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Maẓmiah Qeren Yeshu'Ah / מצמיח קרן ישוע

יהודה ליבס and Y. Liebes
Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought / מחקרי ירושלים במחשבת ישראל
כרך ג‎', חוברת ג‎ (ניסן תשמ"ד), pp. 313-348
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23363189
Page Count: 36
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Maẓmiah Qeren Yeshu'Ah / מצמיח קרן ישוע
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Abstract

The intention of this essay is to demonstrate how an allusion to Jesus of Nazareth accompanies the accepted text of the fifteenth blessing in the Amidah, the "Blessing of David" — which concludes with the expression maẓmiaḥ qeren yeshu'ah, "Who causes the glory of salvation to sprout." The article also shows that this blessing was formulated by the Jewish Christians during the first century. At that time the sect had not yet become severed from the Jewish people and the language of the liturgy had not been fixed absolutely; rather, there was still room for thinkers of different persuasions to convey their sentiments through variations of wording. The Blessing of David deals with the advent of the messiah, and in the reference to Jesus that his followers introduced into its closing phrase they revealed their anticipation of the national redeemer of Israel, although they identified this figure with Jesus. Ample evidence is adduced in order to corroborate this thesis. The investigation begins with the formulation of the blessing itself. If one does not understand the intimation of Jesus in the final word 'salvation,' yeshu'ah, then there arises a firm discrepancy between the body of the blessing and its ending. The former embraces the hope for the advent of the Messiah son of David and "the flourishing of his glory," whereas the latter is concerned in a general way with "salvation" and lacks the basic idea of the blessing. Moreover, the formula "maẓmiaḥ qeren yeshu'ah" is difficult in itself. According to all the parallels, in the final position one would expect the noun to be proper rather than abstract. Tracing the development of the blessing's form verifies that it previously conformed to the conventional pattern. The ancient version reads David throughout the blesing in lieu of yeshu'ah. Similar phraseology is preserved to this day in the text of this blessing recited after the Hafṭarah, and may be seen already in the pre-Christian Book of Ben Sira. Indeed, the first testimony to the insertion of the word yeshu'ah into the Blessing of David appears in the New Testament, in Luke 1 68-69, where it serves as an overt hint to the name of Jesus. This matter may be clarified further by taking into account that in the second century, amid the decisive schism between Judaism and Christianity, the Blessing of David was excluded from the rite of Palestine. This deletion coincided precisely with the addition of the "Blessing against Sectarians," directed at the Christians. Thus it is reasonable to speculate that both changes derive from one motive, enmity toward Christianity. Another indication is that when the sages of Eretz Israel omitted the blessing, they simultaneously retained David's name by entering it into the preceding blessing. For this very name had been expunged and supplanted with the name of Jesus at the hands of the Christians. With regard to the modification of the liturgy described above the Jerusalem Talmud puts forth, on a note of challenge, the opinion that the messiah will be not the progeny of David but David himself. This view occurs in other sources as well. It came to be a focus of argument in the Jewish-Christian controversy, which is found also in the New Testament. Just as the thesis of interreligious contention explains the removal of the Blessing of David from the Palestinian service, so may this proposal help in interpreting its motive: in the prayers of Babylonia. Jewish Christians did not live in Babylonia, and the sages of that land did not therefore regard the blessing as problematic. They saw no reason to depart from their ancestral custom, and were perhaps even unaware of the Christian origin of the version familiar to them. The existence of this version in Babylonia led to its sanction in all the Diaspora communities until our time, since the whole of Israel abided by the instruction of the Babylonian Talmud. The article also treats at length a tannaitic midrash that attests to its author's knowledge concerning the deletion of the blessing as a result of its being composed with Jesus in mind. This fact is not conspicuous in the midrash, but it is demonstrable by careful study of its language and ideas, and by comparison with other works. Finally, some evidence about the history of the Jewish Christians and their relations with the Jewish people is offered by which it is proved that at the outset the Jewish Christians were Jews in every respect, praying together with their brethren in the synagogue, and that the flexible program of worship was able to accommodate divergent beliefs. The separation of the two groups came only later, with the execution of Jesus' brother James and the destructon of the Temple. A note to the article discusses midrashim on the defection of Korah and his company, and establishes that this episode was perceived as a prototype for all sectarianism. Such an identification was aided by the Greek term haíresis, the literal meaning of which is "choosing" or "taking," and which evolved into a name for any particular denomination. The word "he took" at the beginning of Numbers 16 was interpreted vis-a-vis haíresis. Hence the purport of sectarianism in the eyes of the sages is not doctrinal dissension, but rather denial of political authority.

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