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Reflecting on Jesus’ Second Coming

Today is September 23, 2017. Some Christians have been saying that the theory of the rapture of the Christian Church will be proven true today. Others have been insisting that the final trumpet of the Jewish Feast of Trumpets this year will announce the return of Jesus, our Messiah, to set up a kingdom on earth that will inaugurate one thousand years of peace. A few have been suggesting that the seven year period of intense tribulation spoken of in the New Testament book of Revelation will extend from the North American solar eclipse this past August until the next eclipse that crosses the continental United States in 2024. And while many remain unsure about how or when the indicators of Jesus’ return might line up, a great many others seem indignant at any suggestion of the fulfillment of biblical prophecy in any shape or form ever.

What do I believe? I do believe that the prophecies of Christian Scripture were and are meant to be understood. So, I have no difficulty believing that the biblical phrase ‘the moon shall be turned to blood’ probably refers to a lunar eclipse. I have no difficulty believing that the phrase ‘the sun shall be covered in sackcloth’ probably refers either to a solar eclipse or to a sun-blackening event like a sandstorm. I have no difficulty believing that the phrase ‘the stars will fall from the sky’ probably refers to a meteor shower. In other words I have no difficulty believing that a great number of ‘signs’ that humanity has taken to be normal events for our planet will at some point mean much more than they have meant previously.

So, do the four blood moons on Jewish feasts, followed by a complete solar eclipse passing over the continental United States, followed by at least three devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and many Caribbean islands, followed by three major earthquakes in Mexico, together with devastating fires in the Pacific northwest and in California, combined with a security breach in which nearly half of all Americans’ sensitive personal information was compromised, together with the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the six days war in 1967 in which the Jewish people established for the first time since 135 A.D. a homeland in the ancient land of Canaan all add up to a prelude to the events which the Bible says will lead to the public coming of Jesus today? In my opinion, it is possible.

But, is it likely? Not in my view. Why not? It’s not because I believe apocalyptic literature is only meant to be an encouragement during difficult times. Quite to the contrary. I suspect that apocalyptic literature has always been intended to provide the people of God some indicators for the season in which we find ourselves.

Apocalyptic literature can help God's followers to discern their season. Click To Tweet

It’s also not because I take all biblical numbers to be metaphorical. In fact, I find it hard to discern just how metaphorical to take biblical numbers. They could be metaphorical, but, then again, they might not be metaphorical. I’m not sure I’d stake my reputation on a claim of certainty there. In fact, the numbers and apocalyptic prophecies of Daniel proved so accurate to actual recorded history, that many are convinced his prophecies had to have been written after the fact (a claim with dubious historical evidence, despite its common-sense appeal to many contemporary readers).

So, why do I think claims that September 23, 2017 is significant are dubious? Again, I don’t know, but if the biblical numbers given in the Bible’s apocalyptic prophecies are more than metaphor, I’m not sure how the significance of 2017 has been calculated. I do understand the weight some place on astronomical alignments, but I remain dubious there. Beyond those sorts of indicators, one passage seems to loom large in the multitude of conversations that have led up to the anticipation of today (September 23, 2017). It comes from the First Testament book of Daniel:

20 While I was speaking, and was praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God on behalf of the holy mountain of my God— 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen before in a vision, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He came and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come out to give you wisdom and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your supplications a word went out, and I have come to declare it, for you are greatly beloved. So consider the word and understand the vision:

24 “Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator.”[1]

What are these seventy weeks? Many contemporary theologians have correlated Daniel’s seventy weeks with Jeremiah’s prophecy of seventy years between the exile and the return of the exiles from Babylon (see Jeremiah 29). Verse 25 of the passage above would seem to support that interpretation, correlating Daniel’s prophecy with the work of Ezra and Nehemiah in the rebuilding of the Temple and walls of Jerusalem, and culminating in the activities of the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes (215-164 B.C.) and the resultant revolt of the Maccabees. So, that’s that…or is it?

