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"The church expected certain events
to happen within a generation, and happen they did, though there must
have been moments between AD30 and AD70 when some wondered if they
would, and in consequence took up the Jewish language of delay.
Jerusalem fell; the good news of Jesus, and the kingdom of
Israel’s god was announced in Rome, as well as in Jerusalem and Athens.
But there is no sign of dismay, in any literature that has come
down to us from the periord after AD70, at the fact that Jesus himself
had still not returned. Clement looks forward to the
return of Jesus himself without any comment on timing.
Ignatius is worried about many things but not that.
Justin Martyr in the middle of the second century is as emphatic
as anyone that the event will happen." (New Testament and People of God,
“When Jerusalem is destroyed, and Jesus’ people escape from the ruin just in time, that will be YHWH becoming king, bringing about the liberation of his true covenant people, the true return from exile, the beginning of the new world order” (JVG, 364)
" ... supporting the present regime in Israel in some kind of christian ground is laughably and dangerously simplistic and non-sense... "
' ... for the heavens and the earth will listen to his Messiah ... For he will... (be) freeing prisoners, giving sight to the blind, straightening out the twisted ... and the Lord will perform marvellous acts ... for He will heal the badly wounded and will make the dead live, he will proclaim good news to the meek, give lavishly to the needy, lead the exiled and enrich the hungry;" Qumran Scrolls 4Q521 (From 'Jesus and the Victory of God' N T Wright)
Jesus' "Broad Strokes" By N.T. Wright:
"1) Jesus was a first-century Jewish prophet announcing God's kingdom (33).
2) He believed that the kingdom was breaking in to Israel's history in and through his own presence and work (37) ...
3) and summoning other Jews to abandon alternative kingdom visions and join him in his (40) ...
4) and warning of dire consequences for the nation, for Jerusalem, and for the temple, if his summons was ignored (42).
5) His agendas led him into a symbolic clash with those who embraced other ones, and this, together with the positive symbols of his own kingdom agenda, point to the way in which he saw his inaugurated kingdom moving toward accomplishment (47).
6) [Jesus indicated] in symbolic actions, and in cryptic and coded sayings, that he believed he was Israel's messiah, the one through whom the true God would accomplish his decisive purpose (50)." ("The Mission and Message of Jesus" chapter 3)
(On Mark 13; the
Significance of AD70)
"One of the main reasons, I suppose, why the obvious way of reading the chapter has been ignored for so long must be the fact that in a good deal of Christian theology the fall of Jerusalem has had no theological significance. This has meant not only that Mark 13 is found puzzling, but also that all the references to the same event elsewhere in the gospels -- even where it stares one in the face, as in Luke 13:1-5 -- have been read as general warnings of hellfire in an afterlife, rather than the literal and physical divine-judgment-through-Roman-judgment that we have seen to be characteristic of Jesus' story." (Jesus and Victory of God, pp. 343-344)
"the word "gospel" carries two sets of resonances for Paul. On the one hand, the gospel Paul preached was the fulfilment of the message of Isaiah 40 and 52, the message of comfort for Israel and of hope for the whole world, because YHWH, the god of Israel, was returning to Zion to judge and redeem. On the other hand, in the context into which Paul was speaking, "gospel" would mean the celebration of the accession, or birth, of a king or emperor. Though no doubt petty kingdoms might use the word for themselves, in Paul's world the main "gospel" was the news of, or the celebration of, Caesar." (Paul's Gospel and Ceasar's Empire)
"End of the World")
"To the list of sources there in favour of the position advanced should be added Horslet 1987, 138f., 337; and (cited by Horsley) Wilder 1959. Among many passages which could be cited, the three which Allison 1985, 89 quotes, against the drift of his own argument (on which see above, 209 n. 38, and the next note, below), will do for a start: Ps. - Philo 11.3-5; 4 Ezra 3.18-19; and bZeb. 116a." (Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 321f.)
