological literature" (p.86) because it does not transcend the immediate "concrete situation" (Sitzim-Leben) of the razing of Jerusalem. Hence Westermann takes 235 pages to reduce the book of Lamentations to an expression of sorrow over the death of a city. Surely, we knew that already simply by reading the text! Did we need to lay down $14.00 to learn the obvious?
But perhaps I have been too cavalier with Westermann. After all, he is the doyen of modern Old Testament form critics. His reputation is already assured through his massive three-volume commentary on Genesis (1505 pages for $123.00). And yet even his commentary on Genesis displays this scholastic Old Testament critical approach to the Word of God (that, however, is another story!). Westermann's work on Lamentations has five chapters (clever! the book of Lamentations itself has five chapters). The initial chapter discusses "dirge" as a literary critical phenomenon. Chapter two provides a brief history of the interpretation of Lamentations from Karl Budde (1882) through Hermann Gunkel ("father" of modern form criticism) to Bo Johnson (1985). In other words, a truly scientific and critical approach to Lamentations awaited the illumination of liberal higher criticism from the halcyon days of German idealism to the present post-existentialist era. A notable feature of this survey of the history of interpretation (pp. 24-85) is the failure to list genuinely conservative commentaries and articles. Absent is R. K. Harrison's Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (1973); Walter Kaiser's, A Biblical Approach to Personal Suffering (1982); Francis Schaeffer's Death in the City (1969—though this is more a typical Schaefferian Kulturkritik than a commentary); W. H. Shea, "The qinah Structure of the Book of Lamentations," Biblica 60/1 (1979): 103-7; D. A. Dorsey, "Lamentations: Communicating Meaning Through Structure," Evangelical Journal 6 (1988): 83-90. A history of interpretation of Lamentations which omits these conservative reflections!—how is that a "scientific" history of interpretation. In fact, Westermann's bibliography is a typical
liberal history of interpretation—biased, selective, arrogant, closed-minded.
Chapter three provides an overview of interpretation focusing on (surprise!) how to interpret a lament!! Chapter four is a verse by verse exegesis of Lamentations in predictable form critical style, i. e., textual notes (heavy with suggestions of emending = changing the Hebrew text), suggestions on structure, comments on the form and interpretation. Very little theological reflection is found in this material. Chapter five attempts to redeem that which has been omitted from the previous 220 pages—"The Theological Significance of Lamentations." But Westermann has no theology to advance—only a lament for a charred city. His vision rises no higher than his liberal form critical horizons.
I have been very hard on Westermann. Perhaps my reader will think I have been too hard on him. But what my reader must realize is that old things are passing away and new things are emerging—even in contemporary Old Testament studies. Westermann's form critical fundamentalism is part of a rigid liberal-scholastic past. The fresh winds that are blowing over Old Testament texts are narrative studies, literary studies, studies in poetic technique, studies in the Old Testament as canon, etc. Westermann's form criticism is passé—essentially a thing of the modern pre-scientific past (i.e., before 1980). While we may yet witness the dying gasps of form critical method (as represented by the volume under review), the body is, in fact, a corpse. The field of Old Testament studies has moved beyond form criticism (see James Muilenburg's stunning obituary "Form Criticism and Beyond," Journal of Biblical Literature 88: 1-18 and Meir Sternberg's trenchant critique The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading ).
The damning evidence for my previous paragraph is found in Westermann's reflections on the structure of Lamentations and his bibliography. As we carefully examine his structural approach to Jeremiah's lament and search his bibliography, we are aware of a significant lack of perception with respect to the Hebrew text (his form critical methodology makes it impossible for him to correctly assess the intricate structure of the poem) and a singular omission from his bibliography (he did not do his homework). Why is this a fatal flaw in Westermann's study? Originally published in German in
1990, Westermann's bibliography contains no reference to the most important study of Lamentations in the last century. Johan Renkema issued "The Literary Structure of Lamentations" in 1988 as his contribution to the volume The Structural Analysis of Biblical and Canaanite Poetry (Sheffield Academic Press), edited by Willem van der Meer and Johannes C. de Moor (see also I.G.P. Gous, "A Survey of Research on the Book of Lamentations," Old Testament Essays 5: 184-205). We may be baffled about the omission of such a seminal work from a work in the very same subject area by the doyen of Old Testament form criticism. In fact, the answer is not that obscure. Renkema's work makes Westermann's form criticism ludicrous, sophomoric, vacuous. Westermann has imposed his methodological agenda on the text of Lamentations and then shaped his exegesis and interpretation to that wax nose. Renkema has (more or less successfully) allowed the Masoretic text to speak for itself, deriving his interpretation from the Hebrew structure of the poetic book.
All scholars have noted the acrostic feature of the book of Lamentations. Each of the first four chapters uses the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet seriatim as a structuring pattern (ayin and pay are reversed in chapters 2, 3, and 4). Each verse begins with a sequential letter of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph - tau), i. e., verse one begins with an aleph-word, verse two begins with a beth-word, etc. to verse twenty-two which begins with a tau-word. Chapter three is a triple acrostic—it contains sixty-six verses (3 x 22). In this keystone chapter, the acrostic feature is maintained in three-verse blocks, i.e., verses 1-3 begin with aleph-words, verses 4-6 begin with beth-words, etc. to verses 64-66 which begin with tau-words. As if to prove the rule, chapter five has no apparent structural form; it is not an acrostic, though it too contains twenty-two verses.
