Monday, July 17, 2006

Ransom Captive Israel (Part 4)

4. On-going Exile?
Wright’s work has sparked enormous debate about the presence of such restoration hopes in the first century, and the degree to which Jesus’ ministry should be read against them.[1] Maurice Casey has disputed Wright’s claim that Jews in the first century believed they were living in exile. In a review of Jesus and the Victory of God, Casey writes:

“The next serious problem is almost a leitmotiv of the whole book: the notion that Jews believed that they were in exile. At the time of Jesus, many Jews lived in Israel. Some lived permanently in Jerusalem. Jews came to Jerusalem from all over Israel and the diaspora for the major feasts… We would need stunningly strong arguments to convince us that these Jews really believed they were in exile.”[2]

Casey goes on to call “all” Wright’s arguments for an ongoing exile “quite spurious.”[3] Specifically, he disputes the claim that Jesus’ forgiveness of sins should be understood in connection with return from exile. He argues that return from exile does not necessarily follow from forgiveness of sins—there are many cases in which a people or an individual repent without such associations.[4]

An important reply to Casey has come from Craig Evans. Evans, I believe, demonstrates convincingly that Jews did not believe the return from Babylon constituted the end of exile. Evans cites Ezra 9:8-9:

“But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant, and to give us a secure hold within this holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage. For we are bondmen; yet our God has not forsaken us in our bondage, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem”[5]
Evans also cites Nehemiah 9:36: “Here we are, slaves to this day—slaves in the land that you gave to our ancestors…”

2 Maccabees likewise implies that restoration from exile had not yet happened. In speaking of the location of the ark of the covenant it is said, “The place shall remain unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy” (2 Macc 2:7). Later, the author states: “We have hope in God that he will soon have mercy on us and will gather us from everywhere under heaven into his holy place” (2 Macc 2:18).

That first century Jews believed the exile was ongoing also seems apparent from messianic movements recorded by Josephus. The account of Theudas and the Egyptian Jew indicates that they used new Exodus themes in their message:
• working wonders (terata) and “signs” (sēmia) (cf. LXX Exod 7:3, 9;11:9-10; Deut 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 11:3; 13:3; 26:8l 28:46; 29:2; 34:11)
• evoking Moses’ prediction of a coming prophet who would be like him (cf. Deut 18:15-22)
• persuading the people to “take up their possessions and to follow him to the Jordan River” (cf. Antiquities of the Jews 20.5.1)
• the command to part the waters
• the promise that at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall (i.e., like Jericho).[6]

From the symbolism of their messages it seems clear that these men “promised a new conquest of the land.”[7] What seems clear from movements such as these is that Jews of the Second Temple period clearly believed the exile had not yet ended.[8]

Moreover, Evans points to certain passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls which indicate the belief in an ongoing exile and the hope of a future restoration. 1QM 1:3 looks forward to a future cosmic battle, “when the exiles of the Sons of Light return from the wilderness of the peoples to camp in the wilderness of Jerusalem.” Likewise 4Q504 2:7-17 implores the Lord to bring an end to the exile:
“May your anger and fury at all [their] sin[s] turn back from your people Israel…Remember the wonders that you performed while the nations look on—surely we have been called by your name. [These things were done] that we might [repe]nt with all our heart and all our soul, to plant your law in our hearts [that we turn not from it, straying] either to the right or to the left. Surely you will heal us from such madness, blindness and confusion. . . . [Behold,] we were sold [as the price] of our [in]iquity, yet despite our rebellion you have called us. [. . .] Deliver us from sinning against you, [. . .] give us to understand the seasons [of your compassion].”

In addition, we should mention 4Q504: “You have not abandoned us among the nations; rather, you have shown covenant mercies to your people Israel in all [the] lands to which you have exiled them.” The Targumic literature also indicates a hope for a future restoration of the exiles.[9]

Continue to Part 5...

[1] Clive Marsh, “Theological History? N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God,” in Journal for the Study of the New Testament 69 (1998):77-94; Maurice Casey, “Where Wright is Wrong: A Critical Review of N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God,” in Journal for the Study of the New Testament 69 (1998): 95-103. Wright responds in “Theology, History and Jesus: A Response to Maurice Casey and Clive Marsh,” in Journal for the Study of the New Testament 69: 105-12; F. G. Downing, “Exile in Formative Judaism,” in Making Sense in (and of) the First Christian Century (JSNTS 200; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000); Craig Evans, “Jesus and the Continuing Exile of Israel” in Jesus and the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God (ed. Casey C. Newman; Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999): 78; James Dunn, Jesus Remembered, (vol. 1 in Christianity in the Making; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 473-77; I. H. Jones, “Disputed Questions in Biblical Studies: 4. Exile and Eschatology” in Expository Times 112 (2000-1) 401-5.
[2] Casey, “Where Wright Went Wrong,” 99.
[3] Casey, “Where Wright Went Wrong,” 99.
[4] Casey, “Where Wright Went Wrong,” 100. Indeed, Wright has been accused of “over reading” exilic themes. See Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 470-77. Klyne R. Snodgrass, “Reading and Overreading the Parables in Jesus and the Victory of God,” in Jesus and the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God: 65, 69-76.
[5] Cited with emphasis from Evans, “Jesus and the Continuing Exile of Israel,” 85.
[6] See Evans, “Jesus and the Continuing Exile of Israel,” 80-81.
[7] Evans, “Jesus and the Continuing Exile of Israel,” 82.
[8] Evans, “Jesus and the Continuing Exile of Israel,” 82.
[9] Evans, “Jesus and the Continuing Exile,” 89.


Stephen (aka Q) said...

I found this post quite informative, and I've linked to it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You are the nstiesgt kilers ever. Reverse the situation.

Anonymous said...
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