Well, that might have been that if Jesus had not recalled Daniel’s language in his prophecy of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (an event which occurred between thirty and forty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, in A. D. 70):

14 “But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains;[2]

Jesus’ phrase ‘the desolating sacrilege’ seems to be drawn from Daniel’s prophecy years after many believe Daniel’s predictions to have been fulfilled. The destruction and rebuilding of the Temple is a recurrent theme in Jewish apocalyptic literature, and Jesus, read alongside of Revelation, seems to have reintroduced the expectation into the apocalyptic prophecies of the New Testament. So, have Daniel’s seventy weeks received new interpretive punch through Jesus? That’s very difficult to say. But, for those who think that the seventy weeks seem implicit in Jesus’ apocalyptic discourses and in the book of Revelation, there are a few prophetic options.

(1) If the seventy weeks refer to actual weeks or even to years, as seems consistent with their immediate fulfillment following the events of Daniel, then perhaps we are well past them now.

(2) If the seventy weeks refer, as many are now arguing, to Jubilee cycles—meaning that every week corresponds to fifty years—(certainly a possibility), then the seventy weeks would correspond to 3,500 years. But, 3,500 years from when?

(2a) Some have argued that the seventy weeks began at the giving of the original Torah to the Israelite people at Mount Sinai following Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt. Though critical scholars have long placed that date around 1290 B.C., the First Testament itself dates the giving of the Law to 1446 B.C. If that’s where the seventy weeks began, then the seventieth week would end in A.D. 2054 (37 years from now). If this proves accurate, then we would presently be thirteen years into the final week of Daniel’s prophecy—that is, the final Jubilee cycle—which would have begun in 2004. What do you think?

(2b) However, the context of Daniel 9 suggests that the seventy weeks began after the order to rebuild the temple was given. If we associate that with the building of Solomon’s original temple, which the First Testament suggests was in 959 B.C., then the seventy weeks would be completed in A.D. 2541. What do you think?

(2c) Another option is to begin the seventy weeks with King Cyrus’s decree that allowed the Jewish people under Ezra to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. That decree was issued, again according to the First Testament, in 536 B.C. That is most certainly the historical decree towards which Daniel’s prophecy most naturally points. If the seventy weeks began then, then they would be completed in A.D. 2964. What do you think?

(3) Perhaps a final option would relate to a day in the future when the Israeli people give an order to rebuild the Temple in modern day Jerusalem (an order which has not yet been given, to my knowledge). In that case, the seventy weeks could be understood as seventy literal weeks after that date, seventy years after that date, or even seventy Jubilee cycles after that date (3,500 years). What do you think?

No matter how one stacks the apocalyptic evidence, it is hard to imagine A. D. 2017 as a significant date biblically, lunar and solar eclipses and astronomical alignments notwithstanding. If Daniel’s seventy weeks prove to have prophetic significance beyond the time of the Maccabees, and if they prove in that context to be Jubilee cycles, then the earliest I can see the seventy weeks concluding is in A.D. 2054. However, that date is only one of a number of possibilities, depending on when one starts counting the 3,500 years they possibly prophesy.  And all of those options still depend on the veracity of the claim that some aspect of Daniel’s prophecy with respect to ‘seventy-sevens’ still remains to be fulfilled.

Jesus will make Himself known to all humanity in a real, historical arrival on earth. Click To Tweet

I do believe Jesus will make Himself known to all humans in a real, historical arrival on earth. I also believe that the apocalyptic prophecies of Scripture will prove to have delineated the season of His arrival when all is said and done. However, for those of us who long for his coming, I expect the following exchange between Jesus and His disciples should guide us as we await that momentous day:

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”[3]

The day and hour of Jesus' return has not and will not be revealed. Click To Tweet

According to Jesus, the day and hour of His return has not and will not be revealed. For Jesus, we must live always aware that today could be the day our Lord returns. The signs Jesus and the Scriptures declare—e.g., lunar and solar eclipses, earthquakes, wars, meteor showers, storms—have been occurring from the moment Jesus ascended into the heavens until today. The questions of every Christian generation have been, “Is it today?” and “Are we ready?”

