Reconstructing Israel: Restoration Eschatology in Early Judaism and Paul's Gentile Mission Public Deposited

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  • June 6, 2022
  • Staples, Jason
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religious Studies
  • This study examines how the concept of “Israel” was constructed and contested among Jews, Samaritans, and (eventually) Christians in the Second Temple period. It explores how varying understandings of Israelite identity and expectations of Israel’s glorious eschatological restoration set the boundaries between Jews and Samaritans, various Jewish sects, and eventually Jews and Christians. Beyond that, the study demonstrates that hopes for Israel’s restoration were not only central to the origins of Christianity but were also paradoxically instrumental to the inclusion of gentiles in the primitive church as evidenced in the letters of the apostle Paul. The first part of the study demonstrates that, contrary to the assumptions of most modern scholarship, the terms “Israelite” and “Jew” were not synonymous in most Jewish literature from the Second Temple Period. Rather, the most common view reflected in these sources is that the Jews are only a subset of the larger body of Israel, namely the descendants of the southern kingdom of Judah. Samaritans, by contrast, were not Jews but considered themselves Israelites, with different Jewish groups having varying responses to this claim. Moreover, in many instances, the continued distinction between “Jews” and “Israelites” seems to reflect continuing hopes for a future restoration of reconstituted twelve-tribe Israel including the northern tribes of Israel scattered by the Assyrians in the eighth century BCE. The second part of the study examines how Paul participates in this discourse concerning Israelite identity, arguing that Paul similarly understands “Israel” to denote a group larger than “the Jews” and expects the restoration of all twelve tribes of Israel. Specifically, Paul appears to believe that many from the northern tribes intermarried among the gentiles, thus becoming “not my people” (=gentiles; Rom 9:25–26). In consequence, Paul claims that the incorporation of gentiles into the eschatological assembly through his gospel is the only proper means for the restoration of “all Israel” (Rom 11:26), including not only the Jews (=Judah) but all twelve tribes of Israel.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Ehrman, Bart D.
  • Portier-Young, Anathea
  • Lambert, David
  • Plese, Zlatko
  • Wagner, J. Ross
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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