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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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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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Multi-Part Review of Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision by N.T. Wright: PArt 1

I received a review copy of N.T. Wright’s ‘Justification:God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision’ a few days ago. It has been written by Wright as a response to a critique of his position on justification by John Piper. John Piper has been a tremendous help and influence, particularly in my late teens and early twenties,on myself. Piper’s writings, sermons, and conference messages introduced me to a passionate Calvinism which is God centred and values the glory and sovereignty of God. For this I am thankful. However, as I look back on these years, I realise that ,although I had a doctrine of God, my theology of creation was stunted. God, I believed, was the creator (literal 6 days) but his plan, to bring glory to himself, concerned his choosing, justifying and glorifying of the elect. The cosmos, the created world, was merely the backdrop and stage in which this saving action took place. I favoured evangelism over what I perceived as a liberal concern for social action and justice. I would not say that Piper explicitly taught a dualistic (secular/spiritual divide) world-view but I think it is fair to say that there was not enough ‘creation theology’ within Piper to counteract the implicit dualism of much on evangelicalism. At this time I began to explore the work of N.T. Wright. I began with ‘Jesus and the Victory of God’ and before long had consumed, with youthful energy, most of the N.T. Wright books I could get my hands on. Instead of a reduced gospel of individualism and evangelism, I was developing a larger theology in which God is calling a people to himself to be a blessing to the world. A gospel which embraced justice and social concern as well as a need to evangelise. So here I find myself reading the second part of a dialogue/conversation/polite argument between these two men of God, and biblical scholars, who have shaped, at two different stages of my life, my thinking. After reading each chapter I will seek to jot down a few comments.

Chapter One

This will be a multi-part review. Here I will offer my comments on the first chapter entitled ‘What’s all this about, and why does it matter?’ which covers 20 pages of the total of 224. Wright begins this chapter with a provocative illustration in which Piper is seen to be similar to a friend who thinks the earth goes around the sun. He offers this illustration for a number of reasons but one of them stands out. Wright says ‘we are not the centre of the universe, God is not circling around us. We are circling around him’(7). I agree wholeheartedly with Wright’s statement but it does seem to suggest that Piper holds to a gospel of ‘it’s about me, I’m the centre of the universe.’ This, if I am reading Wright correctly, is a gross caricature of Piper’s position. In fact I know of no other Pastor/Teacher/Theologian who has consistently taught from such a God centred perspective as John Piper. For those not convinced read John Piper’s The Pleasures of God or spend a few minutes looking around any of his writings. Like I said in my introduction I think Piper is God centred, but from my many years of listening/reading Piper, I find that salvation is to easily reduced to individualism and God’s salvific purposes for the cosmos are not given enough status. …… (more to follow soon)

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This is a snippet from an interview with N.T Wright in Time Magazine. The interview is on the topic of heaven. See www.ntwrightpage.com and http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1710844,00.html

TIME: And it ties in to what you’ve written about this all having a moral dimension.

Wright: Both that, and the idea of bodily resurrection that people deny when they talk about their “souls going to Heaven.” If people think “my physical body doesn’t matter very much,” then who cares what I do with it? And if people think that our world, our cosmos, doesn’t matter much, who cares what we do with that? Much of “traditional” Christianity gives the impression that God has these rather arbitrary rules about how you have to behave, and if you disobey them you go to hell, rather than to heaven. What the New Testament really says is God wants you to be a renewed human being helping him to renew his creation, and his resurrection was the opening bell. And when he returns to fulfil the plan, you won’t be going up there to him, he’ll be coming down here.

I know this probably isn’t the best way to address a Bishop but ‘Nice One! Tommy Boy’

Brilliant! In theological education I think that we need to make this point explciit. Many lecturers seem to assume that this is what the studentsbelieve. But I don’t think it is as we often revert back to heaven language.. If really want to see vicars inspiring people to action within this world we need to give them a theology which spurs them on. A theology of resserection does this, it causes us to work as children of the new creation for the redemption of all things.

I know that I try and say ‘I don’t think I’ll be living forever in heaven’ and following this with a conversation about resserection life.

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Mark 5:21-40This pericope contains two combined healings stories in one unified narrative. The literacy style of Mark (or earlier eyewitnesses) is evident is seeing the structure of these stories (A.B.A) and in the similarities between the two characters who are healed.

Woman with Hemorrhage Jairus’ Daughter
Female Female
Called ‘daughter’ (v34) Called Daughter (v35)
Woman ill for 12 years (v25) Girl 12 years old (v42)
Jesus asks question (v31) Jesus asks a question (v39)
Jesus in contact with uncleanness (menstrual bleeding) Jesus in contact with uncleanness (corpse)

In this story we see that Jesus becomes unclean according to the Jewish ceremonial law, but in the process he offers healing and restoration.

I only want to pick up one verse in my posting today.

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Jesus heals this lady, but this healing is more than just physical restoration as it restores her relationship to her society, family and worshipping community.

Society:

The commentaries offer the following explanation.

The OT formula of reassurance and blessing, ὕπαγε εἰς εἰρήνην (cf. Jdg. 18:6; 1 Sa. 1:17; 2 Sa. 15:9), confirms that she may now enjoy at last the šalôm which she has long needed, and the further assurance ἴσθι ὑγιὴς ἀπὸ τῆς μάστιγός σου makes it clear that her cure is not a merely temporary remission. ὑγιής, despite its English derivatives, relates to physical health, not to ‘cleanness’; the effect of the cure will be, however, to remove her impurity and restore her to a normal place in society.

Also,

“Go in peace” expresses a common Semitic farewell. But it represents more than simply a dismissal formula here. Together with the following imperative, it sets forth the full meaning of the previous declaration, “Your faith has made you well!” Going in peace means to go as one “restored to a proper relationship with God” (Schweizer, 118). Her healing, though certainly including her physical illness as the next statement indicates, involved more than simply the physical dimension of her existence (cf. 2:5–11).

Jesus interaction with a person is holistic.It brings shalom to more than one sphere.  Human beings, when touched by Jesus, see results which exceed physical or spiritual needs due to the interconnected of the various spheres of our existence. The soul (mind, body, spirit) experience a restoration to wholeness. The kingdom of God is not just physical healing, nor is it simply ‘gospel proclamation’, it is the restoration of the whole of creation to how God wanted it to be. This lady would one day die for the fullness of the Kingdom has not yet arrived, but it is here and is having an effect on all areas of life.

IN our lives do we see that conversion (a touch by the saviour) impacts more than just the spiritual sphere of our lives. The church also needs a holistic mission which seeks to bring Christ’s lordship into all areas of life.

A quote from Tom Wright seems appropriate. It is taken from his book ‘Surprised by Hope’ which could well be his best book yet. It is taken from Chapter 12 entitled ‘Rethinkign salvation: heaven, earth and the kingdom of God’.

Heaven’s rule, God’s rule is thus to be put into practise in the world, resulting in salvation in both the present and the future, a salvation which is both for humans and, through saved humans, for the wider world. This is the solid basis for the mission of the Church.’

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