Good question: Was Jesus a failed apocalyptic prophet that the embarrassed church had to re-work into something different?


[Draft: May 5/2013]

(This is a different question than 'Was Jesus a Failed Messiah?')

 

Hi Glen(sic) Miller,

I recently discovered your excellent site when I was looking up arguments to go against an atheist with, and I was and am impressed with the high level of research and time that you put into each of the hard questions you tackle. So when I came across a blog post on a forum that really bothered me, I felt that you may do the best job of refuting it.

My apologetics question is basically, "Was Jesus a Failed Eschatological Prophet?" This is not just asking about a few verses, but about the purpose of Jesus' ministry and its "apparent" unfulfillment. Numerous references by Jesus (and other New Testament writers) to a nearing of the end times have always bothered me in the back of my mind, but this blog post (which I will copy in its entirety here) really shakes my faith. It basically tries to show that the thrust of Jesus' message was that His end-times kingdom was coming very soon, and all his followers like Paul and John believed this. Then when this didn't come true, the church distanced itself from the end times, such as in the last Gospel, John, where its message focuses more on eternal life than the apocalypse. I had originally came across this post in a forum because I was bothered with Jesus' statement in Matthew 26:64 that the high priest would see Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven. Yet this post I found was much broader in its attacks on Jesus and the New Testament message.

By the way, I did search your topics list to see if you addressed this issue, and your article to a Finland reader (
http://christianthinktank.com/qaim.html) was very helpful. I do not ask that you repeat your responses from that article, but only I wish that you would answer some of the other arguments mentioned in the blog post that has been bothering me, which is below (I apologize for the length of this post -- but I'm truly troubled by it):

 

 

PART NINE (B) ==================== (see Part One for series header)

 

This takes the question discussed in Part 7 and Part 8: "Is there a clear pattern of successive watering down of Jesus' prediction of the Eschaton AFTER the NT documents?"  and extends that discussion into the non-canonical and non-apocalyptic post-NT literature. [The non-canonical apocalyptic literature was treated in Part 9A of this.]

 

So, the revised version of the question here is:

 

Do the NT apocrypha seem to continue this 'backpedaling' on a failed prediction of Jesus?

 

Of course, by now the reader has seen that there IS no 'backpedaling' or watering-down of the apocalyptic language or eschatological hope of the Jesus of the Synoptic gospels to be 'continued'.  Instead, we have seen all three eschatological frameworks (realized eschatology, futurist/apocalyptic eschatology, and inaugurated eschatology) present throughout the NT literature and Church fathers.

 

These have shown up in all strata, all genres, and all authors. They have shown up in direct teachings, as grounding bases for ethical injunctions, and as causes for praise, hope, celebration, and endurance.

 

 

..................................................................................... ...................................

 

Okay, now to move on to the non-apocalyptic  Apocryphal writings...

 

 

 

Let's look at the texts that are considered in this category.

 

We will examine all of the (remaining) texts in the two-volume collection by Schneemelcher [NTA].

 

We are taking a couple of different approaches to this investigation. [Approaches One and Two are discussed in Part 9A.]

 

Our first/main approach here was to check the indices of the works for references to the main (alleged) timing passages in MR/MT:

 

·         Mark 13:30 (this generation shall not pass...)

·         Matt 10.23 (you will not have gone through the towns... until the Son of Man comes)

·         Matt 24.14 (end will not come until the gospel is preached to the whole world)

·         Matt 24.34 (this generation shall not pass...)

·         Matt 26.64 (from now on you will see the Son of Man seated...and coming on clouds...)

 

Any 're-interpretation' of the timing elements would (presumably?) have to at least allude to these texts. [Of course, the 'return' could be re-interpreted itself (as in Gnosticism) without reference to these texts, but we will examine this later]

 

We found no evidence of WDing here.

 

Approach two: We looked at the works ‘most likely to have timing re-interpretations’ in them—the apocalyptic works/passages.

 

[The NT apocrypha, of course, contains many different genres—infancy gospels, Acts of XYZ, epistles—but the apocalyptic genre (and passages) will have the highest ‘density’ of eschatological language, and therefore the greatest relevance for us.]

 

The last third of Volume Two of [NTA] deals with apocalypses and 'related subjects'. It contains the following entries:

 

·         Apocalyptic in Early Christianity

o   The Ascension of Isaiah

o   Apocalypse of Peter (Ethiopic, discussed above)

·         Apocalyptic Prophecy in the Early Church

o   The Fifth and Six Books of Esra

o   Christian Sibyllines

o   The Book of Elchasai

·         Later Apocalypses

o   The Coptic Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul [will discuss under “Gnosticism”]

o   The Coptic Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter [will discuss under “Gnosticim”]

o   Apocalypse of Paul

o   Apocalypse of Thomas

 

 

We found that there is no reinterpretation going on in these, no ‘realized eschatology’,  no ‘rescheduling this’ into the distant future.

 

That was Approach Two. The ‘usual suspects’ of apocalyptic works and passages do not evidence any WDing. They do not manifest any concern over ‘delay’. And the only writings which tried to ‘reschedule the Return’ differently were exceptions to the mainstream beliefs.

 

 

Approach three: Now we will broaden our search to look at eschatological passages in (seemingly) non-apocalyptic apocrypha.

