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Mark 13: The Day of YHWH

Timothy Geddert, follows T.J Weeden in locating the ‘interpretative key’ to Mark 13 in a different pericope of Mark. Weeden asks the question,

‘Where one began looking in the Gospel for help in interpreting chapter 13 would be the key methodological issue. The soundest methodological procedure would be to seek help in understanding the concerns of chapter 13 in that section of the Gospel where the concerns are most likely clearly addressed.’1

Weeden answers his own question using 8:34-9:1 whereas, Geddert, due to the use of ‘sign language’ locates the interpretative key in 8:11-13. Whilst I would not deny that these passages (8:34-9:1, 8:11-13) are important, it is necessary, assuming that Mark is not a ‘clumsy writer’ and that there is a literary and theological unity to the gospel, to set Mark 13 in the context of Mark’s overall theological agenda and structure. A structure which, following Rikki Watts and Joel Marcus, is declared in Mark’s opening citation and prologue. For Rikki Watts the opening citation and in turn the prologue

‘indicate that the overall conceptual framework for his Gospel is the Isaianic NE [New Exodus]… This suggests that for Mark the long awaited coming of Yahweh as King and Warrior has begun’2

The Markan Jesus, if the implications of the prologue are worked out throughout the gospel3, inaugurates the coming of YHWH, for he is, in some sense, the embodiment of YHWH.4 Mark 13, when read in the light of this prologue, yields, as we shall see, high christological results.

According to the final form of the gospel of Mark the disciples, after leaving the temple, comment on the beauty of the Temple.5 Jesus responds by saying that these great building will be destroyed, and one stone will not be left upon another. Jesus leaves the temple and sits facing the Mount of Olives (v3), and in answer to the disciples question, seeks to explain, in verses 3-36 when this destruction will take place and what sign will be given for its arrival (v4)6. Several commentators recognise that the location of the Mount of Olives is often associated in prophetic literature with Jerusalem and the Temple (Ezek 11:23; 43:1ff; Zech. 14:1-11). Although these allusions are left relatively unexplored by some commentators, we note that they provide a link with the Markan theme of the arrival of YHWH established in the prologue. In Ezekiel YHWH abandons the temple, leaving it open for judgement,—‘the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city’ (Ezek 11:23). It is also, for Ezekiel, the place from which YHWH will re-enter the city and fill it with his presence (Ezek 43:1ff). Similar, although different, themes are found in Zechariah. The prophet announces that a day is coming when Jerusalem is to be attacked by the nations. This battle which brings exile, rape and plunder for the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Zech 14:2) will be followed by a time when YHWH will battle against the nations. YHWH comes to the Mount of Olives which results in geographical disturbances which result in a valley being formed from which the inhabitants of Jerusalem can escape (Zech 14:4-5)7.

N.T Wright, amongst other scholars8, picks up the Zechariah allusion and stresses that it is Jesus who acts symbolically in choosing the Mount of Olives as a location,

‘The force of the setting then seems to be that this way Jesus’ paradoxical retelling of the great story found in Zechariah 14 in predicting Jerusalem’s last great struggle, the ‘coming of YHWH’, and the final arrival of the divine kingdom he was acting to fulfil, in his own reinterpreted fashion, the prophecy of Zechariah.’9

On the other hand, for R.T. France ‘the more obvious effect is to recall the the place where according to Ezekiel 11:23 God stopped after abandoning the temple.’10.

It is not necessary for the purpose of our study to choose between Zechariah and Ezekiel as possible Old Testament backgrounds. However, we may simply note that it is plausible that Mark 13:3 is providing a theo-geography in which we can say that Jesus fulfils and embodies, as with the prologue, the role of YHWH. As the embodiment of YHWH he has visited the temple and found it wanting, its destruction is certain (Ezek 11:23). The day of the Lord is coming, a time of tribulation will befall the city. Yet this will not be the end for God will act through the Son of Man to gather his people (Zech 14). This interpretation of the symbolic nature of the Mount of Olives is far from certain, but, as we shall see, in our analysis of Mark 13:24-27, it coheres well with other parts of the eschatological discourse, namely its climax in the ‘coming of the son of Man.’

1T. J. Weeden, Mark: traditions in conflict (Fortress Press, 1971).cited in Geddert, Watchwords, 29.

