Jesus and Israel’s Traditions of Judgment and Restoration -- By: Steven M. Bryan

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 51:2 (NA 2000)
Article: Jesus and Israel’s Traditions of Judgment and Restoration
Author: Steven M. Bryan


Jesus and Israel’s Traditions of Judgment and Restoration1

Steven M. Bryan

If Jesus held a partially realised eschatology, it is unlikely that he would have done so in isolation from the concrete, this-worldly expectations of the eschaton which characterised Jewish eschatology in this period. In attempting to specify the degree to which Jesus’ eschatology was realised, much scholarship in this century has assumed that if eschatological reality was present for Jesus it must have been abstract or spiritual. This study represents an advance over such approaches by considering Jesus’ intentions in relation to key constitutional features of the eschaton within Jewish restorationism and shows that Jesus’ eschatology was substantially though not completely realised.

The use of Jewish expectations for the eschaton as a measure of the degree to which Jesus’ eschatology was realised is complicated enormously if Jesus also announced a coming national judgment. How can the announcement of national judgment be reconciled with the belief that Israel’s restoration had already begun? Yet, I argue, Jesus did proclaim coming national judgment. The point emerges from a consideration of Jesus’ use of Israel’s sacred traditions, for it appears that Jesus not only drew on sacred traditions which had previously served a message of national judgment but also appropriated sacred traditions in a way that subverted widespread conceptions of national restoration.

Perhaps most indicative of a national dimension in Jesus’ pronouncements of judgment are his use of two motifs—the vineyard and the eschatological banquet—which appear in two distinct streams of tradition. These motifs could serve Israel’s hope of restoration. But they were also used negatively in contexts of national condemnation. This latter stream of tradition is taken up in Jesus’ vineyard parables and parable of the great banquet which may be read as part of his

assessment of the nation. This is not to say that judgment is an express part of all of these parables, but they address the meaning of Israel’s election, an issue which traditions of national judgment had always raised.

In the wider context of Jesus’ ministry the question of election was implicit to the controversy over his association with ‘sinners’ and these parables are related with reasonable clarity to Jesus’ acceptance of ‘sinners’. Though these labels seem not to have been used simply as designations for anyone outside one’s own group, they gained their significance in the context of convictions about who did and did not belong to Israel and on the nature of the repe...

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