What took us so long? G.B. Caird on the historical Jesus

Read time: 9 minutes

I was pointed to G.B. Caird’s Ethel M. Wood Lecture “Jesus and the Jewish Nation” last week. The lecture was delivered in 1965 and published by The Athlone Press. It can be downloaded from Rob Bradshaw’s BiblicalStudies.org.uk.

I tend to trace my understanding of Jesus’ eschatology back to Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God, which was published in 1996. But Caird’s lecture gives us a brilliant, vivid, precise and very accessible sketch of the reading, in much the same language, from thirty years earlier. Wright acknowledges the influence of Caird—“it was his little book Jesus and the Jewish Nation that provided the clue to a fresh line of thought” (JVG xix). But still, you have to wonder why it has taken us so long.

The essay should be read, but I thought it might be worth summarising the main points of the argument. I’ve suggested some minor adjustments at the end, but really, there’s little that I would seriously take issue with.

Jesus and the Jewish nation

First, the hermeneutics…

1. Any person who believes that God has uniquely revealed something in the life and teaching of Christ is committed, whether he or she realises it, to the quest of the historical Jesus. “Without the Jesus of history the Christ of faith is merely a docetic figure, a figment of pious imagination.” Christianity appeals to history and therefore must be justified by history.

2. But where in the Gospels are we to find history uncontaminated by the faith and piety of the early church? Against the historical scepticism (we might call it “reduction criticism”) of Bultmann, Caird argues that there is a large amount of material in the Gospels that was of no direct interest to the church that later compiled the Gospels, which we may therefore regard as historical fact. This material “links the ministry and teaching of Jesus with the history, politics, aspirations, and destiny of the Jewish nation”.

Now the story…

3. The crisis announced by John the Baptist was one “which would determine who among the Jews belonged to the true Israel”. Jesus came to John for baptism because he understood this and “accepted his own involvement in the national life of his people”. It shows that from the outset he was concerned with “questions of national policy”.

4. The disciples were sent out on their mission trips in a great hurry. Why? Because “Jesus was working against time to prevent the end of Israel’s world”. The disciples were not evangelists sent to save individual souls. “They were couriers proclaiming a national emergency and conducting a referendum on a question of national survival.” I love that sentence.

5. When Jesus referred to the judgment that would come on “this generation”, he was not thinking of a last judgment of individuals. He meant the current generation of Israel, which had been given “an opportunity to break with the past” (especially Matt. 23:34-35; Lk. 11:49-51). “This generation is in imminent danger of being the last generation in Israel’s history.”

“The disciples were not evangelistic preachers, sent out to save individual souls for some unearthly paradise. They were couriers proclaiming a national emergency and conducting a referendum on a question of national survival.”

6. Jesus turned the spotlight of judgment on Jerusalem: the temple would be left desolate, he wept over Jerusalem, the overthrowing of the tables in the temple was a prophecy of coming judgment, the city would be surrounded by armies, not one stone would be left on another; if the Romans crucified Jesus when the wood was green, “what will they do when the tree is dry (when all Israel is tinder, ready to be ignited by the first spark)”?

7. Jesus said and did things which implied the “universality of the gospel”. He spoke of the Son of Man, who was “given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Dan. 7:14). When he rode into Jerusalem, he brought to people’s minds the vision of Zechariah that YHWH’s king “shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zech. 9:10). He declared that the temple should have been a “house of prayer for all the nations” (Mk. 11:17). So how do we explain the fact that in Acts the disciples appear to have been very slow to preach the gospel to the Gentiles? The answer is found in Jewish eschatology. According to one school of thought, at least, the inclusion of the nations would come about not through missionary activity but through a great act of God on behalf of his people: “then the redeemed nation would act as a beacon, drawing all nations to Jerusalem to join in the worship and service of the one true god”. So it makes sense that in the weeks after the resurrection the disciples “felt their immediate task to be the winning of Israel to an acceptance of her proper rôle as God’s nation”.

8. What Jesus intended to bring into existence was not the “church” as a new religious entity but the “restored nation of Israel, promised in the Old Testament prophecies”. If the nation as a whole rejected this mission, then success would depend instead on the existence of a “nucleus” of the restored people of God. “Like the children of Isaiah in an earlier crisis, the ‘little ones’ of Jesus were to be ‘a sign and a portent in Israel’ (Isa. 8.18).”