2R. E. Watts, Isaiah’s new Exodus and Mark (Delft Univ Pr, 1997), See chapter 3, citation from page 90.likewise and independently Joel Marcus makes the same basic point.

‘If, as we have contended, the larger Deutero-Isaian context is in view in Mark 1, John the Baptist and Jesus are set firmly within the context of Jewish apocalyptic eschatology by the citation of Isa. 40:3 in Mark 1:3. Their appearance on the scene fulfils the prophecies of old because it heralds eschatological events,because it is the preparation for and the beginning of the fulfilment of that end so eagerly yearned for since Old Testament times: the triumphant march of the holy warrior, Yahweh, leading his people through the wilderness to their true homeland in a mighty demonstration of saving power.’J. Marcus, Way of the Lord (Tamp; t Clark Ltd, 2004), 29.

3M.E. Boring brings together a number of texts which support a high Christology. These texts, which do not include an analysis of Mark 13, include Mark 1:11;1:16-20; 1:24,;1:23-27, 2:1-12; 4:35-41; 5:6; 6:48; 6:50; 7:1-23; 9:2-8; 9:37; 12:1-11; 12:35-37; 13:6,13; 13:31; 14:60-64; 15:39. He concludes his analysis,

Mark should be located among those NT authors with a ‘high’ Christology who affirm the ‘deity’ of Christ. While no one of the nineteen texts catalogued above is compelling in itself, in the aggregate they incline on toward the view that Mark affirmed what is now called the ‘deity of Christ’,though this was no this way of formulating the issue.’ 471 M. E. Boring, “Markan Christology: God-Language for Jesus?,” New Testament Studies 45, no. 04 (1999): 451-471.

4One struggles to find appropriate language to describe Markan Christology. It is inappropriate and anachronistic to see it as on par with the later dogmatic affirmations of later creedal formulations. Driggers, who explores the divine presence in Mark, although unfortunately leaves Mark 13 relaively unexplored, uses language of ‘possession’ rather than embodiment.

There are of course no assertions of ontological sameness, as in the christological formulations of later church councils. God and Jesus are at one level different characters; but to the extent that God’s spirit possesses Jesus those character boundaries become, and remain, blurred.’ 232

I. B. Driggers, “The politics of divine presence: Temple as locus of conflict in the Gospel of Mark!,” Biblical Interpretation 15, no. 3 (2007): 227-247.

5The unnamed disciples comment on the magnificence of the temple is thoroughly understandable. This temple, commissioned by Herod, was a complete renovation of the Temple of Zerubbabel (Jos. Ant. 15:11.1-3, Jos. Jewish War 5.5.1-6). Work began in 20/19 B/C. It is sometimes mentioned that this rebuilding task did not finish till shortly before the Jewish War (John 2:20). However, the beauty of this building would have been readily evident during Jesus ministry as the bulk of the building task was completed within a decade. The disciples amazement may well have been at the size and beauty of the stones being used. (Ant. 15.391-402, War. 184-226)

6These two questions, of timing and accompanying signs have been understood in a number of different ways. Hooker, Joel Marcus and Beasley Murray, amongst others, see the second question ‘all these things‘(ταῦτα πάντα) as looking at eschatological events beyond ‘these things’ (ταῦτα).’ However, there is no textual reason to be confused about this, unless of course one assumes that the passage is actually about the second coming. The simplest reading is to assume that they are an example of synonymous parallelism, in which both questions relate to the same event of these things/all these things. We can be confident that this is how this would have been understood in the first century as Lukan parallel (Luke 21:7) , assuming here Markan priority, omits ‘all (πάντα)’ so that both questions refer to ‘these things’ (ταῦτα). In Mark 13:28-30 the terms ταῦτα and ταῦτα πάντα are reintroduced, this time at the end of the response which Jesus is giving. The disciples questions, which follow on from his announcement of the destruction of the temple, are about this event, an event which will be fulfilled within this generation. See the helpful discussion in Robert H. Stein, Mark (Baker Publishing Group, 2008), 590-591.

7James R. Edwards is incorrect in his commentary to state that in Zech 14:1-8 the mount of Olives is ‘ is the place from which God declares the capture, sacking, and devastation of Jerusalem.’ It is after the plunder of the city that God comes to the mount of Olives to bring rescue to his people. J. R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Apollos, 2002).

8Such as M. D. Hooker, Gospel According to St Mark (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001), 305.

9Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 345.

10France, The Gospel of Mark.

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destructionOfJerusalem

Jesus, if the Jesus tradition contained in the synoptic gospels is at all a reliable witness to the Historical Jesus, proclaimed the arrival of the kingdom of God and also issued a warning of the judgement which would soon fall, on the nation, the city and the temple. We follow George Caird and Ben Meyers in stressing that Jesus’ message, like John the Baptist, and that of his disciples, differs considerably from contemporary evangelism.

The disciples [and we may add Jesus and John the Baptist] were not evangelistic preachers, sent out to save individual souls for some unearthly paradise. They were couriers proclaiming a national emergency and conducting a referendum of national survival. 1

It is historically out of the question that John [and Jesus] conceived judgement along the individualistic lines characteristic of later Western thought. Rather, he conceived of judgement in collective, or better, ‘ecclesial terms’. ie. in terms of God’s people Israel. To miss this is to miss the context-a massive tradition- in which John [and Jesus] consciously and publicly situated himself and out of which came his every word and act.’ 2

All of this can be said without actually turning to the eschatological discourse of Mark 13. However, when we do, anticipating the interpretative task that follows, we see that Jesus announced that the coming destruction and downfall of Jerusalem and its temple would be followed by a time of blessing in which the Messiah, as the embodiment of YHWH, is vindicated (Mark 13:26-27) and the elect, arguably the exiled people of God, are gathered together. In other words, the cities destruction is part of the necessary tribulation which must take place before the arrival, in some sense, of the eschatological age.

In this last sentence I use the word ‘tribulation’3 deliberately to denote a second temple eschatological concept and not simply as a substitute for the words ‘suffering’ or ‘hardship’.

Brant Pitre’s recent doctoral thesis republished as Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of Exile4, demonstrates that this concept of tribulation is firmly established within the texts of late second temple Judaism and that it is plausible that Jesus, along with many of his contemporaries, shared such an eschatological view. Pitre reaches this position by studying a variety of texts composed between 200BC to 30AD such as Epistle of Enoch, Testament of Moses and several documents from the Dead Sea Scrolls5. From his analysis of these texts Pitre draws together a number of aspects of the concept of tribulation in late second temple Judaism.

1. The tribulation is tied to restoration of Israel and the End of Exile.

2 . A righteous remnant arises during the tribulation.

3. The righteous suffer and/or die during the tribulation. This sometimes includes the suffering and/or death of a

messianic figure.

4. The tribulation is tied to the coming of the Messiah, sometimes referred to as the ‘Son of Man’

5. There is a tribulation which precedes the final judgement.

6. The tribulation is depicted as the eschatological climax of Israel’s exilic sufferings, often through the imagery of the

Deuteronomic covenant curses.

7. The tribulation has two stages (1) the preliminary stage, and (2) the Great tribulation.

8. The tribulation precedes the coming of the eschatological kingdom

9. An eschatological tyrant, opponent, or Anti-Messiah arises during the tribulation.

10. Typological images from the Old Testament are used to depict the tribulation

11. The tribulation is tied to the in gathering and/or conversion of the Gentiles.

12. .The tribulation has some kind of atoning or redemptive function.

13. The Jerusalem Temple is defiled and/or destroyed during the tribulation.

14. The tribulation precedes the resurrection of the dead and/or a new creation

Pitre is to be applauded for his significant study which offers contributions to both Second Temple scholarship and New Testament studies. However, it is problematic to sketch out a second temple view of ‘tribulation’ on texts from late second temple Judaism (200BC – 30 AD). Firstly, we do not not actually know how mainstream these non-canonical books were, and whether there content was known by the general population. However, we do know, with a relateviely high degree of confidence that signifcant parts of the Old Testament (Law, Prophets,) were widely read by the population at large. Would it not make more sense, therefore, to look, not only at texts from late second temple Judaism, but also at tribulation themes within the Old Testament? Secondly, and more positively, I suggest that a thorough study of ‘the day of the Lord’ should take place alongside an Old Testament study of tribulation6 for the concept of the day of the Lord has the potential of bringing together the bi-polar themes of judgement and blessing, and may be an appropriate tool, like that of tribulation, for bringing a coherency to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom and his warning of imminent catastrophe.7

It is my belief, alongside Pitre, that Mark 13 and Mark 10:35-45 are further examples of this tribulation theme and will be studied in this, and the following, chapter. In the light of Pitre’s study I want to suggest that the concept of tribulation, and the related theme of the ‘day of the Lord’ are part of Jesus’ narrative world, and that any attempt to understand Jesus’ kingdom proclamation or his forecast of the imminent catastrophe which is to befall the nation, without paying due attention to the eschatological narrative world of tribulation is a historiographical and exegetical mistake.

