Did Paul believe in an imminent parousia?

Continuing a conversation from elsewhere, I want briefly to address the question of whether Paul taught that there would be a resurrection of the faithful, within the historical horizon of the early churches, comparable to the “first resurrection” of the martyrs in Revelation 20:4-6. It has been suggested that there is “no explicit statement of a 1st century resurrection” in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. I beg to differ.

Who shared in the first resurrection of the dead?

Peter Wilkinson has disputed my argument about the resurrection of the martyrs in Revelation 20:4. I think that John has in mind a more or less literal resurrection of those who were martyred during the course of the early church’s clash with an idolatrous Roman imperialism. Peter thinks that this apocalyptic stuff is all somehow just a metaphor for being a Christian. He argues i) that there are at least three groups in view in Revelation 20:4; ii) that these groups are not raised but simply “live”; and iii) that “resurrection” is to be “taken in its secondary sense as the triumph which believers already share with the risen, ascended Christ”.

Tom Wright, the return of Jesus, and the failure of history

There is so much in Tom Wright’s Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters that is good and right. The perfect storm metaphor that runs through the book is overworked, but it gets across very effectively the idea that Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection must be understood at the point where the great forces of Jewish hope, Roman imperial power, and the sovereign intention of Israel’s God converged. But the metaphor does not take us effectively beyond that point: the storm subsides, the politically constructed narrative quickly collapses, and we are left with a flattened landscape of theological abstractions. As I see it.

Adam was formed first, then Eve

Paul’s instruction that a woman should “learn quietly with all submissiveness”, that she should not teach, that she should not “exert a damaging influence over” a man but should remain quiet (1 Tim. 2:11-12), is grounded in the order of their creation in Genesis 2: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” So even if we accept that the rule of the man over the woman is a consequence of the fall rather than part of the original relational dynamic, it would still seem that in Paul’s mind a created difference requires that men teach and women learn “in all submissiveness”.

A helper fit for him

I pointed out yesterday that there is no reason to read “he shall rule over you” in Genesis 3:16 as the corruption of an original good andrarchy. In response to this Nigel Dutson asked about the interpretation of Genesis 2:18, where God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” He says: “No mention of domineering control to be sure but certainly the idea that woman was created with man’s interest in mind and not vice versa.”

He shall rule over you

Prompted by reading the chapter in Daniel Kirk’s Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? on the place of women in the story of God, I recently set out my view i) that andrarchy (in this context, mandated rule by the man) is a consequence of the fall; ii) that it is therefore an aspect of the fallenness of humanity, of our bondage to sin; and iii) that a “new creation” people should not perpetuate this state of affairs unless there is very good reason for doing so—particularly in view of the fact that western culture has mostly thrown off this unjust arrangement over the last hundred years.

Why I disagree with Tom Wright about the triumphal entry and divine kingship

A key text for Tom Wright’s “gospel christology” is the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1-9; Mk. 11:1-10; Lk. 19:28-40). In Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters , which is excellent in many ways, this story is the climax towards which his chapter on the “hurricane” of divine kingship is directed. The argument goes something like this. The theme of the return of YHWH to Zion is widely evidenced in the major Old Testament prophets but is also found in Zechariah and Malachi, even though these texts belong to the post-exilic period. It appears, therefore, that at least some Jews at this late stage were of the view that, despite the ending of the exile and the rebuilding of the temple, YHWH himself had not yet returned to fill his house with his glory. So the return from exile had not really happened—and had still not really happened by the time we get to Jesus’ day.

Who are the 144,000 in Revelation, historically speaking?

Kevin DeYoung asks, “Who are the 144,000 in Revelation?” Are they a remnant of ethnic Jews who are left behind after the rapture, who will evangelize the Gentiles, as presumably dispensationalists would argue? Or does this symbolic number stand for the “entire community of the redeemed”?

DeYoung favors the latter interpretation, which is the mainstream Christian interpretation, for a number of reasons: i) in Revelation 13 Satan seals his followers, so you would expect God to “seal all of his people, not just the Jewish ones”; ii) in Ezekiel 9:4 the mark on the forehead differentiates between idolaters and non-idolaters, so the sealing of the 144,000 should make a “similar distinction based on who worships God”; iii) the 144,000 are called “servants of God” (Rev. 7:3), we are all servants of God, therefore we are all part of the 144,000; iv) the 144,000 in Revelation 14:1-5 are spoken of in “generic everybody kind of language”, as a group drawn from all peoples, not just from the Jews; and v) the list of the 12 tribes is “highly stylized”, so that 12 x 12 x 1000 means the completion of God’s people multiplied by the apostles multiplied by a “great multitude”.

The curse of patriarchy and the hope of new creation

What impressed me most in Daniel Kirk’s discussion of the place of women in the story of God was his argument that the church is called actively and concretely to realize in the present a future new creation in which it will be unnecessary for the man to rule over the woman.

There are two main parts to the argument, and it is interesting that they more or less side-step Paul’s teaching on the matter. Whatever pragmatic reasons there may have been for restricting the activity of women or requiring them to be submissive towards their husbands, they do not invalidate the ultimate and overruling hope, which is that in the new creation the curse of patriarchy will no longer be operative. If that is the case, then the church is under some eschatological pressure to make that a visible reality in the here and now.

The parable of the two houses and the apocalyptic storm

In a brief exchange with Daniel Kirk about the apocalyptic character of the story that is being told in the New Testament I touched on Jesus’ parable of the two houses, which is found at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:24-27). We usually understand this passage as a description of the choice that individuals make in responding to Jesus, but I think this misses the narrative and apocalyptic thrust of Jesus’ teaching.


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