Behold, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms, so that you might uproot and undermine and destroy and rebuild and plant. (Jeremiah 1:10) Just before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BCE, God enlisted Jeremiah as his prophet. Jeremiah was to prophesy concerning all the peoples of the earth. He would decree … Continue reading The prophet like Jeremiah and the wrath to come
A while ago I put forward the argument that Paul's apocalyptic eschatology was drawn primarily from the social and psychological needs of the marginalized Christian communities throughout the pagan empire. Paul's strange beliefs about the future apocalypse were in this way "functional" rather than speculative or mystical. The parousia and all its imaginative constituent parts … Continue reading So we will be with the Lord forever
The Kingdom and the kingdoms The precise definition of the kingdom of God continues to allude interpreters. Is it the church? Is it a state of mind? A spirit-led mode of living? Is it an earthly kingdom that comes at the end of history? All of the above? Support for each theory can be readily … Continue reading The kingdom as divine judgement
I argued last time that the early Christians placed more significance on the exaltation of Christ to heaven than on his resurrection from the dead. Two observations pointed me in this direction. Some early confessional material managed to tell the story of Christ without an explicit reference to bodily resurrection (Philippians 2:5-6, Hebrews 1:1-4, 1 … Continue reading The significance of Christ’s resurrection in early preaching
Separation from Pagan Greeks I argued last time that Paul's doctrine of justification by faith rather than works of Law—regardless of what we think of the New Perspective on Paul—performed an essential social function: to separate communities that would inherit authority in the next age from communities that would inherit destruction at the coming of … Continue reading Justification by faith at the end of the age: another example from Galatians
As is the case in many of his letters, Paul uses his opening words to the Galatian churches to summarize his message. But for a letter so devoted to the topic of justification by faith, Paul's introductory note rings a surprisingly apocalyptic tenor. More surprising still, neither faith nor justification is mentioned. Grace to you … Continue reading Justification by faith: a seaworthy eschatological vessel
Christ's possession, judgement, and reign over the nations (τὰ ἔθνη) constituted a central eschatological hope among the early Christians. They believed God was acting to bring about the obedience of the nations. Across the empire pagan Greeks were "turning from idols to serve the living and true God and await his son from heaven" (1 … Continue reading Which nations are the nations?