 

Here we are trying to find things like ‘sermons’ in the midst of “Acts of XYZ” or apocalyptic discourses (typically of a ‘Jesus’) in epistles or other narratives (e.g. “Dialogues of the Savior” genre).

 

 

[We already discussed a couple of these in PART9A--a few Dialogue-genre entries.]

 

By my count, there are 68-70 such entries in NTA1 and NTA2, of which 25-28 are “mostly” Gnostic in content.

 

Here is the list with vol:page, suggested date (or no.date.given), and a remark or two on the character of the work. Gnostic mostly/entirely works are in italics. Some of the entries already discussed are removed. We will go back through the non-Gnostic works below, and assess them for relevancy.

 

 

SEQ

Work

NTA (vol:page)

Date

Character

1

Oxy Papy 840

1:94

ndg

Jesus speaking; synoptic-sounding

2

Papyrus Egerton 2

1:96

150-200?

close to the gospels

3

Oxy Papyrus 1224

1:100

pre-4th

close to the gospels

4

Papyrus Cairensis 10 735

1:101

ndg

close to the gospels

5

Fayyum Fragment

1:102

ndg

close to the gospels

6

Strasbourg Coptic Papyrus

1:103

3rd?


7

Coptic Gospel of Thomas

1:110

mid-2nd

sayings; gnostic

8

Gospel of the Nazareans

1:154

first half of 2nd

secondary; basically orthodox

9

Gospel of the Ebionites

1:166

first half of 2nd

aberrant Christology

10

Gospel of the Hebrews

1:172

first half of 2nd

syncretistic-gnostic; aberrant history

11

Gospel of Phillip

1:179

2nd-3rd

Valentinian+

12

Gospel of the Egyptians

1:209

first half of 2nd

promoting encratism; used by Naassenes and Sabellans; semi-Gnostic

13

Gospel of Peter

1:216

2nd

mixed orthodoxy

14





15

The Book of Thomas

1:232

2nd-3rd

no actual Christian content! Some anti-Xn

16

The Freer Logion

1:248

pre-4th

(Mark 16.14 addition)

17

Apocryphon of James

1:285


Fully Gnostic

18

Dialogue of the Savior

1:300


Fully Gnostic

19

First Apocalypse of James

1:313


Fully Gnostic

20

Second Apocalypse of James

1:327


Fully Gnostic

21

Letter of Peter to Phillip

1:342


gnostic (+,-)

22

Gospel of the 4 Heavenly Regions

1:356


contents UNK

23

Gospel of Perfection

1:357

2nd

contents UNK

24

Gospel of Truth

1:358


(Nag H.)

25

Gospel of Eve

1:358

2nd


26

Sophia Jesu Christi

1:361



27

Pitis Spohia

1:361

200-300

Sethians or Severians

28

2 books of Jeu

1:370

early 3rd


29

Gospel of the 12 (apostles)

1:374

pre-Origen

contents UNK

30

The (Kukean) Gospel of the 12

1:375



31

The Memoria Apostolorum

1:376



32

The (Manichean) Gospel of the 12 apostles

1:378


Mani

33

Gospel of the 70

1:380


mani

34

Gospel according to Matthias/Traditions

1:382

early 3rd


35

Gospel of Judas

1:386

pre-180

gnostic (+,-)

36

Apocryphon of John

1:387



37

Fragments of a dialogue between Jesus and John

1:388



38

The Questions of Mary

1:390



39

Gospel of Mary

1:391

2nd


40

The 'Genna Marias'

1:395



41

Gospel of Cerinthus

1:397

NDG

UNK

42

Gospel of Basilides

1:397

pre-Origen

UNK

43

Gospel of Marcion

1:399

ndg

Marcionite

44

Gospel of Apelles

1:399

pre-Jerome

UNK; Marcionite(?)

45

Gospel of Bardesanes

1:400

ndg

UNK

46

Gospel of Mani (or quotes from Mani)

1:401

3rd-4th

quotes from GoJ (my kingdom is not of this world); some GoThomas quotes; "redeem you from death and annihilation"; "I am near you like in the clothing of the body"; GoM considered to the 'opposite to what Christians hold'

47

Protevangelium of James

1:421

late 2nd at earliest

Mariology, mostly; infancy gospel

48

Infancy story of Thomas

1:439

end of 2nd

childhood miracles of Jesus

49

Abgar Legend

1:492

end of 3rd

anti-Manichean

50

Gospel of Nicodemus. Acts of Pilate. Christ's Descent into Hell

1:501

3rd

embellishments to Pilate/trial/tomb events

51

Gospel of Bartholomew

1:537

3rd? But connected to Qs of B

UNK

52

Gospel of Gamaliel

1:558

not before 5-6th

orthodox

53

Kerygma Petri

2:34

1st half of 2nd

semi-apologetic; fragments only (Pseudo-Clementines)

54

Epistle to the Laodiceans

2:42

between 2nd and 4th

Forgery; Pauline patch-work

55

Correspondence between Seneca and Paul

2:46

4th

no real content?

