Thursday, August 2, 2012

Grace, and When the Messiah Will Come

I'm continuing my way through Jacob Neusner's Messiah in Context.  In my latest reading, on page 115, Neusner talks about a view within the Jerusalem Talmud that a false Messiah is one who attempts to effect restoration without God's help.  Bar Kokhba especially is criticized for arrogance.  The idea, according to Neusner, is that Israel cannot save herself, and so she must accept God's punishment of her and submit to God.  (Such a notion also appears in midrashim, and, if I recall correctly from my latest reading, the Babylonian Talmud.)  Neusner believes that a passage that holds to such a concept is inconsistent with the notion that Israel can manipulate God to bring restoration by obeying God's commandments.  Apparently, restoration is from God's act of will, and Israel needs to sit back and wait for God to work.  She obeys out of submission to God, not in order to manipulate God to restore her.

In his chapter on "The Talmud of Babylonia and Other Extant Writings", Neusner discusses rabbinic attempts to calculate the time of the Messiah's arrival.  Some opposed such calculations.  Some thought that the Messiah would come in the remote, far-off future.  Another view was that the world would last for six thousand years----two thousand were "void", two thousand were "the period of the Torah", and two thousand were for the Messiah----and, when the time for the Messiah came and the Messiah had still not showed up, that was attributed to Israel's sins.

On page 178, Neusner refers to other traditions in the Babylonian Talmud about the time of the Messiah's arrival.  One view was that the Messiah would come in the seventh year.  Another view was that he'd come in Nisan, which corresponds with when God delivered Israel from Egypt.  A third view is that the Messiah will come on a weekday, not a Sabbath or festival.

And there's the idea that the Messiah's coming would be preceded by tribulations.

All this interested me on account of my own time in apocalyptic denominations, such as Armstrongism and Seventh-Day Adventism.  The speculation about the Messiah coming on the seventh year or Nisan or whenever reminds me of what some ex-Armstrongites speculate about the Second Coming of Christ, when they say that Christ will come on the Feast of Trumpets of a Jubilee year.  They believe this is so because these times have themes that appear to overlap with the Second Coming of Christ----themes of renewal or restoration.  But there are all sorts of times that have themes that overlap with the Second Coming of Christ: Passover, the Sabbath, the Sabbatical Year, etc.

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