"If Jesus and the early church used the relevant language in the same way as their contemporiries, it is highly unlikely that they would have been referring to the actual end of the world, and highly likely that they would have been referring to events within space-time history which they interpreted as the coming of the kingdom. It will not do to dismiss this reading of 'apocalyptic' language as 'merely metaphorical'. Metaphors have teeth; the complex metaphors available to first-century Jews had particularly sharp ones." (Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 321)
"The days of Jerusalem's destruction would be looked upon as days of cosmic catastrophe. The known world would go into convulsions: power struggles and coups d'etat would be the order of the day; the pax Romana, the presupposition of 'civilized' life throughout the then Mediterranean world, would collapse into chaos. In the midst of that chaos Jerusalem would fall." (JVG, p. 362)
"The evidence now available, including that from epigraphy and archaeology, shows that the cult of Caesar was not simply one new religion among many in the Roman world. Already by Paul's time it had become the dominant cult in a large part of the Empire, certainly in the parts where Paul was active, and was the means whereby the Romans managed to control and govern such huge areas as came under their sway. Who needs armies when they have worship?"
"Theologically, it belongs completely with Isaiah's ringing monotheistic affirmations that YHWH and YHWH alone is the true god, the only creator, the only sovereign of the world, and that the gods of the nations are contemptible idols whose devotees are deceived, at best wasting their time and at worst under the sway of demons. Politically, it cannot but have been heard as a summons to allegiance to "another king", which is of course precisely what Luke says Paul was accused of saying (Acts 17.7). Practically, this means that Paul, in announcing the gospel, was more like a royal herald than a religious preacher or theological teacher."
"What the older history-of-religions argument failed to reckon with was the Jewish understanding that, precisely because of Israel's status within the purposes of the creator god, Israel's king was always supposed to be the world's true king. "His dominion shall be from one sea to the other; from the River to the ends of the earth" (Ps. 72.8). "The root of Jesse shall rise to rule the nations; in him shall the nations hope" (Isa. 11.10, cited Rom. 15.12). Paul endorsed this train of thought, and he believed it to have been fulfilled in Jesus." (Paul's Gospel and Ceasar's Empire)
Jesus and the Victory of God" (Fortress Press, 1996). Referring to the 13th chapter of Mark and the parallel Gospel accounts in Matthew and Luke, where Jesus prophesies the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, Wright observes (pp. 343-344): "One of the main reasons, I suppose, why the obvious way of reading the chapter has been ignored for so long must be the fact that in a good deal of Christian theology the fall of Jerusalem has had no theological significance. This has meant not only that Mark 13 is found puzzling, but also that all the references to the same event elsewhere in the gospels -- even where it stares one in the face, as in Luke 13:1-5 -- have been read as general warnings of hellfire in an afterlife, rather than the literal and physical divine-judgment-through-Roman-judgment that we have seen to be characteristic of Jesus' story."
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
Stein, Robert H.
I would like to
finish my brief critique of Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God with two
concluding questions. The first is the question, “How does the fall of
Jerusalem in ad 70 vindicate Jesus?” Wright’s reply is that “[Jesus], and
his people, would be vindicated when Jerusalem, having rejected his message
of peace, chose war and suffered the consequences” (324)
The NT does not place the vindication of Jesus in ad 70. Rather, it sees this as taking place in his resurrection. Paul states that Jesus was “designated Son of God in power . . . by his resurrection from the dead” (1:4). It is because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, not the fall of Jerusalem in ad 70, that Peter says, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). Nothing is said here concerning ad 70. Jesus, himself, when asked to give a sign to vindicate his claims said, “No sign shall be given to [this sinful and adulterous generation] except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:39–40). It is clearly the resurrection of Jesus that is the vindication of his message and claims. The followers of Jesus were not waiting in some sort of limbo for forty years until the fall of Jerusalem in order to discover if God would vindicate Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. The almost complete absence of any mention of ad 70 in Acts, Paul, and the rest of the NT, together with the church’s central teaching that, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9), indicates that the church saw Jesus’ vindication in the resurrection, not the fall of Jerusalem." (“N. T. Wright's Jesus and the Victory of God: A Review Article,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 44.2 (June 2001) 207-218.)
"Hahn then built a whole theology around this concept, using Protestant N.T. Wright as his mentor - the very scholar who is still fostering the Reformation concept of forensic imputation as the means of justification." (Art Sippo and the Demise of Catholic Apologetics - Catholic Apologetics International
We have just learned (from Bishop Wright himself) that Bishop N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham in the apostate Anglican Church and leading spokesman for the New Perspective on Paul and new Quest for the Historical Jesus movements, will be a featured speaker at the Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference in Louisiana in January 2005.
