The Major Clue to Understanding the Early Christian accounts of Jesus

Divinity Returns in the Messiah
In the second temple period, we find the theme which I have come, in recent years, to regard as the major clue to all the early Christian accounts of God’s action in Jesus.

Ezekiel tells of the divine glory, riding on the throne-chariot, abandoning the temple to its fate because of the persistent idolatry of people and priests alike. But in the final dream-like sequence of the book the temple is rebuilt, and in chapter 43, the divine glory returns at last.

This is the point, as well, of the whole poem of Isaiah 40–55: The watchmen will see the divine glory returning to Zion, though when they look closely what they will see is the figure of the Servant.

The point is this: In two of the major so-called post-exilic books, Zechariah and Malachi, the Temple has been rebuilt, but the promise of YHWH’s glorious return remains unfulfilled.

The prophets insist that the Spirit will return, but that it hasn’t happened.

YHWH will indeed return, but that very insistence is powerful evidence that he hasn’t done so yet. Of course the people are offering sacrifice and praying in the newly restored temple, because that’s how sacred space works, as with the Western Wall in Jerusalem to this day, where devout Jews and even visiting presidents go to pray even though no Jew supposes that Israel’s God is really in full and glorious residence on the old Temple Mount.


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