Till Jesus Comes:
Origins of Christian Apocalyptic Expectation
By Charles L. Holman
(March 30, 1935 — January 18, 2006)
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Early Christian writings share an understanding that
believers live in the end-times. This leads to the common expectation, the
common hope, that God would one day achieve final and ultimate victory in
the coming of Jesus. This book traces the origins of this understanding in
the Old Testament, in prophetic literature, in Jewish apocalyptic writings,
and in the New Testament. The resulting map informs the church of today that
still lives between the times.
This monograph of under 200 pages emerged from my 1982
Ph.D. dissertation which was submitted to the University of Nottingham (U.
K.) and entitled “Eschatological Delay in Jewish and Early Christian
Apocalyptic Literature.” The research was supervised by my esteemed mentor,
Prof. James D. G. Dunn, now Professor of New Testament at the University of
The research followed my personal interest for the balance of my
professional life regarding the theological tension between imminent
expectation of the End (or Second Coming of Christ) in biblical eschatology
and the many centuries which have obviously intervened till our present
time. However, this was a biblical study (primarily New Testament), but with
much recourse to relevant non-canonical Jewish documents which reflected a
tension between eschatological expectation and delay in fulfillment.
My book is an abridgement of my dissertation, but also an elaboration in
adding more Old Testament background, updating the research, and attempting
to make the discussion more pastorally relevant for the church today.
I have received interesting if mixed reviews. The most encouraging reviews
have appeared in the Journal of Evangelical Theology (June, 1999), 334f. and
for the Web page of the Society of Biblical Literature (5/24/99). The latter
says the book “should become a standard treatment of the subject of
It is my prayer that this book will help Christians be people of hope, while
at the same time reckoning with the mystery of God’s own timing in the
unfolding and climax of salvation history.
". . . Charles L. Holman tackles a complicated and
difficult subject with commendable insight and skill. With careful analysis
he traces a "dynamic tension" between 'imminence' and 'delay' in the
eschatological hope expressed in the biblical books of Old and New
Testaments and in the Jewish apocalyptic writings . . .
"At a time of increasing interest in and speculation on 'the End', this
timely and balanced book is to be both welcomed and commended." S. Russell,
Former Principal of Rawdon College and Joint Principal of the Northern
Baptist College, Manchester
"The tension between expectation and delay in earliest Christian parousia
hope is one which has puzzled generations of NT scholars. Was Jesus wrong
about the future? Did the first Christians hope in vain for an imminent
second coming? What seems to have been largely ignored in such discussions
is the fact that this was a familiar problem in earlier Jewish eschatology,
that Jesus and the first Christians were part of that ongoing tradition, and
that the earilier experience of handling the tension was likely to have
provided a resource for contemporary handling of the same tension in the NT
period. This was an insight developed by Charles Holman . . . And I am
delighted that at long last it is to see the light of day. In its updated
version it promises to be a voice of sober and sound biblical proportions in
a period when issues of expectation and delay will once again come to the
Â—James D. G. Dunn, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, University of Durham
About the Author
Charles L. Holman is Professor of Biblical Interpretation and New Testament
at Regent Univeristy. He received his Ph.D. from the University of
Nottingham in 1982.
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Till Jesus Comes: Origins of Christian Apocalyptic Expectation. By Charles
L. Holman. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, xli + 181 pp., $12.95 paper.
Far from joining the virtual scholarly flight from the apocalyptic, Holman
has convincingly argued for the importance of apocalyptic eschatology in
early church preaching and for the Biblical perspective of a dialectical
tension between expectation and delay being part of Jesus' own outlook (p.
136). While he may have shared certain eschatological ideas with his
contemporaries, "No other person saw himself at the center of the great
event to come as did Jesus" (p. 137). And this book has a special interest
in explaining how it was possible to maintain a living tension between
expectation and ongoing delay.
The growing edge of apocalyptic eschatology in the NT milieu seems to be the
concept of two ages with a supporting collage of motifs: woes, an anti-god
figure, apostasy and extreme persecution (p. 40). The source of apocalyptic
is not in Persia or Zoroastrianism (cf. Norman Cohn) nor in the Hebrew
wisdom movement (cf. G. von Rad) but in the prophetic tradition (Paul D.
Nevertheless, as Holman recognizes (Part One), the roots of Israel's hope
are to be traced to its premonarchical covenants. In the literature of the
two centuries preceding the Christian era (Part Two), the Daniel tradition
set the place where expectation becomes a way of reckoning with delay (p.
