Monday, December 31, 2007

Where's J's Signature

The San Diego Natural History Museum has had the eleven of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display for the last few months, including 4Q521 and the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice [4Q400]--two of the most important! They are leaving in a week, so I'm doing a couple of last minute trips over there with different groups. Today I took my wife's family.

My brother-in-law had the greatest one-liner in the parking lot afterward. We were talking about the different scrolls we saw and how ancient they were when he said with a grin:

"I just kept looking at the bottom of each of the scrolls to find a signature--to find the place where it was signed 'J' or 'E'".

Kim's father piped up--"I kept looking for 'Q'".

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Jesus and the Eschaton (Part 2.1.: Apocalyptic as Metaphor)

2.1. Apocalyptic as Metaphor
Despite the sensationalistic interpretations offered by Christians throughout the ages,[1] more recent approaches have emphasized the fact that apocalyptic texts often used cosmic language metaphorically to describe events which would take place within this world―not necessarily beyond it.[2] In this view, oracles of judgment using such imagery “were intended to be taken as denoting. . . socio-political events, seen as the climactic moment in Israel’s history.”[3] Here we shall mention a few of the texts often cited as examples.

Isaiah describes the fall of Babylon in association with language of cosmic destruction: the darkening of celestial bodies (Isa 13:10), the trembling of the heavens (Isa 13:13), and the earth being shaken “out of its place” (מִמְּקֹומָ֑הּ; Isa 13:13). Although cosmological language is employed here, it is also clear that Isaiah is clearly linking such language to the destruction of Babylon itself. The localized dimension of the prophecy is clear from the fact that the passage goes on to describe how the city will be uninhabited by humans in the future, becoming a home to wild animals (cf. Isaiah 13:20-22). Isaiah’s prophecy of the judgment of Edom later in the book likewise links it with the destruction of the heavenly bodies: “All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall…” (Isa 34:4). Like Babylon, it will become unpopulated and serve as the dwelling of desert animals (Isa 34:13).

Other passages could also be mentioned. Ezekiel describes the judgment of Egypt in terms of the darkening of the sun and the stars (Ezek 32:7-8).[4] Joel links the destruction of Jerusalem with such imagery: “The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining” (Joel 2:10; cf. 2:2, “a day of darkness and gloom”). Joel later links the same imagery with God’s judgment of the Gentiles (Joel 3:15).

[1] For an overview see the articles in Caroline Walker Bynum and Paul Freedman, Last Things: Death and the Apocalypse in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000).
[2] In his work on eschatology, R. H. Charles explains that apocalyptic literature most frequently described events of the past: “The chief part of these events [related in apocalyptic literature] belongs, it is true, to the past; but the apocalyptic writer regarded them not in their secular but in their eternal issues… as it were, arranged under certain categories of time, and as definitely determined from the beginning in the counsels of God and revealed by Him to His servants the prophets.” R. H. Charles, Eschatology: A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life in Israel, in Judaism, and in Christianity (2nd ed.; London: A. & C. Black, 1913; repr., Eugene: Wipft and Stock, 1999), 206; Marius Reiser, Jesus and Judgment: The Eschatological Proclamation in Its Jewish Context (original German 1990; L. M. Maloney, trans.; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997), 238; Hans Schwarz, Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 36: “The Lord is a God of life, and the emphasis was upon life here on earth.”
[3] N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (vol. 2 of Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress Press,1996), 97. Also see the treatment in R. T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament: His Application of Old Testament Passages to Himself and His Mission (London: Tyndale, 1971), 227-39. A slightly more nuanced view is G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980). Caird believed that ancient Israelites were accustomed to using end-of-time language to earthly events so that the these later events could be seen either in light of the end of time or as the end of time. He explains how metaphor functions as “transference of a term from one referent with which it naturally belongs to a second referent, in order that the second may be illuminated by comparison with the first or by being ‘seen as’ the first” (66). For a discussion of the problem of the term “metaphor” see, James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, (vol. 1 in Christianity in the Making; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 401-403. We will come back to Caird later on, after looking at the critique offered by scholars such as Edward Adams, The Stars Will Fall From Heaven: Cosmic Catastrophe in the New Testament and its World (London: T & T Clark, 2007).
[4] It is interesting to note that all of the prophecies discussed so far describe God’s judgment of the nations. Indeed, many of the earliest examples of “apocalyptic” language emerge in similar contexts, raising interesting questions about the original nature of apocalyptic literature. See John G. Gammie, Holiness in Israel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989), 174 n. 3.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Did the Virgin Mary Experience the Pains of Childbirth?

