CONTEMPORARY TREATMENTS OF trinitarian theology and Christology routinely make the point that these central doctrines of Christian faith are ultimately anchored in a soteriological vision. (1) Yet, contemporary articulations of Christian salvation tend to be less inclusive of traditional motifs than analogous reflections on the mysteries of Trinity and Christ. (2) Undoubtedly, part of the reason for this is that the tradition has not authoritatively sanctioned a particular version of conceiving Christian salvation. Colin Gunton suggests that another reason is the post-Enlightenment disdain of imagery, metaphor, and symbol on behalf of a "conceptual rationalism" that gives exclusive honor to the propositional expression of truth. (3) On the other hand, the revalorization of metaphor as rendering valid epistemic access to reality is a feature of contemporary hermeneutics that provides new opportunities for the contemporary appropriation of traditional representations of Christian salvation. (4) Such appropriation can find resources in various modern taxonomies of this tradition that seek to identify the key metaphors for articulating Christian salvation such as victory, atonement, and illumination. (5) But as valuable as this approach is, it tends to overprivelege the pertinent metaphor (e.g. "atonement") and lose sight of the underlying systems or "models," the complex of experiences, concepts, images, and patterns of divine-human interaction that gives meaning to the metaphor. The project of this article is to suggest three such models for conceiving Christian salvation. We have chosen to designate these models as "prophetic," "liturgical," and "sapiential." (6) In each case, we aim to show a biblical pattern for conceiving God's salvific work, the concrete referent in human experience to which this pattern referred, and a theological appropriation of this pattern in the theology of the early Church. Our goal is not to provide yet another taxonomy of soteriological metaphors, though readers will note that each of the models lends itself most naturally to a particular set of traditional soteriological metaphors. Rather, our aim is to demonstrate the value of looking at the biblical and patristic tradition through a larger lens than that provided by the category of metaphor. Our hope is that such an approach will render this tradition more intelligible and susceptible to appropriation in our own time.
In the first of our biblical models, the "prophetic," salvation is effected in a lengthy process within history by means of human instruments; we call it "prophetic" because it is clearest in the Old Testament prophets especially Isaiah; in the New Testament it is well represented in the Gospel of Luke. In the "liturgical" model, atonement is a part of a system where the divine suzerain dwells in the midst of his people, the relationship being maintained and safeguarded through gifts and sacrifices; the system underlies Leviticus, which in turn has influenced the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament. In the "sapiential" model, sin is viewed as ignorance and disregard of divine instruction, and salvation as willing reception of divine wisdom; the system is clear in Proverbs 1-9, when Wisdom, personified as an attractive woman, invites "simple" youths to become her disciples and to live with her. This concept of Woman Wisdom shaped the portrait of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel.
THE PROPHETIC MODEL OF SIN AND SALVATION
The Prophetic Model in Isaiah
In the "prophetic" model of salvation in the Old Testament, God initiates a process within history to rectify an unjust situation and employs human instruments to do so. Without atonement rituals, the effects of sin are undone and divine justice restored. A small-scale (and non-prophetic) example of such rectification is found in Genesis 37-50 where the brothers' sale of Joseph into Egyptian slavery is healed through a process that is recognized only retrospectively as divinely led (Genesis 38:26; 45:1-15; 50:15-21). The Genesis story concludes with Jacob's family in Egypt, reconciled and complete, ready for the next stage of God's work. (7) This process of healing took 93 years. (8) The rectification process with which this article is concerned took a far longer time--the two-and-half centuries (ca. 750-500 B.C.) that elapsed between the first writing prophets' announcement that Yahweh had severed his relationship to sinful Israel and the exiles' return to Zion and rebuilding of the Temple. As in the fraternal reconciliation in Genesis, divine leadership was recognized post factum.
In interpreting the history of their people, the writing prophets' perspective was that of Ancient Near Eastern royal scribes. They viewed world history as a succession of empires (or great kings), took divine causality seriously, (9) and correlated important events with signs and omens that made possible prediction and human response. Modern historians, differently, have an inner-worldly perspective and concern themselves instead with measurable factors such as dominant ideas, natural resources, population levels, human leadership, government systems, technology, and industrialization. But Israelite prophets took a scribal view of world history. In the latter half of the eighth century B.C., the writing prophets Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah announced that Yahweh had ended his special relationship with Israel, and they attempted to correlate the divine decision with Israel's conduct. Though convinced that God had terminated the relationship, they felt authorized to invite the people to repentance. In their view, the future was not so determined that God could not adjust that future if humans repented. As things turned out, Israel did not repent and consequently underwent divine punishment. Again in accord with scribal thinking, punishment was carried out through the great kingdoms of the time. In 722 B.C. Assyria destroyed Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, exiled a large part of its population, and turned the land into Assyrian provinces. In 586 B.C. Babylon destroyed Jerusalem with its Temple and exiled its king and leading citizens. Destruction was not, however, the last word. Restoration began in the mid-sixth century B.C. when Persia defeated Babylon and permitted the exiles to return. Persia's policy toward its subjects was more benign than that of Assyria and Babylon. Nearly all the prophetic books addressed some phase of the situation of Israel from the mid-eighth to the late-sixth (or early-fifth) centuries. But only the Book of Isaiah recorded and interpreted the entire two-and-a-half century process of exile and restoration. (10)
The Book of Isaiah contains three authorial voices in the view of most scholars. Much of chaps. 1-39 is attributed to "First Isaiah" (Isaiah of Jerusalem, ca. 738-700 B.C.), chaps. 40-55 to "Second Isaiah" (mid-sixth century B.C.) and chaps. 56-66 to "Third Isaiah" (late-sixth century B.C.). Though no scholarly consensus has emerged on the exact reasons why the chronologically and thematically distinct sections were combined, there is little doubt about the unity of the book. (11) Only a few indicators of planned unity can be mentioned here: (1) the book begins and ends with a pilgrimage of the nations to Zion (2:1-4 and 66:18-24); (2) Zion is a persistent theme, from the denunciation of its corruption (e.g., 1:18-27) to the divine visitation that transforms it into the city of God (e.g., 33:20-24; 45:14-25; 54; especially 65); (3) the artful use of key word pairs (indicated by their verbal roots): spt // sdq ("judge, judgment" // "righteousness") occur only in chaps. 1-39 and 56-66, and ys'// sdq ("save," "salvation" // "righteousness") only in chaps. 40-55 and 56-66; (12) (4) the Davidic king, an important theme in chaps. 1-39, is transformed into the royal people in 55:4-5.
