Big thanks to myself for buying me a copy of Brant Pitre's Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement (Baker Academic, 2005). As mentioned previously, this is Pitre's Notre Dame dissertation edited for publication.
Pitre opens his book by stating that he is attempting "to trace the development and shape of the concept of eschatological tribulation in late Second Temple Judaism (Pg 2, emphasis his). Secondly, Pitre desires "to determine whether the historical Jesus ever spoke of or acted ont he basis of his own expectation of a period of eschatological tribulation."(Pg 3, emphasis his). Pitre discusses various historical criteria that he employs and adds another: the criterion of "historical congruence" or "contextual plausability" (pg 28). He defines this criterion thusly:
The basic principle of this criterion is as follows: to the extent that features of a saying or deed of Jesus "fit" or are congruent with what is known of his historical setting, especially the context of late Second Temple Judaism, the plausability that they originated with Jesus is increased.
He gives a brief overview of the work of various scholars, showing us a snapshot of contemporary academic work on this question. The most important assessment, in my mind, is that of N.T. Wright's work. Wright's work on Exile is absolutely critical and a breath of fresh air in New Testament scholarship. However, according to Pitre, Wright has accented the wrong exilic syllable, stating: "To put it bluntly: while Wright is absolutely right about the importance of the 'exile', he is fundamentally wrong in his understanding of it." (Pg 32). Pitre critiques Wright's notion that Jews (i.e. those from Judea) considered themselves still in exile, that the Babylonian exile had not ended, though they were back in the land, because there was a foreign force occupying the land (the Romans). However, Pitre notes that Wright does so by confusing the terms "Israelite" and "Jew" (whereas all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are of the Tribe of Judah) and thus forgets that "there was not only one exile in Israel's history, but two." (Pg 33). Wright also has to redefine what "exile" means in order for it to fit his theory. Pitre's work is here to correct this notion and build upon it.
As such, the Second Temple literature that Pitre surveys in Chapter 2 shows that though the Jews were in the land, their laments of still being in exile were for the fact that the Assyrian Exile of the 8th Century BCE had not yet ended. Israel was still in exile in the Second Temple period and this is the key to understanding much of what Jesus does and teaches.
More on Chapter 2 later...