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183[HJMatMeth] Eschatology

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  • John Dominic Crossan
    Mar 3 12:31 PM
    • 0 Attachment
      Eschatology This is a second draft of my response to you, Antonio, sent with apologies to replace the former post.
      What happened was that I had dictated it to Sarah (without whose lightning-fast typing I would probably not have taken on this seminar) and intended to fill in the detailed references later. What went out, however, was the first unfinished draft. So now you can compare tradition and redaction! Sorry, once again, and here's the completed post.

      In debating specifically with Dale Allison, what I have attempted to do, Antonio, is go inside his own arguments for a continuity of apocalyptic expectation from John the Baptist, through Jesus into Paul, Q, and Mark. My major point is to make the distinctions necessary to explain what actually happened within that history. I find it as unlikely that all Jews agreed about apocalyptic expectation as that they agreed anything else (in the divide-and-conquer situation of imperial control I never expect such unanimity and, indeed, it may not ever be present anywhere on anything important).
      You state, for example, that you "can imagine a kind of apocalypticism where God demands that his people start acting out his vision of justice in this world without resorting to violence themselves while God HIMSELF will punish the wicked at the apocalyptic consummation." So can I. In fact, that is the kind of consummation that I find mentioned in Paul at Rom 12:14-21, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them .... Do not repay anyone evil for evil .... Never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ŒVengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.¹ No [as the Old Testament¹s Proverbs 25:21 says], Œif your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.¹ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." I read that as saying: take no vengeance now, God will do a much better job of it later on. And it is not at all clear what "coals of fire" mean. Does the metaphor mean: your non-violent goodness will vastly increase their future punishment, or, it will convert them from their violent evil? In any case, succession would mean that non-violence is offered first and, thereafter, for those who refuse it, only violence is left." I would presume it is also the type of apocalyptic expectation more brutally described in Revelation/Apocalypse, for example at 14:19-20,  "the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse's bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles."
      Of course such non-violence-by-us-now and violence-by-God-soon is possible, is, in fact, one of the options within apocalypticism that one would expect and predict (vengeance or revenge, actually, rather than justice). I found, however, a different kind of program (call it apocalyptic expectation, if you wish, for the present debate) behind what I called a "radical mini-catechism" in BofC 387-393 from Q 6:27-36 and the Didache 1:2b-5a. In that case, the establishment of justice by non-violent means was done in imitation of a non-violent god who sends rain alike on the just and the unjust.
      You mention that you "think most first-century Jews were apocalyptics the discussion was not so much about whether there was going to be a general resurrection and Last Judgement or not but whether the apocalyptic consummation was imminent or not." Let me take as an example (a highly tendentious one, to be sure) the following Jewish apocalyptic scenario outlined in the Sibylline Oracles 2:313-335 (see The OT Pseudepigrapha 1.353). It is dated by John Collins, from whom I have learned anything I know about those documents, to the Augustan age.
      First, in the apocalyptic consummation, everyone alike would be immersed in a lake of fire.
      Second, those "concerned with justice and noble deeds" will be taken out of "the blazing river" onto a transformed world where, "The earth will belong equally to all, undivided by walls or fences .... Lives will be in common and wealth will have no division. For there will be no poor man there, no rich, and no tyrant, no slave. Further, no one will be either great or small anymore. No kings, no leaders. All will be on a par together" (my tendentious usage derives from the fact that when I used "radical egalitarianism" to express the program of Jesus, many of my colleagues found it an unlikely retrojection of contemporary liberalism. I would have no better term to summarize that consummation in SibOr2).
      Third, what about those others left in the river of fire? This is the solution for them: "To these pious ones imperishable God, the universal ruler, will also give another thing. Whenever they ask the imperishable God to save men from the raging fire and deathless gnashing he will grant it, and he will do this. For he will pick them out again from the undying fire and set them elsewhere and send them on account of his own people."
      Finally, in one manuscript tradition, John Collins says that a Christian scribe glossed that Jewish apocalypse with the following comment: "Plainly false. For the fire which tortures the condemned will never cease. Even I would pray that this be so, though I am marked with very great scars of faults, which have need of very great mercy. But let babbling Origen be ashamed of saying that there is a limit to punishment."
      I do not cite that particular apocalypse to argue that it is what every Jew thought in the 1st century because most such statements about every Jew would be wrong in any case. (Surely every perfect society, every ideal world, is imagined with different emphases and priorities by women/men, slave/free, poor/rich, literate/illiterate, etc., etc., especially when you get down to no fences and not just to lost tribes.) I cite it simply as one more option among the manifold specifications of apocalyptic expectation then available. It does tell me, however, that there was a 1st century conscience that was not completely happy with the idea of the wicked, even or especially the wicked, languishing forever in eternal torments. We need, in other words, to amplify the map of options even or especially within Allison's apocalyptic expectation.
      In conclusion, I would like to go outside 1st century history and into contemporary ethics. I find it necessary to say this: I would not accept heaven from a God who could invent hell. One might certainly fear such a God, but should not worship or love such a God. Mrs. Job gave us the answer to that type of God long, long ago.