9. What we are dealing with here is exactly the sort of “national eschatology” that we find in the Old Testament. The Old Testament prophets used cosmic language to describe transformative historical events. For example, when Daniel “sees the throne of judgment erected, this is not the end of the world, but a climax of history, in which world dominion is to pass from the bestial and tyrannical oppressor by whom it has been exercised into the hands of the saints of the Most High, represented by that symbolic figure, ‘one like a son of man’” (Dan. 7:9-27).

10. Caird thinks that in the New Testament things are complicated by the fact that there is now a belief in personal life after death to reckon with. “It is therefore not always easy to tell whether we are dealing with national or individual eschatology, and, as the church moved more and more away from its original Palestinian setting into the Gentile world, there must have been a tendency to reinterpret the national in terms of the individual.” Nevertheless, in the Gospels the day of the Son of Man “remained firmly in the sphere of national eschatology”. The coming of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven is “a symbol for a mighty reversal of fortunes within history and at the national level”.

11. The connection between the fall of Jerusalem and the coming of the Son of Man is that Jesus and his disciples would be vindicated by the disaster, which was “an open demonstration that Jesus was right and the nation was wrong”. The conclusion to the story about the unjust judge is quoted: “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Lk. 18:7–8).

Some minor points of difference

1. I agree that as the church established itself in the Greek-Roman world, it lost touch with the Jewish story that gave it its original impulse. But I wouldn’t say that “the gospel broke out from its Jewish cocoon to become a universal faith”. That suggests too sharp a distinction between Jewish national religion and a universal faith that transcended politics. The eschatological vision of the church as it engaged with the Greek-Roman world was no less political than the vision of Jesus.

2. I think Caird also overstates Jesus’ interest in the universality of his message. Jesus does not himself draw attention to the fact that the Son of Man would be served by all peoples or that the king who comes riding on an ass will have dominion to the ends of the earth. I agree with the soteriological paradigm: the Gentiles would be saved by the salvation of Israel. But it was somewhat remote from Jesus’ mind. There is also nothing in Acts 2-3 that suggests that the disciples in Jerusalem thought that they were calling the Jews to repent for the sake of the incoming of the Gentiles.

3. The pilgrimage of the nations to restored Zion is one aspect of the Old Testament vision that shapes New Testament expectation. But there is also the belief that YHWH would judge and rule over the nations of the old pagan empires from restored Zion. This is the culmination of the kingdom of God story. I think that Caird makes too little of it. He says in the conclusion, admittedly, that Jesus believed that Israel was to be “the agent through whom God intended to assert his sovereignty over the rest of the world”, but “rest of the world” obscures the natural political focus on the regional empires.

4. Caird seems to have thought that in the New Testament national and individual eschatologies get entangled with each other for no good reason. I would argue that the personal hope of life after death arises as an integral part of the national eschatology, as is evident both in Daniel 12:1-3 and the stories of the Maccabean martyrs. It is those who lost their lives out of loyalty to YHWH during a period of national political-religious crisis who would be raised to share in the life of restored Israel.

5. Since his focus is on Jesus as the Son of Man, Caird makes much of the theme of vindication. The expectation that Jesus would become Israel’s king could have been brought out more clearly. His appeal to Psalm 110:1 suggests that he believed that he would be seated at the right hand of God to rule in the midst of his enemies (Matt. 22:41-45; 26:64 and parallels). Significantly, in his words to the council Jesus weaves together the story of the Son of Man who will be vindicated and the story of the Son of God who will be enthroned: “I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64).

6. Caird says that “God was summoning the nation once for all to take its place in his economy as the Son of Man”. It seems rather that the “Son of Man” symbolism is applied both in Daniel and by Jesus not to the nation as a whole but to a faithful but persecuted community within the nation. Daniel 7 becomes relevant precisely because the nation has abandoned the path of loyalty to the covenant.

Philip Ledgerwood | Mon, 10/02/2017 - 16:35 | Permalink

For what it’s worth, I read:

“Matthew at least has had the wits to recognize Mark’s ineptitude, and has altered the question to make it fit the answer; for he has turned Mark’s question about the temple into a question about the Advent of Jesus and the end of the world.”

as continuing the body of statements that Caird attributes to “the critics,” and not Caird’s own view, since “the critics” are the ones saying that Mark is inept.

