Was Jesus Wrong About the Time of His Return?

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This is just a short snippet out of a larger discussion, but I thought it might be worth including here anyway. In Luke 21:20-28, Jesus speaks of the end times. As I was reading it just now, it almost seemed in the first four of those verses as if Jesus was speaking of the fall of Jerusalem as the end of all things, “to fulfill all that is written.”

If that was what Jesus meant, he was centuries (at least!) wrong about the time of his return; Jerusalem was conquered in AD 70. Was that what he meant to say?

Here’s most of that passage, in the ESV:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people….

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

It sounds like he got it wrong, doesn’t it? All this seems to be happening virtually at once, from the fall of the city to the return of Christ. A lot of skeptics say so. In this passage, though, that’s not the case. Look at verse, 24, which I omitted before, and belongs at the end of the first paragraph above:

They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

How long did Jesus expect that interim period to last? Long enough for the Jews to be dispersed among all nations; long enough for the “times of the Gentiles” to be fulfilled. A while, in other words–an indefinite while, that is. I don’t think Jesus can be accused here of getting this wrong. That’s especially true if we add Matt. 24:14 into the mix

Skeptics are eager to find fault with Jesus Christ. Christians, we need not be shaken. We can straighten up and raise our heads: our redemption is near.

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53 Responses to “ Was Jesus Wrong About the Time of His Return? ”

  1. What about a little further on, Luke 21:32? (“Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.”) At first blush at least, it seems to imply that the things foretold would happen within a human generation – say, 50 years at the outside.

    Is there a different understanding of the word “all” or the word “generation” that would argue against this?

  2. The rest of the paragraph (ESV) says,

    And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

    So there is some set of signs that indicate the season of his return is arriving. What are those signs? Go back one more paragraph, and you’ll find that there’s a section where his topic seems to have shifted somewhat. He could be talking about the fall of Jerusalem, and the disciples could have naturally interpreted him that way, but it’s also not an unnatural interpretation to suppose that he could be shifting to another time frame.

    And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

    Not only that, but if you back up even further to Luke 21:10-19, you’ll see that Jesus is speaking of a whole range of events that seem to take place over an extended period of time, beginning with the disciples’ lifetimes, but not containable within that short time frame.

    For these reasons, I conclude that “this generation” does not refer to the generation of those who were standing there listening to him, but to the generation that sees the final signs coming together, as he refers to throughout the chapter.

  3. Perhaps the question is “what does he mean by ‘coming?'”

    The Lord threatened to “come” and “came” many times in the OT prophets. In fact, this is one of the common phrases of prophetic literature.

    Here Jesus says he is “coming” and this is the language of judgment. Though the fall of Jerusalem happened at the hands of the Roman general, Titus, it was Jesus’ “coming.”

    I don’t think every mention of the “coming” in the NT is a reference to the fall of Jerusalem but it is clear that Luke 21 and Matthew 24 and Mark 13 are

  4. In my previous life as a Christian, this type of apologetics (AKA “tortured word parsing”) felt entirely natural, and even necessary to square what Jesus infallibly said with the facts on the ground. It simply never occurred to me to wonder why Jesus/God was such a bad communicator.

    How to defend that God Himself, speaking to an audience of the next 80 (and counting) generations of Christians, chose not to give clarity? And in His omniscience, knowing the lack of clarity will be the proximate cause of suffering and damnation for millions of people.

    I had a teacher who believed the Holy Spirit supernaturally guides each generation of Christians to interpret the Bible as necessary for that time and place in history. A fellow student’s response to that comment was it did explain the Bible’s impenetrable obscurity — clarity ineluctably deprives the Holy Spirit of room in which to maneuver.

  5. “our redemption is near”

    Near? How near?

    I thought you just un-specified the argument to get you out of the bind that Jesus made an error, but now you’re specific again with your confident assertion that the end is near.

  6. “our redemption is near”

    Near? How near?

    As near as your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior.

  7. Silliness.

    Never read a verse.”

    Those who do end up thinking the sort of things critics tend to think. For example, they think that Scripture tells us that the age of the Gentiles and the Gospel being preached on the whole Earth was all to happen in one life-time, and they think that sort of silliness for all the same reasons they think Scripture tells us the whole Earth was flooded and destoyed in Noah’s day.

    Lots of verses weigh in.

    Lots of books too.

    The one-verse thing and going off on a tangent with it is merely silliness.

    It’s not hard.

    Besides, as to the end times, such is not a very open book for us to read. A few lines here and there. But overall – It’s actually a closed book. On purpose.

    Daniel and Jesus both tell us that.

    In plain words.

  8. Bob, your eagerness to find things to mock is revealing something about yourself instead.

    In ordinary conversation, I’m sure, you could use context clues to discern the difference between two uses of a word, and correctly understand that not everything is a contradiction that can be twisted to look like one. In this dispute, however, you’re laying aside that universally-practiced human skill.

    I know better than to think this is actually the case, but you’re almost making it appear as if you do not possess that skill. In reality you certainly do, but something about this kind of debate seems to have led you to think it was unimportant to use ordinary language conventions.

    It really doesn’t make your position look any stronger when you do that. Did you realize that?

  9. Keith,

    “Tortured word parsing” is a matter of opinion. I don’t find anything at all strange about reading Jesus’ words in context and using that as a way to understand what he meant.

    You’re right that he is not always clear. He didn’t always intend to be. You have not studied Jesus’ purposes well enough. He didn’t come merely to deliver information, but to call people into a relationship with him.

    I have books of philosophical theology that have everything spelled out clearly. They are full of information. They’re not filled with personality and life the way Jesus’ character is in the gospels. They don’t draw me in to relationship the way Jesus’ words do.

