3.2. What does God have planned for this world?

3.2. What does God have planned for this world?

3.1.4. What are the non-negotiable markers of God’s people? How do we balance holding firm against challenges and changing with RI title loans the times?

We know some Jews wanted to join Greek culture and made little or no effort to hold onto their Jewish heritage. Three key items were widely accepted as essential markers of Jewish identity that could not be compromised. (Of course many other things that Jews valued were not controversial with the Greeks.)

  • No worshiping Greek or Roman gods or kings. This is harder than it might sound because many public events and festivals (such as the Olympics) included prayer and sacrifice to gods.
  • Males must be circumcised. Greeks tended to view the body as a work of art. Thus, circumcision was mutilation of the beautiful human form.
  • No pork. This one biblical law became symbolic of the others.

Other elements were important to some Jews but not others. Examples include the authority and leadership of the high priest and the Hebrew language. Some Jews living in Greek-speaking cultural centers started to think of Moses (author of the Jewish law) as a philosopher like Plato.

They imagined all nations should eventually join the Jews

Another debate among Jews was whether non-Jews could join them. Many understood God’s people Israel as the biological descendants of Jacob, so placed little or no interest in people of other ethnic groups joining their ethnic group. Others concluded that if there is only one God then that God should be worshiped by all nations.

Christianity started as a Jewish movement. Jesus and his disciples were Jewish. As the message spread, many non-Jews wanted to join. Some early followers of Jesus thought that a non-Jew who wanted to follow Jesus had to become Jewish and keep the Jewish laws such as circumcision, dietary laws, and the sabbath. The view of Paul became the dominant view. Paul said that God’s people are all those who are unified in faith in Jesus as Lord. Ethnicity and observance of the Jewish laws were not essential. Meanwhile, renouncing belief in Jesus as Lord or worshiping the Roman emperor as Lord was unacceptable.

Especially in the second century BCE, a number of factors we have already considered led to a strong conviction that the world as we know it is not the world God wants, radically so. Namely:

  • Three ideas combined to form a strong conclusion: God is the sovereign creator of all that is. + The world as God created it was very good. + The world as I see it today is thoroughly messed up. = The state of the world today is not tolerable in God’s view.
  • Biblical precedent supported the idea that God could and would radically recreate the world. First, God originally created the world out of chaos (a formless void) and put it into an order that was “very good.” The current state of the world is chaos, so God will end this world and create a new heavens and a new earth. One could also look to the flood in primordial times. The claim is that the earth then was filled with wickedness, so God killed everyone with a flood except a small number of people (Noah and his family) that were kept safe in an ark. Similarly, God will destroy the earth again, and only a small sect of truly righteous people will be saved.
  • As we discussed in connection with theodicy, thinkers such as Ezekiel took a radical view of God’s justice, such that every individual gets exactly what is deserved. The more one expects God to reward God’s people, the more one is disappointed when things don’t work out as hoped. This leads to a cycle of frustration and more radical hopes.