@Philip Ledgerwood:

Ah, yes, you’re right, thanks for pointing it out. Caird does not go on to explain why Matthew adds “and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”, which is what threw me. I suppose he would say that Matthew just makes the connection between the destruction of the temple and the vindication of the Son of Man more obvious. I’ve deleted the point anyway, in case other people think that I’m stupid.

@Andrew Perriman:

As I say constantly to my evangelical friends, I think your reading was a plausible one, just not the most likely.

It doesn’t help that Caird pivots in that point without any clear break, at least typographically.

@Philip Ledgerwood:

Yes, quotation marks would have helped. Plus a little more care over reading it.

peter wilkinson | Tue, 10/03/2017 - 18:05 | Permalink

If Wright acknowledged his debt to Caird, I wonder how much of the detail he would approve of. If your summary reflects Caird accurately, I do not think language of a restored nation of Israel (8.) reflects Jesus’ teaching or mission, and contradicts the actual NT narrative and actual history.

@peter wilkinson:

Actual history’s one thing. New Testament narrative? We’re only talking about Jesus here. Where’s your problem?

Jesus will save his people from their sins? The restoration of sinners to Abraham? Twelve disciples in the “regeneration” sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel? Jesus as Son of Man, Messiah, Son of God, all in fulfilment of the scriptures, all meaningless apart from the continuing existence of Israel? Jesus as a new temple? New covenant in Jesus blood? Resurrection on the third day?

Surely Wright’s whole return from exile / return of YHWH to Zion thesis presupposes the restoration of the restored nation of Israel? Of the parable of the prodigal son: “This is the story of Israel, in particular of exile and restoration” (JVG 126). “ ‘Repentance’… was what Israel must do if her exile is to come to an end” (JVG 248). Jesus “welcomed people into his retinue as, by implication, part of the restored people of YHWH” (JVG 272).

Precisely because it concerned the renewal of the covenant, the restoration of Israel, the fulfilment of the promises, and the realization of the hope, Jesus’ retelling of Israel’s story included the call and challenge to his hearers to live as the renewed Israel, the people of the new covenant. (JVG 275)

Wright explicitly endorses this quote from Jesus and the Jewish Nation:

Jesus believed that Israel was called by God to be the agent of his purpose, and that he himself had been sent to bring about that reformation without which Israel could not fulfil her national destiny. (JVG 320, 338)

Finally, Jesus “believed in the coming kingdom of Israel’s god, which would bring about the real return from exile, the final defeat of evil, and the return of YHWH to Zion. He embraced this Jewish hope, making it thematic for his own work” (JVG 652).

Arguably, the question is whether Caird would have approved of his student’s return-from-exile obsession.

@Andrew Perriman:

Actual history bears out the NT narrative. Israel did not continue to exist. There was no further need for circumcision, no land, no temple in Jerusalem, no Levitical priesthood, no festivals “which are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” — Col. 2:17, no law, which “is only a shadow of the good things that are coming” - Hebrews10:1.

This is the background which sums up everything that had previously constituted Israel, but which was coming to an end. The word ‘Israel’ isn’t even used in the NT as a metaphor for the church, apart from the one debatable usage in Galatians 6:16.

Your citations do not indicate a restoration of the nation of Israel. Wright seems to be using language such as ‘restoration’, ‘renewal’, ‘reformation’ not so much as a continuation of Israel, but as “the restored people of YHWH”. This is significantly different from a continuation of Israel, and the key lies in Wright’s words quoted in your final extract from JVG:

that he (Jesus) himself had been sent to bring about that reformation without which Israel could not fulfil her national destiny

The “reformation” was not as Israel, and the “national destiny” was not to be the nation of Israel. That much should be obvious. Or to quote Paul:

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit - Gal. 3:14

“We” here, which includes Paul, is Jews and Gentiles together as “the restored people of YHWH”, which was no longer Israel.

