Monday, June 30, 2014

Creational and Eschatological Monotheism...

I'd be interested in reactions to these paragraphs. Basically, I accept the logic of creational and eschatological formulations of God's oneness. But would most ordinary Jews of Jesus' day have come up with these ideas without prompting?
... It is hard to know how extensively Jews at the time of Christ might have conceptualized the oneness of God in creational and eschatological terms. It is one thing to quote a text like Isaiah 45:18: "Thus says YHWH, the one who created the skies—he is the God who formed the earth and made it… 'I myself am YHWH and there is no other.'" This verse demonstrates a connection between God as creator and any other divine claimant. Logically it makes sense that the being who created other beings would have a claim to primacy over the beings he or she created. However, how often did Jews at the time of Christ actually conceptualize God’s oneness in these terms?

For example, did most Jews actually have a clear sense of the origins of evil powers? There does not seem to be a single Jewish narrative in this regard, although no scenario at the time of the New Testament saw any other gods in existence prior to the God of Israel. [1] We have a tendency today in our analysis of Jewish thought to systematize, connect dots, fill in gaps, when most people do not have a systematic, coherent theology. To what extent did God as creator play into ordinary Jewish thinking about God as the one God at all? Presumably an ordinary Jew might have be attracted to this notion if someone had suggested it to them, but how many ancient Jews would have volunteered this dimension as part of the oneness of God without suggestion?

Similarly, we should not assume that all Jews, especially ordinary Jews, had a strongly linear sense of history. Although G. B. Caird held that the biblical writers did believe in an ultimate end to the world in the future, he also indicated that, “they regularly used end-of-the-world language metaphorically to refer to that which they well knew was not the end of the world.” [2] Perhaps with the exception of Daniel 12:2-3, all the apocalyptic imagery of the Hebrew Bible should be understood in terms of world changing events rather than the end of history. N. T. Wright has captured this element of modern speech with examples like saying that the fall of the Berlin Wall was an “earth-shattering” event. [3] Similarly, he has used the example of someone who might say after a tragedy, “This is the end of the world for me.” Only some forms of Judaism at the time of Christ were apocalyptic, and some of them may not actually have looked for an end to history in the way we so commonly assume.

For example, it is not at all certain that all the Jews at the time of Christ looked to the coming of a messianic king, but even most of those that did probably expected this individual simply to restore Israel and give it pride of place among the nations of the earth. [4] The apocalyptic imagery and nationalistic fervor may have increased in times of Israel’s oppression, [5] but it remains that many if not most Jews at the time of Christ had no sense of a final cosmic battle between good and evil. [6] This observation raises the question. Assuming that most of those Jews without a strongly linear-oriented eschatology affirmed the oneness of God, how can we consider eschatological monotheism anything like a central factor in ancient Jewish monotheism in general?

[1] Later Gnostic thinking would, by contrast. We can say, however, that all the Jewish narratives we know, prior to the New Testament, saw evil powers either as fallen angelic powers or as a result of the fall of angels, all which they presumably thought God created. The Life of Adam and Eve saw Satan’s fall in conjunction with his refusal to bow before Adam in the Garden of Eden (13-16). By contrast, 1 Enoch saw the fall of the angels in relation to their lust after the daughters of men in Genesis 6:2-4 (e.g., 1 Enoch 10, 15).

[2] The Language and Imagery of the Bible (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co., 1980), 256.

[3] New Testament and the People of God, 282-83.

[4] E.g., Psalms of Solomon 17. See James Charlesworth, ed. The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992); John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: Messianism in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010). Even the imagery of Revelation, as apocalyptic as it is, gives hints that its author may have seen history continuing in some way alongside the redeemed (e.g., Rev. 21:24-27).

[5] So even the generally philosophical and “vertical” Philo arguably became more “horizontal” and eschatological in lieu of the Jewish crisis during the reign of Caligula. See Rewards 95; cf. Peder Borgen, “There Shall Come Forth a Man, in The Messiah, 341-61, and Kenneth Schenck, A Brief Guide to Philo (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005), 37-41. Even here, however, Philo did not look for an end to history.

[6] We should keep in mind that Jewish thinking before the destruction of the temple in 70CE was considerably more diverse than it would become after Jewish thinking became somewhat standardized in the Rabbinic period. Even in rabbinic thought, however, there is no end to history, and rabbinic thought is far from apocalyptic in flavor.

Philosophy of Language Classics (My Astore)

I've added some more philosophy classics to my Astore.

Now, in addition to:
I've added:

Philosophies of God and Science

In celebration of my philosophy textbook, which took about 10 years to get published (now down to $64), I started doing my philosophy in bullet points, as I had done my theology. Unlike the textbook, which tries to present all basic positions fairly, my last post gave my sense of most appropriate positions on epistemology and metaphysics.

So here is a second installment, treating the philosophy of God and the philosophy of science. I consider the first to be a subset of metaphysics and the second a subset of epistemology. Since I had largely done my philosophy of religion in the previous post, I have mostly just repeated it here.

Philosophy of Religion
Faith and Reason
  • The best working epistemology for a Christian is, "faith seeking understanding" (fides quaerens intellectum, credo ut intelligam). Begin with faith and pursue further understanding from there. Given the epistemological predicament in which we find ourselves, however, such faith should be potentially revisable.
  • Belief in God is reasonable, although from our current capacity of understanding, it does not seem provable. Abelard was not completely wrong (intellego ut credam) but not entirely correct either.
  • Items of faith in general are, in principle, reasonable to believe. They may not be obvious and certainly may not be provable (that is to say, the evidence will rarely "demand" the verdict of faith). Christian thinkers like Aquinas were overconfident in how much about Christian faith is more or less provable. 
  • At the same time, items of faith are not, in general, irrational. God is not a trickster with evidence. Christian thinkers like Tertullian and Kierkegaard go too far in their sense of "blind faith" (credo quia absurdam). Similarly, presuppositionalists like van Til and even Barth give us the impression that Christianity can't survive in an evidentiary world, which seems problematic for the long term survival of Christianity. Christian epistemologies that cannot survive the Enlightenment have the whiff of failure.
Arguments for the Existence of God
  • The idea that a Being as powerful as the universe created it is as reasonable as to suggest as that some other unobserved material reality beyond this universe as generated the universe as we know it. (cosmological argument). If so, he would thereby be all powerful in relation to this creation (omnipotence).
  • The idea that the universe was designed and initiated by an Intelligence is as reasonable as the notion that some other unobserved material reality beyond this universe has generated the universe as we know it. (argument from design or teleological argument) If so, he would thereby at least know all the possibilities of this creation (full middle knowledge)
  • The idea that, amid the contingency of existence as we know it, there is an entity with necessary existence seems reasonable. This line of thinking may actually prove God's existence as a Necessary Being, but we are not intelligent/informed enough to know it at this time. (argument from necessity, Aquinas, a form of ontological argument).
  • Anselm's formulation of the ontological argument is nonsense (I can conceive of a greatest Being, but he wouldn't be greatest if he didn't actually exist. Therefore he exists.).
  • Other arguments for the existence of God are less convincing (moral argument). Arguments from miracles and personal experience of God tend to be more individually convincing.
Problem of Evil and Suffering
  • The biggest challenge for faith in a benevolent God is the question of evil and suffering. Why does a good God allow the righteous to suffer?
  • The best suggestions are the free will theodicy and the soul making theodicy. The soul making theodicy (Irenaeus) suggests that suffering provides a context in which we can grow morally and become mature people. 
  • The free will theodicy (Augustine) suggests that a world in which we can choose between good and evil is a better world than one in which we all choose good by nature. But if God allows us to choose, some will choose badly and, thus, we will have evil in the world.
  • Others, such as Pascal or Kierkegaard would suggest that we cannot hope to fully understand such things. Lack of clarity creates a context in which faith can thrive.
  • It seems likely that many things that we think of as contradictory to goodness (e.g., death, suffering) are actually not and should not be thought of as incompatible with a good God.
Philosophy of Science
Cause and Effect
  • As a heuristic tool, we might say that God has created the world to run like a machine according to certain "natural laws." 
  • The "natural" refers to the universe as it runs apart from God's intervention. "Miracles," then, properly so called, are when God or some other spiritual agent with the ability to circumvent natural law, interrupts the natural cause and effect flow of events. We might call such an event a "supernatural" event.
  • At present, there would seem to be a certain fundamental indeterminacy on the atomic level, where the normal understanding of cause and effect may not fully apply. Nature, on its most fundamental level, may therefore be more indeterminate rather than determined.
  • Nevertheless, the law of cause and effect seems thoroughly dependable on the macro-level of reality.
Scientific Method
  • Scientific theories are ultimately not about explaining the world as it is (das Ding an sich, Kant) but are very precise "myths" that express how nature appears to work under certain circumstances.
  • The scientific method remains without question the most appropriate evidentiary approach to truth. Gather evidence. Formulate a hypothesis. Test the hypothesis. Establish a theory. Continue to modify the theory as appropriate.
  • The simplest explanation, without being too simple, is the most reasonable explanation (Occam's Razor, Einstein form). A good hypothesis accounts for most of the data in the simplest way conceivable.
  • A good scientific theory often has an "elegance" to it and often results in unexpected convergences with other scientific problems.
  • Inductive thinking, such as scientific reasoning, tends to be open-ended when one cannot (as is usually the case) account for all the data. In that sense, inductive reasoning in particular is almost always revisable in the light of new data that does not fit the existing hypothesis ("naughty data").
Scientific Paradigms
  • In all areas of life, we function by way of certain paradigms or ways of organizing data in particular domains.
  • No one can be completely objective. There is always prioritization and selection of data, as an expression of the operating paradigms.
  • All paradigms involve assumptions. There is no such thing as a purely evidentiary framework of thinking. Fundamental presuppositions are always involved in the organization of the data of reality. However, some presuppositions are more basic than others. The most appropriate evidentiary assumptions should be "atomic" in size, rather than whole systems.
  • Worldviews are our collective paradigms. Usually there are harmonies between our individual paradigms such that you might say that we broadly have a certain "worldview." However, most worldview rhetoric smacks of extreme oversimplification and tends to be particularly "violent" in relation to particulars.
  • Most of our paradigms are inherited from our environment, although one might argue, I suppose, that some are genetically inherent to the human brain. We do not see the world as it is (das Ding an sich, Kant) but the world as our paradigms organize it.
  • Most of our paradigms are thus a product of our cultures and subcultures, with a strong element of our individual personality at work in the mix as well.
  • Given the nature of inductive hypothesis, almost all paradigms, if not all, are potentially revisable in the light of new data or better hypotheses on how to organize the data.
  • The history of science is thus a story of ongoing paradigm shifts (Thomas Kuhn). Normal science is what Kuhn called the inherited scientific paradigm, which he argued tended to be persistent.
  • A paradigm shift occurs when someone suggests a significantly different way of accounting for what I call "naughty data" that existing paradigms do not as easily account for ("The Devil is in the details.").
  • Such shifts are often resisted by more entrenched scholars of the standing paradigm. They eventually die off. Scientific "progress" thus has a significant element of sociology and is not just about objective truth.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

C5. Los seres humanos fueron creados a imagen de Dios.