Taylor Marshall has an interesting post and discussion over at his blog, Canterbury Tales (, on whether the blessed Mother experienced the pains of childbirth. Rather than posting a long comment over there, I thought I'd make my contribution here as a final Advent post, drawing on two key points. This is a particularly pertinent topic since last years' Christmas movie, The Nativity--which was widely touted by many Catholics--graphically depicted Mary undergoing the birth-pangs of Jesus' birth.

Now, you won't find clarification of this matter in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, apart from the clear teaching in Mary's perpetual virginity, which states that that "Christ's birth 'did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it'" (CCC 499; citing Lumen Gentium 57). Nevertheless, I thought I'd add a couple of points in favor of the classical Catholic position that Mary did not experience the pangs of childbirth.

As Taylor points out, it is fitting that the Virgin Mary would not experience pain in childbirth, since she was conceived apart from the stain of original sin (see CCC 490-93) , and pain in childbirth is clearly taught in Scripture as one of the results of the Fall (Gen 3:16). (It is interesting to note here that--at least to my knowledge--other mammals do not experience birth-pangs as do human mothers.) I find this argument correct, but not necessarily conclusive, and thought I would support it with a couple of points from Scripture and ancient Jewish tradition.

First and foremost, it is worth noting that the notion of giving birth to children without the pains of birth is not an idea that is foreign to Scripture. In fact, it is part of the eschatological vision of the prophet Isaiah, in at least two places. In his prophecy of the new Creation--the "new heavens and the new earth"--Isaiah envisages a future times when the results of the Fall will be undone:

"They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox..." (Isaiah 65:23-25)

Here we see the curse of Adam (fruitless toil) and Eve (pain in childbirth) being undone in the eschatological age.

Even more striking is Isaiah's vision of the new Jerusalem:

"Before she was in labor, she gave bith;
before her pain came upon her
she was delivered of a son
Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?" (Isa 66:7-8)

Now, it is quite clear in the context that Isaiah is speaking of the city of Zion, of the new Jerusalem, and not directly of Mary. However, the allegorical application of the image of a holy city to an individual woman in salvation history is not unbiblical--think for example of Paul's identification of Hagar with the earthly Jerusalem and Sarah with "the Jerusalem above, who is our mother" (Galatians 4). This is perhaps why the early Church Fathers did not hesitate to see the Old Testament prophecies of the new Jerusalem as being fulfilled in Mary, the "daughter of Zion" (see Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church [Ignatius Press, 1999]), and John Damascus could say of Jesus' birth:

"It was a birth that surpassed the established order of birthgiving, as it was without pain; for, where pleasure had not preceded, pain did not follow" (De Fid. 4:14; cited in Dale Allison, The New Moses, p. 62).

(It is worth noting that this belief can be found as far back as the second century in the Protevangelium of James). Following the Fathers' lead, Isaiah presents interesting food for reflection: if Mary experiences the first-fruits of Christ's redemption in her own immaculate conception as the New Eve, it is easy to see why they would believe that she would similarly be able to taste the fruits of the eschatological age described by Isaiah, when women would be delivered from the curse of Eve.

An interesting addition to the discussion can be thrown into the mix from ancient Jewish tradition. I've recently been reading Dale C. Allison's absolutely brilliant book, The New Moses: A Matthean Typology (Fortress, 1993). In it, he points out that there was an ancient Jewish tradition, going back at least to the first century, that Moses' mother did not experience birth pangs when he was born:

[The faith of Moses' parents] "in the promises of God was confirmed by the manner of the woman's delivery, since she escaped the vigilance of the watch, thanks to the gentleness of her travail, which spared her any violent throes" (Ant. 2:218).

As Allison notes, according to Josephus, "Moses mother was not subject to the curse of Eve, as recorded in Gen 3:16: 'I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children'." (The New Moses, p. 147). He also notes that the same tradition about Moses' mother reappears in the Babylonian Talmud (b. Sota 12a) and the Midrash Rabbah (Exod. Rab. 1:20).

To my mind, this is an absolutely fascinating ancient Jewish tradition, given the fact that Jesus is very clearly depicted as a new Moses in the New Testament. Although we can only speculate, it is worth asking the question: if Matthew (and the other Jewish authors of the New Testament) believed that Moses' mother had been spared the pangs of childbirth, isn't it likely that they would have believed that Jesus' Mother--the virgin mother of the new Moses--would likewise be spared?

Just some thoughts . May the love of Christ and his blessed Mother be in all our hearts this holy Season, and may we all one day come to the glory of the new Jerusalem!

Enough theologizing. I've got to go now and help my wife and kids make Christmas cookies!

