Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

No removal of imminent eschatology

The title is suggested by a of James Crossley containing this phrase. Richard Hays has noted citing August Strobel that Hab 2:4 was a key verse, both within Judaism and within early Christianity, to understanding the problem of the delay in appearance of God's eschalogical justice. This was a problem faced when prophecy failed. The solution was a new genre we call apocalyptical literature. In my last post on “the righteous man” it was suggested that Luke used Habakkuk as a source citing Hays.

Those who assert that the Gospel of Matthew has a strong theme that the end is near rely upon three passages, two of which Matthew copied from Luke: Matthew 10:23; 16:28 (Lk 9:27/Mk 9:1) and 24:34 (Lk 21:32/Mk 13:30). In addition, Matthew uses the phrase translated in the RSV as “the close of the age” five times: Matthew 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; and 28:20. Neither Luke nor Mark employs this phrase.

The first passage, Matthew 10:23: “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes” is a rewrite of Luke 21:12 (But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake) and 17 (And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory) combining them in one verse. Both Matthew and Mark replaced “This will be a time for you to bear testimony” contained in Luke 21:13. Mark states: “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations” while Matthew states “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.” Both Matthew and Mark have modified Luke, which said “This will give you an opportunity to testify” because many of the eyewitnesses have died.

The Jewish polemics against the earliest Christians included the allegation that Jesus threatened to destroy the Temple. Stephen's last sermon may have been a commentary on this allegation of the Jewish community. Nationalistic sentiments were on the rise in Jerusalem. This time period was also particularly tense due to the belief that the Emperor Caligula (37-41 C.E.) would soon be sending his army to enforce his demand that Judaism be abolished and in its place install a statue of himself for worship on the Temple Mount. The tumult caused by the preaching of Stephen and his subsequent death was the first open hostility of the Jewish authorities to the followers of Jesus. In any event after Stephen's death, there was a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem. This persecution, which probably created apocalyptic tensions in the community of the followers of Jesus, prompted Luke to appeal to Theophilus.

The delay in appearance of God's eschalogical justice was not a new problem. Luke addressed this problem in his unique Parable of the Unjust Judge by including these two verses: “And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" The designation of Jesus as “the righteous man” is the clue that Luke has used the concept contained in Habakkuk in a manner with consistent with the interpretation contained in 1 QpHab and the Epistle to the Hebrews. Bovon has indicated that the Lucan interpretation should be "Certainly God will vindicate his elect but for the time being he will be slow."

Luke has a strong eschatological interest. He saw that “The kingdom of God has come near to you” and is “among you.” Yet Luke recognized that no man, not even a prophet, can predict the time when the people will see the coming of the son of man in a cloud with power and great glory.

Copyrighted 2007


Blogger Abu Daoud said...

Fascinating idea. Is your primary scholarship on Luke-Acts, if I may ask.

Here in the Middle East the passages on persecution are much more immediate to the Christians, especially the converts from Islam, who as apostates are subject to capital punishment according to the Quran. Because of that, academic discussion of passages regarding persecution do not come up often, they are simply a matter of every day life.

Peace and thanks for the blog.

7:33 AM


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