22 December 2007

Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile: pt. 5

Chapter Five: The Paschal Tribulation, the Death of Jesus, and the New Exodus
The overarching question which must be raised by Pitre is now addressed: “
How did Jesus view himself in relation to the tribulation?” (381). Such will be the predominant concern of the present chapter, and the author attends to it following a brief survey of other perspectives (returning again to the scholarly list given in Chapter One) (383). Structurally, this chapter is built around three particular passages which serve to illustrate Jesus’ own self-awareness of messianic expectation and the tribulation: Mark 10:35-45; Mark 14:26-28; Mark 14:32-42.

Mark 10:35-45
With current discussions of atonement theory being popular within scholarly circles, this first passage is particularly interesting since it deals with Jesus’ well-known statement, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 45). Pitre is concerned that the text be read appropriately to its specific historical circumstance, noting the particular dialogue which was set into motion by James and John, as well as the disciples’ ongoing struggle for prominence (388-389). His exegesis flows from this and he reads the entire passage as a dialogue concerning “
the theme of eschatological glorification and rule” (391, emphasis in original). The royal overtones of the language and the reference to glory place an eschatological time frame to Jesus’ words, at the same time offering an echo of Daniel 7. The specific references to “cup” and “baptism” denote suffering (Pitre connects the similar language and sentiment to Luke 12:49-50), and are most likely being used by Jesus to refer to his own eschatological tribulation (394-396).

Pitre further deals with Jesus’ understanding of
Son of Man in reference to his own death, specifically with how that death is connected to the eschatological tribulation (399f.). The author connects the Mark 10 passage with a reading of Daniel 9:24-27 to help solidify the connection of the Old Testament text to Jesus’ teaching, and highlights three specific points: 1) “the text clearly prophecies that the Messiah will die during the tribulation,” 2) “one of the primary purposes of the tribulation is to atone for sin,” and 3) “the forgiveness of sins that is wrought by the tribulation will bring about the End of the Exile” (401-402, all emphases in original). Pitre sees here a harmonization of the royal and messianic figures whose death would bring about the eschatological tribulation and the final kingdom. The climax of this is that Jesus adopts language from the Old Testament prophets to declare his death as being that which releases the scattered exiles of Israel (405).

Mark 14:26-28
This passage, which utilizes a quotation from Zechariah 13:7, contains Jesus’ words that his disciples would fall away and would be scattered. Pitre’s reading of the prophet as background to Jesus’ present usage leads him to assert that Jesus is in fact declaring his death to be the catalyst which unleashes the tribulation (457). Thus, with his own understanding of messianic expectation Jesus links his own death with the Great Tribulation, which in turn is linked to the resurrection. The imagery of scattering and re-gathering is also seen in his words, both which are inaugurated by his own death (460). Mention of the resurrection in connection with the tribulation and restoration of Israel is the key aspect of this passage (477).

Mark 14-32-42
Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane is the final passage from the Gospels in which his death is linked to the tribulation. A key verse in Pitre’s examination is 14:35: “Keep awake and pray that you not enter into
peirasmos.” The language of the passage highlights certain elements which have been present throughout the thesis, such as hour, cup and peirasmos. The setting itself as the Mount of Olives recalls Zechariah 13-14, where the prophet depicts this location as “key to the outbreak of the final tie of ‘testing’ and tribulation for the eschatological remnant” (481). The mentioning of the hour also points to an appointed time (rather than a particular point in the evening or of the time of Judas’ betrayal) in which the eschatological tribulation would begin with Jesus’ suffering and death - perhaps retaining some elements of the time of betrayal (482).

Just as Jesus prayed for the
hour to pass from him, he also prays that this cup would be taken from him (v. 36). Pitre’s understanding here is that the tribulation which Jesus would endure “is nothing less than an eschatological Passover, the final great trial that will precede the ingathering of the exiles in the New Exodus” (487, emphasis in original). This, in turn, would bring about a coming peirasmos, which Pitre’s study leads him to consider as the final tribulation which would come upon the people of God “before the dawn of salvation” (488). And it is Jesus’ willingness to enter into the peirasmos which demonstrates himself as the paschal Lamb of the New Exodus (491).

Summary and Conclusions
The conclusions which Pitre draws from this chapter are fourfold:
  1. Along with many scholars in historical Jesus research, Pitre affirms that “Jesus both spoke of his own imminent death and saw it as part of the eschatological tribulation.”
  2. He concludes that Jesus’ expectation of suffering is also messianic.
  3. Pitre identifies Jesus’ understanding of post-tribulation events included “the exaltation of himself and the Twelve disciples in the kingdom and the ingathering of the scattered tribes of Israel.”
  4. Pitre also asserts that Jesus’ viewed his own death as having soteriological and eschatological significance (505, all emphases in original).

Chapter Six: Summary and Conclusions
The final chapter of this impressive thesis includes a summary of the previous chapters (6.1) before turning to implications for the study of the historical Jesus (6.2). The implications which gives as conclusions from his study are listed in brief:
  1. “. . .Jesus should be primarily understood within the context of ancient Jewish restoration eschatology.”
  2. “. . .on whether current historical Jesus research will be open to rethinking long-standing conclusions regarding the interpretation and authenticity of the Olivet Discourse (Mark 13).”
  3. “. . .the historical Jesus apparently embraced some form of remnant theology.”
  4. “. . .our focus on the eschatological tribulation has also led us in a somewhat indirect fashion to some important insights regarding several topics that are frequently discussed in most works on the historical Jesus. . .”
  5. “. . .its contribution to the ongoing debate regarding whether Jesus taught that his death would somehow have redemptive efficacy” (515-518, all emphases in original).

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