Jesus as Eschatological Torah -- By: Stephen J. Casselli

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 018:1 (Spring 1997)
Article: Jesus as Eschatological Torah
Author: Stephen J. Casselli

Jesus as Eschatological Torah

Stephen J. Casselli *

I have done no more than offer a few pointers towards a conclusion which must be clear to all who study the New Testament with the language and ideas of Jewish eschatology in mind, the conclusion that the writers have deliberately, boldly, and consistently applied those ideas and that language to the facts of the ministry, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

— C. H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments

I. Introduction

The purpose of this essay is to explore the presentation of Jesus in the gospel of John with “the ideas of Jewish eschatology in mind.” Although discussions of Johannine Christology abound,1 it seems that there is still room for another visit to the Johannine Jesus, with one particular dimension of this background in view. It has long been recognized that the writer of the fourth gospel has patterned his presentation, in some measure, after the Exodus narrative; and that in one way or another Jesus is presented as a “new Moses.”2

* Stephen J. Casselli is Director of Admissions at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Given its connection with the Exodus tradition and in particular the relationship of the fourth gospel to the Moses traditions of early Judaism, it is my intention to demonstrate: (1) that John is presenting Jesus in a way that is consistent with the Judaisms3 of his day, which were profoundly “Torah centered,”4 and in a way that is consistent

with his “realized” eschatological perspective;5 and (2) that John is presenting Jesus as eschatological Torah. John is providing a Christocentric reformulation of Jewish religion for his readers and central to that religion is Torah, given by Moses.6 And just as Jesus is viewed in the fourth gospel as the realization of other aspects of Jewish religious traditions, so too is he the final realization of Torah itself. I will, in conclusion, reflect briefly on the implications of my observations for four areas of theological inquiry: our doctrine of Scripture, our understanding of John’s theological method, our theology of law, and hermeneutics more broadly.

John’s gospel does not explicitly reflect on the question of the nature of OT revela...

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