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Jesus and the Eschaton (Part 2: Jesus and 'Apocalyptic' Language)

2. Jesus and “Apocalyptic” Language
One of the most significant reasons scholars have distanced the historical Jesus from the teaching of the early Church has been the notion that Jesus preached an imminent end to human history. In this view, the Christian Church had to reformulate his teaching once this failed to occur.[1] Indeed, with a look at the “apocalyptic discourse”[2] of Jesus recounted in Mark 13 (cf. Matthew 24 // Luke 21), one can easily understand how they could have reached such a conclusion.[3] There, after describing the dissolution of the celestial bodies (Mark 13:24-25), the coming of the Son of man in the clouds (Mark 13:26) and the final gathering of the elect by the angels (Mark 13:27), Jesus concludes: Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη μέχρις οὗ ταῦτα πάντα γένηται. ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ παρελεύσονται, οἱ δὲ λόγοι μου οὐ μὴ παρελεύσονται ["Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away"] (Mark 13:30-31).

At first glance (as well as second and third!), it is hard to see how this language could not lead to the conclusion that Jesus was describing an imminent end of the physical universe. In this section, however, we will argue that such a reading only emerges due to a lack of understanding of the use and function of Jewish apocalyptic language. Once one grasps Jesus’ use of this prophetic style from within a first-century Jewish context, it is easy to see how Jesus’ description of a cosmic catastrophe indeed had a first-century referent. In this section, we will highlight what has been one of the most common themes in recent studies of apocalyptic, namely, the recognition of the “this-worldly” referent of its cosmic language.

Upfront it should be noted that defining “apocalyptic” is a notoriously difficult task and the literature on the topic is immense.[4] One of the reasons why it remains a challenging category to delineate is, like “eschatology,” “apocalyptic” is a modern term.[5] Technically, the term refers to “revelation,” which the figures described within “apocalyptic” texts often receive from a heavenly source through some kind of ecstatic/mystical experience.[6] Yet, there are other elements that also characterize the style: cosmic imagery, oracular language, heavenly figures, etc. Here we will use the term more broadly to describe passages which employ cosmic language in divine oracles relating to judgment and/or the dawning of the eschatological age.

[1] For an overview of the history of the discussion in Jesus research see George R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Last Days: The Interpretation of the Olivet Discourse (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1993), 1-162; Scott M. Lewis, New Testament Apocalyptic (WATSA; New York: Paulist Press, 2004). For a contemporary advocate see Paula Fredricksen, From Jesus to Christ (2d ed; New Haven: Yale Nota Bena, 2000), 134-5.
[2] Of course, the term itself is problematic, since the sermon contains elements which are not characteristic of “apocalyptic” texts. Moreover, the problem is compounded inasmuch as it relates to the ever shifting definition of what exactly constitutes “apocalyptic” (see discussion below). Nonetheless, the term serves us well as it highlights this sermon’s relationship with certain Old Testament texts which emphasis cosmic upheavals. Indeed, many books, such as Isaiah, relate apocalyptic-like imagery alongside non-apocalyptic passages. For a fuller discussion, see T. J. Geddert, “Apocalyptic Teaching,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (J. B. Green, S. McKnight, I. H. Marshall, eds.; Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 21-23 [20-26].
[3] Interestingly, Albert Schweitzer, who is credited with highlighting Jesus’ apocalyptic message, did not base his interpretation on Mark 13, but derived his conclusion primarily on the grounds of Matthew 10:23. Apart from a passing reference dismissing its authenticity, Schweitzer never treated the sermon in his work. See Beaseley-Murray, The Last Days, 46.
[4] See, for example, the recent collection of essays in Knowing the End from the Beginning: The Prophetic, the Apocalyptic and their Relationships (L. L. Grabbe and R. D. Haak, eds.; JSPS 46; London: T & T Clark, 2003). Also see, R. E. Sturm, “Defining the Word ‘Apocalyptic:’ A Problem in Biblical Criticism” in Apocalyptic and the New Testament (JSOTSup 54; J. Marcus and M. L. Soards, eds.; Leiden Brill, 1997), 17-48; Michael A. Knibb, “Prophecy and the emergence of the Jewish apocalypses,” in Israel’s Prophetic Tradition; Essays in Honour of Peter Ackroyd (R. C. Coggins, A. Phillips, and M. Knibb, eds.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 155-80. Groups from the society of biblical literature focusing on apocalyptic published their findings in Semeia in 1979 and 1986. Other major works include: J. J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination (New York: Crossraod, 1984); P. D. Hanson, The Dawn of the Apocalyptic (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975); P. D. Hanson, Old Testament Apocalyptic (Nashville: Abingdon, 1987); L. Morris, Apocalyptic (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972).
[5] The use of the term as specific literary genre is traced to Gottfried F. Lücke, Versuch einer vollständigen Einleitung in die Offenbarung des Johannes: oder, Allgemeine Untersuchungen über die apokalyptische Litteratur überhaupt und die Apokalypse des Johannes insbesondere (Second ed.; Bonn: Weber, 1852). The term was borrowed from Revelation 1:1 and used to describe Daniel and other books which shared literary and conceptual similarities with the book of Revelation. See H. S. Kvanvig, Roots of Apocalyptic: The Mesopotamian Background of the Enoch Figure and of the Son of Man (WMANT 61: Neukirchen-Vluyn:Neukirchen, 1988), 40, 56; David Aune, “Understanding Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic” in Word and World 25/3 (2000): 234. [233-245]
[6] See J. J. Collins, “Apocalyptic Literature," in the Dictionary of New Testament Backgrounds (C. A. Evans and S. Porter eds.; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 41; William Dumbrell, The Search for Order: Biblical Eschatology in Focus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 132. Also see the balanced discussion of the definition of “apocalyptic” which takes into account both the heavenly and earthly dimension of the genre in Adela Yarbro Collins, Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 6-7.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jesus and the Eschaton (Part 1: Introduction)

1. Introduction: The State of the Question of Eschatology

In the past few decades there has been an emerging discussion about the problematic “iron curtain”[1] that has come to separate the fields of systematic theology and biblical studies. Indeed, there have been a growing number of Protestant voices calling for an integration of biblical exegesis and theology.[2] Likewise, since the second Vatican Council urged theologians to make the bible “the very soul of theology,”[3] Catholic writers have been emphasizing the central role Scripture must play in doing theology,[4] speaking, for example, of its “referential language.”[5]

It is now generally recognized that the causes for this “divorce” can be traced back into certain philosophical presuppositions of Enlightenment or “modern” thought, out of which modern biblical criticism has emerged,[6] e.g., rationalism, an evolutionary approach to the question of origins, the pursuit of pure objectivity, and the rejection of tradition.[7] In this approach the teaching of Jesus was unhinged from both his Jewish milieu and the Christianity which followed him.[8] However, with the failure of the Enlightenment project there has emerged the current postmodern critique, which has advanced more holistic accounts of knowledge.[9] Such a shift has forced scholars to rethink previous positions and reexamine the continuity of Jesus with Judaism and Christianity. The collapse of modernity has thus opened the door for scholars to begin to consider the ways Judaism influenced Jesus and, in turn, how the teachings of this Jewish Jesus gave rise to Christian theology.[10] Thus more recent attempts have sought to find the origins of certain elements of Christian theology in the Judaism of the first century.[11]

In this paper, we will take such an approach to examine one particular branch of theology: eschatology. One could easily argue that among all the branches of theology, in its traditional role as the study of the “last things,” eschatology is the field which has the most to gain from such a method. Indeed, the term itself is in some ways problematic. It first appeared in the work of Abraham Calovius (1612-86) a Lutheran theologian, who used the word in his volume on death, resurrection, judgment and consummation.[12] Since then, “eschatology” has been used to describe the “last things.” However, it is now widely recognized by scholars that the teaching of the New Testament regarding eschatology involved a present dimension often neglected by classical eschatology. Theologians are thus asking whether perhaps we ought to reconsider the possibility of defining “eschatology” simply in terms of those things which are chronologically “last.”[13] Theologians such as Dermot Lane have argued that to properly explain the eschata, the “last things” (e.g., death, judgment, heaven, hell, etc.) theologians must first come to a better grasp of the Eschaton, the advent of the end of time in Christ.[14]

It is here that this paper takes its cue. Here we will look at the way Jesus believed he was ushering in the Eschaton. First we will examine how scholars have frequently misunderstood the function and meaning of apocalyptic language, often concluding that Jesus’ use of it necessarily involved the expectation of an imminent end of history.[15] Next, we will examine the role of restoration imagery in eschatological expectations. We will then turn to look at restoration eschatology in Jesus’ teaching.[16]

1. Introduction: The State of the Question of Eschatology

2. Jesus' “Apocalyptic” Language
2.1. Apocalyptic as Metaphor
2.2. Cosmic Language and Temple Cosmology

3. Second-Temple Jewish Restoration Hopes
3.1. The Hope for the New Exodus
3.2. The Hope for the Restoration of the Davidic Kingdom

4. Jesus and His Restoration Eschatology
4.1. Jesus, the Restoration, and the New Exodus
4.2. Jesus, the Kingdom and the Last Supper: A Proposal

