Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Plucking Grain on the Sabbath and Trespassing

Over on Laudator Temporis Acti, Michael Gilleland has an interesting post on Plucking Grain on the Sabbath (Matt. 12.1-2 // Mark 2.23-24 // Luke 6.1-2). He asks a question that hadn't even occurred to me before, which shows how much I've allowed myself to think of the pericope in terms of the form-critical "What were the Pharisees doing spying on the disciples?" hermeneutic, and that is: Who owned the corn and what did the owner think about it?

Update (Monday, 10.25): On Laudator Temporis Acti, Michael Gilleland has more: Penalties for Stealing Crops.


Geoff Hudson said...

Israeli antropologists have discovered some first century skeletons with teeth worn down to the gums. These individuals had been living on unmilled corn grain. Now I have tried chewing corn straight fom the ear. The grains were like bullets, not that I eat bullets. They must have had strong jaws in those days.

So the 'disciples' surely were not plucking grain to eat, were they? If not, what were they plucking grain for?

Geoff Hudson said...

May be the anthropologists will discover some undigested grain in those Essene toilets that we heard so much about recently.

So how about some lateral thinking?

The editors of all three gospels affirm the eating theme with an interpolation about David and his companions entering the house of God and eating the consecrated bread. But this mention of the temple may be a subliminal clue to what the Lord of the 'Sabbath' passage was all about. May be it wasn't about the Sabbath at all. May be it was about the temple and what went on there.

A further clue about the temple is in Mat.12:5 only - 'haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent.' Another clue is Mat.12:7 - 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'

I suggest that the prophet was taking issue with priests (not with non-existent Pharisees) implying that they desecrated the temple with their animal sacrifices - places are desecrated.

Further I suggest that the prophet and his companions were poor agiculturalist tenant farmers like those who farmed lands rented from estates around Ein-Gedi. Thus there was no question of them trespassing. And they were gathering grain for an offering distinct from animal sacrifices. The editors of the writings attributed to Josephus let slip that they (the so-called Essenes) had 'lustrations' of their own.

Of course the 'Essenes' were the prophets who by then had decided to obey the Spirit of God as their Lord, instead of the written law. Thus Mat.12:8, was something like: 'for the Spirit of God is Lord of the temple.'

Geoff Hudson said...

It may have been during the war against the Romans, but it wasn't at the hands of the Romans that the Essenes (the prophets) of Ein Gedi were butchered. It was at the hands of the sicarri (priests?) who had control of Masada (War 7.8.2). Nachman Ben Yehuda puzzles over this in his books on Masada.

On page 148 of Sacrificing Truth, Nachman Ben Yehuda quotes Shmaria Guttman admitting thus : 'I want to paint a picture of the people in Ein Gedi. Who were they? They were land tenants of the Roman regime. In fact the people of Ein Gedi did not have any private land, it was state property, and the state then was the ruling Roman Empire.' Guttman implied that this was the excuse for the attack on the residents of Ein Gedi who were friendly towards their landlords. I believe that the residents of Ein Gedi were Essenes (prophets) who, according Josephus, included both the married and unmarried. And according Shmaria Guttman, they must have been farming tenant friends of Romans.

Geoff Hudson said...

Does this make rendering unto Caesar more meaningful? Did the prophet pay land rent to Caesar? If he did, then no doubt this angered the messianic priests greatly.

DafKesher said...

Geoff: American "corn" is a new-world plant. The NT "corn" is what americans call "wheat" and the british call "corn". These are the מלילות in deuteronomy. You can eat them, but your teeth will still not like them.

Geoff Hudson said...

But hell for your belly Daf.

Geoff Hudson said...

Sorry, the massacre at Ein Gedi is described in War 4.7.2.

Geoff Hudson said...


May be the prophet was walking through the temple collonades on the Sabbath, not 'through the cornfields on the Sabbath'. (Mat.12.1)- the setting was the temple. Thus he went from 'that place' (Mat.12.8). So the prophet's crime was simply walking too far on the Sabbath, and that right in front of the priest's noses. The prophet wanted to show that the Spirit was Lord of the Temple, and that the Spirit could spontaneously lead someone to break the law in time of need, as in the case of David and his companions.(Mat.12.4).

Presumably, the priests in the temple did more walking than the law permitted on the Sabbath. (Mat.12.5).