@peter wilkinson:

I think if you read chapter 8 of JVG, for example, it’s pretty clear that Wright understood Jesus to believe that God was reforming, remaking, restoring national Israel. The issue is régime change rather than nation change. Jesus’ story of the kingdom was about Israel’s exile coming to an end, the current leadership in Jerusalem being overthrown, as a prophet Jesus was doing the new thing for which Israel had waited for so long; Jesus was claiming to be speaking for “Israel’s true ancestral traditions”, denouncing the corruption at the very heart of Israel’s life (JVG, 367). How can “return from exile” mean anything other than the restoration of national Israel? Wright speaks about the restoration, renewal, reformation of the people of YHWH, true. But he also speaks about the restoration, renewal, reformation of Israel in keeping with promises made to the prophets.

Or from chapter 6… Jesus speaks of his followers as dispersed communities within Israel, which saw themselves as “true, restored Israel” (316), an “alternative Israel” which would be vindicated by the judgment on Jerusalem and the temple and the temple hierarchy (317). Wright speaks of Jesus’ followers as a “new way of being Israel”—without the land, temple, governed by a new covenant, but still very much Israel, the people of YHWH through Abraha, Isaac and Jacob (Matt. 8:11; 22:32; Lk 1:33; 13:28).

Frankly, I think you are twisting Wright’s words when you say: ‘The “reformation” was not as Israel, and the “national destiny” was not to be the nation of Israel.’

What happened later is irrelevant. What Paul thought is irrelevant. Caird’s lecture is about what Jesus thought.

@Andrew Perriman:

I don’t think you can separate “what Jesus thought” from Paul and the rest of the NT. It is in fact the rest of the NT beyond the gospels which fills out our interpretation of what Jesus thought. As a nation, Israel ceased to exist in the course of the next 100 years following the death of Jesus. The destruction of its temple in AD 40 was, in effect, the termination of Israel as a nation. The issue was not at all simply “regime change” for a nation which continued. Israel had not been waiting “so long” for a destiny which entailed the ending of its law, temple, priesthood, and national, racial identity. The “return from exile” was not to the elder son, representing Israel and its attitudes as expressed in the Pharisees, the guardians of Israel’s “ancestral traditions”, but to a household which welcomed those who were a disgrace to the traditions and overthrew them.

Thanks for the background reading and extracts from JVG which you have provided. In a sense, the issue doesn’t really depend on what Wright or Caird think, but out of interest, why don’t we ask Wright himself? I have his contact details, and have occasionally had brief conversations with him. He does reply to questions. Would you like me to do that?

@peter wilkinson:

It is in fact the rest of the NT beyond the gospels which fills out our interpretation of what Jesus thought.

That’s an extraordinary statement! Where in the rest of the New Testament are we told “what Jesus thought”—that is, the historical Jesus—about the future of Israel? There’s not a lot to go on. The saying about the new covenant in his blood (1 Cor. 11:25), which is presumably an allusion to Jeremiah’s new covenant between YHWH and Israel?

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer. 31:31–33)

Israel ceased to exist as a nation in the land after AD 70—though bear in mind that it wasn’t really until AD 135 and the crushing of the Bar Kochba revolt that Israel’s national existence in the land came to an end. But the temple had been destroyed before. Israel in exile was still ethnic Israel. It could still be argued that Jesus expected a reformed ethnic Israel to continue after judgment, under a new covenant, with himself as king, reigning from heaven.

I don’t think that the parable of the prodigal son is about the return of Israel from exile. I think it tells the story of the reconciliation of the lost in Israel to Abraham, whether the leaders liked it or not. But it is still only a story about Israel. No Gentiles are included.

You’re welcome to contact Wright, of course. But what this conversation was about was not what you think about Jesus and Israel but whether Wright agrees with Caird’s view that Jesus was looking for the restoration of national Israel.

@Andrew Perriman:

“What Jesus thought” is itself an extraordinary phrase — as if we were admitted to the inner psychology of Jesus. We have the words of Jesus as reported by the gospel authors, from which we can put together some idea of his thoughts. We also have his actions as reported, which shed more light on what he thought about what he had come to do. He evidently didn’t think he was a messiah in the vein of Israel’s historical warrior judges/kings/deliverers, which is why it is so wrong to think of him as coming to ensure continuity for national ethnic Israel.

