Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mat 23:35: Is it Zacharias, son of Barachias OR Zacharias, son of Baruch?

Dear in Christ,

I am not sure as to how many have seriously considered this passage:
Mat 23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
It is supposed that the “Zacharias son of Barachias” mentioned in this passage is Zechariah, the prophet.
Zec 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,
But, unfortunately, there is no record of anyone murdering Zechariah, the prophet.

Please do note that the same statement of Jesus as we read in the gospel of Luke doesn't mention Zacharias' father.
Luk 11:51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

Berechiah is NOT Jehoiada!

In fact, there is another Zechariah who was murdered by Jews (Israelites):
2Ch 24:20 And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you.
2Ch 24:21 And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD.
This took place around 850 BC.

While the detractors of the Bible see Mat 23:35 as one of the proofs for the textual corruption, many Christian scholars are at great pains to explain away the passage. They say that the entire Jewish history is included in the books from Genesis to 2 Chronicles. This is far from truth, as the narrative of 2 Chronicles ends with events of late 7th century BC. Could Jesus have meant that Israelites (Jews) would be punished for the blood that was shed till the 7th century BC? How about his own blood? How about the blood of the saints and the apostles who were persecuted and killed by Jews? (Rev 6:10)

Please note that the narrative in 2Ch 24:20-21 doesn't say that Zechariah the son of Jehoiada was killed between the temple and the altar, all that it says is that he was stoned in the court of the house of the LORD.

Scholars want us to believe that no other prominent men of God have been martyred after Zechariah the son of Jehoiada. This is far from truth, because, we read about the martyrdom of Uriah, the prophet, in Jer 26:20-23. The murder of Uriah took place nearly 150 years after that of Zechariah the son of Jehoiada.

There is absolutely nothing to substantiate scholars' claims that Jehoiada could be an alternate name for Berechiah (or even vice versa).

Yet another transcriptional error from Matthew?

Scholars have an explanation for every error. While Matthew slipped the names of 4 of Jesus' ancestors (Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah, and Jehoiakim) in Matthew 1, scholars tell us that those were kings whose reign was very short or they did evil in the sight of God. They overlook the fact that Matt 1:1-16 is a list of "who-begat-whom" and not a list of kings who reigned over Israel or Judah. It doesn't take rocket science to understand that none among the ancestors of Jesus from Abraham to Jesse were kings.

Again, while Matthew alluded to Zech. 11:12, 13 in Matt 27:9, 10, and claimed that Jeremiah (Jeremy) was the author of the prophecy, Christian scholars have very convenient explanations, like, Jeremiah could have penned the last few chapters of the book of Zechariah!

Do I discredit the Bible by pointing out these "errors"? Not at all! I accept the gospel accounts as memoirs of their respective authors who wrote them down after they became very old. Such "errors" don't discredit the Bible. They are insignificant errors, that could be overlooked.

I would have considered the expression "Zacharias son of Barachias" as one of such insignificant errors, if it were not for the reasons detailed below.

① First century Jews didn't kill Zachariah, the prophet!

Let's study Mat 23:34, 35, without missing out on details. (We have included the KJV text with Strong's numbers and Robinson's Morphological Analysis Codes for relevant words, for making our understanding easier.)

Morphological Codes & their descriptions
Tense Present Future Aorist
Voice Active Active Active
Mood Indicative Indicative Indicative
Person first second second
Number Singular Plural Plural
Mat 23:34 Wherefore, behold, I send[G649, V-PAI-1S] unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill[G615, V-FAI-2P] and crucify; [G4717, V-FAI-2P] and some of them shall ye scourge[G3146, V-FAI-2P] in your synagogues, and persecute[G1377, V-FAI-2P] them from city to city:

Obviously, the passage is not about the Old Testament prophets, because, Jesus tells them that:
  • they shall kill,
  • they shall crucify,
  • they shall scourge,
  • and they shall persecute,
those prophets, wise men and scribes whom he send (send and NOT sent) to them.

Irrespective of whether the English translations have the word "shall" before each of these verbs or not, the underlying Greek text has all these words in future tense.

Ye slew (you slew)!

Mat 23:35 That[G3704] upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew [G5407, V-AAI-2P] between the temple and the altar.
Please note that the word "That[G3704]" at the beginning of Mat 23:35 connects the verse to what was narrated in the previous verse. In other words, the Jews who were the contemporaries of Jesus would kill, crucify, scourge and persecute the prophets send to them by Jesus so that whatever is predicted in Mat 23:35 would befall them. (Please note that Jesus didn't accuse Jews of killing Abel.)

There are instances where Jesus accused Jews to be the children of the Devil (Joh 8:44) or being children of those who killed prophets (Mat 23:31), but, do we have instances of Jesus accusing them of something that was done by their ancestors or someone else? None that I know of. (I could be wrong. as well)

The morphological code for the Greek word translated as "ye slew" (G5407, φονεύω, fon-yoo'-o) tells me that it is Aorist tense and Indicative mood (see the table above). Wikipedia has this to tell us about Aorist Indicative.
In the Ancient Greek, the indicative aorist is one of the two main forms used in telling a story; it is used for undivided events, such as the individual steps in a continuous process (narrative aorist); it is also used for events that took place before the story itself (past-within-past). The aorist indicative is also used to express things that happen in general, without asserting a time (the "gnomic aorist"). It can also be used of present and future events; the aorist also has several specialized senses meaning present action.
So, irrespective of the fact that the English versions have rendered the underlying Greek word (G5407) as "ye slew" or "you murdered", the Greek text could also point to future events. (Future from the point of time at which Jesus spoke those words.)