With that said, we do live in a time in which one apocalyptically significant historical event has occurred which, for most of Christian history, had not occurred. The Jewish people do once again live in the promised land of Canaan in our time. Their exile amidst the nations of the earth lasted from A.D. 135 until A.D. 1967 (1,832 years). That is not an insignificant occurrence, and historically it remains a spectacularly unlikely one. This should certainly heighten the alertness of believers as it confirms in our time the Christian Scriptures’ claim that God will never ultimately forsake His promise to the people of Israel to return them to their homeland. We may not know exactly when, but certainly this reality should remind us that Jesus is coming.

What about all the devastation North America has been experiencing? As I’ve opined before, I think it is likely that North America is experiencing the discipline of God. You can read my thoughts about this HERE, or listen to a sermon I preached on it HERE.  But, is all this part of the final judgment of God on humanity? I don’t know. If it is, then things are going to get worse before they get infinitely and inestimably better. But, even if it is not, even if I am wrong about North America being under God’s discipline, the Gospel of Jesus remains the same, and the response of all who would follow Jesus remains the same. In the words of the Gospel-writer:

Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”[4]

Repent means to turn around or to change direction. Christians always have and always will, no matter the season in which we find ourselves, searched the Christian Scriptures and turned from the attitudes and behaviors that the prophets and apostles have proclaimed to be against the intentions of God for His creation. Even more, we have turned toward Jesus and the instructions He has given us to bring the Law revealed through Israel’s prophets to fulfillment. Whatever the season, this is the good news of Jesus for all people and for all nations. We must keep awake. We must repent of our sins. We must trust in the life, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our minds, and with all our strength. Our Lord can return at any moment. Whether He comes for us in our deaths or in the skies, are we ready?

No matter the season, we must keep awake; we must repent of our sins; we must trust Jesus. Click To Tweet
~ J. Thomas

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Da 9:20–27.

[2] NRSV, Mk 13:14.

[3] NRSV, Mk 13:32–37.

[4] NRSV, Mk 1:14–15.

The Chosenness of Israel and the Interpretation of Scripture – Part 7 (“The Art of Reading Scripture,” Thesis #9)

Summary of the Five Previous Blogs in This Series

(This summary is for those who have not been reading along or who would benefit from a review.  If you’re already abreast of the conversation thus far, simply skip down to the section following the part 7 subtitle.)

Essentially, in this series of blogs I have been arguing, in accord with T. F. Torrance‘s The Mediation of Christ, that the chosenness of Israel extends to more than simply understanding Israel as a repository of salvation history or sacred texts.  Rather, I have maintained that the living, thought, and narrative world of Israel, as it had been shaped by Israel’s unique history with God, is as necessary for the revelation of God to humanity as the texts that have been preserved in what is now called the Scriptural canon.

As I brought these observations into conversation with George Lindbeck‘s “The Story Shaped Church” in the second part of the series, I noted that Lindbeck argued that the Church should be understood to be Israel in the time between the times.  I disagreed with Lindbeck on that point and concluded instead that the Christian Church may appropriately be understood as a believing remnant within Israel.

In part three of the series, I attempted to bring Brevard Childs‘s Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture into the discussion.  With Childs I maintained that the First Testament should be recognized as the theologically interpreted history of the Israelite people that has been worked and re-worked as a multi-generational endeavor for which God gave Israel a unique responsibility.  The First Testament is the nation of Israel and the nation of Israel is the First Testament–the two grew up together, interpenetrated each other, and cannot be understood apart from one another.

In week four, I began a series of interactions with the compilation The Art of Reading Scripture which has been edited by Ellen Davis and Richard Hays.  That was the first of a series of blogs in which I intend to critique constructively a selection of theses from the introductory article “Nine Theses on the Interpretation of Scripture,” by The Scripture Project–namely, theses 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

In part four of the series I interacted with thesis number 3, which read:

3. Faithful interpretation of Scripture requires an engagement with the entire narrative:  the New Testament cannot be rightly understood apart from the Old, nor can the Old be rightly understood apart from the New (The Scripture Project, “Nine Theses on the Interpretation of Scripture,” The Art of Reading Scripture, 2).

