Tepid to love and impotent to do

O Lord, when Thou didst call me, didst Thou know
     My heart disheartened thro’ and thro’,
     Still hankering after Egypt full in view
Where cucumbers and melons grow?
                                        —’Yea, I knew.’—

But, Lord, when Thou didst choose me, didst Thou know
     How marred I was and withered too,
     Not rose for sweetness nor for virtue rue,
Timid and rash, hasty and slow?
                                        —’Yea, I knew.’—

My Lord, when Thou didst love me, didst Thou know
     How weak my efforts were, how few,
     Tepid to love and impotent to do,
Envious to reap while slack to sow?
                                        —’Yea, I knew.’—

Good Lord, Who knowest what I cannot know,
     And dare not know, my false, my true,
     My new, my old; Good Lord, arise and do
If loving Thou hast known me so.
                                        —’Yea, I knew.’—

Christina Georgina Rossetti
Before 1893

Temple, Church, Dome

Just last week, Eastern Orthodox Christians commemorated the entrance of Mary the Theotokos into the Jerusalem Temple. If you’re not familiar with this story, as many western Christians aren’t, then you may read the tale in the Protevangelium of James, which, while it is certainly an apocryphal text and no part of the canon of Scripture, nonetheless is recognized to contain many of the same traditions held by Orthodox Christians concerning the Theotokos. One of these is that Joachim and Anna, Mary’s parents, dedicated her to the Jerusalem Temple as a young girl, where she lived in the Holy of Holies and was fed by an angel. Later, she left the Temple and was entrusted to Joseph. The rest of the story will be familiar.

What is important about this set of stories is its impact particularly among Eastern Christians, particularly early ones (note that the Protevangelium of James dates to roughly the middle of the second century, showing these stories took root very early), and most especially those wealthier among them who were responsible for building churches in the Holy Land. It was believed by early Christians that Mary the Theotokos (=”God-bearer”) lived in the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple, however unlikely or impossible this was, and however much we may rather prefer to find this allegorically describing her life of faith, purity, and devotion. This led someone, at some point prior to the late fifth century, to construct a Church of Mary Theotokos on the site of the ancient Jewish Temple, the plan of which is, I suggest, preseved by the current Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Several lines of evidence support this:
1.) The foundation of an identical Church of Mary Theotokos precisely atop the ruined Samaritan Temple on Mt Gerizim built by Emperor Zeno in 484 AD. The choice of a Church of Mary Theotokos there would otherwise be odd, as no traditions relate her life to Gerizim or the Samaritan Temple. Yet, if Zeno were simply treating one set of ruins like another, it would make sense to have the two matching ruins covered with two matching shrines. Thus, the church in Jerusalem will likely have been built earlier than his reign (474-491 AD), though named at the very least if not indeed constructed after the Council of Chalcedon, during which Theotokos was argued for and accepted as the orthodox Christian title for Mary, indicating Jesus was God and not merely Christ. So it was probably built (or at least begun) during the very active construction in the time when the former Empress Eudocia was resident in Jerusalem, roughly 441-460 AD. This founding in the later fifth century would explain why it is not mentioned by Egeria and Jerome.
2.) Justinian’s huge and famous “Nea” church was actually named the New Church of Mary Theotokos, requiring there to be an older church so-named somewhere in the city, while none is specifically mentioned in the records. The most obvious location would be the Temple Mount, and a Church of Mary Theotokos there to commemorate her living there.
3.) All the known various elements of Mary’s life were commemorated by churches, even a stop for a break between Jerusalem and Ain Karem, the recently rediscovered Kathisma church, also octagonal in plan (as was the original eastern end of the Nativity Basilica in Bethlehem built in the fourth century over the birth cave of Christ, and the fifth-century structure built over the house of Peter in Capernaum). It would be highly unlikely that the otherwise precisely located and unused area of the ruined Jerusalem Temple, based upon the tradition of her childhood there, were not similarly commemorated.
4.) Recent and ongoing sifting of the fill from the Temple Mount has brought to light much evidence of an early Byzantine Christian presence on the platform, in contrast to the former belief that the site was abandoned and used as a dump, which tale was mere propaganda found solely in Islamic sources regarding the building of the Dome of the Rock. The presence of this memorial Church of Mary Theotokos, undoubtedly one of the pilgrim sites in Jerusalem, would account for these materials.
5.) It is also possible that the choice of Kuranic verses for the interior of the Dome of the Rock, denying Jesus being the Son of God, were chosen in reaction to the former name of this church of Mary Theotokos, which was essentially an important statement about the Son Mary bore being God, and not just a man.

In conclusion, it is, I think, beyond doubt that a Church of Mary Theotokos was constructed in the third quarter of the fifth century on the Temple Mount over the ruins of the Jerusalem Temple in order to commemorate the Eastern Christian tradition of Mary having grown up in the Temple itself. It may even have been at that point that the stairway and cave beneath the central rock (the former floor of the Holy of Holies) was cut, in order to provide a “luminous cave” as found in various other of the commemorated Holy Land sites (Annunciation in Nazareth, Nativity in Bethlehem, Eleona on Mt Olivet, Anastasis in Jerusalem, etc), though this may even have been done in Crusader times. The plan of the presently standing Dome of the Rock preserves the plan of this ancient church (and perhaps even some of the structural elements?) which would have been destroyed by the Persians, along with most other churches in the Holy Land, only a few decades before the Dome itself was constructed. This makes the Dome of the Rock that much more interesting, I think.

