Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Gospel as Eschatological Torah

Luke-Acts records Jesus as teaching that Jerusalem would be the starting point from which the preaching of the gospel would emanate. In Luke 24:46-47 Jesus tells his disciples that “it is written … that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” This idea is also reflected in Acts 1:8 when Jesus says that his disciples will be his witnesses “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The starting point for the preaching of the gospel of the risen Christ is Jerusalem. But where in particular is this written in the Old Testament Scriptures?

The answer seems to be … in Isa 2:2-3.

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of Yahweh shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem.

The intertextuality between Isa 2:2-3 and Luke 24:46-47 shows that the Old Testament concept of eschatological torah finds its fulfillment in the gospel!

2 comments:

John Thomson said...

There is a real sense in which I agree with what you say Steven but I also think it can be a bit misleading too.

It depends firstly what we mean by 'Torah'. Is it simply the word of God or is it Law and its covenantal implications?

Secondly, I think the NT counterpart to OT 'Torah' is not NT 'Torah' but 'Life in the Spirit'.Roms 8.

Of course, OT Torah finds its fulfilment in the NT life of the Spirit (the Torah written on the heart) but the distinction of medium is vital to Paul.

Much of this I'm sure you agree with.

Steven Coxhead said...

Thanks, John for your comment.

I agree with what you say, but at the same time I’m not trying to mislead anyone; just trying to deal with how to understand the Old Testament prophets’ very positive view about torah in the eschaton. But like anything, when we use terms that others are accustomed to understand differently, then misunderstandings can arise. My goal in all of this is trying to understand how these terms and concepts should be understood in the flow of biblical theology, even if that proves to be too controversial for some.

I would say that the New Testament equivalent of torah is Christ himself and derivatively the gospel. Life in the Spirit, I would argue, is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament concept of the law in the heart. But your point about the distinction of the medium (or mediator) is very important. Torah (i.e., the word of God) in Christ is “the law of the Spirit of life,” whereas the torah of Moses was (from the point of view of salvation history) “the law of sin and death.” That distinction is vital indeed.

God bless!