    Is there something about the idea of God that implies he should be simple to understand, in everything he says? I don’t know why that would be so. I have especial trouble discerning why we should expect God to speak simply in modern, systematically analytical language.

  10. Tom @10:

    Imagine leaving instructions for your kids, as they’re staying home alone over the weekend. You write down multiple, incompatible, versions of what they should do, some parts of which tell them to be in bed by 10 (or was it 12?), and read to their younger siblings (or was it brush their teeth?), other parts of which exhort them upon the highest authority to burn down a neighbor’s house. (There’s also some instructions left around that appear to be fanfiction from other adults, so your kids have to vote on which instructions you wrote and which ones aren’t from you.) You drive off, don’t leave a telephone number to call and don’t yourself bother to check in on them until Monday morning when you return.

    I don’t care how poetic your instructions were, or how many good ideas you included, you’re a bad parent.

    No: I don’t expect God to speak in modern, systematically analytical language.

    But that doesn’t mean it was impossible for anybody writing in Nazareth at the time of Christ to put together a grocery list; the Bible is impenetrably obscure and requires serious “analysis” to avoid outright self-contradiction. That’s strong evidence against divine authorship.

  11. scbrownlhrm @8:

    Lectio Divina was a big part of my childhood, reading a verse out of context wasn’t the problem.

    Today it just annoys me when people mutter “prayerful submission to the Word”, or “we can understand only by the Holy Spirit’s intervention”.

    Tom hates Harris, but he said it well:

    You probably think the Inquisition was a perversion of the “true” spirit of Christianity. Perhaps it was. The problem, however, is that the teachings of the Bible are so muddled and self-contradictory that it was possible for Christians to happily burn heretics alive for five long centuries. It was even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed outright (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. You are, of course, free to interpret the Bible differently–though isn’t it amazing that you have succeeded in discerning the true teachings of Christianity, while the most influential thinkers in the history of your faith failed?

    I really think I’m on safe ground here: if Aquinas, Augustine, Luther and Calvin couldn’t read the Bible, what rational deity would expect it of me?

  12. Keith,

    It’s pretty simple.

    The end times are a closed book – we’re told that in plain words.

    Yet you opine about the end times verses and the need for clarity.

    Why?

    The rest is simple too.

    If this or that person – name dropping can’t help you here – doesn’t want to love people the way Christ does – the way Christ commands – and give up one’s own Self for them – even unjustly so – well then this or that person does not want to do that.

    It’s not complex.

    It’s just costly.

    You seem to think Doctrine and Law is the mechanism by which Moral Excellence and God’s instantiation within Man will proceed.

    We’re told quite plainly though that Doctrine and Law will not do this. In fact we are told they will f-a-i-l.

    Yet you appeal to needing yet longer lists of such to get us there.

    Huh?

    Why?

    Instantiation is quite simple:

    Love’s eternal sacrifice of self is found in both directions here….. God to Manward….. Man to Godward…. Man to Manward…..

    Instantiation.

    It’s not complex.

    You’re a twin of the very folks you attack. That is, you are just like all those folks you opine over – you make it complex and doctrinal at its deepest levels. Better to love God and Man and have a fuzzy doctrine than to know all mysteries and have no love.

    We are told that about knowing-all-mysteries.

    In plain words.

    Yet you make instantiation Knowledge and Doctrinal and Laws and Rules at its deepest levels.

    But Christ / God does not.

    He just pours His Own Self out for another – even for the one who kills Him. He is love. He tells us to be like Him.

    And so on.

    Instantiation at its deepest level.

    This is all very elementary.

    Mysteries are fine – but without the foundation of God’s Image within us – Man cannot find his proper ends.

    And His Image is that of love.

    “Christ” is the simple. The elementary. The foundation. Ceaseless reciprocity. Love’s self-sacrifice from the ground up.

    The folks who thought long lists of rules and ideas were the “way” or the “missing piece” hated Him for such simplicity, for His simplicity.

    Sort of like you – in a way.

  13. scbrownlhrm @13:

    I’m relieved to hear you say that — I also believe Christians tend to get all tangled up in complex doctrinal stuff.

    You know the passages I mean: “For everyone has sinned”, “For by grace you have been saved through faith”, and “No one comes to the Father except through me” and “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken”, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”.

    You know, that legalistic judgement-y stuff that has nothing at all to do with Love.

  14. Keith,

    Yes, that’s right. To be in God is to be inside love. To be outside of God is to be inside of lovelessness.

    If God – final reality – is Love – well then that is the topography of actuality.

    Lovelessness is the antithesis of the Simplicity we’ve been speaking of. Lovelessness is the antithesis of that elementary landscape we’ve been speaking of. That simplicity which you seem to reject.

    Love houses no compulsion. How could it? Contradictions can’t exist. You value love – hence your anger at sins against people. You see love’s ceaseless reciprocity. Love’s self-sacrifice from the ground up. Love’s simplicity.

    You get it.

    You get angry at lovelessness.

    You aspire towards love.

    Welcome to God’s ontological geography.

    Yet – then – you seek some complex and convoluted mystery breaking thread over and above such love – over such simplicity. Or at least you pretend God should be threading such as you confusingly equate such to Christianity.

    But God isn’t such.

    He’s love’s simplicity.

    But you just got done saying you don’t want that – don’t want love’s simplicity. Ontologically or otherwise.

    Huh?

    You’re confused. Or at least talking like you are.

    Fortunately such confusion as yours is forgiven-for-they-know-not.

  15. Keith,

    I don’t mind dancing….. you drop the “too complex” complaint for another complaint when confronted with love’s simplicity. So love’s geography amid volition, or confusion, or evil ….or whatever…. then bubbles up for no real reason other than to try to follow your lead. Both Tom and myself…..

