“The voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Taken from the Book of Isaiah, one of the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, these words were used to describe John the Baptist who “prepared the way of the Lord.” John the Baptist forms a crucial link between the Old and New Testaments. As the use of the quotation from Isaiah and the idea that he held a special relationship to the prophet Elijah make clear, John was a prophet in the mold of those famous Old Testament figures. Yet, as the Forerunner (hence Surp Garabed/Սուրբ Կարապետ in Armenian), John baptizes in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. By baptizing Jesus with water, he inaugurates the earthly ministry of the Word of God. With this action, the prophetic figure of John the Baptist points the way to the fulfillment of the prophecies.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the Word of God incarnate on earth for the salvation of the world. Yet the question, “Who is this person, Jesus Christ?” has vexed Christian theologians for millennia. While the details of Christ’s divinity were worked out in the first few hundred years after His death and resurrection, the first answers to this question all took their cues from the Jewish prophets in the centuries before the birth of Christ. Throughout the New Testament itself, we see already that the understanding of who Christ is developed in a broadly Jewish, Levantine, and Roman context and more specifically, one of Jewish prophecies and prophetic literature.
Prophets, those who were not only teachers and preachers but also who were seen as having specific access to the words and will of God, are not unique to Jewish and Christian faiths. Nonetheless, the prophet as a cultural figure, a recognizable “social type,” was highly developed throughout Jewish history. After the giving of the Mosaic law, the basic rules of both religious life and normal social functioning was set. Moses, as a prophetic figure himself, transmits the law of God to the people of Israel. The law, then, is one direct form of the word of God. After the law, largely during and after the period of the kingdoms, the prophets became another form of direct access to the word of God. Old Testament Jewish prophets not only were conduits for the word of God, but performed a cultural function of calling the people of Israel back to the dictates of the law and to their right relationship with God. Finally, with John the Baptist’s announcement of the coming of the Word of God into the world, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the most direct access to the Word of God manifests as a person. Hence, we often speak of Jesus Christ as the “fulfillment of the law and the prophets.” Not only does Jesus Christ fulfill specific prophecies made by Jewish prophets in the centuries before His birth, but as the Word of God, He is the fulfillment of earlier forms of access to the word of God.
|Legends of the Patriarchs and Prophets and Other Old Testament Characters from Various Sources||Apocryphal and extra-biblical sources about the lives of the prophets of the Old Testament. Many of the lives of the prophets are known Biblically only from their mature exploits or short biographical details offered in the books that bear their names. This book presents sources that flesh out the details of the lives of the prophets.|
|Meknutʻiwn Margarēutʻeann Esayeay||Written by Sargis Kund, one of the great theologians of the twelfth century and published by Etchmiadzin in a series of Armenian commentaries on Scripture, this “Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah” is one of many Armenian commentaries on the prophets. In Armenian.|
|The Old Testament in Light of the Ancient East||Prophets were not limited to ancient Judaism, though they did develop into a recognized “cultural type” there. Much of the Old Testament can be better understood when placed in conversation with other ancient Near Eastern societies. Archaeology, the focus of this book, has been one major method for a comparative study of the societies of the ancient Near East.|
Orthodox Christians (that, is “orthodox,” all rightly-guided Christians) accept this deep connection between the Jewish law and prophetic literature that became known as the Old Testament and Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, worked out the writings that collectively are known as the New Testament. Yet this link and the division of Scripture into Old and New Testaments was a hard-fought victory against heretical ideas that either made Jesus merely a prophetic figure himself or that severed any link between the Old and New Testament. This last heresy, known as Marcionism, after the heretical early teacher Marcion of Sinope, asserts a radical discontinuity between Jewish teaching and the person of Jesus Christ. Condemned by other early Church Fathers, the response to Marcion helped solidify the nascent New Testament and the doctrinal consensus that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the law and prophets.
This week, on Thursday, the Armenian Apostolic Church commemorates one of those major prophetic figures of the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah, who lived in the seventh and sixth centuries BC, began his prophecy in the time of King Josiah and prophesized about the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple of Solomon, which came to pass in 587 BC. He is considered one of the “major prophets.” Less a statement about their importance and more about the size and placement of the books of the Bible in the Christian Old Testament, these “major prophets” include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The so-called “minor prophets” are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi. In this summer season, the Armenian Church commemorates many of these prophets, including a collective commemoration of the Twelve Minor Prophets.
Armenians have a long tradition of engaging with the prophetic texts. In some cases, especially with regard to later Jewish texts such as the Book of Daniel, there are interesting textual variants represented in the received Armenian versions of some of the prophetic books. Likewise, along with these textual variants, there exists a significant Armenian apocryphal literature on the prophets. These include short lists of the prophets and brief biographies collected in The Lives of the Prophets. In part, the typological thinking of Armenian theologians we have discussed before explains the Armenian interest in the prophets. Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of prophecies is a form of typology. Similarly, the identification of John the Baptist with Elijah is an explicit use of an exegetical type. Armenians extended this typological thinking to historical writing as well: in the colophon to a grammatical text, for instance, the author likens all of the calamities of the fourteenth century to the tragedies of Jeremiah’s time. In other words, the voices of the prophets have continued to ring across the centuries, serving as sources for Armenian spirituality and thought.
|The Ante-Nicene Fathers||An important collection of the earliest patristic writings, before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Volume Three includes Tertullian’s Against Marcion, arguing against a radical discontinuity between what would become the Old and New Testaments.|
|The Armenian Version of Daniel||Translated with an introduction by S. Peter Cowe, the Armenian version of Daniel has subtle textual variants. This is true of several of the Armenian versions of the prophets.|
|Armenian Apocrypha: Relating to the Patriarchs and Prophets||Compiled and translated by Michael Stone, this collection presents The Lives of the Prophets and other Armenian apocryphal collections related to the prophets.|
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