Mis disculpas, la traducción inicial para este capítulo provienen de Google Translate. El original en Inglés está aquí. Estos capítulos son reflexiones sobre la teología cristiana de la Wesleyan-arminiana. Las reflexiones sobre Dios están aquí.
Génesis 1:27 dice: "Y creó Dios al hombre a imagen suya, a imagen de Dios lo creó, macho y hembra los creó." Los cristianos creen que la humanidad fue creada a imagen de Dios. Pero ¿cuál es la imagen de Dios?

Básicamente, para decir que fuimos creados a imagen de Dios indica que Dios nos creó como él de una manera u otra. Algunos cristianos piensan que la imagen de Dios es algo "en" nosotros, como nuestra razón o pensamiento moral. Otros piensan que es algo acerca de nosotros, como nuestro lugar en relación con el resto de la creación de Dios. Otros piensan que es nuestra habilidad para formar relaciones. Sin duda, estas son todas las formas en que somos como Dios.

1. Parece que hay algo de verdad, por lo tanto, en todas estas sugerencias, y que podría resumir cuatro formas en que hemos sido creados a imagen de Dios. En primer lugar, 1) hemos sido creados a imagen "gubernamental" de Dios. Dios creó a la humanidad en la parte superior de la cadena alimentaria. Este parece ser el significado original de Génesis 1:27, para el versículo anterior dice: "Hagamos al hombre a nuestra imagen, conforme a nuestra semejanza, para que puedan gobernar sobre los peces del mar y las aves del cielo, sobre el ganado y todos los animales salvajes, y en todo animal que se arrastra sobre la tierra ".

Por lo tanto Génesis traza una conexión directa entre la humanidad de ser la imagen de Dios y nuestra función como la especie dominante de la tierra. La humanidad fue creada para tener "la gloria y el honor" dentro de la creación (por ejemplo, Hb 2. 6-8). Usted puede ver el paralelismo entre Dios y la humanidad aquí. Dios gobierna los cielos y la tierra. La humanidad gobierna la vida de la tierra.

Desde un punto de vista cristiano, esto no es una licencia para destruir la tierra, pero, sobre todo en la época actual y la edad, la responsabilidad de mayordomo de la creación de Dios. Tenemos "tenue" la tierra más que en cualquier otro momento de la historia (Génesis 1:28). Ahora, al igual que los comisarios a los que el rey dio varias cantidades de dinero para mantener para él (por ejemplo, Mateo 24:. 14-30), debemos cuidar la creación de Dios de una manera que él devolverá un sano, tierra próspera.

2. Dos otras dimensiones clave de la imagen de Dios en la humanidad son 2) imagen natural y 3) la imagen moral. John Wesley habla de estos dos en su sermón, "El Fin de la Venida de Cristo", es decir el propósito de la venida de Cristo. La imagen natural, de Wesley, se compone de humano a) comprensión, b) lo hará, y c) la libertad. Todos ellos se vieron empañadas, según Wesley, cuando Adán pecó.

Al igual que Dios, los seres humanos tienen la comprensión de su mundo. Al igual que Dios, los seres humanos toman decisiones con su voluntad. Al igual que Dios, los seres humanos tienen la libertad de elegir una cosa sobre otra. Todos ellos resultaron gravemente deteriorados, Wesley enseñó, cuando Adán pecó.

Sin embargo, incluso antes de la caída, hubo diferencias fundamentales entre nosotros y Dios. Adam puede haber razonado más perfectamente que nosotros, pero su conocimiento era todavía finito. Por el contrario, el intelecto de Dios es infinita y su conocimiento es infinito. De hecho, él crea la verdad.

Así que podríamos decir que parte de la imagen de Dios en nosotros es nuestra capacidad de razonar y tomar decisiones. [1]

3. La imagen moral de Dios en nosotros, de acuerdo con Wesley, era "la justicia y santidad de la verdad" que Adán tuvo originalmente. Para Wesley, Calvino y Agustín ante ellos, la humanidad perdió por completo la imagen moral de Dios en el otoño. Nadie es capaz ahora, en su propio poder, realmente de hacer el bien.

Pero en un principio, estos todos creían, Adán fue libre y capaz de no pecar, si así lo hubiera elegido (no peccare posse ", capaz de no pecar"). Parte de la imagen original de Dios, ha perdido por completo, era la habilidad de actuar moralmente de acuerdo a nuestra propia voluntad.

4. teólogos modernos como Karl Barth, Emil Brunner una han añadido un toque moderno a la imagen de Dios por lo que sugiere que está en relación con Dios y los demás que mostramos a nosotros mismos para ser a imagen de Dios. A medida que los miembros de la Trinidad han relacionado entre sí de toda la eternidad pasada, por lo que ahora se demuestra la imagen de Dios como existimos en relación con él y con los demás.

5. La mayoría de estas concepciones de la imagen de Dios van más allá del uso bíblico de la palabra. En el Antiguo Testamento, como ya hemos demostrado, la humanidad tiene una cierta gloria y honor, un primo de lugar, dentro de la creación como un "reflejo de Dios." No se mata a otro ser humano, la forma en que podría matar a un ciervo, ya que es como atacar a Dios (cf. Gn 9, 6).

Santiago 3: 9 sigue esta línea de pensamiento en el Nuevo Testamento. Usted no debe maldecir a otro ser humano, porque todos los seres humanos están hechos a la semejanza de Dios. Todos los seres humanos merecen una cierta dignidad y respeto porque son reminiscencias de Dios sobre la tierra. Los cristianos no tratan a los demás seres humanos como meros animales.

Cristo, como el hombre perfecto, es la imagen de Dios por excelencia. Él es la "imagen del Dios invisible, el primogénito de toda la creación" (Col. 1:15). Los que han visto a Jesús, han visto al Padre (Jn 14, 9).

Dios creó a los seres humanos como su "imagen" en la tierra. Coronó la humanidad con gloria y honor en la creación. Él los creó para gobernar y mayordomo de la tierra. Él los creó para explorar y descubrir. Él nos dio la mente para pensar y voluntades para elegir. Él nos creó para las relaciones con él y entre sí. Él nos creó para ser bueno, y quiere restaurar esa imagen rota aún hoy en día.

Yo soy el guardián de mi hermano. Tengo que tratar a todos los otros seres humanos con respeto, fueron creados para todos los seres humanos a imagen de Dios.

Capítulo siguiente: C6. Dios nos destina a vivir para siempre.

[1] La mayoría de las imágenes cristianas de humano maquillaje del pasado son "pre-moderno". Es decir, toman la humanidad tal como aparece dentro de los paradigmas y la cosmovisión del pensador y ver ese patrón como algo que es realmente a una persona. Toman un entendimiento de que es "fenomenológica" (el mundo tal como se nos presenta) y irreflexivamente asuma que se "ontológica" (parte del ser real de una persona).

Así que decir que la mente humana se compone de intelecto, emoción y voluntad es un buen reflejo de la mente humana, ya que se nos presenta, ya que funciona en el mundo. Pero no hay que confundir esta ruptura con la composición real del cerebro humano de alguna manera. Es un gran modelo "heurística" para reflexionar sobre la forma en que funciona nuestra mente. Es funcionalmente cierto. Funciona para describir la forma en que nos comportamos.

Todas las averías bíblicos de la personalidad humana son fenomenológico. No debemos tomar el lenguaje del alma, bipartito o tripartito, como el lenguaje literal de nuestra composición real. Estos son más bien las imágenes de los seres humanos como funcionamos en el mundo, enmarcada dentro de los paradigmas y visiones del mundo de los autores bíblicos. El siguiente artículo analiza el alma.

C5. Human beings were created in the image of God.

Almost done with the section on creation. Here is the next post in my theology in bullet points series. The previous one is here.
Genesis 1:27 reads, "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." Christians believe that humanity was created in the image of God. But what is the image of God?

Basically, to say we were created in the image of God indicates that God created us like him in one way or another. Some Christians think the image of God is something "in" us, like our reason or moral thinking. Others think it is something about us, like our place in relation to the rest of God's creation. Others think it is our ability to form relationships. No doubt these are all ways in which we are like God.