    Dancing isn’t really dialogue, though.

    If yours is just a visit to throw those classic one-line sound-bites then I need to put a more comfortable pair of shoes on……

  16. Tom @15:

    Certainly not; but when Christians say “God is Love”, they’re invariably glossing over the more interesting truth, that God is also “Vengeance”, “Morality” and “Justice” among other, less comforting things.

    God loves, but God also hates, and He not only hates things, He also hates people (Proverbs 6:16–19).

    And Jesus spoke more of Hell than He ever did of Heaven, which means He must not have gotten Marketing’s memo either.

  17. Keith,

    Jesus spoke more of money (or A or B or Etc…) than hell. So therefore love’s simplicity of Self-Sacrifice as He dies for His enemies – those He hates – and thereby loves them – reduces to money (…Etc…).

    Huh?

    One verse straw-men (after saying you don’t do that).

    One line sound bites.

    Or at least it’s starting to look that way.

  18. A couple things: 1) Jesus uses “this generation” quite often, and it seems like He consistently uses it when referring to contemporaries. 2) I think it is generally accepted, and it seems clear from Acts and Paul’s writings, that the followers of Jesus expected an imminent return. It seems pretty reasonable to think that they would have gotten such an expectation from their leader.

  19. Daniel and Christ both state they do not see the entire calendar of those (end) times. Both also state that they see much more than they can in the present time speak of or write of. If we leave those fundamental parts out then we’ve drawn an incomplete picture, as it were. Christ worked to get their minds past the whole Rome/Israel thing and into the Kingdom if all men flavor. Peter ages and peers forward…. to the elements melting as a new Earth is created. All sorts of lines…..

  20. scbrownlhrm,

    Agreed. But, presumably, not having the whole picture does not mean no conclusions can be drawn. Jesus was very clear that he didn’t know the day or the hour – fair enough. But that’s obviously very specific. He at least *seems* to insinuate that He knows a general timeframe. The question is whether we can discern that timeframe from what He did tell us. And if we can’t, then what was the point? And, again, it certainly seems like Jesus’ followers had a (general) timeframe in mind.

  21. JBC,

    Good question. We have to look at the presuppositions. The point then would be similar to the book of Revelations in that God is ever coming. That is, Christ is – ceaselessly – drawing closer and this in the setting of His Body and also the World – and let us add us as individuals ever fully known by Him. The language is ever-applicable therefore if such references the sort of Being which God just must be but is only locally applicable in time if such references the sort of person which a simple military leader just must be.

    So now what?

    Well…..

    Knowing what we know from “the rest of Scripture” we then at such a juncture allow reason to lead us along in that wider meta-narrative.

  22. scbrownlhrm,

    Apologies, but I don’t quite follow you.

    “We have to look at the presuppositions.” – Agreed, this is always a good idea. Not sure exactly what these are, or how they affect Jesus’ statements (or interpretations thereof).

    “The point then would be similar to Revelations. God is ever coming.” – It seems pretty obvious that there is a lot more to what Jesus and the Revelator had to say than just that. If Jesus had simply said “I’ll be back,” that would be consistent with “God is ever coming” (assuming Jesus is God, of course). But He said a lot more, presumably for a reason. His followers thought he’d be back soon (of course, so has virtually every other Christian generation), presumably for a reason.

    “The language is ever-applicable therefore if such references the sort of Being which God just must be but is only locally applicable in time if such references the sort of person which a simple military leader just must be.” – Sorry, I can’t make heads or tails out of this… can you clarify?

  23. JBC,

    Maybe.

    The presuppositions would be (I’m sure you well know) –

    Firstly – that the sort of person speaking into those ears in the Gospels thusly speaks into all ears – all the time given what is taking place – and by that we mean given that the sort of person speaking is that of God in Christ reconciling the*world* to Himself. And let us add that *God* here is to fully represent that sense of David Harts, “…infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality…”.

    Secondly, the sort of person speaking into those ears is speaking only into those ears and no others for time and locality are his limits and by that we mean that such would be the sort of person which this or that Critic may presuppose Christ to be.

    The language of the Prophets just is the language of Christ and much of what is shared between the two has yet to happen – or even be thought of by His Body the Church. Daniel, Christ, and others leave much yet remaining as God is yet – still – unceasingly – approaching His Body and the World – and the individual. And that language is itself then akin to the language of the book of Revelations which just is the language – again – of God approaching Man – even still – as that peculiar instantiation streams well outside of locality. That Christ has come does not remove Isaiah’s daily seeding of yet new horizons every time we read them. Well, so too with all of Scripture.

    That is why “I’ll be back” – full stop – is just out of place and would even be totally inappropriate for the first presupposition, though quite fitting for the second. That is why we expect, on the God-presupposition, what we find: all Christians, both as a Collective and as the Individual, reading these words hear or read *God’s* voice speaking to *them*. That fits with what we expect given that the first presupposition is our starting point. However, given that the second presupposition is one’s starting point one would expect future generations to look at it the way we today look at speeches about the coming of the British. Out of date.

    Circularity now arises in both the Critic and the Christian here on Christ’s words given such presuppositions.

    So now what?

    So, well, now we must allow all of Scripture to weigh in, to speak towards Christ’s language, to apply the whole-show, to assimilate the full meta-narrative and integrate all lines, and so on. Some things may be able to stand on their own – some may not stand but by that afore mentioned integration. The Christian is in the unique and comfortable position of merely fitting this or that seam of this or that verse into the wedding-dress / meta-narrative (as it were) to remain seamless (as it were), whereas, the Critic must dismantle the whole meta-narrative, the whole wedding-dress, should he wish to dismantle the Christian’s one-verse or two-verse seam.