Genealogies and Monarchy

Probably the most foundational item of the hypothetical Priestly (“P”) source in Wellhausenesque source criticism of the Hebrew Bible, effectively the traditional scholarly standard, is that P is responsible for the genealogies in the OT, and various genealogy-like elements (lists, passages like Genesis 1 displaying a particularly repetitive structure, etc, considered so on the analogy of “things vaguely genealogy-like”). The source of this rather non-intuitive connection of genealogies in particular with priests is found in one of the stories of the return in Ezra 2, where certain of the returning priests were not able to be found listed in the (seemingly official) genealogies, and so were excluded by the governor (2.63) from eating the priestly portion of the sacrifices. The intervention of the governor, rather than the high priest, may also be taken to indicate that the genealogical information was under the governor’s control, not the priests’. Yet there is further indication that the genealogies are not particularly “priestly.” Firstly, in this particular instance in Ezra 2, we find the priests interested in their own genealogies, not particularly everyone else’s, with a particular focus on who is eligible to receive portions of the sacrifices. The importance of this ritual aspect of the interest in the families of the returned priests doesn’t, however, apply to all the various genealogies found in the Pentateuch and Former Prophets, where such ritual matters are completely unmentioned in connection with the genealogies. It’s a bit of special pleading to stretch the Ezra 2 evidence so far. Secondly, there is a trend to be found in the genealogies as they are found in the Pentateuch and Former Prophets, and this tendency or direction is an important one. It indicates that David, and thereafter the Son of David, is not only rightful king of Israel as seen through this genealogy, but he is essentially the firstborn son of God, and the firstborn or the entire human race.

Notice the “drilling down” of the genealogies and related stories, preserving the line of Adam’s firstborn in Genesis 5 and 11, leading to Abraham, then of course the unusual birth of Isaac in Genesis 21, then the birth of Jacob and Esau, and Esau selling his birthright to Jacob in Genesis 25 and Jacob tricking Isaac to receive the blessing in Genesis 27, and then the birth of all of Jacob’s sons, the eponymous heads of the tribes of Israel. Things then get tricky! Since Jacob has two wives and two concubines, and has had 12 sons and one daughter through them, which one is depicted as his firstborn? We find that this position of favored son moves around quite a bit. First, Reuben is Jacob’s true firstborn son (as explicitly stated in Genesis 35.23, 46.8, and 49.3), born to his wife Leah, followed by Simeon, Levi, and Judah, before any other children are born to any of the other ladies (Gen 29.31-35). Reuben, however, does the unthinkable and sleeps with his father’s concubine (Gen 35.22). This apparently bumps the favored son status in two different directions, however. Firstly, Simeon and Levi lose out because of their violence in killing all the incapacitated men of Shechem (Gen 34; cf Gen 49.5-7), and this leaves the role of head of the sons with Judah, as seen in Genesis 49.9-10. Secondly, some part of the birthright blessing is indicated as having moved from the sons born to Jacob’s first wife Leah, to those born of his second, more loved wife Rachel (cf the blessing of Joseph’s sons in Gen 48, and the explicit statement in this regard in 1 Chronicles 5.1). So, we see a split blessing, of rulership in Judah as the firstborn, and the “birthright” (of “firstborn’s blessing” likely referring to the “double portion” to be inherited by the firstborn, as in Deuteronomy 21.17) in Ephraim and Manasseh. It’s unclear whether the “double portion” for Ephraim and Manasseh is considered to be the two separate tribes themselves (Ephraim and Manasseh, rather than a single tribe of Joseph), or the large, Jordan-straddling territory of Manasseh in combination with the fertility of that land and that of Ephraim, or perhaps all of the above. And, of course, David was depicted as descended in a direct line from Judah through Perez (who possesses an unusual birth tale of his own in Genesis 38), and so on, down through Boaz and Ruth, to Obed, then Jesse, David’s father (see Ruth 4 and 1 Chronicles 2). While this part of the genealogy is fully preserved only in those two places, it would likely have been well-publicized in the days of David.

I suggest that part of that publicizing is precisely the Pentateuch and Former Prophets (Joshua through Samuel, with 1 Kings up through, likely, only chapter 10 initially) with the inclusion of Ruth. The original framework of the structure of Genesis, the genealogies upon which the stories are hung like charms on a bracelet, in connection particularly with the book of Ruth, lead in the direction of legitimizing David’s rule as not only as ruler of Israel through his birthright, but as ruler of the entire world as in the line of the firstborn son of Adam, and also thereby, the line of the firstborn son of God (see especially the high view of the newborn Son of David in Isaiah 7, and Psalms 2 and 110). This group of books, I suggest, was first put together in the days of Solomon to provide this legitimation, and to enhance the standing of the Son of David in his particular role religiously as Son of God, as well. In contrast to the Wellhausenian approach of removing the genealogies as a particular source, this suggestion views them as an important clue as to the original intent of the work in which they appear. The various gymnastics that are described in the transfer of the birthright blessings are typically not understood as leading in any particular direction, their being usually understood separate sources. However, they do tell an important story in the books as they stand, one of legitimation just as necessary to every new dynast as in any other ancient nation, where we find iterations of lists of prior kings to which the newcomer is always somehow related (see the Assyrian King Lists, especially relevant, which preserve the fiction [?] of only a single dynasty of rulers throughout Assyrian history). For this reason, the genealogies must be seen not as intrusive sections of a fictive Priestly source, but rather as a part of the original author’s work of providing a history that legitimizes David and his dynasty in the eyes of other Israelites as not only the heir to the Patriarchs, but indeed also as Son of God.