It Is Finished for Richard Carrier’s Dying Messiah: Part 2

This second part of my response to Richard Carrier will deal essentially with the interpretation of three texts: Daniel 9:24-27, Isaiah 52:7-53:12, and 11QMelchizedek. I will spend the bulk of my time responding point by point to Carrier’s claims, before concluding with a fresh interpretation of 11QMelch, based on new research. I’ve changed my mind back and forth on various questions regarding 11QMelch, but never have I found Carrier’s claims to accord with the data we have. He constantly misreads the texts; he makes contradictory claims about the nature of pesher, as he thinks it suits his purposes, and ultimately fails on virtually every point. The one point he has made that forced me to look closer at the scroll is that it follows the same timeline as Daniel in terms of a ten jubilee cycle. I was of course, with all scholars, already aware of this, but his insistence on the central significance of this point drove me to closer examination of the scroll. Not surprisingly, as it turns out and as I will show, Carrier’s understanding of the timeline of events between Daniel 9 and 11QMelch is incorrect, but I owe to his insistence on this question the clarity I now have about what 11QMelch is saying about the last days.

I would suggest to Carrier that he take the time to read this post in its entirety at least once, if not twice, before making any attempt to respond. His track record indicates that he will ignore or skim significant portions of the text, and repeat the same mistakes again and again, with increasing certitude. This is not a good idea. He should put the same care into responding to my arguments as I always put into responding to his and all of my interlocutors’ arguments. What I do is I read the criticisms in their entirety at least once before beginning to work on my response. (That way I don’t start making critiques only to find they are addressed later on.) Then I take each statement made (unless it’s clearly irrelevant—like an aside) and I respond to each statement, one by one, so that I’m sure and all of my readers are sure that I haven’t glossed over anything. If someone points out that I’m wrong on something, and I agree that I’m wrong, I make sure to admit it, so that everyone can keep track of what I think and what I no longer think. Carrier’s M.O. is to gloss over, ignore, and skim numerous major points, and in his zeal he is prone to misunderstanding, as evinced by his response to part 1 of these two posts which can be found in the comment thread there. So for the sake of his own integrity, and for the sake of all of our readers, if Carrier wishes to respond, I encourage him to do so with no less care than I have taken in all of my responses to him.

Two Anointed Ones in Daniel 9

Ignoring (or not having read) much of my discussion of the two anointed ones in Dan 9:25-26, Carrier continues to insist that there is only one figure envisioned by the author of Daniel. Let’s evaluate his arguments, which appear under the heading, “Which Messiah Would Die?” (which is a strange question since no one in this debate has ever suggested that Joshua would die, or that the death refers to anyone other than Onias III). Carrier writes:

Stark rightly did not suggest (at first) what some others have attempted to argue, that the Messiah in Daniel 9:25 is a different person from the Messiah in Daniel 9:26.

The reason I didn’t make this argument initially is because my initial argument should have been sufficient to any responsible scholar: you can’t hang a major, radical new claim on a reconstruction of a lacuna without a serious discussion of how to reconstruct that lacuna. Of course, Carrier didn’t even mention it. Nevertheless, Carrier continues:

Some bible translations make it out to be (and in a later post Stark does play this card and argue that two men are meant, and many scholars do concur with the notion).

First, I didn’t “play a card.” I informed Carrier that he was flabbergastingly ignorant of the scholarship on the very text he was hanging his case on. When one makes an argument supported by a huge scholarly consensus, one isn’t playing some kind of trick, as Carrier tries to imply. Second, Carrier is trying to play down the reality that the vast majority of critical scholars (not just “many scholars”) make the same argument I’ve made, and that majority includes the very scholar to whom Carrier appealed to try to argue against the majority reading (Lacocque). Lacocque of course doesn’t get a mention in Carrier’s latest effort. He continues:

The RSV says “from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.” The text doesn’t actually say that, however. Which is why NRSV changed it to “from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time,” which implies the same thing but without the invented words (it uses instead punctuation, which Stark reports is in the current Hebrew text, however, although we can’t confirm that was the case in the pre-Christian era).

Good grief. First, Carrier says that the RSV “invents words” and that the NRSV does not invent words but only uses punctuation to the same effect. Here’s what the RSV says: “there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks.” Here’s what the NRSV says: “there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks.” The only difference is the former uses the word “then” and the latter the word “and.” The so-called “invented words” Carrier thinks the RSV “invents” are “then for.” According to Carrier, the NRSV does not invent words. So apparently “and for” aren’t invented, but “then for” are invented. Of course, “then” and “and” are both proper translations of the Hebrew conjunction waw. They aren’t two different words in Hebrew. In fact, they have an overlapping semantic domain in English too, which makes this all the more hilarious, since Carrier at least knows some English. Since Carrier doesn’t know Hebrew, he also doesn’t know that Hebrew doesn’t really use prepositions to mark duration of time. Example: Exod 20:11: “For in six days I made the earth.” There’s no preposition “in” after the conjunction; it is simply implied. Another example: 1 Kings 14:21: “And twenty-seven years he reigned in Jerusalem.” There is no preposition after the waw conjunction, but we would translate it, “And for twenty-seven years he reigned in Jerusalem.” Same in Gen 14:4: “And twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and the thirteenth year they rebelled.” Here we would supply the word “for” before “twelve years,” and the word “in” before “the thirteenth year.” Hebrew works differently than English (go figure!). The meaning of “for” or “in” is contained in using a number of years connected with a verb. Thus: with “sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat” the “for” would be implied. I really don’t know why Carrier continually tries to make arguments from Hebrew when he doesn’t know the language. In short, no, neither the RSV nor the NRSV “invented words.” They translated correctly. And yes, we can’t confirm how others read it in the pre-Christian era because Daniel was written about 165 BCE, leaving not a great deal of time before Christianity came on the scene for a bunch of people to write about it. (But see below when it comes time to reconstruct line 18 of 11QMelch. This scroll may in fact be the earliest evidence supporting the MT punctuation of Dan 9:25.)

Carrier continues:

The thinking behind this is that the “seven weeks” (a 49 year period) marks when the first priest is newly anointed after the exile (in biblical legend, Jesus ben Jehozadak), so this means that guy, while the next anointed is the last priest, Onias III, who is the guy meant in the next verse. (To fit Onias, of course, this still requires the 7 and 62 to be overlapping and not sequential periods, and that is in fact why the 7 is there to begin with, to make the math work out, when the “word of rebuilding” means Jeremiah’s prophecy that is being here interpreted, per Daniel 9:2-4; but once that date had passed and the prophecy didn’t fit, Jews could no longer use that math but had to start counting sequentially to get a later year, one not yet come.)

First, the prophecy of Jeremiah to which Carrier is referring here is in Jer 25:11-12. It dates to 605 BCE. Some scholars pick this as the starting point for the seventy weeks because if you subtract 171 (date of Onias III’s death) from 605 (date of Jeremiah’s oracle) you get 434 (=62 weeks of years). Carrier is using Lacocque’s argument that the 7 weeks (49 years) occur within the 62 weeks, not preceding them. But a 605 date for the “word” is not possible. Here is what Daniel 9 says about the “word” that “went out”: “from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (Dan 9:25a). The author says that the word that went out was a word with instructions to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” But when we look at the oracle made in 605, there is no mention whatsoever of any restoration or rebuilding of Jerusalem: “This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, says Yahweh, making the land an everlasting waste” (Jer 25:11-12). There is no mention of an end to Israel’s exile anywhere in this oracle. Moreover, as Collins points out, 605 predates the destruction of Jerusalem, which is why this oracle doesn’t offer any “word” to “restore and rebuild” it.

Jeremiah 29:10 is a better candidate: “For thus says Yahweh: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” But the oracle there was given sometime after the first siege of Jerusalem (597 BCE). So subtracting 171 from 597 we get 426 years, when what we need is either 434 (if we follow Lacocque, which few do) or 483 years. Most scholars who look for a Jeremiac oracle as the background of “the word” that “went forth” date it to about 586. That gives us 415 years. Collins argues that “the word” should not be seen as the oracle of Jeremiah, but “the word” that was given to Daniel in 9:23. Gabriel came to Daniel and said, “At the beginning of your supplications a word went out, and I have come to declare it, for you are greatly beloved. So consider the word and understand the vision.” The very next verse (24) begins the interpretation of the seventy weeks of years. Since both v.23 and v.25 use the same phrase, “word went out,” Collins concludes that the starting point of the seventy weeks should be the oracle given to Daniel by Gabriel, which is dated in Dan 9:1 to “the first year of Darius, son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede.” This is of course problematic, since the author of Daniel basically invented this king. As Collins notes:

Darius is here given a father, whose name is rendered as Xerxes in the OG [Old Greek]. There were Persian kings named Darius and Xerxes, but the relationship was reversed (Xerxes was the son of Darius I). Darius and Ahasuerus are mentioned together in Ezra 4:5-6, in correct historical sequence with Darius first. Despite recurring attempts to identify Ahasuerus here with the Median king Cyaxares, father of Astyages (who was father-in-law of Cyrus), there can be little doubt that the figure in Daniel 9 is fictitious and that the author simply used the well-known Persian name to fill out the allusion to the sketchy “Darius the Mede.”1

At any rate, this fictional reign of Darius the Mede is set within the book of Daniel during the Babylonian exile, so it would be sometime after 586 anyway, which means the math won’t add up either. “That Daniel is dated to the first year of the fictional Darius the Mede should dispel any expectation of exactitude in the calculations,” Collins rightly concludes.2 I of course pointed this out in my “Torturous Death” post, that the numbers aren’t meant to be literal, but apparently that’s one of the parts of my post Carrier didn’t read. I’ll use the same Collins quote again, in hopes that this time Carrier will get the memo and stop worrying about getting the numbers to add up right. I’ll put it in a block quote this time to make it easier for Carrier to read:

In view of the schematic character of the seventy weeks and of the dating to the reign of Darius the Mede, the figure should be considered a round number rather than a miscalculation.3

But I would argue (with very many scholars) that the “word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” most likely refers to the decree of Cyrus ca. 538 BCE, or sometime shortly thereafter when he gave instructions for Jewish leaders to return and rebuild. Jer 29:10 (the closest thing to a candidate in Jeremiah) doesn’t mention any restoration or rebuilding. It only says that Israel would return home from exile. Moreover, it merely says that Yahweh will bring them home; it does not give a word with instructions “to do” something, as is the character of the word in Dan 9:25: “from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.”

Point is, there is no possible schema proposed by any scholar that ends up with accurate dating. Of course, as Collins (along with many others) has pointed out, that’s not the purpose of the numbers here. The author of Daniel was offering an allegorical interpretation of Jeremiah’s seventy years figure, and thus the numbers had to fit within that artificial limitation. This is an apocalyptic oracle, not a historical list of dates.

Now Carrier moves on to more repeat blunders:

This is not necessarily how the Jews always read the text. For example, the Septuagint says the Christ will come after the 62-and-7 weeks as one period.

First, it’s 7 and 62, not 62 and 7. That’s kind of important. Second, and as we’ll see again later on, Carrier still doesn’t realize that Theodotion translated the Greek Daniel he is reading in his copy of the Septuagint. Carrier still doesn’t realize this, even after I made much hay of his ignorance of this fact in “Torturous Death.” If he had read my post with any care, he’d remember that I pointed out that Theodotion is notorious for (and here I’m repeating myself) omitting conjunctions, substituting the singular for the plural, replacing indefinite with definite articles, and vice versa, and dropping parts of verses as he saw fit. Not only that, he is also known to have added brand new statements (of piety and such) into the text. Scholars today refer to him wryly as an “elaborator.” And as if that weren’t enough, scholars have shown that his translation of the Hebrew into the Greek was actually in large part a translation of Greek into the Greek, because he wasn’t entirely competent in Hebrew.

As for the Old Greek translation (which was in the original Septuagint before it was replaced with Theodotion’s second century CE translation), it is a complete mess all over Daniel 9, not least with its translation of the division of weeks, which actually reads: “and after seven and seventy and sixty-two,” which totals 973 years. Obviously even the original LXX translator (probably late first century BCE) didn’t think the text through very carefully either.

Of course, as I also pointed out in the “Torturous Death” post, the MT reading which divides up the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks as two separate periods, is supported by multiple early Christians and also by the oldest rabbinic interpretation of the text. Carrier seems to have missed that part as well, careful reader that he is.

The earliest Jewish discussion of Daniel 9’s division of weeks is found in the Seder ‘Olam Rabbah, written by Rabbi Yose ben Halafta in ca. 160 CE. In chapter 28, Yose says that the first seven week period covers the exile and culminates with the return to and restoration of Jerusalem. The subsequent sixty-two weeks and one week period concern Jewish history after the return from exile at the end of the first seven weeks. So the oldest extant Jewish interpretation of the seventy weeks supports the MT over against the second century CE translation of Theodotion, who was just a sloppy translator (who was translating from a translation), and not necessarily a proponent of a different tradition of interpretation.

And you may remember that in his debate with Ramsey, Carrier made the ad hoc argument that

moderns likewise have theological and ideological agendas unique to our time that distort what ancient Jews would have cared about or thought. For example, modern Jews are often concerned to undermine Christian uses of OT scripture to defend their Christ. That would not have been a Jewish concern before Christianity even existed.

I responded by pointing out that even Christians up to the third century CE recognized two anointed ones here and/or (rightly) separated the seven and the sixty-two weeks. I remarked sarcastically, “They must have been really stupid, or driven by some anti-Christian agenda. Yeah. That’s it.”

Here are two examples of early Christians that agree with the MT punctuation and (mostly) with the modern critical interpretation of Daniel 9:25-26.

Hippolytus of Rome, who lived from 170 to 235 CE, wrote his Commentary on Daniel sometime between 198 CE and the date of his death. Here is the relevant portion of his commentary:

And he added saying, “Seventy weeks have been cut out for your people and for the holy city, for sin to be ended and for sin to be sealed and for unrighteousness to be erased and for lawlessness to be atoned and to bring in everlasting righteousness and to seal dreams and prophecy and to anoint a Holy of Holies. And to know and understand from the procession of the words for an answer to build Jerusalem until Christ the ruler, seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.” And so having named seventy weeks he divided them into two, so that what was spoken by him to the prophet may be understood all the more. For he says that thusly, “Until Christ the ruler, seven weeks,” which is forty-nine years. For also in the twenty and first year Daniel sees these things in Babylon. And so when adding forty-nine years to twenty-one years, they fulfill seventy years, which the blessed prophet Jeremiah has spoken, that for seventy years the Most Holy Place shall be desolate from the captivity which happened to them under Nebuchadnezzar and after these things the people shall return and the sacrifices and offerings of Christ their ruler shall be offered. But of which Christ does he speak, except Jesus son of Josedek, who returned together with the people at that time, and in the seventieth year, after the Most Holy Place was built, he offered a sacrifice according to the law? For all kings and priests were called Christs on account of them being anointed with holy oil, which Moses arranged long ago.

And so in order that the time when he is about to come may be shown which the blessed Daniel desired to see, he says, “And after seven weeks another sixty-two weeks,” which encompasses the time of four hundred and thirty-four years. For after the people returned from Babylon their ruler Jesus son of Josedek and Ezra the scribe and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, who was from the tribe of Judah, four hundred and thirty-four years occurred, until the advent of Christ. (Book IV, 30.3-31.2)

As a Christian would, Hippolytus identifies the second “anointed one” from v. 26 as Jesus the Christ (i.e., of Nazareth), and gets the math wrong on that part, obviously (but then again, so did Daniel). But what’s notable here is (1) that he sees a clear division between the seven and the sixty-two weeks, and (2) that he identifies the first “anointed one” from v. 25 as Joshua the High Priest (i.e., Jesus son of Josedek), just as most modern scholars do. Smart fella.

Of course, as William Adler argues, Hippolytus was influenced by an older Jewish interpretation of Daniel’s seventy weeks.4 The same, Adler argues, was true of an even earlier Christian interpretation of the seventy weeks, namely that of Clement of Alexandria (150-215 CE), to whom we will now turn:

From the captivity at Babylon, which took place in the time of Jeremiah the prophet, was fulfilled what was spoken by Daniel the prophet as follows: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to seal sins, and to wipe out and make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal the vision and the prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies. Know therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the word commanding an answer to be given, and Jerusalem to be built, to Christ the Prince, are seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; and the street shall be again built, and the wall; and the times shall be expended. And after the sixty-two weeks the anointing shall be overthrown, and judgment shall not be in him; and he shall destroy the city and the sanctuary along with the coming Prince. And they shall be destroyed in a flood, and to the end of the war shall be cut off by: desolations. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the middle of the week the sacrifice and oblation shall be taken away; and in the holy place shall be the abomination of desolations, and until the consummation of time shall the consummation be assigned for desolation. And in the midst of the week shall he make the incense of sacrifice cease, and of the wing of destruction, even till the consummation, like the destruction of the oblation.” That the temple accordingly was built in seven weeks, is evident; for it is written in Esdras [i.e., Ezra]. And thus Christ became King of the Jews, reigning in Jerusalem in the fulfillment of the seven weeks. And in the sixty and two weeks the whole of Judaea was quiet, and without wars. And Christ our Lord, “the Holy of Holies,” having come and fulfilled the vision and the prophecy, was anointed in His flesh by the Holy Spirit of His Father. (Stromata, 1, XXI)

Clement’s interpretation is quite imaginative. It has the Christian Messiah becoming King of Jerusalem in 516 BCE, after the initial seven week period, but only in a spiritual sense. Only after the sixty-two weeks did Jesus come in the flesh. But what matters for our purposes is that Clement divided up the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks into two separate periods, and argued that the seven weeks culminated with the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the beginning of the reign of “Christ the Prince.”

