What Does Midrash Say about “the Crossway”?


Was the idea of the cross related from midrash, or was a Roman custom implemented? The book of Obadiah gives an explicitly narrated image of the time when Esau (at that time, the confederacy of Edom) came against Jacob (or Jerusalem). Condemning Edom for violence against the children of Judah, the servant of God writes, “Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape” (Obad 14). You will find that crossway, from the Hebrew word pereq, which means “a fork in the road.” We know the messianic message was, “hanged on a tree,” so we need to explore the word cross a little more.

In Greek, cross is equivalent to crossway when compared to our English meanings. Young’s lexicon is very edifying for the studious. Ref. no. in Young’s lexicon is 4716 which says, “see also crossway”, and the base reference for 4716 is 2476 which means to “commit sacrilege” and further references 2417 meaning “temple despoiler”. Therefore cross means “across, anything that thwarts, obstructs, or perplexes, hindrance, not parallel, crosswise, cross one’s path.” This signals to me an underlying midrash. To cross means to do something that would be heretical to orthodoxy. It is amazing that the book of Obadiah concerning Edom used the same metaphor for the times around 800 BC. But modernity has literalized the cross, bypassed the vertical and lateral, sacred-secular 2520 days covering two half years over seven years, and displaced tree for their wooden cross. As a community we progress only by crossing the tracks.

Across the Pavement and Athwart

Could the gospel painters, in their lucidly drawn recollection of the life experience of Jesus of Nazareth, their spirit person, see the messianic roar as crossing the path of the untouchable Pharisees and Sadducees? Was the spirit-life athwart to the accepted traditions and orthodox doctrines of Judean ancestry, athwart to old Judaism? The word across means a hindrance that obstructed the passage of idolatrous, face-value legalism. Was this athwart to the exacting Levitical laws and ceremonies? In reality, the Levitical laws were recorded by the scribes so that their significance would stimulate intellectual comprehension. Unfortunately, restrictive Judean rhetoric took, and still does, a very dogmatic approach, thus suffocating the very substance of faithfulness, seen in the writing of the scribes.

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