Restored Land or Restored Creation? A False choice?

Just a very quick thought. I regularly hear biblical theologians and NT scholars saying something like the following:

"The Old Testament texts looked forward to the restoration of the Promised Land but the New Testament texts looks instead to the restoration of creation."

The idea is that Christ's followers have no interest in the restoration of the Promised Land because the Kingdom of God has now transcended such parochial concerns. In fact, the promises that God made to Israel about the restoration of the Land are fulfilled in the far greater reality of the New Creation.


Well, I remain to be convinced that this opposition of Land-focus v. creation-focus is at all necessary.

After all, the idea of the restoration of the creation-order is not a NT idea but an OT idea. The new creation motif first occurs in Isa 65:17 and the NT explicitly draws on it. But, in the context of Isaiah this was a restoration of all creation that was connected to the restoration of Israel within the Promised Land (Isa 65:18). There was no either-or nor a sense that this new creation was instead of the (parochial) restoration of Israel. The restoration of Israel in the Land was accompanied by the renewal of creation. The idea that the restoration of Israel would renew creation predates Isa 65. One finds such imagery in various restoration promises from Israel's prophets.

Now this makes perfect sense: If, as Tom Wright argues, Israel-in-the-Land plays out a parallel role to Adam-in-Eden (or Humanity-in-the-Earth) then the symbolic link between a restoration of Israel in its Land and Humanity on the earth is intelligible. I suspect that the book of Acts hints at such a link too (e.g., Acts 1:6; 3:17-21) (though I am not Acts expert! and I'm sure that those who are will kick my donkey for suggesting this)

So why must we choose between the restoration of Israel-in-the-Land and new creation? The one, I suggest, may well be the precursor of the other.

NOW, I know that such theological speculation feed into a highly contentious contemporary political dispute so let me state the following caveat:

Any eschatological restoration of Israel, in my view, would follow (or coincide with) the return of Jesus (e.g., Acts 3:21; Rom 11:26-27; etc.). It is not the place of humans to 'bring it about' before then. So it does not follow from the theology I have suggested here that modern day Israel has a blank cheque to do as it wishes nor that Christians should support Israel come what may! (Though I do think that Christians should not oppose the right of the State of Israel to exist). Speaking for myself, I would defend a two state solution as the only just road forward.

Now I'll just sit back and wait for the hate mail. :-)


Anonymous said…

Sorry, but no hate-mail from here. I found your piece very helpful.
But let's see what other ideas there are!

Terry Wright said…
Yeah, I enjoyed reading it, too. But I'm wondering if Tom Wright could tone down the hyphenated phrases (cf. Justification!). Otherwise I'll start calling him 'The Hyphenator'.
Robin Parry said…
Ah! Those were my hyphenated phrases Terry. The blame is all mine!
Terry Wright said…
But have a look at Wright's Justification - hyphenated phrases are all over the place! (Well, that's an exaggeration, but it does have one or two.)
James Pate said…
I like what you say, since it's an honest reading of the Hebrew Bible. At the same time, it does seem to may that the New Testament interprets the land promise in a broader scope. Romans 4:13, for example, says that God promised Abraham he would be heir of the world, or cosmos.

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