1st Maccabees – The Stand – Repost 2012

Mina of Antiochus IV.
Image via Wikipedia

This is a repost, as are the other ones from Hanukkah. This one has been amended, however, to reflect my stances now. I’ve noticed a lot of changes that I had to redo – and no biggie. More than anything, I’ve come to be okay with my acceptance of First Maccabees. I was born this way.

While reading Thomas Cahills’s Desire of the Everlasting Hills, I took great thought from his section on the oppression of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes. Too many times, more conservative believers simply take the canon handed to them and accept it, forgetting that if it was up to Luther, we would have discarded Hebrews, James, and Revelation as well. I have attempted to give the books a fair shake and along with Wisdom and Sirach, I thoroughly enjoy the Maccabees. To me, they were a wealth of historical value (while Wisdom is theological), but upon reading Cahill’s use and treatment, it seems that Maccabees might do well to serve some eschatological needs as well, among something else.

In 1st Maccabees, we read,

After Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian, who came from the land of Kittim, had defeated Darius, king of the Persians and the Medes, he succeeded him as king. (He had previously become king of Greece.) He fought many battles, conquered strongholds, and put to death the kings of the earth. He advanced to the ends of the earth, and plundered many nations. When the earth became quiet before him, he was exalted, and his heart was lifted up. He gathered a very strong army and ruled over countries, nations, and princes, and they became tributary to him. After this he fell sick and perceived that he was dying. So he summoned his most honored officers, who had been brought up with him from youth, and divided his kingdom among them while he was still alive. And after Alexander had reigned twelve years, he died. Then his officers began to rule, each in his own place. They all put on crowns after his death, and so did their sons after them for many years; and they caused many evils on the earth. (1Ma 1:1-9 RSVA)

We know the story of Antiochus, whom Daniel prophesied concerning and we also know that some 200 years later, it was still in the mind of the Jews whom the Lord spoke, saying,

“So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), (Mat 24:15 RSV)

In referring to the Prophet Daniel, who said,

And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” (Dan 9:27 ESV)

(The Septuagint reads ‘βδέλυγμα τῶν ἐρημώσεων’.)

I do not intend on getting into eschatology and the Gospels, but I will note that in general, when you are studying Daniel and the Gospels, a first connect is made through 1st Maccabees, as well as other books, of course. Moving on, when Antoichus established his kingdom, like a good Greek king, he went about trying to ensure a populace that was united, right down to the religion. He sought to have one people with one culture. Thus he built the ancient gymnasium on request of some of the Jews.

And some of the people eagerly went to the king. He authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil. (1Ma 1:13-15 RSVA)

Once Antiochus had begun to subdue the Jews with Greek hedonism, he left to invade Egpyt. Once that war was won, he returned to complete his task against Jerusalem,

After subduing Egypt, Antiochus returned in the one hundred and forty-third year. He went up against Israel and came to Jerusalem with a strong force. He arrogantly entered the sanctuary and took the golden altar, the lampstand for the light, and all its utensils. He took also the table for the bread of the Presence, the cups for drink offerings, the bowls, the golden censers, the curtain, the crowns, and the gold decoration on the front of the temple; he stripped it all off. He took the silver and the gold, and the costly vessels; he took also the hidden treasures which he found. Taking them all, he departed to his own land. He committed deeds of murder, and spoke with great arrogance.
(1Ma 1:20-24 RSVA)

Some the Jews, wishing to fit in, trusted in the flesh, and thus sold the birthright of Israel. Of course, it is interesting that in later chapters and the sequel, even these Jews would be treated as part of the Covenant. The Greeks, and later Romans, desired a very public and diluted religious worship. For them, it was a civil religion. They cared very little who you worshiped because all was the same. Zeus, Jupiter, Baal. The same god of gods for the Greeks. When the Jews stood against Antiochus, it was because of their God. When the Christians stood, it was because of their God. Had they succumbed to the idea that each can have his own god, because they are all the same, then Judaism and Christianity would have ceased to exist. We see that Israel suffered because of the attempt to melt Judaism into Greek Paganism.

Israel mourned deeply in every community, rulers and elders groaned, maidens and young men became faint, the beauty of women faded. Every bridegroom took up the lament; she who sat in the bridal chamber was mourning. Even the land shook for its inhabitants, and all the house of Jacob was clothed with shame. (1Ma 1:25-28 RSV)

What other cultures had experienced had now been bestowed up the Jews and the land of Israel. Israel, whom the promise of the return of an eternal Davidic King had been given was now faced with destruction of everything that had kept it separate. They hadn’t had a king in so very long, at least a Jewish one, and now, their identify was eroding away. Sometimes, we fear that it is happening around us, although, I believe that there are times that our need for persecution overwhelms us and creates monsters under our bed. Look at the reactions against the globalization of money or markets, but the globalization of culture – music, dress, literature, media – and religion. These things are what people fear as taking away our individualism, our freedom, and turns the minds of some to looking for the end of all things.

