The Jewish-Christian story begins with the creation of this world including the formation of the proto-beings (Adam and Eve) who inhabit the ideal world of the Garden of Eden. The clue to the human story is “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). Its presence anticipates the holy history taken up in the ensuing biblical narrative.
Genesis posits the concept of an ideal world dependent upon a direct relationship with God (that is, with the very power of being, the foundation of meaning). The call of the proto-humans to become truly human means that they can’t live in the ideal, but must be cast out into the real world East of Eden. Even a divine prohibition can’t protect genuine humanity from the struggle between good and evil.
The human experiment is not without its downside – witness another biblical story, that of Noah and the destruction of most of the humans (the evil ones). It presents a kind of do-over for humanity, a fresh start for building a meaningful life.
The Jewish-Christian story moves to the transition between proto-history and holy-history with the Abraham narratives. Abraham, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, depended upon a direct relationship with God (that is, with the depth and meaning of life itself). Paul (Romans 4:3) quotes Genesis 156 – “Abraham trusted God and it was credited to him into/unto (eis) justice (translation by Waetjen). This was not a faith/belief relationship wherein Abraham’s right beliefs presented God with the opportunity to pronounce Abraham (humanity) “righteous” – that is, of sound belief and therefore “saved.” Instead the relationship was based on mutual trust – a transaction that presupposed doing justice in the world. God called Abraham (visited justice upon him) and Abraham’s response was to act in a just manner. Justice – knowing the difference between good and evil (knowing what enhances / diminishes human capacity) and the consequent doing the good – is the foundation of genuine humanity, the ground of all that transpires in the name of God.
Holy-history continues the human story with the acknowledgement of the difficulty of maintaining a constancy of justice. Therefore human society tends to build around law (which proscribes evil, that good might result).
The early Jewish-Christian story has Moses going up Sinai to receive the tablets of the Law directly from God. The Ten Commandments represent one perspective on what human community is called to implement in the name of God. The people at the base of the mountain, however, were impatient and moved to construct their own more human-based foundation for society. How often it is that this struggle between two perspectives on order in society is conjured up as the distinction between the sacred and the secular. Unfortunately, the sacred tends to be perceived as an abstraction that distances itself from the real world. There is no abstract sacred realm that hovers over the secular. The sacred can only exist in the here and now, as an insistence that is visited upon me, shaking me to my foundations, opening me to the possibility of compassion, peace, and justice for all. While the Law may not be able to save us, it can open us to the possibility of the something more to which we are called as human beings. The Law, however, can only perform this pedagogical function in dependency upon the transaction of trust between human beings and the insistence / call that arrives in the name of God.
Paul proclaims that Yeshua fulfilled all the conditions / requirements of the original covenant of with Abraham (that is, mutual trust generating justice). As such, Yeshua becomes the “new Adam” – that is, the foundation of humankind’s quest for meaning, integrity, and wholeness. Yeshua, identified with the New Human Being, was the first fruit of the New Humanity. For Paul, Yeshua fulfilled the quest for a genuinely human life and subsequently calls Jew and gentile alike into the New Israel / New Humanity. Paul locates that quest for the New Humanity in the “body of Christ.”
To be “a new creation in Christ” means to awaken to life whose meaning is no longer held hostage to he hamartia (sin) – that is, ego consciousness is no longer a solid base upon which to build meaning. Instead, we are insisted upon / called into an abundant life that does not hoard privilege and power; instead, it is a life whose first impulse is doing justice as an agent of God’s Commonwealth of Peace and Justice. Whenever injustice is done, it is acknowledged and set aside so that a justice-based repair can be implemented.
The “intermediate” conclusion of the story of holy-history is stated in Romans 1:17 – “For in it [the good news] the justice of God is revealed through trust into trust; as it is written, ‘The one who is just will live by trust’.” The good news is that God’s justice is entered into by trust and made manifest in daily life. Salvation is the actualization of justice by the New Humanity. This conclusion to the story of holy-history is “intermediate because it can only be actualized in an on-going way as we become the agents of that justice day-by-day – the impossible possibility!