Dictionary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

Dictionary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

G. К. Beale, D. A. Carson, Benjamin L. Gladd, Andrew David Naselli - Dictionary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2023. – 992 p.
ISBN 9781540960047 (cloth)
ISBN 9781493442553 (ebook)
ISBN 9781493442560 (pdf)
In the last few decades, the field known as “the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament” has blossomed. What was peripheral in the past has now taken center stage. At the annual Society of Biblical Literature conference, one need not wander far to stumble upon a paper devoted to the use of the OT in a particular NT passage. Indeed, entire SBL seminars are devoted exclusively to the cause, such as “Paul and Scripture” and “Scripture and 1 Corinthians.” NT scholars are growing more aware of how NT authors, at key points in their arguments, often lean on specific OT passages, events, and concepts.
The fifth edition of the UBS Greek New Testament lists approximately 350 OT quotations in the NT (UBS5, 857–63). The Gospel of Matthew, for example, contains about fifty-five OT quotations, whereas the other three Gospels together cite a total of sixty-five quotations (Blomberg, 1). In Paul’s Letters there are about one hundred quotations. Regarding allusions, some scholars argue that the NT contains well over one thousand allusions. By way of comparison, the NT includes far fewer quotations of Jewish and pagan sources. Similarly, though the NT alludes to extrabiblical literature, it alludes to the OT far more frequently. The difference is staggering.
History of Interpretation
We start with a word about how we got here. A host of NT scholars in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries followed the lead of their OT colleagues and expended much energy examining what lies behind the NT documents in order to reconstruct the genesis of early Christianity. The next wave of scholarship became more concerned with the NT writings themselves and took interest in reading each NT book as a whole and appreciating its literary integrity. Around the mid-twentieth century, C. H. Dodd persuasively argued in According to the Scriptures that NT authors do not cite the OT detached from its original context but draw from the broad and immediate context of the OT. He concluded, “These [OT] sections were understood [by NT authors] as wholes, and particular verses or sentences were quoted from them rather as pointers to the whole context than as constituting testimonies in and for themselves” (Dodd, 126). Dodd’s insight was a watershed moment for the field, setting the trajectory for years to come, though many scholars disagreed with his approach. The hermeneutical sapling that Dodd planted soon bore fruit in the ensuing decades as scholars, working with modern literary techniques, began to explore how NT authors employed the OT throughout their narratives and epistles.
The growing field of biblical theology, too, is part of this discussion. J. P. Gabler, often labeled the father of biblical theology, proposed in the late eighteenth century that the field of biblical studies should not be enslaved by dogmatics. This proposal gave way to countless historical-critical trends among NT scholars, but it also, in some sense, paved the way for various expressions of contemporary “biblical theology.” Though the enterprise of “biblical theology” and its precise meaning have been the subject of tireless (and tired) debate in recent years, scholars have pursued a number of whole-Bible theologies. The last three decades have witnessed substantial interest in tracing various themes from Genesis to Revelation (e.g., covenant, creation, temple). Not coincidentally, much of this work is built upon the insights of those laboring in the trenches of the use of the OT in the NT. Furthermore, some NT biblical theologies, both in Germany and the United States, have more recently been keen to trace NT ideas back to the OT (e.g., Beale, Stuhlmacher).
Need for This Dictionary
With the torrent of publications on the use of the OT in the NT, the time is ripe for a dictionary dedicated to this rich and diverse field. What makes this field notoriously complex is its relationship to other scholarly disciplines and subdisciplines. Take, for example, the role of the LXX (or Old Greek) in the first century. Since most of the quotations in the NT are taken from the LXX, one cannot study how NT authors use the OT without also reflecting on the nature of the LXX itself and its various textual traditions. The relationship between the LXX and the MT must also be considered in the same breath. We should also be mindful of how sectors of Judaism made considerable use of the OT in their documents. What about the use of the OT in the OT? How do later OT prophets use the writings of earlier OT prophets? Do the NT authors cite the OT contextually? What role does systematic theology have in this discussion? Should we in the twenty-first century follow the hermeneutics of the apostles in the first century? As one can imagine, a host of scholars have thought deeply about such issues and offer wide-ranging answers, so at the heart of this project are essays dedicated to tackling such intricate hermeneutical matters.
