Friday, February 20, 2009

Martyn on Galatians (2) Paul and Apocalpyticism

1. In his Galatians commentary, J.L. Martyn refers to the "Apocalyptic Theology in Galatians," and he mentions to two different tracks of Jewish apocalytpicism: (1) Cosmological apocalyptic eschatology which focuses on how evil anti-God powers have taken over rule of this world leading human beings into idolatry and thus slavery, and God will fight a glorious apocalyptic war against these powers and save his elect from their wicked machinations; and (2) Forensic apocalyptic eschatology where things have gone wrong because human beings have rejected God, thereby bringing corruption, death, and pervsion on the world. Thus, God sets before the people Two Ways: the way of death and the way of life. Human beings must chose one over the other and thus give an account of themselves on the final day. In Martyn's thinking the Galatian intruders held to forensic apocalyptic eschatology and Paul held to cosmological apocalyptic eschatology. The problem I have is: (1) I think we can find evidence of cosmological and forensic apocalyptic eschatology in Paul's letters. (2) I think part of the problem of the Galatian intruders was that they lacked the eschatological framework of Paul and saw the Mosaic/Sinaitic era as continuing on into the era of the Messiah, whereas Paul infers a far more radical and abrupt disjunction between these two eras.

2. To you all you young theological students and Ph.D candidates remember this: don't ever talk about "apocalyptic". The word "apocalyptic" is an adjective not a noun. You can have an apocalyptic worldview (i.e. apocalyptic eschatology), you can have apocalytpicism (i.e. a sociological phenomenon like Waco or the Qumran community), you can have apocalyptic writings (i.e. an apocalypse) - but do not refer to "apocalyptic" as an actual entity in and of itself.

3. Also, for an introduction to Apocalyptic Literature, I imagine Stephen Cook's new volume on the subject will be a worthwhile read.

2 comments:

John Mark said...

Is it me or does Bauckham break the "apocalyptic" rule with the article "The Rise of Apocalyptic". Granted I could be wrong. And granted that Bauckham can do whatever he wants. But if meaning is use, you might as well be an early adopter and use apocalyptic as a noun. :) :)

Brandon said...

On point 1, interested readers should really look at M. C. de Boer's book The Defeat of Death. de Boer was Martyn's student and fully develops this idea of the two tracks of apocalyptic theology.