56

Pseudo-Titus Epistle

2:53

post-Cyprian

ascetic/pro-celibacy

57

Acts of Andrew

2:101

3rd

Manicheans/Priscillianists. Encratism; no reference to global eschatology; no salvation in Christ; no allusions to Jesus' life, death, resurrection or preaching(!); "clear proximity to Gnosticism"

58

Acts of John

2:152

first half of 3rd

anti-GoJohn; "clearly gnostic character"; "no continuity with the OT"; "encratite"; used by Manicheans and Priscillianists

59

Acts of Paul

2:213

late 2nd

pro-celebacy; non-theological; edifying entertainment; non-heretical; pro-Paul

60

Acts of Peter

2:271

late 2nd

pro-celebacy; non-theological; edifying entertainment; non-heretical; pro-Peter; apolgetic; legends

61

Acts of Thomas

2:322

early 3rd

semi-Manichean; encratite; many orthodox elements/sections; half-gnostic; Bardaisan concepts/images; Middle-Platonic

62

Acts of Peter and the 12 Apostles

2:412

pre-4th

hybrid genre; surrealist; not exlicitly gnostic or heretical; much is symbolic; hodgepodge of stories/settings

63

Later Acts of the Apostles

2:426

4th and later

based on Big5 ApocActs; "relative poverty in ideas"; 40 given in NTA2;

64

Letter of Peter to James

2:493

3rd-5th?

fictional intro to KP

65

Contestatio

2:494

3rd-5th?


66

Letter of Clement to James

2:496

3rd-5th?


67

The Clementine Romance

2:504

3rd-5th?


68

Kerygmata Petrou

2:531

3rd?

gnostic-Judaic; anti-Paulinism;

 

 

Now, here’s the list after the gnostic works are removed (40 total):

 

SEQ

Work

NTA (vol:page)

Date

Character

1

Oxy Papy 840

1:94

ndg

Jesus speaking; synoptic-sounding

2

Papyrus Egerton 2

1:96

150-200?

close to the gospels

3

Oxy Papyrus 1224

1:100

pre-4th

close to the gospels

4

Papyrus Cairensis 10 735

1:101

ndg

close to the gospels

5

Fayyum Fragment

1:102

ndg

close to the gospels

6

Strasbourg Coptic Papyrus

1:103

3rd?


7

Gospel of the Nazareans

1:154

first half of 2nd

secondary; basically orthodox

8

Gospel of the Ebionites

1:166

first half of 2nd

aberrant Christology

9

Gospel of the Hebrews

1:172

first half of 2nd

syncretistic-gnostic; aberrant history

10

Gospel of the Egyptians

1:209

first half of 2nd

promoting encratism; used by Naassenes and Sabellans; semi-Gnostic

11

Gospel of Peter

1:216

2nd

mixed orthodoxy

12

The Book of Thomas

1:232

2nd-3rd

no actual Christian content! Some anti-Xn

13

The Freer Logion

1:248

pre-4th

(Mark 16.14 addition)

14

Gospel of the 4 Heavenly Regions

1:356


contents UNK

15

Gospel of Perfection

1:357

2nd

contents UNK

16

Gospel according to Matthias/Traditions

1:382

early 3rd


17

Gospel of Cerinthus

1:397

NDG

UNK

18

Gospel of Basilides

1:397

pre-Origen

UNK

19

Gospel of Marcion

1:399

ndg

Marcionite

20

Gospel of Apelles

1:399

pre-Jerome

UNK; Marcionite(?)

21

Gospel of Bardesanes

1:400

ndg

UNK

22

Gospel of Mani (or quotes from Mani)

1:401

3rd-4th

quotes from GoJ (my kingdom is not of this world); some GoThomas quotes; "redeem you from death and annihilation"; "I am near you like in the clothing of the body"; GoM considered to the 'opposite to what Christians hold'

23

Protevangelium of James

1:421

late 2nd at earliest

Mariology, mostly; infancy gospel

24

Abgar Legend

1:492

end of 3rd

anti-Manichean

25

Gospel of Nicodemus. Acts of Pilate. Christ's Descent into Hell

1:501

3rd

embellishments to Pilate/trial/tomb events

26

Gospel of Bartholomew

1:537

3rd? But connected to Qs of B

UNK

27

Gospel of Gamaliel

1:558

not before 5-6th

orthodox

28

Kerygma Petri

2:34

1st half of 2nd

semi-apologetic; fragments only (Pseudo-Clementines)

29

Epistle to the Laodiceans

2:42

between 2nd and 4th

Forgery; Pauline patch-work

30

Correspondence between Seneca and Paul

2:46

4th

no real content?

31

Pseudo-Titus Epistle

2:53

post-Cyprian

ascetic/pro-celibacy

32

Acts of Paul

2:213

late 2nd

pro-celebacy; non-theological; edifying entertainment; non-heretical; pro-Paul

33

Acts of Peter

2:271

late 2nd

pro-celebacy; non-theological; edifying entertainment; non-heretical; pro-Peter; apolgetic; legends

34

Acts of Thomas

2:322

early 3rd

semi-Manichean; encratite; many orthodox elements/sections; half-gnostic; Bardaisan concepts/images; Middle-Platonic

35

Acts of Peter and the 12 Apostles

2:412

pre-4th

hybrid genre; surrealist; not exlicitly gnostic or heretical; much is symbolic; hodgepodge of stories/settings

36

Later Acts of the Apostles

2:426

4th and later

based on Big5 ApocActs; "relative poverty in ideas"; 40 given in NTA2;

37

Letter of Peter to James

2:493

3rd-5th?

fictional intro to KP

38

Contestatio

2:494

3rd-5th?


