Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jesus and the Eucharist 3

In his second chapter Brant Pitre, begins to set the stage for his discussion of the Jewish roots of the Eucharist in his recent book. We’ve been doing a series of posts through this interesting and provocative book. Brant begins by asking “What were the Jewish people waiting for?” This indeed is an important question not only for his study, but more generally because the answer to this question will put into context the words and deeds of Jesus more generally that the Eucharist is merely on case in point.

Brant corrects the false notion that the Jewish people were only expecting an earthly, political Messiah, one who would boot out the Romans and rule over a restored political kingdom. It is true that this was an element, perhaps a central one, of first century Jewish expectation, but it is not comprehensive enough an understanding. He comments,
While some Jews may have been waiting for a merely military Messiah, this was not necessarily the case for all. According to the Jewish Scriptures and certain ancient Jewish traditions, for others, the hope for the future consisted of much, much more (41).
Brant points out that in addition to a political deliverance, the Jewish people were expecting a “new exodus”. In the pattern of the first exodus led by Moses, at the end of the age, God would bring about an even great exodus—God would return the exiles back to the Promised Land from the lands to which they were scattered. In order to do so, God would (1) raise up a “new Moses”, (2) establish a “new covenant”, (3) and build a “new temple”.
It was a hope for the coming Messiah, who would not just be a king, but a prophet and a miracle worker like Moses. It was a hope for the making of a new and everlasting covenant, which would climax in a heavenly banquet where the righteous would see God, and feast on the divine presence. It was the hope for the building of a new Temple, where God would be worshiped forever and ever. Finally, it was a hope for the ingathering of God’s people into the promised land of a world made new (41-42).
The New Exodus tradition, and its concomitant elements, that Brant argues is the appropriate background against which to understand Jesus words and deeds generally and in particular the meaning of the Last Supper.

Brant's point is certainly correct and provides a more complete conceptual background for understanding Jesus. If I were to suggest one friendly critique, I would press him on his discussion of the "new promised land" as "not necessarily identical to the earthly land of Israel" (39). While on the surface I can agree with this statement--there is a New Creation element in the New Exodus--I think it is misleading.

The new promise Land will indeed be identical to the earthly Land of Israel, but it includes more. The expectations begin with and are centered on the restoration of the Land (the land promised to the patriarchs, apportioned by Joshua, but never fully acquired) and expand out from there to the entire earth. The expectations don't contain a conception of replacement of the old earthly Land with something else.


Unknown said...

this is so very much what I needed for the retreat that is being held at the St. Joseph center of the Carmelite nuns in Alhambra this Sat. morning for our H.Comm. candidates from S.G.Mission, wish you could come and be a speaker thank you for your bk. m.l.duran

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