Refer back to verse 9 where the evils were multiplied upon the face the earth. In each generation where society is facing a calamity or impending doom, rather, what some might call a paradigm shift, people begin to look for the apocalyptic. Evils abound everywhere, and sometimes, these evils are very real. This is why we find this imagery so frequently used in the ‘Revelations’ and Apocalypses of the times. It is why we read 1st Maccabees in the light of Daniel and Revelation in the light of both of these books.

John writes,

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months; it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, (Rev 13:5-7 RSV)

Like Antiochus, the False Prophet of John’s vision will raise his voice against God and all those that dwell heaven. He will, again like the ancient ruler, make war with the saints and beyond the little root, he will begin to overcome the saints. The False Prophet will not prevail against the Church Triumphant, and will not win on the eternal scene, thus we are constantly cautioned not to place our faith or hope in the things of this world, but always keep looking up. The power and wickedness of this False Prophet is not limited to the Saints, but also over the entire earth, just as Antiochus sought.

Returning to Maccabees, we read that when Antiochus invaded Jerusalem,

Deceitfully he spoke peaceable words to them, and they believed him; but he suddenly fell upon the city, dealt it a severe blow, and destroyed many people of Israel. He plundered the city, burned it with fire, and tore down its houses and its surrounding walls. And they took captive the women and children, and seized the cattle. Then they fortified the city of David with a great strong wall and strong towers, and it became their citadel. And they stationed there a sinful people, lawless men. These strengthened their position; they stored up arms and food, and collecting the spoils of Jerusalem they stored them there, and became a great snare.

It became an ambush against the sanctuary, an evil adversary of Israel continually. On every side of the sanctuary they shed innocent blood; they even defiled the sanctuary. Because of them the residents of Jerusalem fled; she became a dwelling of strangers; she became strange to her offspring, and her children forsook her. Her sanctuary became desolate as a desert; her feasts were turned into mourning, her sabbaths into a reproach, her honor into contempt. Her dishonor now grew as great as her glory; her exaltation was turned into mourning. (1Ma 1:30-40 RSV)

What a graphic picture this writer has detailed for us. We can see Jerusalem lain waste, with nothing of her former glory to be seen, so much so that people fled her (for more of this, see the Psalms of Solomon). The same can be said for Alexander’s march to the ends of the earth where he destroyed city and city in his own name and the name of his kingdom. Antiochus was ruthless and brutal against those that opposed him. The Jews had sought to ally themselves with the little emperor, but in the end, it became apparent that no amount of half measures would soft him to their position; he wanted Judaism to cease.

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that each should give up his customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and feasts, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they should forget the law and change all the ordinances. (1Ma 1:41-49 RSV)

What a terrible thought to have so many of Israel turn and consent to his religion, and yet it did nothing to stop the onslaught against the Jewish people.

“And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.” In such words he wrote to his whole kingdom. And he appointed inspectors over all the people and commanded the cities of Judah to offer sacrifice, city by city. Many of the people, every one who forsook the law, joined them, and they did evil in the land; they drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had.

Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding cities of Judah, and burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law which they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Where the book of the covenant was found in the possession of any one, or if any one adhered to the law, the decree of the king condemned him to death. They kept using violence against Israel, against those found month after month in the cities. And on the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar which was upon the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks. But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. And very great wrath came upon Israel. (1Ma 1:50-64 RSV)

The striking picture of this is that what had so long strangled the world, from the time of Alexander, that is the forced culturalization and the wars the followed, had finally hit Jerusalem. While other cultures were allowed to mesh into the paganism of ancient Greece, Judaism could not. The God of Judaism had long ago leveled the charge against paganism and multiculturalism when He had declared that He was alone God and that He would have no other god before Him. Further as Philo others of the time noted, the Law was about separation. It wasn’t about superiority, but about marking themselves out to worship only one God and because of this, their was a response to that God which was needed. He had demanded that the place where He would place His name would not be shared with any others and that the sanctuary must be kept holy. If the Jews were to remain Jews, they could not give up their God, not even under duress and grief. They would have to withstand what the world have caved into so many times. They had become aware only recently of what monotheism actually required, and it seems, they were taking a stand for it.

This was a terrible time for Israel, one in which the very Temple had been made unholy. Traditions, myths and beliefs were thrown into disarray. Nothing was sacred and everything profane. Even their fellow kinsmen had started to become Greek. Yet, in the end, God had a miracle in the oil for those who remained faithful.And this is why the miracle of Hanukkah is so very important. Because it is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The wrath of God was abated for a season, the Temple cleansed, and the Covenant saved. The People of God became the People of God which we know of in the New Testament.We miss this when we throw out these books so easily.