To sum up, we have clear attestation to traditions supporting the MT punctuation going back to the mid-second century CE, both Jewish and Christian. On Carrier’s side, he has a late second century CE translation produced by Theodotion about whom “all authorities agree that he was not, and was not competent to be, an original translator, but worked on lines laid down by others.”5

Moreover, Carrier totally ignored my argument that the text of Daniel 9 itself indicates we should separate the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks. I pointed out that the very beginning of v. 26 says, “and after the sixty-two weeks.” It doesn’t say, “and after the sixty-nine weeks.” Nor does it say, “and after the seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.” It says, “and after the sixty-two weeks.” Which means the text itself sees it as a distinct time period from the seven weeks.

He also probably didn’t see that I pointed out in the comment thread that we have a grammatical reason not to see the two “anointed ones” as the same figure. Neither have a definite article. If the second instance was referring back to the first instance, it would very likely have a definite article in front of it. That is to say, the anointed one is introduced indefinitely. But if the second anointed one were referring back to the one just introduced, it’s probable it would have a definite article. In fact, this does occur with the “sixty-two weeks.” The time span of sixty-two weeks is first introduced in v. 25 with no definite article. Then, when that timespan is mentioned again at the start of v. 26, there is a definite article, indicating it is referring back to the sixty-two weeks already introduced. We don’t see this in the case of the two anointed ones. Both are indefinite. This argument is not determinative in and of itself, but lends weight to the consensus reading over against Carrier and the Evangelicals.

Next, Carrier displays yet again both his total lack of knowledge of even basic Hebrew and that he didn’t read my original critiques with any degree of care:

And an oddity that exists in all versions of the text is the strange phrase “Christ Prince,” where we would expect an article or conjunction between them (“Christ the Prince” or “Christ and Prince”). Most bible translators conjecture an article and thus render it “Christ the Prince” (or “Christ a Prince,” which at least might not require an actual article, likewise if we read it as “Anointed Prince”) but the fact that in the next verse there are two men, a Christ and a Prince (exact same word, in both the Hebrew and the Greek), should sooner suggest what has been dropped is a conjunction. In other words, verse 25 says two men will come after 69 weeks, a Christ and a Prince. Verse 26 then says the Christ will die and the Prince will destroy the temple. It seems pretty clear to me that both verses are referring to the same two men.

Oh good grief. Please! Someone help him. In his argument with Ramsey, Carrier made this same argument, calling “Christ Prince” a “strange construction.” I responded:

Hmmm. . . . “Otherwise a strange construction.” I’m pondering for a moment. . . . Oh right! It’s a strange construction for Carrier because he doesn’t know how to read Hebrew. Now it makes sense. I couldn’t figure out why it was a strange construction. But, yes. Now I agree. It is a strange construction if you don’t know what you’re talking about. (I imagine there would be many such strange constructions in that condition.)

Of course, “Christ prince” is actually just, “anointed leader.” I.e., any priest, prophet or king in the ancient Near East. In this case, of course, it’s probably either Joshua or Zerubbabel. But rather than consult a commentary or, you know, get a formal education in the field you’re writing books about, Carrier would prefer to add words to the text so that it makes sense to him, which also has the nice added benefit of establishing Carrier’s misreading of the entire passage over against the passage itself.

Does Carrier know how to read? We know he can’t read Hebrew. But I mean, does he know how to read English? If so, what gives? He continues to make the same mindbogglingly ignorant argument, and only makes it worse! This phrase here is not an “oddity.” Carrier is an oddity. It is not a “strange phrase.” There is nothing “strange” or “odd” about a noun modified by an adjective, not in any damn language! It is an extremely common construction. Leviticus 4:3, 5, 16; 6:22: “anointed priest,” not “Christ Priest.” Numbers 3:3: “anointed priests,” not “Christ Priests.” 2 Samuel 3:39: “anointed king,” not “Christ King.” Ezekiel 28:14: “anointed cherub,” not “Christ Cherub.” Daniel 9:25: “anointed leader,” not “Christ Prince.”

Note also that Carrier only refers to it as “Christ,” which is a Greek noun—a title. But in Hebrew, it is a noun, an adjective, and a verb. The proper translation is always “anointed” when it’s a noun or an adjective, and in fact, the noun form is really adjectival in nature and should be translated “anointed one(s)” when it’s not modifying another noun..

We would emphatically not “expect an article or conjunction between them.” The reason some Bible translators “conjecture an article” is not because it’s a “strange construction” in Hebrew; it’s because they are Christians and they believe this is talking about Jesus. Thus, they wrongly render “anointed” in the titular sense of “Christ” and then have to add an article to smooth it out.

And as for Carrier’s claim that there should be a conjunction (“and”) between them, this has no basis whatsoever, neither in grammar nor in textual variants, nor in the history of translation. I just checked 37 different translations, mostly English, but also German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Latin, and not a single one added a conjunction between the two words. Not a single one!

What is Carrier’s argument for adding a conjunction to the text—I mean, other than his argument that it’s a “strange construction”? He says, “but the fact that in the next verse there are two men, a Christ and a Prince (exact same word, in both the Hebrew and the Greek), should sooner suggest what has been dropped is a conjunction.”

I mean, this is just hilarious. Carrier is doing a knockout job solving a grammatical problem that doesn’t exist, and O how nice it turns out for him that his solution supports his misreading of the text over against the text itself! In reality, “prince” (nagiyd) is a generic Semitic word for almost any kind of leader, variously translated “ruler,” “prince,” “captain,” “leader,” “governor,” “nobleman,” “commander,” “general,” etc. It would properly describe any Jewish High Priest (so Joshua, Onias III, whomever) or any king or general (so Antiochus IV).

Finally, in the “Torturous Death” post I also cited a journal article by Hector Avalos which I encouraged Carrier to read. Apparently he didn’t. In his article, “Daniel 9:24-25 and Mesopotamian Temple Rededications,” Avalos looks at several Mesopotamian texts which concern temple rededications and compares them to Daniel 9:24-25, concluding that they all have the following in common:

(1) an unnamed future “prince”
(2) the restoration of a dilapidated temple associated with that prince
(3) the anointing of the temple6

Avalos notes that scholars have long argued that Dan 9:24-27 already shows other signs of familiarity with Mesopotamian inscriptions, specifically that of Esarhaddon. Avalos writes, “Anointing ‘a most holy place’ (qdsh qdshiym) in Dan 9:24 provides an important parallel to Akkadian temple rededication inscriptions.”7 And he of course argues that the anointed prince in 9:25 is none other than the High Priest Joshua in the sixth century BCE. So the rededication found in Daniel 9 fits right in with Mesopotamian inscriptions, all of which identify a “prince” who will come to restore a temple and anoint it. (Oh, and Avalos got his masters and his PhD in Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies from Harvard, which means, unlike Carrier, he’s actually trained in this field.)

Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time.

We know just as well as the second century author of Daniel knew that this did in fact take place in the late sixth century BCE. And as I stated in the previous post, this parallel may explain why the first anointed one in v. 25 is referred to specifically as a “prince” while the second anointed one is not. Yet Carrier concludes:

In other words, verse 25 says two men will come after 69 weeks, a Christ and a Prince. Verse 26 then says the Christ will die and the Prince will destroy the temple. It seems pretty clear to me that both verses are referring to the same two men.

Yes, Carrier. You go ahead and run with that. While you’re at it, are there any other words you’d like to add to the text? Perhaps the words “as an atoning sacrifice” have been lost from the original Dan 9:26 right after “an anointed one shall be cut off.” (Oh, wait. He will try to argue something like this.) Thank heavens modern critical Bible scholars now have Richard Carrier among their ranks.

Carrier then throws all that aside and makes this point:

Whether that’s the case or not doesn’t matter, however. Because regardless of what the authors of Daniel meant, or other later Jews read, all that matters is what this pesher assumes. And the Melchizedek Scroll is saying that the Christ in Daniel 9 is a future figure, who is to appear (or die) at the special Day of Atonement that the pesher says will take place after the whole 490 year period enumerated in Daniel, not after the first seven years.

Right, and as Carrier knows, Onias III was not killed “after the whole 490 year period.” He was killed seven years prior, and this is clearly delineated in the text. Carrier will make an attempt to reconcile this, one which will fail. I’m not and never have disputed that 11QMelch is envisioning a future “anointed one,” nor have I ever implied anything to the contrary. But we’ll get to the interpretation of that scroll later on. For now, Carrier continues:

The pesher therefore cannot possibly mean the first priest after the exile (Jesus ben Jehozadak), who was centuries dead by the time this pesher was composed. It can only mean a figure who will be alive on the last Day of Atonement occurring at or near the end of the tenth Jubilee.

First, I never argued that the pesher meant to point to the historical Joshua (Jesus ben Jehozadak). I argued that it referred to him as a type. That doesn’t mean 11QMelch couldn’t have quoted the verse about Joshua to talk about a future anointed one. Remember: pesharim quote out of context all the time (as Carrier will variously deny emphatically and agree conveniently). Carrier continues:

That means the pesher can only have been reading Daniel 9:25 the way it is now translated in the ASV (hence I chose that translation). Which entails that this pesher assumes the Christ in 9:25 is the same Christ in 9:26.

No. This is a complete non sequitur, and Carrier doesn’t even need to argue this to make the point he wants to make, namely that the second anointed one is the one intended in the scroll. Just because the second one may have been the one intended does not mean that they saw both figures as one figure. It just means they weren’t talking about the first figure. This from a logician? Hopefully now that Carrier realizes he doesn’t need to argue that Dan 9:25-26 refer to the same “anointed one” in either Daniel or 11QMelch, he’ll be able to give up trying to defend this fundamentalist Christian position. The logician continues:

For this same reason, of course, the pesher’s author has obviously abandoned any notion of this Christ having been Onias III (which is why it is absurd of Bart Ehrman to claim that is what the pesher means). Yes, that is probably what the authors of Daniel meant. But that ship had sailed. Daniel could not be understood anymore as referring to Onias III, as that would entail Daniel was a false prophet.

Yes, and I’ve always understood this, of course. Obviously the author of the Melchizedek scroll didn’t think the anointed one was Onias III. Carrier continues:

It would also deprive everyone of the timetable for calculating the end of the world. The only way Daniel’s timetable could still be interpreted as predicting when the end would come, is by rejecting the original interpretation and coming up with another, one that imagined the 490 years as ending sometime in the future. Which entailed believing Daniel’s Christ was not Onias, but someone else, someone yet to come. And that is what the pesher assumes: he will be someone present at the end of the world, on the final Day of Atonement. The last of all Christs.

All right up until the last two sentences (fragmented though the latter is). Both Daniel and the pesher place the anointed one as a precursor to the end. In Daniel, he dies in the 483rd year, not the 490th. In 11QMelch, the final days begin “in the first week of the Jubilee that follows the nine Jubilees.” But the Day of Atonement does not occur until “the end of the tenth Jubilee.” There are possibilities: (1) The “first week” of the tenth Jubilee can mean the first literal week of the forty-nine year period, but this is ruled out since “week” refers to weeks of years (see Dan 9:24-27; T. Levi 16:1-18:4; 1 Enoch 93:1-10; 91:12-17; 4QAgesCreat; and 4QpsMoses). (2) It could mean the first literal week of the actual year of Jubilee (the first seven days of the 49th year), but this is ruled out for the same reason as 1. (3) It could refer to the first seven years of the forty-nine year period, and this is almost certainly the meaning, for the same reason that options 1 and 2 almost certainly are not. In any of these cases, the numbers do not match up with Daniel’s. In Daniel, Onias III dies at the end of the sixth week of the tenth Jubilee period (i.e., seven years before the year of Jubilee). Needless to say, no matter how we slice it, the numbers don’t add up. 11Qmelch is not following the exact numerical schema as Daniel 9. Only the total number of years is identical, as all scholars readily acknowledge.

Finally, Carrier says, “the last of all Christs,” capitalizing “Christ” and using it in the titular sense. We have no reason to think, however, that 11QMelch is using “anointed one” in a titular sense to refer to a messianic figure. Note that in Daniel, there is no messianic figure in the davidic sense at all. There are only two figures called “anointed one”—one lived in the sixth century, and one was killed seven years prior to the final intervention of God against Israel’s enemies, and the latter (Onias) played no role in that intervention. In Daniel, it is the archangel Michael who delivers the people of God from their enemies. In precisely the same way, there is no human messianic deliverer in 11QMelch. There is only the archangel Melchizedek—Yahweh’s agent of wrath and judgment, and the redeemer of faithful Israel. In both Daniel and the Melchizedek scroll, the great deliverer is not “an anointed” human figure, but an archangelic warrior. The “heavenly deliverer” Melchizedek is “identical with the archangel Michael.”8 Before I go on to argue this position at length, let’s first turn to Carrier’s attempts to deal with the problematic fact that the “anointed one” is said to die seven years before the Day of Atonement.

When Would the Messiah Die?

Carrier writes:

The book of Daniel actually has the messiah die seven years before the 490th year, whereas the pesher says this Christ will appear and/or die on the Day of Atonement, which it says will be the end of the 490th year.

The pesher, of course, says no such thing. The pesher does not say that the anointed messenger would die on the Day of Atonement. If it does quote 9:26—“an anointed one shall be cut off and be no more/have nothing”—it doesn’t say anywhere that this is what effects the atonement. Carrier is reading that into the text, and without justification. What the text actually says about the atonement is that Melchizedek (the judge) will “forgive them the wrong-doings of all their iniquities.” This takes place on the Day of Atonement at the end of the tenth jubilee. The text says nothing about an anointed one’s death being a sacrificial offering for the forgiveness of sins. (Carrier is probably now thinking: “But that’s where Isaiah 52-53 comes in.” As we’ll see in due time: No. No it isn’t.) In fact, the text is clear in its conclusion whose sins will be forgiven: “those who uphold the Covenant, who turn from walking in the way of the people.” As in Targum Jonathan’s reading of Isaiah 52-53, forgiveness is effected through obedience to the law. Carrier continues:

Daniel 9:24 is ambiguous, since it lists several things will occur in the seventy year period, assigning specific years to some of them only in subsequent verses (and it never says which of them marks the atonement), so one could have read Daniel as saying the atonement occurs at the end of the seventy years, and possibly this is how the pesher’s author read it, forcing the rest to fit.

It’s only ambiguous to those who don’t know the history. There was a Day of Atonement in 516 BCE when Joshua rededicated the temple. And there was a Day of Atonement every year thereafter, until the Seleucids occupied the temple for a short while. Then there were Days of Atonement yet again. That said, I agree with Carrier that 11QMelch is speaking of a specific (final?) Day of Atonement that takes place at the end of 490 years. And as I pointed out in a previous post, the Qumran community saw the temple regime of their day as corrupt, and thus were looking forward to a legitimate Day of Atonement. Again, as I pointed out in the same previous post, this would be after the final battle and at the time when Israel’s captives were actually set free. The whole thrust of the Melchizedek scroll is the liberation of captives.

Clearly, in Daniel this does not take place when Onias is killed. After Onias is killed, the Jews undergo an intense period of suffering and bondage—one, moreover, in which the sacrificial system is expressly said to cease! “And for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator” (Dan 9:27). Onias’s death can hardly be viewed as the ultimate atoning sacrifice when the very next verse bemoans the cessation of sacrifices in the temple! Israel’s liberation and a final forgiveness of sins would not come for another seven years after Onias’s death, when Michael would intervene and the dead would be raised and they would all enter eternal life.

Now Carrier continues with some tortured arguments to try to resolve the fact that his position is ruled out by the timeline in the texts themselves:

There is some uncertainty due to the damaged scroll, however. Possibly the pesher did not say the Day of Atonement occurs at the “end of” the tenth Jubilee, but said (or implied) it would occur in the last week (seven year period) of the tenth Jubilee. That would correspond to Daniel’s dying messiah: seven years before the 490th year.

Once again, Carrier is putting to work his formidable knowledge of Hebrew, and now also of paleography and Semitic orthography, and in particular his knowledge of the late transitional Hasmonean-Herodian script that appears in 11Q13. And his formidable knowledge is confounding all the translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to whom this idea never occurred!

Of course, there is no uncertainty due to the damaged scroll, not in this case. Below is an image I’ve put together that shows line 7 of 11Q13. Remember to read from right to left, not from left to right. The parts of words that are reconstructed from lacunae are in black square brackets “[ ].” Each individual word is separated by a thin gray line | like so. I put a thicker gray line where one sentence ends and the next sentence begins. Bear in mind that the beginning of the first sentence (starting from the right) is on line 6 above, so don’t expect the first sentence to be complete.


click to enlarge in new window


I’ll give you three reasons why Carrier’s off-the-cuff, layman’s hypothetical reconstruction is impossible.

First, you’ll notice that the first word is the word for “week.” The first letter of the word is a conflation of the preposition “in” and the definite article. So the next four letters are the word “week.” Now look at the third-to-last word (third from the left). This is the word “end” which is partially reconstructed. The first letter, the samek, is visible on the scroll. The final two letters of the word “end” are waw-peh. Now look at the first letter of the word “week” back at the beginning of the line. The first letter of the word “week” is a shin. Two different letters. Now, if the words “last week” were in the lacuna, rather than the word “end,” as Carrier hypothesizes, then the first letter of the word “last” would be an aleph. But of course, the word “last” would follow after the word “week,” so that’s irrelevant. At any rate, what we have in the text is a samek. Neither the word “week” nor the word “last” have a samek anywhere, so neither word can be in the lacuna. That’s the first reason why Carrier’s ad hoc reconstruction won’t work.

