I've just finished a section of a course that I'm teaching (on "mythology") in which, of the historical books of the Old Testament, we read Genesis, Exodus, Judges, and 1 and 2 Samuel. We read other OT books, then read in the New Testament we read the Gospels, Acts, and Revelations. So we got to read the alpha and the omega of human history <br><br>Anyway, my take on what happens in the Gospels (with teh exception of the Gospel of John) is that they reiterate the pattern of the OT. In the OT, regularly, Israel becomes apostate. God punishes Israel with exile, sometimes geographical as in the Babylonian captivity and sometimes political as in the Persian occupation. Eventually God recruits a judge or prophet who reminds Israel of its duty; Israel recovers its customs and faith; the people overthrow the invader; and God smiles on the nation once again.<br><br>The New Testament isn't explicit about the kind of apostasy that Israel has undergone, although it's not hard to understand from some of the actions Christ takes that it involves a radical secularization of the state (money lenders in the Temple, for instance). Seen from the persepective of the OT pattern, the Roman occupation is inevitable as God's punishment for the apostasy. Again from the pattern of the OT, Jesus's mission, like the mission of John the Baptist, is to recall the nation to its duty, just as any Judge or Prophet did in the OT.<br><br>What strikes me very forcibly in rereading the Gospels--the Gospel of John aside, which verges on anti-Judaism as it begins to establish a "new" theology--is that the Pharisees, along with the priesthood, are doing exactly the same thing that Jesus is. And they are doing it in ways that are much more like teh pattern of the OT than what Jesus does. They are very deliberately and carefully harking back to the practices defined in the OT law of Moses (the Mosaic or Talmudic Law) in order to change the apostasy of the people, just as Samuel, a Judge, does, for instance. Jesus is approaching the same task from a different angle, which from the perspective of 2000 years later begins to define the Christian dispensation, at least indirectly (except for the Gospel of John, which is theologically more developed and so different from the other three Gospels and radically so from the OT).<br><br>Again from the perspective of 2000 years later, with Christianity in the ascendancy in Europe and the Americas, it's easy enough to say that he Pharisees and the priests are dead wrong. But that's 20-20 theological hindsight, IMHO. The OT is also full of "types and figures of Christ," as they're called, who almost but not quite fulfill the role of Messiah--Samson is one case; so is David. If I were a faithful Israelite in the first century, trying to figure out how to liberate my nation from the abomination of Roman occupation, I would probably believe that the way to do it is to pay attention to the Pharisees, who affirm the old ways that have always worked to restore the nation.<br><br>
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