I am reading Scot McKnight’s book A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context, and I’m very impressed so far with his decisive and really quite radical argument about Jesus and the kingdom. The book was published in 1999, and, frankly, I wonder whether he has revised his views in a backwards direction to any degree since then. This statement in the “preliminary sketch” stood out:
In his vision of human history, Jesus saw no further than A.D. 70, and to this date he attached visions of the final salvation, the final judgment, and the consummation of the kingdom of God in all its glory. (12)
That actually goes a bit too far for my liking. I would say that in his vision of the future Jesus barely looked beyond AD 70, and that he attached to this event visions of a salvation, judgment and consummation that were “final” for national Israel. But I disagree that “history took another course”—that Jesus, like the Hebrew prophets, “saw the next event as the end event and predicted events accordingly”.
Surely, the fact that Jesus reconstituted a new people of God around himself indicates that he expected “Israel” to survive the impending crisis—and indeed to come to “reign” in the coming ages. There is no final judgment of the nations or of the world as such in Jesus’ teaching, only a judgment on Israel. We have to wait for Paul to transfer the eschatological conceptuality to a second horizon of judgment on the Greek-Roman pagan world, and even then we are still mostly dealing with limited historical outcomes. I am curious to see how Scot will develop the argument.
Looking for an answer to this question I have skipped ahead to chapter 4 on “The Kingdom Yet to Come”, which begins with a couple of good quotes from J.P. Meier and Ben Meyer (121):
“Jesus did understand the central symbol of the kingdom of God in terms of the definitive coming of God in the near future to bring the present state of things to an end and to establish his full and unimpeded rule over the world in general and Israel in particular.” (J.P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, 1991-, vol. 2, 349)
Jesus’ scheme of the future was single and simple: crisis events (his own death, the persecution of his followers and martyrdom for some of them, the suffering of Israel, the attack on Jerusalem, the ruin of the temple) followed by resolution events (the day of the Son of Man, the resurrection of the dead, the pilgrimage of the nations, the enthronement of the disciples, etc.). (B.F. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus, 1979, 204-205)
Both these statements emphasize the singularity of Jesus’ focus, but they also seem to point to continuing political existence after the eschaton. Where are you going with this, Scot?