The second reason is a bit more practical. I had my token paleography friends (trained at Oxford and Johns Hopkins respectively) check the fragment photos of 11QMelch, and they both independently confirmed that the space in the lacuna is not big enough to accommodate even the word “week,” let alone the words “last week.” Here’s the word that all scholars have reconstructed: “swp” (“end”). Now here are the words Carrier wants to force into the text: “shabuwa’ ‘acharown.” To the right I’ve also put them in an image so you can see the two “possibilities” in the Hebrew.

The third reason is that line 7 of fragment 7 of the scroll contains a parallel to line 7 of frs. 1-4, and on line 7 of fr. 7, the word “end” and part of the words “the jubilee” are clearly visible: swp hyw[bl] = end of the ju[bilee].

For these reasons, we can’t take Carrier’s armchair “reconstruction” seriously.

Carrier continues:

The latter would be more natural for this pesher’s author to assume, since he is linking the dying messenger whose death effects the final atonement in Isaiah, with the Christ who dies in Daniel, also connected with a final atonement.

First, as we’ve seen, the anointed one in Daniel is not and cannot be connected with a final atonement, if we’re following the logic of Daniel, as Carrier insists we do (until he reneges). Second, “the messenger” in Isaiah 52:1 is not the same figure as the “Suffering Servant” in Isa 52:13f. Much of Carrier’s argument hinges on identifying the messenger and the Servant as the same individual, but they aren’t. I’ll argue this later, in response to Carrier’s arguments for this conflation.9 At any rate, we’ve already seen why Carrier’s reconstruction (based, no doubt, on his formidable knowledge of Hebrew) cannot be correct. He continues:

Likewise, a “first week” of the tenth Jubilee (for the annunciation of the Day of Atonement, which the pesher declares in the line above) would more naturally parallel a “last week” of the tenth Jubilee (for the event announced).

This is ad hoc, and is impossible at any rate as we’ve seen. First, the “Day of Atonement” is a single day. It isn’t seven days long, let alone seven years long. Second, as we’ve seen, this would put the Day of Atonement seven years prior to the actual Jubilee, and thus seven years prior to the release of the captives. That wouldn’t make sense at any rate, but lines 5-6 above rule it out definitively, when they describe the release of the captives and the forgiveness of sins as the same event. Carrier:

Thus I think it is likely the missing text said or implied in some fashion that the Day of Atonement would occur in year 483, the exact year Daniel says the Christ will die.

It is neither likely nor unlikely. It is absurd. But now he throws up another option:

But it’s also possible the pesher said the Day of Atonement occurs in year 490 instead. And if it did, when it says the Day of Atonement is the day Isaiah’s “messenger” dies (which death producing a final Day of Atonement according to Isaiah) and then says this messenger is the Christ who dies in Daniel 9, the pesher’s author is clearly assuming both occur in the same day, in the 490th year.

Isaiah never says that the messenger dies. The messenger proclaims the victory of God after the suffering and “death” of the Servant. There was no concept of resurrection in Second Isaiah. The messenger is not the Servant. Carrier continues:

That last possibility could only mean the pesher’s author is either glossing over the seven year discrepancy (just as later Christian interpreters did, calculating Christ’s crucifixion as occurring in the 490th year, exactly as this pesher’s author would be doing, even though that’s not literally what Daniel says),

Carrier’s argument: 11QMelch wants you to pay close attention to the literary context and logic of the texts it is quoting, until it doesn’t suit Carrier’s purposes. At which point, original context is no longer important. Carrier is opening up a can of worms here, because if he allows that 11QMelch is disregarding the clear and unambiguous meaning of Daniel on this point, what grounds does he have left to deny that it could be disregarding Daniel’s original intent on any number of other points? Carrier continues:

or he is assuming the Day of Atonement is not the day of the death but comes seven years after it. Isaiah could be read as saying the atonement is effected by the servant’s death in Isaiah (and thus by the Christ’s death in Daniel) but not on exactly that day, with Daniel then understood as giving that last bit of information (again, this would be what the pesher is saying, not necessarily what the authors of Daniel meant).

What precedent does Carrier have for the idea of an atoning sacrifice that isn’t efficacious until seven years (or any number of years) after the fact? Does Carrier even think these things through before posting them for everybody to see? It seems to me this is what happens when one is too much invested in one’s own theory.

Of all these possibilities, I find the first the most probable (that the scroll said the Day of Atonement would occur in the last week of the tenth Jubilee), the second next so (that the pesher’s author was fudging the timetable just as all later Christian authors did), and the third the least likely (that the pesher’s author meant the Day of Atonement would occur a fixed time after the actual atoning death). But on any of those three possibilities, the pesher still says the Messiah would suffer and die to atone for the sins of Israel once and for all.

No. No. It doesn’t say that anywhere. Carrier can’t tell the difference between what the text says and his interpretation of the text (which is based through and through on failed argument after failed argument). What the text actually says about the forgiveness of sins is that it belongs to “those who uphold the Covenant, who turn from walking in the way of the people.” This is not the Christian gospel. This is covenantal nomism. One remains within the covenant through obedience to the law. Salvation only comes to those who deserve it. Of course, as is clear all throughout the Qumran corpus, they tended to believe they were the remnant that deserved it.

The Dying Christ in 11Q13

Now we’ll turn to Carrier’s fuller defense of his reading of the scroll. Carrier writes:

Though fragmentary, every possible reconstruction of this section of the scroll entails that it said the one who “brings the gospel” in Isaiah 52:7 is the “Christ” in Daniel 9:25-26.

So far so good.

From Isaiah it is clear the one who “brings the gospel” and “declares salvation” in 52:7 is the “Arm of the Lord” who brings “salvation” in 52:8-12 (cf. 52:10), and in 53:1 this same “Arm of the Lord” is identified as the “servant” in 52:13-53:12.

Now we have problems. Neither of these claims is correct. (And Carrier doesn’t know what “cf.” means.)10 First, the messenger is a herald, a standard figure in the ancient world, whose job it was to run ahead of the victorious, returning army, to announce victory so that the people at home could prepare to meet their king and warriors at the gates in jubilation. That’s the role of the herald of good news. I checked seventeen Isaiah commentaries and not a single one of them identified the herald in 52:7 with either the “arm of the Lord” or the “suffering servant.” Paul alluded to this same Isaianic verse in in Romans 10:14-15, not to identify the herald of good tidings as Jesus, but to identify the herald of good tidings as those who preach the gospel. Fact is, Second Isaiah does not identify the herald of good tidings with the “arm of the Lord.”

But of course that’s irrelevant for the meaning of 11QMelch, since in 11QMelch, as I will argue further below (in agreement with part of Carrier’s original position and in disagreement with part of my original position, but now in disagreement with Carrier’s new position—no, I’m not just a contrarian; my original argument was wrong), in the scroll, Melchizedek should probably be understood as the messenger (and the anointed one of the spirit). Much more on that later.

Second, the “arm of Yahweh,” which is given no mention whatsoever in 11QMelch, is, first of all, merely an idiom signifying “strength” or “power” in Semitic languages. For instance, Ps 10:15 says, “Break the arm of the wicked.” This means, “Break the strength of the wicked.” So too in Ezek 30:21: “Yahweh says, ‘I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” This means, essentially, that he defeated Pharaoh. The same goes for Jer 48:25: “The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, says Yahweh.” This is by far its most common sense, and the idiom is pervasive.

Second, it can sometimes be used in terms of Yahweh’s agency. It still means “strength,” but it is a strength channeled through a specific agent. There is still, however, overlap between the two when it is used in the sense of agency. The line between Yahweh’s agent and Yahweh’s own strength can be blurry in the rhetoric.

Throughout Second Isaiah (the corpus in which our “Suffering Servant” passage appears), it is often used in the sense of agency, but the agent of whom it is used is in fact none other than Cyrus, the Persian emperor who conquered the Babylonians and emancipated the Jews. Let’s look first at Isaiah 48:12-16, 20-22:

Listen to me, O Jacob,
and Israel, whom I called:
I am He; I am the first,
and I am the last.
My hand laid the foundation of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I summon them,
they stand at attention.

Assemble, all of you, and hear!
Who among them has declared these things?
Yahweh loves him;
he shall perform his purpose on Babylon,
and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans.

I, even I, have spoken and called him,
I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way.
Draw near to me, hear this!
From the beginning I have not spoken in secret,
from the time it came to be I have been there.
And now Yahweh God has sent me and his spirit.

. . .

Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea,
declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it,
send it forth to the end of the earth;
say, ‘Yahweh has redeemed his servant Jacob!’
They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;
he made water flow for them from the rock;
he split open the rock and the water gushed out.

‘There is no peace,’ says Yahweh, ‘for the wicked.’

Here we see quite clearly that “his arm” (i.e., Yahweh’s arm) is the one who “shall perform his purpose on Babylon,” namely, Cyrus. (Note also that “Jacob,” i.e., Israel, is identified as Yahweh’s “servant.” This is just a few chapters prior to Isaiah 52-53.)

Here is a passage from Second Isaiah which couples the imagery of Yahweh’s arm with that of a shepherd:

Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news. Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news. Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” Behold, Yahweh God will come with might, with his arm ruling for him. Behold, his reward is with him and his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he will tend his flock. In his arm he will gather the lambs and carry them in his bosom. He will gently lead the nursing ewes. (Isa 40:9-11)

Now compare that with another passage from Second Isaiah:

It is I who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd! And he will perform all my desire.” And he declares of Jerusalem, “She will be built,” and of the temple, “Your foundation will be laid.” (Isa 44:28)

Both passages speak of an arm/shepherd gathering the scattered flock of Israel back to its pasture. Here’s another mention of the “arm of Yahweh,” again associated with Yahweh’s deliverance of Israel from exile in Babylon:

Yahweh saw it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
and was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm brought him victory,
and his righteousness upheld him.

He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle.
According to their deeds, so will he repay;
wrath to his adversaries, requital to his enemies;
to the coastlands he will render requital.
So those in the west shall fear the name of Yahweh,
and those in the east, his glory;
for he will come like a pent-up stream
that the wind of the Lord drives on.
And he will come to Zion as Redeemer,
to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says Yahweh.
(Isa 59:15b-20)

Note in the above that “his own arm” refers to strength against the unjust (of which Cyrus would be the agent), but it is also paralleled with “his righteousness.” It is simply speaking of Yahweh’s strength and righteousness.

Now we’ll look at the passage leading directly into Isaiah 52. This is Isaiah 51:1—52:2, another passage describing the return from Babylonian exile:

Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,
you that seek Yahweh.
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
but I blessed him and made him many.
For Yahweh will comfort Zion;
he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of Yahweh;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Listen to me, my people,
and give heed to me, my nation;
for a teaching will go out from me,
and my justice for a light to the peoples.
I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,
my salvation has gone out
and my arms will rule the peoples;
the coastlands wait for me,
and for my arm they hope.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment,
and those who live on it will die like gnats;
but my salvation will be forever,
and my deliverance will never be ended.

Listen to me, you who know righteousness,
you people who have my teaching in your hearts;
do not fear the reproach of others,
and do not be dismayed when they revile you.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment,
and the worm will eat them like wool;
but my deliverance will be forever,
and my salvation to all generations.

Awake, awake, put on strength,
O arm of Yahweh!
Awake, as in days of old,
the generations of long ago!
Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces,
who pierced the dragon?
Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep;
who made the depths of the sea a way
for the redeemed to cross over?
So the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

I, I am he who comforts you;
why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die,
a human being who fades like grass?
You have forgotten Yahweh, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth.
You fear continually all day long
because of the fury of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction.
But where is the fury of the oppressor?
The oppressed shall speedily be released;
they shall not die and go down to the Pit,
nor shall they lack bread.
For I am Yahweh your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
He Who Raises Armies is his name.
I have put my words in your mouth,
and hidden you in the shadow of my hand,
stretching out the heavens
and laying the foundations of the earth,
and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’

Rouse yourself, rouse yourself!
Stand up, O Jerusalem,
you who have drunk at the hand of Yahweh
the cup of his wrath,
who have drunk to the dregs
the bowl of staggering.
There is no one to guide her
among all the children she has borne;
there is no one to take her by the hand
among all the children she has brought up.
These two things have befallen you
—who will grieve with you?—
devastation and destruction, famine and sword—
who will comfort you?
Your children have fainted,
they lie at the head of every street
like an antelope in a net;
they are full of the wrath of Yahweh,
the rebuke of your God.

Therefore hear this, you who are wounded,
who are drunk, but not with wine:
Thus says your Sovereign, Yahweh,
your God who pleads the cause of his people:
See, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering;
you shall drink no more
from the bowl of my wrath.
And I will put it into the hand of your tormentors,
who have said to you,
‘Bow down, that we may walk on you’;
and you have made your back like the ground
and like the street for them to walk on.

Awake, awake,
put on your strength, O Zion!
Put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;
for the uncircumcised and the unclean
shall enter you no more.
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
loose the bonds from your neck,
O captive daughter Zion!

Again, the nations under the thumb of the Babylonian empire hope for “his arm,” which will manifest itself in the victory of Cyrus. The “arm of Yahweh” is God’s strength, but also his agent. It is described in terms of creation (“slaying the dragon”—the ancient combat myth), and is applied to Moses, who as “arm of Yahweh” dried up the sea so that Israel could cross over in their escape from Egyptian captivity. Now, again, the arm of Yahweh (Cyrus) will come to deliver them from Babylonian captivity. This is more explicit when we compare Isa 63:12 with 45:1:

Who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name. (Isa 63:12, i.e., Trito-Isaiah)

Thus says Yahweh to Cyrus his anointed one, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings. (Isa 45:1)

Just as God gave his arm (strength) to the right hand of Moses when he liberated Israel from Egypt, Yahweh has given his arm to the right hand of Cyrus, called “messiah,” in order to liberate Israel anew from Babylon.

So when we get to 52:10, which is part of the same long passage quoted above, we know that the “arm of Yahweh” is Cyrus:

Yahweh has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Carrier, however, wishes to identify the “arm of Yahweh” with the “Suffering Servant” in Isaiah 52-53. He says that this is made explicit in 53:1. Here’s what 53:1 says:

Who has believed what we have heard?
And upon whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?

It goes on directly to continue its discussion of the Suffering Servant:

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.
(Isa 53:2-3)

Carrier contends that vv. 2-3 are a description of the “arm of Yahweh” mentioned in v. 1. But of course, they are actually a description of the nation of Israel—the original referent of the “Servant” in Second Isaiah was the nation of Israel, or its righteous remnant. To understand 53:1 we must go back to the beginning and understand the Suffering Servant Song as a whole.

Excursus: The Suffering Servant Is Israel

52:13See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. 14Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals—15so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate. 53:1Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed? 2For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. 4Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. 9They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10Yet it was the will of Yahweh to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of Yahweh shall prosper. 11Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isa 52:13—53:12)

The song begins with the statement that the servant will prosper and be exalted. This exaltation obviously takes place after the servant’s suffering. In vv. 14-15, it says that nations were first astonished by the servant’s suffering, then goes on to say that they will “shut their mouths” when they see the servant exalted. Compare this with the language in the book of Lamentations, a book (like Second Isaiah) written in light of Israel’s experience of Babylonian captivity:

All your enemies open their mouths wide at you: they whistle and gnash their teeth. They say, “We have devoured her. Indeed, this is the day we longed for; we have seen it.” (2:16)

All our enemies have opened their mouths wide at us. (3:46)

Here the nations “open their mouths wide” at Israel, taunting Israel, and gnashing their teeth. In other words, they are “opening wide their mouths” to trash-talk Israel. But in Isaiah 52:15, these nations will now “shut their mouths” because of Israel. This means that in the servant’s exaltation, their taunts have been silenced. “For that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate” (52:15). In other words, they didn’t see it coming.

Now we come to the artificial chapter break, with 53:1: “Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?” Here we have a change of speaker, as commentators all note. In 52:13-15, the speaker is Yahweh. This is clear because the speaker says, “See, my servant shall prosper.” But in 53:1, the speaker changes: “Who has believed what we have heard?” Who is this new speaker? The preceding verses make this absolutely clear: “so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.” The speaker throughout vv. 1-10 is “many nations” and “kings,” until Yahweh again becomes the speaker in vv. 11-12.

Thus, “Who has believed what we have heard?” mean, “We didn’t expect this. No one would believe it if we told them.” And “to whom has the arm of Yahweh been revealed?” means, “We have witnessed Yahweh’s strength in the exaltation of his people, but no one saw it coming.” The implied answer in both rhetorical questions is “no one.” No one would have believed it. Yahweh’s strength was revealed to no one—until now. In the deliverance and exaltation of the people of Israel, Yahweh’s strength has been revealed. And that agent through which Yahweh’s strength was revealed is of course Israel’s “messiah,” their liberator—the Persian king Cyrus, who conquered Babylon and issued an edict liberating Babylon’s captives.

But look at Psalm 44, where the language of “Yahweh’s arm” is used expressly in contrast with the strength of Israel:

We have heard with our ears, O God, our ancestors have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm give them victory; but your right hand, and your arm, and the light of your countenance, for you delighted in them. You are my King and my God; you command victories for Jacob. Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down our assailants. For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes, and have put to confusion those who hate us. In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever. (Ps 44:1-8)

The message is that Israel achieves victory not through its own strength, but by “the arm of Yahweh.”

