Jesus Versus Second Temple Judaism as the Key

A reflection post.

I don’t understand biblical studies guys and gals nowadays. It’s as if they presume that they have found a kernel that unlocks scripture unlike anything else; i.e. Second Temple Judaism and its reconstruction. It’s not that I keydon’t think this context isn’t important in providing light for us as we engage the historical matrix in which scripture took its formation. But this idea that because the New Testament authors, for example, didn’t use the grammar that the later (Greek) church did in the so called ecumenical councils; like the Trinitarian grammar, that this then also means that this unstated enthymemic premise was not, in full force, pressing upon the psyches of the authors of scripture. As if there was some other ontology of God at work in the Bible’s witness, an other ontology that is not correlative with the kind identified by the patristic Christians (or even the Barthian ones). As if when we talk about God as Triune the New Testament authors would have considered this to be a foreign development to what drove their own work as authors and theologians. It is true that the eyes of faith seem to get stronger as we move closer to God in Christ, as the day draws nearer; that the walk, that the growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ is moving forward as if he is prevailing in revealing himself to and through his body by the Spirit’s witness. And it is this reality, one that is not foreign to the scripture’s witness:

4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, ~Ephesians 4

This is the reality that should be appealed to when considering such things. We shouldn’t absolutize one period of Christian history, as if Second Temple Judaism is somehow antagonistic with the later developing Christian grammar. Indeed the later grammar, and the grammar that continues to develop, purports to unwrap what was always already presupposed in the Second Temple Judaism context; that is in relation to God’s Self-revelation in Jesus Christ. In fact I am actually unaware of any Second Temple Judaism or Hebraism that could consider, conceptually, grammatically, anything like the surprising event that took place in the Incarnation of Christ. And this seems to be the rub, Second Temple Judaism and the prefiguration of the Incarnation in the nation of Israel only makes sense as it is finally consummated and enveloped in its terminus, Jesus Christ. If this is the case shouldn’t Jesus be the canon by which Second Temple Judaism takes its final shape? If this is the end, isn’t Christ he who should give the Hebrew scriptures their first and last lines? I just don’t understand these biblical studies guys and gals; not all of them reject the theological reality of scripture’s final interpretation, but many do. If the scriptures are about Jesus, then Second Temple Judaism is not the interpretive key to unlocking scripture’s riches; Jesus is. And if this is the case, then some of these bib studies folk need to get with it! Do your discipline as historians, but recognize that history, as my history teacher used to say in my Christian high school, is HIS[tory].

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2 thoughts on “Jesus Versus Second Temple Judaism as the Key

  1. Joshua,

    Just a general ethos that seems present in Bib Studies. NT Wright would stand out in this crowd simply because he is one of the most public an popular figures out there.

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