    Paul – near the end of his life – tells his friend that he prepares to be poured out – like Christ – having fought a good fight. He too knew Christ is coming soon. As he often prayed for and wrote of even as he spoke of his own ensuing execution.

    But then, so what. That’s nothing.

    God has been approaching far longer than that. Adam too there in Eden hears those same words there in that fateful protoevangelium spoken by the One True God Who references that fateful “Us” there in His own Being’s singularity. And Adam? Well, like the writers of the NT, he very well may have stated, “….some count it the Lord tarries….” And yet the pronouncement was – is – ever present.

    The second presupposition counts slowness one way, the first counts it another way. But Scripture helps us here on a faulty sense of timing relative to such a sure and pressing promise: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all men should come to repentance.”

  24. scbrownlhrm, I appreciate the elaboration.

    Regarding the presuppositions, I think it is safe to assume that Jesus was *at least* talking to those who were asking Him questions. I think it is also safe to assume that He would have expected the info to change hands (i.e. the disciples were instructed to spread the info).

    —“The language of the Prophets just is the language of Christ and much of what is shared between the two has yet to happen…”—

    Agreed, but that’s considered part of the problem, is it not? (even if it is only an *apparent* problem).

    —“And that language is itself then akin to the language of the book of Revelations which just is the language – again – of God approaching Man…”—

    Again, I think that is selling Revelation short. There much more to it than “just” that. And part of the problem/issue here is the *imminence* with which writers think these things will happen/are happening.

    “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)

    It is one thing to claim that, for God, time is meaningless. That issue is debatable, but regardless, it is another thing altogether to claim that time is meaningless for the author of Revelation, who (presumably) chose to write these words for a reason.

    —“That is why ‘I’ll be back’ – full stop – is just out of place and would even be totally inappropriate for the first presupposition, though quite fitting for the second.”—

    The point is, that if God had wanted to communicate *just* that He is “ever-approaching” then things like stating

    “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:27-28)

    don’t make sense, because obviously it doesn’t do us much good to find out after He has arrived that He will be judging us. Too late.

    —“That is why we expect, on the God-presupposition, what we find: all Christians, both as a Collective and as the Individual, reading these words hear or read *God’s* voice speaking to *them*.”—

    Well, cognitive bias can be funny that way. Much of the time we do, in fact, end up seeing/hearing what we want and/or expect to hear. Of course, this cuts both ways.

    —“That fits with what we expect given that the first presupposition is our starting point.”—

    Perhaps so, but it actually avoids the question of whether the prophecy was false or not. Presumably, there is a legitimate answer to this question. If the answer is “no” or “not yet”, then the Christian’s experience (which I’m not so sure is as universal as you’d like to think) might be valid. If the answer is “yes”, then it would seem that the Christian hearing God speaking to them through those words would have to start some serious questioning.

    —“However, given that the second presupposition is one’s starting point one would expect future generations to look at it the way we today look at speeches about the coming of the British. Out of date.”—

    Given the 2nd assumption, one can still leave open the possibility that the prophecy is unfulfilled, but not false. Again, the answer is “not yet”, then the conclusion of “Out of date” would not be warranted.

    —“Circularity now arises in both the Critic and the Christian here on Christ’s words given such presuppositions.”—

    Agreed.

    —“So now what?”—

    Don’t use circular reasoning. Question your assumptions.

    —“So, well, now we must allow all of Scripture to weigh in, to speak towards Christ’s language, to apply the whole-show, to assimilate the full meta-narrative and integrate all lines, and so on.”—

    Agreed. Jesus spoke *many* times about the Son of Man “coming in power”. There are many common elements to each instance: coming in clouds, with angels, gathering the elect/judgment, and that it would happen before “this generation”, “those standing here”, or even the High Priest, would die.

    It is tempting to claim that these all refer to different events, but then we must justify that somehow, as opposed to just using motivated reasoning. If different events are being referred to (the Transfiguration, Pentecost, the fall of Jerusalem), why such similar language for each one? Why wouldn’t the author mention the various fulfillment (Matthew was especially fond of this). If the point is God “ever-approaching”, then how many different instances of the Son of Man “coming” are there going to be without an arrival? And, again, where did Jesus followers get the expectation that all of this was going to be soon – within their lifetimes, in fact.

    —“The Christian is in the unique and comfortable position of merely fitting this or that seam of this or that verse into the wedding-dress / meta-narrative (as it were) to remain seamless (as it were), whereas, the Critic must dismantle the whole meta-narrative, the whole wedding-dress, should he wish to dismantle the Christian’s one-verse or two-verse seam.”—

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. It sounds an awful lot like you’re saying that the Christian is in the comfortable position of being able to make it up as they go along. Presumably, that is not what you meant. However, I agree that the critic has a high burden of proof if they want to claim that the prophecy was actually false, because then they have to contend with all the various figurative interpretations and/or mental gymnastics that have developed over the last 2000 years.

    —“Paul – near the end of his life – tells his friend that he prepares to be poured out – like Christ – having fought a good fight. He too knew Christ is coming soon.”—

    Yes, in fact on more than one occasion, he wrote as if it would happen within the lifetime of his contemporaries (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Cor. 15:51). He was wrong. Leaving the issue of whether he was divinely inspired when he wrote those things aside, it is fair to ask why he would have thought that. Given that most, if not all, Christians think that Paul received instruction from the apostles, and that he wasn’t completely ignorant of what Jesus had to say, it also seems fair to conclude that he received this sentiment from Jesus, although perhaps not directly.

    —“The second presupposition counts slowness one way, the first counts it another way. But Scripture helps us here on a faulty sense of timing relative to such a sure and pressing promise…”—

    The slowness is only part of the issue. It is the convergence of 2000 years of unfulfilled expectations (He’s coming soon! The end is nigh! These are the last days! Etc.), plus the expectations of Jesus own followers, plus His own pronouncements of the timing, as well as the hints at cognitive dissonance already growing in the early church.

