We have seen how the concept of the Imamate has developed in the Bible. The basic ideas appear from the beginning. These are the witness of the one, universal God; the practical, authoritative application of verbal legislation; the experience in some cases of occultation; and the tendency to find series of twelve.
The patriarchal period presents Noah as an Imam in the deliverer role. The problem was violence and the solution was legislation to deter the murderer by the death sentence. The Imamic role in salvation came into its own with Moses and the judges who followed. Violent warfare became more and more a part of an Imam's task as a deliverer. This extraordinary role continued with the kings. The kings, however, introduced a different emphasis. Without neglecting deliverance through warfare, they made verdicts on day-to-day issues. The continuing, routine influence of the Imamate took its place alongside its extraordinary role. The Imamate took on an ever-increasing content and importance.
As we move away from the patriarchal period, there are fewer and fewer figures who combine the roles of prophet and Imam as did Abraham and Moses. Nevertheless, the prophetic role of the first kingly Imam, David, is important. The only king after David who was a prophet as well as an Imam was his son Solomon. Jesus also combined the two roles. But most of the kingly Imams found themselves working side by side with prophets. This of course lent a unique character to the Imamate of this period.
Judaism and Christianity have done the world a disservice in separating the faith of Jesus from the history of the prophets and kings. The Gospel presents Jesus as the son of David, thus tying this Imamic line into one. The message of Jesus differed from rabbinical Judaism precisely on the question of the Imamate. The Imamate was conservative and represented the older faith. Rabbinicism was something new, the product of lost Jewish national independence. Jesus and John represented the old faith of prophets and kings. To separate them from that history is to concede the claims of rabbinicism.
The occultation events during this long period are our first concern. There are two of them. The first is the occultation of Elijah, described in 2 Kings 2. Elijah appeared in consultation with Jesus in the transfiguration, described in Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; and Luke 9:28-36. Elijah, like Enoch before him, was a prophet rather than an Imam. Occultation of an Imam had to wait for Jesus, who was the second case of occultation in this period.
We have seen that the symbolic number twelve begins with the number of the sons of Ishmael. The number of the tribes of Israel and the number of judges are manipulated to follow the symbolic pattern. The number twelve is embedded in the twenty-one generations listed in Genesis. In the same way the sacred number twelve is embedded in the list of kings of Judah, the line of David. If we take the whole list from the books of Kings and Chronicles we find the following twenty-one kings. The kings are each evaluated in the Scriptures as either good or wicked kings. I have marked the good kings with a plus sign (+). David+, Solomon+, Rehoboam+, Abijah+, Asa+, Jehoshaphat+, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Jehoash+, Amaziah+, Uzziah+, Jotham+, Ahaz, Hezekiah+, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah+, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiakhin, Zedekiah. There are twelve good or Imamic kings.
A host of prophets confront the twenty-one kings. Some of them left writings which have not survived. More than twelve of them left writings in the Hebrew Scriptures. Nevertheless, the books are arranged in the Hebrew Scriptures in such a way that twelve short prophetic books are grouped together. They are .called the twelve minor prophets. These are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. The other prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel are gathered separately. So the compilers of the Scriptures recognised a need for arranging in a series of twelve.
The book of Psalms or Zabur also shows a concern for the number twelve. The Psalms are gathered from earlier collections. Each collection shows a concern for number symbolism in the number of Psalms included. The Psalms are divided into five books, like the books of Moses. The first originally contained forty Psalms. The second originally contained thirty, the first two books totalling seventy. The whole collection contains one hundred and fifty Psalms, one Psalm in the first book divided into two (Psalms nine and ten) and one in the second book (Psalms 42 and 43), thus bringing the total up to one hundred and fifty.
There are eleven Psalms with twelve verses each, although several Psalms of thirteen verses might fit into the series. There are eleven Psalms for the sons of Korah, although Psalm 43 seems to have been detached from Psalm 42, thus making an undesignated twelfth. Finally there are clearly twelve Psalms of Asaph.
The text of the Psalms is mostly written in the first person, I, and is addressed to either God or people, sometimes the congregation and sometimes wicked people. This is the speech of the Psalmist. There are only a few places in the Psalms where God speaks directly. These are Psalm 15:2-5; 46:10(11); 50:5-23; 75:2-8; 81:6-16; 82:2-7; 89:19-37 and 95:9-11. Only one of these eight passages is from the Psalms of David, Psalm 15. Psalm 46 is a Psalm of Korah. Psalm 89 is of Ethan the Ezrahite. All of the rest but the last are Psalms of Asaph. Most of the speech of God is contained in the series of twelve, the Psalms of Asaph.