We are facing a time of anxiety and confusion. Everywhere we look we are met with forced retirement of our standards and doctrines. In what quarters is the Gospel lifted up, not as a weapon, but as the Good News? The Church is not a heritage or a tradition, but a divine institution given by God to humanity for a very particular mission. It is a Trust, and yet, like many before and after us, we treat our Trust as something to be placed on the back corner when confronted with resistance.

We are not immune from these very things which others have faced before us, so, let us read our books which others discard. Let us stand and gain from Mattathias, father of Judas Maccabeus, who said,

“Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.” (1Ma 2:19-22 RSV)

Or his son, the great general Judah the Hammer (Maccabeus), who said,

But when they saw the army coming to meet them, they said to Judas, “How can we, few as we are, fight against so great and strong a multitude? And we are faint, for we have eaten nothing today.”

Judas replied, “It is easy for many to be hemmed in by few, for in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between saving by many or by few. It is not on the size of the army that victory in battle depends, but strength comes from Heaven. They come against us in great pride and lawlessness to destroy us and our wives and our children, and to despoil us; but we fight for our lives and our laws. He himself will crush them before us; as for you, do not be afraid of them.” (1Ma 3:17-22 RSV)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Live Blogging #SBLAAR – Scripture in Matthew

My second session of the day…

This is going to deal with the use of Matthew in Scripture… One of my professors will be presenting, but beyond that, I find it important because the use of Scripture in Matthew is the best way to approach using Scripture in Christian interpretation.

The first presenter, Brandon Crowe, is speaking about Matthew’s use of Hosea. Missing this, one comes at the understanding that Prophecy is nothing but inspired predications meant for far off people. Watch what Matthew does with Hosea. It’s not about prophecies in the far off future being fulfilled, but about Christ embodying Hosea and the grand narrative of Scripture. The life of Jesus, and those events in them including Israel’s national problems, are measured and interpreted by the Prophets.

Crowe is putting a different, for me, spin, on Matthew’s use of Isaiah 7.14. And, indeed, I like his use of Isaiah altogether!

But, over all, what about this paper is new? This some of the same stuff found in Dunn and Wright. Don’t get me wrong… The paper was good and presented well…

Of course, I got here late. I think his paper was about Christ reversing some of the problems with Israel. He obviously spoke about the genealogy…

I missed the point where he said that the obedience of Jesus reversing the disobedience of Israel.

By the way, had a great lunch with Jim and Chris Tilling.

And had a great breakfast with me Mark Cortez this morning.

Obviously, Matthew was Jewish… An audience member notes that Matthew’s exposition of Scripture was the standard for Rabbis back in the day.

Next up is Robert Foster speaking about identity formation in Matthew. Personally, I think this will mesh will with a mimetic notion. We will see. Yup, I was right. I don’t want to give away too much here, but very interesting in discussing socialization through government education. Plus, narrative judgments. Reader, audience, narrator. This stuff shapes us.

Interpretive judgments…
Moral judgments…
Aesthetic judgments…

Who enables people to know God? Jesus or the Pharisees?

Context is important, it seems… And it is not just what a passage says, but what goes on before and after. Context.

The Pharisees could nothing more than they did because they refused to learn from Jesus…

Umm…

Also, someone has a high Christology… I think. Something he said which I’ll have to follow up with is Jacob wrestling with God as a metaphor for wrestling with himself or humanity.

Okay, next up…

Catherine Sider Hamilton is speaking on the birth narratives.

Purpose of thought = fundamentally theologically

She is connecting Matthew to Jeremiah in a pretty in depth way.

I love hand outs… Makes studying these papers easier.

HINT HINT

I love the way she is digging at proof-texters. You know, those who believe that certain verses in the OT are predictions about distant events. For Matthew, context is important because it is not just about one line or two, but about the event then and now. These things, rather than a singular match up, affirmed Jesus as the Messiah for Matthew.

The blood of Jesus takes in the blood of the slaughtered children… Because he is Israel. Meaning that the cry of “let his blood be upon our children” is rather ironic because they are calling for their own salvation.

Wow.

Stout is presenting the next paper. He is going to talk about… Gentiles in the view of Jesus in Matthew.

He doesn’t give hand outs.

Maybe Jesus didn’t like Gentiles. He was pretty dismissive to Gentiles… I mean, that woman was a dog…

He’s going to talk about the centurion on Matthew. Let’s see… Will he go there? Doesn’t look like it, but then again, maybe it didn’t matter to the paper. But there is a difference… Stout says that Jesus healed the Centurion maybe for power or maybe because Jesus was coming to understand his own mission more clearly. It was a pretty clean and fast healing. Would Jesus know his mission from the start? Maybe not…

I like watching the faces of the the panel… Noting when they disagree with the speaker…. Pretty funny.

Maybe the narrator was more inclusive and more focused on the divine plan. Does the narrator know more than Jesus? Would the narrator take the place of God?

Matthew is a little tense.

Stout is using the Fathers to speak about Matthew. Awesome.