5. Conclusion

[1] Brevard Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), xvi.
[2] See the discussion by leading evangelical scholars in Joel B. Green and Max Turner, eds. Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies & Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000). Some works by theologians who have attempted to bridge the gap include, Robert K. Johnston, The Use of the Bible in Theology: Evangelical Options (Atlanta: John Knox, 1985); Charles J. Scalise, From Scripture to Theology: A Canonical Journey into Hermeneutics (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996). Indeed, massive projects such as the massive volume dedicated to the theological interpretation of the Bible edited by Kevin Vanhoozer [Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005] and the Brazos Theological Commentary series published by Brazos Press bear witness to this corrective effort.
[3] Dei Verbum 24. Cited from Austin Flannery, ed. Vatican II, Volume 1: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (New Revised Edition; A. Flannery, e.d.; Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1987), 763-4. This line was recently highlighted once again in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 132), promulgated by John Paul II in 1992. Indeed, many have noted that the new Catechism places an especially strong emphasis on the role of Scripture, primarily describing Catholic doctrine in scriptural quotations. Ratzinger writes, that it is “shaped from one end to the other by the Bible. As far as I know, there has never been until now a catechism so thoroughly formed by the Bible.” Gospel, Catechisis, Catechism: Sidelights on the Catehism of the Catholic Church (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1997), 61. For a fuller discussion see, John C. Cavadini, “The Use of Scripture in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Letter & Spirit 2 (2006): 43-54.
[4] John Paul II once stated: “Theology must take its point of departure from a continual and updated return to the Scriptures read in the Church.”[4] Likewise, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger writes, “The normative theologians are the authors of Scripture.” Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theolgy (trans., M. F. McCarthy; San Francisco: Ignatius, 1987, 321). In fact, one of the defining characteristics of Pope Benedict’s theology has been its biblical focus. See Scott Hahn, “The Authority of Mystery: The Biblical Theology of Benedict XVI,” in Letter & Spirit 2 (2006):97-140. The relationship between exegesis and dogmatic theology has been explored in a number of works produced by Catholic theologians. See, for example, Karl Rahner, “Exegesis and Dogmatic Theology,” in Dogmatic vs. Biblical Theology (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1964), 31-65; Joseph T. Lienhard, The Bible, the Church, and Authority: The Canon of the Christian Bible in History and Theology (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1995); Luke Timothy Johnson and William Kurz, The Future of Catholic Biblical Scholarship: A Constructive Conversation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).
[5] See Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Scripture and Christology: A Statement of the Biblical Commission with a Commentary (Mahwah: Paulist, 1986); Colin Brown, “Scripture and Christology: A Protestant Look at the Work of the Pontifical Biblical Commission,” in Essays in Honor of Paul K. Jewett: Perspectives on Christology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991)
[6] The bibliography tracing modern critical methods and Jesus studies to the Enlightenment is immense. See among others, James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (vol. 1 in Christianity in the Making; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 25-97; John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (vol. 1 of The Roots of the Problem and the Person; ABRL Vol. 1; New York, Doubleday, 1991), 25; Ben Witherington III, The Jesus Quest The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 9; Mark Allan Powell, Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 12-13; Roy A. Harrisville and Walter Sundberg, The Bible in Modern Culture: Theology and Historical-Critical Method from Spinoza to Käsemann (Grand Rapids: Eerdmanns, 1995); C. Stephen Evans, “Methodological Naturalism in Historical Biblical Scholarship,” in Jesus and the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God (C. C. Newmann, ed.; Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 180-205; Scot McKnight, Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2005), 3-46; Darrel Bock, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to the Sources and the Methods (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 153-162; Klaus Scholder, The Birth of Modern Critical Theology: Origins and Problems of Biblical Criticism in the Seventeenth Century (trans., J. Bowden; London: SCM, 1990); Greg Clark, “General Hermeneutics,” in The Face of New Testament Studies: A Survey of Recent Research (S. McKnight and G. R. Osborne, eds.; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 105-107; Edgar Krentz, The Historical-Critical Method (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1975), 16-22.
[7] Lundin describes the modernist pursuit of objective autonomy in terms of the “orphaned individual.” It is generally recognized that this move has its origins in the Protestant reformation, which proclaimed Sola Scripture, the notion that Scripture must be read apart from ecclesiastical tradition. For a fuller discussion see Roger Lundin, Clarence Walhout, Anthony C. Thiselton, The Promise of Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999), 1-64; W. H. Auden, Forewords and Afterwords (ed., E. Mendelson; New York: Random House 1973; repr., Vintage 1989); Roy Harrisville and Walter Sundberg, The Bible in Modern Culture, 15-17. Also see Jeffrey Stout, The Flight from Authority: Religion, Morality, and the Quest for Autonomy (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981).
