Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hope of Israel

Is a first century writing about the “hope of Israel” apocalyptic and/or eschatological? It is probably apocalyptic but not necessarily eschatological!

Since the time of Albert Schweitzer, Jesus has been recognized as an apocalyptic preacher and the books of the New Testament as apocalyptic literature. Apocalypticism offers hope. It is a form of language enabling the meek to hear good tidings.

David C. Sim in Apocalyptic eschatology in the Gospel of Matthew wrote: “There is widespread agreement that a direct correlation exists between the desperate situation of the author and his group and the embracement of the apocalyptic-eschatological perspective. Apocalyptic eschatology which emphasizes the imminent reversal of present circumstances, the vindication of the suffering righteous and the punishment of their perceived oppressors, serves to strengthen, comfort and offer hope to the group which is experiencing the crisis.”

Luke sets out to demonstrate that Jesus is the fulfillment of the hope of Israel in both the religious and national sense and that the followers of Jesus are in continuity with the sacred history of the people of Israel. This eschatological message is meaningful only if three conditions exist at the time this gospel is proclaimed to its first audience: the audience is Jewish, the message is early and Theophilus is a member of a “marginal” group or of a group which believed it was oppressed. Theophilus does not have to be a member of the same group as the author and the group the author represents.

The title is a quotation from Acts 28:20 where Paul makes an effort to win over the Roman Jews with these words: “For the hope of Israel I am bound by this chain.” By the “hope of Israel,” Luke meant the resurrection of the dead, of both the righteous and unrighteous, and the fulfillment of the promises made to the fathers. Theology of salvation begins with the understanding of the hope of Israel, which needs to be further developed, which Luke and Paul taught, that the God of the exodus is the God of the resurrection and that hope for the future for the coming Kingdom of God is ultimately based on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus the Righteous One.

Without hope there is no eschatology. This is probably something Moltmann said. The Greek word for hope ἐλπίδος does not appear in any of the gospels. However ἐλπίδος does appear in Acts 23:6; 26:7 and of course Acts 28:20 and in the Pauline epistles, Hebrews and 1 Peter. The phrase “to hope” ἐλπίζων appears in Acts 24:26 and Timothy 3:14.

Even though Luke does not use either the word ἐλπίδος or ἐλπίζων in his gospel that does not mean that the people depicted in his gospel were not waiting for the hope of Israel. I noted earlier that Joseph of Arimathea “lived in expectation of the kingdom” as did Simon waiting for the consolation of Israel and Anna for the redemption of Israel. We also see the idea in Luke 3:15 where the people are living in expectation; Luke 7:19-20 where they ask Jesus, shall we look for another? and Luke 24:21 where the two men had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel.

Is there any expression of hope in the other gospels?

This is a work in progress.

Copyrighted 2007


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