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Posted October 3, 2014

Book: Jesus the Bridegroom: Seeing Christ and the Cross through Ancient Jewish Eyes
Author: Brant Pitre
Image. New York. 2014. Pp. 198

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

From Paul's point of view, the torture and crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary was nothing less than an expression of spousal love.

What are we to make of this mysterious analogy? To be sure, most Christians are familiar with the idea that "Christ is the Bridegroom" and the "Church is the Bride." But what does this really mean? And what would ever possess Paul to think up such a comparison? If you would have been there at the foot of the bloody cross, with Jesus hanging there dying, is that how you would have described what was happening? How could a first-century Jew like Paul, who knew what Roman crucifixions were like, have ever compared the execution of Jesus to the marriage between a bridegroom and his bride? Is this just some kind of a poignant metaphor? If so, why then does Paul refer to it as a "great mystery: (Greek mysterion mega)?

As I hope to show in this book, it is precisely because Paul was Jewish that he saw the person of Christ and the passion of the cross in this way. It is precisely because Paul knew Jewish Scripture and tradition that he was able to see the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth as more than just a Roman execution, an unjust martyrdom, or even the sacrifice of the Son of God. Because of his Jewish background, Paul saw the passion and death of Christ as the fulfillment of the God of Israel's eternal plan to wed himself to humankind in an everlasting marital covenant.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Wedding is at Hand

First, Jesus clearly identifies himself as "the bridegroom". He does so to suggest that the present time, while he and his disciples are together, is like an ancient Jewish wedding feast: it's a time for celebration, not for fasting.

In order to feel the force of this analogy, we need to understand just how joyful an ancient Jewish wedding celebration was. While it is true that weddings are happy occasions in all cultures, a good case can be made that ancient Jewish weddings were particularly festive. Many modern-day wedding celebrations - as elaborate as they may be -ordinarily happen over the course of just a single day or even just a single evening. By contrast, ancient Jewish wedding celebration such as those described in the Bible ordinarily consisted of seven days of feasting with family and friends.

. . .In short, by means of his analogy, Jesus is identifying his public ministry with the Jewish wedding week, in which the bridegroom and his wedding party would celebrate together. As New Testament scholar Adela Yarbro Collins puts it: "The point of the comparison is that, just as one does not fast during a wedding so Jesus and his disciples do not fast."

Table of Contents:

1. The Bridegroom God of Israel
The wedding at Mount Sinai
Sin as spiritual adultery
The new covenant and the forgiven bride
The song of songs in Jewish tradition

2. Jesus the Bridegroom and the Wine of Salvation
The riddle of John the Baptist
The weeding at Cana
The Last Supper

3. The Woman at the Well and the Living Water
The Samaritan woman
The gift of the living water
The water from the side of Jesus

4. The Crucifixion and the Great Mystery
The sons of the bridechamber
Crucifixion in ancient Judaism
The passion of the bridegroom

5. The Marriage at the End of Time
The return of the bridegroom
The Book of Revelation
No marriage in the Resurrection?

6. The Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith
The mystery of baptism
The mystery of the Eucharist
The mystery of marriage
The mystery of virginity

7. Beside the Well with Jesus

Appendix: Jewish sources outside the bible