He said “little baby Jesus.” Dang Ricky Bobby.

Some good stuff here, but… I’m tired… Still haven’t beat jet lag.

Okay, wrap it up… I’m tired and I have the most important section ever coming up…

Stout is about the honest reading of Scripture. Jesus was operating under human limitations. Further, the Resurrection made a substantial change in Christ which “invites a rereading of the Gospel.” Wow.

For later… “experimental intertextuality”

Eschatological Imagery in the Smallville Season Finale

This is not going to be a extremely detailed post. (I would encourage certain contributors to add to it, if they watched the show)

Tonight was the day that fanboys, and I assume fangirls, had waited for for ten years. Tonight was the night which Tom Welling put on the Superman Suit and flew. It was awesome. I’m not sure that I breathed throughout most of the show.

But, there was something more.

The show was about Darkseid invading earth, but in this, there were a lot of eschatological imagery. First, Darkseid was represented by a trio of people. I don’t know the names, don’t care, but two were male and one female. It was an obvious reference to the Trinity. When Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, knelt before them, he knelt on this symbol,

This is a symbol of the Trinity.

Further, there were words thrown around about rapture, saving souls and the such:

His rapture will be the only salvation…

Darkseid was coming to earth to take the souls of the sealed away in a rapture. They were sealed in their forehead.

Clark Kent/The Blur/Proto-Superman was the light meant to battle Darkseid and send away the Apocalypse which is the name of Darkseid’s planet.

Oh, and the story tonight begins and ends seven years after the would-be rapture.

Superman has always followed a certain, shall we say, archetypical mythos around a savior who was the last (only) son of a father who cared for the people. He sent the son to earth to same them and to be an example for them. Tonight, the Creators of the show took it to a different level, especially where the show was concerned. For years, they have been playing up this prophecy motif and tonight, they brought it to a head by having the mythic Last Son, the Savior, the Light of the World, battle and defeat the Apocalypse, cleanse the souls of those affected, and seven years later… well there was the wedding feast.

A lot of imagery in tonight’s episode…

Enhanced by Zemanta

No, No, No, No! There is no prophetic picture around the U.S. and Egypt!

King Abdullah of Jordan making a cameo appearance

Image via Wikipedia

The author of this piece of work suggests that we are getting close to the seven year Tribulation period -

As I suggested in my last blog posting, the dominoes in the Middle East may be starting to fall. First it was Tunisia; now it appears to be Egypt, which is under siege by massive demonstrations; soon, it could also be Jordan (where King Abdullah II is seeking to quell demonstrations) and which, it is reported, the government is on the brink of collapse; Yemen, which is experiencing unprecedented demonstrations, could be a possibility; Algeria, which ratings agency Standard & Poor’s say could be next; and Lebanon, leading to Iran. As an Israeli official asserted this past week, “We are living on a volcano!” The Middle East is about to change—significantly!

Who can observe all of this and deny God is shaking up things in preparation for end-times fulfillment? And what a shake-up it is! So what is He really doing? Let’s take another look at Egypt. (here)

And my absolutely favorite part?

As a result, the U.N. is now involved; and it appears the U.S. is out in the cold. But this is God’s plan; it had to happen, as the U.S. is not mentioned in Biblical end-times prophecy.

Do you know why the U.S. is not mentioned in biblical prophecy of the End Times?

BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH THING!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Torrance on Eschatology

Click to Order

As I continue my reading of Torrance’s second volume, I find a quote of particular interest to me. (By the way, while you or I may disagree with T.C., I love his posts on Revelation. This one is is interesting.)

By eschatological is meant here what is directed toward the end, or toward the consummation in the final parousia, what is related to the eschaton, the last word and final act of God in Christ.

He goes on to state that this word simply means the intervention of the Eternal into the Temporal, and offers criticism of Bultmann’s views  and his ‘radical disjunction between this world and the other world of God, and his rejection and any interaction between God and this world which he holds to be a closed continuum of cause and effect.’ (pg71)

For Torrance, the parouisa is the reality of the unveiling of Christ’s work in which He would return to judge and renew his creation. He goes on to state – and remember, he is casting the sacraments as a backwards/forwards view of Christ – that eschatology in the New Testament involves a ‘twofold relation.’ This, for Torrance, seems to explain the mystery of the Eucharist, along other things.

While Torrance may present some difficult theology, his method of delivery is ideal for the lay person or the more scholarly among us. I doubt that everyone will agree with everything that he writes (has said), but we can admire him for his passion for Christ and the Scripture. In my opinion, if his method of delivery was the style of more Reformed ministers, it might be more tempting.

