02 May 2008

restoration and division

A classic essay on restoration has recently gained my attention, published in book form as part of Jervell's collection on Luke-Acts.  "The Divided People of God" highlights many of the ins and outs of Jewish restoration and Gentile mission in Luke-Acts and the early church.  Richard Bauckham, in a fabulous essay says, "Jervell convincingly showed that in Acts it is not Israel's rejection of the Gospel that clears the way for the evangelizing of the Gentiles, but rather Israel's acceptance of the Gospel which makes it possible for the Gospel to reach the Gentiles (Richard Bauckham. "The Restoration of Israel in Luke-Acts." In Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives, ed. James M. Scott, 435-487. Leiden: Brill, 2001. 484, emphasis mine.)

Jervell identifies the restoration of Israel as the primary reason why the mission to the Gentiles can occur.  It is the Jewish acceptance of the gospel which enables Gentile inclusion to the covenant community.  Thus, Luke goes to great lengths to show that not all of the Jews have rejected the gospel message (especially in Jerusalem) and that their division is a sign of the acceptance of the gospel and the fulfillment of the restoration of Israel.  It is this division, reminiscent of Simeon's (although Jervell does not make this explicit connection), which ". . . reveals who really belongs to Israel" (55).

It is a convincing essay overall, with a few details not entirely spelled out - although the seeds are certainly sown.  In regards to the division of Israel he writes, "A conversion of all Israel was not a problem for Luke because it is God's will that some should be excluded.  According to Luke, James can rightly say that the conversion and restoration of Israel can be the basis for the Gentiles' seeking the Lord" (54-55).  At first blush, there appears to be a contradiction of restoration and exclusion as aspects of the will of God.  Perhaps this is why Conzelmann held that it was the repudiation of the Jews which makes the Gentile mission possible, thereby divorcing Christianity from Judaism as a precursor for the outward movement of the gospel.  But if Jervell is correct in what he posits, it is not the exclusion of the Jews which is the thrust of the missionary movement but rather the purification of Israel which fulfills the prophetic expectations for a restored Israel.

It is an interesting perspective on the historical movement of the gospel from Jewish to Gentile circles.  Perhaps many interpreters have viewed Gentile inclusion as assuming Jewish exclusion, which is never explicitly stated in the text.  Jervell states, "The addition of Gentile is part of the restoration of Israel" (60).  If restoration is truly happening among the people of God, then the light to enlighten the nations must shine even more!  Further, M. Fuller ties this event to the ascension of Jesus (in a move inspired by NTW, no doubt) as the final cap on the lordship of the Messiah and the restoration of Israel - though I am yet to be convinced on his views of the Twelve being tied to the land (cf. Michael Fuller, The Restoration of Israel: Israel's Re-gathering and the Fate of the Nations in Early Jewish Literature and Luke-Acts. Berlin: Walter deGruyter, 2006. 263.).

At the end of the day, Jervell has placed the effect of the gospel well within the hopes and expectations of the restoration of Israel that shaped Second Temple Judaism.  Rather than a movement away from Jewish belief, the church fulfills its role as the true Israel which has now been opened up to all.  It is, as Jervell states, ". . . but that the Gentiles have gained a share in what has been given to Israel" (53).

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