[8] See the detailed discussion of the development of the criteria of “dissimilarity” in Gerd Theissen and Damgar Winter, The Quest for the Plausible Jesus: The Question of Criteria (M. E. Boring, trans.; Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 1-171. Also see Jeffrey Stout, The Flight from Authority: Religion, Morality, and the Quest for Autonomy (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981).
[9] See Nancey Murphy, Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion and Ethics (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997). This work will use the term “postmodern” as Alan G. Padgett defines it: “Mine is a mild sort of post-modernism. By ‘post-modern’ I only mean a view that is critical of the Enlightenment. Relativism is not implied in this term as I use it.” Alan G. Padgett, “Advice for Religious Historians: On the Myth of a Purely Historical Jesus,” in The Resurrection: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Resurrection of Jesus (S. T. David, D. Kendall and G. O’Collins, eds.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 287. Also see C. Stephen Evans, The Historical Christ and the Jesus of Faith: The Incarnational Narrative as History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 22.
[10] Indeed, the characteristic element of so-called Third Quest for the Historical Jesus has been the renewed appreciation for his Jesus roots. See the discussions in N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (vol. 2 of Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress Press,1996), 34-5; Neil and Wright, The Interpretation, 379. In addition, see Ben Witherington, The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 379-403. For the influence of postmodernity on hermeneutics and theology see Craig Bartholomew, “Postmodernity and Biblical Interpretation,” in Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (K. J. Vanhoozer, ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 600-5. Of course, such a project does not simply mean returning to a “pre-modern” or “pre-critical” state of affairs. The issues raised by such a project are indeed complex and it is beyond our scope here to discuss them. For a treatment see, Joel B. Green, “Scripture and Theology: Uniting the Two Son Long Divided,” in Between the Two Horizons, 23-43. Rather than seeking to bypass issues, such an approach seeks to show that a rigorous exegetical approach which has due concern for methodological judiciousness reveals important links between the teaching of the scriptural books, their Jewish context and the later development of theology. Indeed, a number of such works have recently been done in connection with atonement theory.
[11] For example, Pitre and McKnight have so examined atonement theory. Whereas for many it was previously unthinkable that a first-century Jew could believe he would offer his life as a sacrifice for sin, Brant Pitre has demonstrated that a number of first-century Jewish sources indicate that the final restoration of Israel would only come through a period of eschatological suffering. This suffering was frequently described in terms of atonement. For example, in a number of places the Dead Sea Scrolls uses the word for “affliction” to refer to the Day of “Atonement” (cf. CDa 6:19). For a fuller discussion see Brant Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of the Exile (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005). Also see the comments made in Scot McKnight, Jesus and His Death, 371-372 on the relationship between Jesus’ atonement theory and later Christian theology.
[12] Arland J. Hultgren, "Eschatology in the New Testament: The Current Debate," in The Last Things: Biblical & Theological Perspectives on Eschatology (C. E. Braaten and R. W. Jeson, eds.; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002), 68.
[13] I am inclined to agree with Gordon J. Thomas that eschatology would be better defined as “the doctrine of the ultimate things”―particular as those things which represent the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. See Gordon J. Thomas, “A Holy God Among A Holy People in a Holy Place: The Enduring Eschatological Hope,” in Eschatology in Bible and Theology: Evangelical Essays at the Dawn of a New Millennium (K. E. Brower and M. W. Elliot, eds.; Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 53-69 [especially 53-55].
[14] Dermot Lane, Keeping Hope Alive: Stirrings in Christian Theology (New York: Paulist, 1996), 2: “The primary emphasis in New Testament eschatology is one the significance of the appearance of the Eschaton in Christ which shapes our understanding of the present and the future. Over the centuries, however, the emphasis has fallen on a treatment of the individual eschata to the neglect of the Eschaton in Christ. Something of a separation has taken place between our understanding of the Eschaton in Christ and its relationship to the individual eschata.”
[15] Here I must emphasize that this paper is not challenging the notion that second temple Judaism included “other-worldly” hopes. Certainly visions of heavenly temples and angels are common in Jewish apocalyptic literature such as 1 Enoch and resist mere metaphorical interpretations. See, for example, the treatment on the Assumption of Moses and other works by David J. Bryan, “Exile and Return from Jerusalem,” in Apocalyptic and Tradition (C. Rowland and J. Barton, eds.; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 60-80. Moreover, Jewish hopes at Qumran involved a kind of hope for theosis. See Crispin Flectcher-Louis, All the Glory of Adam: Liturgical Anthropology in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Leiden: Brill, 2007). Nonetheless, here we will largely focus on the “this-worldly” dimension of Jewish expectations in relation to realized eschatology in Jesus’ teaching.
[16] Unfortunately, our limited space does not allow us to discuss questions of authenticity. Such issues will have to wait for a larger dissertation project.

