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!


Jason said...

The first time I seriously read through the Pentateuch, I remember being struck by the fact that Moses (the giver of the Law) could only lead the Israelites up to the Promiseland, but it took a Yeshua to lead them in.

St. Justin was way ahead of me! He is also my patron saint, so that's a good place for him to be. St. Justin, pray for us!

Didn't he also hold to some form or millennialism? I seem to remember that coming out in the dialog with Trypho.

Neil Godfrey said...

Christology or Jesuology? Compare the earliest literary construct of Jesus' death and tomb-burial being embedded in the imagery and metaphors of the destruction of the Temple. (I began my public thinking about this on my blog here.)

The most plausible and natural setting for the origin of such a concept of Jesus is surely after the death of the Moses cult / end of the Temple, post 70 c.e. Not only "after", but as a "direct response to", such an event. Consider the identity crises (cultural, religious, personal) that such an event surely generated. Surely a Jesus/Joshua figure who could replace the old world of Moses was begging to be constructed as an identity transformer/resurrector/saviour for many.

From this perspective the really interesting questions are: When was this concept of Justin's first born and among whom? and What evidence is there of any Christianity "as we know it" before the end of the first century? (Not counting Paul's letters which are unattested till the second century; or even if they were known earlier, appear to have circulated only among those whom Justin viewed as heretics.)

Peter Kirk said...

Sounds like Justin had been reading Hebrews 4, understanding its rather ill-defined concept of "rest" in terms of claiming the "land" as an inheritance.

David Cox said...

Dr. Pitre
Based on previous posts regarding the inheritence of "land", I am convinced that the ingathering has to be sacramental and come to its fulfillment in the new creation (palingenesia). It also strikes me, that the term for new creation is only used twice in the NT. Once by Jesus and once by St. Paul (Titus 3:5) in reference to baptism.

Since the northern tribes are still in "exile", so to speak, wouldn't a physical ingathering be impossible? After all, how could one be considered a true Israelite with all the intermarriage that has taken place over the last few thousand years?

If Israel was exiled to the gentile nations and the sea was considered the symbol for the gentiles, can we conclude that the new exodus will bring Israel out of the sea? And can we further conclude that since Jer. 16:16 says that God will send "many fishers...and they shall catch them," that the apostles were made fishers of men to bring about this new exodus through baptism?

Taylor Marshall said...

Sounds good.

kentuckyliz said...

God has saved the lost tribes of Israel by saving the goyim among whom they intermarried.

Otherwise it's impossible.

This goygrrl is grateful.