After highlighting some points of agreement, I went on to argue that it is not simply the First Testament which must be the context in which Jesus is understood.  We must situate Jesus within the First Testament as it had been interpreted by the larger Jewish culture of Jesus’ day.  I maintained that this implies, at the least, that we read and interpret Jesus in the context of the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, Jewish writers even of the like of Philo, the portions of the Talmud associated with the time periods prior to C. E. 70, and so on alongside of the First and New Testaments.

In week 5’s installment, I wrestled with The Scripture Project‘s thesis number 4, which read:

4. Texts of Scripture do not have a single meaning limited to the intent of the original author.  In accord with Jewish and Christian traditions, we affirm that Scripture has multiple complex senses given by God, the author of the whole drama (The Scripture Project, 2).

Ultimately, I agreed that the writers and editors of Scripture gave new contexts and senses to earlier traditions.  In fact, I have maintained throughout this series of blogs that that was part of what Israel was elected and inspired to do.  However, I argued that this observation has not authorized the post-Apostolic, principally gentile, Christian community to do likewise.  Even in the wake of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Christian community, I contended that we need to distinguish our inspiration from that of the historic people of Israel.

In last week’s engagement (part 6), I interacted with The Scripture Project‘s theses #6, 7, & 8, which read in the following way:

6. Faithful interpretation of Scripture invites and presupposes participation in the community brought into being by God’s redemptive action–the church.

7. The saints of the church provide guidance in how to interpret and perform Scripture.

8. Christians need to read the Bible in dialogue with diverse others outside the church (The Scripture Project, 3-4).

In response to these three theses, I provided three cautions.  First, I maintained that Christians are not first Wesleyans, Calvinists, Arminians, Pentecostals, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or whatever other designation we often think of when we think of our particular Christian communities.  Christians are followers of Jesus and His Apostles, followers of a Jewish Messiah, followers of the God of Israel who became flesh in the Person of Jesus.  We gentiles have become co-heirs with Israel.  This is who we now are.

Second, I maintained that our study of exemplary European followers of Jesus should be read within the context of the people of Israel.  In other words, the readings, interpretations, and performances of gentile saints of the church should be, in my estimation, subordinated to the living context of Israel in order to allow Jewish culture to reveal distortions in gentile readings of Scripture.

And third, I insisted that Christian-Jewish dialogue from a Christian perspective should be seen as an intra-community conversation and not as an inter-community dialogue.  Consequently, I argued that Christian-Jewish dialogue is a categorically different engagement than a Christian confrontation with Buddhism, for example.

The Chosenness of Israel and the Interpretation of Scripture Part 7: Wrestling with Thesis #9

I trust that this lengthy overview has brought us all up to date on the conversation thus far.  The present blog will constitute the final in this series.  Whatever conversation develops from here, I hope will be instigated by you with comments, either critical or clarifying.  In any case, this week I will wrestle with the language of The Scripture Project‘s thesis #9, which read as follows:

9. We live in the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of the kingdom of God; consequently, Scripture calls the church to ongoing discernment, to continually fresh rereadings of the text in light of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in the world (The Scripture Project, 5).

My first response to the language of this thesis is not a criticism precisely, but rather a constructive contribution.  This idea of living in the time between the times, ‘in the tension between the already and the not yet’, in the reality often termed inaugurated eschatology in theological circles often fails to appreciate a significant Hebraic conceptuality which I believe undergirds the biblical language that has given rise to it.

A few weeks ago, I attempted to initiate a dialogue along these lines in response to a blog posting by Everett Berry, entitled “Inaugurated Eschatology and Holiness: Is There a Link?”  My comment was approved, but to this point I have not received a response.  Perhaps this blog posting will help to initiate that conversation by providing a practical, theological application of what I have been suggesting throughout this series of blogs–namely, that we attempt to allow Hebrew culture to be the space in which a Christian reading of Scripture and Christian theology are worked out.

So, let us begin at the beginning.  What is at stake in The Scripture Project‘s insistence that ‘We live in the tension between the already and the not yet’?  Most Protestant theologians today use this language to describe a previously unanticipated reality that the events of Jesus’s life and the successive history of the Church has thrust upon us.