The Psalms of Asaph are Psalms 50 and 73-83. Since at least Psalms 79 and 80 appear to be later than the others, these Psalms are not in chronological order of composition. Their order relates to their symbolic place in the series of twelve. We have already seen how the names of the sons of Ishmael form a logical pattern of spiritual development. The series of twelve at some point began to show specific symbolic meanings for each numbered slot from one to twelve. This is full-blown in the Psalms of Asaph.
Psalm 50 represents God in judgement, giving His words to the righteous and to the wicked. It introduces God as high and mighty. Psalm 73 presents God as good. Psalm 74 presents the most difficult situation, one in which it seems that God has forsaken and the righteous fall prey to enemy attacks. Psalm 73 focuses on praise to God. Psalm 76 returns to God's judgement with expressions such as breaking and cutting off. Psalm 77 focuses on the word `remember', and emphasises constancy in trusting in God. Psalm 78 points to the law of God as finished and established. It makes a parable of the experience of Israel in their forgetting God and falling into disaster. God came to their aid when they repented. Psalm 79 is a prayer when the temple of God was invaded by the heathen. The petition is for revenge of the blood of martyrs and sighing of the prisoner. Psalm 80 is in a similar situation, but focuses on restoration of prosperity. It emphasises trust in God. Psalm 81 deals with the issue of idolatry. Psalm 82 touches on justice for the poor and oppressed. It contains the mystical expressions of entrance into union with God. Psalm 83 speaks of a time when the heathen have taken control and the word of God is hidden in silence. Yet even this silence is a witness of the one true God. The Psalm contains the prayer that God will rise up and fill the earth with justice. Thus each slot in the series of twelve has its particular symbolism, and some of them are clearly contrastive and easy to identify.
The final series of twelve that we shall examine among the kings is the series of twelve disciples of Jesus. Jesus himself combined the roles of prophet and Imam. Still, his ministry focused heavily on the Imamate. This was the issue he particularly had to face as Judaism apostatised and left the earlier Biblical faith, substituting it with rabbinical method. He should have emphasised the Imamate in any case, since he was the culmination of the Davidic line, to whom all of the messianic promises of David pointed. His twelve disciples were a symbolic series emphasising his claims to be the divinely appointed leader and guide for humankind, the saviour to whom the saviour judges pointed, and the messiah king of whom the early kings were shadows, types and figures.
We have now seen how the experience of occultation ultimately joins the Imamate in the ascension of Jesus. We have mentioned the extensive blossoming of the symbolism of twelve during this period. It remains to examine the Imamic action as revealed in this period. We shall investigate the characteristics that were added to the Imamate in the experiences of the Imamic kings.
The Imamate during the period of judges and even Moses was characterised by low loyalty. The authority of Moses was constantly questioned. This factor gave rise to the emphasis in the book of Numbers which affirms the Imamate time and again. The twelve judges inspired loyalty mainly in times of crisis. Otherwise, people tended to `do what was right in their own eyes'.
The kingly Imamate is different. David inspired a love and loyalty completely unknown to Moses. The books of Samuel and Chronicles are filled with stories of testimonials to David. His people loved him. His soldiers adored him and risked their lives, even to get him a drink of water from the well of Bethlehem. The concept of personal loyalty became so important that Jesus finally makes it the central issue. The Greek Scriptures seem even to set it above obedience. `Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.'
Before examining Imamic features among the kings, let us recapitulate those features as they have arisen from the text. Among the patriarchs the Imamate appears in a series of twelve. The witness to the existence of the one true God is its outstanding feature. Authoritative application of law to specific cases in evident. The authority to distinguish between clean and unclean and to give a verdict on taqiyya or concealment appears. The outstanding question resolved among the patriarchs is the question of the transmission of the Imamate. The factor of moral capacity takes precedence over mechanical genealogical inheritance.
The aspect of the Imam as a deliverer, rudimentary in the story of Noah, appears full-fledged with Moses and the judges. This period emphasises the factor of divine appointment and neglects genealogical preference completely. Rather than the mere unity of God, the Imamate witnesses to the justice of God in a wide variety of ways.
With the kings, a new area of emphasis appears. Without neglecting the sporadic aspect of deliverance, the kingly Imams take on a day-to-day role in governing. Their application of the law is constant. With the kings the series of twelves continues. With the kings the experience of occultation is finally joined to the Imamate in the ascension of Jesus. The kings establish an aspect of the Imamate which was weak and difficult to maintain under Moses and the judges, the aspect of personal loyalty. Personal loyalty is the unique feature to look for among the kings.
The first model of Imamic loyalty appears in the life of David, who before receiving the Imamate himself, continued to give his loyalty to the preceding king. This king, Saul, was divinely appointed and anointed, but lost his kingdom through disobedience to the command of God to kill the enemies of truth. The kingdom and Imamate were taken from him and given to David. What is fascinating is the degree of loyalty David showed Saul during the interim period, during the period between the time God told Saul he would lose the kingdom and the time he actually did. David's loyalty to Saul is the greatest testimony for Imamic loyalty.