1. There seems to be some truth, therefore, in all these suggestions, and we might summarize four ways in which we were created in God's image. First, 1) we were created in the "governmental" image of God. God created humanity at the top of the food chain. This seems to be the original meaning of Genesis 1:27, for the previous verse reads, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

Genesis thus draws a direct connection between humanity being God's image and our function as the dominant species of the earth. Humanity was created to have "glory and honor" within the creation (e.g., Heb. 2:6-8). You can see the parallel between God and humanity here. God rules the heavens and earth. Humanity rules the life of the earth.

From a Christian standpoint, this is not license to destroy the earth but, especially in the modern day and age, a responsibility to steward the creation for God. We have "subdued" the earth more than at any other point in history (Gen. 1:28). Now, like the stewards to whom the king gave various amounts of money to keep for him (e.g., Matt. 24:14-30), we must take care of God's creation in a way that will return him a healthy, prosperous earth.

2. Two other key dimensions of the image of God in humanity are 2) natural image and 3) the moral image. John Wesley speaks of these two in his sermon, "The End of Christ's Coming," meaning the purpose of Christ's Coming. The natural image, for Wesley, consists of human a) understanding, b) will, and c) freedom. All of these were marred, according to Wesley, when Adam sinned.

Like God, humans have understanding of their world. Like God, humans make decisions with their will. Like God humans have the freedom to choose one thing over another. All of these were seriously impaired, Wesley taught, when Adam sinned.

However, even prior to the Fall, there were key differences between us and God. Adam may have reasoned more perfectly than us, but his knowledge was still finite. By contrast, God's intellect is infinite and his knowledge is infinite. In fact, he creates truth.

So we might say that part of the image of God in us is our ability to reason and make choices. [1]

3. The moral image of God in us, according to Wesley, was the "righteousness and true holiness" that Adam had originally. For Wesley, Calvin, and Augustine before them, humanity completely lost the moral image of God in the Fall. No one is able now, in his or her own power, truly to do good.

But originally, these all believed, Adam was free and able not to sin if he had so chosen (posse non peccare, "able not to sin"). Part of the original image of God, now completely lost, was the ability to act morally according to our own free will.

4. Modern theologians like Karl Barth an Emil Brunner have added a modern touch to the image of God by suggesting that it is in relationship with God and others that we show ourselves to be in the image of God. As the members of the Trinity have related to each other from all eternity past, so now we demonstrate the image of God as we exist in relationship with him and with each other.

5. Most of these conceptions of the image of God go well beyond the biblical use of the word. In the Old Testament, as we have already shown, humanity has a certain glory and honor, a prime of place, within the creation as a "reflection of God." You don't kill another human being the way you might kill a deer because it is like attacking God (cf. Gen. 9:6).

James 3:9 continues this line of thought in the New Testament. You shouldn't curse another human being because all human beings are made in God's likeness. All human beings deserve a certain dignity and respect because they are reminiscences of God on the earth. Christians don't treat other human beings as mere animals.

Christ, as the perfect human, is the image of God par excellence. He is the "image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Col. 1:15). Those who have seen Jesus, have seen the Father (John 14:9).

God created human beings as his "image" on the earth. He crowned humanity with glory and honor in the creation. He created them to rule and steward the earth. He created them to explore and discover. He gave us minds to think and wills to choose. He created us for relationships with him and each other. He created us to be good, and wants to restore that broken image even today.

I am my brother's keeper. I must treat all other human beings with respect, for all human beings were created in the image of God.

Next Sunday: C6. God intended us to live forever.

[1] Most Christian pictures of human make-up from the past are "pre-modern." That is to say, they take humanity as it appears within the paradigms and worldview of the thinker and see that pattern as something that is really within a person. They take an understanding that is "phenomenological" (the world as it appears to us) and unreflectively assume it is "ontological" (part of a person's actual being).

So to say the human mind is composed of intellect, emotion, and will is a fine reflection of human mind as it appears to us, as it functions in the world. But we shouldn't confuse this breakdown with the actual composition of the human brain in some way. It is a great "heuristic" model for thinking about the way our minds work. It is functionally true. It works to describe the way we behave.

All biblical breakdowns of human personality are phenomenological. We should not take language of the soul, bipartite or tripartite, as literal language of our actual composition. These are rather pictures of human beings as we function in the world, framed within the paradigms and worldviews of the biblical authors. The next article discusses the soul.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Writing of the Day: Monotheism

Trying to write a chapter on "Hebrews and Christology" for a book I'm under contract for: A New Perspective on Hebrews.

Let me just say how amazed I am at how the accessibility of scholarship has changed. Google alone is fantastic. Good grief, when you think of how I scoured paper encyclopedias for some hint of knowledge about things in high school.

But this morning I went from thinking,

1. "I wish I could get my hands on Larry Hurtado's most recent article on monotheism" to

2. Doing a Google search on the journal it's in, "Journal of Ancient Judaism," published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht to

3. Realizing I can buy and download a copy for 6,20 €.

Reading Hurtado's summary, I was glad to see him saying things that I am also saying in the first part of my chapter. For example, he says in his summary, "It’s hard to find ancient Jews (or Christians) who denied the existence of all other divine beings. Instead, for them the issue was the validity of worshipping any deity other than the one deity of the biblical tradition."

I think I differ a little with Hurtado on the question of early Jewish and Christian worship, but I think he is spot on with this comment here.

Now off to read his article in all its 8 dollar glory...

Family History 5: Births of the Twenties

Let me resume my earlier track. You can see at the bottom below where my posts may be headed.
The Great Generation
My father's and mother's family knew each other casually in the early days of the Pilgrim Holiness Church, officially renamed in 1922. It was a snowballing of several smaller holiness revival groups with a similar way of thinking about God and religious experience.

1. So Dorsey Schenck and Esther Miller married in 1920, began having children and pastoring Pilgrim churches. And Harry Shepherd married Verna Rich in 1923, began having children and pastoring Pilgrim churches until he started teaching at Frankfort Pilgrim College in 1927 when it was founded.

Vernon was born in 1922 in Delphi, Indiana. It doesn't look like my grandfather was preaching yet at that time. He received his local preacher's license in August of 1923 and his conference license in August of 1924. These presumably were given at the annual conference in Frankfort. I wonder if his parents attended, since they were living in the same county!

By October, when my father was born in 1924, Dorsey was pastoring his first church in Thorntown. I know he planted some churches but don't know which ones. I'm assuming in this early phase these were established holiness churches.

After two years at Thorntown, he spend a year from 1926-27 in Muncie. My uncle Eugene would be born there. Then he seems to have taken a hiatus from ministry for a couple years. In early 1928 they were back in Frankfort and Francis was born. By late 29 they were in Indianapolis pastoring again, a church called "Riverside" that could have been a plant. Maurice was born late that year. Linda would not be born until over a decade later!

2. It was not until 1923 that my mother's parents were married. For some reason, they had a small ceremony just across the border from Sullivan County in West York, Illinois. But as it turned out, the minister was not licensed to perform a marriage in Illinois, so they had to cross the river back into Indiana and do it again for it to be official.

I don't know at this time what his first Pilgrim church was. He had been pastoring as a Quaker and of course his first wife died in Michigan. In 1920 he was living in Hemlock, Indiana, with his sister Marquerite and her husband James, both of whom were Quaker ministers. In 1924, the year my father was born, they had a stillborn child, Dorothy Juanita.

By 1926, when my mother was born, he was pastoring a Pilgrim church in Greenfield, and he would go to Frankfort to be one of the founding professors of Frankfort Pilgrim College in 1927. Paul was born in what must have been the first semester of the college's existence in the Fall of 1927. Then David was born there in 1930 and finally Bernadine in 1932, a year before the school closed because of the Depression.

3. The Great Depression started with Black Friday in October of 1929. I was under the impression that my Grandpa Schenck owned a grocery store in Indy at the time. But as the depression continued, I believe he sold his store and went to work as a butcher. I don't know what year that was.

I not sure how much changed for my Grandpa Shepherd at Frankfort Pilgrim College when the Depression hit. I'm sure it affected enrollment but I get the impression that there was little pay anyway. They ate with the students, often watery soup.
Earlier posts:

2. The Revivalin' Twenties
In the Year 1920 (Dorsey Schenck)
From Quaker to Pilgrim (Harry Shepherd)
The Great Generation (my parents)

3. The Depression Thirties
Dutch Reformed Past (Samuel Schenck)
North Carolina Flashback (Eli Shepherd)
Wanting to be Rich (Oscar Rich)

7. The Divisive Sixties
Flashback to Jamestown (Champion Shelburn)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Epistemology Classics (My Amazon Store)

I'm moving slow, but I created the first of several recommended works pages within my Amazon Store. I started a section called "Philosophy Classics" and its first subsection, "Epistemology" (the study of logic and truth). The idea is that, if a person understood the works in a certain category, you would have the equivalent of a master's degree in that content area. I hope to do pages on biblical studies, philosophy, classics, and maybe some in science too.

I started with the three most important works on epistemology (IMO) in the history of philosophy. Can you guess what they are?

P.S. You'll note that my philosophy book is down to $64 dollars.

Science Friday: Heisenberg's Uncertainty

I'll treat chapter 5 of George Gamow's classic, Thirty Years That Shook Physics in one post.

The previous posts were:

1a. Planck's Quantum
1b. Jumping Photons (Einstein and the Photoelectric Effect)
1c. The Compton Effect (Proof of Energy Packets)

2a. Thomson and Rutherford's Atoms
2b. Bohr's Contributions (How electrons fill the atom)

3a. Pauli Exclusion Principle (no two electrons at any one energy state)
3b. The Pauli Neutrino

4a. De Broglie's Wavy Particles
4b. Schrödinger's Wave Equation

1. The plot thickens. A year before Schrödinger produced his famous wave equation, Werner Heisenberg had produced a different mathematical model that came to the same conclusion. The model he used was matrix mechanics. Without knowing it, he reinvented linear algebra, which had been invented about a hundred years earlier. Although at first it wasn't clear if the two approaches said the same thing, Schrödinger eventually showed that they did.

More significant, however, was Heisenberg's famous equation ΔpΔq=h/4π. Although I do not yet fully grasp the basis of this equation, it seems to be saying that the uncertainty in the momentum of a particle and the uncertainty in the position of a particle having a complementarity such that the more certainty with which the one is defined, the less certainty with which the other is defined. This is the famous Uncertainty Principle.

What has always stuck in my craw about this principle (and in the craw of Einstein, Schrödinger, possibly Dirac) is the positivistic interpretation that Niels Bohr gave to it and that became the religion of the Copenhagen cult. Gamow belonged to this group, so it is no surprise that his explanation of the principle has an underlying positivism.

Positivism is the philosophy that claims that, if something cannot be observed, it is not real. It's fundamental flaw is of course that you cannot observe and verify the claim of previous sentence. Positivism is, at its most basic foundations, based on an unobservable assumption.

"If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise?" The positivists in effect said "no." I think they are loonies. For Bohr, if you can't measure the position or momentum of a particle precisely, because you inevitably change it in measuring it, it doesn't exist.

So when you read Gamow's interpretation of the principle, it is all about how in measuring the momentum of a particle, you end up changing its position. Similarly, if you measure the position of a particle, you change its momentum. Gamow also gives the notorious exchange between Bohr and Einstein at the 1930 Solvay Conference in which Einstein disputed an uncertainty between energy and time ΔEΔt=h/4π. Bohr won all those exchanges.

2. The Copenhagen philosophy, forged by Bohr, is the complementarity principle. Bohr expressed it in this way: "any given application of classical concepts precludes the simultaneous use of other classical concepts which in a different connection are equally necessary for the elucidation of phenomena" (210, Quantum Generations). Einstein's final counter was in 1935 which argued for realism, but it was largely ignored at the time.

I reject positivism as absurd. But Heisenburg's principle ΔpΔq=h/4π stands. The question is thus how to interpret it philosophically. On the one hand is Einstein's tact and eventually that of Schrödinger. Just because you don't know the momentum or position doesn't mean it doesn't have one. Thus the famous Schrödinger's cat Gedankenexperiment.

Say a cat is in a box and there is a chance that radiation has gone off and killed the cat but you don't know if the cat is dead because there is a certain probability it has and a certain probability it hasn't. But, as Schrödinger pointed out, you could actually open the box and see if the cat is alive or dead. Bohr thought this large world example was irrelevant to the quantum world.

Einstein suggested that there might be unknown variables involved that would circumvent these uncertainty relationships. He did not think God, as he wrote Born, played dice. von Neumann actually produced somewhat of a mathematical proof that unknown variables were not involved, but later examination suggests he only showed that some unknown variables of certain kinds are not involved.

I am not in a "position" to have much of an opinion at this time. I reject that the issue is a matter of our observation. If there is indeterminacy then it is an uncertainty intrinsic to reality irrespective of our observation of it. But I will leave it at that for now.

I end with a joke in Amazing Stories.  "Werner Heisenburg is pulled over for speeding by a highway patrolman. The police officer walks over to Werner's car, leans over, and asks Heisenburg, 'Do you know how fast you were going?' Heisenberg replies, 'No, but I know where I am'" (82).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ehrman Chapter 6: The Beginning of Christology

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel with Bart Ehrman's, How Jesus Became God. So far:

1. Divine Humans in Ancient Greece and Rome
2. Divine Humans in Ancient Judaism
3. Did Jesus Think He Was God?
4. The Resurrection of Jesus: What We Cannot Know
5. The Resurrection - What We Can Know

I'm a little late this week with Chapter 6, "The Beginning of Christology."

1. The first thing I want to point out about this chapter is that the content of this chapter is largely faith neutral. When I was finishing up seminary, I read two books by James Dunn, whom I would eventually study under to do my doctorate. The books were Unity and Diversity in the New Testament and Christology in the Making.

What attracted me to Dunn is that he doesn't have an angle. On the one hand, he is a person of faith (Scotish Presbyterian north of the border, British Methodist south), but in his interpretations he is really just interested in the truth. That certainly doesn't mean he always gets it right. But he's not interested in coming up with a conclusion that either does or doesn't fit with prior faith tradition. He's interested in what is most likely true.

These books can be a shock to the system when you grow up, as I did, reading the Bible almost entirely ahistorically and out of context. This is, basically, the entire American church. I remember Dave Smith talking about how annoying he found Dunn's books when he first read them, and yet paradigm shifting. But my main point is that Dunn sees the understanding of Christ unfolding in the early church and yet doesn't see it contradicting faith.

Ehrman doesn't draw much on Dunn in this chapter, but he does mention another scholar from that 70s era, Raymond Brown. Brown was a faith-filled Catholic (recently passed). But I have always enjoyed reading Brown because, again, he doesn't read the evidence in order to shove his Catholic faith down it. He reads the evidence for what is true... and he has faith.

That era is over. Now its all postmodern "theological interpretation," how can I cook the books so they say what I want them to say and yet look like I'm being scholarly.

2. So in Brown and Dunn's scheme, belief in Jesus' pre-existence didn't come off the press the day after he rose from the dead. Although, as far as I know, Brown believed that Jesus had existed before he came to earth, Brown did not believe that the earliest Christians fully had this understanding until the Gospel of John.

Similarly, Brown saw a development in how early Christians saw Jesus becoming Christ. In the earliest layer of tradition, they spoke of Jesus becoming Son of God at his resurrection:
  • Jesus was "from the seed of David according to the flesh, but appointed Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead" (Rom. 1:3).
  • Today, after the resurrection, God has declared to Jesus, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you" (Acts 13:33).
  • Today, after the resurrection, "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
So Brown thought this was the earliest layer of Christology (theology about Christ) in the New Testament. He then saw a development to where Jesus is declared Son of God at his baptism in Mark. Then there is the development to where Jesus is Son of God from his conception in Matthew and Luke. Finally, we have Jesus as Son of God from a pre-existent state in John.

3. Ehrman calls this approach an "exaltation Christology." Now I don't have Brown at hand (or Dunn) because I'm sitting in a hotel room in Pittsburgh, so I can't vouch that Ehrman has been completely fair to Brown. But I do disagree with the way Ehrman puts a number of things.

For example, Ehrman wants to show a tension between what Luke himself thinks and his quoting of earlier Christian tradition. So Ehrman thinks that Luke is quoting an earlier Christian position in Acts 2:36 and 13:33, while Luke himself believes that Jesus was Son of God from his birth.

I disagree. I don't think Luke saw any contradiction between the exaltation Christology he presents on the lips of Peter and Paul and the virginal conception. The angel does not say to Mary, "he will be called Son of the Most High from the moment the Spirit comes on you" in Luke 1:32. "Son of God" is a royal title and becomes most appropriate when Jesus is enthroned, which happened at his resurrection.

Perhaps I should add here that "Son of God" is not a genetic title but one that relates to Jesus as king. "Son of God" is the office of king, a royal title that became most fully appropriate upon enthronement (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2). I find Bauckham's stuff on this topic bizarrely anachronistic, although it is all the rage.

4. This leads to an appropriate criticism that Simon Gathercole makes of Ehrman in the response book. Quoting someone else, Gathercole says, "Any logic which relies on a conjecture is itself a conjecture" (106). This gets at a problem that is endemic to Ehrman's book. He speculates, which in itself isn't necessarily bad, but then draws conclusions from his speculations.

So Ehrman repeatedly draws conclusions from his speculations about hymnic traditions in Paul. Sometimes he is reasonable in his speculations. Sometimes he's out on a limb. But he goes on to make central arguments out of his speculations and you can't do that.

Is Luke quoting material in tension with what he himself believes? I think that's a really debatable position, yet it is a key part of Ehrman's argument.

5. Whether it applies to Christology, I did think that Ehrman is correct in his assessment of adoption in the Roman world (233-234). An adopted child, in a Roman context, was even more significant than a biological one, because such children were adopted as adults with intention. Ehrman is drawing on Michael Peppard here.

So Julius Caesar had a biological son that no one has heard of (Caesarion). But every educated person has heard of his adopted son (Augustus, first emperor of Rome).

6. I also strongly disagree with Ehrman's insinuation that Jesus didn't do a lot of miracles before his crucifixion. If you follow his own historical criteria, exorcisms and healing must have been central features of Jesus' earthly ministry.

7. In my own assessment, both Jesus and his disciples believed that Jesus was the Messiah before his crucifixion and the rumors were flying. But this was not a matter of his public pronouncement.

I don't think the disciples expected Jesus to be crucified, although I believe Jesus anticipated it. Consequently, I don't think they expected Jesus to rise from the dead either. I accept the empty tomb tradition and think their initial reaction must have been puzzlement. I agree that it was Jesus' appearance to Peter and then others that was what changed everything.

The Gospels tell us these events after decades of reflection and insight. I don't think it's a problem if it actually took some time for them to arrive at this understanding. So the earliest layer of tradition probably does, in my opinion, begin with the resurrection as the focal point of Christology. In fact, I believe the resurrection remains the focal point of Christology for the whole New Testament, with the possible exception of John.

The resurrection is when Jesus is enthroned as Son of God, meaning it is when he becomes "Son of God in power." Before that point, he is the heir apparent. Before that point, he is the one who is going to be enthroned. "Son of God" is an office when used in this sense, not a matter of genetics.

But this doesn't contradict, in my opinion, Jesus being called Son at his baptism. It doesn't contradict a virginal conception. And none of those things contradict the incarnation.

From a faith standpoint, we believe Jesus was God incarnate. We believe he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. Our answer to the question of how that understanding developed in the early church is an interesting one. But you can answer that question differently and still affirm these central matters of faith, IMO.

