Wrestling with Division

In my reading today of Paul Hanson’s Dawn of Apocalyptic, Hanson offered more thoughts on the diversity of Scripture from Israel’s post-exilic period.  Over the past few days, I have talked about Hanson’s belief that apocalyptic eschatology emerged from a division in post-exilic Israel between the Zadokite priestly establishment and disenfranchised visionaries, who despaired of Israel’s institutions and expected God to intervene dramatically, punish the Zadokites, and create a new paradisaical order.  These visionaries included the community of Second Isaiah, as well as Levites who were displaced by the Zadokites returning from exile.  Well, according to Hanson, there was also a visionary, prophetic element on the Zadokite side, for Haggai and Zechariah (meaning Zechariah 1-8) had visions that supported the religio-political establishment in post-exilic Israel as well as the inauguration of Ezekiel 40-48’s program (which, at some point, was edited by the Zadokites to downplay severely the role of the prince in the cult and to restrict cultic privileges more and more to the Zadokites).  That is why Haggai and Zechariah so adamantly support or defend Joshua the Zadokite high priest and Zerubabbel.

The divisions in post-exilic Israel concerned the Persians, who wanted Israel to be a loyal buffer for the Persians against Egypt.  Consequently, the Persians sent the Zadokite Ezra to bring about order.  Eventually, I-II Chronicles was written as a work of tolerance and unity.  I-II Chronicles supported Zadokite privilege, but it also upheld a role for the other Levites, and it used terminology of both the priestly source and also Deuteronomy (which were from different schools).  I-II Chronicles believed that history led towards the re-establishment of the cult that David had founded, and so it was not eschatological in the sense that prophetic and apocalyptic literature were.  Not everyone was satisfied with the Chronicler’s agenda of bringing people together under the sponsorship of the Persians, however, and that explains Second Zechariah (Zechariah 9-14), which ranted against the temple and anticipated God’s dramatic intervention.

(UPDATE: That was my impression of Hanson’s argument from my reading, but, on page 409, he states that efforts by leaders such as Ezra appeared to ameliorate the tension, and that “Not until two centuries later did new inner-community strife provide the impetus for the further development of apocalyptic eschatology.”)

In my reading today, Hanson sought to do something theological with this tension.  Hanson states on pages 281-282 that the realistic and the visionary aspects of faith belong together, as faith takes seriously this world and yet also recognizes checks on the status quo, and Hanson also affirms that God was struggling with the historical community.  For Hanson, such a struggle forms “the warp and woof of the deepest level of human existence.”  And, in his very first chapter, Hanson discusses apocalyptic in light of the events of the time when he was writing (the 1970’s), as people challenged the establishment and found certain things (i.e., materialism) to be bankrupt.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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