Mark 13: Hypothesis, Dialogue and Verification8

Those familiar with the exegetical and hermeneutical landscape of Mark 13 will no doubt realise the serious challenges which are to be faced by the interpreter. The literature is vast, the issues are complex, the battle lines have been drawn,and, of top of all this, it cannot be studied in isolation from other biblical minefields9. However, the complexity and length of this study is curtailed by focussing our attention on an overarching hypothesis10. Our hypothesis is,

Hypothesis: ‘In Mark 13 Jesus prophecies, amongst other things, the coming destruction and downfall of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. This suffering is part of the eschatological tribulation—the negative side of the Day of the Lord—which precedes the arrival, in some sense, of the eschaton, in which the messianic Son of Man, as the embodiment of YHWH, is vindicated and the exiled people of God are gathered in’.

This hypothesis does not take place in a scholarly vacuum but is in dialogue with a number of scholars. In agreement with R.T France11 and N.T Wright12, who emphasise the prophecy has its focus on the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, I reject the interpretation of Mark 13, followed by Edward Adams13, Beasley-Murray14 , the modern day Schweitzer, Dale Allison15, and the historical Schweitzer16, in which Jesus is predicting a global apocalyptic cosmic catastrophe and his own literal parousia. However, I part company with Wright and France in their understanding of the ‘coming of the son of man’. They are right,in my opinion, to reject the mainline scholarly ‘visible parousia’ interpretation but are misguided, in my opinion, to simply interpret it as vindication. In contrast to both of these positions, I seek to put forward and defend the view that Jesus believes that after the destruction of the temple he will re-visit the nation, in some sense, as the embodiment of YHWH—for the Day of the Lord has arrived!

It is now time, given we have a hypothesis and suitable dialogue partners, to wade into the exegetical waters of Mark 13, with the hope that we may emerge with a fish or two, namely plausibility and coherency, as verification.  To be continuued…..

1 Caird, G. B. “Jesus and the Jewish Nation.” Athlone, London (1965). also Wright JVOG 320-339,

2Caird, “Jesus And The Jewish Nation,”also see N. T Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (London: SPCK, 1996), 320-339.

3 Within Biblical Scholarship this concept has lacked some conceptual and terminological clarity. It is referred to in various ways such as ‘the final ordeal and confusion’(Emil Schurer), ‘Messianic Woes’ (R.H Charles), ‘prelude to the messianic age’ (Joseph Klausner), ‘preliminary time of Evil’ (Hartman). It is Brant Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement (Baker Academic, 2006)., and to a lesser extent Dale C. Allison, End of the Ages Has Come: Early Interpretation of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus (Fortress P.,U.S, 1985)., who bring precision and conceptual clarification to such scholarly disorder. See JTEE 1-31

4Pitre, Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile.

5 The full list is 1 Enoch 93:1-10;91:11-17, 1 Enoch 91-107, The Book of Daniel, The Book of Dreams , The book of Jubilees, The Third Sibylline Oracle, the Psalms of Solomon, The Testament of Moses, 1QH, 4Q171, 4Q174 & 4Q177, 1QS, CD, 1 QM, 4Q246, 1 Enoch 37-71

