Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Bible Instinct: The Seventy or the Seventy-Two?

A few days ago, my housemate said he was reading the commentary in his study bible on Luke 10:1. Apparently some of the original Greek manuscripts say that Jesus sent out 70 disciples to preach and heal in Israel and others say 72.

The study bible in question laid out some theories as to why this discrepancy came to be, but in classic "pleasing everyone and no-one" fashion gave no definitive answer. So, my housemate asked me if I knew anything on more it. 

I paused. 

No, I didn't know anything about that particular instance and why it might be thus. And then it struck me... Now I'm no formally qualified theologian, I haven't written any books and I don't have a cool theological name for this bog standard blog, but I do have a hunch as to why this might be so and (Heaven forbid) it wasn't mentioned in the commentary!

In Numbers 11:16, the LORD tells Moses to gather 70 elders of Israel before him at the Tent of Meeting, he then puts some of the Spirit who is on Moses on them so that they can prophesy like he can. Two men however, for whatever reason, are not present at this impartation. Nevertheless, the LORD is gracious to them and they still receive unction and begin to prophesy. This gift of prophecy enables them to bless the people in unfolding to them God's great plan of salvation and preparing their hearts for worship.

So, whilst 70 were formally gathered at the Tent of Meeting, 72 were empowered. My hunch is that Luke is reminding us of this OT event and the fact that Jesus is fulfilling all the Old Testament promises about himself. This is why (I reckon) some manuscripts say 70 and others 72.

Jesus, the greater Moses (Deut.18:15), who has been teaching and healing the people, now gathers his followers, commissions them with his Spirit and sends them to do as he has done - to preach (prophesy) good news to the house of Israel and in giving them power to heal, he gave them authority to restore Israel to it's position as a nation of priests (Lev.21:17-18) thus forshadowing the greater restoration that began at Pentecost.


Lozi said...

That is well cool!

Richard Walker said...

Isn't it!

"FireSpeaks" said...

Thanks I am a theologian and had no answer

Richard Walker said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Firespeaks! :-)