Paul and the Challenge of the Damascus Road Christophany Pt.2

Part 1

Even so, the question of continuity naturally arises. What of the Jewish people and God’s promises to them? Or to be more precise, how can God’s promises be true in light of the fact that the Jews refused to believe in the good news of Jesus Christ and the Gentiles who had no right relationship with God are now experiencing the grace of YHWH (Hays 221)? By Hays’ reckoning, Paul’s powerful trust in the faithfulness of God via the faithfulness of Jesus Christ leads him to search the Scriptures for signs that this was God’s plan all along. So says Hays, “God’s oracles and promises are interpreted anew, in ways that no one could have foreseen, in light of the experience of grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus” (Hays 221).

Again when we turn to the text found in 1 Corinthians 10:1-14, we see something akin to what Hays has presented. What is arguably the foundational narrative of the Jewish faith, the exodus, is presented in a radically different way. Paul engages in a program of sacramental re-imagination, couching the story in terms of baptism and communion, drawing together the Jewish narrative and the Christian narrative (if I can be forgiven for using such terms) and weaving them together in such a way as to declare that they are the same story. In verse 7 and in 11, speaking of the disobedient Israelites he declares that “these things happened as an example.” Scripture is for the improvement of the people of God which somehow now includes the Gentiles. It would be a mistake to think that these categories of nation and church simply collapse. There can be little doubt that the uniqueness of Israel remains even as it is juxtaposed with a strange continuity between Jew and Gentile.

Perhaps the answer lies in verse 4, wherein it says, “For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ” (NET).The faithful figure of Jesus Christ provides the elusive point of radical continuity. Jesus Christ fulfills for Paul both the dramatic role of Jewish messiah as Second Temple Jews might expect (Wright 43) and that of the one Lord about whom the good news has been proclaimed (Wright 69). Jesus traverses the gap between the ardently hoped for deliverer of a broken covenant community and the true Lord of the world who surpasses the might of Caesar and his empire. The cross dramatically speaks into these different contexts, and through participation in the death and resurrection of the one who bore it, all are made cruciform whether Jew or Greek.

 

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