      ----------
      From: "John Dominic Crossan" <jdcrosn@...>
      To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@egroups.com
      Subject: Re: [HJMatMeth] Eschatology
      Date: Fri, Mar 3, 2000, 2:22 PM


      In debating specifically with Dale Allison, what I have attempted to do, Antonio, is go inside his own arguments for a continuity of apocalyptic expectation from John the Baptist, through Jesus into Paul, Q, and Mark. My major point is to make the distinctions necessary to explain what actually happened within that history. I find it as unlikely that all Jews agreed about apocalyptic expectation as that they agreed anything else (in the divide-and-conquer situation of imperial control I never expect such unanimity and, indeed, it may not ever be present anywhere on anything important).
      You state, for example, that you "can imagine a kind of apocalypticism where God demands that his people start acting out his vision of justice in this world without resorting to violence themselves while God HIMSELF will punish the wicked at the apocalyptic consummation." So can I. In fact, that is the kind of consummation that I find mentioned in Paul's Epistle to the Romans... I would presume it is also the type of apocalyptic expectation in the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse). Of course that is possible, and is one of the options within apocalypticism that one would expect and predict. I found, however, a different kind of expectation (call it apocalyptic expectation, if you wish, for the present debate) behind what I called a radical mini-catechism in Q 6... and the Didache. In that case, the establishment of justice by nonviolent means was affected by imitation of a nonviolent god who sends rain alike on the just and the unjust.
      You mention that you "think most first-century Jews were apocalyptics the discussion was not so much about whether there was going to be a general resurrection and Last Judgement or not but whether the apocalyptic consummation was imminent or not." Let me take as an example (a highly tendentious one, to be sure) the following apocalyptic scenario outlined in the Sybylline Oracles 2... It is dated by John Collins, from whom I have learned anything I know about those documents, to the Augustan age. First, in the apocalyptic consummation, everyone alike would be immersed in a lake of fire. Second, this follows: .... (my tendentious usage derives from the fact that when I used "radical egalitarianism" to express the program of Jesus, many of my colleagues found it an unlikely retrojection of contemporary liberalism. I would have no other term to summarize that position). Third, what about those others left in the pit of fire? This is the solution for them... Finally, in one manuscript tradition, John Collins says that a Christian scribe glossed that Jewish apocalypse with the following comment...
      I do not site that particular apocalypse to argue that it is whatever Jew thought in the 1st century because most such statements about every Jew "would be wrong in any case." I site it simply as one more option among the manifold specifications of apocalyptic expectation. It does tell me, however, that there was a 1st century conscience that was not completely happy with the idea of the wicked, even, or especially the wicked, languishing forever in eternal torments.
      In conclusion, I would like to go outside 1st century history and into contemporary ethics. I find it necessary to say this: I would not accept heaven from a god who could invent hell. Such a god one might certainly fear, but should not worship or love. Such a god should be treated the way Mrs. Job suggested long ago.

      ----------
      From: Antonio Jerez <antonio.jerez@...>
      To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@egroups.com
      Subject: [HJMatMeth] Eschatology
      Date: Thu, Mar 2, 2000, 2:44 PM


      Prof. Crossan,

      After reading your definitions of different kinds of Eschatology in BoC I still felt a bit perplexed. You define Apocalytic eschatology as a negation of this world by "announcing that in the future, and usually in the imminent future, God will act to restore justice in this unjust world. In many apocalytic scenarios God will transform the world miraculously and destroy the wicked. You contrast this kind of eschatology with Ethical eschatology which you define as a way of negating the world "by actively protesting and nonviolently resisting a system judged to be evil, unjust and violentand in ethicism, as distinct from apocalypticism, God is waiting for us to act. And in ethicism, as distinct from apocalypticism, God is not a violent God". (page 284). On page 287 you question wether apocalyticism and ethicism can be combined - "as long as apocalypticism involves a God who uses force and violence to end force and violence to end force and violence, they cannot be combined; one has to choose between them".

      I agree with you that the way you have defined the terms apocalytic and ethical eschatology appear to be in contradiction to each other. But is the definition right? I can imagine a kind of apocalypticism where God demands that his people start acting out his vision of justice in this world without resorting to violence themselves while God HIMSELF will punish the wicked at the apocalyptic consummation. This is the kind of apocalypticism that I believe Jesus stood for and it is in a sense a combination of ethicism and apocalypticism. I get the impression that the incompatibility problem that appears in your model is due to the presupposal that apocalypticism entails that God also demands violence on the part of his people to reach the apocalyptic consummation. Or does it have to do with the fact that not even God is permitted to destroy the wicked in this model of eschatology? If so I think that the kind of Ethical eschatology that you ascribe to the historical Jesus has little support in the evidence  at least if Jesus believed in the general Resurrection and the Last Judgement (by God), which does appear to be the case if a saying like Mark 12:24-27 is genuine. I doubt that apocalytic Jews like Paul or the author of Gmatthew would have joined the Jesus movement if the founder had denied Resurrection and Last Judgement. In a sense I think most firstcentury Jews were apocalytics  the discussion was not so much about wether there was going to be a general resurrection and Last Judgement or not but wether the apocalyptic consummation was immininent or not.

      I am also have question marks over your interpretation of the saying in Q 28 (greater than John). Both in "the historical Jesus" and "BoC" you see this as a genuine Jesus saying that denies apocalyptic eschatology. I agree with Dale Allison that this is reading a lot too much into a single saying. Allison´s criticisms in "Jesus  millenarian prophet" are right on spot. I quote him: "The first problem is that many have attributed Q 7:28b not to Jesus but to the early Church. The second is that, even if Jesus uttered Q 7:28b, it hardly disengages him from John´s eschatology. If Jesus uttered the saying before John died, then it probably meant that the least in the kingdom (when it comes) will be greater than the greatest (John the baptist) is now. If Jesus uttered it after John died, then it probably meant that those now alive, who experience the presence of Gods reign, are the most blessed and priviliged of all, even more blessed and priviliged than the Baptist, of revered memory. In either instance John´s eschatological proclamation is not overturned. (page 106)

       

      Best wishes

      Antonio Jerez

      Goteborg Sweden





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