Maarten J.J. Menken, «Striking the Shepherd. Early Christian Versions and Interpretations of Zechariah 13,7», Vol. 92 (2011) 39-59
This paper traces the development of the textual form and the interpretation of Zech 13,7 in the earliest known Christian texts in which this OT passage is quoted or alluded to (Mark 14,27; Matt 26,31; John 16,32; Barn. 5,12; Justin, Dial. 53,5-6). It starts with some observations on the Hebrew text and on some of the ancient versions, notably the LXX, which offers a peculiar rendering. Next, the early Christian versions and interpretations are discussed, and their relations are detected. Obscure apocalyptic texts often generate multiple meanings. Zech 13,7 proves to be no exception.
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44 MAARTEN J.J. MENKEN
zation, or from contextual exegesis. The overall picture drawn in
the text is now that of a division between two groups, the shep-
herds (together with â€œthe man, his fellow citizenâ€) on the one
hand, and the sheep on the other. The shepherds, that is the ruling
class, are evil; the sheep, that is the common people, have to be
rescued from them 15. It is possible that certain events known to the
translator such as the beginning of the Maccabean revolt have led
to this tendentious translation.
2. Mark 14,27
When the Markan Jesus and his disciples walk from the room
of the last supper to the Mount of Olives, Jesus announces to them
that all of them will become deserters, and he substantiates this as-
sertion (in 14,27) with words derived from Zech 13,7 16 :
patajw ton poimena,
Â¥ Ã¹ Â¥ I will strike the shepherd,
kaÄ± ta probata diaskorpisuhsontai. and the sheep will be scattered.
Ã¹Ã¹ Â¥ Â¥
He continues: â€œBut after I have been raised up, I will go before
you towards Galileeâ€ (14,28). This continuation suggests that â€œstrik-
ing the shepherdâ€ refers to Jesusâ€™ arrest, condemnation, passion and
death, events that are imminent at this point in Markâ€™s narrative and
that will precede his resurrection 17. The â€œscattering of the sheepâ€
must then refer to events that are in time close to â€œstriking the she-
pherd â€ and also its consequence, that is, the flight of the dis-
ciples (14,50) and Peterâ€™s denial (14,66-72). Peterâ€™s remark that he
will not defect (14,29) and Jesusâ€™ reply that he will do so â€œtoday,
this very nightâ€ confirm that the defection of the disciples and thus
the â€œscattering of the sheepâ€ will take place very shortly. The allu-
sion to Zech 13,7 in John 16,32 (see below) equally confirms that
So also B. LINDARS, New Testament Apologetic. The Doctrinal Signifi-
cance of the Old Testament Quotations (London 1961) 130.
The variant readings listed in NA27 are secondary adaptations to Mat-
thewâ€™s text (26,31). The text of Zech 13,7 offered by Mark is also found in the so-
called Fragmentum Fajjumense, a papyrus fragment from the 3rd century with
what looks like a shortened version of Mark 14,26-30 par. Greek text in Synopsis
Quattuor Evangeliorum (ed. K. ALAND) (Stuttgart 151997) 444; English transla-
tion in J.K. ELLIOTT, The Apocryphal New Testament. A Collection of Apoc-
ryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation (Oxford 2005) 44-45.
Cf. MOO, Old Testament, 186.