Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Strange Christological Excess of the Old Testament (Part I)


It would seem that some Christians are tempted to think of Christianity fulfilling the hopes of Israel in a direct and linear way. That is, any objective reading of the Old Testament without the New Testament leads directly to Jesus as the messiah, Son of God, etc. Exactly what everyone should have been expecting. Almost as if any idiot should have been ready for him, if only they would put aside their ideological spectacles. There is a nice straight line, so the argument goes, from Israel to Jesus. I've never really been able to see it myself. I have always thought that Jesus and his 'career' was a bit of a shock. (And not just for the Old Testament!)

Who expected a crucified messiah? Righteous martyrs were crucified, but everyone knew that the messiah would 'win', not 'lose' against the Romans. And who expected the resurrection to begin with a single individual, and then be stuck in an in-between time? Remembering that resurrection belief was more than just life after death, but God's comprehensive defeat of the powers of darkness and death and vindication of the righteous, the resurrection beginning in one person, but then stopping, just didn't make sense. We could extend this list of surprises. For example, Paul says that the church is now the temple (of the Holy Spirit), and whatever the relationship between this temple of the Holy Spirit and the temple then still standing in Jerusalem, it would have been a surprising way to speak for a Jew. Hardly a linear progression from jewish expectation of the time to the followers of the crucified messiah as, in some way, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

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