No Imminent Eschatology for Mark and Luke; Galilee and the Messiah

For my write-up today on W.D. Davies’ The Gospel and the Land, I have two items.

1.  My first item is imminent eschatology, the notion that the end would come soon.  According to Davies, Mark and Luke do not believe in such a concept.  Following Stemberger, Davies maintains that Mark emphasizes Jesus’ passion and resurrection rather than the parousia, and that “if Mark anticipated a very imminent Parousia he would not have bothered with problems such as marriage and divorce” (page 221).  Regarding Luke/Acts, Davies argues that Luke 21 distinguishes events in 70 C.E. from the end, that Luke 19:11ff. seeks through the Parable of the Pounds to counter the notion that the Kingdom would come immediately (I assume because the parable presents the master preparing to go to a far country and telling his servants to occupy until he comes), and that Acts 1:7 essentially discourages Christians from focusing on “an imminent end of the world” (Davies’ words on page 265).  Luke 1-2 regards Christ as the coming Messiah who would restore Israel (perhaps soon, which was why people in those chapters are so happy about Christ’s birth), but Davies believes that those chapters are pre-Lukan and reflect a primitive eschatology, whereas Luke looks beyond Israel to the spread of the Gospel throughout the earth.

There may be something to Davies’ analysis.  For that matter, there may also be something to the arguments of A.J. Mattill, who argues in Luke and the Last Things that Luke/Acts has an imminent eschatology!  My question is this: Would believing in an imminent eschatology have necessarily precluded the early Christians from addressing concerns such as marriage and divorce?  I can somewhat understand why there are people who say that it would have, for, if the end is near, why discuss such issues as ethics, divorce, remarriage, community interaction, etc.?  But I can also think of reasons to answer the question in the negative: a desire for the community to be conformed to God’s moral will in preparation for when the end will come, for example.

2.  In John 7:41, Jewish leaders sarcastically ask if the Messiah shall come out of Galilee, the implication being that they did not believe that he would, and therefore Jesus was not the Messiah because he was Galilean.  But Davies states on page 222: “True, there are passages where Galilee may be referred to in Messianic contexts.  These are Song of Songs Rabbah 4:16, with parallels in Lev. Rabbah 9:6 and Num. Rabbah 13:2.  In these passages, if the term ‘North’ be taken to refer to Galilee, then the Messiah may be connected with that area.”

I checked my Judaic Classics Library.  I did not see anything about the Messiah being in the north in Song of Songs Rabbah 4:16, but I did see a reference to the Messiah abiding in the North in the other two texts.  The prooftext for this is Isaiah 41:25, which states (in the KJV): ” I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon morter, and as the potter treadeth clay.”

Davies also evaluates material about the Messianic or eschatological significance of Damascus in the Dead Sea Scrolls (IQS 8:12-15; 9:19-20; IQM 1:3) and rabbinic literature (Sifre Deut. ed. M. Friedmann 65a; 79b; Genesis Rabbah 78:12; Song of Songs Rabbah 4:8; 7:5; Numbers Rabbah 14:4).  Davies is discussing a scholar (Wieder) who maintains that Damascus includes upper Galilee.  But Davies disagrees with Wieder because Davies believes that some of these texts still emphasize the importance of Jerusalem, whereas Wieder (if I am understanding Davies’ discussion correctly) holds that there was some sort of rivalry between Galilee and Jerusalem.  Moreover, Davies does not think that Matthew partook of some pro-Galilean, anti-Jerusalem sentiment, for Davies contends that Matthew ultimately relativizes the land by exhorting the disciples to take the Gospel to all nations.

But the importance of the North or Galilee in Jewish thought fascinates me (though I have to admit that I have not yet looked at the texts that Davies discusses).  Was the writer of the Gospel of John unaware of a Jewish association of Messianic or eschatological events with Galilee?  Could the presence of the rabbis in Galilee after 70 C.E. pertain in any way to their exaltation of the region?

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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