Prior to the Incarnation–that is, the event of God becoming flesh in the person of Jesus, the Messiah–it appears that Jewish eschatology assumed that the present age would come to an abrupt, and quite violent, end in the events surrounding what the prophets often termed the Day of the LORD.  Those events would then, presumably, usher in a new age in which Israel would be re-established, the gentile nations would be subdued by Israel and become something like vassal states or commonwealths to the Israelite capital, the Covenant of Sinai would be renewed, this time to incorporate gentile nations within its charter, and the peace of the LORD would be established on earth.

However, when God came in the flesh in the Person of Jesus and the Day of the LORD presumably dawned, the timeline did not unfold as the extent Jewish sources to which we have access seem to have predicted.  In fact, the Day of the LORD was revealed to be an extended period of time.  Instead of simply dawning and resulting in the end of the old age, it was a day which proved in fact to be bracketed by two comings of God.  The first of these comings was the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  The second, according to New Testament apocalyptic passages such those found in the book of Revelation, will be the return of Jesus at the end of this age.

This dual-coming of God resulted in a gap between comings.  Some theologians believe that this gap has proven to be much longer than the New Testament writers expected it to be.  Even so, the idea of a time between the times, however brief it was expected to be, seems present in the New Testament, nonetheless.

Furthermore, the Apostolic writings seem to suggest that realities properly associated with the new age (what Revelation calls the ‘new heaven and the new earth’) have broken in to this time between the two comings of Jesus.  However, it also seems clear that the old age (the age of sin and corruption) has not been entirely evacuated.  This, to my understanding, is what The Scripture Project means to say when they confess that ‘We live in the tension between the already and the not yet of the kingdom of God’.

What I would like to contribute to this conversation is the observation that what God may have been employing in this reality we call inaugurated eschatology is perhaps the Jewish practice of a two-stage marriage.  Marvin Wilson, in his book Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith describes marriage from a first-century Jewish perspective in the following way:

In early rabbinic literature, the first part of the marriage ceremony which contractually sets the couple aside in betrothal is known as ‘kiddushin’ (or ‘qiddushin’), properly an act of “sanctification” or “consecration.”  The basic meaning behind the term ‘kiddushin’ is “be set apart,” “be holy.”

. . . .In early rabbinic literature the second part of the marriage ceremony–that which consummated the event personally and privately rather than legally–was known as ‘nissu’in’.  In modern Hebrew, ‘nissu’in’ is one of several words translated “marriage.”  ‘Nissu’in’ and the related form ‘nasu’, “married,” derive from the verb ‘nasa’, “to lift up,” “to bear,” “to carry” (Wilson, Our Father Abraham, 205, 213).

Both of these ‘stages’ of intimacy were properly marriage from this perspective.  Unfaithfulness, even in the act of having sexual relations with each other, during kiddushin was considered adultery by the early rabbinic tradition.  Kiddushin set the couple apart to one another, but the husband was not yet to take his wife to live with him, nor were they to consummate the relationship during this stage of the marriage.  The husband was to go and finish preparations for a way of supporting his future family, as well as preparing a place in which he and his wife would one day live.  Only after these preparations were complete was the relationship consummated in nissu’in, the lifting up.

It seems most likely to me that this time between the times in which we, as Christians, now live is best explained as the space between kiddushin and nissu’in.  The New Testament language of presently being ‘set apart to God’, of being ‘the bride of Christ’, as well as Jesus’ own insistence that he was ‘going to prepare a place’ for His followers, all seem to be contextualized in the insistence that what it means to follow Jesus in this time between the times is to enter into kiddushin with Him–the first stage of marriage.  The time will come, when the bridegroom returns to take His bride to be with Him in nissu’in–the ‘lifting up’.  Now, the relationship has been initiated, then the relationship will be consummated.

My hope in that brief critical contribution is two-fold.  First, I trust that the kiddushinnissu’in dynamic will illustrate the deep Hebraicness of the teachings and promises of Jesus.  Second, I pray that we in the largely gentile Christian community will begin to speak from a Hebraic perspective utilizing conceptualities such as kiddushinnissu’in in the place of more de-contextualized philosophical constructs such as inaugurated eschatology.