2 Peter 3:3-10, Amillennialism and Preterism – Thoughts?

From a valued reader and friend, I would like to submit to you the question submitted to me -

‘Tis evident that when Christ speaks of his coming; his being revealed; his coming in his Kingdom; or his Kingdom’s coming; He has respect to his appearing in those great works of his Power Justice and Grace, which should be in the Destruction of Jerusalem and other extraordinary Providences which should attend it.” (Jonathan Edwards; Miscellany #1199)

Now that I know that you are a Partial Preterist – I would like to ask you – what (if anything) is harmful or wrong with believers re-evaluating Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3:3-10? Why wouldn’t the ‘ LAST DAYS ‘ (2 Peter 3:3) and the ‘ US ‘ in (3:9) refer to specifically to Israel and the 40 years that was given them to repent before Jesus’ coming in judgment against them in A.D.70 ( Matthew 24:27). I do not see how Jesus comparing his coming to the flash of lightning can be for the good of those he’s visiting.

If we are to read scripture with a degree of logic – then why not question if what Peter wrote before A.D.70 and under inspiration – applies to readers of this age? The Lord has not return YET for the sake of souls that may come to repentance and faith TODAY? I mean really – From his ascension in A.D. 30 to the present (2010) countless souls have been BORN and have DIED without him the world over. IF Peter was not referring to the coming judgment against apostate or unbelieving Israel in A.D.70 then his statement in 3:9 makes no sense at all…

Furthermore Peter uses the same apocalyptic/prophetic language in 3:10 as Amos does in 9:5. Moreover,Jesus coming with (non literal) clouds (Rev 1:7) and his famous ” I come quickly ” cannot be for the good – anymore than God coming into Egypt riding on a (non literal) swift cloud – in his judgment against them (Isaiah 19:1)

What I’m asking you is this – do you believe that Jesus in his own words ever promised a physical/bodily return? I do believe that Rev 20:7-10 is yet future and not a ‘ recounting ‘ of the battle of Rev 19:11-21. Satan is still bound (from deceiving nations) so Perhaps Rev 20:9 (Lightning coming down from Heaven) may be a picture of Jesus’ coming – only this time it cannot be for the good of those who attack the camp of the saints (The beloved city) Not Jerusalem – but his church…

You said that you are Amil – so you believe that we are living in the thousand (not 1000) year reign of Christ too then?

Furthermore Peter like John uses the same apocalyptic/prophetic language in 3:10 as Amos does in 4:13; 8:8; and 9:5 as does Micah in 1:3-4

This was my initial response,

Seroled, I believe that all doctrine and Scripture must constantly be re-evaluated. As to these questions, umm…

I believe that Peter very well may have been writing to his fellow Jews who were simply refusing to follow Christ, relying on skepticism. We know that after 70ce, the Church shifted dramatically in cultural make-up, if you will, so I think that you may be on to something…

I don’t really like using Revelation any longer as an eschatological road map, finding enough eschatology in Peter and Paul to suffice. However, if we use Revelation as a prophetic revealing of what was going on around them, it may be that when Satan was bound from deceiving the nations, the Gentile mission really took off.

Feel free to contribute, warmly.

Revelation as Prophecy: What is Prophecy?

For some background on my argument here, see this post.

The Book of Revelation is often called, rightly, a prophecy, but far too often does that mean in the minds of most readers, something in the future. Many believe that ‘prophecy’ is always in the future, but I believe that this is a fallacy based on misunderstanding of what prophecy is. Simply, prophecy is not the fore-telling of far distant events, but the inspired message for the audience there and then. It is not a secret code to be worked out by later readers, nor should the genre be ignored, but everything to be understood correctly but be put in its place.

The author clearly denotes that the work is a prophecy in Revelation 1.3 (and several other places), meaning of course, that he is a prophet.

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. NASB

God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near. NLT

Μακάριος ὁ ἀναγινώσκων καὶ οἱ ἀκούοντες τοὺς λόγους τῆς προφητείας καὶ τηροῦντες τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ γεγραμμένα, ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς ἐγγύς.

It’s that key word, προφητείας, which plagues us and which we must attempt to discover what it actually meant, still means, and not what we subjectively wish it to mean today.

First, I note that in the Septuagint, we see the word used by Tobit (2.6) in reference to the prophet Amos who spoke in his own time about the destruction coming to Israel because of the injustices done to the poor.

Then I remembered the prophecy of Amos, how he said against Bethel, “Your festivals shall be turned into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation.” And I wept. (NRSV)

καὶ ἐμνήσθην τῆς προφητείας Αμως καθὼς εἶπεν στραφήσονται αἱ ἑορταὶ ὑμῶν εἰς πένθος καὶ πᾶσαι αἱ εὐφροσύναι ὑμῶν εἰς θρῆνον καὶ ἔκλαυσα

Amos wasn’t speaking about Tobit, and Tobit knew that. Instead Tobit fulfilled what Amos had said, then went and did what Amos said. Amos was dead, but Tobit took what Amos said and applied to his own life.