39

Letter of Clement to James

2:496

3rd-5th?


40

The Clementine Romance

2:504

3rd-5th?


 

Now we will remove the entries for which we have no real knowledge of the contents--they are only mentioned by name or allusion in the writings of the early church (indicated by UNK in the tables). This leaves us with 33 relevant texts to look at.

 

What we are looking for in these texts are indications of ‘reinterpretation’ of terminology historically associated with a future return of Christ to the earth (in apocalyptic fashion) to set up an earthly kingdom. The re-interpretation must be ‘exhaustive’--it must now allow ANY future fulfillment of those future expectations. So, this would mean that:

 

·         Anything that has both a ‘present’ and a ‘future’ aspect counts as strong data for the ‘inauguration’ view.

 

·         Any terminology which suggests a future bodily coming of Christ, or counsels the reader to ‘wait for’ His return, or alludes to (or quotes) verbiage or images from the Synoptic Apocalypse counts as strong data against the reinterpretation/watering-down view.

 

·         General references to end-time events (eg, final judgment, eternal punishment, elimination of death) count as data against the WD thesis. It will not be strong data unless the passages suggest that such events are ‘close enough to worry about’--in that case, they count for an imminent expectation of the End.

 

·         References to more Jewish-specific eschatological elements (eg, judgment on Jerusalem, Elijah, earthy reign of Messiah, synoptic-centric references to the Kingdom of God/heaven, worldwide mission to the Gentiles, Antichrist/Beast themes) count as strong data against WD, since they presuppose the core of the apocalyptic worldview of Jews and Jewish-Christians of the period.

 

·         References to post-mortem (but pre-resurrection) existence in heaven does NOT count against WD, unless there is some indication that those disembodied souls will RETURN to bodies for some additional experience of blessings of God’s reign. If such a resurrection (or ‘redemption of the body’, etc) is seen in the text, then this DOES count as evidence against WD.

 

 

 

 

Let’s start through these, looking for relevant passages.

 

1. Oxy Papy 840 [NoDateGiven -- Jesus speaking; synoptic-sounding]

Nothing strongly relevant--just a reference to future punishment and great torment.

 

2. Papyrus Egerton 2 [150-200? -- close to the gospels]

Nothing relevant--no reference to eschat themes

 

3. Oxy Papyrus 1224 [pre-4th -- close to the gospels]

Nothing relevant--no reference to eschat themes

 

4. Papyrus Cairensis 10 735 [NoDateGiven -- close to the gospels]

Nothing relevant--no reference to eschat themes

 

5. Fayyum Fragment [NoDateGiven -- close to the gospels]

Nothing relevant--no reference to eschat themes

 

6. Strasbourg Coptic Papyrus [3rd? -- ]

 

Data:

·         (Prayer of Jesus):  I have become King through you Father, Thou will make all subject to Me;

·         (Prayer of Jesus): through whom will the last enemy/sting of death be destroyed? Through the only-begotten…

 

Relevance: Strong data against WD: reign of Christ still future, yet already a king.

 

 

7. Gospel of the Nazareans [first half of 2nd -- secondary; basically orthodox]

 

Data:

·         "the bread which you will give us in your kingdom give us this day";

·         "the kingdom of heaven is ravished/plundered" [cf Matt 11.12]

 

Relevance: Favors inaugurated view (kingdom future and present), as in the Synoptics.

 

8. Gospel of the Ebionites [first half of 2nd -- aberrant Christology]

Nothing relevant--no reference to eschat theme

 

9. Gospel of the Hebrews [first half of 2nd -- syncretistic-gnostic; aberrant history]

 

Data:

·         "Son shall reign forever"

·         "He who wonders shall reign, and he who reigns shall rest" (familiar gnostic saying)

 

Relevance: Nothing much--eternal reign of the Son is too ambiguous in this context.

 

10. Gospel of the Egyptians [first half of 2nd -- promoting encratism; used by Naassenes and Sabellans; semi-Gnostic]

 

Data:

·         When asked when the kingdom would come, Jesus uttered the 'when the 2 become one…' discourse [cf. 2 Clement, expanding this to "two become one, male as female…"]

·         'death shall reign till women stop child-bearing' (?)

 

Relevance:

Moderately against the WD thesis. This has strong Gnostic content, but the two statements that look eschatological show that people were still asking the questions about ‘when’ the ‘future’ kingdom would come, obviously. Even though the answers given are Gnostic, there is a tacit admission that a future kingdom (different from the ‘realized one’ the Gnostics professed) was expected.

 

 

 

11. Gospel of Peter [2nd -- mixed orthodoxy]

 

Data:

·         “Then the Jews and the elders and the priests, perceiving what great evil they had done to themselves began to lament and to say, 'woe on our sins, the judgment and the end of Jerusalem is drawn nigh'" (7.25)

 

Relevance: Some evidence against WD, in that the judgment is connected to the end of Jerusalem (like the standard interpretation of the Synoptic Apocalypse):

 

 

 

12. The Book of Thomas [2nd-3rd -- no actual Christian content! Some anti-Xn]

Nothing really relevant here, except that it has a very vivid description of Tartaros/Hades and infernal fire!