This dictionary is written with its companion volume in mind, the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (CNTUOT). That book carefully investigates how each NT book quotes and alludes to the OT, highlighting the various hermeneutical permutations of the OT. This present volume continues that examination but on a synchronic level. More book-by-book reflection is needed. Where the CNTUOT examines each quotation and major allusion diachronically, a significant portion of this dictionary does so synchronically. The CNTUOT considers only how the NT uses the OT; it does not address how the OT uses the OT. This project attempts to redress this omission by furnishing separate essays on the use of the OT in each OT book.
Since biblical theology is indebted to careful study on how the OT is used in the NT, a third of this dictionary is dedicated to a wide range of biblical-theological topics. Those interested in how the two Testaments relate to each other on a hermeneutical level are often concerned with such prominent themes woven within them. Lastly, a handful of essays take up the important issue of the relationship between theology and inner-biblical exegesis. Exegesis does not take place within a vacuum, especially exegesis that is mindful of how the two Testaments are ultimately bound up with the person of Christ and the church. One’s theological commitments profoundly shape such discussions.
* * *
In a collection of woodcut maps first published in 1581, a German pastor, Heinrich Bünting, produced a fascinating figurative map of the world using a cloverleaf-inspired design. In the map the three leaves represent the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. America, described as “the new world,” features in a lower corner of the map, and “Engeland” is portrayed as an island above Europe. At the center of the map Bünting prominently places Jerusalem, a vivid acknowledgment of the city’s importance for the whole world. This graphic portrayal of the city at the center of the world reflects well the significance of Jerusalem within the Bible. However, the biblical picture is more complicated than Bünting’s map suggests.
In the Bible the name “Jerusalem” refers to an elevated location in the Judean mountains between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea, but it is also associated with two other locations, neither of which is on the present earth. In Galatians, Paul contrasts the earthly Jerusalem with a “Jerusalem that is above” (4:26). Elsewhere, Hebrews refers to a “heavenly Jerusalem” (12:22). Sharing this understanding of a Jerusalem located in heaven, Revelation concludes by recording how the apostle John “saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (21:2; cf. 3:12; 21:10) to be located on a “new earth” (21:1). John’s vision of the “new Jerusalem” represents the climax to which God’s redemptive activity has been progressing throughout history. This concluding vision underlines the centrality of Jerusalem in God’s purposes for the whole world.
While narrative books of the OT vastly prefer the designation “Jerusalem” for the city, poetic books (esp. Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations) often refer to it as “Zion,” sometimes in parallel with Jerusalem (e.g., Lam. 1:17; 2:10, 13). The name “Zion” occurs infrequently in the NT, with all but two occurrences (Heb. 12:22; Rev. 14:1) coming in quotations derived from the OT (Matt. 21:5; John 12:15; Rom. 9:33; 11:26; 1 Pet. 2:6).
Jerusalem’s Rise to Prominence
Jerusalem is undoubtedly a highly significant location in the Bible. It first comes to prominence when the city is captured by King David. Prior to this, Jerusalem, known as Jebus, was controlled by the Jebusites, who are always mentioned last in lists of inhabitants of the land (e.g., Gen. 15:19–21; Exod. 3:17; 13:5; 23:23; 33:2; 34:11; Deut. 20:17). This feature possibly suggests they were the last to be conquered by the Israelites (Sarna, 14). David’s capture of Jerusalem marks the final stage in the Israelite conquest of Canaan. Previous attempts to possess the city failed (Josh. 15:63; Judg. 1:21). After establishing Jerusalem as the capital of his kingdom, David reigns over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years (2 Sam. 5:5). Prior to this, David reigned over Judah for seven years and six months in Hebron.
There are grounds for possibly associating Jerusalem with Melchizedek, king of Salem (Gen. 14:18), given the similarity in the names Salem and Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 76:2). Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac may have taken place close to Jerusalem. In Gen. 22 the location is simply described as being in the “region of Moriah”; 2 Chron. 3:1, which records the only other occurrence of the name in the OT, refers to “Mount Moriah” as the location of the temple at Jerusalem. While these tentative links are interesting, they are not given any essential theological significance in the rest of Scripture.
