Did Jesus Quote Isaiah 29:13 against the Pharisees? An Unpopular Appraisal -- By: Thomas R. Hatina

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 16:1 (NA 2006)
Article: Did Jesus Quote Isaiah 29:13 against the Pharisees? An Unpopular Appraisal
Author: Thomas R. Hatina


Did Jesus Quote Isaiah 29:13 against the Pharisees? An Unpopular Appraisal

Thomas R. Hatina

Trinity Western University

In contrast to the widely held view that the saying in Mark 7:5-7 is a Markan redaction, this article argues that the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees is thoroughly at home in an inter-Jewish (non-Christian) polemic concerning the ideology of purity and thus may well be more historical, or earlier, than is often thought. More specifically, it is argued that the function of Isa 29:13 as a scriptural support for the denunciation of the “tradition of the elders” finds its closest parallel in the targumic interpretive tradition and not in the early church.

Key Words: Jesus, tradition of the elders, holiness, purity, targum, conflict, redaction, historicity

The confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning purity laws in Mark 7:1-23 (Matt 15:1-20) has over the years proved to be a hotbed for scholarly debate on the complexities of historicity, tradition, and redaction.1 This section of Mark is a pastiche of layers containing traditions that most likely go back to Jesus, such as v. 15 (“there is nothing outside the man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of the man are what defile the man”), as well as traditions that probably have their origin in later Christian/Jewish controversy, such as v. 19b (“thus he declared all foods clean”). Most of the attention that this section has attracted concerning the historical Jesus has rightly focused on ritual hand washing and Corban. By contrast, historians have paid very little attention to Mark 7:5-7, where Jesus quotes Isa 29:13 as a condemnation of

the scribes’ and Pharisees’ appeal to the “tradition of the elders.” For many historians, it is highly unlikely that Mark 7:5-7 represents an actual confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees because, as it is customarily reiterated, this exchange contains all the hallmarks of Markan redaction, particularly Jesus’ sweeping condemnation of the “tradition of the elders” and the accompanying quotation from Isa 29:13, which closely resembles the lxx.2 On the surface, Jesus’ ...

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