What happens to the Land in the NT?
First, the matter of land is surely not absent in the NT (cf. the geographical land divisions in the first chapters of Luke, Acts and the language of the restoration of the tribes etc.). Barry E. Horner in Future Israel (while I haven't read it all- far from it – this is a book that has actually wound me up rotten!) argues:
'Romans 11:29. "God's gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable." The plurality of the "gracious gifts," ta charismata, surely follows on, by way of explication, from that which is declared secure according to the Abrahamic Covenant originating from "their [Israel's] forefathers," v. 28. Of course from a Hebrew perspective, the "gifts" include saving grace for Israel, yet surely more is included such as the encompassing covenant blessings of 9:4-5 that would unquestionably include the land' (276)
So it remains, but is surely treated differently, with different emphasis (is thus transformed). Is it:
- Spiritualised? Inheritance in Paul becomes the Spirit, not a strip of land in Canaan. Cf. eternal life language in John
- Displaced in person of Christ?: On the basis of Eph. 2:11-22; 3:6; Heb. 4:1-11; John 4:20-26, Chris Wright argues that 'Christ himself, therefore, incorporates and fulfils the significance of the land, as he did also for the law, the covenant, the temple, the king, the priest hood, the prophetic word, Wisdom etc... The effect of this, however, was far from being merely a spiritualizing evaporation of all the great social and economic themes associated with the land in the OT. The reality of Christian koininia in Christ included such practical aspects of inclusio, authority, lifestyle, and socioeconomic responsibility in ways that clearly reflect these same dimensions of Israel's life in the land' (New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, 1.524). Cf. also WD Davies.
- Transformed as the eschatological promise of resurrection?: 'The language of the promised land was understood by many Jews at the time as an eschatological promise of resurrection life beyond the grave (Dan 12:13; Wis 5:5; Shemoneh 'Esreh 13; Dead Sea Scrolls: 1QS 11:7-8; 1QH 11:10-12). This "promised land" of Israel's was being inherited by the Christians, says Paul.' (Cited in Gregory MacDonald's The Evangelical Universalist)
- Brueggemann: 'it is here urged that the land theme is more central than Davies believes and that it has not been so fully spiritualized as he concludes. It is more likely that the land theme can be understood in a dialectical way: in contexts of gnosticism the land theme must be taken in a more physical, historical ways; in contexts of politicizing the land theme must be taken in a more symbolic way' (The Land, 170).
- Universalised?: Paul recognised that the Abrahamic covenant had universal implications (cf. its narrative context following Gen. 1-11), and so Paul, especially under the influence of his broadly christologically shaped hermeneutic universalised the land as God's intention for the world. So, for example, Romans 4:13: 'For the promise that he [Abraham] would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith'. Compare Eph. 6:2-3 and Deut. 5:16.
Any other suggestions?