Was the Fall of Jerusalem Good News? #3
Jesus said that the prediction of the impending fall of Jerusalem was “this gospel of the kingdom. Exactly how could that horrific event be called ‘the gospel” i.e. the good news? In this third installment in this study, I take a look at a very powerful first century societal philosophy. This is a philosophy that modern Westerners have a hard time grasping, but, it is critical for understanding much of the story of eschatology.
One of the undeniable “good news” aspects of the fall of Jerusalem, that is, good news for the saints then – and now- was -and is- vindication. Related to that concept is that of “glorification.”
To better understand this claim and this concept, we have to get inside the mind of the ancient Hebrews. If we do not have such insights, much of the message of New Testament eschatology will simply be missed by us. When we come to comprehend the first century society in which the Bible was written and how power the Shame -V- Glory and concept was, many of the NT eschatological passages become very clear, and, it becomes glaringly obvious that those passages do not fit any “end of time” scenario.
With this in mind, we need to share, ever so briefly, a few thoughts on this “shame-v-glory” motif as the scholars explain it for us.
Peter Davids and Douglas Moo discuss the honor shame motif in the NT times.
“North American society appears guilt motivated (internal feelings predominate), the society of the early church period was honor-shame motivated (external valuations were most important). The surrounding society used shame as a major weapon of persecution (and especially in the cross, where the shaming was as significant as the execution), and the New Testament writers argued for a reversal of values, showing that Christ and the Christians were in fact the more honorable.” They shows that the sense of honor and shame is found throughout the NT. “In 1 Peter the readers are being shamed by their neighbors (words like ‘abuse,’ ‘insult,’ and ‘slander’ are used), but, it is these neighbors who will receive shame at the final judgment (1 Peter 3:16). The reader’s faith, however, will bring them honor when Christ returns (1:7), not shame (2:6). It is they who have the honorable titles given to them.” (Peter H. Davids and Douglas Moo, 1 & 2 Peter (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 2002), 27).
Likewise, Jerome Neyrey, has a discussion of the honor shame motif.
“Honor is either ascribed to individuals, or achieved by them. Ascribed honor is like inherited wealth: one has it by birth or adoption from a person with the power and status to bestow. Primarily, honor derives from one’s clan, family, and father. Sons have the same social status as their father, whether senators or fisherman or artisans (‘all should honor the son as they honor the Father’ (John 5:23). Honor accrues to one’s family name, and all family members share in it when it is publicly acknowledged and respected.
He says (p. 5) that the honor shame motif “game” contains four elements:
1. Claim to honor
2. Challenge to that claim.
3. Riposte to that Challenge.
4. Public Verdict
He examines Luke 13:10-17 as a “classic example of this challenge-riposte contest” from the life of Jesus that powerfully illustrates the shame-v-honor mentality and the four elements just listed.
He adds: “Ascribed honor, especially that which comes with blood and family, is a group matter; when one member is honored, all are honored; but, when one is shamed, the group shares that loss.”
(Jerome Neyrey, 2 Peter and Jude, (New York; DoubleDay; Anchor Bible, 2004), 3f).
N. T. Wright touches on this motif when he says:
“The whole of the story, of judgement for those who had not followed Jesus and the vindication for those who had, is summed up in the cryptic but frequently repeated saying “the first shall be last, the last fist. In other words, when the great tribulation came on Israel, those who had followed Jesus would be delivered; and that would be the sign that Jesus had been in the right, and that in consequence they had been in the right in following him. The destruction of Jerusalem on the one hand, and the rescue of the disciples on the other, would be the vindication of what Jesus had been saying throughout his ministry.” (N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Minneapolis, Fortress, 1996), 338).
So, honor or shame was something that both the individual and groups shared in, either positively or negatively.
(For more on the shame-v-honor motif and several Biblical examples of this at work, see Randolph Richards, and Brandon J. O’ Brien, Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes, (Downers Grove; IVP Press, 2012), 113f).
Keep in mind that in our first article in this series , we spoke of how the fall of Jerusalem would bring relief from the organized Jewish persecution. But, in destroying the Jewish persecutors, the Lord likewise vindicated his saints, and in that event, he was himself glorified (Matthew 24:30-31 / Colossians 3:1f / 2 Thessalonians 1). Over and over again, the NT shows that the parousia of Christ would be the humiliation of the enemies of Christ, and the vindication and glorification of the followers of Christ. This is Romans 8: “The suffering of this present time” would give way to “the manifestation of the sons of God.” They would go from shame to glory!
Thus, to the first century saints, both individually and corporately, the persecuted, the despised, the ostracized body of shame of which they were members, the destruction of their persecutors would be a glorious event to be sure! The fall of Jerusalem would be wonderful “good news!”
The once humiliated Messiah who had “humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the Cross” (Philippians 2:5f) would come “in the glory of the Father” (Matthew 16:27). He would come in power and great glory (Matthew 24:30f). He would come in righteous judgment, turning the tables on the persecutors of his followers: “It is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation, those who are troubling you.” This would be in the day in which he would come to be “glorified in his saints” and the life and the glory that was “hidden” would be revealed (Colossians 3:1-3)!
This truly was the gospel of the kingdom! Stay tuned as we continue our study of Jesus’ prediction of the fall of Jerusalem, and his depiction of that event as “this gospel of the kingdom.”
Be sure to get a copy of my book, The Resurrection of Daniel 12:2: Fulfilled or Future , to better grasp how this could have been true, and what it means for us today.