Helen Straughan, the Bishop's Administrative Assistant, also referred us to Jeffrey Steel of the John Knox Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Ruston, Louisiana, for details. (Steel is a supporter and colleague of Steve Wilkins in the Louisiana Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America. You can view Steel in his clerical costumes at www.johnknoxpca.org.)
The Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference is the annual conference sponsored by the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church of Monroe, Louisiana. The Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. Both the denomination and that particular church profess to believe the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Auburn Avenue Church has also adopted a "Summary Statement" that contradicts the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith).
At the Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference next month, January 2004, the AAPC, in addition to its own clergymen, Steve Wilkins and Rich Lusk, will feature speakers John Frame (they seem to have given Mr. Frame an unearned doctorate at their church website) of the Formerly Reformed Theological Seminary; the perennial conference favorite Douglas Wilson (the AAPC has not yet awarded him a doctorate) from Moscow, Idaho; and Dr. John Armstrong, a Baptist who heads the misleadingly named "Reformation and Revival Ministries." (Apparently Steve Wilkins and the session of the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church have no objections to a Baptist teaching in their church, so long as the Baptist denies the merits of Christ, repudiates the Gospel, and preaches covenantal legalism.)
The appearance of Bishop N. T. Wright in January 2005 will be the culmination of years of efforts by the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church to replace the Gospel of justification by faith alone with another message in the PCA. The AAPC has published and promoted N. T. Wright's new "gospel" in their nationally distributed church newsletter, and now they are planning to host Wright himself at their 2005 conference.
Meanwhile, neither the Louisiana Presbytery nor the Presbyterian Church in America as a whole has taken any effective action to stop the growing apostasy in their midst.
The Trinity Foundation
December 15, 2003
Little did Paul know how his colorful metaphors for Jesus’ second coming would be misunderstood two millennia later.
The American obsession with the second coming of Jesus — especially with distorted interpretations of it — continues unabated. Seen from my side of the Atlantic, the phenomenal success of the Left Behind books appears puzzling, even bizarre. Few in the U.K. hold the belief on which the popular series of novels is based: that there will be a literal “rapture” in which believers will be snatched up to heaven, leaving empty cars crashing on freeways and kids coming home from school only to find that their parents have been taken to be with Jesus while they have been “left behind.” This pseudo-theological version of Home Alone has reportedly frightened many children into some kind of (distorted) faith.
This dramatic end-time scenario is based (wrongly, as we shall see) on Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, where he writes: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God. The dead in Christ will rise first; then we, who are left alive, will be snatched up with them on clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
What on earth (or in heaven) did Paul mean?
It is Paul who should be credited with creating this scenario. Jesus himself, as I have argued in various books, never predicted such an event. The gospel passages about “the Son of Man coming on the clouds” (Mark 13:26, 14:62, for example) are about Jesus’ vindication, his “coming” to heaven from earth. The parables about a returning king or master (for example, Luke 19:11-27) were originally about God returning to Jerusalem, not about Jesus returning to earth. This, Jesus seemed to believe, was an event within space-time history, not one that would end it forever.
The Ascension of Jesus and the Second Coming are nevertheless vital Christian doctrines, and I don’t deny that I believe some future event will result in the personal presence of Jesus within God’s new creation. This is taught throughout the New Testament outside the Gospels. But this event won’t in any way resemble the Left Behind account. Understanding what will happen requires a far more sophisticated cosmology than the one in which “heaven” is somewhere up there in our universe, rather than in a different dimension, a different space-time, altogether.
The New Testament, building on ancient biblical prophecy, envisages that the creator God will remake heaven and earth entirely, affirming the goodness of the old Creation but overcoming its mortality and corruptibility (e.g., Romans 8:18-27; Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17, 66:22). When that happens, Jesus will appear within the resulting new world (e.g., Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2).
Paul’s description of Jesus’ reappearance in 1 Thessalonians 4 is a brightly colored version of what he says in two other passages, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and Philippians 3:20-21: At Jesus’ “coming” or “appearing,” those who are still alive will be “changed” or “transformed” so that their mortal bodies will become incorruptible, deathless. This is all that Paul intends to say in Thessalonians, but here he borrows imagery—from biblical and political sources—to enhance his message. Little did he know how his rich metaphors would be misunderstood two millennia later.