The rest of the NT is therefore very important for understanding what “the thoughts” of Jesus might have been about his messianic role, given that Acts is a continuation of “all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven”. From now on, the ministry of Jesus continued, but directed from a different location. We are therefore very justified in looking at Acts (and the letters), and understanding more fully what Jesus “thought” in the gospels as demonstrated in their outcome. There is a trajectory which led to the worldwide church, and a kingdom which operated very differently from worldly, political kingdoms.

The rest of the NT does not show that Jesus thought there was a continuing role for Israel the nation. The church was not a continuing Israel. Rather, the rest of the NT shows that the phase of national Israel as constituted by its land, racial distinctiveness, laws, temple, priesthood, etc was over, and fading away. Israel ceased to be a nation in AD 135, which is why I said Israel ceased to be a nation in the 100 years following his death and resurrection. However, the heart of the nation was ripped out with the destruction of the temple in AD 40, so that date could also be said to be the end of Israel as a nation. The difference between this destruction of the temple and the destruction in 587/6 BC was that this time it was never to be rebuilt, nor was Israel ever to be restored, present day secular Israel notwithstanding.

The parable of the prodigal son is about the return of the son to the father. Jesus does not say its only meaning is the reconciliation of the lost in Israel. In the end, the only truly lost person in the parable is the elder brother, who represents those who did not see themselves as lost. He is the one who refuses to come into the celebration for the return of the younger son and be reconciled.

Yes exactly, the point is whether Wright agrees with Caird that Jesus was looking for the restoration of national Israel. I’ll give it some thought as to whether I contact him.

@peter wilkinson:

He evidently didn’t think he was a messiah in the vein of Israel’s historical warrior judgeskingsdeliverers, which is why it is so wrong to think of him as coming to ensure continuity for national ethnic Israel.

This is a transparent non sequitur. Just because Jesus didn’t think of himself as a warrior messiah doesn’t mean that he had no interest in the continued existence of national ethnic Israel. He clearly put himself forward as Israel’s king (triumphal entry), but he expected to gain that position by way of humility and suffering. He does or says nothing to suggest that he expected that Israel as the descendants of Abraham through Jacob would cease to exist.

@Andrew Perriman:

This is like Alice in Wonderland. The triumphal entry signals clearly that Jesus would be king like no other king of Israel. Despite what you say, all your efforts are dedicated to saying Jesus was committed to the continuation of what the NT clearly says was failed and passing. The future people of God was not Israel, and operated on very different principles. You maintain continuity and the same OT principles. That is simply wrong. Sorry Andrew.

@peter wilkinson:

Well, you show me what the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels said or did that showed he expected something other than the continuation of national Israel. You keep making these defiant assertions, but you have said nothing that invalidates the position that Caird, Wright and I, albeit with some variation, have defended.

When the disciples ask Jesus whether at this time he will restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6-7), he does not say that the kingdom will not be restored to Israel. He says that it is not for them to know the time that the Father has fixed.

@Andrew Perriman:

It should be the other way round: you show me anywhere in the gospels, including John, where Jesus expected the continuation of national Israel. It isn’t there.

Matthew 3:10  — the tree that failed to produce good fruit was national Israel, not individual people.

Matthew 3:12 — the winnowing fork was separating out those who would form the renewed people of God; the chaff continues the verdict of 3:10 in a different metaphor with the same meaning — national Israel was destined for burning.

Matthew 5:17 — not at all a statement for the continuation of Israel in its Law and Prophets, but for their completion, which did not include Israel the failed state.
Matthew 8:11-12 — which you wrongly cite as evidence for the continuation of Israel the nation, when the passage says the opposite. There is no mention of Israel the nation in the feast of the patriarchs which the Gentiles, not Israel, will join. Jesus’s verdict on Israel is: “I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith”. Of Israel, he says: “the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into darkness etc”. In other words, this was the destiny of anyone committing themselves to the continuation of the failed state of Israel.

Matthew 9:16-17 — the old garment and the old wineskin were Israel and its practices. New cloth is not sewn onto the old garment; new wine is not poured into the old wineskin. The new people of God are not placed in the old nation of Israel.

Matthew 11:20 — Jesus denounces the cities “in which most of his miracles had been performed”. This is a judgment on Israel.

Matthew 12:39 — Jesus does not condemn the Pharisees as a group, but condemns “a wicked and adulterous generation”. The Pharisees are identified with the failings of Israel as a generation, or as a race.

