Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jesus and the Parousia - Six Theses

I've just finished writing an article on "Jesus and the Parousia". This was a most stimulating task that forced me to think through several things and gave me a chance to re-read scholars such as Beasley-Murray, Dodd, Robinson, Wright, Allison, Witherington, and McKnight. My thanks to Michael Pahl for proof reading the piece and he was able to sum up my position better than I could: Essentially a realized interpretation set within a broader inaugurated eschatology.

(1) The discourse of Mark 13 and the parables of Matthew 24–25 have as their primary referent the destruction of Jerusalem which constitutes the “coming of the Son of Man” and signifies judgment upon faithless Israel and the vindication of Jesus and his followers. Yet in many ways these enigmatic oracles either allow or even demand application to a broader scenario that includes the judgment of the nations and restoration of creation. In fidelity to the narrative of Daniel 7, the judgment rendered against Jerusalem and the Judean leadership looks beyond the borders of Palestine and will eventually extend to the nations so that the pagan beasts like Rome get their just desserts at a future point (e.g. Revelation 18). As Heinrich Holtzmann saw long ago, the destruction of Jerusalem itself marks the beginning of God’s final judgment. The “Day of the Lord” and the “coming of the Son of Man” that bring judgment on Jerusalem remains a typos for a future judgment of the inhabited world and the salvation of the elect. As Jerusalem is the epicenter of the cosmos, what happens there must eventually spill over to the entire world. The reconstitution of a New Israel is for the purpose of projecting God’s purposes into the world until the arrival of a New Heavens and a New Earth (e.g. Isaiah 66; Revelation 21–22). The fact that Jesus spoke of a future resurrection implies that he did see beyond the portentous events of 70 CE (Mark 11:18-27/Matt 22:23-33/Luke 20:27-39; Luke 14:14).

(2) A prerequisite to the final eschatological dénouement is that the gospel must be preached to all nations (Mark 13:10; Matt 10:18; 24:14; 28:19-20; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8) and although this can be partly attributed to the period prior to 70 CE (e.g. the success of the Pauline mission), ultimately this prediction calls for a more expansive fulfillment and a final consummation beyond that period.

(3) If the coming of the Son of Man in the Gospels refers to a transfer of authority from YHWH to Jesus (see Perriman, The Coming Son of Man), then it arguably anticipates an on-going role in the exercise of that authority and, given the constraint of monotheism, looks forward to a time when that authority is returned to the Father (e.g. 1 Cor 15:24, 28).

(4) According to Luke, the second coming is predicated on the ascension (Acts 1:11) and heralds a future completion of the Messiah’s earthly work.

(5) Ironically the clearest mention of a second coming on the lips of Jesus occurs in the Gospel touted as being the most uneschatological of the canonical Gospels (John 14:3; 21:22). This shows that the Fourth Evangelist has not emptied his Jesus-story of apocalyptic motifs (although how these sayings relate to the historical Jesus will depend on what one thinks of John’s tradition and theology).

(6) If the Jesus tradition is employed in the “word of the Lord” in 1 Thess 4:15-17, this would support the view that Jesus was remembered as predicting a cataclysmic event that Paul believed would affect believers at a future juncture (cf. Mark 13:26-27; Matt 24:30-31). The prayerful cry of maranatha deriving from early Aramaic-speaking Christian circles (1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:20) supposes something more than the destruction of Jerusalem and looks forward to Christ’s return as well. (For an alternative proposal for the "word of the Lord" in 1 Thess 4.15, see the excellent article in JSNT by Michael Pahl).


Anonymous said...

Good stuff! What journal will this be in?

J. B. Hood said...

Good shake-out, Mike. What do you make of France's shift from 70 to indefinite future in the middle of Matt 24 (for uninitiated readers, two different questions in 24.3 in response to J's comment in 24:2, which are then answered in two different ways by Jesus. 24:36 is usually seen as the dividing line).

Steven Carr said...

The revolt beginning in 66 AD failed.

The Maccabean revolt succeeded.

Was one violent revolt favoured by God, and the other violent revolt a means to punish Israel?

Did Jesus condemn all violent revolt, even the Maccabean revolt?

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