Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Jesus Is Our Jubilee" . . . but How? the Ot Background and Lukan Fulfillment of the Ethics of Jubilee

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Jesus Is Our Jubilee" . . . but How? the Ot Background and Lukan Fulfillment of the Ethics of Jubilee

Article excerpt

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In the contemporary Christian church, one does not need to look far to find references to the biblical Jubilee. On the campus of Wheaton College, the World Christian Fellowship sponsors a yearly Jubilee week, in which students are challenged to think globally about the world Christian movement. A branch of a local charitable organization is called the "Jubilee Furniture Company." This group raises funds for Christian outreach through the re-sale of furniture and supplies needy families with home furnishings. An internet search will lead one to the Jubilee Christian Church, the Jubilee Christian Academy, and even the Jubilee Water Park and Resort.

In the history of the church, the Jubilee has often played a significant role. In the year 1300, Pope Boniface VIII proclaimed a "Jubilee" plenary indulgence for the forgiveness of sin for all those who fulfilled the necessary requirements.1 Although these papal proclamations have continued until the present day and other biblical interpreters have often called for the church to "proclaim a Jubilee,"2 the last decade has seen an increase in these calls with the turn of the millennium and frequent appeals for debt forgiveness for African nations as an expression of Jubilee.3

In this article, we will begin by summarizing three such calls for a modern Jubilee: the theological summary in Jubilee 2000: Economic Justice for Churches in Eastern and Southern Africa;4 Christopher J. H. Wright's Old Testament Ethics for the People of God;5 and John Howard Yoder's The Politics of Jesus.6 After briefly outlining each of these proposals, we will turn to the biblical data in an attempt to summarize the main themes connected to Jubilee. Finally, we will return to these initial proposals and evaluate them in light of the biblical data.


In Jubilee 2000, the theological rationale for the call for debt forgiveness begins with the claim, "Jubilee points to a year of grace whereby relations between human beings are restored and a new beginning established."7 Therefore, while debt forgiveness is part of their proposal, the Economic Justice Network for Churches in Eastern and Southern Africa also calls for a restoration of relationships in "the community of God's people."8 While there is a close link between Jubilee and freedom, the freedom envisaged in this proposal is more than economic and political freedom. It also includes freedom to function as the image of God, as humans were intended to do.9 Thus, the theological basis in Jubilee 2000 is essentially twofold. First, there is a call for economic and political freedom for African nations and peoples. This freedom, however, cannot be divorced from a second type of freedom - freedom to live at peace with God and God's people.

Our second proposal is found in Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. Wright's argument is somewhat more complex than the proposal in Jubilee 2000. He argues that the Christian church can apply the Jubilee in three modes: typologically, paradigmatically, and eschatologically.10 He argues first that the typological approach allows us to interpret the Jubilee in light of the Christ event. Through Christ's fulfillment of Jubilee in Luke 4, the "freedom" of the Jubilee becomes both spiritual forgiveness and economic freedom.11 In the church's paradigmatic application of the Jubilee, Wright focuses on the principles of economic and social equality as the abiding principles of Jubilee. Thus, "the jubilee speaks volumes to the massive issue of international debt."12 Finally, Wright's eschatological mode of applying Jubilee is centered around the hopes of Isaiah 61 and God's promise of Israel's (and the world's) restoration. Although this began to be fulfilled in Christ, the full realization of these promises is yet to come.13

Somewhat earlier than the previous two proposals, John Howard Yoder's application of the Jubilee offers a unique perspective on this issue. …

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