Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
I just finished reading Jesus and the Future: An Examination of the Criticism of the Eschatological Discourse, Mark 13 with Special Reference to the Little Apocalypse Theory, by G.R. Beasley-Murray. The book, as its title states, is an examination of 120 years of criticism on the “Apocalyptic” Discourse of Jesus as it is recorded in the book of Mark, chapter 13. Mark 13 has been called the most analyzed passages in the whole of the Gospel of Mark. Essentially, Mark 13 gives Jesus’ prediction about the coming of tribulation to the nation of Israel in the first century (vv. 5-25), followed immediately by what people interpret to be his Second Coming (vv. 26-27). What Biblical scholars noted was the obvious problem that though the predicted tribulation did occur (66-70 CE), Jesus did not immediately return. How to solve this problem?
If you are more traditional evangelical then you just assume the entirety of Mark 13 is a prediction that has not yet occurred. However, there are some problems with that interpretations of which I will mention below. If you are of a more progressive bent then you reason that either Jesus was wrong about his return or that the Gospel writers have unintentionally misrepresented him. There are many historical, exegetical, and logical reasons why neither of these two progressive options even if you reject the miraculous or the inerrancy of the Scripture. This is why the issue even among liberal Biblical scholars was not satisfactorily resolved.
Now before I read the book I had already previously rejected the conservative interpretation and solved the liberal one. My interest was simply about how various people had approached the problem and how they reasoned the issue out. I was very interested to see that no scholar in this examination had arrived at my conclusion. Granted, this book was compiled in 1954. There has been a lot more scholarship on the subject in the past 60 years and has been, at least for me, satisfactorily solved. So what it is the solution?
First of all, how do we know that Jesus’ prediction of Mark 13:5-25 was fulfilled in the first century CE? We best begin by understanding Jesus’ Mark 13 discourse in its context. Jesus has finished proclaiming judgment upon the Temple in Mark 11. He does so by citing Jeremiah 7:11. If you read the entire prophetic oracle of Jeremiah 7, you learn that it’s about God preparing to bring down judgment upon the whole of Judah for its sins against God and man. This prophecy was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. Put together with his actions to temporarily halt the legitimate business of the Temple, it seems that Jesus’ intention was to enact a prophetic oracle announcing God’s imminent judgment upon the Temple itself and Israel in general. This prophecy was fulfilled with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.
Jesus has further bracketed his prophetic action in the Temple with the example of a fig tree that he purposely withered because it bore no fruit (karpos) (11:13-14, 20-21). Jesus has already used the common metaphor of fruit representing positive works in Mark 4:7-8 with the Parable of the Sower and the soils that yield and don’t yield crops/fruit (karpos). This bracketing technique is designed to indicate that God has returned to his Temple (Mark 1:1-3, quoting Malachi 3:1) and has found it wanting.
When Jesus next returns to the Temple in chapter 12, he gives the Parable of the Vine-growers. This parable is a history of Israel, referencing God’s sending of prophets and ultimately his Son to the people only to see them all murdered. The parable ends with the warning that God is going to destroy the “vineyard” in response. I would also add that in Mark 12:36, in discussion with religious leaders, Jesus references Psalm 110 which is a coronation psalm about a king receiving a vast dominion and sitting at the Lord’s right hand. Remember this.
So we have these warnings about impending destruction building up when, as Jesus is leaving the Temple, his disciples point out the magnificent buildings of the Temple complex (13:1). Jesus responds that these specific buildings of the Temple complex are going to be torn down (v. 2). This prediction was fulfilled in 70 CE, some 40 years after Jesus predicted it would happen. These are specific buildings that existed in the first century that are being referenced. The disciples then ask what the signs are that this destruction will occur. Jesus then proceeds to give prediction of the persecution his disciples will face (including being flogged in synagogues [v. 9]). This is followed by the prediction of a time of great tribulation that will befall Judaea, in which Jesus warns his followers to flee. These are the events that occurred when Rome attacked and destroyed Jerusalem in 66-70 CE. Indeed, Jesus specifically states that this generation will not pass away until these things occur (v. 30). All the evidence supports the conclusion that the events predicted by Jesus and recorded in Mark 13:5-25 refer to events that occurred within a generation of his prediction. These events are not about the end of the world but more about political upheaval. Images of the sun, moon, and stars are regularly used as code for such events. The poetic language used for the predicted Fall of Jerusalem in Mark 13:24-25 is similar to the language used for the predicted Fall of Babylon in Isaiah 13:10.
But then what do we make of verse 26 that in those days “Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory”? Most people (both liberals and conservatives) have interpreted this verse as referring to Jesus’ second coming. If, as I have demonstrated, the previous events refer to the first century, then the immediacy of the “coming” poses a problem. Was Jesus wrong?
The solution to the problem lies in the acknowledgement that this verse is a quotation from an apocalyptic prophecy in Daniel 7:13.