Note also that this psalm uses language that parallels Isa 53:2. The psalm says, “you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them [the ancestors of exilic Israel] you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free.” It says that Yahweh “planted” Israel after effecting their exodus from captivity in Egypt. Likewise in Isaiah 53, the nations continue their song: “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Who is the “he” and who is the “him” here? The “he” is the servant, Israel, and the “him” before whom the servant grew up is Yahweh. Let’s compare this language from Isa 53:2 with that of Ps 80:8-11:

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground. (Isa 53:2a)

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches; it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River. (Ps 80:8-11)

This language found in Pss 44, 80 and Isa 53 is language commonly used to refer to Israel’s humble beginnings and ostensibly innocuous position on the geopolitical scene. But in all cases, Yahweh exalts the humble nation and sees it grow into something the nations cannot but behold in awe.

Throughout the song of the Suffering Servant, the servant is described as oppressed, smitten, stricken, afflicted, like a lamb to the slaughter. Let’s take a look again at Psalm 44:

Yet you have rejected us and abased us, and have not gone out with our armies. You made us turn back from the foe, and our enemies have gotten spoil. You have made us like sheep for slaughter, and have scattered us among the nations. You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them. You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples. All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face at the words of the taunters and revilers, at the sight of the enemy and the avenger. All this has come upon us, yet we have not forgotten you, or been false to your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way, yet you have broken us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness. If we had forgotten the name of our God, or spread out our hands to a strange god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. Because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love. (Ps 44:9-26)

Virtually all the same language used in the post-exilic song of the Suffering Servant is used here in this exilic Psalm to describe the nation of Israel. Moreover, take note that in vv. 4-6 of this psalm (quoted earlier), the speaker alternates between the first person singular (a collective voice of Israel) and the first person plural. In the same way, the song of the Suffering Servant speaks of Israel as a collective.

Note further that Psalm 44 expressly says that Israel is killed and expresses hope for restoration: “Because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.” In the same way, Isaiah 53 says that the servant is cut off and buried, only to be restored to prosperity and greatness by virtue of Yahweh’s faithfulness. This same metaphor of death is found in the famous “valley of the dry bones” vision in the exilic Ezekiel 37, where Ezekiel is given a vision of a valley full of skeletons, and is told by the messenger, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel” (Ezek 37:11), not just the individual Israelites who had died. But in the very next verse Ezekiel is then told to comfort Israel in their captivity, to “prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel” (37:12). This of course does not speak of a literal bodily resurrection of dead Israelites, but of a metaphorical resurrection, a restoration of “the whole house of Israel.” The same thing is seen in Hosea 6:1-2: “‘Come, let us return to Yahweh; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.” This image of death and resurrection as a metaphor for Israel’s liberation from oppression is also seen in Isa 26:19. So in Psalm 44, Israel is “sinking down to the dust,” but expresses hope of restoration. In Ezekiel 37, “the whole house of Israel” is a “valley full of dry bones,” but will be “brought up from the grave.” Likewise, in Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant is “cut off from the land of the living” and “given a grave,” but will “prosper” and be “exalted.”

Note also that in Psalm 44, Israel accuses Yahweh, saying, “Because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Likewise, in Isaiah 53, “Yet it was the will of Yahweh to crush him with pain.” And again in both cases, Israel is proclaimed to be innocent:

All this has come upon us, yet we have not forgotten you, or been false to your covenant. Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way. . . . If we had forgotten the name of our God, or spread out our hands to a strange god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. (Ps 44:17-18, 20-21).

By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? . . . They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth . . . the righteous one, my servant. (Isa 53:8a, 9, 11b)

“They made his grave with the wicked” means that Israel was “cut off” in Babylon.

Some would argue that the servant is not Israel because the servant is said to suffer for the transgressions of many. After all, Israel is not guiltless, as the servant is portrayed. Rather, Israel is being punished in exile for its sins. But this would be wrong. What is presented here is an idealized portrait of Israel. Remember that just above in Psalm 44, Israel proclaims its innocence to Yahweh and its faithfulness to the covenant. And in fact, this is what the author of Second Isaiah says, in the voice of Yahweh, about Israel expressly, just prior to the beginning of the song of the suffering servant:

Long ago, my people went down into Egypt to reside there as aliens; the Assyrian, too, has oppressed them without cause. Now therefore, what am I doing here, says Yahweh, seeing that my people are taken away without cause? Their rulers howl, says Yahweh, and continually, all day long, my name is despised. Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore on that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I. (Isa 52:3-6)

Here the author has Yahweh proclaiming Israel’s innocence. He says that Israel was innocent when they were captive in Egypt, that they were innocent when oppressed by the Assyrians, and are innocent now too while in bondage in Babylon. Yahweh’s “name is despised” because his innocent servant, Israel, is suffering.

So whose sins, then, are forgiven on account of the Servant’s suffering? If Israel is, according to Isaiah 52-53, innocent, for whose guilt is Israel atoning? The answer is obvious: remember that the speaker in Isa 53:1-10 is the nations and kings, the ones who taunted Israel, the ones who afflicted Israel, the ones who saw nothing of value in Israel that they should step in to save them. It is for these sins that Israel’s suffering atones. Israel’s suffering and subsequent exaltation effects the very purposes of Yahweh: to make the nations take notice so that they will recognize Yahweh’s power and come to worship him. Israel’s suffering and exaltation makes Israel a light to the Gentiles. This is a pervasive theme throughout Second Isaiah, and is shown in a number of ways.

First, this is what Yahweh says would take place when his anointed one, Cyrus the Persian, accomplishes Yahweh’s purposes for Israel:

Thus says Yahweh to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped
to subdue nations before him
and strip kings of their robes,
to open doors before him—
and the gates shall not be closed:
I will go before you
and level the mountains,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
I will give you the treasures of darkness
and riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, Yahweh,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,

I call you by your name,
I surname you, though you do not know me.
I am Yahweh, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,
so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
I am Yahweh, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make weal and create woe;
I Yahweh do all these things.

Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the skies rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation may spring up,
and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also;

I Yahweh have created it.

Woe to you who strive with your Maker,
earthen vessels with the potter!
Does the clay say to the one who fashions it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?
Woe to anyone who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’
or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’
Thus says Yahweh,
the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
Will you question me about my children,
or command me concerning the work of my hands?
I made the earth,
and created humankind upon it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
and I commanded all their host.
I have aroused Cyrus in righteousness,
and I will make all his paths straight;
he shall build my city
and set my exiles free,
not for price or reward,
says Yahweh of hosts.
Thus says Yahweh:
The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia,
and the Sabeans, tall of stature,
shall come over to you and be yours,
they shall follow you;
they shall come over in chains and bow down to you.
They will make supplication to you, saying,
‘God is with you alone, and there is no other;
there is no god besides him.’
Truly, you are a God who hides himself,
O God of Israel, the Savior.
All of them are put to shame and confounded,
the makers of idols go in confusion together.

But Israel is saved by Yahweh
with everlasting salvation;
you shall not be put to shame or confounded
to all eternity.

For thus says Yahweh,
who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it a chaos,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
I am Yahweh, and there is no other.
I did not speak in secret,
in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
‘Seek me in chaos.’
I Yahweh speak the truth,
I declare what is right.

Assemble yourselves and come together,
draw near, you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge—
those who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.

Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, Yahweh?
There is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is no one besides me.

Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.

By myself I have sworn,
from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear.’

Only in Yahweh, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
all who were incensed against him
shall come to him and be ashamed.

In Yahweh all the offspring of Israel
shall triumph and glory.
(Isaiah 45)

Here we see clearly the purposes of Yahweh in the suffering and liberation of his “servant, Jacob.” It is to make the whole earth aware that Yahweh alone is God; it is to make it known that the nations must turn to Yahweh and be saved; it is to make “righteousness sprout up” not just in Israel, but over “the earth.” And when the nations come in chains and bow/worship before Cyrus, they will know that his strength comes from Yahweh. “Every knee shall bow” to Yahweh, in the recognition that the only true God empowered Cyrus to execute righteousness and liberate his suffering servant, Jacob.

Thus, the atoning suffering and (metaphorical) death of Yahweh’s servant, Israel, was Yahweh’s plan, according to Second Isaiah, for the very salvation of the world. Second Isaiah makes this clear throughout his composition. Another very clear example is found in Isaiah 49, where Israel speaks in the first person singular of his sufferings. Yahweh then speaks to his Servant, Israel, about the nature of his task and the meaning of his suffering:

Listen to me, O coastlands,
pay attention, you peoples from far away!
Yahweh called me before I was born,
while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, ‘You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’

But I said, ‘I have labored in vain,
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with Yahweh,
and my reward with my God.’

And now Yahweh says,
who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honored in the sight of Yahweh,
and my God has become my strength—
he says,
‘It is not enough that you should be my servant
merely to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’

Thus says Yahweh,
the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,
the slave of rulers,
‘Kings shall see and stand up,
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,

because of Yahweh, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’
(Isa 49:1-7)

It doesn’t get much clearer than this. Israel is identified as the Servant, who suffers, is “deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers.” When Israel is speaking, he says that Yahweh’s purpose was to restore Jacob back to Yahweh. But Yahweh responds that this is not enough—that’s a myopic vision. The purpose of Israel’s suffering was so that, when Yahweh liberated and vindicated his Servant, the nations would see. His Servant Israel would be a “light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” In the same way, in Isaiah 53, the Servant suffers for the sins of the ones who scoffed and oppressed him, but went on, in his exaltation, “to make many righteous.” “Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities” (Isa 53:11).

There is, after all, a very good reason that the dominant reading of Isaiah 52-53 among Jewish interpreters has always been the collective reading: the reason is, it’s correct. “In the context of Second Isaiah,” John Collins writes, “the Servant must be identified as Israel.”11

The Dying Christ in 11Q13 (Continued)

Now that we understand, unlike Carrier, what the messenger and the arm are, and who the Suffering Servant is, we will continue to examine Carrier’s arguments:

Isaiah says there will come a special day when people will see God’s presence among them, by realizing it is him speaking. Speaking how? Through the messenger who announces salvation and peace and brings “the good news,” and announces that in his coming God now reigns in Jerusalem.

This is correct. As we’ve seen (Isa 52:4-7) Yahweh announces his victory through the messenger who comes to proclaim that Israel is no longer unjustly held captive; Yahweh has defended his honor against those who “despise his name.” Of course, Yahweh speaks through all of his messengers. This certainly doesn’t make the herald of good tidings equivalent to the arm of Yahweh, let alone the Suffering Servant to whom the message is being given. Carrier continues:

Isaiah then says the guards of the city will thus see in this messenger the return of the Lord, and Isaiah calls on them to break into song at this sight. Because it means God has redeemed them. How has he redeemed them? He has “bared his holy arm” before their eyes, and therefore salvation has come. The holy arm is therefore the messenger.

I love watching the logician work. Of course, this is dead wrong. In Second Isaiah, the arm of Yahweh is Yahweh’s strength manifested specifically in the Persian emperor Cyrus. The messenger is simply the messenger, proclaiming that Yahweh has accomplished his purposes, as he promised to do: “It is who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd! And he will perform all my desire.’” Carrier continues with yet more confusion:

The key element of this section is that this messenger comes on a special day, the very day that redemption and salvation come. What happens on that special day? Isaiah goes on to explain that this “arm of God” who brings salvation and redeems Israel will be despised, executed even though innocent, and buried.

As we’ve seen, this is not at all the case. The arm is Yahweh’s strength; it is Yahweh’s strength that liberated the suffering servant, Israel. Carrier continues:

Then he will be exalted and rewarded (by the time this pesher was written, that would most readily be taken to mean that he was resurrected). As Isaiah says (53:12), God will “divide him a portion with the great” such that this dead savior “shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors.”

Carrier is saying that “Isaiah is saying,” but he knows full well that there was no belief in individual bodily resurrection at the time of the composition of this text, so he knows (but is obscuring or forgetting) that Isaiah is most certainly not saying that the arm of Yahweh is the resurrected suffering servant who comes back as a messenger. And it’s irrelevant that at the time of 11QMelch they did believe in bodily resurrection, because they would not have shared Carrier’s confused reading of Isaiah (in other literature, the Qumran sect recognized Cyrus as the messiah who liberated Israel from exile), and because (something Carrier continually obscures) nowhere in 11QMelch is either “the arm of Yahweh” or the “servant” who suffers mentioned. Carrier just doesn’t know the first thing about how to read these texts; he gets his own ideas in his head, and runs roughshod over his own reputation with them. He continues:

“yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Thus everyone’s sins are forgiven because of his sacrifice, which is an actual death, that atones for all Israel’s sins. As Isaiah explains (53:10-11), “it was the will of the LORD to bruise him” and put him to grief (by killing him), and “when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand,” amazing things to accomplish if you’re dead (hence by the first century B.C. a Jew would normally infer God will resurrect him, thereby “prolonging his days” and allowing God’s will to prosper “in his hand”), and his death will “make many to be accounted righteous” because “he shall bear their iniquities” and thus Jehovah “will be satisfied.”

First of all, “Jehovah?” Seriously? What is he, living in the nineteenth century? Secondly, as we’ve seen, it was most certainly not an actual death, and it wasn’t for Israel’s sins that it atoned. Isaiah 52:4-6 clearly says that Israel was being punished unjustly, just as Psalm 44 says. As Second Isaiah makes clear, it was for the sins of Israel’s enemies, the nations, that the Servant’s suffering atoned. And what this means is that in their suffering and subsequent exaltation, it gave the nations reason to recognize Yahweh’s true sovereignty and abandon their false gods. And thus, third, just because Carrier hasn’t read all of Second Isaiah doesn’t mean the Qumranites hadn’t done so. Carrier is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, he insists against all scrolls scholars that “pesher didn’t take quotes out of context,” and says that pesher intended their readers to be aware of the context and original meaning of the texts quoted to fill in the blanks of the new composition. On the other hand, he’s now arguing that because the Qumranites believed in resurrection, they would have automatically interpreted this text in a way that does violence to its context and original meaning.

Let’s get something clear here though. The fact that pesher more frequently than not took quotes out of context does not mean that didn’t know how to read texts more or less historically-grammatically. The phrase they use when interpreting quotations is variously, “its interpretation is,” and “its interpretation for the last days is.” The latter is simply shorthand for the former. We see this latter phrase in line four of 11QMelch: “its interpretation for the end of days concerns the captives.”12 The point is, when it says, “its interpretation for the end of days,” or just “its interpretation,” and then proceeds to take the quote out of historical or literary context (or both), this doesn’t mean that they didn’t understand the historical and literary context. It simply means that they are finding words in the text and infusing them atomistically with a new eschatological significance.

But the fact is, 11QMelch makes no mention of the arm of Yahweh or of the Suffering Servant, so we have no reason to think that they were taking those terms out of context; in their minds, they were the Suffering Servant. Just as the Servant Israel was captive to Babylon, Israel is now captive to Belial. And, as we will see, just as Israel was held captive in Babylon for 49 years (587-538 BCE), so too 11QMelch speaks of the last days of captivity before the end as a 49 year period. Line seven identifies a period of time between “the first week of the tenth jubilee” and “the end of the tenth jubilee,” which is 49 years. More on that later.

Carrier continues:

Why would the author of this pesher think this was the same guy spoken of in Daniel 9:24-27? Because many of the same things are said there (here using the ASV translation because it is the most literal):

No, as I’ve shown repeatedly, it is not “the most literal.” It is in many places a flagrant mistranslation, produced in the nineteenth century, for Pete’s sake. Anyway, here’s the ASV Carrier quotes:

Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity [i.e. “atone for sins”], and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times. And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off, and {shall have} nothing [the Septuagint instead reads: “and {i.e. even though} there is no judgment upon him”]: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined. And he [i.e. the prince] shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate.

Before we move on to Carrier’s commentary, a few comments about some of these elements he has highlighted. First, the ASV is wrong when it translates “mashiach nagiyd” as “the anointed one, the prince.” Carrier says, “it is the most literal,” but only because he doesn’t read Hebrew and apparently didn’t read my previous critiques of his arguments. There is no definite article in the Hebrew or in the Greek, and yet the ASV has imposed not one but two definite articles, giving “an anointed leader” a titular, eschatological sense, when it doesn’t have one in the text. They do this again with v. 26: “the anointed one shall be cut off” should be, “an anointed one shall be cut off.” Carrier picks his translations just like fundamentalist Christians do: whichever one best helps support his position is the right one, the “most literal,” even when anyone with two weeks of training in Hebrew could see that it’s not.

Second, “the Septuagint” (which is really Theodotion) is wrong to add “there is no judgment upon him.” We’ll discuss this shortly when Carrier makes more alarmingly ignorant claims about a language he doesn’t know how to read. Now for his commentary:

Note the important introduction here of a timetable: seventy periods of seven years will pass between the “word of restoration” (regarding the rebuilding of Jerusalem) and a special day when there will be made “an end to sin” by a special “atonement” that produces “everlasting righteousness.” Isaiah 52 also speaks of a special day when there will be made an end to sin by a special atonement: the atoning death of God’s “servant,” the messenger who announces salvation on that very day, and is seen to be the vessel of God coming to reign in Jerusalem.

First, and again, the servant is not the messenger.

Second, as we have seen much earlier, it is not the death of Onias III that Daniel was portraying as a “special atonement,” much less a “final atonement” that puts an “end to sin.” That’s an impossible reading of the text, and Carrier I think really knows this. Onias died seven years before the 490 years were up, and the text expressly bemoans the fact that after his death, the sacrificial system in the Jerusalem temple was interrupted and desolated by Antiochus IV. If there is to be a “special” atonement that effects “everlasting righteousness” in Daniel 9, it would be after 490 years, when Michael emerged as Israel’s redeemer, to liberate them from their enemies, inaugurating the post-eschatological age.

