Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Eschatological Hope of a Twelve-Tribe Kingdom in James and Matthew

In an essay titled "The Religious Context of the Letter of James" in Jewish Christianity Reconsidered, Patrick J. Hartin discusses the presence of the eschatological hope of a restoration of the Davidic kingdom in the book of James. He states:
When James addressed his letter to "the twelve tribes," he was doing so against the background of the eschatological hope of the house of Israel. "The twelve tribes" expressed the belief that God was about to fulfill his eschatological promise in sending God's Messiah to establish God's kingdom (p. 207).
He correctly notes in my opinion the fact that the Abrahamic covenant is incorporated into the Davidic covenant such that "not only does the identity of the people of Israel consist in being God's children from Abraham living in covenant relationship, but this covenant relationship [is] now incorporate[d into] the promise of the perpetual endurance of the Davidic kingdom" (I have revised Hartin's language here). In other words the future fulfillment of the Abrahamic proimses is dependent on the restoration of the Davidic twelve-tribe kingdom.
Hartin to my delight and surprise, and without an awareness of my work, points to the presence of the same hope in Matthew's Gospel in the phrase "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" and links that hope with Psalms of Solomon 17! He asserts: "Matthew's Jesus proclaims the fulfillment of those [Psalm of Solomon] hopes in the reconstitution of the twelve-tribe kingdom" (pp. 209-10).
A final quote: "Just as Jesus directs his letter to those members of 'the house of Israel', so James addresses his letter to those members of the house of Israel who had been scattered throughout the nations" (p. 210).

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