Friday, June 24, 2005

Exile?

Michael Bird has a little snippet on the Continuing Exile view which is brief but helpful. Wright and others, notably Craig Evans, have done much to show that many Jews in the 1st century thoughts of themselves as still in exile. The term exile conjures up social, political and religious images of judgment, captivity, banishment, displacement, uprootedness, alienation and deportation.
In the Hebrew narrative exile constitutes a major plot line in the story of God's people, weaving itself through almost every major account from Genesis to Malachi. It could be suggested that "exile" is the story of the Hebrew scriptures. Some of the more well known expressions of exile are found in stories such as Adam and Eve’s banishment from the garden of Eden, Abraham’s journey to the land of Canaan, Joseph’s deportation to Egypt, Moses’ wandering in the wilderness, David’s escape from Saul’s paranoia, and the most established of them all: Israel’s exilic experiences in Assyria and Babylon.
The theme of exile, however, does not function in isolation. In the two most important expressions for the study of the NT—the stories of Adam and Eve’s banishment and the deportation of the Israelites to Babylon—exile, which is always a result of rejection [rejecting YHWH, his purposes & provision], is accompanied by the hope that YHWH will liberate and restore his people, and ultimately the whole earth [See Romans 8].
Exile”, could then be seen thematically as a multi-threaded image running through the scriptural narrative, both Hebrew and Christian, with an actual, concrete referent –i.e., multi-dimensional alienation from YHWH, others, self, et. al. due to rebellion – beginning with Adam and Eve being cast out of the Garden, the various other images of Exile and climaxing in the people of Israel being sent into exile. It seems to me, if one allows this, then a multitude of ideas and narrative events recorded in our meta-story can be drawn together to make a probable & coherent picture story which amounts to history.
Thus, when Jesus arrives on the scene and the people of Israel are still under foreign rule and oppression, YHWH has not been pronounced "KING", the revolutionary cry "NO KING BUT YHWH" is still being proclaimed but paganism reigns - it makes sense to think that Israel's exile wasn't over. Isaiah 52 makes this explicit:
Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion! Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for the uncircumcised and the unclean shall enter you no more.
Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter Zion!
For thus says the Lord: You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money. For thus says the Lord God: Long ago, my people went down into Egypt to reside there as aliens; the Assyrian, too, has oppressed them without cause. Now therefore what am I doing here, says the Lord, seeing that my people are taken away without cause? Their rulers howl, says the Lord, and continually, all day long, my name is despised. Therefore my people shall know my name; therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of it, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.
For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
Israel was in "Bondage" and YHWH would liberate/save/free his people. That was part and parcel of the aims and intentions of Jesus of Nazareth. Although I certainly wouldn't follow all the conclusions and arguments presented by Cornelis Bennema, his article The Sword of the Messiah and the Concept of Liberation in the Fourth Gospel, does seem to be asking the right questions. Questions like, What was Jesus’ concept of liberation? Whom and from whom did he liberate? How did Jesus accomplish his goal? Were Jesus and his followers quietists or activists? These are important questions and set within the right context will provide fruitful discourse on Jesus' aims & intentions. Aims and intentions that included liberating Israel from oppression to Rome [though ultimately opposing the Satan, as Wright has argued?]. Would that be the end of exile? When YHWH is King, i.e., when Jesus is on the throne ruling and reigning [through his people?], when there is a re:creation with resurrection and restoration. Will that be the final end of exile? And has that begun with the proleptic act of Jesus being raised from the dead?
Questions invade my mind...

2 comments:

eddie said...

I like it, and i think it could be very helpful for teaching about biblical history/ the biblical story. I think its most promising feature is how it spans not only from the beginning to the end (exile as the pattern of the whole story), but because the pattern is present in each chapter of the story (beginnings, Israel, Jesus). This will mean that people can get a grasp of the whole in a simple, tidy way that ties things together nicely. Its value will lie in its fruitfulness as a tool for teaching, as well as a centre for a biblical theology.

I think its very promising dude

eddie said...

What i actually meant to say in the first comment was that it will help in explaing Jesus and his teaching. It will show his ties to Israel and God's purposes for them, and generally make our historical pictures of Jesus seem more plausible and probable to the average Christian (or should i say theologian :p)