Inclusio and the Priest who couldn’t bless, Scripture Kung Fu Fridays!

Inclusio is a brilliant (and extremely old) literary device based on a concentric structure, and best described as “bracketing” or an “envelope structure.”  A similar picture or story would be told at the beginning and ending of a particular book or chapter to really drive the point home.

There are several instances of Inclusio in the Hebrew Bible (Christian OT), most notably in Jeremiah, Ruth, and possibly Genesis 2.    Rabbinic literature also contains several examples of inclusio.  There are several instances in the Talmud, Mishnah, and even later rabbinic documents (Tosefta Makkot Ch. 3, Leviticus Rabba 29, BT Bava Kamma Ch. 1).

The example I’d like to look at today occurs in my favorite gospel, Luke (may the force be with you).  In Luke 1, we find a human high priest, Zechariah who raises his hands to bless and is unable to bless because he has just lost his voice as a result of his lack of faith.  Interesting….I wonder how the story will end?

At the end of the story, in Luke 24, we find a Jewish sage named Yeshua (Jesus) on the Mount of Olives.  He isn’t a priest and by Jewish law in the first century should not legally be allowed to bless.  In any case, at the end of Luke 24, Jesus raises his hands, claims the priesthood and speaks words of blessing, claiming to be not only prophet and king, but eternal high priest as well.

The human high priest didn’t have what it took, so God sent his own high priest to do the job.

It doesn’t say what blessing was said at the end of Luke 24, but we do know from the ancient sources that only one blessing was said with hands raised during the first century.  That blessing was the blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

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