The Temple City
After capturing Jerusalem, David brings to the city the ark of the covenant (2 Sam. 6:1–19). As the footstool of the heavenly throne (1 Chron. 28:2; cf. Pss. 99:5; 132:7), the ark is intimately linked to God’s presence and sovereignty. Consequently, Jerusalem becomes the location where God places his name and the location to which the Israelites are expected to travel in order to appear before their God. God’s majestic presence in Jerusalem is confirmed through the building of an ornate palace/temple during the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 6–8). The Hebrew term hêkāl denotes a royal residence, whether a palace for a human king or a temple for a divine king. The author of Kings records how God’s glory fills the newly constructed building as it had previously filled the tabernacle (1 Kings 8:10–11; cf. Exod. 40:34–35). Jerusalem, “the city of our God” (Ps. 48:8), provides a natural opportunity for people to live near God. By replacing the portable sanctuary (the tabernacle) with a palace/temple, Solomon establishes Jerusalem as the location of God’s permanent abode. This sets Jerusalem apart from all other cities; it becomes the city of God (e.g., Pss. 46:4; 135:21).
For its residents Jerusalem is a source of blessing because of God’s presence (e.g., Pss. 128:5–6; 133:1–3; 134:3; 147:12–14; cf. Creach, 124–34). Captives returning to the city are filled with laughter and joy (Ps. 126:1–2; cf. 137:6). Zion is “perfect in beauty” (Ps. 50:2), “the joy of the whole earth” (Ps. 48:2). With good reason the psalmist proclaims, “The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are said of you, city of God” (Ps. 87:2–3).
The opportunity to dwell in the city of God takes on added significance when viewed against the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from God’s presence in the garden of Eden. In the light of humanity’s alienation from God, Jerusalem offers hope. Appropriately, the architecture of the Jerusalem temple recalls the garden paradise from which Adam and Eve were expelled (Stager, 38–47).
For those who cannot live in Jerusalem, the city becomes a pilgrim destination for worshiping Yahweh at the annual festivals. Those who make the journey are profoundly blessed (Ps. 84:5–7). As Mark Smith (109) remarks:
In sum, the pilgrimage was like visiting paradise and temporarily recapturing the primordial peaceful and abundant relationship with God. It involved both holiness and pleasure, sacred and aesthetic space. It was an experience imbued with holiness, the beauty of the divine dwelling, and the very presence of God. The pilgrims’ experience in the Temple was global in its effects. It saturated the psalmists’ senses with all kinds of wonders: abundant food and incense, music and singing, gold and silver, palm trees, water and cherubs. This joyful experience led further to an experience of awe and holiness in the presence of God.
The Royal City
Although God’s presence by itself is sufficient to explain the significance of Jerusalem, another aspect must not be overlooked. God’s choice of Jerusalem is intimately connected to his choice of David, who will establish a royal dynasty. The author of Ps. 78 highlights how, in the time of Samuel, God rejected “the tent of Joseph and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,” choosing rather “the tribe of Judah” and “David his servant” (Ps. 78:67–70 CSB; cf. 132:13–18; Jer. 7:12–15; 26:6, 9). In affirming his choice of the tribe of Judah, and of David as king, God also chooses “Mount Zion, which he loved” (Ps. 78:68). Behind these choices stands an expectation that is first introduced in Genesis regarding a future king who will bring God’s blessing to the nations of the earth (Alexander, “Expectations”; “Regal”).
This expectation builds upon the idea that at creation God endows Adam and Eve with the status of viceregents, commissioning them to rule over all other earthly creatures on his behalf. Unfortunately, because the human couple succumb to the serpent’s misrepresentation of God and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God expels them from the garden of Eden. No longer are they or their descendants able to govern on God’s behalf.
In appointing David as king in Jerusalem, God reestablishes the role of viceregent, linking it specifically to the Davidic dynasty. This outcome is reflected in Ps. 2, which records God as saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain” (2:6). In response, the king replies, “I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have become your father’” (2:7).