 

 

13. The Freer Logion [pre-4th -- (Mark 16.14 addition)]

 

Data:

·         Very eschat; two ages (present one controlled by Satan); future woes; disciples asking Him for Him to reveal His glory

 

Relevance:

Strong evidence against WD--supports Inaug* and shows that the imminence question was still very active even this late.

 

 

14. Gospel according to Matthias/Traditions [early 3rd -- ]

Nothing relevant--no reference to eschat theme

 

15. Gospel of Marcion [No Date Given -- Marcionite]

Nothing relevant--no reference to eschat theme

 

 

16. Gospel of Mani (or quotes from Mani) [3rd-4th -- GoM considered to the 'opposite to what Christians hold' by the early church.]

 

Data:

·         Quotes from GoJ (my kingdom is not of this world);

·         Some GoThomas quotes; "redeem you from death and annihilation"; "I am near you like in the clothing of the body"

 

Relevance: Unclear-- has gnostic elements, but some anti-Christian beliefs(?), might not really fit in this category.

 

 

17. Protevangelium of James [late 2nd at earliest -- Mariology, mostly; infancy gospel]

 

Data:

 

·         "because of you the Lord at the end of the days will manifest his redemption to the children of Israel' (7.2)?

 

Relevance:

Moderately strong data against WD--supports futurist view/earthly kingdom aspect; Jewish-centric redemption.

 

18. Abgar Legend [end of 3rd -- anti-Manichean]

Nothing relevant--no reference to eschat theme

 

 

19. Gospel of Nicodemus. Acts of Pilate. Christ's Descent into Hell [3rd -- embellishments to Pilate/trial/tomb events]

 

Data:

·         "If Jesus is remembered after fifty years, he will reign forever and create for himself a new people" (xvi.7);

·         'and the Lord shall be king over all the earth on that day" (xvi.8);

·         "What do you desire, Seth?...Therefore go and tell your father that after the completion of 5,500 years from the creation of the world, the only-begotton Son of God shall become man and shall descend upon the earth..." (xix);

·         "We (Elijah/Enoch) shall live until the end of the world. But then we shall be sent by God to withstand Antichrist and to be killed by him. And after three days we shall rise again and be caught up in clouds to meet the Lord" (xxv)

 

Relevance:

Strong data against WD--strong support for earthly kingdom and Jewish apok expectations, places Incarnation date calculated from Seth, images from Revelation and Thessalonians.

 

20. Gospel of Gamaliel [not before 5-6th -- orthodox]

Nothing relevant--no reference to eschat themes

 

21. Kerygma Petri [1st half of 2nd -- semi-apologetic; fragments only ]

 

Data:

·         "And after 12 years go ye out into the world that no one may say 'We have not heard it'" (Clem. Alex. Strom. VI 5.43);

·         "And I sent them… into the world to proclaim to men in all the world the joyous message… and to reveal what future happenings there would be through faith in me [Christ]..." (Clem. Alex. Strom VI 6.48);

·         "... his assumption to heaven before the foundation/destruction of Jerusalem" (Clem.Alex.Strom. VI 6.48ff; text is unclear here: if ‘foundation’, then it is probably a reference to the New Jerusalem; if ‘destruction’, then probably a reference to judgment in the Synoptic Apocalypse)

 

Relevance: Slight evidence against WD--supports futurist view and Gentile mission.

 

 

22. Epistle to the Laodiceans [between 2nd and 4th -- Forgery; Pauline patch-work]

Nothing of relevance--no eschat themes (one reference to ‘eternal life by works’?)

 

23. Correspondence between Seneca and Paul [4th -- no real content?]

Nothing of relevance--no eschat themes

 

 

24. Pseudo-Titus Epistle [late 3rd at earliest -- ascetic/pro-celibacy]

 

Data:

·         "fire of everlasting punishment"?

·         "But come and ponder over this, that there is one who tries the soul and a last day of retribution and persecution";

·         "These happenings have been recorded for us on whom the end of the age has come";

·         "and, again, after the slaughter of the beast, the first resurrection will take place, and then will the faithless souls return to their dwellings and according to the increase of their evil-doings will their torment be augmented beyond the first punishment";

·         “...coming retribution...eternal torment...";

·         "will neither marry or ... Thus we must endeavour through blameless conduct to gain for ourselves everlasting honour in the future age";

·         "In the last judgment they (apostles) they will appear, equipped with might, to perform miracles against the Gentiles. and they will judge the twelve tribes of Israel, sitting on twelve thrones";

·         "to him who overcometh, I will grant to sit at my right hand in My throne"

 

Relevance:

Strong data against WD--many futurist images (somewhat uncommon in ascetic works), Antichrist, synoptic terminology, strong support for futurist/literal/Jewish apok.

