9.4 -- Transition to New Testament
This is what is at stake at the end of the Old Testament era. The much-battered and nearly sunken Jewish ship of state has lost most of the crew and passengers overboard, but clings tenaciously to the rebuilt Temple, the Book, the priesthood, and the identity of a people set apart among mankind. The threat of extinction is very real in the onslaught of Greco-Roman civilization. This threat is not merely military and political, but also reflects a wave of cultural imperialism that constructs baths and stadia in the Holy Land, and builds schools teaching Greek history and philosophy, promulgating a rival and successful world-view.
Judaism of this time has its own internal theological problems as well:
a. it is backward looking. What relevance does the deliverance from Egypt 1500 years ago have to a nation shackled by pagan Rome?
b. what is its orientation to the educated outsiders? Should Judaism bar the gates against the infidels, or should it seek to engage them intellectually? The great work of translation of the Scriptures to Greek known as the Septuagint, a product of many scholars over many years, is an example of the latter strategy.
c. it still awaits the outworking of God's vindication of His people. There is a desire for God to intervene in history decisively and give direction to His people.
d. it looks ahead to the climax of history and the coming of the Messiah as a resolution of its current divisions and difficulties. There is a decided sense of incompleteness in the Old Testament. A foundation has been laid, and the walls raised, but the upper floor and roof are missing. Where is the restoration of the Davidic dynasty and the earth being filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord?
e. most of the messianic and apocalyptic prophecies were hundreds of years old at the dawn of the Christian Era. Was it all just prophetic hyperbole, religious poetry? Did the Jewish ruling classes look on their Holy Book with the same condescension as contemporary European and American intellectuals view our own Bible?