18 December 2007

Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile: pt 1

Brant Pitre. Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic: 2005. 0801031621.

Chapter One: Introduction
Pitre begins his work with his thesis statement (1.1), which sets forth his two primary objectives of the study: to “attempt to trace the development and shape of the concept of eschatological tribulation in late Second Temple Judaism” (2, emphasis in original); and “to determine whether the historical Jesus ever spoke or acted on the basis of his own expectation of a period of eschatological tribulation” (3, emphasis in original). He posits at the outset that the evidence he surveys will show that Jesus did in fact speak and act in a manner consistent with Jewish expectation of the eschatological tribulation as demonstrated through an examination of late Second Temple Judaism. This specific belief and hope is demonstrably tied to the Jewish conviction of the ingathering of the twelve tribes from among the nations (4).

At this point (1.2), Pitre provides a brief sketch of the notion of tribulation within Jewish literature as a way of defining the boundaries of his investigation within scholarship. He then goes on to survey modern historical Jesus research, building upon key scholars in the field, beginning with A. Schweitzer. The author writes well to show a thorough understanding and investigation of each scholar’s various conclusions, while maintaining the necessary brevity of an introductory survey. Of modern historical Jesus researchers Pitre is most interactive with N. T. Wright (2.8), who has been influential in (re-) establishing the role of the exile in the Second Temple period and in the background for Jesus’ own messianic expectations. Pitre will return to Wright in an excursus below.

The third section of the Introduction has to do with the methodology which will guide the thesis (1.3). At the outset the author states,

“This study will use traditional methods of historical-criticism, such as exegesis in light of the Old Testament and Second Temple Jewish literature, the use of insights from the literary methods of form, source, and redaction criticism, and close examination of how each Jesus tradition fares under the standard criteria of historicity. In particular, each Jesus tradition will be subjected to rigorous exegesis before any arguments are made regarding its historicity, meaning, and significance for the message and ministry of the historical Jesus” (23).

Following this statement of procedure, Pitre then outlines the various sources from antiquity with which he will interact (3.1), his use of the Old Testament (3.2), and his criteria of authenticity regarding matters surrounding the historical Jesus (3.3).

Finally, Pitre returns to the work of N. T. Wright in an excursus to discuss his nuanced view of the end of exile within Jewish messianic expectation during the Second Temple period (3.5). Straightforwardly he asserts, “Unfortunately, what Wright means by ‘the end of exile’ is inherently flawed” (32). Pitre’s point is simply that while Wright is correct in bringing forward the end of exile motif as a vital aspect of Jewish hope and messianic expectation, he is also “fundamentally wrong in his understanding of [the exile]” (32).

The fundamental points of Wright’s argument (along with Pitre’s challenges) are given as: 1) claiming that the Babylonian exile had not yet ended, 2) a re-defining of exile to no longer refer to geographic expulsion, and 3) Wright equates the Jews of the Second Temple period with all Israel. In contrast with this perspective, Pitre contends that geographic expulsion is still in view, which means that the greater portion of Israel was still in exile during this period (34) and that the scattering of Jews among the nations still await the fulfillment of the end of exile (35). Pitre concludes, “while no first-century Jew living in the land would have considered themselves to still be in exile, every first-century Jew would have known that the ten tribes of the northern kingdom were still in exile” (38, emphasis in original). Thus, the primary hope and messianic expectation among Second Temple Judaism was the final ingathering of all twelve tribes of Israel from among the nations (40).

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