    Whenever there is a question about what is a genuine Christian belief, or if it is orthodox, etc., one of the most important things Christians ask themselves is “what did the early church believe?” On this issue, the belief is clear and nearly unanimous: they believed Christ would be back within their “generation”/lifetimes. The *only* exception to this is 2 Peter, which you reference here as being helpful.

    It is also symptomatic of a common response to cognitive dissonance: retreat to unfalsifiable assumptions. Didn’t get the answer to prayer that you had faith would happen? Well, “no” is an answer to prayer too! Did a “good” God command the butchering of babies? Well, maybe there was an unknown greater good! Didn’t see the prophecy fulfilled within the timeframe it was supposed to? Well, time is meaningless to God! Etc.

    There would have been no reason for the author of 2 Peter to respond in such a way unless there was the perception of an unkempt promise. Nor would there be any reason to respond in such a way if the promise was simply that Christ would return *at some point*. No, the passage deliberately mentions the “passing of the fathers” because that is precisely what the promise was: that Jesus would return before “those standing here” (His followers) would die. How might one retreat from that in such a way as to not also be proved wrong? Timelessness! Kudos to 2 Peter for an inventive explanation, but it seems suspiciously like motivated reasoning. Why not simply say, “Look, you’re expectations are all wrong – that’s not what Jesus said/meant.” If 2 Peter was really written by Peter, he would have been in a perfect position to dispel such confusion. He passed. Of course, it is probably not a coincidence that 2 Peter is one of the more disputed epistles out there (in terms of authorship and date it was written).

  25. JBC,

    If you are going to label all imminent-sounding language per presupposition #2, rather than per presupposition #1, then so be it. That’s your choice. It simply does not fit into the Christian’s presupposition, as explained already.

    Matthew 16 happened next in chapter 17. We know that because in Matthew it flows right into it, and also, in the second epistles of Peter, Peter recounts how they were with Him on the Mount of that transfiguration and saw the Son of Man “coming in His power”. His Glory, His Transfiguration, His Being amid the I-AM, is all – as already discussed – ever-present. “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”

    Those standing there in Mathew 16 then saw the Lord Christ coming in His Power in Matthew 17 – according to Peter’s epistle. That approach of course does not need the sort of massaging some other approaches need to get it to “fit” with the “rest of scripture”.

    This is odd: “Well, cognitive bias can be funny that way”. If you are going to call a presupposition a bias – that is fine. So the Critic and the Christian start on even ground.

    As to an answer about the Lord Christ coming in His Power – Peter already gave the Christian the very substrate he expects to find – assuming that is – that presupposition #1 is valid. And, on top of that, my last post stands even more coherent for all those same reasons we find in Peter’s view of it, with all those other vectors of immanence still nicely intact.

    I agree with you on the problem of the meta-narrative – of Scripture’s A – Z, as it were, for the Critic. Dealing with all of scripture as a whole – rather than with one-verse sort of sound-bites – is the sort of *work* the average Critic presupposes to be unnecessary. Like “the coming of the Lord Christ in His Power” over in Peter. That’s just to many pages away – and besides – Christ coming in His Power in Matthew 16 just can’t be what Peter said it was in Matthew 17 – the mere fact that such lines gel quite seamlessly with so much else we find in Scripture’s meta-narrative just cannot be relevant. -Cause presupposition #2.

    Well, Presupposition #1 fits much better with what we find.

    You seem to want presupposition #2 to work here:

    “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

    That is pretty straight forward – those of us (he is a Christian speaking to Christians about Christians) who are alive when the Lord comes……. According to presupposition #1, it fits just right. The word “we” there seems to bother you, or is the core of your wanting to undo the whole meta-narrative – like Peter and Christ already haven come in His Power (Etc.) according to Peter (Etc.) But it shouldn’t bother you – just look at the rest of scripture and you’ll see why. If I were to write a letter of comfort to those mourning the death of our own Christian brothers and sisters I would use the very same language. And such a tone would be perfectly accurate with the rest of scripture. The same with “We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed….” – again a Christian, again speaking to Christians about Christians, and again about Christ’s coming. You want it to be like a letter about the coming of the British – applicable in one time and location per presupposition #2. But a Christian writing to Christians would not phrase such a letter in such a way. The Critic needs to answer why that is the case. Scripture repeatedly speaks with that very sort of language – from cover to cover. That’s that pesky meta-narrative the average Critic does not want to look at.

    You noted this: “The *only* exception to this is 2 Peter, which you reference here as being helpful.” Yes, but so is the *other* 2 Peter there about the Coming of the Lord in His Power already having occurred – there in Matthew 17. Peter had Christ labeled exactly as Christians today still do, with Christ already haven come in His Power and with Christ being slow to yet come in His Power. And that is what we see in the rest of Scripture too on the language of the Son of Man Coming in His Power. Re-read presupposition # 1 and all its nuances in the last comment and you’ll see why that works out so seamlessly. The Christian finds just that same landscape (as the Old, Original, Church Father, Peter finds) to be expected – predicted – because of Who is speaking, what He is speaking about, how He is speaking, who He is speaking to, and what all of that consistently looks like in Scripture’s cover-to-cover meta-narrative. Peter’s duo-toned Coming/Coming echoes Christ’s duo-toned Coming/Coming. As does so very, very much of scripture. We expect that. All of it. The Critic’s basic presupposition though with all of that – not so much.