 

 

25. Acts of Paul [late 2nd -- pro-celibacy; non-theological; edifying entertainment; non-heretical; pro-Paul]

 

Data:

·         "Blessed are they who through love of God have departed from the form of this world, for they shall judge angels and at the right hand of the Father they shall be blessed." (3.6);

·         "For the word of the Father shall be for them [virgins] a work of salvation in the day of his Son, and they shall have rest for ever and ever" (3.6);

·         resurrection contingent on chastity; "and then we [evil Demas and Hermogenes] shall teach thee concerning the resurrection which he [Paul] says is to come, that it has already taken place in the children whom we have, and that we are risen again in that we have come to know the true God' (3.15--see 2 Tim 2.18);

·         "Form  good resolve, and be ye saved, lest God be wroth and burn you with unquenchable fire, and the memory of you perish" (7.1);

·         "..and the world will be destroyed in fire because of the lawlessness of men..." (7.2);

·         "For <my> Lord Jesus Christ will quickly come, since he is rejected by those who falsify his words" (8.3.3);

·         conditional resurrection only of believers (8,3.24ff);

·         "For behold, I go away to a furnace of fire <Rome?>" (9.6);

·         quotes Jesus 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand' (10.8);

·         "Who made thee alive? And he youth (servant of Nero, raised by Paul), borne by the conviction of faith, said: 'Christ Jesus, the king of the ages. But Caesar in perplexity said: 'So he is to be king of the ages, and destroy all the kingdoms?' Patroclus said to him:  'Yes, all the kingdoms under heaven he destroys, and he alone shall be forever, and there shall be no kingdom which shall escape him.' But he struck him on the face and said: 'Patroclus, dost thou also serve in that king's army?' And he said: 'Yes, lord Caesar, for indeed he raised me up when I was dead'" (11.2);

·         "For in one day he will destroy the world with fire" (11.3);

·         ".. the Lord Jesus Christ who is coming to judge the world" (11.3);

·         "For we do not march , as you suppose, with a king who comes from earth, but one from heaven, the living God, who comes as judge because of the lawless deeds that are done in this world. And blessed is that man who shall believe in him, and live forever, when he comes to burn the world till it is pure' (11.4);

·         "Bu since I live to God and love myself, I go to the Lord that I may come (again) with him in the glory of the Father" (11.4)

 

Relevance:

Very strong evidence against WD--strong support for earthly kingdom and standard apok position; refutes the ‘resurrection is past’ (realized eschat nuance) position; synoptic terminology; explicit reference to imminent return.

 

 

26. Acts of Peter [late 2nd -- pro-celibacy; non-theological; edifying entertainment; non-heretical; pro-Peter; apologetic; legends]

 

Data:

·         "But if you do not repent while you are still in the body, the consuming fire and the outer darkness shall receive you forever" (II.2);

·         "to make you enemies of the Kingdom of God" (II.7);

·         "He prepares for himself a great fire in the day of wrath" (II.8);

·         "that I not be consigned--with the sins of Simon--to eternal fire" (II.10);

·         "you enemy and corrupter of the way to the truth of Christ, who shall prove your iniquities which you have done with undying fire, and you shall be in outer darkness" (II.12);

·         "and after this everlasting punishment awaits you" (II.15);

·         "so as to renounce this present world and seek for everlasting refreshment" (II.17);

·         "so that you should not be deceived nor perish in hell" (II.17);

·         "a stone is cut out without hands and has broken all the kingdoms...and behold I saw one coming upon a cloud like a s son of man... through (apostles) it had to be told in secret and the kingdom of God be fulfilled" (II.24);

·         "You gave before my eyes the punishment of unquenchable fire" (II.28);

·         "Wait for him that shall come and reward everyone according to his deeds" (II. 36)

 

Relevance:

Somewhat strong evidence against WD: supports futurist view, traditional apok-passages and synoptic terminology used; explicit reference to ‘wait’.

 

 

27. Acts of Thomas [early 3rd -- semi-Manichean; encratite; many orthodox elements/sections; half-gnostic; Bardaisan concepts/images; Middle-Platonic]

 

Data:

·         "My God will forgive thee this injury in the world to come, but in this world he will show forth his wonders, and I shall even now see that hand that smote me dragged by dogs" (6);

·         "for they shall be at that marriage…of which the eternal ones are accounted worthy" (7);

·         "waiting to receive that incorruptible and true marriage.." (12);

·         "But the apostle went rejoicing into the prison, and said to the merchant: 'Fear nothing, but only believe in the God who is preached by me, and thou shalt be freed from this world but from the age to come shalt obtain life' (20);

·         "Then the king, considering the matter, understood concerning the eternal goods (ie the heavenly palace) which were more excellent for him and which he was to receive" (24);

·         "But do you wait for his coming, and set your hope in him and believe in his name. For he is the judge of living and dead, and he gives to each one according to his works. And at his coming and later appearance no man has any word of excuse when he is about to be judged by him, as if he had not heard." (28);

·         "I (serpent) am kinsman of him who is to come from the east, to whom also is given power to do what he will on the earth" (32);

·         "not only of this life shalt thou be deprived but also of that which is to come" (35);

·         "we do not require (wealth) for it has been said 'Hardly shall a rich man enter into the kingdom of heaven' (36);

·         'But we speak about the world above,... about the drink of the true vine, about clothing that endures and does not grow old, about things which eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither have they entered into the heart of sinful men, which God has prepared for those who love him' (36);

·         "But believe rather in our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we preach, that your hope may be in him and that in him you may have life for ever and ever (37);