We have already noted how Imamic loyalty characterises the reign of David. This is in contrast to the experience of Moses, who hardly ever inspired true loyalty and had to resolve many a conflict arising because of its lack. David's loyalty to the `anointed of the Lord' is especially in evidence in the following texts.
In 1 Samuel 15, Saul disobeys the command of God and Samuel the prophet tells him that he will lose the kingdom. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel anoints David. In 1 Samuel 17, David begins the deliverer aspect of his Imamate, which excites the jealousy of Saul. He tries to kill David several times. David's loyalty to Saul and faithfulness in the initiation of his Imamic duties appear in 1 Samuel 18:1416. `David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him. Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.'
When the attempts on David's life failed, Saul tried to destroy him through intrigue. He induced David to marry his daughter, although David tried hard to avoid it. This became prophetic of later attempts by usurper rulers to destroy Imams through such marriages. Finally the daughter of Saul helps David escape.
Time and time again David refuses to take Saul's life when the opportunity arises. Every time he explains this by saying that he will not touch the Lord's anointed. This attitude on the part of David is neither patience nor temerity. He is consciously affirming personal loyalty as a central issue of the Imamate. By so doing he in fact establishes his own position.
The lengths to which David went to establish the Imamic loyalty, although they seem extreme, were in fact insufficient as history shows. The fall of the kingdom all but destroyed the Imamate. The Imamate as a part of the chain of establishing the will of God was supplanted by rabbinicism. Kingship at the time of Jesus was a purely political institution. That is why Jesus' claims ran afoul of Roman politics. Both those who accepted him and those who rejected him misunderstood the Imamic implications of his mission. He told his listeners to `take up the cross' and follow. They had no inkling of what `following' meant. The same is true today. Christianity places the emphasis on the cosmic sacrifice on the cross and forgets what it means to follow.
Judaism erred in favour of the law, and thus drew the condemnation of Paul. Christianity has erred in favour of sacrifice, and has thus drawn the condemnation of Islam. Where is the Bible message of Noah, Moses, David and Jesus, the call to follow the divine representative? We must look for it outside the Jewish and Christian establishments. We must find it outside established Islam. Establishment itself is its negation.
Our investigation of basics in the Biblical text has already suggested to us that by merely keeping the law we cannot please God. Knowledge of the law and perfect adherence to it cannot preserve one from formality, hypocrisy, pride and the egotistical attitude which attempts to buy God off. Paul is the most eloquent writer in the Bible on this wretched state of affairs. He says in Romans 7:18, `I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.' Paul's answer to the dilemma is quite simply attachment to Christ. He continues in Romans 8:1, `There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.' For Paul, loyalty to Jesus who appears as the Messiah and divine guide in the flesh is the `how to perform' which humanity craves.
It is quite a different thing to perform the injunctions of the law out of fear, pride or conformity to a group than to be so attached to the divinely appointed guide that every thought and act is subjected to love and loyalty to him. There is all the difference between day and night. It is this difference that Paul so eloquently tries to get across. To perform one's prayers because of the letter of the commandment is of no avail. But to perform them out of love to the divine guide is entrance into true life.
The strange thing is that the difference may not be apparent. The outward actions may very well be the same. There is no way to judge another, no way in fact to judge oneself. That is why the constant return in love to the divine guide is essential. The confidence of Paul in this salvation, however, is finally reflected in his words, `I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creatures, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' Romans 8:38-39.
Paul recognises the basic practices of faith. Prayer: 1 Timothy 5:17; Romans 12:12; 1 Corinthians 7:5; Ephesians 6:18. Fasting: 1 Corinthians 7:5; Acts 14:23. Alms: Acts 24:17. Pilgrimage: Acts 24:17-18.
Paul is clear on the basic principles of faith.
1) There is only one God. `Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.' Romans 3:30.
2) That one true God is perfectly just. `To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.' Romans 3:26.
3) The knowledge of sin comes through the revealed Scriptures. `Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.' Romans 3:20.
4) Recognising that the verbal revelation is not enough to bring humankind in obedience to God, Paul preaches the message of a divine guide through faith in whom his hearers may find true life. `Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.' Romans 5:1-2.
5) That one true God shall judge the world. `In that day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.' Romans 2:16.
The main message of the New Testament is to establish Jesus Christ in the role of Imamic leadership in the face of and in contrast to the growing and developing role of rabbinical method in Judaism in the first century AD. That is the import of Paul's proclamation of faith in Christ and his opposition to Jewish law or the rabbinical method of establishing verdicts of right and wrong.