Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Jesus and the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (Part 5: Sanders)

While Harvey thinks Jesus’ message ran contrary to established thought, E. P. Sanders’ Jesus and Judaism (1985)[1] follows Meyer in relating the theme of restoration to Jesus’ message. Sanders is mostly focused on the meaning of the Kingdom in Jesus’ preaching, emphasizing its “wide range of meaning.”[2] However, throughout his discussion he does mention a few of the ways it was used within Judaism. It was used in the sense of covenant, particularly covenant fidelity and the blessing attached to faithfulness.[3] It was also spoken of something expected to come.[4] In addition, evidence from Qumran demonstrates that the arrival of this Kingdom would involve an “eschatological miracle”—God’s radical act of breaking into history to establish an ideal society where his justice would be realized.[5] Essential to the first-century understanding of this miracle was the re-gathering of the twelve tribes in the land in an earthly kingdom and the inclusion of the Gentiles.[6]

As mentioned above, Sanders admits that Jesus’ teaching of the Kingdom involved many different things. However, he stresses that Jesus’ formulation should be best seen as generally falling within first-century beliefs regarding the Kingdom: God’s rule was about to be made manifest in restoring Israel on earth. The major difference in Jesus’ teaching was that, whereas Jewish expectations involved a war prior to the establishment of God’s Kingdom, military means played no role in Jesus’ vision.[7]

Sanders, I believe, would strongly disagree with Meyer’s assertion that Jesus sought to bring about God’s Kingdom through a ministry of repentance. Rather, Sanders argues that “Jesus’ message . . . was not primarily oriented around a call to repentance. . .”[8] Jesus’ Kingdom was thus “earthly” inasmuch as it contained the hope of a literal national restoration, yet “otherworldly” in the sense that God would bring it about.[9]

Though Sanders agrees with Meyer that restoration was a key element of Jewish eschatological expectations he strongly emphasizes the diversity of messianic hopes.[10] He asserts that many did not want a restored monarchy.[11] Moreover, he finds no parallels between David and the Gospel portrayals’ of Jesus, saying “they do not present Jesus as being in the least like David.”[12]
[1] E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985).
[2] Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 152.
[3] Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 142.
[4] Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 142, 152.
[5] Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 234; E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (London: Penguin Books, 1993), 184.
[6] Sanders, Historical Jesus, 184, 191.
[7] Sanders, Historical Jesus, 185.
[8] Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 204.
[9] Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 229-30. See Saucy, The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus, 201: “Sanders believes the nature of the Kingdom emerges as being primarily earthly, as in a new social order centered on the nation of Israel, and otherworldly, in the sense that the transformation of the world would be a miraculous event not necessitating the use of weapons.”
[10] Sanders, Historical Jesus, 89.
[11] Sanders, Historical Jesus, 90.
[12] Sanders, Historical Jesus, 89.

No comments: