Posted by: chuckbumgardner | May 13, 2018

Water, Light, Shepherd

Hmmm, that’s interesting. Craig Blomberg (Historical Reliability of the New Testament [Nashville: B&H, 2016], 210-11) highlights three metaphors which Jesus used for himself, all apparently at the same Feast of Tabernacles, in John 7-10: he refers to himself as living water (7:38; cf. 4:10), the light of the world (8:12), and the good shepherd (10:11). Blomberg notes that, strikingly, this triad is also found prominently in a passage in 2 Baruch, a work which the EDEJ indicates was written “in the wake of the First Jewish Revolt and responds to the fall of the Temple in the year 70 C.E.” (which in my limited checking seems to be a scholarly consensus) and is known only because “it was translated and preserved in Christian circles” (M. Henze, “Baruch, Second Book of,” in Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010], 426-27). We find in 2 Baruch 77:13-16 the following (trans. Charles):

13      For the shepherds of Israel have perished,

And the lamps which gave light are extinguished,

And the fountains have withheld their stream whence we used to drink.

14      And we are left in the darkness,

And amid the trees of the forest,

And the thirst of the wilderness.’

15      And I answered and said unto them

‘Shepherds and lamps and fountains come from the law:

And though we depart, yet the law abides.

16      If therefore you have respect to the law,

And are intent upon wisdom,

A lamp will not be wanting,

And a shepherd will not fail,

And a fountain will not dry up.

I have no time at the moment to chase the interesting questions that this parallelism raises (such as: Can this metaphorical triad be found elsewhere, and were both Jesus and the author of 2 Baruch drawing from a common tradition?), but simply wanted to highlight the interesting connection here.

What Blomberg derives from this parallelism: “What many Jews ascribed to Torah, therefore, Jesus ascribes to himself. He is the true shepherd, lamp, and fountain” (p. 211). Assuming Blomberg accepts the consensus on the date of 2 Baruch (he doesn’t comment on this in the present context), he would presumably mean that the imagery found in 2 Baruch was commonly (perhaps collectively?) applied to Torah not only at the time of 2 Baruch’s composition, but earlier in Jesus’s day as well.

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