Some thoughts...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Post-Christian Wesleyan Movement 2

Had a stimulating breakfast with Dave and Dina Horne, area directors for Europe with Global Partners. They stimulated some thoughts along the lines of an earlier post I made on letting the Wesleyan movement begin. (P.S. Don't blame them for the random thoughts that rattle around in my head)

One is that Wesley really was ministering in a sort of "post-Christian" England. I don't mean post-Christian in the sense that no one believed in God or Christ any more (although there were several David Humes and Jeremy Benthams running around). I mean post-Christian in the sense that the fire had gone out. It was, in a sense, burned over ground for Christian business as usual.

But it makes me wonder whether a "Wesley" model would work better in places like England, Europe, and Russia today than a "plant a church" model. Wesley did not plan to start or plant churches. He set up small groups, little house churches, if you would, within the established church (bands, societies).

So if I were to go as a missionary to England, I think the precisely wrong model would be to rent a space to have Wesleyan worship services that compete with the local Anglican church. And, ironically, that isn't even the Wesley model. The Wesley model was to set up small groups of people who attended the local Anglican church on Sunday morning.

In Germany, you would set up small groups made up of Lutherans and Catholics. In Russia, you would set up small groups of Orthodox. The goal would not be to get them out of the church they are in but for them to become vibrant Lutherans, Catholics, and Orthodox believers. If something else comes of it, that's fine too. But he goal would not be indoctrination of theology but changed lives. If the heart comes, the head will follow.

I know I'm pretty late to the game with these ideas... what, am I fifty years late?  two hundred?  Please excuse me for being excited about what for me was new spark.

Revelation: The Coming Kingdom

After persecution and tribulation, after God's wrath and judgment, we arrive at the restoration of all things. The first thing we notice in Revelation is that eternity is not off somewhere in heaven but is on a renewed earth. "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband" (Rev. 21:2).

While it is common to think of eternity being in either heaven or hell, we should realize that this is neither the predominant message of the New Testament nor the common position of Christianity throughout the centuries. I would not go so far as to say that this perspective has no basis in the New Testament (e.g., see John 14:2-3). But I would agree with the consensus position that the majority of the New Testament looks to eternity on a restored and transformed earth for those who serve Christ. [1]

Who will be present in this kingdom? Certainly those in Israel who believed in Jesus throughout the centuries will be there. Although John uses the image of 144,000 specifically in reference to those in Israel who remain faithful through the sufferings of the final woes, we can surely extend it now to all those Christian Jews throughout church history who have and will believe. These did not lie when they appeared before rulers, interrogated for their faith (14:5).

Also present with eternal life are all the Gentile believers. Then there are those mentioned in Revelation 7:9--"a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language." In keeping that Revelation gives multiple images of the same thing, we find this same group in 14:6. Like the 144,000, we can extend this image now to all of those Gentiles since Christ who have believed and will believe.

There is a reminder in this image that the gospel is not limited to one race, nation, or people. We are long used to the fact that Christ is not just for Jews. But Christ is not just for Americans either. Christ is for the immigrant in our land, whether here legally or illegally. Christ is for the Iraqi and the Palestinian just as much as for the Israeli. Christ is no less for the "white" as for people of color. [2] "God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right" (Acts 10:34-35).

John was of course writing just decades after the turn of the ages, just decades after Christ's sacrifice. The first group of resurrected that he has in mind are those who died as martyrs for Christ in his day (Rev. 20:4-6). When he next speaks of the resurrection of all the dead (Rev. 20:11-15), he probably is thinking mostly of those who died before Christ. Those who rise to life were those who were faithful to God given the light they had. He primarily has in mind individuals like Noah and Abraham and especially those within Israel like Moses and Elijah.

Given how symbolic Revelation is, we probably shouldn't separate these two resurrections in our sense of how God will literally restore all things. After all, no other book in the New Testament speaks of two different resurrections. We as Christians simply believe that, at the end of history, when Christ returns to renew and judge the earth, the dead in Christ will rise to serve the Lord forever, including those who were faithful according to the light they had in the time before Christ.

If we are not to separate the two resurrections in our sense of how history will literally play out, we should probably take the picture of the millennial reign of Christ as somewhat symbolic as well. Traditionally, there are three perspectives on the Millennium of Revelation 20:1-6. In recent times, the "premillennial" view has been very popular. This view takes Revelation 20 more or less literally and sees things getting worse and worse until the end times. Then Christ will reign for a thousand years literally after the judgment pictured in Revelation.

However, throughout most of Christian history, the predominant view has been "postmillennial." This view more or less associates the millennium with the age of the Church these last two thousand years. If the premillennial view tends to be pessimistic and see things getting worse and worse, the postmillennial view tends to be optimistic, seeing the Church as the means by which God is getting the world prepared for the kingdom of God.

Given how symbolic Revelation is--and given the fact that John was primarily addressing the Roman Empire and the struggles of his own day--perhaps we are best to take a more "amillennial" view of things. The amillennial position does not restrict the millennium to a specific period of time but recognizes that there have been times in the last two thousand years when Christ has reigned more and times when he has reigned less. Most of all, he will reign for all eternity.

Again, since Revelation is the only place in Scripture where a millennium is mentioned, we probably should take it mostly as a symbol for Christ's eternal reign. But Christ has also reigned over his true Church these last two thousand years, and he must reign in all of our hearts individually, even though Satan is still on the loose. It is, after all, striking that John's imagery allows for there to be some who are lost even after the reign of Christ (e.g., 27:8).

John's picture of the final city of eternity is surely also full of symbolism that we will not fully be able to understand until the end. The image is clearly one of immense beauty and happiness.

Who will be part of this everlasting kingdom? "Those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life" (21:27). These are those who are covered by the blood of the Lamb, those who have kept God's commands and remained faithful (e.g., Rev. 14:12).

There is no temple in that eternal city, the new Jerusalem come down to earth (21:22). The earthly temple was always just a copy of the throne room of God. Now there is no need because God himself will dwell with humanity (21:3). There is no need for sun or moon for God himself is our light (21:23, 25; 22:5).

There will be no more sacrifices for there will be no more sin. The curse of Adam is gone (22:3). The Garden of Eden is restored and the Tree of Life is now available as originally intended (22:2). We are not in a position to know exactly what this all means literally. God gave John these spectacular images to give us just a taste. What we know for sure is that we don't want to miss it!

[1] N. T. Wright is probably the scholar most known for renewing this understanding of the New Tetsament. See his Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (San Fransisco: HarperOne, 2008) and his more extensive, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003).

[2] "White" is a fairly recent category that grows as groups that were initially immigrant become more accepted. So a century ago, Americans were Irish and Dutch and German and English. Now all of these are artificially put together as "white," in contrast to black, a category more or less invented during the slave trade of the 1500s and 1600s. There is no black and white in the Bible, only Jews, Greeks, Romans, Scythians, Egyptians, Babylonians, etc.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Is there a rapture?

... Revelation 7 first looks to the salvation of those in Israel who remain true to the Messiah despite persecution. The number 144,000 is surely symbolic. But these from Israel are not alone. There is a great multitude there as well from every nation, tribe, people and language (7:9). Who are they? They are all those from all the nations who have remained true to God throughout times of great tribulation and persecution by those who oppose Christ.

In the past, some have seen this gathering in God's throne room as a result of a “rapture,” the snatching of the faithful from the earth before the final judgment. They would connect this passage to 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where “we who are still alive and are left” are snatched up to meet Jesus in the clouds. There are some similarities to 1 Thessalonians 4 but also some differences.

The biggest similarity is that John seems to picture individuals who are alive when the final judgment begins. The great multitude of Revelation 7:14 has come out of the great distress and tribulation that John is saying will soon take place. They are not said to be all the saints of all the ages. To be clear, they do not come out of a seven year Tribulation, but Revelation seems to see them as those from the earth who are saved in the time leading up to the final judgment.

The big difference between Revelation and 1 Thessalonians 4 is that, in Thessalonians, the resurrection of the dead in Christ happens before this snatching from the earth. Further, it seems like those who are "caught up" to meet Christ in the clouds in Paul's understanding then return to participate in the judgment of the world (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:2-3). By contrast, those in Revelation 7 are not said to participate in the final judgment.

We will also notice below that the book of Revelation pictures two resurrections separated by a symbolic thousand year period. Since the book of Revelation is so symbolic, it would be perilous to use it to provide the basic framework for how we think the events will specifically play out. Better to stick with Paul's sense that the resurrection and evacuation/salvation of those in Christ will take place together before the final judgment of the earth. [1]

[1] N. T. Wright is well known for applying his genius to 1 Thessalonians 4 so that it might be taken a little less literally. See, for example, Paul for Everyone: Galatians and 1 Thessalonians (London: SPCK, 2002), 124-26. While he is surely correct that Paul is not picturing the saints going off to heaven forever, while he is surely correct that the image is more of meeting a visitor to escort them back into the city, he may be guilty of trying to "demythologize" the imagery a little too much. Paul probably did picture Jesus as straight up and descending straight down. Wright may certainly be correct that heaven is in another dimension, but no biblical author was equipped to understand what that statement even means.

Four Approaches to Revelation

There are four general approaches to Revelation as a book of prophecy. The most popular by far is the futurist approach. This approach primarily reads Revelation as a book about things that haven’t even happened yet today. Certainly there are elements of Revelation that have not happened yet. For example, Jesus has not yet returned to earth in any literal way. The final resurrection and judgment have not taken place. Many Christians feel that, if they could just understand the imagery of Revelation, they would have a blueprint for the final events of history.

At the same time, John says he is writing about things that are “soon” (1:1). Another approach to Revelation is the preterist approach that sees most of the imagery of Revelation as symbolism about John’s own time. As I just argued above, prophecy wasn’t usually about the far distant future, at least not in the first place. So wouldn’t our first expectation be that Revelation was primarily about the near future of the churches in Asia Minor, to which this scroll was first written?

A middle way between the two previous approaches is the historicist approach. This approach sees Revelation predicting events throughout the last two thousand years of church history. For example, if Babylon symbolizes the Roman Empire, then it did not fall until several hundred years after John was writing. In the past, some have also wanted to make the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 into an allegory of the ages of church history.

Finally, the idealist approach worries less about the concrete references John may have originally pictured and looks more to the timeless struggle between Christ and Satan that goes on in every age. In this approach, we should not so much look to what this symbol predicts or what that image specifically represents but see Revelation more in terms of types of struggles and types of opponents that Christians will face repeatedly in this world.

In my own reading, I have found elements of all of these in Revelation. Certainly I believe that we should start with the assumption that the book of Revelation was relevant to its first audience. Yet its contemporary images quickly blur off into the types of struggles and opponents Christians have faced repeatedly throughout time. And we are also still looking to the final return of Christ in salvation, accompanied by a final resurrection and judgment.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Is there a Tribulation in Revelation?

... The woman was now waiting for the Messiah's return for a season, symbolically represented by 1,260 days. This year and a half period is not literal but represents the current age of persecution, while we are awaiting Christ’s return.

We find this number in several different forms in Revelation. Here it is 1,260 days (12:6). A little later in the chapter it is a “time, times, and half a time” (that is, three and a half years, 12:14). In Revelation 13:5 it is 42 months.

Some have taken this three and a half year period and connected it to the half week of Daniel 9:27. In this line of thinking, there will be a seven year period during the end times when “the Antichrist” will wreak havoc on the earth. It is an ingenious stitching together of verses from here and there in the Bible to predict what will happen during the “Great Tribulation.”

I would not want to say that things will not play out this way. After all, God often fulfills Scriptures in ways no one originally understood. But we should also be clear that this system of connecting things does not actually pay attention to the meanings these verses had originally.

For example, the book of Revelation does not talk about the Great Tribulation. The verse this phrase comes from is Revelation 7:14, but the verse doesn’t have the word “the” there. It simply says that the individuals there have come out of “great tribulation.” No number of years is associated with this time of hardship there.

Similarly, Revelation never doubles the three and a half years into a seven year Tribulation. It is always the same symbolic three and a half years, even if it is expressed in different ways. So while we cannot say whether there will be a distinctively bad seven year period at the end of time, we can say that Revelation does not speak of one.[3]

A further difference between popular prophecy and Revelation is that the Bible never calls some chief human opponent to God the Antichrist. As we saw in the chapter on 1 John, the only place in Scripture that the word “antichrist” appears is in 1 John, where it refers in general to anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ or that he came in the flesh. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 mentions a “man of lawlessness,” who may or may not be the same individual as the “beast” of Revelation (see the next section).

In the end, these are ingenious connections first made by John Nelson Darby in the mid-1800s. They are brilliant, but they require us to see a great deal in these texts that is not obviously there. They are probably distractions that actually prevent us from hearing the texts for what they actually seem to say.

What Revelation 12 seems to say is that, in the time John was writing, Christians were waiting for Jesus to return from heaven to become king over all the nations. But in the meantime, Satan was waging war against God’s people for a certain period of time, symbolized by 1,260 days. And Satan was waging this war by way of a “beast,” who had emerged against the churches of Asia from the sea (13:1).

 [3] The idea of a seven year period comes from the seventy weeks of Daniel 9:24. Since Daniel 11 is clearly about the events that took place in 167BC when the Syrians desecrated the temple, many also take Daniel 9 to be about those events as well.

C4. Hay seres espirituales bien y el mal en el trabajo en el mundo.

Mis disculpas, la traducción inicial para este capítulo provienen de Google Translate. El original en Inglés está aquí. Estos capítulos son reflexiones sobre la teología cristiana de la Wesleyan-arminiana. Las reflexiones sobre Dios están aquí.
Hay seres espirituales buenos y malos en el trabajo en el mundo. Antes de la Ilustración de los años 1600 y 1700, la creencia en seres invisibles como los ángeles y los demonios era parte de la vista de todos sobre el mundo. Ellos siguen siendo parte de la creencia cristiana común hoy en día.

El credo original que salió del Concilio de Nicea en el 325 DC ya hizo un punto de decir que Dios era el "hacedor de todas las cosas visibles e invisibles." Las cosas invisibles aquí se refieren no sólo al hecho de que Dios creó la materia misma de la que se crea el mundo, sino también para indicar que Dios creó a los ángeles, Satanás y los demonios. Nada de lo que existe es creado, pero Dios ha hecho todo lo que es.

1. Ciertas partes del Nuevo Testamento que sea un punto de mostrar que Cristo es superior a todos los poderes espirituales. El himno llamado en Colosenses indica enfáticamente que Cristo creó todos los "tronos, poderes, principados o autoridades" (01:16). Aquí tiene el himno celestial en lugar de las autoridades terrenales a la vista. Cristo es el primogénito de toda la creación (1:15), incluyendo todos los poderes espirituales. Efesios uno y veintiún pone de esta manera, Cristo es "sobre todo principado y autoridad y poder y señorío, y todo nombre que se invoque, no sólo en este siglo, sino también en el venidero."

El sermón de Hebreos en el Nuevo Testamento comienza con una celebración de la entronización de Cristo sobre toda la creación. Él es un hijo, mientras que los ángeles no son más que servidores (por ejemplo, 1:5-14). Es difícil saber exactamente lo que podría haber inspirado una exaltación de himno de Cristo en relación con los ángeles. ¿Algunos piensan que Cristo era más que un ángel? ¿Lograron algunos han demasiado exaltado una vista de los ángeles?

Cualquiera que sea la causa precisa, Hebreos deja claro que Jesús tomó de la sangre humana y de la carne (2:14). Él tomó la carne de los descendientes de Abraham, ni aun los ángeles (2:16-17). Los ángeles son sólo "espíritus ministradores" (1:14), sino que es Cristo y la humanidad están destinados a gobernar en el reino venidero (2:5).

La mayoría de los Judios en los tiempos de Cristo creían en la existencia de los ángeles. El único grupo que puede no tener eran los saduceos, pero esta afirmación se basa únicamente en una interpretación cuestionable de Hechos 23:08. [1] Parece más probable que incluso los saduceos creían en la existencia de los ángeles.

Los ángeles no juegan un papel muy importante en el Antiguo Testamento, pero están presentes incluso en el Génesis (por ejemplo, el general 19:1). De especial interés es el Ángel del Señor, que está tan estrechamente asociado con Dios, que más de un texto flota de ida y vuelta entre decir que el ángel está hablando / presente y diciendo que Dios está hablando / presente (por ejemplo, Éxodo 3.: 2,. Zacarías 3:1-2). A algunos les gustaría a equiparar este ángel con Jesús, aunque originalmente era probablemente más de una instancia de este mensajero de Dios en representación de Dios en su totalidad. La palabra "ángel" en griego y en hebreo significa "mensajero".

En las últimas partes del Antiguo Testamento, comenzamos a escuchar los nombres de los ángeles. El ángel Miguel aparece sólo en Daniel (Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:01) y parece ser el líder de los ejércitos angelicales de Dios, la lucha contra los poderes asociados con otras naciones. [2] Michael también es mencionado en el Nuevo Testamento en Judas 9 y Apocalipsis 12:07.

El ángel Gabriel también se menciona cuatro veces en la Biblia, también a partir de Daniel (8:16; 9:21). Se desempeña un papel de llevar mensajes de Dios a las personas en la tierra. Así que no es de extrañar que el Nuevo Testamento da su nombre como el que trajo el anuncio a María que ella daría a luz al Mesías (Lucas 1:19, 26). También nos hemos enterado de otros nombres de la literatura judía (por ejemplo, Rafael), pero ninguno de ellos han sido incluidos en los (protestantes) los textos bíblicos. [3]

2. Los cristianos en general ven a Satanás como el enemigo-arch angelical de Dios, el más poderoso de todos los seres malignos. (Como argumentaremos en un artículo posterior, que no lo es intrínsecamente malo. Más bien, el mal es un adjetivo usado para describir un cierto tipo de intención en relación con las decisiones que una persona hace.) Al igual que el "hombre de pecado" que se describe en 2 Tesalonicenses 2:04, Satanás se opone a todo lo que se asocia con Dios. Él es "la serpiente antigua, que se llama diablo y Satanás, el cual engaña al mundo entero" (Apocalipsis 12:9).

Apocalipsis aquí identifica a Satanás como la serpiente en el Jardín del Edén. Este fue un desarrollo en el entendimiento de que se llevó a cabo entre el Antiguo y el Nuevo Testamento. Ha sido atestiguada por primera vez en un escrito judío de todo el primer siglo antes de Cristo llamado La vida de Adán y Eva y se atestigua en ninguna parte del Antiguo Testamento. Apocalipsis lo identifica más como un dragón que arrastró la tercera parte de las estrellas del cielo (12:04), a menudo interpretado como que Satanás condujo una rebelión contra Dios celestial que dio lugar a una tercera parte de los ángeles que caen del cielo.

Hay que destacar la cantidad de esta interpretación es tradicional en vez de claramente bíblica. Muchos pensamientos cristianos comunes sobre Satanás son una cuestión de tradición cristiana juntando las interpretaciones de los versos oscuros, aquí y allá, a menudo la lectura de estos versículos fuera de contexto. Eso no quiere decir que la tradición cristiana se equivoca en sus conclusiones, ya que Dios se pone a la Iglesia en la que quiere que vaya. Sin embargo, esto puede significar que hay más espacio para el debate sobre estas cuestiones que algunas otras creencias comunes.

