Now, after having looked at Matthew’s account of the birth and genealogy of Jesus it might be good to rejoin our previous topic of Jewish Apocalyptic with a view to better understanding what Matthew is trying to say. We’ve spoken at some length about some of the other writings of the faithful Jewish people just before and during the Second Temple period. It would be a gross error to neglect to understand how passionately and poignantly these Apocalyptic writers portray their beliefs in these writings. Even though they are not considered part of scripture, and hence may not contain the truth of God we seek, it becomes important for us to look into their beliefs to see the kinds of thinking that existed in Jesus’ time, the influences that were available to Matthew as he wrote Jesus’ story, and the manner in which people of that time perceived the world in which they lived. Now let’s talk about another aspect very prevalent in Jewish Apocalyptic.
The Present Evil Age and The Kingdom of Satan
Earlier we talked about how, in Genesis 3, God’s judgment upon mankind for their rebellion included pain in childbearing, painful toil in a resistant environment and human death. The writers of Jewish Apocalyptic read those scriptural passages, consider their own situation as the outcome of the fall, and draw the following conclusion:
The sin of Adam and Eve caused the world to be a afflicted not only with the specific judgments mentioned in Genesis 3, but with all manner of evil.
In other words, all the chaotic, troublesome, resistant and evil circumstances they experience in life are the result of the fall. Now this is a hotly debated point in theology today, and we might blanche at the direct statement of it. Nevertheless, in Jewish Apocalyptic Theology the matter was settled, and one reason behind the writing of the literature is to establish it as fact. As with ourselves, I’m sure there were some who read the Jewish Apocalyptic writings and remained unconvinced that the case was made, while others accepted the premise above. My point, however, is that for most Second Temple Jews, this was a very present and attractive theme.
2 Baruch says:
“When Adam transgressed untimely death came into being, mourning was mentioned, affliction was prepared, illness was created, labor accomplished, pride began to come into existence, the realm of death began to ask to be renewed with blood, the conception of children came about, the passion of the parents was produced, the loftiness of man was humiliated, and goodness vanished.”
2 Baruch 56:6
Realizing that the entire human race has been adversely affected by Adam’s sin, the author of 4 Ezra comes close to despair. He says:
“. . . it would have been better if the earth had not produced Adam or else when it had produced Adam had restrained him from sinning. Oh Adam what have you done? For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone but ours also who are your descendants.”
4 Ezra 8:48-49
Jewish Apocalyptic Theology was not so monolithic as to think, however, that it was simply Adam’s sin that warped creation and brought judgment upon mankind. All creatures both human and angelic, who choose evil over the good; who ally themselves against God; have contributed to the ruin of God’s wonderful creation. 2 Baruch declares:
“For, although Adam sinned first and has brought death upon all who were not in his own time, yet each of them who has been born from him has prepared for himself the coming torment. And further, each of them has chosen for himself the coming splendor. For truly, the one who believes will receive reward. But now, turn yourselves to destruction, you unrighteous ones who are living now, for you will be visited suddenly, since you have once rejected the understanding of YAHWEH the Most High. For HIS works have not taught you, nor has the artful work of HIS creation which has existed always persuaded you. Adam is, therefore, not the cause, except only for himself, but each of us has become our own Adam.”
2 Baruch 54:15-19
Jewish apocalypticists and other writers of their era refer to this world corrupted with evil, this world marred by death, this world fallen away from its original goodness using a number of different terms. For example, they call it the present evil age. That’s a term from Galatians 1:4. In other words they claim that the present age is characterized by evil. They also describe this fallen world as the “kingdom of Satan”. That is, a world where Satan and his allies, both human and Angelic, exercise a degree of kingdom, lordship or rule, a degree of power and influence for evil in the world. Human beings have collaborated with Satan to transform God’s good creation into the present evil age, the kingdom of Satan, a world twisted and ruined by evil and death.
Now, the Jewish apocalypticists are hardheaded realists who see Continue reading Understanding Jewish Apocalyptic (Part 3)