Monday, July 28, 2008

Robert Wilken on "Jerusalem" in Galatians 4

I am reading a fantastic book that I only wish I had discovered years ago. It makes you wonder what books you have yet to read that would have made a difference in ones your research and thinking. The book is The Land Called Holy. I have found it to be a very important compliment to my own work on the importance of the land promise and the kingdom of God in the New Testament and early Christianity. I am not very far into it, but I came across Wilken's interpretation of the Jerusalems in Paul's allegory in Galatians 4. A passage and topic I have published on (ZNW 96, no 3-4, 188-210). 

I was encouraged to read that Wilken goes in a similar direction as I did in highlighting the eschatological significance of Paul's references to Jerusalem. I made the argument that Paul is reading Isa 54:11 and makes the "Present Jerusalem" an eschatological category for the present age while the "Jerusalem from above" he uses to one represent the new age that had dawned in the work of Jesus the Messiah. While not developing it in the way I did, his reading would complement my own. 

Wilken states:
If Paul is speaking eschatologically,--and the citation from Isaiah makes this likely,--the distinction he draws between the two cities may not be between a "heavenly city" (a term he does not use) and an "earthly city" (which he also does not use), but between Jerusalem as it is at present (in Greek, Jerusalem as it is now) and a future Jerusalem. The difference between the two cities is temporal, not metaphysical, between what exists at the present and is imperfect and flawed and what will one day take its place, a glorious new city not made by hands but graven on the palms of God (n. 42, pp. 281-82). 

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