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Zechariah’s vision of the High Priest dressed in ‘filthy garments’ may be one of the best cliché busting scenes in the entire Bible. Yet, Adventist readers may find themselves quite impervious to its power. We have known this scene from childhood. The phrase, ‘filthy garments’ lives in our brains like so many other Bible verses nearly worn-out through vain repetition.
For those drawn to the gentle figure of Jesus, violent Elijah is a jarring contrast. Though he had help corralling the 450 prophets of Baal after Yahweh’s victory on Mt. Carmel, Scripture gives Elijah himself full credit for the slaughter.
But however squeamish we may feel about Elijah’s violent deeds, both in Christianity and in Judaism he was to be a key figure in ushering in the kingdom of God. In short, he is one of the good guys.
Christians are quick to stitch together interpretations regarding priestly garments designed and described for the most part in the Old Testament. It is a time-tested tradition woven together with the help of New Testament priestly imagery especially from the book of Hebrews. But the New Testament has little interest in the attire the new high priest (Jesus) wears; the Old Testament cares a lot about priestly garments and the details surrounding them.
I anticipated the students’ annoyance. In the classroom, I was prepared to perform the dual roles of devil’s advocate and referee. Though unsurprised by the response to the play’s ending, I still was secretly pleased that some members of the class had changed their minds. Their initial assessment about the central character had been challenged; however there was significant evidence that he had redeemed himself.