First, Paul echoes the story of Moses coming down the mountain with the Torah. The trumpet sounds, a loud voice is heard, and after a long wait Moses comes to see what’s been going on in his absence.
Second, he echoes Daniel 7, in which “the people of the saints of the Most High” (that is, the “one like a son of man”) are vindicated over their pagan enemy by being raised up to sit with God in glory. This metaphor, applied to Jesus in the Gospels, is now applied to Christians who are suffering persecution.
Third, Paul conjures up images of an emperor visiting a colony or province. The citizens go out to meet him in open country and then escort him into the city. Paul’s image of the people “meeting the Lord in the air” should be read with the assumption that the people will immediately turn around and lead the Lord back to the newly remade world.
Paul’s mixed metaphors of trumpets blowing and the living being snatched into heaven to meet the Lord are not to be understood as literal truth, as the Left Behind series suggests, but as a vivid and biblically allusive description of the great transformation of the present world of which he speaks elsewhere.
metaphors present a challenge for us: How can we reuse biblical
imagery, including Paul’s, so as to clarify the truth, not distort
it? And how can we do so, as he did, in such a way as to subvert
the political imagery of the dominant and dehumanizing empires of
our world? We might begin by asking, What view of the world is
sustained, even legitimized, by the Left Behind ideology?
How might it be confronted and subverted by genuinely biblical
thinking? For a start, is not the Left Behind mentality in
thrall to a dualistic view of reality that allows people to pollute
God’s world on the grounds that it’s all going to be destroyed
soon? Wouldn’t this be overturned if we recaptured Paul’s wholistic
vision of God’s whole creation?
 Tim F. Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind (Cambridge, UK: Tyndale House Publishing, 1996). Eight other titles have followed, all runaway bestsellers.
 See my Jesus and the Victory of God (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1996); the discussions in Jesus and the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N.T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God, ed. Carey C. Newman (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999); and Marcus J. Borg and N.T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999), chapters 13 and 14.
 Douglas Farrow, Ascension and Ecclesia: On the Significance of the Doctrine of the Ascension for Ecclesiology and Christian Cosmology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).
What do YOU think ?
Son of Man
Let us walk safely away from the never-ending speculation about future would-be "apocalyptic" figures, such as the supposed 'heavenly son of man' who would 'come' - i.e. 'return', downwards to earth, on a literal cloud. This monstrosity, much beloved (though for different reasons) by both fundamentalists and would-be 'critical' scholars, can be left behind, appropriately enough, in the center of his mythological maze where it will no doubt continue to lure unwary travelers to a doom consisting of endless footnotes and ever-increasing epicycles of hypothetical and unprovable traditions.
The truly 'apocalyptic' 'son of man' has nothing to do with such a figure. Within the historical world of the first century, Daniel was read as a revolutionary kingdom-of-god text, in which Israel's true representative(s) would be vindicated after their trial and suffering at the hands of the pagans. Jesus, as part of his prophetic work of announcing the kingdom, aligned himself with the 'people of the saints of the most high', that is, with the 'one like a son of man'. In other words, he regarded himself as the one who summed up Israel's vocation and destiny in himself. He was the one in and through whom the real 'return from exile' would come about, indeed, was already coming about.
He was the Messiah.
" Let us walk safely away from the never-ending speculation about future would-be "apocalyptic" figures, such as the supposed 'heavenly son of man' who would 'come' - i.e. 'return', downwards to earth, on a literal cloud. This monstrosity, much beloved (though for different reasons) by both fundamentalists and would-be 'critical' scholars, can be left behind, appropriately enough, in the center of his mythological maze, where it will no doubt continue to lure unwary travelers to a doom consisting of endless footnotes and ever-increasing epicycles of hypothetical and unprovable traditions. The truly 'apocalyptic' 'son of man' has nothing to do with such a figure. Within the historical world of the first century, Daniel was read as a revolutionary kingdom-of-god text, in which Israel's true representative(s) would be vindicated after their trial and suffering at the hands of the pagans. Jesus, as part of his prophetic work of announcing the kingdom, aligned himself with the 'people of the saints of the most high', that is, with the 'one like a son of man'. In other words, he regarded himself as the one who summed up Israel's vocation and destiny in himself. He was the one in and through whom the real 'return from exile' would come about, indeed, was already coming about. He was the Messiah." N.T. Wright. www.doctrine.net
Arguments probably will rage endlessly about Wright's views but at least, unlike the typical preterist, he has recognized 1) the importance of the satanic cult of emperor worship in the first-century world and 2) in opposition to the imperial claims of worldwide sovereignty, the prophetic expectation that Israel's King would become the King of the world - see the above excerpts from his Paul's Gospel and Caesar's Empire. There's no evidence, however, that he has recognized the critically important role of those facts in Bible typology.