Por ejemplo, Isaías 14 en su contexto no menciona Satanás. Este pasaje fue claramente sobre el rey de Babilonia (cf. Isa. 14:04) y tenía que ver con su eventual "meteórica" caída del poder. En el contexto, el lenguaje de la estrella de la mañana que cae del cielo (14:12) era claramente un lenguaje poético que comparó la caída del poder de Babilonia, a algo así como el lucero de la mañana que cae a la tierra. En ningún otro lugar es "Lucifer" (estrella de la mañana) que se utiliza de Satanás en la Biblia y, de hecho, a Jesús se le llama el lucero del alba en Apocalipsis 22:16.

Del mismo modo, cuando Lucas habla de Satanás caer del cielo (Lucas 10:18, o "desde el cielo"), es en el contexto de los discípulos echar fuera demonios. En contexto, Jesús no está hablando de algún evento que ocurrió en el principio de los tiempos, sino a algo que estaba ocurriendo como resultado de su ministerio. Cada demonio Jesús echó fuera era una señal de que el reino de Dios estaba llegando (Lucas 11:20). Del mismo modo, en Apocalipsis 12:09, el dragón es arrojado a la tierra como parte de la salvación.

En la visión judía del mundo en la época del Nuevo Testamento, los poderes del mal a veces se cree que habitan en la región más baja de los cielos. [4] El diablo es, pues, el "príncipe de la potestad del aire, el espíritu que ahora opera en los hijos de desobediencia" (Efesios 2:2). Hebreos 2:14 llama el Diablo el que tiene el poder de la muerte y ve la muerte de Cristo como la derrota de su poder.

Una vez más, podemos encontrar rastros de menos de entendimientos completamente desarrolladas de Satanás y de los ángeles caídos en las partes más oscuras de la Escritura. 1 Pedro, 2 Pedro y Judas hablan de los ángeles caídos asociados con el diluvio que se "mantienen en la oscuridad, en prisiones eternas, para el juicio del gran día" (Judas 6;.. Cf 1 Pe 3:19-20; 2 Ped. 2:04). Estos comentarios parecen aludir a las tradiciones judías que implican Enoc que entienden los "hijos de Dios" en Génesis 6:02 para ser ángeles caídos. [5]

Del mismo modo, Satanás en Job aún no se dice que es un ángel caído, pero su trabajo parece más bien para poner a prueba los siervos de Dios para ver si van a permanecer fieles. Podría decirse que los tres textos del Antiguo Testamento que mencionan el acusador, Satanás, todos vienen de la época después de que Israel regresó del exilio (Job 1 Crónicas, y Zacarías). En lugar de directamente a Dios tentador o provocar el mal, Satanás ahora se entiende que es una causa directa, con el permiso de Dios.

A pesar de la ruta para llegar allí, la comprensión cristiana común es generalmente que Satanás es un ángel caído, una de las creaciones celestiales de Dios. Al igual que con el resto de la creación, Dios lo creó bueno, pero él y los otros ángeles dio el mismo libre albedrío, que ha dado a Adán y de la humanidad. Él ha elegido en lugar de rebelarse contra Dios. Su elección y la elección de los ángeles se hizo con una altura tal de saber que su elección fue definitiva. Ellos nunca se arrepienten, incluso si se les da la oportunidad.

Los demonios son ángeles caídos similar provocan el mal sobre la tierra. Jesús ministerio terrenal, ya indicó su eventual derrota y la muerte de Jesús concluyó ella. Mientras tanto, continúan la guerra contra los santos en la tierra y para provocar el mal entre los que no tienen el Espíritu de Dios.

3. La distinción entre lo natural y lo sobrenatural era un producto de la subida de la edad de la Ciencia en el 1600. El "natural" llegó a referirse a la naturaleza funciona de acuerdo con las leyes de la naturaleza. El "sobrenatural" de este modo se refirió a la participación de los poderes que no operan de acuerdo con las leyes de la naturaleza.

¿Pueden los ángeles y demonios de eludir las leyes de la naturaleza? Eso parece, al menos en la medida en que los entendemos. En ese sentido, podríamos referirnos a ellos como sobrenatural en que sus acciones no pueden explicarse sobre la base de las leyes de la física tal y como las entendemos. Sin embargo, desde otro punto de vista, son parte de la creación, los agentes personales que toman decisiones y hacen que las cosas sucedan. Tal vez sería más exacto pensar que representan una perspectiva más amplia sobre la naturaleza de lo que somos actualmente capaces de entender.

Hay otras referencias oscuras a los ángeles que parecen demasiado infrecuentes para construir una doctrina profunda de. Por ejemplo, Jesús habla de los ángeles de los niños que aparecen delante de él (Mateo 18:10). Aquí es donde tenemos la idea de los niños tienen ángeles de la guarda, pero es uno de los únicos lugares en la Escritura donde se hace tal comentario.

Del mismo modo, cuando algunos de los primeros cristianos pensaban Peter estaba muerto y sin embargo llama a la puerta, se preguntaban si podría ser su ángel (Hechos 12:15). Existe, pues, la posibilidad de que algunos de los primeros cristianos pensaban de nosotros asumir una cierta forma angelical en el tiempo entre nuestra muerte y resurrección. [6] Incluso Jesús sugiere que en la resurrección, somos como los ángeles (por ejemplo, Marcos 12:25).

Pero, de nuevo, estos son los comentarios relativamente oscuros en las Escrituras. La creencia cristiana común no es que nos convertiremos en ángeles al morir. Los ángeles son "espíritus ministradores, enviados para servir a aquellos que serán herederos de la salvación" (Hebreos 01:14). Pero en nuestra transformada, estado resucitado, seremos más grande que ellos, al igual que la humanidad de Jesús se hizo más grande que ellos en la resurrección. Ellos estarán allí alrededor del trono eterno en el culto con nosotros (por ejemplo, Heb. 12:22), pero vamos a estar allí como reyes y reinas, no como siervos.

Hay seres espirituales bien y el mal en el trabajo en el mundo. Los malvados están destinados a la destrucción, mientras que vamos a adorar al lado de los buenos siempre.

Capítulo siguiente: C5. Los seres humanos fueron creados a imagen de Dios.

[1] Hay una tendencia entre muchos a ver a los saduceos que las versiones antiguas de los liberales modernos y anti-sobrenaturalistas. Pero esta es una lectura anacrónica, una imposición demasiado común y previsible de las cuestiones modernas en las personas antiguas. En algunos aspectos, los saduceos eran más conservadores que los fariseos (por ejemplo, en su visión de la vida futura - creencia de la resurrección no es para nada común en el Antiguo Testamento).

[2] En las primeras partes del Antiguo Testamento, estos son los dioses de las otras naciones. Véase, por ejemplo, Deuteronomio 32:8 en la New Revised Standard Version.

[3] Raphael aparece en todo el libro de Tobías, que está en la Biblia católica y ortodoxa.

[4] Véase, en particular, un escrito judío llamado el Testamento de Leví.

[5] Véase especialmente 1 Enoc, que vio a los orígenes de los demonios en los espíritus malignos que se producen cuando los hijos gigantes de los ángeles y mujeres humanos fueron asesinados.

[6] Véase NT Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Philadelphia: Fortress, 2003), 134.

C4. There are good and evil spiritual beings at work in the world.

Here is the next post in my theology in bullet points series. The previous one is here.
There are both good and evil spiritual beings at work in the world. Before the Enlightenment of the 1600s and 1700s, belief in invisible beings like angels and demons was part of everyone's view of the world. They remain part of common Christian belief today.

The original creed that came out of the Council of Nicaea in AD325 already made a point of saying that God was the "maker of all things visible and invisible." The things invisible here refer not only to the fact that God created the very matter from which the world is created but also to indicate that God created angels, Satan, and demons. Nothing that exists is uncreated, but God has made everything that is.

1. Certain parts of the New Testament make it a point of showing that Christ is superior to all spiritual powers as well. The so called hymn in Colossians emphatically indicates that Christ created all "thrones or powers or rulers or authorities" (1:16). Here the hymn has heavenly rather than earthly authorities in view. Christ is the firstborn over all creation (1:15), including all spiritual powers. Ephesians 1:21 puts it this way, Christ is "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come."

The sermon of Hebrews in the New Testament begins with a celebration of Christ's enthronement over all the creation. He is a Son while the angels are merely servants (e.g., 1:5-14). It is hard to know exactly what might have inspired such a hymnic exaltation of Christ in relation to the angels. Did some think that Christ was merely an angel? Did some have too exalted a view of the angels?

Whatever the precise cause, Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus took on human blood and flesh (2:14). He took on the flesh of Abraham's descendants, not the angels (2:16-17). The angels are just "ministering spirits" (1:14), but Christ and humanity are destined to rule in the coming kingdom (2:5).

Most Jews at the time of Christ believed in the existence of angels. The only group that may not have was the Sadducees, but this claim is based solely on a questionable interpretation of Acts 23:8. [1] It seems more likely that even the Sadducees believed in the existence of angels.

Angels do not play a huge role in the Old Testament, but they are present even in Genesis (e.g., Gen. 19:1). Of special interest is the Angel of the Lord, who is so closely associated with God that more than one text floats back and forth between saying that the Angel is speaking/present and saying that God is speaking/present (e.g., Exod. 3:2; Zech. 3:1-2). Some would like to equate this Angel with Jesus, although originally it was probably more an instance of this messenger of God fully representing God. The word "angel" in both Greek and Hebrew means "messenger."

In the latest parts of the Old Testament, we begin to hear names of angels. The angel Michael appears only in Daniel (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1) and appears to be the leader of God's angelic armies, fighting the powers associated with other nations. [2] Michael is also mentioned in the New Testament in Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7.