Isaiah 52 (actually 53) does not speak of an “end to sin.” It says his life was given as an offering for sin, but it makes no mention at all of anything like an “end to sin.” Carrier is projecting a false parallel. In the context of Second Isaiah, what this all means is that it will create an opportunity for the nations to put aside their idols and follow Yahweh. There is never any indication that individual sins would be permanently done away with. Moreover, the concept of a vicarious atonement is not something “new” or “special.” Here in Isaiah 52-53, as elsewhere, it is a model for others to follow. It is a symbolic act that is meant to produce real world consequences. By showing the nations how to be righteous, Israel has shown them what it means to belong to Yahweh. Ezekiel did the same thing for Israel in Ezek 4:1-8. Yahweh says to Ezekiel:

And you, O mortal, take a brick and set it before you. On it portray a city, Jerusalem; and put siege-works against it, and build a siege-wall against it, and cast up a ramp against it; set camps also against it, and plant battering-rams against it all round. Then take an iron plate and place it as an iron wall between you and the city; set your face towards it, and let it be in a state of siege, and press the siege against it. This is a sign for the house of Israel.

Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it; you shall bear their punishment for the number of the days that you lie there. For I assign to you a number of days, three hundred and ninety days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment; and so you shall bear the punishment of the house of Israel. When you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah; forty days I assign you, one day for each year. You shall set your face towards the siege of Jerusalem, and with your arm bared you shall prophesy against it. See, I am putting cords on you so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have completed the days of your siege.

This is clearly a symbolic act that is meant to warn Israel. It says, as in Isaiah 53, that Ezekiel bears the punishment of another. The point is that Ezekiel’s act of suffering is a sign to Israel meant to warn and encourage them. In the same way, Israel’s suffering and subsequent exaltation was a sign to the nations that they should turn from their other gods and follow Yahweh, and that in Yahweh is the strength of salvation. The idea of vicarious human suffering is common in the Hebrew Bible (not to mention the sacrificial system itself). Hosea, for instance, suffered an unfaithful bride in order to save Israel from their sins. Achan and his family were killed because their sin had made all of Israel guilty, and in their death, Yahweh’s wrath against Israel was appeased. When Phineas killed an idolater, he was said to have “made atonement for the Israelites.” In the same way, Israel as a nation suffered and so appeased Yahweh’s wrath against the nations. By being faithful, rather than unfaithful, Israel displayed to the nations how Yahweh rewards faithfulness, and thus paved the way for them to acknowledge Yahweh’s sovereignty. That’s the message of Second Isaiah. It doesn’t mean that the whole world’s sins were forgiven in a “special atonement.” It means that Yahweh, according to these theologians, found an inroad to win the hearts of the nations.

Carrier continues:

Both have another thing in common: in both cases the one killed, at the very time this final atonement for sins is accomplished, is killed even though innocent. The extant Hebrew of Daniel reads literally “the anointed one shall be cut down and nothing” which is meaningless, the “shall have” in the ASV is a conjectural emendation; but the Septuagint translation suggests that “nothing” originally had been something like “nothing was the judgment upon him,” i.e. he will be killed even though in fact innocent (unfortunately, of all the fragments of Daniel recovered from Qumran, none include this part of the book, so we don’t know what form of the text was being used there, but the Septuagint likely reflects the state of the text as of the 2nd or 3rd century B.C. as its translators saw it, even if it isn’t always faithful to the Hebrew).

Holy moly! Here is proof positive that Carrier didn’t even bother to read all of my response to him. Thus, he’s wasting everyone’s time. I’ll say it again: The LXX translation Carrier is using was not written in the second or third centuries BCE and could not have been how the text was understood at Qumran. The LXX translation Carrier is using was translated by Theodotion in the second century CE! I can’t believe Carrier didn’t bother to actually read my entire response before writing a rejoinder.

Second, and bafflingly, Carrier says, “but the Septuagint likely reflects the state of the text as of the 2nd or 3rd century B.C. as its translators saw it, even if it isn’t always faithful to the Hebrew.”

I’m wondering if the last caveat, “even if it isn’t always faithful to the Hebrew” is evidence that Carrier skimmed my discussion of Theodotion’s translation wherein I said that he was not a competent translator, but missed the part where I said he lived in the second century CE.

But more to the point, Carrier says, “the state of the text as of the second or 2nd or 3rd century B.C.,” and he uses the words “likely reflects” because they sound scholarly, but apparently forgets that the original book of Daniel itself wasn’t written until the mid-second century BCE, so Theodotion’s translation can hardly reflect “the state of the text” in the “3rd century B.C.” since at that time there was no text to translate. Moreover, it wasn’t translated into Greek until the first century BCE, but that translation (the Old Greek) translates this verse, “an anointing will be removed and will be no more.” So if Carrier is really looking for the earliest state of the text as its translators saw it, there it is. “An anointing will be removed and will be no more.”

Third, Carrier doesn’t know Hebrew, but he continues to act as though he does. He says, “The extant Hebrew of Daniel reads literally, ‘the anointed one shall be cut down and nothing’ which is meaningless.” Well, of course, the Hebrew does not say, “the anointed one.” It says, “an anointed one.” And of course, it does not say, “and nothing.” Carrier omitted a word. It says, “and nothing to him,” which is not “meaningless”—that is, not to those who know Hebrew. In Hebrew, certain verbs are implied. And when you want to say that someone does not have something, such as a child, you say, “none a child to him,” which we would translate into English as, “he had no child.” The verb is supplied by implication. The word here in Dan 9:26, which can mean “nothing,” “none,” “no one,” “no more,” etc., is ‘eyn. The word “to him” is low. So we have ‘eyn low. So when we translate it literally we have, “nothing to him,” and when we supply the verb, we have “there was nothing to him,” and when we translate into our own syntax, we have, “and he had nothing.” This is how very many translators render it. Also possible is, “and he had no one,” or “and he was no more.” But the first is the most likely, so: “an anointed one shall be cut off and have nothing.” It is certainly not meaningless, but Carrier needs to say this because he likes Theodotion’s addition to the text. Theodotion added the word “judgment” and changed the preposition from “to” to “upon/against.” He of course had no reason to do so, but he wasn’t a competent translator anyway. The Old Greek (original Septuagint) translation, from three centuries prior to Carrier’s favored translation, says, “an anointing will be removed and will be no more.” That makes sense too, though not as likely in my estimation as “will have nothing,” because it’s not exactly clear how the “to him” is functioning in the OG translation.

But note that Carrier’s argument is that in both Daniel 9 and Isaiah 53, the figure is killed, in Carrier’s words, “even though innocent.” This is why Carrier prefers Theodotion, even though very few scholars have accepted Theodotion’s addition to the text. Carrier will continue to make the claim that both Daniel 9 and Isaiah 53 say that the one killed was “innocent,” when that is not said or the point being made in Daniel 9. And we’ve already seen what it meant in Isaiah 53.

Carrier continues with a quotation from Vermes’s translation of 4-6 of 11QMelch:

[He] will assign them to the Sons of Heaven and to the inheritance of Melchizedek, f[or He will cast] their [lot] amid the po[rtions of Melchize]dek, who will return them there and will proclaim to them liberty, forgiving them [the wrong-doings] of all their iniquities. And this thing will [occur] in the first week of the Jubilee that follows the nine Jubilees. And the Day of Atonement is the e[nd of the] tenth [Ju]bilee, when all the Sons of [Light] and the men of the lot of Mel[chi]zedek will be atoned for.

Carrier then writes:

The text goes on to describe this Melchizedek as a divine figure, an eschatological savior, and celestial judge who will battle and defeat “Belial” and “the spirits of his lot” (Satan and his demons).

Ah. Some progress. Melchizedek and Belial are no longer human beings in Carrier’s mind. That’s good. He then skips a bunch and picks up with lines 15-18 of Vermes’ translation:

This is the Day of [Peace/Salvation] concerning which [God] spoke [through Isa]iah the prophet, who said: “[How] beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion: ‘Your God [reigns]’” [Is. 52:7]. Its interpretation: the “mountains” are the prophets […] and the “messenger” is the Anointed One of the spirit, concerning whom Dan[iel] said, […] [the text is lost at this point but it can only have been Daniel 9:25 or 9:26].

I’ll show later on (with a nice graphic) why it very likely was the former and not the latter. But for now, Carrier comments:

This pesher thus concluded that the “messenger” of Isaiah 52:7 is the same person as the “Christ” described in Daniel 9:24-27, and that this same man has been discussed by all the prophets (he has literally walked upon them, and it was beautiful).

And note here the importance of the scroll’s interpretation of Isa 52:7: it interprets the mountains as “the prophets.” This is what they call allegory. Hardly what we would expect from a genre that supposedly uses quotations with reference to original literary context. I’ll actually argue later that Carrier was right (but for the wrong reasons) and I was wrong at first. I do now think that Melchizedek is probably the anointed one/messenger described here in lines 15-18. We’ll get to that. Carrier continues:

This is not only explicit. It is also implicit in the use of the Danielic timetable to interpret the Jubilee. The pesher says that a great “Day of Atonement,” when all sins would be forgiven, will take place at the end of the tenth Jubilee, in other words at the end of 490 years (a Jubilee being 49 years, ten Jubilees makes 490 years). Daniel also says that all sins will be atoned for in seventy periods of seven years, in other words after 490 years (Daniel 9:24). This is not a coincidence. The pesher’s author clearly understands these to be speaking of the same sequence of events.

Now Carrier is arguing against himself. I (and all scholars) agree with him that 11QMelch and Daniel are both referring to a 490 year period, but here Carrier says this means the author “understands these to be speaking of the same sequence of events.” But Carrier has already provided his own arguments against this conclusion. Carrier rightly points out that 11QMelch is talking about the future, not the past. So it’s not talking about the restoration of Jerusalem, the consecration of the temple, or about Joshua the High Priest, or about Onias III. I’m not saying that this is what Carrier is saying, but it does undermine the statement that it’s talking about the “same sequence” “of events.” Second, Carrier has already conceded that in Daniel 9, the second anointed one is “cut off” seven years prior to the 490th year, whereas in 11QMelch, the “anointed” is said to come at the end of the 490 years. So again, we’re not talking about the same sequence of events, and the author certainly would have known that.

If Daniel 9 intends for the Day of Atonement to occur at the end of the 490 year period, then it would occur after the defeat of the desolator (Antiochus) by God (Dan 9:27), or rather, by Michael (Dan 11:45–12:1-3)—both Dan 9:27 and 11:45–12:1-3 describe the same event.

But I agree that the two atonements that take place at the end of the 490 years are not a coincidence. But that doesn’t therefore mean that 11QMelch is following Daniel 9 any closer than that. It remains to be seen what elements from Daniel 9 it is employing, and what elements from Daniel 9 it is ignoring. And Carrier knows that it’s ignoring several elements. Carrier continues:

The pesher then says this great “Day of Atonement” is the same singular “Day” spoken of in Isaiah 52-53 (cf. 52:6-7), the day in which, once again, all sins are atoned for–by the death of God’s servant who “brings salvation” (Is. 52:7, 10; Is. 53:1, 9-10).

This is where Carrier goes further awry. Again, 11QMelch does not quote anything about the Suffering Servant. Carrier, for whatever reason, thinks the messenger and the Suffering Servant are the same individual (even though he knows they couldn’t have been originally), but they’re not. And the messenger’s message says nothing at all about atonement. I’ll first quote the messenger’s original statement from Isaiah, then I’ll quote the portion quoted in 11QMelch:

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’

So there’s the message of the messenger: “Your God reigns.” No mention of atonement. The figurative atonement in Isaiah 53 is already past for the messenger. The messenger is of course announcing the liberation of the captives, which was achieved by God through his agent Cyrus. Now here’s the quotation from 11QMelch:

This is the day of Peace/Salvation, concerning which God spoke through Isaiah the prophet, who said, How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who proclaims peace,
who brings good news,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your elohim reigns.’

Well, same content. No atonement mentioned, and certainly not in association with any Suffering Servant, who is not mentioned either. Yes, the passage in Isaiah goes on to discuss the Suffering Servant, but (1) the victory being proclaimed by the messenger was not effected by the Servant’s suffering but (2) by the liberation of Yahweh’s “arm,” Cyrus. Their liberation was the reward for their faithfulness, as made clear in Isa 52:4-6, directly prior to the announcement of the messenger. The same, of course, is true in Daniel 9. (1) The death of Onias does not effect the victory Israel would enjoy seven years later, it merely leads into a seven-year period of intense suffering, as is the standard apocalyptic model. (2) The liberation of Israel is achieved by Yahweh’s agent, the archangel Michael. The Day of Atonement in Daniel would occur at the time of the final liberation and restoration of Israel.

Now with 11QMelch, despite Carrier’s failed argument that the Onias figure must be the one meant in the quotation of Daniel 9, it is not at all likely that Dan 9:26 is the quotation, and I will show why later on. So in 11QMelch, we may not even have a figure who is said to die. But what we do have is the description of the captivity of the Sons of Light to the powers of darkness, which corresponds to the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52-53 and the suffering of Israel either in Babylon prior to the decree to return home and restore Jerusalem or during the final seven years in Daniel 9.

Getting on with things, Carrier thinks this day in which the messenger comes is the same day as the day the Servant suffered. But of course, the Servant was suffering and “dead” for forty-nine years in Babylon. And in Second Isaiah, the atonement for sins was for the sins of the nations. Isaiah 52:4-5 makes clear that Israel was innocent. Second Isaiah was universalistic in perspective—Yahweh’s salvation was for everybody. But this is not a perspective shared by the Qumran sect, as Terence Donaldson explains:

The overwhelming sense of the Qumran material is negative, as far as the present spiritual status and ultimate destiny of the Gentiles is concerned. Humankind is divided into two divinely determined camps—the children of righteousness and the children of injustice, under the sway of the angel of truth and the angel of darkness respectively (1QS 3.15-26)—and the line between the two coincides more or less with the boundary of the community itself. In the present, all outside the community are “the men of the lot of Belial” (1QS II 4-5), “sons of deceit,” who are under the “total dominion” of the “Angel of Darkness” (1QS III 19-20) and who thus are accursed for their “wicked, blameworthy deed” (1QS II 5). As for the future, the dominant expectation is for the complete destruction and annihilation of the wicked. . . . Of course, for the Qumran community “the wicked” is not quite the same category as “the Gentiles.” Since they believed that the company of sinners headed for destruction also included a majority of Jews, they drew the fundamental dividing line not between Jew and Gentile but between their own community and the rest of the human world.13

We have no reason to believe that they read the Suffering Servant song as eschatological at all. The Suffering Servant doesn’t feature here or anywhere else in the Qumran corpus. Perhaps they saw themselves as a Suffering Servant, their own suffering cleansing them as in Wisdom of Solomon 2-3, where the righteous ones’ suffering and death is “like a sacrificial burnt offering” for their own individual sins. We find just such a statement in their Commentary on Habakkuk: “And through their chastisement all of the wicked of His people shall expiate their guilt who keep His commandments in their distress.”14 Or perhaps they read it historically as the suffering of Israel. Anything we posit will be merely speculative, since nowhere in the Qumran corpus do they discuss the Suffering Servant. I’ll repeat: nowhere.

Of course, the Qumran sect had a high estimation of their own righteousness. And once again I’ll point out what the scroll does say about those who would be saved at the end: “Zion is . . . those who uphold the Covenant, who turn from walking [in] the way of the people.” That basically translates to: “Zion is the Qumran community,” i.e., those who have turned from walking in the way of the people by joining the secluded, small, sectarian community. Of course, as Jews, even (self-)righteous ones, they still needed sacrifices and Days of Atonement in order to be in right relationship to God. But this was accomplished, according to the community’s texts, through the sacrifices of a High Priest. Their leader, the Righteous Teacher (long dead at the time of composition of 11QMelch), was considered to be a priest and may in fact have operated as High Priest in the temple for a short few years while it was unoccupied, before it was taken over by Jonathan Maccabaeus. But the fact that in 11QMelch, it is Melchizedek who is the one said to atone for the sins of the sons of light (i.e., the people of the sect), and that the two occurrences of the name Melchizedek in the Hebrew Bible identify the figure as a High Priest, should make it abundantly clear that the atonement will be effected by Melchizedek operating as a priest on behalf of the sect. Carrier’s idea, then, that this atonement will be effected by the sacrificial death of a human being is foreign to the logic of the text.

Does Carrier envision Melchizedek sacrificing this human on an altar? Or is it that the human is killed by an unidentified enemy in an unmentioned battle and that Melchizedek regards that death as sacrificially efficacious (seven years later)? It should not need to be said that nothing like this is explained in the text, and an idea so far afield not only from mainstream Judaism, but even from the Qumran sect’s own ideas (has Carrier even considered looking at the rest of the Qumran corpus to get a sense for their basic ideas?), would require quite a bit of explanation, for which there is no room in the text, not even in the lacunae. Carrier’s misreading of 11QMelch is based on the supposition that it is supposed to be implied from the contexts of two quoted texts (Daniel 9 and Isaiah 52) which Carrier also misreads. I hope that at least some of Carrier’s admirers, if not Carrier himself, will be able to see by now how extremely fragile and fraught with contradictions Carrier’s theory truly is. But we’ll get on with it. Carrier continues:

Since the author of this pesher understood both Daniel 9 and Isaiah 52-53 to be speaking of the same day of atonement, and in both (Daniel and Isaiah) that atonement occurs in conjunction with the death of God’s chosen one (his “messenger/arm/servant” in Isaiah; his “christ/messiah/anointed” in Daniel), it cannot be denied by any reasonable argument that this pesher’s author thought an eschatological Christ-figure would die to atone for all sins, before Satan was defeated and God’s messianic reign would begin.