Paul would later use say that gifts were bestowed through prophecy,

Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 1 Timothy 4:14 NRSV

μὴ ἀμέλει τοῦ ἐν σοὶ χαρίσματος, ὃ ἐδόθη σοι διὰ προφητείας μετὰ ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν τοῦ πρεσβυτερίου.

In a pseudepigraphical book, prophecy is connected to nothing more that delivering God’s Law or ruling Israel,

And Eupolemus says in a certain ‘Concerning the Prophecy of Elijah,’ that Moses prophesied for forty years, then Joshua the son of Nun [prophesied] for thirty years. [Joshua] lived for one hundred ten years, and set up the holy Tabernacle at Shiloh.  Eupolemus Concerning Moses 2:1

Εὐπόλεμος δέ φησιν ἔν τινι Περὶ τῆς Ἠλίου προφητείας Μωσῆν προφητεῦσαι ἔτη μ· εἶτα Ἰησοῦν, τὸν τοῦ Ναυῆ υἱόν, ἔτη λ· βιῶσαι δ᾽ αὐτὸν ἔτη ρι πῆξαί τε τὴν ἱερὰν σκηνὴν ἐν Σιλοῖ.

Philo, in line with the mention above, cites Moses and defines prophecy,

But since there is an infinite variety of both human and divine circumstances which are unknown both to king, and lawgiver, and chief priest, for a man is no less a created and mortal being from having all these offices, or because he is clothed with such a vast and boundless inheritance of honor and happiness, he was also of necessity invested with the gift of prophecy, in order that he might through the providence of God learn all those things which he was unable to comprehend by his own reason; for what the mind is unable to attain to, that prophecy masters. De vita Mosis 2:6

ἀλλ᾽ ἐπειδὴ μυρία καὶ βασιλεῖ καὶ νομοθέτῃ καὶ ἀρχιερεῖ τῶν ἀνθρωπείων καὶ θείων ἄδηλα γενητὸς γὰρ οὐδὲν ἧττον καὶ θνητός ἐστιν, εἰ καὶ τοσοῦτον καὶ οὕτως ἄφθονον περιβέβληται κλῆρον εὐπραγιῶν, ἀναγκαίως καὶ προφητείας ἔτυχεν, ἵν᾽ ὅσα μὴ λογισμῷ δύναται καταλαμβάνειν, ταῦτα προνοίᾳ θεοῦ εὕροι· ὧν γὰρ ὁ νοῦς ἀπολείπεται, πρὸς ταῦθ᾽ ἡ προφητεία φθάνει.

Prophecy, so far, has been defined as ruling, law giving, comprehension and bringing representing God’s legal case against Israel. We could boil it down to this, that prophecy and thus prophets are those who claim direct inspiration from God. Rather, a prophet who claims direct inspiration from God issues words (these are prophecies) which he claims are from God, under the inspiration of the Spirit. The notion of inspiration by the breath of God (Spirit) can be derived easily enough from Philo -

And if, indeed, any one assuming the name and appearance of a prophet [Deuteronomy 13:1], appearing to be inspired and possessed by the Holy Spirit, were to seek to lead the people to the worship of those who are accounted gods in the different cities, it would not be fitting for the people to attend to him being deceived by the name of a prophet. For such an one is an impostor and not a prophet, since he has been inventing speeches and oracles full of falsehood, De specialibus legibus 1:315

κἂν μέντοι τις ὄνομα καὶ σχῆμα προφητείας ὑποδύς, ἐνθουσιᾶν καὶ κατέχεσθαι δοκῶν, ἄγῃ πρὸς τὴν τῶν νενομισμένων κατὰ πόλεις θρησκείαν θεῶν, οὐκ ἄξιον προσέχειν ἀπατωμένους ὀνόματι προφήτου· γόης γὰρ ἀλλ᾽ οὐ προφήτης ἐστὶν ὁ τοιοῦτος, ἐπειδὴ ψευδόμενος λόγια καὶ χρησμοὺς ἐπλάσατο.

In Josephus, he notes that the Temple was chosen by Prophecy (Ant. 4.200). In 7.72, David is seen asking the Prophets about the will of God while in 8.418, it is said that by prophecy, people know the will of God and what they should avoid. Still, the sense of the future events is immediate which is echoed in 10.93 when describing Jeremiah’s predictions about what would soon happen. For Josephus, prophecies were meant to be fulfilled quickly (I note Revelation 22.20 here) which in accordance with Deuteronomy 13 would allow for testing of the prophet.

What about the actual meaning of the word?