6For our current interests of Mark 13 we may note in the judgement oracle against Babylon found in Isaiah 13:6,9 makes reference to the day of the Lord ( éåÉí éäåä,? ?μέρα κυρίου LXX) On this day, which will come upon people like a woman in labour, the Lord will come and strike Babylon with his wrath and fierce anger, on this day the stars will not give light and the sun will be dark, (Is 13:10). Similarly, in Mark 13 the destruction of the city will is described in terms of a cosmic catastrophe (Mark 13:24-25) and of birthpangs (Mark 13:8). This will be discussed again later in this chapter, but for now I simply want to make the point that the concept of the day of the Lord may prove a fruitful a area as the distinct but interrelated study of tribulation by Brant Pitre. We may also note, as a supportive argument, that Mark, in his prologue brings together Ex 23:20, Is 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 with the introduction ‘As is is written in the prophet Isaiah’. Joel Marcus and Rikki E Watts have demonstrated that this is not a error but the author of Mark is trying to make a theological point, namely, that the gospel, and Jesus’ ministry, are to be understood against the backdrop of ‘the way of the Lord’. We simply note in passing, whilst agreeing with the thrust of Watts and Marcus, that the ‘way of the Lord’ (Marcus) or Isaiah’s new exodus(Watts) is tightly related tot he concept of the day of the Lord. Malachi 3:1 is set in the context of the day of the Lord (Mal 3:2) and YHWH’s comign in judgement against his temple, whereas Is 40:3 is also about YHWH coming to his people in mercy and restoration (Is 40:9-11). We see that Mark, like Jesus’ kingdom proclamation and warning of imminent catastrophe, has brought together the twin themes of YHWH’s return, that of judgement and restoration. See R. E. Watts, Isaiah’s new Exodus and Mark (Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 4; Joel Marcus, The Way of the Lord (T.& T.Clark Ltd, 2004), 2.

7 See the article in ABD 2:82 by Richard Heirs in which he breaks the ‘day of the Lord’ material into the following categories.

1) YHWH’s judgement of the foreign nations

  1. YHWH’S judgement against Israel, Judah or the Jewish People

  2. Future deliverance or Blessing for Israel, Judah, other nations, and all creation.

8From a methodological point of view opt for a hypothesis-verification approach to historiography. I follow N.T Wright, contra to naïve or positivist realism, in seeing knowledge of the past is achieved through a method of hypothesis and verification. A hypothesis: ‘is essentially a construct, thought up by a human mind, which offers itself as a story about a particular set of phenomena, in which the story, which is bound to be an interpretation of those phenomena also offers an explanation of them.’

For a historical hypothesis to be a good hypothesis, and receive verification, it must

1. must include all the data [evidence]

2. must construct a basically simple and coherent overall picture

3. prove itself fruitful in other areas

N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God v. 1 (SPCK Publishing, 1992), 99-109.

9 A useful literature survey and history of scholarship has been provided by G.R. Beasley Murray. His latest book on this topic is George R.Beasley- Murray, Jesus and the Last Days: Interpretation of the Olivet Discourse (Paternoster P., 1994).which is based upon his earlier works, G. R. Beasley-Murray, A commentary on Mark thirteen (Macmillan, 1957); G. R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Future (London: Macmillan, 1954).As scholarship does not stand still we must add to this the more recent contributions of R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: a commentary on the Greek text (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2002); N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God: v. 2 (SPCK Publishing, 1996), 339-367; E. Adams, “The Coming of the Son of Man in Mark’s Gospel,” TYNDALE BULLETIN 56, no. 2 (2005): 39; TR HATINA, “The Focus of Mark 13: 24-27: The Parousia, or the Destruction of the Temple?,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 6 (1996): 43-66; T.J. Geddert, Watchwords: St.Mark 13 in Markan Eschatology (Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement (Continuum International Publishing Group – Sheffie, 1989).

10I will not focus any attention on issues raised from either source or form criticism. I treat Mark 13 as a literary whole and seek to interact with it from a literary historical perspective. Questions of original form and composition history have been taken up by other scholars, including my research supervisor. D. Wenham, The rediscovery of Jesus’ eschatological discourse (JSOT Press, 1984). Lloyd Gaston, No Stone on Another: Studies in the Significance of the Fall (Supplements to Novum Testamentum; Leiden: Brill, 1970), 41-64.

11R. T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament: his application of Old Testament passages to himself and his mission (Regent College Publishing, 2000), Appendix A; R. T. France, Divine Government, 2003; France, The Gospel of Mark.

12Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God.

13Adams, “The Coming of the Son of Man in Mark’s Gospel”; Edward Adams, The Stars Will Fall from Heaven: Cosmic Catastrophe and the World’s End in the New Testament and Its World (Library of New Testament Studies): Cosmic Catastrophe … Its World (Continuum International Publishing Group – T & T C, 2007).

14Beasley-Murray, A commentary on Mark thirteen; Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Future; Murray, Jesus and the Last Days.