In fact, it most certainly can be denied by an argument infinitely more reasonable than Carrier’s own. As we’ve seen, “the messenger” of Isaiah 52:7 is nowhere identified as the “Suffering Servant” who only becomes the subject in 52:13. They are two separate figures.15

But let’s not ignore Carrier’s trickery here, in a somewhat desperate attempt to force yet more artificial parallelism. He identifies the “messenger/arm/servant” in Isaiah as one figure, which he says corresponds to Daniel’s “christ/messiah/anointed.” Huh? All he’s done is repeated the same word in three different languages. “Christ/Messiah/Anointed” are all the same thing, and only one of them appears in Daniel, mshych. On the other hand, in Isaiah the “messenger” and the “servant” are distinct figures, and the “arm” just means Yahweh’s strength and is manifested throughout Second Isaiah in the person of Cyrus. Moreover, 11QMelch only mentions the messenger, not the arm or the servant.

Carrier continues:

The logic of his [11QMelch’s] analysis entails nothing else. We have two days described, during which a chosen one of God dies, and all sin forever ends by a singular atonement. And in both, the one who dies is an innocent. And the pesher explicitly says these two days are the same day, which will occur after the same 490 year period.

We’ve already seen a number of times why all of these statements are untrue. (1) In Daniel, the anointed one (not “chosen one”) dies seven years before. (2) In Second Isaiah, the servant’s figurative death is not said to occur on the day of salvation, but represents the bare fact of Israel’s status in exile. (3) Isaiah 52-53 does not say that “all sin forever ends by a singular atonement.” Carrier is reading that into the text via Daniel 9 and Christian theology. (4) Daniel 9 does not say that Onias III was innocent. Carrier is getting that from Theodotion, who added that to the text. The Old Greek translation from three centuries earlier says, “an anointing will be removed and will be no more,” not that an anointed one is innocent. And the Hebrew (which, contra Carrier, is not at all “meaningless”) is best translated as saying, “and he will have nothing.” Carrier continues:

This scroll therefore says the messiah will die. And not just die, but die to atone for all sins, once and for all, and thereby usher in the end of the world. Does that sound familiar?

It does sound familiar, but that’s not what the scroll says, nor is it what Daniel says, nor is it what Second Isaiah says. He continues:

Stark’s attempt to claim that pesherim never consider the context of the verses they cite and never intend readers to infer that the context matters, does not fit what is going on here. It would be the bizarrest of coincidences that all these parallels just happen to exist between Daniel 9:24-27 and Isaiah 52:6-53:12 and the pesher’s argument as to when the final Day of Atonement would come, and yet the pesher’s author was unaware of it, uninfluenced by it, and never intended it to be understood. He just got incredibly, stupefyingly lucky. And was so incredibly, stupefyingly dense he never noticed it himself, even when reading the text of Isaiah and Daniel. Odds on all that? Low.

And here’s why Bayes Theorem is going to be of absolutely no use to Carrier. Garbage in, garbage out. At any rate, this is a transparent evasion. I didn’t “attempt to claim that pesherim [sic] never consider the context of the verses they cite and never intend readers to infer that context matters.” That is a complete straw man, coupled with (as I expected) a moving of Carrier’s goal posts. I didn’t say they “never” considered the context. I said they paid “scant regard to the original literary context,” quoting Collins. “Scant” does not mean “never.” And of course, it wasn’t “my attempt.” I quoted multiple expert scrolls scholars. Apparently Carrier knows better than they do.

And finally, the expected moving of the goal posts. I wasn’t the one who said “never.” Carrier did. Carrier said, “Again, pesharim do not ‘quote out of context.’ They quote to indicate context.” Carrier is the one who made the unequivocal denial. But he was completely wrong. The vast majority of the time, they quote out of literary context. I didn’t say they “never” quote to imply context. But even if they did do so in this case, Carrier doesn’t have the context right. The “anointed one” in Dan 9:25 is Joshua in the sixth century. The “anointed one” in Dan 9:26 is Onias III in the second century, who didn’t die at the end of 490 years. Moreover, the “messenger” of Isaiah 52:7 referenced in 11QMelch is not the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52:13f. They are two different figures. So 11QMelch may very well be quoting to imply context, but this would undermine Carrier’s case as well. Any way you look at it, Carrier is wrong.

And of course, the author of 11QMelch would not have been “incredibly, stupefyingly lucky” to have accidentally grabbed all those verses with all those close parallels, because the parallels Carrier identifies exist only in his head, and nowhere in any of the three texts in question. I’m not denying that there are parallels between the three texts. In fact, I’ve already identified some of them. It’s just that the parallels aren’t the ones Carrier is concocting over against each of the texts themselves.

We’ve come to the end of Carrier’s section on 11QMelch. I’ll now respond to his reply to my reply, before going on to make my own argument about how 11QMelch should be read.

Richard Carrier’s Reply to Thom Stark’s Reply

Carrier writes:

Stark thinks it matters whether Daniel 9:25 or 9:26 was quoted in the missing section. It does not. Which is why I didn’t mention it.

Yes, I’m sure that’s why he didn’t mention it.

Both verses refer to the same Christ.

No they do not, as I’ve shown in great detail above.

Thus if the “messenger” in Isaiah is this Christ, then the pesher is saying he is the same Christ that dies.

What is true is that if the pesher does quote 9:26, then yes, the messenger dies. But the messenger is not the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, and there is no atoning significance attached to Onias’s death in Daniel 9, so if 11QMelch does say that the anointed one dies, it would not be an atoning death. But I don’t think that it does quote 9:26, and I’ll show why in the next section. I’ll also show that even if it did quote 9:26, it would have had to have quoted the part of the verse that says, “And after sixty-two weeks,” which means the pesher would expressly place the death of the messenger fifty-four years prior to the Day of Atonement. But since the text says that the messenger comes on the Day of Peace/Salvation, it is extremely improbable that it quotes 9:26 at all. (Again, I’ll show why.)

The author did not need to quote 9:26 to indicate that. A quotation of 9:25 would do just as well. Because verses 25-27 refer to the same people and events, which occur by the same timetable (the very timetable that the pesher is explicitly concluding applies to Isaiah 52-53). So although scholars are divided on whether the pesher quoted verse 25 or 26, that debate is irrelevant here.

All completely incorrect. (1) Verses 25-27 do not refer to the same people and events, as I’ve shown. (2) The timetable is different in Daniel than it is in 11QMelch, as I have shown and as Carrier himself has admitted. The only similarity between the two timetables is the total number of years. In Daniel, those 490 years are split up between 49 years, 434 years, and 7 years. In 11QMelch, they are split up by ten groups of 49 years, and the stage for the drama is set at the beginning of the last 49 years of the 490-year period. The total number of years is the same in the two texts; the timetables are obviously not. (3) The pesher does not say that its timetable “applies to Isaiah 52-53”; it merely says that a messenger will proclaim, “Your God reigns” at the end of the 490 years. (4) The debate over which verse is quoted is not irrelevant, as I will show.

Nevertheless, even if that dispute were relevant, it’s 50/50 which it is (since either has an equal chance of fitting the text; scholarly opinion here has no weight in the matter, since there is no evidence one way or the other, it’s all theoretical, something Stark neglects to mention). So Stark should admit there is a 50% chance that the pesher explicitly said the messenger of Isaiah 52 is the Christ who dies in Daniel 9:26 at the great Day of Atonement that ends the world, and thus a good even chance that I am right.

As I will show, it’s more like 90/10 in favor of v.25. Hang in there.

Stark says the “pesher scrolls at Qumran routinely took snippets of verses out of context, with no regard to their original meaning, and made them to say what they wanted them to say for their own agenda” and therefore (we’re supposed to infer) they did not intend the reader to look at the original context. That’s false. What he says is correct, but what he wants us to infer from it is not. The pesher quotes one line and expects the reader to go and look to see what is said about that event or person, knowing now that it is being said about the event or person the pesher identifies. Thus, for example, it quotes one line from Isaiah 52 and says this is about the same man spoken of in Daniel 9. The reader then knows to apply everything said about that man in Daniel to everything said about that man in Isaiah 52 and thus understand what God was really revealing through the prophets.

I love how Carrier says, “What he says is correct, but what he wants us to infer from it is not.” Then he proceeds to baldly assert with no argument that I what I said was not correct. Again, he continues to pretend that this is my idea; he’s the one with the idiosyncratic understanding of pesher. He isn’t trained. I’ve quoted the experts. He’s ignoring them. That “the pesher quotes one line and expects the reader to go and look to see what is said about that event or person” (Carrier’s words) is precisely what the experts in scrolls scholarship say is not the case. But Carrier is welcome to his delusions. And of course, as delusional people often are, Carrier is again at odds with himself. While out of one side of his mouth he insists that the pesher expects the reader to look at the original context, out of the other side of his mouth he says that the pesher is willing to “fudge” the original context. Carrier continues:

This is obvious already from the pesher saying “this day” means the day referred to in Isaiah 52, without quoting verse 6 that mentions it being about a special day. It just quotes verse 7, knowing the reader will look it up and see that this section speaks of a special Day of Atonement. . .

No, no, no. This is not evidence for the claim Carrier is trying to make about pesher. Verse 7, which is in fact quoted, gives the meaning of “this day” from verse 6. This is a failed argument. They don’t have to look up verse 6 to understand the day—the quotation provided identifies the day. What Carrier really wants to argue is that “the messenger” of verse 7 is the “Servant” of verses 13f, and that they would simply understand this, or look it up. Well, since it is nowhere implied that the messenger is the same figure as the Servant, this argument fails anyway. If Carrier’s claims about pesher’s expectations on the reader are to be believed, then his whole case would crumble all the more quickly, because the reader would go to Isaiah 52-53 and see that the messenger is not the Suffering Servant (who isn’t mentioned in 11QMelch anyway), and the reader would go to Daniel 9 and see that “an anointed one” is either Joshua or Onias, and if the latter, then they would clearly see that he dies seven years before the 490 years are up. So Carrier really doesn’t want to make this argument about pesher’s expectations on the reader, and he himself contradicts it as we saw much earlier. At any rate, this is not how pesher works. Carrier needs to open a book rather than just making up the rules that he requires in order to make his argument succeed (rules which ironically make his argument fail). I’ve already given him some scholars to start with. Let’s hope he takes it from there. Will he? Will he do some research? Or will he just continue to assert his armchair opinions in the hope that some will believe him over against those who are trained in this field? Carrier continues:

. . .the very same thing the pesher has been going on about and says is the day spoken of here (verse 6 saying it is a special day of God’s arrival, and subsequent verses spelling out how the special great atonement will be achieved in that day, by the savior’s death).

First, nowhere is the Suffering Servant identified as “the savior” in Isaiah. That’s a Christian interpretation of the song. And nowhere is the messenger of Isa 52:7 identified as a savior. He is given an identification however: he’s the “messenger.” The savior is alternately Yahweh and Cyrus throughout Second Isaiah. Second, just for purposes of clarification, nowhere is Onias or Joshua identified as “the savior.” In Daniel, the savior is Michael. Third, in 11QMelch, the savior figure (more accurately, the redeemer) is Melchizedek, and it is he who atones for the sins of the people. Carrier is arguing by mere assertion, yet again, and importing Christian theology onto the texts eisegetically. This seems pointless. Until he is willing to engage actual scholarship (I’ve given him some places to start), Carrier isn’t going to convince anyone who has been trained in scrolls scholarship. I’m sure, however, that he’ll convince plenty of those who aren’t; so more power to him.

Finally, yes, in verse 6 the messenger announces the special day of God’s arrival. But no, the subsequent verses do not spell out “how the special great atonement will be achieved in that day.” The suffering of the Servant precedes the day of the messenger’s announcement. It had been ongoing for 49 years. The messenger’s announcement was precisely to say that the time of the Servant’s suffering was over. If Carrier will follow his own rules and look at the context, he’ll see that the verses immediately preceding the messenger’s announcement make this clear. I’ll quote them one more time just for good measure:

For thus says Yahweh God: Long ago, my people went down into Egypt to reside there as aliens; the Assyrian, too, has oppressed them without cause. Now therefore, what am I doing here, says Yahweh, seeing that my people are taken away without cause? Their rulers howl, says Yahweh, and continually, all day long, my name is despised. Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore on that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I.

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’

The messenger comes to announce the end of the Servant’s suffering. He does not come to herald the suffering of the Servant as the means by which God reigns. God’s reign is manifested in the exaltation of the Servant after the suffering. That’s the whole logic of the passage. The beginning and end of the song speak of the exaltation of the Servant. The suffering precedes this. And the day of salvation is not the day of suffering but the day of exaltation. One would think this would be quite obvious.

Carrier continues:

Thus, when we are then told in this pesher that the “messenger” spoken of in this section is the same man spoken of in Daniel 9:25-26, we are meant to do the same thing: go check the context and see what is said about that man. And there we see again a special (Day) of Atonement is mentioned (once again in a verse the pesher does not cite but clearly has in mind: verse 24) and this day is then linked to the day that the Christ dies, just as the messenger in Isaiah dies to effect that atonement on that day–both dying saviors being innocent men, both their deaths ushering in God’s final salvation, and both their deaths (the pesher is now telling us) occur after the same 490 years.

These are all the same claims that I’ve refuted over and over. I’m repeating myself because Carrier is repeating himself. But I’ll do it again just so no one can say I missed anything.

(1) Onias died seven years prior to the end. If the Day of Atonement is at the end of 490 years (as it is clearly and unambiguously in 11QMelch), then obviously Onias’s death is not an atoning one. But we’ve already seen multiple times the reason why Onias’s death is expressly not presented as an atoning death on the Day of Atonement. The text says:

After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator. (Dan 9:26-27)

Onias’s death is clearly not an atoning death that forever puts an end to sin and establishes eternal righteousness, because the text says not only that sacrifices continued after Onias’s death, but also bemoans the fact that in the second half of the final seven years (beginning in 167, after Onias died in 171), the “desolator” caused sacrifices to cease in the temple. So Carrier’s appeal to “context” produces a reading that makes no sense of the context.

But what would make some sense is if the defeat of the enemy and the liberation of God’s people by Michael at the end of the seventy weeks would constitute the Day of Atonement. Obviously! As I argued over a month ago, Jubilee is all about liberation of the captives. And indeed, 11QMelch makes this perfectly explicit (it is Carrier who is not paying attention to the context, whereas I pointed this out and was met with Carrier’s silence). The Day of Atonement takes place when the captives are liberated. In 11QMelch, this occurs when Melchizedek defeats the forces of Belial. In Daniel, this would occur when Michael defeats the enemies of Israel. In both texts, the captives are set free. But this does not occur at the time of the death of Onias. Indeed, far from being liberative for Israel, the death of Onias marks the beginning of the worst period of Israel’s history at that time. It is not until seven years later that the captives would be set free.

(2) Daniel 9 does not say that Onias is an “innocent man.” Carrier keeps asserting this based on his use of a second century CE translation by Theodotion, which adds words to the text that are completely unnecessary. I’d say that Carrier was being dishonest, but he still thinks that his Theodotion is a third century BCE translation of a second century BCE composition, so I have to pin this one on incompetence.

(3) The death of Onias does not usher in God’s final salvation, and it does not occur on a jubilee year. What it ushers in is a period of intense persecution.

Carrier continues:

The pesher is saying the “day” or event spoken of in both sections is the same day or event (even though that is not what the texts themselves say, it’s what the pesher’s author has concluded they say). Thusly informed, we can read Daniel 9 and Isaiah 52-53 and see that they are speaking about the same day, and the same events that will transpire, involving the same man. That’s the secret the pesher aims to reveal. That’s what it’s saying.

I wonder why Carrier is acting like the only two scriptures cited in 11QMelch are Isa 52:7 and Dan 9:25. Why is he forgetting Isa 61:2? The pesher quotes Isa 61:2 right there in the same pericope as the other two. Is Isa 61:2 about a “dying messiah”? Let’s look at it. Hell, to make Carrier happy we’ll look at the whole chapter:

The spirit of the Lord YAHWEH is upon me,
because Yahweh has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the YAHWEH’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
but you shall be called priests of the LORD,
you shall be named ministers of our God;
you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations,
and in their riches you shall glory.
Because their* shame was double,
and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
everlasting joy shall be theirs.

For I Yahweh love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom Yahweh has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in Yahweh,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord YAHWEH will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.

No dying messiah there. No suffering servant. No suffering anything, other than suffering enemies. What it describes is solely the day of liberation—liberation from suffering, not by suffering, as is the case in both Daniel 9 and Isaiah 52. This does not match a reading of Daniel 9 in which the Day of Atonement is the day of Onias’s death. It does match a reading of Daniel 9 in which the Day of Atonement is at the end of the seventy weeks, when God’s people are finally liberated from their oppressors.

This also corresponds to the other biblical texts quoted at the beginning of the scroll, namely, Lev 25:13 and Deut 15:2, which speak of the liberation that takes place in the year of Jubilee. It corresponds as well to the two Psalms quoted later in the scroll—82:1 and 7:7-8, which speak of a divine figure judging the gods and the nations from his throne. This figure is identified as Melchizedek.

Carrier continues:

Thus everything Stark says to the contrary here is false. The pesher’s author is very clearly saying that the suffering-and-dying savior who dies on a special Day of Atonement in Isaiah 52-53 is the same person as the dying messiah whose death also corresponds to a special Day of Atonement in Daniel 9, which the pesher says is the same Day of Atonement that occurs at the end of the same 490 years. Conspicuously, Stark doesn’t attend to any of the context of what the pesher is talking about. He just tries to gainsay conclusions from isolated verses. Which is proper scholarship? You decide.

