Friday, January 12, 2007

The Coming of the Son of Man

I have just got through reading Andrew Perriman's book The Coming of the Son of Man and the volume is best described as the indigenization of the Dodd-Caird-Wright eschatological scheme for the emerging church. At the core, Perriman is advocating a robust preterist approach to NT eschatology. Perriman proposes that in many ways we have already moved beyond the eschatological purview of the biblical authors and entered into 'the age to come'; and this is not just in Mark 13, but even many of Paul's letters and the book of Revelation lend themselves to this perspective.

Perriman runs the site Open Source Theology and this includes a page dedicated to discussion of his volume. Other reviews include: James Mercer and Chris Tilling offers some brief comments.

Perriman's book has some good things going for it. For instance, he argues that the direction of travel for the Son of Man in Dan 7.13/Mark 13:26 is insignificant (whether he descends from heaven to earth or ascends from earth to heaven) since the primary point is a transfer of authority (pp. 55, 61). I could go along with that after some more thought!

Second, there is a provcative parable at the end of the book which sums up Perriman's approach:

Let us imagine first-century Judaism as a ship - a splendid but badly run ship in which the officers and crew mistreat the passengers and squabble and fight over who should have control of the vessel. Blinded by their obsessions and jealousies, no one on the bridge notices that the ship is drifting towards a ferocious eschatological storm. When one or two men raise the alarm, they are seized as trouble-markers, brutally beaten, and thrown overboard. As the winds tear at the rigging and waves wash across the deck, a few brave souls decide to heed the warnings; they lower a lifeboat and take their chances on the rough seas. To the passengers and crew who stay on board this seems a reckless and disloyal move - and at times those clinging desperately to each other in the belly of the small boat, as it pitches and rolls, wonder if they have made the right choice. Some are swept overboard, some die from exposure and hunger. They cry out to the dark heavens, praying that the storm would cease. But they do not give up home; they believe that they have done the right thing. Then from a distance they watch in horror as the ship strikes rocks and sinks with massive loss of life - they are appalled, but they also feel vindicated. Eventually the wind drops, the waves subside. The lifeboat runs ashore on a sandy each. They have come to the end of the end; they have survived. This is the beginning of a new age.
This is certainly an interesting volume and it is a radical alternative to many traditional Christian beliefs about the end times (not least including dispensational ones). I can go along with a preterist view esp. in Mark 13 and to some degree in Revelation, but I get the feeling that Perriman has pretty much collapsed the entire eschatological scenario into pre-70 CE events. That part, I cannot go with.

Perriman is worth checking out, but for a stark alternative to read beside him I recommend Dale C. Allison's, Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet, pp. 147-71 and also suggest the last chapters of Ben Witherington's, Jesus the Seer.


Chris Tilling said...

Hi Mike! Yes, this was certainly a fascinating book, no doubt. I'm uncomfortable with where the argument takes us, but I thought fascinating light (?) was shed on, among other passsages, the Hab citation in Rom 1 and the analysis of the structure of Rom 8. Certainly he has 1 Cor 7 on his side, but, but ....

I would add that he doesn't argue that everything is fulfilled in AD70, as his exegesis of Paul makes clear. So he is no straightforward Preterist.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

Michael, I appreciate your comments. But if you don't mind, I would also like to make it clear (thank you, Chris) that I do not think that all New Testament eschatology points to AD 70. The fall of Jerusalem constitutes a first horizon, which dominates the outlook of the Gospels. The 'defeat' of Roman imperialism through suffering faithfulness constitutes what was to be historically a much less sharply defined second horizon. Paul has both these horizons in view: judgment on Israel ('vessels of wrath made for destruction') and judgment on the enemy of God's people, which includes a vindication of the suffering community at the parousia (eg. 2 Thess. 1-2). But there is also a third horizon, beyond the eschatological conflict that takes place within the sphere of the Greek-Roman world, which is that of a renewed creation.

My argument is simply that the church has moved beyond the two dominant New Testament eschatological horizons of judgment, deliverance and vindication and must now define itself and its purpose in relation to a creational paradigm that has its origins in the calling of Abraham and its destiny in a new heavens and a new earth. We need a theology, therefore, that centrally addresses not the classic eschatological crisis that is summed up in the narrative of the Son of man but a creational crisis: briefly put, a failure of worship, community, and environment.

Michael F. Bird said...

Thanks for that qualification! I was aware of the Roman imperialism and new creation aspect of your book and I tried to qualify my remarks by saying "pretty much" and putting it in italics. Evidently, I probably could have made that clearer and mentioned the horizons that you bring up. Nonethelss, it is a good read and I liked your sections on Mark 13.