·         "in which also he (the demon) shall be burned up. For indeed the fire shall consume him utterly, and the smoke of him shall be scattered abroad" (47);

·         “that they may not utterly deliver themselves to eternal punishment” (58);

·         “And secondly he showed them and explained, beginning from the prophets, the things concerning Christ, that he must come and that in him all that had been prophesied concerning him must be fulfilled” (59);

·         “But seldom are rich men found in acts of mercy; but the merciful and the lowly in heart, they shall inherit the kingdom of God” (6);

·         “for if we do not bear burden of the commandments…shall later suffer punishments there” (66);

·         “for because of you [demons] was I sent… to destroy you and pursue you to your place, until the time of fulfillment comes and you go down to your depth of darkness” (73);

·         “As thou [Thomas] dost convert men to eternal life, so do I [demon] pervert those who obey me to destruction and eternal punishment” (76);

·         “but there shall come false apostles and prophets of lawlessness, whose end shall be according to their deeds” (79);

·         “glory and honour to thine ascent into the heavens, for through it thou has shown us the ascent to the height, having promised us that we shall sit on thy right hand and with thee judge the twelve tribes of Israel” (80);

·         “but if anyone obtains it [temperance], he remains without care, pleasing the Lord, awaiting the time of redemption” (85);

·         “Blessed are you meek, because God has counted you worthy to become heirs of the heavenly kingdom” (94);

·         “but He whom I love is heavenly, and will take me with him into heaven” (117);

·         “And if, as thou sayest, after <our release from life here> there is yonder life and death, and also condemnation and victory and a tribunal, I too will go in there to be judged with thee. “ (128);

·         “The treasury of the holy king is open wide and those who worthily partake of the good there do rest, and resting reign (136--GosHebrews);

·         “and He shall magnify thee and enrich thee and make thee heir of his kingdom” (136--GosThom 2);

·         “for thou shalt be a great king in heaven if thou obey me and fear the God who is preached by the stranger (Thomas)” (137);

·         “Behold, I die and come to life again, and shall not again taste of death… behold, I reign in the kingdom on which even here I have set my hope” (142);

·         (the Lord’s Prayer in 144);

·         “Reproach have I received on earth, but give me recompense and requital in heaven” (147);

·         “Because thou didst rise and come to life again, let us come to life again and live and stand before thee in righteous judgment” (158);

·         “For behold I am taken up… that I may go and receive my reward in the end” (159);

·         Look then for his coming, that when he comes he may receive you; for ye shall see him when ye depart” (160)

 

Relevance:

Strong evidence against WD--offers strong support for futurist, literal view, two ages; standard images--uncommon in such a mixed-character piece; the images do not seem to be reinterpreted either--at least not to a significant extent or scope; explicit reference to ‘look for His coming’.

 

 

28. Acts of Peter and the 12 Apostles [pre-4th -- hybrid genre; surrealist; not explicitly gnostic or heretical; much is symbolic; hodgepodge of stories/settings]

 

Data:

·         "And this serves as a parable (to show) that the city of everyone who bears the burden of his yoke of faith is inhabited, and he is reckoned to the kingdom of heaven" (p7)]

 

Relevance: Not much--the reference to Kingdom of Heaven is ambiguous here.

 

 

29. Later Acts of the Apostles [4th and later -- based on Big5 ApocActs; "relative poverty in ideas"; 40 given in NTA2; ] -- no real data here.

 

 

 

30. Letter of Peter to James [3rd-5th? -- fictional intro to KP]

 

Nothing of relevance--one future punishment image, but not ‘timed’.

 

·         "to bring others into the like pit of destruction" (3.2?)

 

 

 

31. Contestatio [3rd-5th? -- ]

 

Nothing of relevance--one future punishment image, but not ‘timed’.

 

·         "if I am false to my word, I shall be accursed living and dead and suffer eternal punishment" (4.3, 5.3)

 

 

32. Letter of Clement to James [3rd-5th? -- ]

 

Data:

·         "this very man (Peter), who because of his abundant love towards mankind made known to all the world the future good king, clearly and publically in the face of the present evil" (1.5);

·         "When does Christ have need of your assistance? Now, when the evil one has begun a war against his bride, or in the future, when having conquered he reigns, no longer having need of any help?" (4.2);

·         “Hasten then will all determination to ally yourself in the time of the present distress with the good king who is able after victory to give great rewards." (4.3);

·         "flee from covetousness, which under the pretext of temporal gain can rob you of the eternal goods" (10.2);

·         "God... has appointed at the end of life a judgment, that the good hereafter may enjoy eternally the ineffable good things, but the sinners who have been found to be wicked will meet with unspeakable punishment forever?" (10.5);

·         "If however he has believed correctly, let him live his life with confidence, as escaping the great fire of judgment and entering into the eternal good kingdom of God" (11.2);

·         "But if you are of one mind, you will be able to attain to the haven of rest, where the great king's peaceful city is" (13.3);

·         "knowing that God will give you the greatest of goods, a reward that cannot be taken away, when you arrive in the haven of rest.." (16.3);

·         "..having set the Father at naught, for which cause he will be cast out from the good kingdom" (17.1)

 

Relevance: Strong data against WD--strong support for futurist/literal view.