I have received communications like the one above from The Trinity Foundation for a while now and have heard numerous complaints regarding Bp. Wright such as the slanderous screed above. Such attacks have recalled to my mind the classic, "liar, lunatic, lord?" options that I first gleaned from C.S. Lewis with regard to the person of Jesus. Applied here, these three options could be recast in the following way: 1) The editor has thoroughly read and digested the writings of N.T. Wright and has deliberately persisted in bearing false witness. 2) The editor has read little or none of the Wright's works and has founded his accusations on rumor and/or his own truncated comprehension. 3) The editor is a lunatic and an anti-Catholic bigot who cares nothing of Wright or the fate of the Church universal and simply writes to arouse controversy and attract a perverse kind of attention. Wright could not be farther from a Pelagian or a Medieval Roman Catholic. Even his briefest treatments of justification are carefully formulated to maintain consistency with Reformed presentations of the faith. Having met him on a couple of occasions, I can testify that he is thoroughly orthodox, a serious and devout Christian, and a self-consious servant of our Lord's church. Wright has been patient and sensitive toward those who have misunderstood his writings and has suffered fools admirably. With regard to the specifics of his understanding of salvation, I will merely quote at length from his monograph, What St. Paul Really Said: "If we grasp the gospel and the doctrine of justification in the way that I have outlined, there can be no danger, in theory or practice, of a clash between ?justification by faith? and the Christian obligation to holiness. For centuries now devout Christians, aware of the ever-present danger of Pelagianism, of pride in one?s own moral self-worth, have found it difficult to articulate how and why Christians ought to be moral, ought to be holy in thought, word, and deed. Sometimes in their eagerness not to slacken the moral demand, they have in fact slid back into Pelagianism. At other times, perhaps not least at the moment, a half-understood and half-grasped doctrine of justification by faith has been used to shore up an anti-moralism which, even though it occurs within the church, has roots instead in secular culture, not least within post-modernism." "But this is a travesty. Paul's doctrine of justification is completely dependent on his gospel, which as we have seen is the proclamation of Jesus as Lord. Allegiance to this Jesus must be total. One of Paul's key phrases is 'the obedience of faith'. Faith and obedience are not antithetical. They belong exactly together. Indeed, very often the word 'faith' itself could properly be translated 'faithfulness', which makes the point just as well. Nor, of course, does this then compromise the gospel or justification, smuggling in 'works' by a back door. That would only be the case if the realignment I have been arguing for throughout were not grasped. Faith, even in this active sense, is never and in no way a qualification, provided from the human side, either for getting into God?s family or for staying there once in. It is the God-given badge of membership, neither more nor less. Holiness is the appropriate human condition for those who, by grace alone, find themselves as believing members of the family of God." (p. 160) Now this brief quote does not represent the final word with regard to Wright's understanding of justification by faith. It does, however, oblige any critic to accept his self-description as a reformed theologian at face value. Only then should we point out possible inconsistencies in a careful and thoughtful manner. With regard to the other, ecclesial smears such as labeling the Anglican communion "apostate," I would only respond by asking if the anathemas of a schismatic can be accepted as holding any water? The Church of Jesus Christ has been around longer than neo-puritan Calvinism and has produced saints who have nobily defended orthodoxy and transformed the face of the earth with their martyr's blood. Until his narrow, white, ethnocentric, and male spin on the gospel is able to sustain and nurture genuine faith in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America, I would invite him in all sobriety to remain silent. In any case, absent anything like a careful, thoughtful critique of Wright from the Trinity Foundation in the four years that I have received the newsletter, I find myself left with the following options: liar, fool, or sociopath? Rev. Michael J. Pahls Mt. Prospect, Illinois
Date: 07 Jun 2006
Date: 15 Feb 2007
Date: 30 Jul 2009
Date: 22 Dec 2010
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