Thursday, June 6, 2013

Followers of "The Way": Ancient Jewish Sources Which Connect "The Way" with Isaiah 40:3 and The Study of the Torah of Moses

I was reading Trebilco's "Self Designations and Group Identity in the New Testament" today and was intrigued by the origin's of the self-designation "The Way" that the Messianics in the Apostolic Writings used to refer to their sect.  It turns out that this term is connected with Isaiah 40:3.  Even more interesting, the Qumran writings exposit Isaiah 40:3 as referring to studying the Torah of Moses:

  "In Acts 18:25, Luke writes of 'the Way of the Lord' which suggests that Isa 40:3 (LXX), where this longer expression is found, has been important in the development of the self-designation:  'A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:  'Prepare the way of the Lord...make straight the paths of our God.'  We know that this verse was important for early Christians, since it is quoted in Matt 3:3; Mark 1:2; Luke 3:4...and, given its use at seems very likely that this verse has been significant in the development of 'the Way' as a self-designation in the NT," pg. 250.

 "The references to 'the way' in Isaiah were influential at Qumran.  Isa 40:3 is quoted and interpreted in IQS 8:11-15:

'And every matter hidden from Israel but which has been found out by the Interpreter, he should not keep hidden from them for fear of a spirit of desertion.  Blank [  ]  And when these have become a community in Israel in compliance with these arrangements they are to be segregated from within the dwelling of the men of sin to walk to the desert in order to open there His path...As it is written (Isa 40:3): 'In the desert, prepare the way of...This is the study of the law which he commanded through the hand of Moses, in order to act in compliance with all that has been revealed from age to age.'

Isa 40:3 is quoted here, and the use of [Derek] is clearly inspired by this passage.  'Preparing the way of the Lord' is understood as involving 'the study of the Law', which referred to the study of the community's particular interpretation of the Law.  Thus, 'the way' referred above all to the strict observance of the Law of Moses, as it was understood by the community'", pg. 251.

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