 

 

 

33. The Clementine Romance [3rd-5th? -- ]

 

Data:

·         "There is a Man in Judaea who since the beginning of spring has been proclaiming to the Jews the kingdom of God; those, he states, will attain it who keep the demands of his commandments and of his doctrine" (6.2);

·         "The Son of God has appeared in the land of Judaea and promises eternal life to everyone who will hear..." (7.3);

·         "If ye repent you and act according to his will, ye will enter into a new era, will become immortal and participate in his unspeakably delightful treasures and gifts" (7.6);

·         "I shall then introduce your words into my discourses and preach the kingdom and righteousness of Almighty God" (11.1);

·         "You will greatly rejoice when, because now you show a small favor, you are appointed heir of good things that are eternal" (13.3);

·         "this world being transitory, but the one to come eternal" (15.2);

·         "those who have the knowledge of eternal things follow them because they are sons of the coming age" (15.2);

·         "the syzygy associated with Elias, which ought to have come, willingly held off to another time, being resolved to take its place when the occasion arises." (17.1);

·         "And thereafter in the end Antichrist must first come again and only afterwards must Jesus, our actual Christ, appear and then, with the rising of eternal light, everything that belongs to darkness must disappear" (17.5);

·         "Who then is to be decided upon? By the decree of God that man is described as blessed whom his lord will appoint to serve his fellow-servants, to give them their meat at the proper time, without thinking in himself: My lord delays his coming " (60.2);

·         "For in the end, for those who are held to be worthy of eternal life, God anoints one king over all in this world that in consequence of this monarchy there may prevail a peace that is not to be disturbed" (62.3?);

·         "that some day it may be said of you: Well done, my good and faithful servant" (65.2)

 

Relevance: Strong data against WD--Antichrist, later appearing of Christ, reference to ‘waiting’, ‘two ages/coming age’ terminology, Elijah.

 

 

Ok, let’s tally our findings and reflect on this for a moment.

 

Of the 33 passages which were our relevant texts:

 

·         We have 19 passages with no relevance (17) or with ambiguous data (2)

 

·         We have 8 texts with Strong or Very Strong data against WD:

1.      Strasbourg Coptic Papyrus

2.      The Freer Logion

3.      Gospel of Nicodemus (etc)

4.      Pseudo-Titus Epistle

5.      Acts of Paul

6.      Acts of Thomas

7.      Letter of Clement to James

8.      The Clementine Romance

 

·         We have 6 texts with Moderately Strong, Some, or Slight evidence against WD:

1.      Gospel of the Nazareans

2.      Gospel of the Egyptians

3.      Gospel of Peter

4.      Protevangelium of James

5.      Kerygma Petri

6.      Acts of Peter

 

·         We have 0 texts with data supporting WD.

 

[Note: one might suggest that because a text had no relevance to our study, that its ‘silence’ on the subject might be interpreted as a lack of interest in the Parousia or Imminent Return of Christ. This argument from silence really doesn’t work here, though, since none of the ‘silent’ passages purport to give an ‘exhaustive’ treatment of Christian belief, nor do they even treat eschatology AT ALL (and ALL elements in the religious world of the day--Christian or not--had eschatological hopes and interests!). So, silence in these texts cannot be understood as implying this.]

 

Let’s throw the passages with relevance into a time-chart, with color-coding to indicate strength (i.e., Strong/VeryStrong, Moderate/Some/Slight). The texts range from the 2nd century through the 5th century. Red is STRONG+ and Orange is MODERATE+.

 

If we look at this, we might be surprised to notice that the data seems to get stronger and more widespread the later the text. This is quite the opposite from what the WD would predict--the trend should be in the opposite direction.

 

This intensification could be a result of dogmatic battles with outsiders and/or insiders, but this doesn’t really fit the historical data. The internal theological fights were not about eschatology in this period, but rather about the Trinity, the Incarnation, and various aspects of church practice (eg, baptism, succession).

 

And the fights with the ‘outsiders’ in this period were all about Christ--His incarnation, His messiahship--or the Canon of scripture. Eschatology was just not a flash point at this time.

 

So, this trend would suggest that the hope of the Parousia had not been WDed , or washed away, or discounted at all. That hope--as evidenced in the apocalyptic literature of the day (discussed in part 9A) and in the non-apok literature of the day (discussed here in part 9B)--was still the one taught by our Lord, held to by His followers, and argued over (smile) by the theologians of the day!

 

Conclusion:

 

And so we arrive at the same point we do in all the other explorations (so far) in the literature of the time:

 

We have seen that there IS no 'backpedaling' or watering-down of the apocalyptic language or eschatological hope of the Jesus of the Synoptic gospels.  Instead, we have seen all three eschatological frameworks (realized eschatology, futurist/apocalyptic eschatology, and inaugurated eschatology) are present throughout the NT literature and the major literature up through the 5th-6th centuries.

 

These have shown up in all strata, all genres, and all authors. They have shown up in direct teachings, as grounding bases for ethical injunctions, and as causes for praise, hope, celebration, and endurance. They show up in apologetic works, polemical works, “edu-tainment” works (e.g. the fictional Acts) and works of sermons and simple piety.

 

This literature provides no evidence that Jesus was considered a failed apocalyptic prophet, whose words had to be re-interpreted.

 

On to Part 10...


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