I have to run to the hardware store and buy a new irony meter, because mine just broke.

Carrier continues:

Everything else Stark says is irrelevant. For example, that most Jews interpreted Daniel differently has nothing to do with my argument, which is that some Jews could and would have seen it differently (as all the other evidence attests, and this scroll confirms). I have always been consistent on this point. For example, in Not the Impossible Faith (p. 35) I say “we have evidence this text was probably understood by some in just this way” (not “by all”). The forgers of Daniel 9 thought so. They were saying Onias III was the Messiah and his death would correspond to a universal atonement after which would come the end of the world. Once that idea is out there, there is no getting that cat back into the bag.

O the humanity!

The end of the world did not come (in fact everything after that did not occur as the forgers’ prophecy predicted), so later Jews had two options, and two options only: either reject Daniel as a false prophecy (and there is no evidence any Jews did that) or conclude “Daniel” wasn’t talking about Onias III but some other Messiah in the future (necessitating attempts to reinterpret the 490 year timetable to figure out what time in history Daniel was actually talking about).

Absolutely. This is correct. I’ve never contested this. It’s just that Jews other than Christians never interpreted the death of the anointed one in a messianic sense in any of the evidence we have.

But let’s look at what Carrier says in Not the Impossible Faith (p. 35-36). Referring to Daniel 9:26-27 using a translation based on Theodotion, that didn’t even exist yet in the time about which Carrier is writing (late first century, early second century CE):

This Jewish prophecy was widely known in the Jewish and Roman world, and interpreted in many different ways—by the Romans, as presaging the crowning of Vespasian as Emperor, and by the Jews, as presaging a military victory over Rome, even though the prophecy plainly says their anticipated messiah will be killed (despite his innocence), and that the Jews will be defeated (though later vindicated in the Apocalypse).

Again, the text does not say that he would be killed “despite his innocence.” That translation from Theodotion didn’t exist yet. Also, Carrier says the Romans saw Vespasian as the fulfillment of the prophecy, while the Jews saw it as a prophecy of a military victory over Rome. This needs clarification. Yes, the Jewish freedom fighters read it that way, but (just to be clear) Josephus (who was a Jew, but one who was working for the Romans) also interpreted it as having been fulfilled by Vespasian. Now Carrier says it was “widely known in the Jewish and Roman world” and then offers only three examples that he thinks “probably” refer to Daniel 9, from Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus, all of whom provide descriptions that generally resemble the basic apocalyptic script but match no details of Daniel 9, other than the big win at the end.

At any rate, I’m not sure why Carrier brings this up, and why he keeps arguing that later Jews would not have read Onias III as the referent in the prophecy, when I am not and never have claimed that, argued that, or implied that.

The latter is the only option we have evidence the Jews took, and it entails some Jews would transfer the same idea (of a dying messiah presaging the end of the world and a final atonement for all sin) to that future messiah. Other Jews (I would assume the more militaristic, and the most arrogant) then tried to find ways to make it fit their military ambitions against Rome instead.

Yup. No argument from me here. Not sure the relevance of this. But of course, what this would show is that lots of Jews took this prophecy and ignored most of the details in it, which is precisely what Carrier says 11QMelch couldn’t do (except for when he argues the opposite, and then back again).

So there we have it. Now that I’ve responded to Carrier’s complete argument, I’ll lay out my argument for the reading of 11QMelch, piece by piece.

The Scroll

Here I’ll post the scroll in its entirety, line by line, to make it easier for you to refer back as I reference the various lines. This translation will be from the definitive critical analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls, namely, the Discoveries in the Judean Desert, specifically volume XXIII, chapter 13, 11QMelchizedek.

. . . . .

01. [     ]            [

02. [     ] and as for what he said, ‘In [this] year of jubilee [each of you shall return to his property,’ concerning it he said: ‘And th]is is

03. [the manner of the remission:] every creditor shall remit what he has lent [his neighbor. He shall not press his neighbor or his brother for it has been proclaimed] a remission

04. of Go[d.’ Its interpretation] for the final days concerns the captives, who [     ] and whose

05. teachers have been hidden and kept secret, and from the inheritance of Melchizedek, fo[r     ] and they are the inheritan[ce of Melchize]dek who

06. will make them return. And liberty shall be proclaimed to them to free them from [the debt of] all their iniquities. And this thing/word [wil]l happen

07. in the first week of the jubilee (that occurs) after [the] ni[ne] jubilees. And the D[ay of Atone]ment i[s] the e[nd] of the tenth [ju]bilee,

08. in which atonement shall be nmade for all the sons of [light and for] the men of the lot of Mel[chi]zedek [     ] over [th]em [ ] accor[ding to] al[l] their [doing]s, for

09. it is the time for the year of grace of Melchizedek and of [his] arm[ies, the nati]on of the holy ones of God, of the administration of justice, as is written

10. about him in the songs of David, who said: ‘Elohim shall [st]and in the ass[embly of God]; in the midst of the gods he shall judge.’ And about him he sa[id: ‘And] above [it,]

11. to the heights, return: God shall judge the nations.’ And as for what he s[aid: ‘How long will you] judge unjustly, and be par[tial] to the wick[e]d. [Se]lah,’

12. the interpretation of it concerns Belial and the spirits of his lot wh[o     ], in [the]ir tur[ning] away from God’s commandments to [commit evil].

13. And Melchizedek will carry out the vengeance of Go[d]’s judgments [and on that day he will f]r[ee them from the hand of] Belial and from the hand of all the s[pirits of his lot.]

14. And all the gods [of justice] are to his help; [and h]e is the one wh[o     ] all the sons of God, and he will [

15. This [     ] is the day of the [peace ab]out which he said [through Isa]iah the prophet who said: [‘How] beautiful

16. upon the mountains are the feet [of] the messen[ger who an]nounces peace, the mes[senger of good who announces salvati]on, [sa]ying to Zion: your God [is king’].

17. Its interpretation: the mountains [are] the prophet[s]; they [     ] every [     ]

18. And the messenger i[s] the anointed of the spir[it], as Dan[iel] said, [‘Until an anointed prince, there will be seven weeks.’ And the messenger of]

19. good who announ[ces salvation] is the one about whom it is written [

20. ‘To comfo[rt] the [afflicted,’ its interpretation:] to [in]struct them in all the ages of the w[orld

21. in truth [     ]     [

22. [     ] has turned away from Belial and shall retu[rn to        ] [

23. [     ] in the judgement[s] of God, as is written about him: ‘[saying to Zi]on: your God is king.’ [Zi]on i[s]

24. [the congregation of all the sons of justice, who] establish the covenant, who avoid walking [on the p]ath of the people. And ‘your G[o]d’ is

25. [Melchizedek who will fr]ee [them from the han]d of Belial. And as for what he said: ‘And you shall blow the ho[rn in] all the [l]and of . . .

. . . . .

So before we proceed, a few words about reconstruction. Obviously when letters are partially eroded, the first thing scholars do is try to eliminate what letters cannot be there. In the case of partially eroded letters and in the case of a lacuna, scholars then look to the context of the preceding and following words to help narrow the possibilities down further. Hugely important also (as we saw much earlier with the question of Carrier’s armchair reconstruction of line 7) is the question of space. What word, words, or combination of words can and cannot fit in the space afforded by the lacuna? This will be very important shortly, as I move to discuss line 18, i.e., the Daniel quotation.

Scholars also have immense knowledge of what kind of vocabulary is typically used in different periods, as well as knowledge of the expressions and vocabulary of specific authors or groups. All of these considerations (and more) weigh into the reconstruction process, and in a lot of cases, what scholars come up with is almost certainly what was lost. In other cases, no reconstruction is possible at all. In other cases still, there may be two, three or even a handful of different possibilities, as we will see with regards to line 5 here in a little while.

Reconstructing Line 18

There are two or three questions regarding 11QMelch that will drastically affect its interpretation. The first is the question of what quotation from Daniel 9 ought to be reconstructed into the large lacuna in line 18. Despite the fact that Carrier insists (based on, as I’ve shown at considerable length, entirely spurious reasoning) that it does not matter whether Dan 9:25 or Dan 9:26 is reconstructed, we will see that in fact this question is of serious import.

Originally I argued that we “simply don’t know” which verse was quoted, and that we can’t know. I now think I was wrong. I now think we can come to a conclusion with a very reasonable degree of certainty. I was reading the critical commentary on 11QMelch from the Discoveries in the Judean Desert volume (referred to as DJD), and I read something about line 18 that pricked my interest. The editor wrote, “The clause in Dan 9:25 [until an anointed prince, there will be seven weeks], seems quite appropriate and fits very well in the remaining space.”16 The key there was “fits very well in the remaining space.” So what I did was I compared all of the different possible options for the quotation from Daniel 9, and measured them up to space of the lacuna on line 18, to see if any of the variations from v. 26 would also “fit very well in the remaining space.”

I’ve created a graphic which displays the options and how they fit into the lacuna, seen below. It will be helpful for you to know that scribes wrote from the beginning to the end of every line on a scroll. They didn’t have paragraph breaks, and in this case especially, because line 19 begins in the middle of a new sentence. So, whatever we reconstruct, it has to go all the way to the edge of the column (remember, the left side is the end of the line, the right side is the beginning).

Now I’ve approximated as best I can the size of the letters on the scroll by comparing them to the letters that are still visible on the same line. I’ve used the early Herodian script from Frank Moore Cross’s “The Development of Jewish Scripts” in order to match as closely as possible the 11Q13 script from approximately the same period.17 It’s not 100% precise, but it’s a very close approximation, and as we’ll see, the different options present us with a large margin of error without affecting our results. I sent my graphic to two separate paleographers, and they considered it sound and more or less determinative for the reconstruction. I haven’t included the phrase, “until an anointed prince” (9:25) as one of the options, because it is entirely too short to make it to the end of the column. It is an impossible reconstruction. Thus, Vermes’s reconstruction in his volume is pretty much definitely out of the question. You can view the graphic here or click on it to open it in a new window.


click to enlarge in new window


Now, before we begin, I want to point out two things. First, you’ll notice that in my English translations, there is one word half of which is in parentheses. This is because the “Dan” is actually visible on the scroll. (Dan) of course is half of the name “Daniel.” If you look on the scroll, the last two letters on the left before my own lettering begins are the letters dalet-nun (i.e., “Dan”). So my lettering picks up with the rest of his name. (I should also point out that I myself didn’t just guess what words to put in the lacuna. This is based on the editorial reconstruction found in DJD, and the Hebrew text of Daniel itself, and has been verified by two Northwest Semitic paleographers.)

Second, look at the last (i.e., furthest to the left) word, which is the same on each line. That is the participle, “he who brings news,” which we just translate as “the messenger.” It is modified by the word “good” (tov) which is visible as the first word on the right of line 19. This word (“the messenger”) is most definitely the proper reconstruction. It begins a new sentence, which continues with “good” on line 19. Every translation I’ve checked (Vermes, Wise-Abegg-Cook, DJD, and Martinez-Tigchelaar) reconstructs “and the messenger of . . . news” / ”and the one who brings . . . news” after the ending of the quotation of Daniel. These are just different English translations of the same Hebrew participle. This word is also found at the beginning of the same line (18), where it says, “And the messenger is the anointed of the spirit…”

Now, to discuss the graphic itself and what it means. As you can see, I’ve marked the edge of the column with a red line. There is a one or two letter variation from line to line in terms of where each line ends, but as is clear, that margin of error does not affect our findings.

As the DJD editor said, the sentence from Dan 9:25, “until an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks,” fits perfectly into the lacuna. If we were to posit just, “until an anointed prince” on its own (as in Vermes), the line would be entirely too short.

I then looked at every possible combination of the reference to the anointed one in v. 26, and there were four. If we were to add either “and the troops of the prince who is to come,” or “and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (the former of which wouldn’t make sense anyway) to any of the four v. 26 options, they would all be way too long to fit into the lacuna. So we are left with these four options.

v. 26 #1 (“iel, ‘After sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and have nothing.’ And the messenger of news…”) is clearly too long to fit into the lacuna. It must be ruled out.

v. 26 #3 and #4 are clearly too short to fit. They must be ruled out as well. So the text almost certainly did not say either, “an anointed one shall be cut off and have nothing,” or “an anointed one shall be cut off.”

That leaves us with v. 26 #2. It is clearly too long to fit into the lacuna. Nevertheless, we’ll say that if my lettering is slightly off, it is probably closer to being slightly too wide than slightly too narrow in comparison to the scroll’s lettering, and so we’ll grant that it’s thinly possible this could have been squeezed into the lacuna. If that were the case, two things would follow:

The Daniel quotation from v. 26 #2 reads, “And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off.” (1) So if this was in the text, we would have an explicit statement saying, “and after sixty-two weeks.” This is problematic, both for Carrier, and for the text itself. It’s problematic for Carrier because his argument hinges on the claim that the death of the anointed one occurs at the end of 490 years (I already showed why his other solutions do not work). But if we reconstruct this quotation in the lacuna, then the text would expressly state that the anointed one is cut off after 434 years. This won’t work for Carrier.

Moreover, it’s problematic for the text itself for two reasons. One, nowhere else is the schema of “sixty-two weeks” mentioned here. As I explained earlier, 11QMelch doesn’t follow Daniel’s timeline; it simply has the same total number of years. In 11QMelch, the timeline is divided into jubilees—ten periods of forty-nine years. So the introduction of a foreign timeline (sixty-two weeks = 434 years) would seem not to fit 11QMelch’s structure. Two, and more importantly, as Carrier rightly points out, the anointed one/messenger is said to come “on the day of peace/salvation,” i.e., the Day of Atonement which is said to occur at the end of the tenth jubilee. Thus, the text could not have said both that the anointed one would come (only to be cut off) in the 434th year, and come in the 490th year, simultaneously.

So, we are left with v. 25 (“until an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks”) as our only viable option, based on (1) its neat fit into the space of the lacuna and (2) its neat fit into the timeline already established in lines 6-7 of 11QMelch, as we will now discuss.18

The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything

Douglas Adams was wrong. The answer to life, the universe, and everything turns out to be 49. One of our most challenging interpretive questions is instigated by the statement made across lines 6-7 of the scroll: “And this thing/word will happen in the first week of the jubilee (that occurs) after the nine jubilees. And the Day of Atonement is the end of the tenth jubilee.”

The text is in no uncertain terms saying either that something will happen or that a word will be spoken (the word dabar means either “word” or “thing”) in the first week of the tenth jubilee, that is, at the beginning of the final forty-nine years before the Day of Atonement. It then says that the Day of Atonement will be at the end of the tenth jubilee. In other words, something (seemingly important) happens or is spoken at the beginning of the forty-nine years, and the Day of Atonement happens at the end of those forty-nine years. The question is: what is going to happen or be spoken in the first week of the final forty-nine? An answer to this question is elusive, for several reasons.

We know that the “this thing” that will occur in the first week is not anything that follows line 7, because that all describes what happens on the Day of Atonement, as well as in the final battle, which is sandwiched between Day of Atonement descriptions. So we reasonably look to the immediate antecedent to “This thing will occur” from line 7. We note that line four makes reference to the “final days,” which leads us reasonably to conclude that the “final days” refer to this last forty-nine year (seven weeks) period.

The question pushes us back to lines 4-6, which becomes problematic, because the lettering in the first half of line 5 is partially eroded, and a number of different reconstructions have been proposed. We can group them into two categories. The first sees the forty-nine years as a period of restoration. The second sees the last days as a period of suffering.

First, Vermes’s translation most readily fits within the first category:

And it will be proclaimed at the end of days concerning the captives, as he said, ‘To proclaim liberty to the captives.’ Its interpretation is that he will assign them to the Sons of Heaven and to the inheritance of Melchizedek; for he will cast their lot amid the portions of Melchizedek, who will return them there and will proclaim to them liberty, forgiving them the wrong-doings of all their iniquities. And this thing will occur in the first week of the jubilee that follows the nine jubilees.

Here liberty is proclaimed at the end of days, and the interpretation of this is that God will assign the captives to the lot of Melchizedek. Melchizedek will take them home and liberate them from the debt of their sins. It seems, on this translation, that all this will occur at the beginning of the forty-nine years.

This is more explicit in Wise-Abegg-Cook, which has taken the view that the “word that is proclaimed in the first week” is the word of proclamation:

the interpretation is that it applies to the Last Days and concerns the captives, just as Isaiah said: ‘To proclaim the jubilee to the captives” just as . . . and from the inheritance of Melchizedek, for . . . Melchizedek who will return them to what is rightfully theirs. He will proclaim to them the jubilee, thereby releasing them from the debt of all their sins. He shall proclaim this decree in the first week of the jubilee period that follows nine jubilee periods.”

This reading is attractive for a number of reasons. First, it matches the proclamation of liberty with the dabar (word) of line 6, which is said to be given in the first week. This nicely parallels Daniel 9:25 (which is quoted later in part): “From the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until [the time of] an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks.” The same word is used there as here—dabar: “from the time the word went out . . . until an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks.” In line 6-7 we have, “And this word will be given in the first week of the tenth jubilee. And the Day of Atonement is the tenth jubilee.” Then in line 18 we have the coming of the messenger who is “the anointed one of the spirit, as Daniel said about him, ‘until an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks.’” And so the timing from the quotation lines up perfectly with the schema in lines 4-7. The last days are seven weeks (49 years), and at the beginning of this period a “word goes out” proclaiming liberty to the captives, just as in Daniel there were seven weeks from the proclamation of liberty until the rebuilding of the temple and the coming of an anointed prince. Then the Day of Atonement occurs at that time.