82). With the Jewish material roughly contemporary to the time of the
origins of Christianity delay comes even more into focus with the recurrent
"how long?" question. Answers come in appeals to divine sovereignty,
encouragement of expectation so that "the theme of an imminent end is
basically a way of coping with delay" (p. 98).
The fundamental and distinctive aspect of Christian apocalyptic is that hope
has been and is yet to be realized in Jesus (Part Three). With the Christ
event transforming and explaining hope-rather than being the mother of
Christianity (Kasemann)-apocalypticism was a useful vehicle through which to
express eschatological expectation (pp. 157-158). Furthermore, the
nonfulfillment of the parousia did not present any more of a theological
crisis than it did for Judaism; both reinterpreted their traditions in the
face of new challenge.
Holman notes (Part Four) that, for us, the time has grown "very long" (p.
160). Following Ladd, we could claim that the parousia has always been
"imminent" in that within any generation it could come (p. 161). The linking
of mission and eschatology means that "the time of the grand triumph of God
in history is both within his sovereign ordering of history and within the
contingency of human obedience to the commission" (pp. 165-166).
This balanced book is written for a wide spectrum of readers who are being
introduced to the breadth of material needed to deal with this theme. At
times, one wished for a more obvious line of argument so that it was clearer
what place particular arguments and material had in the larger argument.
Graham H. Twelftree
North Eastern Vineyard Church, Adelaide, South Australia
Copyright Evangelical Theological Society Jun 1999
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company.
About the Late Dr. Charles L. Holman
(March 30, 1935 — January 18, 2006)
Dr. Charles L. Holman was born in 1935 in Santa Barbara, California. A
gifted musician, during his early life he trained for a career as a concert
violinist. Following a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as his Lord and
Savior, his vocational vision changed, allowing him to pursue a life of
Christian ecclesial ministry, seminary teaching, and scholarly research and
Dr. Holman’s formal studies achievements include a B.A, in Psychology from
Westmont College; a B. D. from Fuller Theological Seminary; a Th.M. from
Fuller Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham,
England, with the dissertation topic: “Eschatological Delay in Jewish and
Early Christian Apocalyptic.”
Dr. Holman’s service in Christian educational institutions began at Jamaica
Theological Seminary, Jamaica, West Indies, where he met his wife, Rose.
Later he served as dean and instructor with Trinity Christian Training
Institute in Gulf Coast, Mississippi, followed by his position as assistant,
associate and then full Professor of Biblical Interpretation and New
Testament from 1982 to January, 2006 for the Regent University School of
Divinity. His published works include Till Jesus Comes: Origins of Christian
Apocalyptic Expectation and additional scholarly articles and papers. He was
a member of the Society of Biblical Literature; the Society for Pentecostal
Studies; the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research, and
The Institute for Biblical Research.
Charles Holman served throughout his adult life in pastoral and teaching
ministries. First, as an associate pastor of the Marquette Michigan
Missionary Church and then as founding pastor of the Upland Indiana
Evangelical Church. He was later ordained with the Missionary Church and
participated as an active member of First Baptist Church of Norfolk where he
taught the Berean Sunday School Class and played violin in the church
Dr. Charles and Mrs. Rose Holman, married over 39 years, are the parents of
two daughters: Annette Holman, now deceased, and Mrs. Emily Holman Morris,
wife of Bruce Morris and mother to Stephen and Katherine Rose Morris.
Dr. Holman was often described by colleagues and students as a “scholar’s
scholar” and as “the conscience of the Divinity faculty”; a man of profound,
abiding, and deeply loving faith in God; a man known for the grace,
substance and passion of his prayer life. His joyful commitment to his
beloved wife Rose, to his daughters, grandchildren, son-in-law, church
family, and neighbors was well-known. He was appreciated by the Regent
community as a model for those serving in Christian academic life. He gave
generously of his time and substance to the people and needs of the Regent
and the wider community, always vitally concerned with the mission of the
gospel and the furtherance of excellent standards in Christian scholarship.
Perhaps his own words, which appeared on his web site, so clearly explain
the heart, the mission, and passion of Charles Holman:
I am growing in the grace of God. I am more impressed than ever with the
wonder of God’s glory, love, sovereignty, and presence. Surely the mystery
of His providential ways will never be fathomed by humankind. I am grateful
beyond words for His grace in my life. What more can we do than cry ‘Holy,
Holy, Holy’ as we are caught up with love and wonder in His Presence.