    A big difference between us seems to be that I don’t see the Critic’s employment of a presupposition as evidence of cognitive dissonance, of pathology, but simply as a categorical working framework congruent with what are likely to be many of his other metaphysical presuppositions. Whereas, you see the Christian’s employment of that same category of framework as evidence of pathology. That’s unfortunate. That you take that tone and track, I mean, on these sort of academic and ontological questions. If one is that opposed to another making “ontic-presuppositions” even as, all the while, one himself goes about making “ontic-presuppositions” also, well, there is another thread here on Scientism one may find helpful.

  26. scbrownlhrm,

    —“If you are going to label all imminent-sounding language per presupposition #2, rather than per presupposition #1, then so be it.”—

    Again, you are oversimplifying things. Revelation, Daniel, Jesus, etc. don’t *just* talk about “God approaching man”. And the language used by Jesus et al is not *just* “imminent-sounding”. Jesus did not just say “I’ll be back soon”. He said “I’ll be back before you all are dead” (paraphrased, obviously).

    —“That’s your choice. It simply does not fit into the Christian’s presupposition, as explained already.”—

    The “I’ll be back before you all are dead” part obviously *did* fit into Christian’s presuppositions… in the 1st Century. So why not now? Because it was obviously wrong, or because that’s not what He meant?

    Regardless, I do not have to assume that Jesus statements were *restricted* to those standing in front of Him in order to recognize that He was, in fact, talking to those standing in front of Him. Again, I can leave open the possibility that He was speaking to future generations, which is hardly irrational, and I can ask for evidence that this was so, which is hardly unreasonable. On the other hand, simply assuming that this is so is mighty presumptuous.

    Jesus did not say “that generation”, even though He could have. Presumably, He didn’t for a reason. Paul could have said “they will not have all fallen asleep”, but He didn’t – presumably, for a reason. James said that the “the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9b), for a reason – presumably, because it is a direct reference to Matthew 24:33. James felt that they had “see[n] all these things”, presumably for a reason. And Jesus makes it pretty clear that “all these things” were to happen before “this generation” passes away.

    —“Matthew 16 happened next in chapter 17. We know that because in Matthew it flows right into it…”—

    Flowing right into it hardly means that the two things are related to each other. There are many abrupt shifts in the Gospels.

    —‘…and also, in the second epistles of Peter, Peter recounts how they were with Him on the Mount of that transfiguration and saw the Son of Man “coming in His power”.’—

    Fair point. “Peter” does seem to indicate that the Transfiguration was a fulfillment of at least one mention of Jesus’ “coming”.

    —‘This is odd: “Well, cognitive bias can be funny that way”. If you are going to call a presupposition a bias – that is fine. So the Critic and the Christian start on even ground.’—

    The “critic’s” presupposition, as I laid it out, seems far more modest to me. But, as I said, cognitive bias does cut both ways.

    —“As to an answer about the Lord Christ coming in His Power – Peter already gave the Christian the very substrate he expects to find …. with all those other vectors of immanence still nicely intact.”—

    Jesus uses the same terminology and same timeframe in the Olivet Discourse that He used in describing His “coming” that was supposedly fulfilled by the Transfiguration. But if He’s still talking about coming in the same way *after* the Transfiguration, one can hardly accept that the Transfiguration was a fulfillment of it, especially when there were no clouds, angels, judgment, etc. Of course, one can appreciate a bit of hyperbole and/or figurative language, but it seems obvious (to myself and others) that the Transfiguration in no way resembles what Jesus was talking about. I mean, what sense does it make to say “Not all of you will be dead before this happens”, and then to claim (much, much later) it was fulfilled 6 days later? The implication of Jesus’ statement was clearly that He expected some would be dead.

    Also, it is not at all clear to me that the explanation given by Peter is one that is *expected* to be found by a Christian, although I’m not sure what you mean by “substrate” here. What I would expect, if 2 Peter was really written by Peter the Apostle, is that if the goal is to clear up confusion about the timeframe, that he wouldn’t appeal to the timelessness of God, but to explain what was meant by things happening before “this generation” dies off. If all you meant is simply that we would expect someone to come up with an answer, well, that would be expected under both hypotheses/presuppositions.

    —“I agree with you on the problem of the meta-narrative – of Scripture’s A – Z, as it were, for the Critic. Dealing with all of scripture as a whole – rather than with one-verse sort of sound-bites – is the sort of *work* the average Critic presupposes to be unnecessary.”—

    Dealing with “scripture as a whole” is something that people like to appeal to when it suits them, and then back away from when it does not. When it is pointed out that Jesus says you can have anything you want if you just ask in His name, suddenly we have to appeal to scripture as a whole in order to explain why that’s not what He meant. But if numerous problems are pointed out with one text in scripture, it will be quickly pointed out that those problems don’t necessarily extend to other texts, as they have different authors, were composed in different times, etc.

    The idea that the “critic”s job is tougher because they have to sort through 2000 years of proposed explanations should not be taken to sell short the job of constructing a “meta-narrative”. While I can appreciate that the average critic is content not to deal with passages that are just too many pages away, let’s not ignore the average Christian’s response to Daniel, Jesus, and Revelation: “I have no idea what any of it means, but none of it can be wrong, because inerrancy”.

    —“Well, Presupposition #1 fits much better with what we find.”—

    You’ve given no reason to think so. So far, you have defended the notion that (certain) scriptures can be considered consistent with Presupposition #1. But “consistent with” is hardly the same as “fits much better”. You’ve given no reason to think that Presupposition #2 doesn’t *work*, only that it is just a presupposition as well.

    —“That is pretty straight forward – those of us (he is a Christian speaking to Christians about Christians) who are alive when the Lord comes……. According to presupposition #1, it fits just right.”—

    Again, you are generalizing to suit a purpose. Yes, Paul was speaking to Christians about Christians. But for some reason, I assume, you would not take the most general context available as the most important when Paul says “I do not permit women teaching men” or “It is a shame for men to have long hair” or “Women should be silent in church”. Then, suddenly, the immediate context becomes more important.