Let me reiterate this: Jesus was telling them that all the righteous blood that was shed on earth would come upon them - from the very first righteous man till the very last righteous man, whom they were about to kill, and not till the blood of someone who was killed before the 7th century BC.

Was it Zacharias, father of John the Baptist?

Many scholars have realized that it makes no sense in Jesus telling the first century Jews that only the blood that was shed upon the earth till before the 7th century BC would come up on them. So, some of the scholars came up with a solution: Jesus was talking about Zacharias, father of John the Baptist. But, there are two problems with this solution:
  1. There is nothing to prove that Zacharias was the son of someone named Barachias.
  2. Luke tells us that both Zacharias and his wife were well stricken in years (Luk 1:7, 18), some 30+ years prior to Jesus' statement in Mat 23:35. It's quite unlikely that Zacharias was alive while Jesus made this statement. If he were killed prior to 30-33 AD, historians like Josephus and Tacitus would have recorded it.

② What if Zacharias son of Barachias were Zacharias the son of Baruch?

Most of the write ups that I have come across on Mat 23:35 are attempts to disprove that the person that Jesus mentioned was Zacharias son of Baruch, mentioned in Flavius Josephus' historical book: Wars of the Jews. Such strong objections gives me the confidence that such a possibility shouldn't be ruled out.
Wars Book 4, Chapter 5, Section 4: And now these zealots and Idumeans were quite weary of barely killing men, so they had the impudence of setting up fictitious tribunals and judicatures for that purpose; and as they intended to have Zacharias the son of Baruch, one of the most eminent of the citizens, slain, - so what provoked them against him was, that hatred of wickedness and love of liberty which were so eminent in him: he was also a rich man, so that by taking him off, they did not only hope to seize his effects, but also to get rid of a mall that had great power to destroy them. So they called together, by a public proclamation, seventy of the principal men of the populace, for a show, as if they were real judges, while they had no proper authority. Before these was Zacharias accused of a design to betray their polity to the Romans, and having traitorously sent to Vespasian for that purpose. Now there appeared no proof or sign of what he was accused; but they affirmed themselves that they were well persuaded that so it was, and desired that such their affirmation might he taken for sufficient evidence. Now when Zacharias clearly saw that there was no way remaining for his escape from them, as having been treacherously called before them, and then put in prison, but not with any intention of a legal trial, he took great liberty of speech in that despair of his life he was under. Accordingly he stood up, and laughed at their pretended accusation, and in a few words confuted the crimes laid to his charge; after which he turned his speech to his accusers, and went over distinctly all their transgressions of the law, and made heavy lamentation upon the confusion they had brought public affairs to: in the mean time, the zealots grew tumultuous, and had much ado to abstain from drawing their swords, although they designed to preserve the appearance and show of judicature to the end. They were also desirous, on other accounts, to try the judges, whether they would be mindful of what was just at their own peril. Now the seventy judges brought in their verdict that the person accused was not guilty, as choosing rather to die themselves with him, than to have his death laid at their doors; hereupon there arose a great clamor of the zealots upon his acquittal, and they all had indignation at the judges for not understanding that the authority that was given them was but in jest. So two of the boldest of them fell upon Zacharias in the middle of the temple, and slew him; and as he fell down dead, they bantered him, and said, "Thou hast also our verdict, and this will prove a more sure acquittal to thee than the other." They also threw him down from the temple immediately into the valley beneath it. ...

What disqualifies Zacharias the son of Baruch as the person Jesus intended?

Of course, the name of his father. It's hard to prove that Barachias is the same as Baruch. But, then, is the Bible so accurate about names? Doesn't the Bible tell us that David's great great grandfather was named Salma instead of Salmon?
Rth 4:21 ...Salmon[H8012] begat Boaz,..
1Ch 2:11 ...Salma[H8007] begat Boaz,... (Obviously, the Hebrew text has it as Salma.)
Don't we have the same son of Benjamin named as Muppim, Shupham and Shuppim in Gen 46:21, Num 26:38-40 and 1Ch 7:6-12? (I can go on and on, of course, annoying those who haven't noticed such discrepancies.)

What qualifies Zacharias the son of Baruch as the person Jesus intended?

  • The murder of Zacharias the son of Baruch happened around 67 AD, just before the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.
  • He was killed by Jews (Zealots), fulfilling Jesus' words “whom ye slew”.
  • He was killed within the generation against which Jesus was pronouncing judgment. (Mat 23, 24)
  • Even a jury of 70 not-so-respectable men could not find any fault in him, implying that he was a righteous man. Please note that even the members of the jury were willing to die with him. We may say that he was the last righteous man of the generation.
  • If Aorist Indicative is used in Mat 23:35 to indicate future tense, the person that Jesus mentioned has to be someone to be martyred in the future of Jesus and his audience, which would disqualify Zechariah the prophet as the person intended by Jesus.
  • It makes sense to think that Jesus was telling them that all the righteous blood that was shed on the earth would come upon them, and not just the blood that was shed before 7th century BC.
In Christ,
Tomsan Kattackal