15Dale C. Allison, The End of the Ages Has Come: Early Interpretation of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus (New Ed.; T.& T.Clark Ltd, 1987); D. C. Allison, Jesus of Nazareth: millenarian prophet (Fortress Press, 1998); “A Plea for Thoroughgoing Eschatology,” http://www.jstor.org/stable/3266712.

16Albert Schweitzer and Walter Lowrie, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God: The Secret of Jesus’ Messiahship and Passion (London: A. & C. Black, 1925).

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Jesus and His Narrative World

Jesus, as a Jew, along with his Jewish contemporaries, was living and perceived the world as part of an unfolding story, a story which, unlike post-modern counterparts, claimed to be the true story of the world.1 This continuing narrative looks back on the relationship between YHWH, the creator God, and his covenant people, whilst simultaneously looking with hope to a future age, a messianic age of deliverance from ones enemies and the establishment of peace and shalom. There is a risk to be recognised for the historian of such a meta-narrative approach, namely, that there is no firm ground from which this story can be absolutised. This risk is amplified by the bi-polar problems of data, that the data we have, from which we can emplot meta-narratives, is simply to vast and complex, which is to be affirmed alongside the problem of absense of data. This refusal of the data to be pinned down and easily systematised or placed into a narratival scheme means that the seeming objectivity of the scholarly consensus is a myth. These critiques are valid, but a non-totalsiing narrative is an essential tool for the historian, whether or not, he or she uses the term, for it is impossible to do history without generalising in some sense, but a fair recognition that the narrative which you are telling (i.e. Identifying increased militarisation of Europe as a main cause of first world war) or the narrative wolrd which you are creating of a past culture or individual, (i.e. The worldview of Roman Empire, The outlook of life from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, the hopes and aspirations of the enlightenment) is non-totalizing It does not claim to be objective, and totalizing—this is how everyone saw the world—but but it does seek plausibility whilst simultaneously being epistemologically humble. It does claim ho have it all sewn up, but it is a ‘useful’ rule of thumb for engaging in historical research.

In fact it should be relatively straight forward to state that 1st century Jews-despite immense variation– shared, to a greater or lesser extent, the story of monotheism, covenant and eschatology. The one true God [monotheism] had called a people [covenant] and given them the law. At some point God would act in history to bring in an age of blessing and shalom[eschatology]. The exact details, such as [who are his people? Whose interprettaion of the law?, what would happen to the gentiles at the eschtaon?] receive a variety of interpretations from within second temple Judaism, yet we must not allow this complexity and valid postmodern criticisms of history and narrative give way to a total cynicism.

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Chapter 2: Rules of Engagement

In an interesting and stimulating chapter Wright sets forth some of his own methodology and concerns about Piper’s approach.

Wright reminds his readers of the danger of following a systematic approach to the bible which brings a ‘theology’ to the text rather than letting the text speak for itself. ‘But start with exegesis, and remind yourself that the end in view is not a tidy system, sitting in the hard covers of a shelf where one may look up the ‘correct answers’, but the sermon, or the shared pastoral reading, or the scriptural word to Synod or other formal church gatherings, or indeed the life witness to the love of God… this is letting scripture be scripture’ (24)
For Wright it is vital that when looking at ‘justification’ we ‘pay attention tot he actual flow of the letters’. We should also listen to the other Pauline texts such as Ephesians and Colossians.
Wright engages with Piper on the role of 1st century sources for illuminating an interpretation of the bible. Piper says that first century sources can be used to ‘distort and silence what the New Testament writers intended to say.’ This can happen through misunderstanding the first century idea. Piper brings in as support the book edited by Carson ‘Justification and Variegated Nomism’ which seeks to show, at least Carson’s editorial hand does, that Sanders was incorrect to describe second temple Judaism as being covenantal nomist. Wright disagrees with Piper in saying that Carson’s concluding comments do not necessarily match the scholarly work contained in the chapters. His is a point which has been made by several reviewers of Justification and Variegated Nomism.

Piper is reluctant to let 1st century texts inform our reading of scripture. Wright demonstrates extensively that we simply must let other texts inform our reading for unless we read other Greek texts we would not know what the Greek New Testament was saying. Wright shows how the NIV sometimes lets his theological agenda control its translation of scripture. Particular attention is paid to Romans 3:21-26 in which the NIV translates in a way which supports its own theological stance but obscures the Greek meaning.