    Or, perhaps, it is always important. Paul was, at minimum, speaking to Thessalonians in the 50’s CE. He may have considered a wider applicability to Christians in general, but that is a stronger claim. That he was speaking to Christians in general is an even stronger claim. Why we would assume so much, rather than leaving it as an open question, is puzzling to me.

    Regardless, the immediate context is Thessalonians in 50’s CE. Paul decided to use “we”. Most likely, this is due to the fact that, like everyone else who composes a letter, he has in mind himself and those he is writing to. This is not to say that he might not also have thought there was a wider applicability. But had he strongly been considering the possibility that he would never get to see the parousia, he probably doesn’t use “we”, or if he does, he probably qualifies the statement.

    You say presupposition #1 “fits much better”, but here that is obviously not the case. If one assumes that Paul is talking to Thessalonians, then of course he would use “we”. That much is *entailed*. If one assumes that Paul is speaking to every Christian ever, then that is not entailed at all, and there are more possibilities. You can claim that using “we” is not inconsistent with presupposition #1, but it is hardly better explained by it.

    —“Scripture repeatedly speaks with that very sort of language – from cover to cover. That’s that pesky meta-narrative the average Critic does not want to look at.”—

    Well, I agree that epistle writers often use “we”, “us”, etc. Again, that much is *entailed* by presupposition #2. This is harder to explain if you think Paul, Peter, James, John, etc. all had in mind not just their immediate audience, but 2000 years of Christians to follow. You might think that it is not that hard to explain, and with these examples of Paul that may be true. But “not hard to explain” is still not “entailed by”.

    —“You noted this: “The *only* exception to this is 2 Peter, which you reference here as being helpful.” Yes, but so is the *other* 2 Peter there about the Coming of the Lord in His Power already having occurred – there in Matthew 17.—”

    And yet, “Peter”s response to the perception of an unkempt promise is not “People, it’s already happened!” a la preterists. Instead, his response is timelessness. This is because even if he wants to chalk up the reference to Jesus’ “coming” before the Transfiguration as fulfilled by the Transfiguration, this is obviously not the same “coming” that Jesus’ is talking about before the High Priest, or during the Olivet Discourse.

    —“Peter had Christ labeled exactly as Christians today still do, with Christ already hav[ing] come in His Power and with Christ being slow to yet come in His Power.”—

    Which would be fine, if it were not that in *each case* of Jesus referring to His “coming in power” He states that it will be done before those around Him will die. So, maybe it is that Matthew 16 refers to Matthew 17. So, Jesus could be considered as having already come in power in some sense. Setting aside other problems with that (for now) Jesus is obviously not referring to the Transfiguration when He was talking to the High Priest or during the Olivet Discourse. So, the “not yet” part of it is still a false prophecy, given that Jesus still refers to this “not yet” coming as happening before those around Him will die.

    —“And that is what we see in the rest of Scripture too on the language of the Son of Man Coming in His Power.”—

    What we see regarding such language is a consistent association of the Parousia with judgment. From the pre-Transfiguration mention to the Olivet Discourse, this is so. But what sense does it make to think that Matthew 17 was a fulfillment of the Son of Man repaying each man “according to what he has done”? What sense does it make to say that the Son of Man “coming in His Kingdom” would refer to “com[ing] with his angels in the glory of his Father”, but not the judgment? What sense does it make to say that the presence of angels is fulfilled by the presence of Elijah and Moses? Again, it is fair to point to 2 Peter’s reference to the Transfiguration as a fulfillment of Matthew 16, but let’s not pretend that it doesn’t lack in explanatory power. On the other hand, the idea that Jesus was referring to the same event with all of these references is, admittedly, not consistent with 2 Peter (the deal-breaker for orthodox/inerrantists, I know), but is far more internally consistent within the synoptic gospels and other mentions.

    Speaking of the synoptics, is it not interesting that the 4th and universally-recognized-as-latest gospel not only doesn’t emphasize Jesus’ apocalyptic pronouncements as much, but also notably drops the references to the timeframes?

    —“A big difference between us seems to be that I don’t see the Critic’s employment of a presupposition as evidence of cognitive dissonance, of pathology, but simply as a categorical working framework congruent with what are likely to be many of his other metaphysical presuppositions.”—

    Presupposition #1 is not evidence of cognitive dissonance. It is evidence of motivated reasoning. It assumes quite a bit, and the reason is obvious. Nor am I being completely presumptuous in thinking such, because I know not only how I used to think, but also how (not every!) fellow Christians think. That being said, I’m perfectly willing to consider why Presumption #1 is reasonable, even it if it isn’t as modest as Presupposition #2.

    —“Whereas, you see the Christian’s employment of that same category of framework as evidence of pathology.”—

    Motivated reasoning, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, etc. are hardly exclusive to Christians, and I have been careful to note (I think) that they cut both ways. However, one safeguard to check one’s motives and reasoning is to assume less and question more. Presupposition #1 assumes more and questions less. I have noted that the retreat to unfalsifiable propositions is typical of cognitive dissonance, but that is simply a fact. Thus, when one sees a proposed explanation of unfulfilled explanations appeal to an unfalsifiable premise, as in 2 Peter 3, it is fair to point out that this is what would be expected if there was cognitive dissonance.

    And we *know* that there is much cognitive dissonance with this issue, because much ink has been spilled on it for precisely that reason. You keep appealing to the fact that so many things are precisely the way Christians would expect them to be, but this is obviously not the case, as many/most Christians get to the “this generation shall not pass away” passage or the other “the end is nigh” passages and think “uh oh”, as C.S. Lewis famously did. Of course, cognitive dissonance is not logical proof of false prophecy. But it is evidence that things are not what would be expected (given certain presuppositions, of course).