New Series of Posts

I will be starting a new series of posts here on the blog, Jesus and the Eschaton: Bridging Jewish and Christian Eschatology. Hopefully, this will enable more regular posting... so check back frequently as I hope to keep a steady string of posts coming up throughout the week.

Friday, December 14, 2007

How Noah is a New Adam

Mark Giszczak has a great post up on the word the word kaphar, כִּפֶּר, which, according to the BDB (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon), means: "to cover over", "to make propitiation," or to "pacify."

One can easily see how "to cover over" can also be applied to cultic propitiation contexts--sacrifice "covers over" sin.

Mark goes on to point out that the word is found in another unexpected context.
I found it very interesting that the same word is used in Gen 6:14 when the Lord commands Noah to cover the ark with pitch. Strangely enough, the same root is used for the word which means "pitch." Unfortunately, Gen 6:14 is the only occurrence of the word. But the image of God covering over sins with pitch is a powerful one, not that Gen or Ezek actually says that. The Ezek passage is referring to a future time when God will kaphar Judah's sins. I suppose it also has theological implications, but I don't want to take this too far. The point is that we can compare Ezek 16:63's use of kaphar with Gen 6:14 and come up with the image of God covering our sins with pitch. Cool.
In fact, Genesis seems to present Noah as a kind of new Adam, with numerous motifs reminiscent of the creation account. As in Genesis 1, in the story of the ark of Noah we see how a new creation emerges out of waters (Genesis 1:2; 7:11). The number “seven” also figures prominently. The flood begins after seven days, evoking the seven days of creation (Gen. 2:2; 7:10). As the Lord rested on the seventh day, the ark comes to a rest in the seventh month (Gen. 2:2-3; 8:4). Noah sends out birds every seven days (8:10-12). Noah was commanded to take seven pairs of clean animals (animals acceptable for sacrifice) into the ark (Gen. 7:2). We might also mention that “Noah” means rest--evoking the Lord's resting on the seventh day of the creation account.

Like Adam, Noah is told to be “fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 2:28; 9:1) and given “dominion” over the creatures of the earth (Gen. 2:28; 9:2). We might also note that the ark is created in three sections (cf. Gen 6:13) corresponding to the three realms of the cosmos created in Genesis 1. The tripartite structure is likely meant to indicate that the ark, like the cosmos, should be seen as a kind of temple [which had three sections: (1) Outer Court, (2) Holy Place, (3) Holy of Holies].[1]

In addition, we might also mention that the downfall of Noah is also reminiscent of Adam’s. Noah ends up in a vineyard, as Adam was in the garden. As Adam ate the forbidden fruit, Noah consumes too much of the fruit of the vine and becomes drunk. He is then found "naked". This results in his issuing prophetic statements about the consequences about what has just happened.

[1] For a fuller treatment see, S. W. Holloway, “What Ship Goes There: The Flood Narratives in the Gilgamesh Epic and Genesis Considered in Light of Ancient Near Eastern Temple Ideology,” in ZAW 103 (1991): 328-354; Meredith Kline, Kingdom Prologue (South Hamilton: Gordon Cornwell Theological Seminary, 1989), 156-59; C. T. R. Haywood, ‘Sacrifice and World Order: Some Observations on Ben Sira’s Attitude to the Temple Service,” in Sacrifice and Redemption (S. W. Sykes, ed.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 22-34.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Messianic Interpretation of Genesis 49

Gen 49:1-2, 8-11: Then Jacob called his sons, and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in days to come. 2 Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob, and hearken to Israel your father. . . 8 Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. 9 Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as a lioness; who dares rouse him up? 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 11 Binding his foal to the vine and his ass’s colt to the choice vine, he washes his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes; 12 his eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.

Messianic interpretation in Jewish Tradition:
2Q252 [Pesher on Genesis] 5:1-2: “A ruler will not depart from the tribe of Judah so long as Israel has dominion, and he who sits on David’s throne [will not be c]ut off.”

Targum Onqelos Gen 49:10: “The ruler shall not depart from the house of Judah, nor the scribe from his children’s children forever; until the messiah comes, to whom belongs the kingdom, and to him shall the peoples be obedient.”

Targum Neophyti Gen 49:10: “Kings shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor yet scribes teaching the law from the sons of his sons, until the time that the anointed king comes, to whom belongs the kingdom.”

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Benedict XVI on Christ the King

The Pope delivered an amazing homily a few weeks ago on the Feast of Christ the King at the consistory which created new Cardinals in the Church. Here are some excerpts. Thanks to Walker for the heads-up!

