AT THE BORDER
OF A NEW MILLENNIUM:
IS THIS THE WAY
THE WORLD ENDS?
THUS FAR I HAVE ADVANCED TWO THESES. I ARGUED IN PART 1 THAT THE Pentateuch is shaped in important ways by the imperial designs of the Persian Empire. The text represents not only Yehud's internally generated composite of ancient faith traditions, but also its acceptance of an externally imposed constitution that advances Persian hegemony and prosperity. Given the reality of Persian control, the canonization of the Pentateuch stands as a reminder that Yehud's survival was the result of both stubborn faith and political compromise. Whatever life Yehud constructed for itself, it had to be viable in relation to Persia's power.
In Part 2, I argued that the Torah preserves a vision that, though shaped by political realities, is not ultimately defined by them. This vision asserts that God's intentions for the cosmos and for humankind can never be simply equated with status quo arrangements of power or politics. God's ultimate design is instead indelibly imprinted on creation itself. Creation's liturgy summons humankind to worship and thus to a special partnership with God that works to establish, sustain, and restore God's cosmic design. Towards this end, the Torah envisions the community of believers as “a priestly kingdom and a holy nation,” commissioned to live out creation's design faithfully at the border between the “givenness” of everyday realities and the promise of wider ones that correct and complete them.
Part 3 now explores a third thesis. It argues that the Torah's vision has the capacity not only to sustain the partnership between God and humankind in the present, fragile world, but also to create imaginatively a new world in which God's cosmic design may be more fully actualized. The argument here turns on the assertion that the Torah's vision has a