Returning now to the successive language of thesis #9, in light of the tension between the already and the not yet of the kingdom of God (what I have called the reality of kiddushin and the expectation of nissu’in), The Scripture Project goes on to conclude:

. . . .consequently, Scripture calls the church to ongoing discernment, to continually fresh rereadings of the text in light of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in the world.

What I suspect beneath this language is a conceptuality that I have been trying to warn against in this blog series.  I believe that this language fails, again, to distinguish between the inspiredness of the historic people of Israel and subsequent followers of Jesus in the context of the Church.

I do agree that the Holy Spirit is still at work in the world, and that the Holy Spirit of Jesus (or of God, since some traditions prefer that language) has been poured out on the Church in quite a different manner than it had been poured out on Israel generally.  However, I remain insistent that the community of Israel was elected and inspired to reflect and re-reflect on their unique history with God in order to produce a corpus of generationally developed texts which would henceforth be authorized by God as the revelation of God to all peoples for all time.

Understood in this way, the re-readings and re-workings of biblical texts that we see evidenced throughout the history of the ancient people of Israel, up to and including the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, came to an historical point of completion with the end of the Apostolic era.  We, of course, must read and re-read these texts.  In other words, we must not presume that a single reading has exhausted the intent and purpose of these documents.  These texts should never be replaced with creeds, doctrines, principles, or propositions.  We must continue to engage with these texts as the Holy Spirit enables us.  If this is all The Scripture Project has meant to contend, then I agree.

However, the language of ‘in light of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in the world’, combined with the later comments made in the essay under that subheading cause me to suspect that the assumption at work here is that the prophets and apostles have not simply done what they have done in Scripture on God’s behalf for us.  Rather, I suspect that this group believes that the prophets and apostles have demonstrated how this re-reading and re-working might be done, and we are then authorized to do as they did.  As should now be clear, I couldn’t disagree more.

Whatever it now means to read and interpret Scripture, I believe the endeavor must take a posture of submission to the people and culture of ancient Israel.  That people and the times in which they lived have been given a singular priority for all peoples and all times.  As difficult as such meekness may be for those of us who believe we live in far more educated, far more progressive, far more evolved, far more enlightened contexts than they did, I am arguing that God has elected those people and those times as His vessels of revelation to the rest of humanity for the rest of time.  However the Holy Spirit speaks to us, I believe He now speaks to us through them.

I do not believe that this sort of a confession necessitates the embracing of everything that these cultures presumed to be true (scientifically, philosophically, morally/ethically, and so on).  However, I do believe that this conviction requires that we submit ourselves to all that the resultant texts appear to intend to contend.  Future blogs and blog series will help to illustrate what I’m getting at here.

For now, suffice it to say that simply because Jeremiah presumably believed that the world was flat does not mean that God has authorized that cultural presumption to be authoritative for all time.  However, what I’m arguing is that all those things that Jeremiah presumed to teach on God’s behalf, all of the interpretations of Israelite history that the text of Jeremiah posits, all of the warnings and prophesies put forward in the book as we now have it, are authoritative for all peoples for all time.  To be a Christian is to sit at the footstool of the prophets and apostles of Israel, and to recognize them as God’s chosen instructors for the rest of us.

My prayer is that we in gentile Christian communities will come to recognize this God-inspired, God-authorized space of learning.  I’ll conclude this series of blogs with a final quotation from Marvin Wilson:

A study of the last nineteen hundred years reveals how the Church left its original Jewish nest and considerably distanced itself from the Semitic culture that gave it birth.  The Church paid little heed to the exhortation of Paul to continue in what it had learned and believed in the context of its Hebrew beginnings.  Rather, as it became more and more Hellenized by moving westward through the Mediterranean world, it began to be led away into strange teachings (cf. Heb. 13:9). . . .

We are still reaping the results of this severance today.  Westerners have often found themselves in the confusing situation of trying to understand a Jewish Book through the eyes of Greek culture.  This situation has led, in Dom Gregory Dix’s view, to a “spiritual schizophrenia in the process.” [citation omitted]  What is more, over the centuries, it has had detrimental and ofttimes dire consequences for the life and teachings of the Church (Wilson, 166-167).

Thanks to all who have persevered through this lengthy series with me!

Staying engaged with the conversation,

J. Thomas Johnson