These are verses about the establishment of the Kingdom of God with Jesus as the King. These are verses about his enthronement, albeit in symbolic, apocalyptic language as befits the genre. And this is an enthronement that occurred in the first century. This is why Jesus can cite this verse to the high priest at his trial telling him that “you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN” (Mark 14:62). This is why the Gospel of Mark can begin with Jesus’ pronouncement that the Kingdom of God is at hand (1:15). This is why Jesus can say there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mark 9:1). And, to reference the book of Acts, this is why Stephen can see a vision of “the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (7:56). So the reference to the “Coming of the Son of Man” in Mark 13:26 is not about the Second Coming of Jesus but about Jesus’ enthronement as King of this world, his exaltation, his vindication by God.
Of course, there is a “Second Coming” of Jesus when he will make his appearance (parousia) known to the entire world and bring the Kingdom of God to consummation. Paul references this future event in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. Also, the “two men” predict his return in Acts 1:11. It’s just that Mark 13:26 is not referencing or predicting that event here. The Gospels themselves are not very interested in the second coming as much as they are in Jesus becoming King of the world.
The next claim is that rape was only condemned because women were considered property. No, the reason both the Bible and the Israelites condemned rape is because they considered it a moral atrocity on the same level as murder. Verse 26 states this explicitly. Consider it: do you really think that if their child is raped a parent’s first thought was “oh, no, my property”? Do you really think that the Israelite people en masse didn’t care about their children? Do you really think men didn’t love their wives and only thought bad about their rape because of property? When Amnon raped Tamar in 2 Samuel 13, did her brother Absalom only become angry because of property rights? No, because of how the Hebrews conceived reality on a psychical level, they fundamentally had a very serious understanding of sex and how it affected the soul. This is why they equated rape with murder.
The next claim is that the Bible teaches that a woman who is raped is required to marry her rapist. This is absolutely not true. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 concerns men who take women for the purposes of sex without the responsibility of marriage. No sense of sexual assault is stated or implied. The word in the NASB for “seize” is taphas and can mean “handle” or “take”, as in when a pastor asks a bride, “Do you take this man …?” We know this to be true because in verses 25-27 above, which is clearly about rape, the word used for “force” is chazaq which is used for rape (see 2 Samuel 13:11 and Judges 19:29). The purpose of the law recorded in 22:28-29 is to prevent the exploitation of women.
The next claim is that “starting in verse 22 it pretty much assumes a married woman can’t be raped.” That is a notion completely absent from the text. I think you are doing the assuming.
The final claim is that the Scripture here implies that if a woman doesn’t scream she wasn’t really raped. It implies no such thing. This is completely absent from the text. You are assuming again. These verses are about protecting women from sexual assault and false accusations.
The oddity is that all these verses (22-29) are specifically designed to prevent the exploitation of and violence towards women. This shouldn’t surprise us. The Israelites believed their god was highly moral, concerned with justice, and hated the exploitation of the poor.
Sunday, July 09, 2017
Tuesday, July 04, 2017
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
Repentance brings healing. You can’t heal if what’s causing the wounds is still active. You can’t heal a situation if the same behavior continues. The person or persons who have inflicted the wound must turn away from their behavior. Any attempt at healing without repentance only draws attention to the unresolved, unrepentant behavior. In a relationship, whether the wounding party is a significant other, family member, friend, co-worker, church member, or pastor, he or she must admit that they have erred and seek to turn away from their error. If possible, they should make amends in order to show that they are serious about repenting. If such sin has become a pattern of behavior over a long period of time, he needs to go above and beyond to make amends in order to heal the relationship.
Friday, June 09, 2017
Thursday, June 08, 2017
Monday, May 29, 2017
Friday, May 05, 2017
Because humans are created in the image of God, we’ve also been given the
ability to create. The book of Genesis consists of God creating structures on
the earth and then filling them. Humans are then created and given the task of
filling the earth and subduing it (1:28), of cultivating the earth (2:15).
Humans were created to work, accomplish tasks, and pursue artistic means. In
this sense, humans are very much homo
faber, “working man”. As Umberto Eco argues in “Open Work”, homo faber
is a manifestation of man's innate being in nature. The rejection of this
innate being represents the alienation from and objectification of nature.
However, our ability to work and create is frustrated from a cursed earth
producing (in terms of the metaphor) thorns, thistles, and agony (3:17-19; also
3:16). Evil, sin, selfishness – these bring
disruption to our working lives, causing frustration.
Part of the work of Jesus is a reversal of this curse on the land and the alleviation of the frustrations, disappointments, and general dissatisfactions. As the body of Christ, the Church and all those believers who follow Jesus are called to be a part of that same work. We are to help people with their frustrations, doing what we can to remove such impediments in order to further the Kingdom of God.
I was reminded a couple of weeks ago that one of the jobs of a minister is to equip volunteers to do the work of the Church by alleviating as much of the frustrations of that work as possible. Much of this can be done through organization, communication, preparatory work, establishing clearly defined goals and expectations, proper training, on-going support, and appreciation. This is all bread and butter in ministry. Unfortunately though, far from alleviating the aggravations that go on in the work of the church, ministry leaders can be the cause of such frustrations.
Does not allow for pushback or disagreements
Uses of Guilt for Obedience
Family members seem to fill key openings