Anomalies in "The Pattern"
All Christians recognize the authority of the Bible. Some do not understand the nature of that authority the same way but it is recognized nonetheless. Various words like guide or model are sometimes used to help convey how biblical authority functions. Still others latch onto words like pattern, blueprint or constitution. Some postulate that the nature of this pattern is quite exact in its details. For example Roy Deaver wrote several years ago
"God has given mankind the pattern for building his life. God has given the pattern for Christian character (attitudes and conduct) and the pattern for the church (organization, name, doctrine, worship, plan of salvation, mission) ..." ("We Must Recognize That the New Testament Does Set Out the Divine Pattern," Firm Foundation [October 22, 1985], 2)
Deaver asserts that "the fact that the New Testament is designed to be our pattern is emphatically declared in numerous passages ..." he goes on to cite 2 Jn 9; 1 Cor 4.6; Gal 1.6-8; and Rev 22.18,19. One wonders if the New Testament, the book, is under consideration in any of these passages? I submit they do not. The Second John text has no "book" under consideration. First Corinthians has the Hebrew Bible under consideration (interestingly enough). And Revelation has only itself under consideration.
I embrace the idea that a "pattern" is testified to in Scripture. We need to let the Scriptures set our agenda and not our debate traditions. If the Pattern Principle is alive and well as it is articulated by many one has some difficult facts to account for in the life of the Living Word of God himself ... Jesus. I will share three such "anomalies" with my blog readers that need to be addressed. For each of these there is no "biblical" authority for in the sense that there is a book, chapter and verse authorizing these things.
Jesus and the Cup of Thanksgiving
All three Synoptic Gospels testify that Jesus took the "cup" and gave thanks for it (Mt 26.27; Mk 14.23; Lk 22.10-23). Indeed in Luke we have the presence of two cups that were of the four on Passover's table in Jesus' day. This cup(s) which was part of the Passover ritual during first century Judaism became part of the Lord's Supper as Paul testifies in 1 Cor 10.15 and 11.24,27. The question that the rigid patternist must deal with, if they are to face the issues with integrity, is where did that cup come from and who gave the authority for it? One will search in vain in the Hebrew Bible for a command from God to have a cup (much less four of them) in the Passover meal. The cup became traditional for Jewish observance during the intertestamental period. There is no record before the second century B.C. for the cup as part of the meal. In fact the very first time the cup is mentioned is in that popular book known as Jubilees. In Jubiless 49 there is a lengthy discussion of the Passover and its proper observance. In verse 6 we read of eating and "drinking wine and praising and blessing and glorifying the LORD the God of their fathers ..." This, as I said, is the first time in history wine/cups are a part of the meal. Yet Jesus embraced this tradition without even raising an eyebrow as far as the record shows. Did Jesus not know that adding a cup to the meal was a violation of the pattern principle?
Jesus and the Synagogue
The synagogue figures prominently in the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus. We read in Luke 4 that it was Jesus' "custom" to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath (v.16). The book of Acts also testifies to the importance of the synagogue for even diaspora Jews. The Talmud claims there were 480 synagogues in Jerusalem alone prior to the destruction of the Temple.
Like the cup in the Passover, the synagogue presents certain anomalies to the one who sees the Scripture through pattern eyes. There is no doubt that the synagogue was of vital importance to Judaism in Jesus' day. There is no doubt that Jesus voluntarily and, apparently, approvingly associated himself with the synagogue. The question to be asked is where was the biblical authority for its existence? There is not a shred of evidence of the synagogue in the "Old Testament." There is no evidence that it existed at all in what we might call "Old Testament" times. The synagogue was a post-exilic religious development among the Jews. No one knows who started them or why ... though there are speculations. The first mention of a synagogue in an inscription comes from Egypt (not Palestine!) and dates to the 3rd century B. C. (cf. Eric M. Meyers, "Synagogue" Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol 6, p. 252).
Why did Jesus participate in this unbiblical institution?
Jesus and the Festival of Lights
The last anomaly I call attention to is Jesus' participation in the unbiblical religious festival of Lights. The imagery of this festival dominates John 10.22-39 and is mentioned explicitly in v.22 (i.e. Dedication, NIV). This fest celebrated the liberation and salvation of the Jews from the hands of Antiochus Epiphanes. The Temple was defiled by pagan sacrifices (the abomination of desolation of Daniel). In 167 B.C. the Maccabees regained control of the Temple which was celebrated in the Festival of Lights. One can read the adventures that lead up to the liberation of the Temple in 1 and 2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha. There is no biblical support for this celebration. There is no command, example or inference by which the Jews could have justified the creation of this religious holy day. Yet Jesus is in the temple for this feast. John fashions his story of Jesus with that festival as the backdrop to teach the truth about Jesus. I can only conclude that Jesus did not have a problem in praising God for the deliverance brought about by the Maccabees! There certainly is no record of him saying this was wrong.
The claims of those who assert that the NT itself is a constitutional pattern/blue print fail to demonstrate their case exegetically. Jesus certainly respected biblical authority as he was the Living Word itself. Yet he did not have a problem participating in the traditions of his people even when there was clearly no authority, as some want to define it, for that tradition. Thus he drank from the cup, he taught in the synagogue, and he celebrated the feast of Dedication.