Previously in this series:
Bernhard Anderson’s Understanding the Old Testament above has been a great resource for generations of Religious Studies’ students, and is also valuable for Secularists to get a clearer idea of what they are arguing against. Perhaps one of the most important distinctions in the Old Testament for understanding Paul’s Jesus is between (1) Mosaic Covenant theology and (2) Davidic Promise theology. Jesus is portrayed as fulfilling, not abolishing, the law by making it stricter: eg adultery is not just the act, but is committed when there is lust in your heart. In terms of this interpretation of the law, Jesus’ life is an existential point: the world violently turned on God’s specially chosen Jesus who had proved who he was through signs and wonders and wisdom, Jesus thus disclosing or unearthing (a-letheia, truth, un-cover) how hiddenly satanic the world was and hence lifting the fog/spell of Satan from people’s eyes and so be a catalyst for repentance. This is being crucified with Christ, the law being written on our hearts. There must be belief that Christ was the specially chosen one of God because only then can the full weight of guilt come on the world resulting in FULL repentance. This is what John’s Jesus means when he says the only true way to the father is through Jesus. Moreover, the Davidic Promise theology stated:
- 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. 15 But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7: 12-15)
So, this Davidic Promise will still pertain to justice, as the law did, but will be built out of a foundation and direction of unconditional agape Love (selfless love). Regarding the Davidic Promise we see Jeremiah 23:5 that says
- 5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. (Jer 23:5)
It is in Jeremiah we get the important clarification that the new covenant is going to involve:
- 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33; also see Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26)
This event of the law being written on our hearts rather than on stone tablets is the essence of what Paul sees in the crucifixion of Jesus:
- 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Cor 3:3).
Similarly, in Hebrews we read:
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and I write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people. (Hebrews 8:10)“
We can see the problem here for the average, everyday vicarious penal substitution atonement theory of Jesus as paying with his life the sin debt we deserve to be punished for. In the first place, it misrepresents Jesus’ relation to the law. As Amy-Jill Levine points out Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to make it stricter. Secondly the usual penal substitution reading simply ignores the key of Jesus’ crucifixion writing the law on our hearts which is the hidden key to Davidic Promise theology, not just someone of Davidic lineage ascending to the throne. (Matthew 21:9; Luke 1:32; Acts 13:34; also see Isaiah 9:7 and 11:1). The idea that the Hebrew God can’t forgive sin and so must punish us to quench his wrath is completely un Jewish.
The argument by Paul is the law is present on the hearts of all, even pagans, in acorn form that is ready to emerge into a mighty oak if the heart is circumcised by Christ (Romans 2:29). Paul says
– “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16)”
This points us back to the Mosaic theology in Deuteronomy 30 where circumcision of the heart is an inner manifestation of the outer circumcision of the flesh. True “children of Abraham” are those who follow Abraham’s example of believing God (Genesis 15:6). Physical circumcision does not make one a child of God; faith does. Believers in Jesus Christ can truly say they are children of “Father Abraham.” “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
It will be Goicoechea’s primary task to understand Davidic Promise theology and it’s realization in Jesus. He writes
- In 2 Samuel 7, the Good-Shepherd God promises his beloved David that the Kingdom of hesed or of everlasting, merciful love will never be taken from the house of David, and that, although he will sin, he will only be punished with the rods of men, but not everlastingly. For Gnostics, life will always be a war of all against all, with no hope for a theodicy that can justify the ways of God to humankind. But this Davidic Promise is a theodicy of the best possible world. For the evil which man causes and the suffering that comes from it will be overcome by the loving God who created all things good.
Goicoechea, David. Agape and Personhood: with Kierkegaard, Mother, and Paul (A Logic of Reconciliation from the Shamans to Today) (Postmodern Ethics Book 2) (p. 122). Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- [This was] first revealed in the Davidic promise in 2 Samuel 7. The Kingdom of David’s everlasting, merciful love or hesed would last for all the house of David forever even though for any sin he and they would be punished with the rods of men. Incarnational love for all is eternal and punishment is temporary.
Goicoechea, David. Agape and Personhood: with Kierkegaard, Mother, and Paul (A Logic of Reconciliation from the Shamans to Today) (Postmodern Ethics Book 2) (pp. 282-283). Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.