Thursday, December 27, 2007

Quote of the Day - Jesus Was Not a Covenantal Nomist

For it is historically improbable that, after Easter, Jesus’ disciples carried on a mission to ’the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Mt. 10.6; 15.24) if Jesus himself never thought Israel was lost.

Dale C. Allison Jr., Jesus and the Covenant: A Response to E P Sanders, JSNT 9.57 (1987), p.74.

Allison here eloquently puts to rest Sanders' suggestion that Jesus was a covenantal nomist (eg Jesus and Judaism, p.336). The entire Christian movement is difficult to reconcile with a Jesus who accepted covenantal nomism (John the Baptist seems to have been considered as a forerunner in this regard--Matt.3.9 is a flat rejection of covenantal nomism, as Allison points out).


Jim Deardorff said...

So one conclusion (mine) is that Jesus never spoke those words, of being sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Rather, the writer of Matthew invented it, along with a falsified statement of "Go nowhere among the Gentiles." That writer was anti-gentile, was he not, along with many Jews of that day?

If the first gospel had indeed been a Hebraic Matthew, then its later translator into Greek must have been the one who fed in a few pro-gentile passages, in order that Matthew not lose out entirely to Greek Mark and Luke.

Rick Sumner said...

Whether Jesus actually spoke those words or not doesn't really alleviate the problem Allison brings to light though. It's difficult to reconcile a movement that demanded one follow Jesus with a Jesus who thought that one could be saved by virtue of the covenant, and the covenant alone.

Sanders gets around this by having different expectations for "the wicked," and everyone else--Jesus' offense was that he allowed the wicked to be saved by following him. But nobody, ever, seems to have taken Jesus as indicating anything of the sort.

Sanders himself provides enough rope to hang himself on these points: If Jesus was, as Sanders would have it, a prophet of the restoration, and if he did indeed set himself as the "king" over the twelve, then it follows that Jesus saw a connection between following him and salvation. A connection that is nowhere negated by the covenant, and, despite Sanders' best efforts, nowhere spelled out as having different implications for "the wicked" than for anyone else.

At the end of the day, if Sanders is right on most of his key points (which I think he is), then he is wrong in suggesting that Jesus was a covenantal nomist.