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Already/Not Yet: Eschatological Tension in the Book of Tobit
Abstract

Abstract:

The book of Tobit presents eschatological hope as paramount to life in Diaspora. As the title character nears his death, Tobit reasserts the prophets’ expectations that God will return Israel from exile. Yet in both the characters’ and the reader’s experience of the story, there is tension between these as-yet-unrealized hopes for the future and God’s present activity in fulfilling these expectations. Thus, I argue, the book of Tobit does not merely echo prophetic hopes for the future. The narrative modifies prophetic eschatology by holding future expectation in tension with the notion of present fulfillment. This tension between the “already” and the “not yet” reveals what is distinctive about the narrative’s eschatological vision and is the proper lens through which to understand Tobit’s primary theological and ethical agenda in its third- or second-century b.c.e . historical context. The narrative’s answer to the apparent problem that the prophets’ hopes have not been realized is that these expectations have already begun to be fulfilled.


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