Behind the wording of Ps. 2 lie the events recorded in 2 Sam. 7. This significant chapter records how David proposes to build a house (palace/temple) for God (see Goswell). Although God rejects David’s proposal as inappropriate, he nevertheless responds by committing to build an everlasting house (dynasty) for David. The events of this chapter forge a strong bond between the Davidic dynasty and God’s palace/temple in Jerusalem, as the divine and the human thrones are set up in the same city. This confirms the viceregent status of the Davidic king, who is subject to God. The significance of this bond is underlined by God’s creating a father-son relationship between himself and the Davidic king (2 Sam. 7:14).
Holy Mountain City
In addition to being a royal city, Jerusalem is viewed in the OT as a holy mountain city. As the psalmist observes, “He has founded his city on the holy mountain” (Ps. 87:1). This mountain aspect of Jerusalem is developed more fully in Ps. 48, which begins with these words: “Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, his holy mountain. Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King” (48:1–2; cf. 125:1).
While some scholars suggest that this mountain tradition finds its roots in Canaanite mythology (Clifford), the Israelite concept of the holy mountain includes important features that set it apart as distinctive (Roberts). Particularly significant is that God’s mountain abode is holy. This has important implications for the city, for it brings into consideration the moral behavior of those who dwell there. As the author of Ps. 24 states, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god” (Ps. 24:3–4). The same sentiment is expounded in more detail in Ps. 15, emphasizing the moral dimension of being holy. In the light of these expectations the prophets critique Jerusalem on account of its immorality, pronouncing God’s condemnation upon its inhabitants (e.g., Isa. 1; Jer. 2; Ezek. 5:8–12).
The concept of the holy city may be traced back to the exodus from Egypt. When the Israelites extol God for delivering them from the imminent violence of the Egyptian charioteers at the Lake of Reeds, their song concludes by announcing God’s future plan for them: “You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance—the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established. The Lord reigns for ever and ever” (Exod. 15:17–18). These words express their hope of living with God on the mountain where he will establish his sanctuary or holy place. This hope eventually results in Jerusalem becoming the holy mountain city where God dwells with his people.
However, before the Israelites arrive in the promised land, God deliberately leads them to another holy mountain, Mount Sinai, where he enters into a unique covenant relationship with the Israelites. In different ways, the events at Mount Sinai prepare the people to live with God in his holy mountain city. At Mount Sinai the Israelites gain an understanding of God’s holy nature and the moral demands that need to be met in order to be a holy nation. While initially Mount Sinai is off limits to the people due to God’s holy presence (Exod. 19:10–15, 21–24), through the sacrificial ritual that seals the covenant relationship, the Israelites are consecrated, enabling their representatives to ascend the slopes of the holy mountain (24:2–13). This development paves the way for the people to live on God’s holy mountain in the promised land.
By way of anticipating this future development, God comes to dwell with the Israelites at Mount Sinai in preparation for their dwelling with him on his holy mountain. This is confirmed through the construction of the tabernacle, which is designated a miškān or dwelling place. Additionally, through the giving of the Decalogue and the book of the covenant, God provides the people with moral instruction so that they may be holy as he is holy.
To underline the importance of all that takes place at Mount Sinai in preparation for the Israelites’ residence with God on his holy mountain, the cultic rituals associated with the tabernacle recall the process by which the covenant was sealed at Mount Sinai. Intentionally, the spatial layout of the tabernacle resembles Mount Sinai, with both having a tripartite arrangement. Symbolically, the Israelites transport Mount Sinai to Mount Zion.
The Decimated City
Although Jerusalem takes on the mantle of the city of God, its residents live immoral lives and abandon their covenant commitment to God. As Deuteronomy warns, failure to obey God will ultimately lead to punishment involving exile (Deut. 28:64–68). Kings narrates how the kingdoms of Israel and Judah turn from God, resulting in subjugation to the nations of Assyria and Babylon, respectively. As regards Judah, considerable blame is laid at the feet of certain Davidic kings, an ironic development given the special role that the Davidic dynasty had in establishing Jerusalem as the city of God. Of all the prophetic condemnations of Jerusalem, Isaiah’s short parable conveys well God’s sense of disappointment concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem; their behavior resembles bitter grapes (Isa. 5:1–5). The consequences for Jerusalem are devastating. God summons the Babylonians to capture the city, raze its walls, destroy the temple, and end the rule of the Davidic dynasty over the nation.
The fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 BC is calamitous in the light of how God preserved Jerusalem and the Davidic dynasty in the face of similar threats in the past. The Assyrian army of Sennacherib failed to take Jerusalem, due to divine intervention, but no such aid is forthcoming when the Babylonians besiege the city. At the price of being labeled a traitor, the prophet Jeremiah warns that those already exiled to Babylon will be more secure than those remaining in Jerusalem. His words sound heretical to those who have developed a mistaken belief in the inviolability of Jerusalem due to God’s presence (Ollenburger). As the book of Ezekiel reveals, Jerusalem is so defiled by the idolatry of its residents that God can no longer remain within the city.
The destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians is highly ironic, for Babylon has become within Israelite tradition the archetypal opposite of Jerusalem. It represents, more than any other city, human disdain toward God. The early chapters of Genesis come to a climax by describing the construction of Babylon (Gen. 11:1–9; bābel is the Hebrew name for Babylon). The builders of Babel/Babylon set their sights on overthrowing God by ascending to heaven itself. Isaiah’s portrayal of the king of Babylon reflects this aspiration to be equal to God. Isaiah records the king’s ambition: “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (14:13–14). Although Babylon appears to win in the conflict with Jerusalem, the OT prophets predict the restoration of Jerusalem, anticipating that the future city will far exceed in splendor preexilic Jerusalem.
A New Jerusalem
Lamentations graphically reveals God’s severe judgment against Jerusalem. Yet God does not abandon the concept of a holy mountain city where he will dwell with his people, who are under the authority of a Davidic king. As Donald Gowan observes, the eschatological hope of the OT is focused on Jerusalem. In keeping with God’s redemptive plan, the concept of Jerusalem as the city of God becomes the goal of a greater vision, as God’s past dealings with Israel provide a model or type for his future actions (see Goldsworthy). This envisaged Jerusalem, however, will be a cosmopolitan city in which the nations of the earth live in God’s holy presence under a righteous Davidic king. As Israel received divine instruction at Mount Sinai, so the nations will come to the mountain of God to be instructed, resulting in universal peace (Mic. 4:1–4; Isa. 2:2–4). “Jerusalem becomes, in the prophetic vision, a symbol of God’s final work of salvation for all the nations, who unite in their knowledge and worship of him. In all this Jerusalem—the historical city—recedes into the background” (McConville, 47; cf. Thomas, 913: “Zion becomes a symbol of new creation and redeemed humanity that lives before God without sin, death or pain because God rules in its midst”).
The collected oracles of the prophet Isaiah convey well this hope, centered on a new Jerusalem, of a transformed world (see Webb, 65–84; G. Smith, 42–51). The book of Isaiah begins by focusing on God’s rejection of a corrupt Jerusalem at the end of the eighth century BC. In marked contrast, it ends by describing a radically different Jerusalem that is precious to God (Isa. 62:1–5, 12). Importantly, Isaiah associates the divine creation of a resplendent Jerusalem with the creation of a new heavens and new earth (65:17–18), using language that recalls the opening verse of Genesis. This new Jerusalem will not simply evolve out of the earthly Jerusalem of Isaiah’s day but will come into existence through a second creation. To underline this sense of new creation, Isaiah highlights how the natural environment will be characterized by harmony in place of violence (Isa. 65:25; cf. 11:6–9).
Isaiah’s vision of a new Jerusalem goes far beyond anything that is achieved when the Persian king Cyrus sends Judean exiles back to the decimated Jerusalem at the end of the sixth century BC. Isaiah predicts this restoration under Cyrus, envisaging the rebuilding of the temple and the city (Isa. 44:28). Strikingly, Cyrus is designated the Lord’s anointed (Isa. 45:1), recalling the anointing of David (1 Sam. 16:1–13). However, Isaiah’s portrait of a gentile king coming to the rescue of Jerusalem is overshadowed by references to another individual who will play a vital role in establishing the new Jerusalem. As a light to the nations (Isa. 49:6), this “servant of the Lord” will bear the iniquity of others so that they may experience peace with God (Isa. 53:4–12). In keeping with God’s commitment to establish David’s dynasty forever, the “servant” displays characteristics of a Davidic king (Zehnder, 231–82).
The Jerusalem that Isaiah envisages is not simply a city to be inhabited by a future generation. Various indications in Isaiah suggest that this city will be inhabited by those who are raised to life after death. Drawing on the imagery of exiles returning from captivity, Isaiah speaks of “those the Lord has rescued” entering “Zion with singing” and experiencing “everlasting joy” (Isa. 35:10). Those living in Isaiah’s new Jerusalem will not experience death (cf. Isa. 25:7–8). Belief in an eternal, heavenly Jerusalem is reflected in Jewish writing from the intertestamental period (see Fuller Dow, 127–31) as well as in the NT.
The prophet Ezekiel also envisages a future Jerusalem that will be a holy-mountain temple-city. His knowledge of this city comes from a series of visions that he receives, appropriately, on a very high mountain (40:2). The visions are recorded in Ezek. 40–48. As various scholars observe, these visions are largely symbolic in nature: “All in all Ezekiel’s scheme appears highly contrived, casting doubt on any interpretation that expects a literal fulfillment of his plan” (Block, 502). Among everything that he witnesses, Ezekiel envisages a time when the holy mountain sanctuary of Jerusalem will be undefiled by human sin: “All . . . will be most holy” (43:12; cf. 43:6–11). The symbolic nature of the vision is reinforced by the description of the ever-expanding river that flows out of the temple, bringing life to the Dead Sea (47:1–12).
The restoration of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile serves as a reminder that God has not abandoned his plan to establish on the earth a holy city where he will dwell with his people. The gradual reconstruction of the city, beginning with the temple, offers hope that God will reinstate the Davidic dynasty. Whereas in the past he rejected the tent of Joseph and Shiloh, the prophets of the exilic period anticipate the enthronement of a Davidic monarchy (Jer. 23:5–6; 33:14–26; Ezek. 34:23–31; 37:24–28; cf. Zech. 9:9–10). Once more Jerusalem will welcome a Davidic king. However, he will be no ordinary king.
The Heavenly Jerusalem
Against the background of how the concept of Jerusalem is developed in the OT, the NT maintains the importance of the city in God’s redemptive plan. But like the OT, the NT envisages a corrupt Jerusalem being replaced by a new, eternal Jerusalem. At the heart of this transition stands Jesus of Nazareth, whom the NT writers unanimously affirm is the promised Davidic king, the Anointed One (or “Christ” or “Messiah”).
Drawing on the significance of the relationship between Jerusalem and the Davidic king, Luke observes how the prophetess Anna associates the birth of the infant Jesus with the “redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). Yet Luke’s Gospel, like the other Synoptic Gospels, gives prominence to Jesus’s public ministry in Galilee, a sign perhaps that, contrary to the expectations of many of Jesus’s contemporaries, earthly Jerusalem will not be at the center of the kingdom that he has come to establish. Matthew’s repeated references to the “kingdom of heaven” may well serve a similar purpose.
When Luke focuses on Jesus’s journey to Jerusalem, a distinctive feature of his Gospel, he does not describe Jerusalem as the ultimate destination: “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). For Luke, Jesus’s ascension to heaven is of primary importance; this is where he will be enthroned as king at the right hand of God the Father.
Luke’s emphasis on the ascension of Jesus, underlined by its prominence at the end of his Gospel and at the start of Acts (Luke 24:50–53; Acts 1:6–11), harmonizes with his observation that the coming of the Holy Spirit upon believers marks a transition from God residing in the Jerusalem temple to the church becoming God’s dwelling place through the Holy Spirit (Beale, 201–16). God moves from living among his people to living within them. This relocation diminishes the importance of Jerusalem as the temple city, a development that is in keeping with Jesus’s prediction that the temple will be destroyed (Matt. 24:2; Mark 13:2; Luke 21:6).
Recognizing the significance of Jerusalem in God’s redemptive plan, Jesus expresses his deep concern for the well-being of the city’s inhabitants. However, he also acknowledges its rejection of God (e.g., Matt. 23:37–39; Luke 13:33–34; 19:41–44) and speaks of it as the location where he will be executed (Matt. 16:21; 20:17–18). Although he is welcomed into Jerusalem as the “son of David,” his subsequent death, instigated by the religious elite, underlines the city’s antipathy toward God. God’s plans under the new covenant inaugurated by Jesus center on a heavenly Jerusalem.
