2 Chronicles 24:20-21, Which Zechariah was murdered in the Temple? Part IV of IV

And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD.

//We’re still discussing which Zechariah Jesus was referring to when he mentioned a man killed between the altar and the temple. Four Zechariahs each seem to fit a little. Here are the four we’re considering, stepping backward in time:

Post 1: A man killed in the Zealot uprising of 66-70 AD.

Post 2: The father of John the Baptist.

Post 3: The prophet Zechariah, of the Bible book of Zechariah

Post 4 (today): A priest from the 8th century BC.

Let me give you the words of Jesus from Matthew one more time:

That on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. –Matthew 23:35

Today’s verse, about Zechariah #4, seems to describe just such an incident. An Aramaic commentary on the Book of Lamentations (called the Targum Lamentations) also mentions a murder in the temple, of a high priest named Zechariah son of Iddo. This murder occurred on the Day of Atonement … the one day of the year that a man would be precisely where Jesus indicates: between the altar and the holy of holies. (We’re assuming Jesus means the alter of incense, not the big altar of sacrifice).

Recall that Zechariah #3 had a grandfather named Iddo (see yesterday’s post), so it’s possible the Targum is confused between the two. Lamentations was written before Zechariah  #3 came on the scene, so it would be a bit odd that a commentary about Lamentations would mention Zechariah #3.

The event described in today’s verse happened in the first temple period. That’s long before Jesus, making it strange that he would refer to this incident, and where Zechariah #4 died in “the court of the house of the Lord” doesn’t quite match “between the temple and the altar,” and Zechariah #4 isn’t killed by priests as Jesus insinuates (for one thing, only a priest was allowed “between the temple and the altar”) but by officials of Judah who wanted to worship pagan deities. But there is one good reason for imagining that #4 is the right Zechariah. It’s that in the Hebrew Bible, Chronicles was the last book of the Old Testament. Thus, when Jesus says “from Abel to Zechariah,” he is saying “from the first book of the Bible to the last.”

The biggest problem with this conjecture, of course, is that Zechariah in #4 is the son of Jehoiada, whereas Matthew writes that he is the son of Berechiah. Oops! Well, it may have been a simple error on Jesus’ or Matthew’s part. Or on the part of a later copyist: some evidence exists that the verse may have originally not specified any “son of”, but merely said “Zechariah.” (The Codex Sinaiticus from the 4th century, considered the oldest complete Bible in existence, does not contain the phrase “son of Berechiah.”)

In the end, the majority of Bible scholars tend to lean toward Zechariah #4. My own opinion? It’s that all four are equally correct. Bible writers and copyists, as discussed in my books about John’s Gospel and Revelation, sometimes tended to see truth as cyclical, happening over and over. Thus, they saw each individual Zechariah’s story as a contribution to the whole.

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