Matthew 12:46-50 — Jesus goes further in his dissociation of himself from racial ties, ie Israel, by associating himself only with those “who do the will of my Father in heaven” as his “brother, and sister and mother”.

Matthew 13:1-30 — The parables of the sower and the wheat and tares are a further warning of what was about to happen historically to Israel.

Matthew 15:21-28 — The incident of the Canaanite woman is a parable about Israel. The fact that Matthew makes the woman a Canaanite highlights the shift that is coming. Canaanites had been for extermination (Deut 7:2 etc). Now the Canaanite, not Israel, is commended for her “great faith” — Matthew 15:28. Jesus goes to Tyre and Sidon, not Israel, to encounter such a woman.

Matthew 16:4 — Again, the Pharisees and Sadducees are included together as representing the race, Israel — “a wicked and adulterous generation”. The “sign of Jonah” is not of Israel’s resurrection but his own, and of a mission which would be directed to show mercy to the Gentiles — in the mercy shown to Nineveh.

Matthew 17:17 — Jesus condemns not the father of the epilectic boy, or the disciples, but an “unbelieving and perverse generation” for the boy’s state. This was Israel, the failed state which had allowed demonic infestation to become commonplace in its midst, and was now destined for complete destruction as a national entity.

Matthew 20:20-28 — The days of the nation state of Israel which modelled itself on the power structures of the Gentiles were over (which is why the Roman Empire under Constantine was not the future for the people of God which Jesus or Paul or anyone else wanted, planned or envisaged).

Matthew 21:12-13 — Not a cleansing of the temple so that it might continue, but an enacted judgment prefiguring its destruction and end. The temple was the heart of what constituted Israel as a nation.

Matthew 21:18-19 — One of the clearest enacted parables of Jesus; Israel, the fruitless fig-tree, was under God’s curse, and would not be revived. This is even more emphatic in Mark 11:12-14 — “May no one ever eat fruit from you again”.

Matthew 21:43-44 — “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you (the tenants, ie Israel) and given to a people/nation (not Israel) who will produce its fruit”.

Matthew 23 — Jesus pronounces woes on the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, but it is the nation which receives their judgment — Matthew 23:37-39

Matthew 24 — Not a prediction of the rescue and continuation of Israel, but of its complete destruction.

And on and on. Jesus does promise salvation for the faithful, but nowhere are they described as a continuation of the nation of Israel. The broader hints are of a new people of God made up of faithful Gentiles and Israelites, constituting not Israel but an entirely new people.

Would you like me to go on? The same trajectory is outlined in Mark and Luke, with Luke adding his own unique asseverations to Matthew and Luke. The same is true of Acts and letters. Any attempt to preserve the crucial markers of Israel: circumcision, food laws and observation of seasons, is condemned as a retrograde step in then NT. Is there any affirmation of the future people of God as a continuation of Israel the nation? Not anywhere.

@Andrew Perriman:

My first example, Matthew 3:10, of the termination of national Israel was incorrect in one sense. The warning is to ‘trees’ plural, not singular. Trees producing good fruit would be saved. The overall sense remains, however. Judgment was coming on Israel, the severity of which would change things forever. Israel the nation was coming to an end. This sense is borne out by everything else Jesus says.

I’ve taken time to read Caird’s lecture. The striking feature is in making the parousia of Jesus a 1st century event — though he then distinguishes Matthew from Mark. The rest of what he says about Israel the nation is not borne out by the evidence of the gospels themselves.

I’ve asked Tom Wright if I could send him a question, and he’s already said fire away. I’ll let you know the outcome

@Andrew Perriman:

Thanks for drawing attention to this again. I don’t see Caird as being quite so clear cut. He turns the proposition of the critics around and suggests that Mark was not inept but right — the coming of the son of man was the answer to the question about the destruction of the temple. He then leaves open the question of how or whether Matthew was a commentary on Mark by not addressing it. (The assumption would be that he thought Matthew was saying nothing different from Mark).

Andrew, have you ever read Dale Allison’s response to Wright’s view of Jesus’ eschatology in the book Jesus and the Restoration of Israel? If so, I’d love to see your thoughts on it, especially regarding Allison’s criticism that Wright (and Caird) unfairly caricature Schweitzer’s view to make their metaphorical/preterist reading look like the only sensible alternative.