Another important principle of unity in Isaiah is the divine plan by which Yahweh guides Israel and the nations. The book has various terms for the plan: "work" (singular; Isa 41:4; 45:11); "intentions; thoughts" ("my intentions are not your intentions" in 55:8-9); "deed" (singular; 12:19; 28:21); and "word" (e.g., 2:3; 5:24; 30:12; 44:26). Most revealing is "plan" (y's) in its verbal and nominal forms, especially in Isa 5:19: "'Let [the Lord] make haste and speed his work, that we may see it; on with the plan of the Holy One of Israel! Let it come to pass, that we may know it!" The divine plan is paramount in Isaiah. Israel must accept it by welcoming the Assyrian (or Babylonian or Persian) king as the agent of divine rule or judgment. But if Judah rebels against Assyria by entering into alliances with neighboring states, Zion will be destroyed and the king cast aside, and salvation, if it comes at all, will be deferred to the far future. Israel's refusal to accept the Lord's plan is tantamount to political rebellion and idolatry (28:14-22). The ultimate goal of the divine plan, however, is positive--to purify Zion and the Davidic kingship so that the Lord can again dwell in Zion and bless the city.
Though employing different traditions and style, Second Isaiah held the same view and regarded his commission as continuing the one given earlier to First Isaiah as is shown by the analogous commissions in chaps. 6 and 40. To Second Isaiah, however, the phase of punishment and destruction was over and a new phase had begun--return to Zion and rebuilding of city and Temple. But the revelation demanded a response by the people. They must do what Israel had once done to become a people--take part in an exodus from the land of bondage to the land of promise. In the large-scale typology that the prophet used, exiled Israel was far from their homeland like the Hebrews in Egypt in olden times; the wilderness was like the Red Sea, and the servant who will lead them was like Moses (49:1-6).
Third Isaiah monitored the judgment process in his own day. To the returnees, worried about their claim on the land and unsure of their status as the holy community in a still devastated city, the prophet announced that Yahweh was about to rebuild the community in Zion. Israel must commit itself anew to right worship and social justice (chaps. 57-58) and await the visitation of God that would transform the city (e.g., 59:15-21; 65; 66). That visitation would separate true Israel from those within the community who oppressed their neighbor and closed themselves to the coming renewal. Third Isaiah spoke of direct divine action, for there was no Assyrian, Babylonian, or Persian king to implement the divine will as in chaps. 1-39 and 40-55: "I looked about, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that there was no one to lend support; So my own arm brought about the victory and my own wrath lent me its support (63:4-5)." (13)
The Isaian "plan" can be called divine "judgment" in biblical idiom, though "judgment" must be distinguished from modern English usage. First, Hebrew "to judge" (sapat) and the related noun "judgment" (mispat) are not limited to mental activity or to the legal sphere. The primary meaning of the biblical verb is "to rule, govern"; the judicial function is subordinate to ruling. Second, biblical "judging" (i.e., ruling) is concerned with implementing justice, i.e., establishing the justice that God intends the world to have. In the Bible, justice is defined by the divine will, not by a standard external to God. Third, biblical judgment is not a theoretical pronouncement or impartial evaluation of a situation, but quite often an act of intervention into the unjust situation. In the Bible, to judge a situation was to rectify it, i.e., to bring it (back) into conformity to the divine will, "to punish the wicked and uphold the aggrieved righteous." Fourthly, though moderns more often imagine divine judgment as taking place at the end of history than in its midst, divine ruling or "judging" might take place within history and employ human means. (Judgment at the end of history definitively established divine justice that unfolded in the course of human history.) To the prophets, the kings of the great empires were Yahweh's instruments. For First Isaiah, the human instrument of judgment was Assyria ("Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger," Isaiah 10:5), for Jeremiah, Babylon (Jeremiah 20:4; 28:14), and for Second Isaiah, Cyrus of Persia (44:28-45:13). In short, judgment could take place within history, not at its end, and could involve human agency in its unfolding, pagan kings or native Israelites, conscious or not of their role.
In the prophetic model of sin and salvation, then, God "judges" Israel by restoring justice. Judgment takes place within history by means of human instruments in a long process. The process can involve considerable destruction and suffering. Even the sacred institutions of Temple and Davidic kingship can be destroyed before renewal takes place. God's salvation is recognized only in the long run; in the short run human beings struggle without knowledge and their lives are rich in ironies. It requires a long and anthological book like Isaiah to record a long-term process of judgment.
The Prophetic Model in the Gospel of Luke
The prophetic (and later apocalyptic) view of the course of history as succession of empires is reflected in the Synoptic Gospels' announcement that the kingdom of God has come into a world ruled by the Roman Empire. Luke in particular seems to reflect Isaiah's interpretation of Israel's history from ca. 750-500 B.C. as a coherent "judgment" comprising sin, chastisement, and restoration. The Isaian scenario involved the loss or destruction of some of the main institutions of preexilic Israel--the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, Jerusalem and its Temple, and the Davidic dynasty--and the formation of a new Israel with …