The problem with this reading is that it doesn’t really fit what we know to be the standard apocalyptic paradigm for the last days, both in broader Judaism and at Qumran. The last days are ordinarily days of struggle and suffering. On the other hand, the battle described in 11QMelch is described solely in terms of spiritual warfare. Yet generally, spiritual warfare is intended to mirror earthly realities, and a purely spiritual war, not reflected in intense conflict on earth, would I think be a significant departure from standard Qumran paradigms. Moreover, on this reading the captives would be liberated not on a jubilee but at the beginning of a new jubilee cycle, which doesn’t fit very well. While the restoration view has its attractions, I think it more likely that the last days would be characterized here as days of suffering. This is reflected in these reconstructions:

Its interpretation for the last/final days refers to the captives, who . . . and whose teachers have been hidden and kept secret, and from the inheritance of Melchizedek, for . . . and they are the inheritance of Melchizedek, who will make them return. And liberty will be proclaimed to/for them, to free them from the debt of all their iniquities. And this will happen in the first week of the jubilee which follows the nine jubilees. (DJD and Martinez-Tigchelaar)

Now for lines 4-5 specifically, DJD’s critical note has two other options that are noteworthy: Kobelski: “who cut them off from the sons of heaven and from the inheritance of Melchizedek.” Puech: “and whose teachers are among the oppressed of the assembly and among the inheritance of Melchizedek.”

If any of these readings are correct, we possibly have conflict and suffering in the last days. A problem with these readings is that the logic of lines 3-7 as a unit appears disjointed. We have a proclamation of liberty in line 3, with conflict in lines 4-5, followed by a return from exile and remission of sin-debts in line 6, followed by the statement in lines 6-7 that “this thing will occur in the first week of the tenth jubilee.” It is difficult to determine to what “this thing” that occurs would refer on this reading. Nevertheless, on this reading our reconstruction of line 18 is unaffected. Lines 4-7 describe the last days, which are framed from “the first week of the tenth jubilee” where “this thing” happens to the end of the tenth jubilee when the Day of Atonement arrives, along with the messenger/anointed prince of lines 15-18, who is said to arrive in line 18 after seven weeks. The timeline fits, and the “seven weeks” of Dan 9:25 fit perfectly into 11QMelch’s temporal scheme of ten jubilees, with the final seven weeks of the 490 year period constituting the last days.

Due to the uncertainty about the reading of line 5, I am unable to reach a conclusion as to which model of the last days (restoration or suffering) is intended. Both are attractive for different reasons, yet both have their problems. Regardless, what remains clear is the last days consist of a figurative seven weeks (or forty-nine years), at the beginning of which something occurs or is proclaimed, and at the end of which the messenger/anointed prince arrives and Melchizedek defeats the enemies of God, culminating in the great Day of Atonement.

Only one question remains, and that concerns the identity of the messenger/anointed prince.

Who is the Anointed Prince?

Originally, Carrier argued (for unintelligible reasons) that Melchizedek was obviously and most certainly the same figure as the messenger/anointed one. Of course, at the time he thought that Melchizedek was a human, and so this did not pose a problem for his dying messiah thesis.

I on the other hand argued that it was not certain that Melchizedek should be identified as the messenger. Though I left it open as a possibility, I argued that it was unlikely. The sole reason I gave for this assessment I now consider to be entirely baseless. I argued that because the messenger says, “Your elohim reigns” shortly before the text says, “And your elohim is Melchizedek,” it is unlikely that Melchizedek would be the messenger on the grounds that it seems unnatural that he would refer to himself as elohim in the third person. I no longer accept my own argument. Both God and kings constantly refer to themselves in the third person, by name or by title, throughout the Hebrew Bible and all of ancient Near Eastern literature. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking when I made that argument.

Unfortunately, Carrier now takes my original position, that Melchizedek and the messenger are two separate figures. This is actually necessitated by Carrier’s overarching position, as I pointed out to him, since it is virtually unthinkable that an archangelic warrior who defeats Belial and judges the enemies of God would also be killed and die an atoning death. For that reason, I think Carrier must now be committed to the position he originally vehemently rejected, in order to salvage his more important claim (which, as we have seen, fails on all counts regardless).

And it is honestly not to be contrarian that I now find it extremely probable that we should in fact identify Melchizedek as the “messenger/anointed prince” of lines 15-18. There are some intertextual justifications for this. Each of the two anointed ones in Daniel 9 are High Priests. The one in Dan 9:25 (quoted here in 11QMelch) was called an “anointed prince.” The mysterious figure of Melchizedek in Genesis 14 was both a priest and a king. Psalm 110, which is quoted in the scroll, refers to the judge who sits at God’s right hand as “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

John Collins thinks that the anointed one of the spirit in 11QMelch is simply a prophet—the final prophet. Hence he stands on the shoulders (“mountains”) of all the prophets before him. According to Collins, his task is simply to proclaim peace and comfort those who mourn. But since line 18 most probably quotes the phrase, “anointed prince,” as Collins himself concludes, a merely prophetic understanding of the figure is unlikely given that “prince” (nagiyd) is not a word ordinarily used to designate a prophet. “Prince” is however a word used to describe angels in apocalyptic literature. Scholars have all noted that throughout the Qumran literature, the three figures of Melchizedek, Michael, and the Prince of Light, all refer to the same angelic redeemer figure:

And the Prince of Light thou hast appointed from ancient times to come to our support; [all the sons of righteousness are in his hand], and all the spirits of truth are under his dominion. But Belial, the Angel of Malevolence, thou hast created for the Pit. (1QM 13:10f).

This is the day appointed by Him for the defeat and overthrow of the Prince of the kingdom of wickedness, and He will send eternal succor to the company of His redeemed by the might of the princely Angel of the kingdom of Michael. With everlasting light He will enlighten with joy [the children] of Israel; peace and blessing shall be with the company of God. He will raise up the kingdom of Michael in the midst of the gods, and the realm of Israel in the midst of all flesh. (1QM 17:5-8)

Additionally, “prince” matches Melchizedek’s role in the scroll as Yahweh’s appointed judge, and corresponds (again) to Melchizedek’s dual role of priest-king in Genesis 14.

That an angel is called “anointed” is not without precedent either. In Ezekiel 28:14, the prophet speaks of an “anointed cherub” who was a guardian of paradise. Moreover, in the Similitudes of Enoch, composed in roughly the same period as 11QMelch, there is an angelic figure whose countenance is said to have “had the appearance of a son of man” but whose face was angelic. This parallels the description of the angels in Daniel, where angels are described as appearing to look like men, or the great “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7, who is identified as the archangel Michael in Daniel 12. This angelic “son of man” figure in the Similitudes of Enoch is identified as “the Anointed” as well as “the Elect One” throughout the book, and is described as sitting on God’s throne, judging both men and the angels of darkness, and liberating the people of God.

Moreover, if the anointed prince in 11QMelch is meant to be a human figure, it does not afford this figure anything like the traditional messianic role. He may be considered a High Priest, on the model of Joshua, for which there is precedent in Qumran eschatology already. More likely, then, that as in the book of Daniel, there is no human eschatological Messiah here. In both Daniel and 11QMelch, the only redeemer is the archangel.

At any rate, it is difficult to say with certainty precisely what is meant. If the messenger is a human, he is an important one, but nothing would be said about his task other than that he is to proclaim the reign of Melchizedek, to comfort those who mourn, and to teach them about all the ages of time. These descriptions, however, overlap with the clear role of Melchizedek in the text, so we are either looking at two heavenly-earthly counterparts (who arrive simultaneously), or a singular angelic figure.


Despite all the uncertainties with this text, given its ambiguities and its fragmentation, what we can conclude is that there is no dying messiah who atones for sins with his death found anywhere here. In Daniel, the anointed one who is cut off clearly does not atone for sins, and there is a prior anointed prince who makes atonement for Israel after the end of exile, who comes after “seven weeks,” which matches the length of 11QMelch’s tenth jubilee period. In Second Isaiah, the messenger is not the Suffering Servant; he is the one who proclaims to the Suffering Servant that his suffering has ended. In 11QMelch, the captives are set free and their sin-debts are remitted. In both Second Isaiah and Daniel 9, the background prior to the coming of the messenger in Isa 52:7 and the anointed prince of Dan 9:25 is the Babylonian exile, and the occasion is the release of the captives, which is certainly the dominant theme from the beginning to end of 11QMelch, which, as we have it, begins and ends with quotations from the jubilee text in Leviticus 25.

I do apologize that it took me so long to write this response. I watched three seasons of Sons of Anarchy while I was writing it. Now back to season 4.

[UPDATE: Season 4’s finale was powerful, powerful. And I wept when she said, “He’s mine,” for the second time.]

  1. John J. Collins, Daniel (Hermeneia; Fortress, 1993), 348. [BACK]
  2. Ibid., 355. [BACK]
  3. Ibid., 356. [BACK]
  4. William Adler, “The Apocalyptic Survey of History Adapted by Christians: Daniel’s Prophecy of 70 Weeks,” in The Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity (ed. James C. VanderKam and William Adler; Fortress, 1996), 224-27. [BACK]
  5. John Gwynn, “Theodotion,” in A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects, and Doctrines During the First Eight Centuries, (ed. William Smith and Henry Wace; vol. 4; John Murray: London, 1887), 975. [BACK]
  6. Hector Avalos, “Daniel 9:24-25 and Mesopotamian Temple Rededications” JBL 117/3 (September 1998): 509. [BACK]
  7. Ibid., 510. [BACK]
  8. Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, (rev. ed.; Penguin, 2004), 532. [BACK]
  9. And I’ll take a moment to note here that originally I did not fully understand that Carrier was conflating the messenger and the Suffering Servant, and so when I argued that 11QMelch was quoting Isaiah 52 “out of context,” that was an unnecessary argument for me to make. That’s not to say that it is quoting it in context, much less is it to say that pesher didn’t quote out of context (as Carrier still wrongly insists); it’s just to say that I didn’t need to make that argument. [BACK]
  10. cf. is an abbreviation for the Latin word confer, literally meaning “bring together,” and is used to refer to other material or ideas which may provide similar or different information or arguments. It is translated, and can be read aloud, as “compare.” It is the imperative singular form of the Latin verb conferre. [BACK]
  11. John J. Collins, Isaiah (Collegeville: Litgurgical, 1986), 114. [BACK]
  12. Vermes wrongly reconstructs this as, “And it shall be proclaimed at the end of days concerning the captives.” Usually in the pesharim, the phrases pesher hadabar (“the interpretation of the word”) and l’achriyt hayoym (“for the end of days”) or ‘al ‘achriyt hayoym (“concerning the end of days”) are connected, as in, for example, 4QpIsab (4Q162) 1 ii 1; 4QpIsac (4Q163) 23 10. In line 4 of 11QMelch, we have the ‘al (“concerning”) and the ‘achriyt hayoym (“the end of days”) extant, with pesher in the lacuna. [BACK]
  13. Terence L. Donaldson, Judaism and the Gentiles: Jewish Patterns of Universalism (to 135 CE) (Baylor, 2008), 260-261. [BACK]
  14. Vermes, Dead Sea Scrolls, 511. [BACK]
  15. Likewise for Paul, the messenger in Isaiah 52:7 is interpreted as an evangelist such as himself (Rom 10:15). [BACK]
  16. F. García Martínez, E. J. C. Tigchelaar, and A. S. van der Woude, “Qumran Cave 11.II: (11Q2–18, 11Q20–31)” (DJD XXIII; Oxford: Clarendon, 1998) xiii. [BACK]
  17. Frank Moore Cross, Leaves from an Epigrapher’s Notebook: Collected Papers in Hebrew and West Semitic Paleography and Epigraphy (Eisenbrauns, 2003), 8. [BACK]
  18. This reconstruction is supported by DJD, Collins, Fitzmyer, Kobelski, Puech, and others. [BACK]

11 thoughts on “It Is Finished for Richard Carrier’s Dying Messiah: Part 2

  1. You wrote: “Point is, there is no possible schema proposed by any scholar that ends up with accurate dating”
    I beg to differ. Yes there is a very possible (and utterly simple) schema showing the seventy “sevens” started with Cyrus’ decree (in his first year as king over Babylon) and finished right after the massacres of 167 (as conceived by the original author; how that was interpreted later might be different).
    I dare you to read that webpage:
    In passing, I also found the “anointed prince” in Da9:25-26 is the same person, that is Jason, the last legitimate high priest of the quasi-dynastic Zadokite line. And he was “cut off” (not killed), in the sense of banished, excluded, exiled, separated.

    I am sorry to disagree with you on that point, because I consider your work against Carrier’s theories to be commendable. It is obvious that Carrier is trying to build a case on very fragile bits of most debatable evidence, as you demonstrated. 

  2. Over on his blog, in the thread, Carrier writes:

    Stark also confusingly wants this to be a guy who died centuries before the pesher was written, even though the pesher is talking about a future eschatological Day of Atonement, and not some event in the distant past. Why would the pesher’s author care about some long dead guy, who wrote nothing, and about whom almost nothing is recorded? What has that to do with the coming “Day of Atonement” that heralds the end of the world?
    Stark’s approach just makes no sense of the text at all, and makes no sense of the author’s motives or aims.

    I see why my approach makes no sense at all to Carrier. Because my approach is a figment of his imagination. I have never argued this. While Carrier is busy falsely accusing me of making straw-man arguments, he just can’t stop straw-manning me.

  3. Thom, There is a great need for someone with your knowledge of OT scholarship (and your ability to clearly communicate ideas) to write a thorough article that explains how mainstream biblical scholars understand the so-called “Jesus-prophecies” of Daniel and Isaiah. You need not debunk any particular inerrantist interpretation of Daniel (such interpretations and a legion of their variants can be found throughout the internet). But there is a need for someone with the abilities you possess to produce a handy article that explains the meaning of the so-called “Jesus” prophecies in Daniel and Isaiah. In fact you could compose most of it based on excerpts of your replies to Richard. 

    I contacted J.J. Collins myself, years ago, and he wrote back saying he was too busy to compose such a piece, but that he had a grad student who was interested in doing so, though nothing further came from my inquiry.  Someone who knows the scholarship should step up and write such a piece. And I don’t know of anyone who could write as well-referenced and clearly conceived a piece as yourself. 

  4. What really makes Dan 9:24-27 different is that there’s nothing in this oracle that unequivocally connects it with either Antiochus IV or the Maccabean period more generally in contrast with those found in Dan 7-8, 10-12. Antiochus IV did not destroy either Jerusalem or the temple although he certainly profaned both;

    This is not a valid argument. What it shows is that at the time of composition, the author expected the former to occur, after the latter had already occurred. It’s a false prediction made by virtue of the time of composition, which was during the period in which Antiochus was repressing Judea, as we know from Daniel 11.

    similarly, he didn’t bring sacrifice and offering to an end although he temporarily forbade both.

    Again, at the time of composition, he had brought them to an end. This is another invalid argument.

    It’s possible that Joshua is the anointed figure in v 25 and Onias III is the anointed figure in v 26 but since the math doesn’t work out we can’t be sure about this.

    Here you ignore everything I’ve said and scholars have said about the math being schematic and symbolic, not literal. It is not a miscalculation. He is following an artificial structure of seventy weeks and interpreting it allegorically.

    Finally, the decree of Cyrus would seem like a nice fit for the “word” that went out in v 25 except for the fact that neither does the decree concern the rebuilding of the city in biblical history (indeed, Ezra-Nehemiah record that Jerusalem was not immediately rebuilt following the decree of Cyrus) nor does the math work out with its date of 538 BCE, which is not say that the decree of Cyrus cannot be the “word” of v 25 only that such an idea is not without its problems.

    Cyrus did issue forth instructions to rebuild the temple. And no one has said the reconstruction was accomplished immediately after the decree. Neither does the text of Daniel say this. It clearly says there is a period of time between the word and the anointing of the temple and reinstitution of the high priesthood.

    Of course, it goes without saying that non-Maccabean readings of this oracle aren’t without problems of their own.

    I agree that non-Maccabean readings are thoroughly problematic. I do not agree that there are problems with the consensus reading.

    Methinks the nut has yet to be cracked in this case.

    So I would disagree.

  5. Dave Truelove wrote: “Antiochus IV did not destroy either Jerusalem or the temple although he certainly profaned both;”

    Antiochus partially destroyed Jerusalem and killed many of his inhabitants, according to:
    Josephus’ Ant., XII, V, 4: “He
    [Antiochus IV] left the
    temple bare … pillaged the whole city, some of the inhabitants
    he slew, and some he carried captive … burnt the finest buildings
    … had overthrown the city walls [the city walls defined a
    city: no walls, no city] …”1Macc.1:30-31,39 “… he [Antiochus IV] fell suddenly upon
    the city, and smote it very sore, and destroyed much people of Israel.
    And when he had taken the spoils of the city, he set it on fire, and
    pulled down the houses and walls thereof on every side. … Her sanctuary
    became desolate like a desert”2Macc.5:12-14 “He [Antiochus IV] commanded his soldiers
    to cut down relentlessly everyone they met and to kill those who went
    into their houses. … as many were sold into slavery as were killed.”

    For the rest of your objections, Thom answered to you about them in part, and I agree with him.

    I wish that you and Edward read my piece on Daniel where I explained everything in detail. BTW, I agree for the most part with Collins but I go in greater depth and details than him. For example I demonstrated that most of Daniel 1-6 was written right after the death of Alexander the Great and, above all, I thoroughly explained the seventy sevens.
    I am quite sure you’ll get more than a smile by reading my webpage.
    Ed, can you, in my behalf, ask J.J. Collins to read my page on Daniel?

    Thanks Thom to put back my posting. I was afraid I cancelled it by mistake.

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