Saturday, November 26, 2011

Luke-Acts and Anti-Judaism.

Next installment of Terence Donaldson's Jews and Anti-Judaism in the New Testament.  For previous summaries:

Matthew and Anti-Judaism

Today is Luke-Acts and, once again, Donaldson does not disappoint in terms of giving us an excellent "lay of the land."  Once again, he captures three basic perspectives:

1. Israel rejected and replaced by the church.
Luke does not have a verse like Matthew 27:25, but the book of Acts does end with a very strong turning away from the Jews to the Gentiles.  Coming as it does at the climax of Acts, one could (and many have) easily argued that Luke-Acts is a story of a definitive rejection of Jesus by the Jews with a definitive turning away from Israel thereafter.

In this reading, Luke starts full of hope.  Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon--they all looked to the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem.   But alas, Ernst Haenchen argued that by the end of Acts, Luke has written off the Jews in favor of the Gentiles.  Luke-Acts taken in its totality pictures God as done with Israel.

2. Purged Israel joined by the Gentile church
The moderating view is that, following Jacob Jervell, the mission to Israel is a success and then the mission moves on to the Gentiles.  Sure, not all Israel ends up saved, but those who are to be saved within Israel are.  "The picture that Luke presents, then, is not of Israel's rejection but of its division" (65).  A purged and repentant Israel thus fulfill the expectations of people like Zechariah and Simeon.  Now the mission can continue to the Gentiles.

3. Israel and church in tension
I'm not sure that I like this way of titling the third option, but it is the one that I favor.  In this interpretation, Luke-Acts looks to some future time for the fulfillment of some predictions.

[As an aside, I do not form this conclusion as a dispensationalist.  I form it on the basis of inductive Bible study.  I do enjoy the fact that, at least on one score, it vindicates the lowly Dallas types over the haughty WTS types]

Jesus answer to his disciples in Acts 1:6 is not, "You're wrong to think some earthly kingdom is still coming to Israel."  His answer is, "in God's time."  Similarly, mention of a "times of the Gentiles until..." in Luke 21:24.  The implication is that, at the end of time, God will restore political Israel and the nation will turn to Christ.  The turning away at the end of Acts signals the full advent of the times of the Gentiles, not a permanent abandonment.  This interpretation, by the way, fits very well with Paul in Romans 11 as well.

[Again, I say this as a Bible-head, not as a modern prophecy teacher.  Any attempt to equate modern Israel with the Israel of these texts is problematic because modern Israel does not accept Jesus as messiah.]

Some of the question of tone then has to do with the social location of "Luke" and his audience (remembering that the work never identifies its author).  It is generally accepted that the author was a Gentile (although even here I think the case is not as clear as often assumed).  It is generally accepted that the author is writing after the fall of Jerusalem, perhaps 80's.

As far as rhetorical features, Donaldson mentions a number, including that Luke-Acts is apologetic history, that it is favorable to the Romans, that it stresses continuity with Israel.  Donaldson does not, however, give a conclusion on whether it aimed at outsiders or insiders.  Is Theophilus a patron?  A potential convert?  A symbolic name?  A Roman official?

As for me, I do think Acts has a tendency to blame "the Jews" for the trouble that followed early Christians like Paul, but at the same time it is very positive toward Christian Jews like James.  Indeed, Luke-Acts favors a more "conservative" form of Christianity in relation to Judaism than Paul, in my opinion.  I do not think anti-Judaism is an appropriate term, especially since the kingdom will be restored to Israel in the final time.


Mr. Mcgranor said...

PTL, may the fall of the time of the gentiles -- be only a dream of judaizers -- laying down to die at the feat of Israel.

davey said...

My own inclination is to work with the idea that Rom 11 says only that Jews will come to Christ in the same way Gentiles do, and Rom 11:25 that it will always be the case that some Jews will be coming in as long as the Gentiles are. Then what of Luke, especially, 21:24? Could that be taken as meaning Jerusalem will be trampled until the Gentiles have fully had their way with it?

So, the idea is that there is no earthly kingdom for a Christianised ethnic Israel promised.