Renkema's studies are an attempt to explain the acrostic feature of the book by combining interpretation with structure. While he is not always successful in the latter (theologically speaking), he appears to have found a key to the author's acrostic style. He points out that each of the first four chapters contains an essentially concentric pattern. For example, verses 11 and 12 of chapters one and two reflect parallel vocabulary; 1:11 ("see"... "and look") with 1:12 ("look"... and see"); 2:11 ("poured out"... "faint"... "in the streets") with 2:12 ("faint"... "in the streets"... "poured out"). Working
back from the center of the poems, verse 10 parallels verse 13 (1:10 -"stretched"/1:13 - "spread," i.e., stretched; 2:10 - "daughter of Zion"... "virgins"/2:13 - "daughter of Zion"..."virgin"), verse 9 parallels verse 14 (1:9 -"Yahweh"/1:14 - "Adonai"; 2:9 - "prophets"... "vision"/ 2:14 - "prophets"... "vision"), and so on to verses 1 and 22 (1:1 - "great"/1:22 - "many," i.e., great; 2:1 - "day of [God's] anger"/2:22 - "day of the Lord's anger").
The parallel pattern becomes a mirror of lament descending to the center (verses 11 and 12) in which the poetic climax is reached. This concentric or chiastic structure draws the reader into the pathos and poignancy of the central feature of the book (as it were, chapter by chapter—Jerusalem is destroyed! Her glory is dust and ashes!! While much more work remains to be done on the theological dimension of this inspired poetic structure, we may begin with the assurance that we have discovered the structural key to the poet's words. While Westermann pays no attention whatever to the acrostic feature (save to observe its presence), Renkema enables us to explore the mind, purpose and theology of the poet. Nor should we shrink from reverent doxology at the work of the Holy Spirit in the poet's mind, heart and pen.
Chapter three follows the concentric pattern, only now the parallels are grouped in blocks of three verses each, i.e., verses 31-33 are parallel to verses 34-36 (note the repeated "not Lord"). Verses 28-30 contain the word "mouth" as do verses 37-39. Verses 1-3 and 64-66 both share the word "hand(s)". Chapter four contains an irregular parallelism: 1, 2 with 21, 22 ("Zion"); 3-5 with 18-20 ("in the wilderness"); 6 with 17 ("not"); 7-9 with 14-16 ("not... in the streets"); 10, 11 with 12, 13 ("poured out" with "shed," i.e., poured out).
Chapter five contains no acrostic pattern. In fact, it seems to have only a partial parallel arrangement. Verses 9 and 10 contains "because"; verses 13 and 14 have "young man"; verses 17 and 18 have "because" again; verses 19 and 20 have "forever"; verses 21 and 22 have double emphatics ("restore... restored," v. 21; "reject... rejected" = "utterly rejected," v. 22).
The unique astructuralism of chapter five may be related to its unique message—is it a prayer? Is it a renewed declaration of trust in God? Or is it a concluding severe antithesis confirming the negation of earthly Zion? Has Jeremiah anticipated the transition from the Zion which will pass away to the Zion which is eternal in the heavens? Notice that the themes of chapter five
virtually beg for eschatological reversal and fullness: a city of dispossession (5:2-4) in contrast to a city rich with the inheritance of the saints in light; a city of no rest (5:5) in contrast to a city of everlasting rest: a city fatherless (i.e., no fathers, 5:7) in contrast with a city of the patriarchs and fathers in Israel; a city with no deliverer (5:8) in contrast to the city where the Savior is the center; a city joyless (5:15) in contrast to a city of never-ending joy.
Lamentations contains a poetic structure designed to graphically portray the death of a city. That lament of death is taken upon the lips of the prophet of the end of the (former) age—the age of Jerusalem's monarchical splendor. The prophet-poet is himself affected by the death of the city. In fact, it is as if the death of the nation is his death and he personifies himself in the imagery of destruction and judgment. The only reversal (eschatological "chiasm") sufficient for the Christian reader of Lamentations is another city of death where the eschatological prophet-poet laments once and for all the approaching close of the ages (Luke 19:41-44). For this prophet-poet will incarnate death, judgment, destruction in himself; he will lead captivity captive entering into a Jerusalem which can never be destroyed. The Lord Jesus Christ will take up the lament for the Jerusalem which is below and transform that dirge into a poem of everlasting joy in the Jerusalem which is above. Beyond the Jerusalem of 586 B.C. is a new and better Jerusalem; beyond the weeping prophet of 586 B.C. is a prophet who wipes away all tears. In its poignancy, the book of Lamentations compells us to look unto Jesus—"Behold and see, if there be any sorrow like unto his sorrow!"
Westermann misses all this rich Christological and eschatological imagery. His form critical fundamentalism reduces the book to a patchwork of disparate dirges with nought but funereal overtones. If joy slips into the text, it is due to some hapless redactor. Westermann's book is the tragedy—well might we sing a lamentation over this tome which leaves us Christless and hopeless. "For we have here no enduring city ...." And that, after all, is the issue in interpreting Jeremiah's great lament. We take up Jeremiah's lament with sighs and tears; we put it down with tears of joy because of Jesus and the new Jerusalem.