Reflections for 11/6: Community and Interpretation Around the First Century

Part 1

The information in Prof. Levine’s essay can help us to understand how Jesus’ teachings relate to contemporary Judaism especially how he criticizes, adapts, and changes certain elements of Judaism.  It accomplishes this by making us realize that not everything Jesus says or does is “anti-Jewish” or even if it is in opposition to certain Jews it probably isn’t in opposition to all Jews.  With this understanding we can pause when reading the New Testament in order to consider whether it is really a repudiation of past teachings or practices.

Part 2
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life are all meant, at least in large part, to explain previous Scripture and therefore to give an account of who Jesus was (is) in terms of the history of Israel.  They all agree as seeing him as a savior.  His coming is foretold by John the Baptist who serves the role of a prophet.  Just as a prophet brought about David’s reign and anointed him John the Baptist signals Jesus’ coming and baptizes him.  At the same time John the Baptist’s proclamations see Jesus’ coming as a significant event in and of itself like God’s other interventions in history such as the ending of exile and the Exodus.  This, from this perspective, is just one more action in Israel’s salvific history.  His death is just like the conclusion (to use the term loosely) of Exodus in that a sacrifice is made to save the people, just like a lamb was sacrificed for the first born.  A Son is given to save the people just as a lamb was given to save the sons.

This is all very similar to the way that 1QS shows the Qumran community interpreted already existing Scripture to give an account of events happening in their own time and to explain their role in Israel’s salvific history. So both the early Christians and the Qumran community understood themselves as part of something which “fulfills” Scripture and therefore as part of the movement which will bring about Israel’s ultimate salvation.   They see themselves as part of something which will restore the Judeans to glory.

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