The angel Gabriel is also mentioned four times in the Bible, also starting in Daniel (8:16; 9:21). He serves a role of bringing messages from God to individuals on the earth. So it is no surprise that the New Testament gives his name as the one who brought the announcement to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah (Luke 1:19, 26). We also hear of other names in Jewish literature (e.g., Raphael), but none of these have made it into the (Protestant) biblical texts. [3]

2. Christians generally view Satan as the arch-angelic enemy of God, the most powerful of all evil beings. (As we will argue in a later article, no being is intrinsically evil. Rather, evil is an adjective used to describe a certain kind of intention in relation to the choices a person makes.) Like the "man of lawlessness" described in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, Satan is opposed to everything that is associated with God. He is "that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world" (Rev. 12:9).

Revelation here identifies Satan as the serpent in the Garden of Eden. This was a development in understanding that took place between the Old and the New Testaments. It is first attested in a Jewish writing from around the first century BC called The Life of Adam and Eve and is nowhere attested in the Old Testament itself. Revelation further identifies him as a dragon who swept a third of the stars from heaven (12:4), often interpreted to mean that Satan led a heavenly rebellion against God that resulted in a third of the angels falling from heaven.

We should point out how much of this interpretation is traditional rather than clearly biblical. Many common Christian thoughts on Satan are a matter of Christian tradition piecing together interpretations of obscure verses here and there, often reading those verses out of context. That does not mean that Christian tradition is wrong on its conclusions, since God gets the Church where he wants it to go. However, it may mean that there is more room for debate on these matters than some other common beliefs.

For example, Isaiah 14 in context does not mention Satan. This passage was clearly about the king of Babylon (cf. Isa. 14:4) and had to do with his eventual "meteoric" fall from power. In context, language of the morning star falling from the sky (14:12) was clearly poetic language that compared the fall of Babylon's power to something like the day star falling to the earth. Nowhere else is "Lucifer" (morning star) used of Satan in the Bible and in fact Jesus is called the morning star in Revelation 22:16.

Similarly, when Luke talks about Satan falling from heaven (Luke 10:18, or "from the sky"), it is in the context of the disciples casting out demons. In context, Jesus is not talking about some event that happened at the beginning of time but to something that was happening as a result of his ministry. Every demon Jesus cast out was a sign that the kingdom of God was arriving (Luke 11:20). Similarly, in Revelation 12:9, the dragon is cast to the earth as part of salvation.

In the Jewish view of the world at the time of the New Testament, evil powers were sometimes thought to inhabit the lowest region of heaven. [4] The Devil is thus the "ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient" (Eph. 2:2). Hebrews 2:14 calls the Devil the one who has the power of death and sees Christ's death as the defeat of his power.

Again, we may find traces of less than fully developed understandings of Satan and of fallen angels in more obscure parts of Scripture. 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude speak of fallen angels associated with the Flood who are "kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day" (Jude 6; cf. 1 Pet. 3:19-20; 2 Pet. 2:4). These comments seem to allude to Jewish traditions involving Enoch that understood the "sons of God" in Genesis 6:2 to be fallen angels. [5]

Similarly, Satan in Job is not yet said to be a fallen angel but his job seems rather to test God's servants to see if they will remain faithful. Arguably the three Old Testament texts that mention the accuser, Satan, all come from the period after Israel returned from exile (Job. 1 Chronicles, and Zechariah). Rather than God directly tempting or provoking evil, Satan is now understood to be a direct cause, with God's permission.

Despite the path to get there, common Christian understanding is generally that Satan is a fallen angel, one of the heavenly creations of God. As with the rest of the creation, God created him good but gave him and the other angels the same free will that he gave to Adam and humanity. He has chosen instead to rebel against God. His choice and the choice of the angels was made with such a height of knowledge that their choice was definitive. They would never repent even if given the opportunity.

Demons are fallen angels who similarly provoke evil on the earth. Jesus' earthly ministry already signaled their eventual defeat, and Jesus' death finalized it. In the meantime, they continue to wage war against the saints on earth and to provoke evil among those without the Spirit of God.

3. The distinction between natural and supernatural was a by-product of the rise of the Scientific Age in the 1600s. The "natural" came to refer to nature operating according to the laws of nature. The "supernatural" thus referred to the engagement of powers that did not operate according to the laws of nature.

Can angels and demons circumvent the laws of nature? It would seem so, at least to the extent that we understand them. In that sense, we might refer to them as supernatural in that their actions cannot be accounted for on the basis of the laws of physics as we understand them. However, from another perspective, they are part of the creation, personal agents who make choices and cause things to happen. Perhaps it would be more accurate to think that they represent a bigger perspective on nature than we are currently able to understand.

There are other obscure references to angels that seem too infrequent to build a thoroughgoing doctrine from. For example, Jesus speaks of the angels of children appearing before his face (Matt. 18:10). This is where we get the idea of children having guardian angels, but it is one of the only places in Scripture where such a comment is made.

Similarly, when some early Christians thought Peter was dead and yet knocking at the door, they wondered if it might be his angel (Acts 12:15). There is thus the possibility that some early Christians thought of us taking on a certain angelic form in the time between our death and resurrection. [6] Even Jesus suggests that in the resurrection we are like the angels (e.g., Mark 12:25).

But, again, these are relatively obscure comments in Scripture. The common Christian belief is not that we will become angels at death. The angels are "ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation" (Heb. 1:14). But in our transformed, resurrected state, we will be greater than them, like the humanity of Jesus became greater than them in resurrection. They will be there around the eternal throne in worship with us (e.g., Heb. 12:22), but we will be there as kings and queens, not as servants.

There are good and evil spiritual beings at work in the world. The evil ones are destined for destruction, while we will worship alongside the good ones forever.

Next Sunday: C5. Human beings were created in the image of God.

[1] There is a tendency among many to see the Sadducees as ancient versions of modern liberals and anti-supernaturalists. But this is an anachronistic reading, an all too common and predictable imposition of modern issues on ancient individuals. In some respects, the Sadducees were more conservative than the Pharisees (for example, in their view of the afterlife--resurrection belief is not at all common in the Old Testament).

[2] In earlier parts of the Old Testament, these are the gods of the other nations. See, for example, Deuteronomy 32:8 in the New Revised Standard Version.

[3] Raphael appears throughout the book of Tobit, which is in the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles.

[4] See in particular a Jewish writing called the Testament of Levi.

[5] See especially 1 Enoch, which saw the origins of demons in the evil spirits produced when the giant offspring of angels and human women were killed.

[6] See N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Philadelphia: Fortress, 2003), 134.

Revelation: The Woman and the Dragon

In the previous chapter, we looked at the beginning of Revelation, which sets up the book as an apocalypse (Rev. 1). Then we discussed the heart of the letter part of Revelation (Rev. 2-3). In the chapter that follows this one, we will look at Revelation 4-11 and other parts of Revelation that give us imagery of the final judgment and victory of God and Christ. In this chapter, we want to look at some of the middle chapters in Revelation.

The imagery of Revelation 12 is not difficult to understand, especially if we can get in mind that the events of Revelation do not all happen in a chronological order. The chapters that come right before have been giving us image after image of the final judgment. But when we get to Revelation 12, we have arrived at the eye of the storm. John pauses for a moment to step back and give us the heavenly story that has gotten us to this point.

The woman with a crown of twelve stars on her head is clearly Israel, with the twelve stars standing for the twelve tribes of Israel. John is a Jew. Assuming that he is John the son of Zebedee, he is not just any Jew. He is a very conservative Christian Jew. Remember in Galatians 2 when Paul appeared before Peter, James, and John. Thy did not force Paul to have his Gentile coworker Titus become circumcised, but the wording of 2:3 makes us think they would have preferred it.

But some of the things John writes in his letters also makes it clear that he does not consider all the Jews of the world to truly be Jews. Some synagogues in his world are rather "synagogues of Satan" (e.g., 2:9; 3:9). We can imagine that John believed Jewish believers to be the true remnant of Israel and that those in these opposing synagogues were not truly Israel at all.

The true Israel stands at the heart of the coming kingdom. On the one hand, John clearly has a place for the Gentiles in the kingdom. After all, there are people there from every "nation, tribe, people, and language" (7:9). But the heart of the kingdom are the 144,000 who were sealed from the twelve tribes, 12,000 from each. [1] For John, these did not represent all the Jews of the past but the Jews alive in John's day who were currently suffering but eventually going to be saved--true Israel.

And here it is worthwhile to pause and think about what is going on in the book of Revelation. In Revelation, John's time blurs into all time, which blurs into the end time. John is thus both preterist and idealist and futurist all at the same time, like three images all overlaid on each other. The first image is that of John's day and events going on at the time he was writing. But these struggles would become the struggles of all time throughout church history. Yet we believe that there will be a final judgment and Jesus will return to earth. God will set the world to right.

So the woman represents true Israel (12:1). The dragon obviously represents Satan (12:3). He has seven heads which, we will see, represent Rome. The dragon swept a third of the stars out of the sky, which may refer to the angels that "did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling" (Jude 6). In other words, the verse refers to the fallen angels.

The child to which the woman gives birth is Jesus, the Messiah, destined to rule the world (12:5). He was "snatched up to God and his throne" when he rose from the dead. The woman was now waiting for his return for a season, symbolically represented by 1,260 days. This year and a half period is not literal but represents the current age of persecution, while we are awaiting Christ's return.

It is tempting to see imagery of the early Christian escape from Jerusalem just before the Roman siege of the city. According to an early tradition, the early Christians fled to Pella in keeping with Mark 13:14, which warned Christians to flee to the mountains when they saw the Romans coming to desecrate Jerusalem. Could Revelation 12:13-16 allude to the escape of the Jerusalem church from the city? Meanwhile, the dragon turns to the rest of those in the world who keep God's commands (12:17)...

[1] We shouldn't think of this as a literal number. It is rather symbolic.