This shift of location is noted by Paul in Galatians. Using the story of Abraham’s relationship with Sarah and Hagar as an illustration, Paul contrasts the “present Jerusalem” with the “Jerusalem above” (4:21–31). In line with this, he informs the believers in Philippi, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).
Paul is not alone in contemplating a heavenly Jerusalem. The author of Hebrews also writes of “the heavenly Jerusalem,” which is “the city of the living God” (12:22). He subsequently remarks, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (13:14 ESV). This belief in a “city that is to come” has previously been mentioned in connection with the patriarch Abraham, who looked forward in faith to “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (11:16 ESV). “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (11:10 ESV). During his lifetime on earth Abraham never inhabited this city, but the author of Hebrews anticipates a future time when his readers will reside in this city with Abraham and the other patriarchs (cf. 11:39–40). This outcome resonates with the expectations of the future that are encapsulated by Jesus in the Beatitudes, which say that, alongside other positive developments, the meek shall inherit the earth and see God (Matt. 5:3–12).
The crowning vision of Revelation depicts the descent of a heavenly city, a new Jerusalem, to a new earth. This marks the climax of God’s redemptive activity, fulfilling his original intention when the first earth was created (Alexander, City). Echoes of the entire biblical story permeate John’s vision of the new Jerusalem. The splendor and enormity of the city reflect the majesty of the one whose throne is established there. John’s vision highlights the holiness of the city, alongside its elevated location. The city is home to all those who have been redeemed by the Lamb, who enjoy the ultimate experience of seeing the face of God (Rev. 22:4).
See also Jews and Gentiles; Temple
Bibliography. Alexander, T. D., The City of God and the Goal of Creation (Crossway, 2018); Alexander, “The Regal Dimension of the תלדות־יעקב,” in Reading the Law, ed. J. G. McConville and K. Möller (T&T Clark, 2007), 196–212; Alexander, “Royal Expectations in Genesis to Kings,” TynBul 49 (1998): 191–212; Beale, G. K., The Temple and the Church’s Mission (Apollos, 2004); Block, D. I., The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25–48, NICOT (Eerdmans, 1998); Clifford, R. J., The Cosmic Mountain in Canaan and the Old Testament (Harvard University Press, 1972); Creach, J. F. D., The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms (Chalice, 2008); Fuller Dow, L. K., Images of Zion (Sheffield Phoenix, 2010); Goldsworthy, G., Christ-Centered Biblical Theology (Apollos, 2012); Goswell, G., “Why Did God Say No to David?,” JSOT 43 (2019): 556–70; Gowan, D. E., Eschatology in the Old Testament (Fortress, 1986); McConville, J. G., “Jerusalem in the Old Testament,” in Jerusalem Past and Present in the Purposes of God, ed. P. W. L. Walker (Deo Gloria Trust, 1992), 21–51; Morales, L. M., The Tabernacle Pre-Figured (Peeters, 2012); Ollenburger, B. C., Zion, City of the Great King (JSOT Press, 1987); Roberts, J. J. M., “Davidic Origin of the Zion Tradition,” JBL 92 (1973): 329–44; Sarna, N. M., Exodus (Jewish Publication Society, 1991); Smith, G. V., “Isaiah 65–66,” BSac 171 (2014): 42–51; Smith, M. S., The Pilgrimage Pattern in Exodus (Sheffield Academic, 1997); Stager, L. E., “Jerusalem as Eden,” BAR 26 (2000): 38–47, 66; Thomas, H. A., “Zion,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets, ed. M. J. Boda and J. G. McConville (IVP Academic, 2012), 907–14; Webb, B. G., “Zion in Transformation,” in The Bible in Three Dimensions, ed. D. J. A. Clines, S. E. Fowl, and S. E. Porter (JSOT Press, 1990), 65–84; Zehnder, M., “The Enigmatic Figure of the ‘Servant of the Lord,’” in New Studies in the Book of Isaiah, ed. M. Zehnder (Gorgias, 2014), 231–82.
T. Desmond Alexander


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