In summary we can say that Wright wants his approach to a be a ‘historical approach’. He is wary of a theological approach which does not take history seriously.

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Here is a review and critique of Brant Pitre’s ‘Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of Exile’

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

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Dale Allison ‘The End of the Ages Has Come’ (1985), writing twenty five years before Pitre(2005), seeks to show, amongst other things, that the ‘New Testament contains texts in which the death of Jesus is interpreted as belonging to the great tribulation and in which his resurrection is set forth as marking the onset of the general resurrection of the dead’1.

Before analysing the New Testament, he seeks, in Chapter Two, to examine aspects of Jewish eschatology for tribulation themes. He does this by asking a number of questions.

  • When will the tribulation come?

  • Who will suffer?

  • How long will the tribulation last?

The following table seeks to tabulate his results and conclusions

When will the tribulation come?
The Tribulation in Present Testament of Moses, esp ch 8,9 ‘The author of the book thought that his time, the time of Antiochus, the time of Taxo, stood immediately before the appearance of God;s kingdom throughout all creation, when there would be no more Satan. The woes presently experienced were thought to be the woes, the last woes, and soon to be followed by renewal.’2
1 QH III,7-10 The essenes ‘understood their own sufferings to signal the advent of the tribulation upon the new age.’3
4 Ezra 5:1-13,50-55; 6:21-24 ‘the time for divine visitation has come, the seer and his readers know themselves to be suffering the tribulation that must come before the Messiah’s advent.’4
m.Sota 9:15 ‘the pangs of the Messiah are here more than a prospect; they have revealed themselves in contemporary circumstances’5
The Great Tribulation is yet to come 1 Enoch 91-105 ‘So although the present (the seventh week, by the author’s reckoning) may be miserable for those who fear God, it is in truth the wicked who should wail and weep, for the eighth week are coming when sinners will suffer God’s judgement in the great tribulation.’6
Syriac Baruch (ca 100AD) ‘the messianic woes are also future yet imminent’
Apocalypse of Abraham ‘If Israel has suffered and suffers, and if the heathen are now in command, the end, which is fastly approaching, will see the heavy hand of divine chastisement pass from the people of God to the nations.’7
T. Levi 4:1, Adam and Eve 29:7, b. Sanh. 98B and b.Sabb. 118a ‘In these passages we run across instances where the prospect of a great tribulation, is not a prominent tenet, or conspicuous belief that draws much attention but, rather, somehting taken over from tradition and mentioned only in passing.’8
The great Tribulation is past Jubilees 23:31 ‘The author of Jubilees, then, encouraged in his optimism by good turns of fortune, could well have hoped that tribulation belonged tot he past and that God was ushering in a new time.’9
Who will Suffer?
The Saints Suffer Daniel 7:21-22, Jub 23:1-31, As. Mos. 9:1-7, etc ‘the trend of these texts, from various times and places, is clear. The righteous will be tested and suffer affliction at the end. The Most High will not spare the faithful until the turning point.’10
The Wicked Suffer Syriac Baruch, 4 Ezra 9:7-8, Apoc. Abraham 29, 1 Enoch 91-105, ‘Woes are always and exclusively directed against the nations that sin against God.’11
The saints may suffer Liv. Pro. Dan. 21,Melkita 16:25.
How long will the tribulation last? A week, 7 years, Daniel 12Rabbinic Sources: No estimation

1QM 40 Years

1 Enoch 91-105, Sib. Or. III 532-51, Liv Po. Hab 14, etc: No explicit duration

‘Our survey uncovers no agreement. The length of the great tribulation was variously estimated—from a few years to more than forty; and most texts simply do not broach the subject.’12

Allison examination has revealed great diversity on the topic of the tribulation Jewish Texts.

‘The results of this chapter serve to accent the variegated nature of Jewish eschatological expectation as is attested in the ancient literature.’13 Some texts treat the tribulation as a ‘central theme’, for some a ‘marginal conviction’, and other a ‘conspicuously absent belief.’

Allisons conclusions which stress diversity can be compared with that of Pitre.

1EAHS 3 Emphais my own

2EAHS 8

3EAHS 11

4EAHS 13

5EAHS 14

6EAHS 16

7EAHS 17

8EAHS 17

9EAHS 19

10EAHS 20

11EAHS 21

12EAHS 23-24

13EAHS 25

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