Friberg -

προφητεία, ας, ἡ prophecy; (1) as the gift (χάρισμα) of inspired speaking granted to believers by the Spirit prophecy, ability to prophesy (RO 12.6); (2) as the utterance of a prophet prophetic words, inspired saying, prophecy (1C 14.6); (3) as a foretelling of future events prediction, prophecy (MT 13.14); (4) as the work of a prophet prophetic activity, prophesying (RV 11.6)

Louw-Nida -

33.460 προφητεία, ας f: an utterance inspired by God – ‘inspired utterance, prophecy.’ καὶ ἀναπληροῦται αὐτοῖς ἡ προφητεία Ἠσαΐου ‘so that the prophecy of Isaiah comes true in their case’ Mt 13.14; εἴτε δὲ προφητεῖαι, καταργηθήσονται ‘and if there are inspired utterances, they will cease’ 1 Cor 13.8. It is possible that προφητεία in 1 Cor 13.8 refers to the action of producing such inspired utterances rather than to the resulting verbal form of the utterances themselves.

Liddell-Scott -

προφητεία, ἡ, the gift of interpreting the will of the gods, Orac. ap. Luc.
II. in N.T., the gift of expounding scripture, of speaking and preaching.

Thayer -

προφητεία, προφητείας, ἡ (προφητεύω, which see), Hebrew נְבוּאָה, prophecy, i. e. discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; especially by foretelling future events. Used in the N. T. — of the utterances of the O. T. prophets: Matt. 13:14; 2 Pet. 1:20,21 (on this passage see γίνομαι, 5 e. α.); — of the prediction of events relating to Christ’s kingdom and its speedy triumph, together with the consolations and admonitions pertaining thereto: Rev. 11:6; 22:19; τό πνεῦμα τῆς προφητείας, the spirit of prophecy, the divine mind, to which the prophetic faculty is due, Rev. 19:10 ; οἱ λόγοι τῆς προφητείας, Rev. 1:3; 22:7,10,18; — of the endowment and speech of the Christian teachers called προφῆται (see προφήτης, II. 1 f.): Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10; 13:2; 14:6,22; plural the gifts and utterances of these prophets, 1 Cor. 13:8; 1 Thess. 5:20; — specifically, of the prognostication of those achievements which one set apart to teach the gospel will accomplish for the kingdom of Christ, 1 Tim. 4:14; plural 1:18 (see προάγω, 2 a. and compare the commentaries). ((The Septuagint, Josephus); among native Greek writers used only by Lucian, Alex. 40, 60; (to which add inscriptions (see Liddell and Scott, under the word, I.)).)*

So, the generally agree – it is an inspired speech from a person sent of God to tell about His will. The ‘future’ is generally immediate or better yet, it is generally about the prophet applying the ‘how come’ to the ‘what’s happening now.’ Prophets do not make ‘predictions’ because what they say are to be the words of God, nor do they tell of events thousands of years hence. A prophecy is the words of a prophet which is a person sent by God to tell about the will of God.

Eschatology is a part of Christianity, but I have seriously doubts if Revelation is apart of Eschatology, or at least not in the way we’ve been told to think about Eschatology.

Early Church Fathers – Not all that Premillenial, it seems

Still discussing T.C.’s blog post this morning, I find an interesting chart on early Christian writers.

Mathetes — 90 A.D. Not premillennial
Hermas — 99 A.D. Not premillennial
Clement of Rome — 99 A.D. Probably not premillennial
Didache — 100 A.D. Not premillennial
Ignatius — 110 A.D. Premillennialists claim that Ignatius was a premillennialist but he wrote nothing about it one way or the other.
Papias — 115 A.D. He is premillennial (but it is unclear what his specific views were). In any case, his view is inconsistent with modern premillennialism.
Barnabas — 130 A.D. Probably not premillennial. Refers to 6,000 years of human history which is wrong.
Justin Martyr — 150 A.D. Clearly believed in a 1,000 year millennium. But his ideas about the conditions in the millennium would horrify modern premillennialists.
Irenaeus — 150 A.D. Probably not premillennial. Refers to 6,000 years of human history which is wrong.
Polycarp — 155 A.D. No end-time writings except to confirm the resurrection and eternal state.
Aviricius Marcellus — 163 A.D. He is clearly premillennial. Refers to 6,000 years of human history which is wrong. Has an allegorical style of interpretation which would horrify premillennialists (it horrifies me).
Tatian — 110-172 A.D. Says nothing one way or the other.
Hegesippus — 170 A.D. Not premillennial
Apollinaris — 175 A.D. No end time writings.
Melito — 180 A.D. No end time writings.
Theophilus — 181 A.D. He teaches nothing about a 1,000 year millennium.
Tertullian — 206 A.D. He is clearly premillennial but his concept of the 1,000 year millennium is nothing like modern premillennialists. And he asserts that the church = Israel which is an amillennial idea.
Clement of Alexandria — 215 A.D. Probably believed in a 1,000 year millennium.
Origen — 232 A.D. No one considers Origen to be a premillennialist. Origen himself refutes the idea of a physical millennium.
Hippolytus — 236 A.D. Probably believed in a 1,000 year millennium. However, he made two serious mistakes: (1) refers to 6,000 years of human history and (2) stated that the end would come in 500 A.D.
Julius Africanus — 245 A.D. Says nothing one way or the other.
Cyprian — 258 A.D. Probably believed in a 1,000 year millennium. However, he made two serious mistakes: (1) refers to 6,000 years of human history and (2) believed that the end of the world would come soon (which it didn’t).
Victorinus of Pettau — 270 A.D. An amillennialist.
Nepos — 280 A.D. He is premillennial.
Coracion — 280 A.D. He was premillennial but changed his opinion after a debate with Dionysius.
Caius — 296 A.D. Unclear what his view was.
Methodius, Bishop of Tyre — 300 A.D. Although he uses the word “millennium” he uses it figuratively to mean “life after salvation.” In my opinion he was an amillennialist.
Commodianus — 305 A.D. Clearly believed in a 1,000 year millennium. Refers to 6,000 years of human history which is wrong. His view is inconsistent with modern premillennialism and his ideas about the conditions in the millennium would horrify modern premillennialists.
Lactantius — 325 A.D. Clearly believed in a 1,000 year millennium. Refers to 6,000 years of human history which is wrong. Superficially his view sounds a lot like modern premillennialism but he has some serious inconsistencies (as do modern premillennialists).
Eusebius — 341 A.D. Not premillennial.
Augustine — 386 A.D. Augustine was clearly amillennial.

