Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Comment I Made Elsewhere

This was a post-size comment I made over at Street Prophets in a diary called "End Times: A set of prophecies or a set of hallucinations?". The real answer to that question in my mind is: "who knows?". Typically, it appears to me that prophecy isn't:

  1. proved until it comes to pass
  2. clear until it comes to pass
So, read the diary - and then this comment (go to the link if you want to see the responses):

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There are so many things here that are just wrong. Then, there are the things here that are certainly not agreed to by all New Testament scholars. I find it hard to take your source as an expert.

Let's start with just plain wrong:
Eventually, the city fell, and the people were slaughtered. Those remaining were expelled from the land. This is the time of the Diaspora--the scattering of the Jews, who were dispersed around the Mediterranean--Asia Minor, Greece, Northern Africa and Europe.
Modern historians have come to view the Bar-Kokhba Revolt as being of decisive historic importance. The massive destruction and loss of life occasioned by the revolt has led some scholars to date the beginning of the Jewish diaspora from this date. They note that, unlike the aftermath of the First Jewish-Roman War chronicled by Josephus, the majority of the Jewish population of Judea was either killed, exiled, or sold into slavery after the Bar-Kokhba Revolt, and Jewish religious and political authority was suppressed far more brutally. After the revolt the Jewish religious center shifted to the Babylonian Jewish community and its scholars.
The next
The author, who we know only as John, had lived through the horrors that accompanied fall of the city.
is only really, really wrong if it means the author was actually in the city during the siege. John was actually in Ephesis in Asia Minor, where he had gone after the deaths of Peter and Paul in Rome in the early 60's. He took over Paul's duties with the church there. Christians, in general, had been forced out of Jerusalem and Judea prior to the Great Jewish War.

[The Christians still in Judea, etc. sat out the war in Pella. Indeed, their unwillingness to involve themselves in this war cemented the final split of the Christians and the Jews.]

When you are dealing with an end times fundamentalist Christian, you are dealing with a person who believes that the Bible was written by God- God writes it and there is a secret code and if you are in the know you will know the code and the elect will know the code. The Bible itself becomes a magical book, a secret script.
Huh? Who believes this? What folks believe is that prophecy in scripture is never exact, is almost always drapped in allegory and symbolic language, and therefore the events (such as Christ's life) that are prophesied usually help clarify the prophesy when they occur. However, there is no "secret code" or "secret knowledge" - it is all written for all to see. Then, on to opinions not shared by all:
The people who actually knew Jesus, the twelve, none of them left writings for us. All of these writings are written well after the death of Jesus.
What is "well after"? What counts as "actually knowing Jesus"? Only three of the 12 are credited even by conservative scholars with New Testament works - John, Matthew, and Peter. However, James, probably Jesus' brother, probably knew him ;-) but wasn't one of the twelve. The Apostles accepted that Paul "knew" Jesus, at least after His resurrection - there is no other reason they would have accepted Paul into the church after his history. Luke and Mark have never been thought of as companions of Jesus - just companions of companions: Paul and Peter respectively. I think it is pretty clear that all of the New Testament works (except Revelations) were completed by 64AD (see Redating the New Testament or these Introductions for the arguments) - or within 30ish years of Jesus' death - and all within the possible lifetimes of the folks who knew him. They were almost all written to pass on knowledge to the church after it became clear that Jesus was not coming back immediately. I believe the earliest of the New Testament works was James (see article linked above) within 15 years of the death of Christ.

Narrowing to Revelations, there are two general views (with a bunch of other minor ones) - preterist (with postmillienialism and amillienialism) and premillienial - related to whether Revelations is looking at events already occurred (as the person interviewed believes); or is a prophetic work. It is interesting that the preterist view is key to replacement theology - that the Christian church has replaced the Jewish people in the promises of God. A small sliver of that group are the Reconstructionists - those real Dominionists - who believe that Revelations shows that only through destruction of what exists and replacement by the Church will God's Kingdom be advanced. These are the folks (along with the preterists in general) that believe God's Kingdom on earth is possible through the actions of Christians (or is spiritually here now).

The premillienialist on the other hand do not think that the events in 70AD resulted in the "end of the Age"; and that therefore the destruction of Jerusalem was not the event looked at in scripture. They believe that human Christians are not capable of creating a Kingdom of God on earth prior to the actual return of Christ to lead that Kingdom - and do not support the Dominionist idea that the governments on Earth must become Christian before Christ can return.

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I am thinking that last section on "end times" theological differences is pretty weak - it just isn't an area I concentrate on. Y'all can help me straighten out/deepen my understanding.

It isn't an area of interest because I am pretty sure it shouldn't be for a follower of Christ. He said to be ready, but He also made it pretty clear we would not see the scenario coming when it came. So, I think folks who are focused on when the end times are going to get here would be better off focusing on now. Tell me if you think I am wrong about that.

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly