Monday, February 1, 2010

Ordination - Evidence in the Pre New Testament Context - Old Testament Part III

As mentioned in the last post we will now look at four interesting uses of samakh in conjunction with yad as found in Numbers 8:10; 27:18, 23; and Deuteronomy 34:9.

The Numbers 8:10 passage deals with the cleansing and dedication of the Levites, where we read that “the children of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites” (Num 8:10).[1] The first relevant feature to be observed is that this is a congregational laying on of hands. The second feature has to do with the purpose of the laying on of hands, which the rest of the chapter explains. God had taken the Levites, instead of the first born of Israel, and had “given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel” (Num 8:19). One therefore could possibly see this ceremony as “creating a representative or substitute” for the children of Israel (to use Daube’s category), and the laying on of hands could be a symbolical representation of this transference.[2] Third, while one could argue that, due to their newfound position, the Levites had power over the Israelites, there is nothing in this ceremony or in their new position which implies that this dedication imparted authority to them.

The other three passages (Num 27:18, 23; Deut 34:9) deal with the inauguration of Joshua. Here we find that Moses was to take Joshua son of Nun, a man filled by the Spirit, and lay his hands on him to inaugurate him and give some of his authority to him. That being the case, the pattern seen in this passage is different. First, this is an individual laying on of hands, not a congregational one. Second, the laying on of hands is central to the ceremony.[3] Third, the purpose of this inauguration is a transfer of authority. This is evidenced in Deuteronomy 34:9 where it is implied that the children of Israel heeded Joshua, because Moses had laid his hands on him. Mattingly further suggests that Moses’ “hand became a visible representation of YHWH’s communication and of YHWH’s power,” and therefore his “act of laying his hands on Joshua became a visible enactment of the ‘word’ of YHWH with all of its attendant concepts of power.”[4] Some suggest that Deuteronomy 34:9 supports the idea that the Spirit that filled Joshua was there as a result of Moses’ laying on of hands; to this notion, Stancil rightly argues that the Numbers passage clearly stated that Joshua already had the Spirit in him before Moses’ laying on of hands.[5] In any case, this is not, as Daube would understand it, a “pouring of one’s personality into another being.”

Later on we will come back to this "data" combined with "data" from Rabbinic Judaism (which we will tackle in the next post), and "data" from the New Testament, and analyze what Scripture has to say. For the time being, can you think of any other Old Testament "data" that I should have considered?

[1] Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible.

[2] In any case, there is definitely no indication in the text that this is an act of the children of Israel “pouring of one’s personality” into the Levites, the other definition for Daube’s samakh category.

[3] Mattingly, in Keith Mattingly, “The Significance of Joshua’s Reception of the Laying on of Hands in Numbers 27:12-23,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 39.2 (Autumn 2001): 198, through a careful textual and structural analysis, makes a convincing argument that “YHWH appears to be stating that all the other actions depend on” hand-laying.

[4] Ibid., 207-8.

[5] Wilburn Thomas Stancil, “The Practice of Ministerial Ordination among Southern Baptists: a Theological Analysis” (Ph.D. diss., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1979), 17.


John S Wilson III said...

I like the analysis. As a reminder the Old Testament gives types and copies, and shadows "of what is in heaven" and "only a shadow of the good things that are coming" (Hebrews). So much of the Old Testament that speaks of Christ we pull into traditional Christianity when it was never meant to do, as "Christ is the end of the law" (Romans) Much of which was pulled from the Catholic and Reformation scholastics that God never intended. Some thoughts. Great work brother!

Maël said...

John: more analysis to come later, especially on the implications for the church. Thanks for the encouragement.

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