The liturgical Feast of Christ the King gives our celebration an especially significant background, outlined and illuminated by the Biblical Readings. We find ourselves as it were facing an imposing fresco with three great scenes: at the centre, the Crucifixion according to the Evangelist Luke's account; on one side, the royal anointing of David by the elders of Israel; on the other, the Christological hymn with which St Paul introduces the Letter to the Colossians. . .
We must begin from the central event: the Cross. Here Christ manifests his unique Kingship. . . St Cyril of Alexandria comments: "You see him crucified and you call him King. You believe that he who bears scoffing and suffering will reach divine glory" (Comment on Luke, Homily 153). According to the Evangelist John, the divine glory is already present, although hidden by the disfiguration of the Cross. But also in the language of Luke, the future is anticipated in the present when Jesus promises the good thief: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23: 43). St Ambrose observes: "He prayed that the Lord would remember him when he reached his Kingdom, but the Lord responded: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. Life is being with Christ, because where Christ is, there is his Kingdom" (Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke, 10, 121). The accusation: "This is the King of the Jews", written on a tablet nailed above Jesus' head thus becomes the proclamation of the truth. . .

If we now cast a glance at the scene of the royal anointing of David presented in the First Reading, an important aspect on royalty strikes us, namely, its "corporative" dimension. The elders of Israel go to Hebron, they seal a covenantal pact with David, declaring to consider themselves united to him and wanting to be one only with him. If we relate Christ to this image, it seems to me that this same covenantal profession applies very well precisely to you, dear Cardinal-Brothers. You too who form the "senate" of the Church can say to Jesus: "Behold, we are your bone and flesh" (II Sam 5: 1). We belong to you, and we want to be one only with you. You are the Shepherd of the People of God, you are the Head of the Church (cf. II Sam 5: 2). In this solemn Eucharistic celebration we want to renew our pact with you, our friendship, because only in this intimate and profound relationship with you, Jesus, our King and Lord, does the dignity that has been conferred upon us and the responsibility it bears have sense and value.
There now remains for us to admire the third part of our "triptych" that the Word of God places before us: the Christological hymn of the Letter to the Colossians. First of all, we make the sentiments of joy and gratitude that pour forth from it our own, for the fact that the Kingdom of Christ, the "inheritance of the saints in light", is not only something seen from a distance but a reality in which we are called to partake, into which we have been "transferred", thanks to the redemptive action of the Son of God (cf. Col 1: 12-14). This graced action opens St Paul's soul to the contemplation of Christ and his ministry in its two principal dimensions: the creation of all things and their reconciliation. The first aspect of Christ's Lordship consists in the fact that "all things were created through him and for him... in him all things hold together" (Col 1: 16-17). The second dimension centres on the Paschal Mystery: through the Son's death on the Cross, God has reconciled every creature to himself, has made peace between Heaven and earth; raising him from the dead he has made him the firstborn of the new creation, the "fullness" of every reality and "head of the [mystical] body", the Church (cf. Col 1: 18-20). We find ourselves again before the Cross, the central event of the mystery of Christ. In the Pauline vision the Cross is placed within the entire economy of salvation, where Jesus' royalty is displayed in all its cosmic fullness.
This text of the Apostle expresses a synthesis of truth and faith so powerful that we cannot fail to remain in deep admiration of it. The Church is the trustee of the mystery of Christ: She is so in all humility and without a shadow of pride or arrogance, because it concerns the maximum gift that she has received without any merit and that she is called to offer gratuitously to humanity of every age, as the horizon of meaning and salvation. It is not a philosophy, it is not a gnosis, even though it also comprises wisdom and knowledge. It is the mystery of Christ, it is Christ himself, the Logos incarnate, dead and risen, made King of the universe. How can one fail to feel a rush of enthusiasm full of gratitude for having been permitted to contemplate the splendour of this revelation? How can one not feel at the same time the joy and the responsibility to serve this King, to witness his Lordship with one's life and word?. . .
In conclusion, I would like to mention an aspect that is strongly united to this mission and that I entrust to your prayer: peace among all Christ's disciples, as a sign of the peace that Jesus came to establish in the world. We have heard the great news of the Christological hymn: it pleased God to "reconcile" the universe through the Cross of Christ (cf. Col 1: 20)! Well then, the Church is that portion of humanity in whom Christ's royalty is already manifest, who has peace as its privileged manifestation. It is the new Jerusalem, still imperfect because it is yet a pilgrim in history, but able to anticipate in some way the heavenly Jerusalem. Lastly, we can here refer to the Responsorial Psalm 121, belonging to the so-called "Song of Ascents". It is a hymn of the pilgrims' joy who, going up toward the holy city and having reached its doors, address the peace-greeting to them: shalom! According to popular etymology Jerusalem is interpreted as a "city of peace", whose peace the Messiah, Son of David, would have established in the fullness of time. We recognize in Jerusalem the figure of the Church, sacrament of Christ and of his Kingdom.