Friday, October 25, 2013

Eller's zanily prophetic framework for not framejacking the episode formerly known as the temple tantrum

meme by Quaid
Here's an excerpt from a great book that surprisingly few know about (Greg Boyd interacts with it.  See A Critique of Eller's Thesis  andA Defense of Eller's Thesis)

Don't avoid the book  because you fear it's trying to convert you (violently) to pacifism.
It's not. 
 Vernard Eller's "War and Peace: From Genesis to Revelation" is creative, simple/profound, prophetic 

...and funny!

In this review of a previous version of the book, Ratzlaff called it "zany."   Oh, click that link to see the zany name the book originally had.

In a remembrance in Christianity Today, David Neff celebrated Eller as The Mad Theologian.
He was master of the heterolitic ...and hugely helpful...metaphor (church as ballerina, misguided church as antacid, in this one book alone).

  So buy it already.  (You won't be surprised to hear that he also wrote "The Sex Manual for Puritans)

I had to take the trouble/time to type out the follwing section on the temple tantrum (I'll have to quit calling it that, Eller suggests a better name) as (amazingly) it appears nowhere online (Many of Eller's other books are a free read online, click here)This section doesn't have much Ellerian mad zaniness, but should be wrestled with.    Often we eisegete an "alien template" in reading the scriptures, especially such a "mad, zany"  one as the temple encounter(acted parable/guerilla theatre).  Granted, you may need to read the whole book to get all Eller means by the Zion/purgation cycle (hint: the  'reverse fighting"  motif of the  subversively Suffeing Servant, and God  temporarily using Holy War/enemes to fight against ..not for..Israel).  Also, for context, I have posted the amazing Chapter 8 for my students here):


...the cleansing of the temple, Jesus' condemning of the corruption and the chasing out of its money men and their animals.  However, more than any of the other writres , Matthew again points us to an  interpretation of the incident.  All that is required to bring the matte clear is to change the customary label from "the cleansing of the temple" to "the purgation of Zion" and recall the words of Isaiah:

1 25 I will attack you;
I will purify your metal with flux.
I will remove all your slag.
26 I will reestablish honest judges as in former times,
wise advisers as in earlier days.
Then you will be called, ‘The Just City,
Faithful Town.’”
27 Zion will be freed by justice,
and her returnees by righteousness
An even clearer precedent comed from Malachi..It represents the late  prophetic tradition and focuses almost exclusively upon the "purgation of Zion" rather than upon the Zion Cycle in its entirety--although there are clues to indicate that the writer was aware of the larger picture.  But in any case, these are the words which surely must form the setting within which Jesus' action must be understood

Malachi 3:1-4

New English Translation (NET)
“I am about to send my messenger, who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple, and the messenger of the covenant, whom you long for, is certainly coming,” says the Lord who rules over all.
Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can keep standing when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, like a launderer’s soap. He will act like a refiner and purifier of silver and will cleanse the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will offer the Lord a proper offering. The offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in former times and years past.
 Put it within the Zion framework and rename it "the purgation of Zion," and the cleansing of the temple becomes so "right" and so properly situated that it must be that Jesus himself was thinking in "Zion" terms.  The purgation of Zion, which triggers Jesus' crucifixion, itself points to the stroke of the "sword not of man which in its striking heals"  What other alignment would makes sense?

Matthew puts it on the track of this interpretation in away that the other gospel writers do not, because his account includes an element the others lack, namely a description of Zion purged,  The verses following the cklean sing read

Matthew 21:14 The blind and lame came to him in the temple courts, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the experts in the law saw the wonderful things he did and heard the children crying out in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant 

The Messiah (at least for the moment and in as symbolic way) has with justice redeemed Zion and restored her tio what she was meant to be, a center of healing and servant m inistry for the world.

Because the temple incident figures so large in current thought, we need to comment further.  This event constitutes the golden text of the Bible for many pacifists; in fact, some of them give the impression thatt it is the only text they know.  It forms the rationale for those who feel the need top become quite militant in their peacemaking.  Aggressive confrontation is their style; and they claim to be following the temple-cleansing Jesus in applying something of his technique to the White House, Pentagon a nd Selective Service offices.

But it won't wash; it won't even begin to wash!  If what Jesus performed was the purgation of Zion, then it was not in any sense an act of human political activism...There is no suggestion at all that this is an aspect of his  work in which he called his dsiciples to share..

...But if Christians are to find their place within the model of the cleansing of the temple,it is as Zion (=Israel=the new Israel).  The passage calls for them to open themselves to purging by God so that, as delivered Zion, they are ready to perform a healing and foot-washing ministry to the world..

...there is a further line of thought that relates to  the purgation of Zion.  In Matthew and some of the other accounts...abd once, in Acts..the charge is brought that Jesus had talked about how he would destroy the temple and rebuild it...the most likely explanation would seem to be that Jesus had spoken of the purgration  of Zion and his words had been misunderstood and/or distorted.

..Finally, in Matthew 23, within Jesus condemnation of Scribes and Pharisees., there is a passage that rellated strongly to the purgation of Zion:

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it! 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate! 39 For I tell you, you will not see me from now until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

The lament does not describe the entire action., of course.  Nevertheless, we need always to remember the NT understanding pf peace goes deep enough that it can call for and include a painful yet creative purgation of Zion, the holy community which will become, in turn, an instrument for the healing of the world.  Truly Christian peacemakers must themselves be open  to the  purging of God  (pp 131-133)


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