Also check out Jerome on a literal understanding of the 1000 years – he wasn’t the friendliest to this disposition. You may also find this post interesting on overall views of some of the Church Fathers. This is an interesting history of modern dispensationalism, to be honest, I find abhorrent to good theology. I don’t want to say that Robert Darby was cult minded, but…. This is a good series on how to minister to those under the influence of dispensationalism. This article attempts to show that the Athanasian Creed was amillennialist.

I still maintain that these issues really arose when the cultural foundation of the genre was removed.

Continuing the Discussion on John’s Revelation as Enthronement

It started here with T.C. announcing his changing of views on Revelation. I would agree that amillennialism to the best way to go, but I also mentioned that I don’t fully support the idea that Revelation is all about eschatology. You can find my post here.

T.C. writes,

Here’s the grind: in rethinking and reworking my reading of Revelation, I see great value in Mr. Joel Watts’ proposal, that is, reading the book of Revelations as an early Jewish-Christian Midrash of Psalm 2 in light of the socio-political experience of the New Community [because of Messiah].

I note that while many consider Israel as a vital part of Eschatology – I think they miss Pentecost – Israel is simply not mentioned in the book of Revelation (unless you count the derogatory description of Jerusalem). Further, I note that Michael Barber has a post up which helps to supplement my own personal theory of the 6th seal (this post was written a year ago). He notes,

A growing number of scholars have noted that in the Gospels, especially Matthew and Mark, the cross is described as a kind of apocalyptic event.[1] We see this in the way the events of the passion narrative appear to parallel motifs in the apocalyptic discourse (Matt 24//Mark 13).

If we begin to place some of these latest speculations together, along with the fact that notable conservatives such as Fee who see only the last two chapters as applying to eschatology, I believe that I am becoming more rooted in my assertion that John’s book is intended for something more – something more than pop theology developed 2000 years later.

40% of Americans believe that Christ is coming back by 2050

I knew that this year was familiar to me. First, the main story as reported:

About four in ten Americans say they expect Jesus Christ to return within the next 40 years, according to a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Although many Americans (41 percent) believe the Second Coming will happen soon, slightly more people (46 percent) say Jesus will definitely or probably not return.

The prediction is divided along religious lines with 58 percent of white evangelical Protestants saying it will definitely or probably happen in the next 40 years. By contrast, only 27 percent of white mainline Protestants, about a third (32 percent) of Catholics and a fifth (20 percent) of religiously unaffiliated say Jesus Christ will return to Earth in this period.

Let me warn you that the next thing I point to, you may not like, dear reader.

What is so special about 2050? You know, besides the consummation of history?

It is the year that the United States is expected to see the white population as the non-majority. Not quite a real minority, mind you, but nevertheless, a non-majority.

Is there a correlation? I know people who have publicly voiced that when the white race is no longer the majority, the United States is doomed. Seeing how much emphasis Evangelicals place upon the U.S. in eschatology, is there a correlation?

Apocalyptic Beliefs on the rise by Christian, Islamic Africans

In every African country surveyed by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life that had a considerable Christian population, at least half of the Christians expect Jesus to return to earth within their lifetime.

And in every country surveyed with a substantial Muslim population, about one-third or more of the Muslims expect to see the reestablishment of the Caliphate during their lifetime. The Caliphate is the golden age of Islamic rule after the death of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. The empire of the Caliphate at its height included most of Southwest Asia, North Africa and Spain.

You can read the rest here.

This is no different, really, than other developing nations and groups, is it? We do find that with each cultural shift, wherein the old things are fading, that the End is always seen.

Of course, both Christian and Islamic apocalyptic visions, if taken to the extreme, are dangerous.