Wednesday, April 09, 2008
St. Justin Martyr and the Return of the Exiles
Lately, I've been reading the book of Joshua and Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho for my Christology class. Although the latter is not a text most people think of when they think "christology," I would argue that it is, the first major work of Christology in the history of the Church.
Anyway, given our interest in Jewish restoration eschatology here at the blog, I found the following quote fascinating. In the midst of debating with Trypho, Justin's Jewish interlocutor, he says:
"Why do you Trypho never inquire why the name Hosea, the son of Nun, which his father gave him, was changed to Jesus [=Joshua in Hebrew]? Especially since not only was his name changed, but also, after becoming Moses successor, he alone, of all his contemporaries who fled Egypt, led the rest of the people into the Holy Land. And just as he, not Moses, conducted the people into the Holy Land and distributed it by lot among those who entered, so also will Jesus the Christ gather together the dispersed people and distribute the good land to each, though not in the same manner." (Dialogue with Trypho, 113.3)
Here we see Justin very clearly articulate his understanding of Jesus' messiahship in terms of typological restoration eschatology, with the new Exodus and the ingathering of the exiles at the center. However, he clearly does not understand this in terms of an earthly ingathering to the land of Israel and Jerusalem in the old creation. He continues:
"For, Joshua gave them an inheritance for a time only, since he was not Christ our God, nor the Son of God; but Jesus, after the holy resurrection, will give us an inheritance for eternity... After his coming the Father will, through him, renew heaven and earth." (Dialogue with Trypho 113.4)
Justin clearly appears to envision the eschatological ingathering as taking place in the new creation. I find this a striking text, given some of the conclusions I reached in my earlier writing. I would appreciate any thoughts you have on this!