Saturday, August 05, 2006

N. T. Wright on Mark 13

Scott, in an effort to get it Wright, I did a little research for a change and dug up these quotes. Wright doesn't make a big point of whether it means coming or going, but if we take it as coming, he understands the movement to be that "he comes from earth to heaven" (Jesus and the Victory of God, 361).

Here are some other interesting Wright quotes:

First from Who Was Jesus?:
"When Jewish writers spoke of the sun and moon being darkened; when they spoke of angels gathering people from the four winds of heaven; when, in particular, they spoke of a Son of Man who would come on the clouds of heaven - in each of these cases they were using language in this metaphorical way. It is flagrantly absurd to think that Jesus, in saying that sort of thing, envisaged himself of anyone else literally flying around in mid-air on an actual cloud" (55).

"They didn't expect the end of the world; merely the end of the present way the world was run" (56).

And from Jesus and the Victory of God:
"the 'coming of the son of man' does not refer to the 'parousia' in the modern scholarly, and popular, sense of a human figure travelling downwards towards the earth on actual clouds... The word 'coming', so easily misread in English, is in Greek erchomenon, and so could mean either 'coming' or 'going'... The 'coming of the son of man' is thus good first-century metaphorical language for two things: the defeat of the enemies of the true people of god, and the vindication of the true people themselves. Thus, the form that this vindication will take, as envisaged within Mark 13 and its parallels, will be precisely the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple" (359-60).

These are awefully convenient interpretations for orthodox faith, although not so much for American fundamentalist faith. Wright has a fun footnote: "the interesting spectacle of fundamentalist interpreters taking the metphorical language in Mk. 13:26, 30 ('the coming of the son of man') literally, and literal language ('within a generation') metaphorically," (Jesus, 224 n.96). I agree that some of this apocalyptic language is metaphorical. But I'm not convinced that the arrival of Christ was.


matthew said...

I think the preterist interpretation of Matthew 24:1-34, Mark 13 & Luke 21 persuades most people that take the time to consider it. The 'coming' is really the only difficult verse to understand in the AD70 context. But God's 'coming' is certainly not always bodily in Scripture.

I'm prone to take the view that causes the least problems in my mind, and that's the preterist view of the Olivet Discourse by a mile.

For a good orthodox preterist commentary on the Olivet Discourse, go to the following site and then click 'commentary' on the bottom right.

Ken Schenck said...

I would actually agree with your first paragraph, although there are other difficult verses in Matthew and Mark's account--the worse tribulation and the everyone would die if the days weren't cut short verses. Luke interestingly omits these verses in his account and, since he takes the sun and moon prophecy to be about Pentecost, I find the wholesale preterist interpretation quite possible with regard to Luke.

With Matthew and Mark, though, it feels like a cop out to me.

Ken Schenck said...

By the way, I really like Wright as a person and he's a blasted genius and an incredible churchman to boot (bishop of Durham, you know, following the likes of Westcott and Lightfoot). My jabbing comments should be read with an image of me smiling in mind, with him in the room as I'm about to make a toast, not as sarcastic and disgruntled words. I would quite enjoy being friends with Wright if I had the chance. But I wouldn't at all presume that he remembers who I am.

He has taught me much through his books (Who Was Jesus? and The New Testament and the People of God were very influential on me when I was doing my doctorate. And I side with him in the new perspective against many who have blasted him (e.g., the critique of the Australian Bishop Barnett on his understanding of justification by faith). And frankly, I probably agree with him and Caird on eschatological language far more than most who would read this blog.

So, all ye lovers of Wright, I think he's a mighty nice guy, even if I might critique some of his interpretations for being just a little too clever. :-)

Anonymous said...

Gentlemen, I would be happy to hear your reaction to my paper, just published on Biblical, as it is a response to Wright, France and others. best, Gustavo