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Failed wisdom and millennialism

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  • Daniel Grolin
    Dear X-Talkers, I have for some time now given thought to the tension that seems to be implied in some trends within the current Quest which seek to reject all
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 17, 2001
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      Dear X-Talkers,

      I have for some time now given thought to the tension that seems to be
      implied in some trends within the current Quest which seek to reject all
      forms of millennialism in the HJ.

      Robert J. Miller, who has graced our list, is, as I understand it, one of
      the proponents of this rejection. While I am myself inclined primarily to
      see Jesus as a wisdom speaker rather than an millennialist, it occurs to
      me that there may be a reason not to reject the latter outright.

      It has been argued that since John the Baptist and Paul were millennialist
      then surely Jesus must also have been. This I do not find to be a very
      convincing argument.

      However, let us for a moment focus on the meaning of Jesus' baptism, a
      baptism that necessarily implies an acceptance of John's
      message. According to Mark Jesus continued to proclaim the message of John
      after the latter had been imprisoned. Indeed it is in this context that
      Jesus seems to convert the first disciples. How reliable is Mark in these
      implicit statements is hard to know. The do not seem to be theological
      motivated narrative constructed by Mark.

      If we accept Mark's construct as historically sound, can we make sense of
      Jesus' movement from near eschatology to a realised eschatology? I think
      so. If we assume that the execution or imprisonment of John turned into a
      disenchantment with what appear to be a failed millennial hope. Then
      Jesus' transformation into a wisdom version of the kingdom, a realised
      eschatology, could be perceived by John's followers as the fulfilment of
      their hopes. Jesus would be giving them the key to hold their reverence
      for John as a true prophet in spite of his apparent failure. Jesus would
      thus appear as a reformer inside the John movement, who could draw many of
      John's disciples into the Jesus movement. I would assume that the first
      disciples of Jesus would not clearly differentiate between Jesus message
      from before and after the reform.

      This I would say in part explains a certain proclivity in the early Jesus
      tradition towards a near eschatology.

      As the title implies I also find it possible that wisdom could fail. Some
      who associated with Jesus because of the ethical or social aspect of the
      message may nonetheless have been more interested in knowing about the end
      product. Not the seed, but the greatest of trees (or shrubs), not the fire
      aglow, but the fire ablaze. Can we be certain that Jesus did not lay such
      concern to rest by using traditional prophetic or even apocalyptic
      imagery?

      Regards,

      Daniel
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