  27. JBC,

    Again you insist Matthew 16 is speaking of a singularity rather than for what it is – That is why you cannot see Matthew 17 as a Coming with yet another Coming also spoken of.

    Hence the point of our inability to move further.

    Peter and Christ and Scripture in general recognize this reality (which you deny) found in all of these examples you reference as Christ’s ever present Imminence ever manifesting (Coming) to us in very literal examples ever juxtaposed with His ever approaching return (Coming) – itself a very literal event.

    Since you insist that is not the case despite both Peter and Christ (and Paul) and Scripture’s larger thematic narrative repeating that very same constant, that very same duo-toned reality, then there seems to be no way forward beyond here.

    Another reason we’re done is this from you:

    “It is also symptomatic of a common response to cognitive dissonance: retreat to unfalsifiable assumptions…”

    The overarching archetype that is the larger thematic narrative of Scripture is again treated with no more than a wave of the hand by you such that the employment of its presence was labeled by you to be echoing the pathological.

  28. JBC,

    You say,

    And the language used by Jesus et al is not *just* “imminent-sounding”. Jesus did not just say “I’ll be back soon”. He said “I’ll be back before you all are dead” (paraphrased, obviously).

    You are so bluntly certain of this. You are totally convinced that your interpretation is correct, and ours is wrong.

    Whence comes this absolute knowledge?

    You go on,

    Again, I can leave open the possibility that He was speaking to future generations, which is hardly irrational, and I can ask for evidence that this was so, which is hardly unreasonable. On the other hand, simply assuming that this is so is mighty presumptuous.

    It’s not mere assumption. It’s a meaning garnered from the context. Further, since this is an answer to the charge that Jesus was wrong, the burden of proof doesn’t lie on us. If we can produce one credible interpretation by which Jesus was not wrong, then the charge has been pin-pricked and deflated. The best you can say now is, “By my interpretation Jesus was wrong, but there are other credible interpretations by which Jesus was not wrong.”

    But by the first statement I quoted here, you seem certain that your interpretation is the only credible one. I mean, yes, you do admit that it’s “not irrational,” but for the rest of your comment here you act as if it is.

    Whence comes this absolute knowledge?

    “The judge is standing at the door.” That’s right. You and I might not live to see tonight’s sunset. The full context of NT eschatology indicates that no one knows whether their generation will be the one to see Jesus’ return. This helps explain Paul’s use of “we;” but really, it’s evident from all of his writings that Paul had the entire church for all generations in the back of his mind, even as he spoke to specific and individual churches.

    What I would expect, if 2 Peter was really written by Peter the Apostle, is that if the goal is to clear up confusion about the timeframe, that he wouldn’t appeal to the timelessness of God, but to explain what was meant by things happening before “this generation” dies off. If all you meant is simply that we would expect someone to come up with an answer, well, that would be expected under both hypotheses/presuppositions.

    Maybe you weren’t there when the question was asked of Peter, and you don’t know why he chose that approach to answering it. Regardless, he answered the question we’re discussing here, even though he came at it from a different angle.

    If on the other hand you had absolute knowledge of the relational context behind the writing of 2 Peter, you would be in a position to judge that the explanation I’ve given is wrong. I don’t think you have that absolute knowledge.

    Dealing with “scripture as a whole” is something that people like to appeal to when it suits them, and then back away from when it does not.

    That’s actually not the slightest bit true. Not even close. It even looks conveniently made up to me. You support it with,

    But if numerous problems are pointed out with one text in scripture, it will be quickly pointed out that those problems don’t necessarily extend to other texts, as they have different authors, were composed in different times, etc.

    That’s a pretty slippery sort of support to offer. I can’t figure out how it relates to your point.

    Your comment is long, and I’m not going to fisk out the whole thing. My reply comes down to two things I want to ask you:

    Do you realize you own the burden of proof here?

    How can you make such absolute-knowledge-statements as you do? Did you even realize that was what you were doing?

  29. JBC,

    On the problem of your methodology:

    Regarding comment #3 earlier, Luke 21, Matthew 16, and Matthew 17, and so on throughout the meta-narrative of the ever present constant that is Theism’s “duo-toned statement” about God approaching Man, there is the issue of my own execution as predicted by Christ, and, to add a little more, there is the issue of Christ being carried to the whole world – literally.

    The message is unmistakable – “You will be killed for My Name’s sake”. And, “Christ will be preached to the whole planet”. And, all those other events referenced in comment #3. And, the wide array of *other* events which Scripture speaks of.

    Per your approach we must here say this: One life time – Full stop.

    Unfortunately, a full stop there fails on the grounds that there are just too many, just so many more statements that Christ and Peter and Paul and Revelations, and Daniel too it seems, all make about these things that one cannot escape the wider thematic narrative if one seeks accuracy.

    Christ’s many statements tell this same “”you” and this same “they” (that will be killed) that you/they will see all these other various “events” which you/they will be alive to see as He “returns”. And Christ also tells them that some of them will see what Peter said of the Coming of the Lord in His Power there on the mountain. We see this problem for you again when, in Matthew 28, He tells them to go and make disciples of all nations. Obviously world-wide travel back then was fairly slow-going, and, just as obvious, Christ’s gospel is – literally – for the whole world, at least in that wider meta-narrative which you treat with a wave of the hand.

    We can say Christ is not – literally – to preached to the whole world in order to make all of these things more palatable to your diatribe, but that cuts out a very core element of Scripture’s wider archetype, that larger thematic narrative.

    That is why Tom’s approach in comment #3 is simply the right approach – the right methodology. Such a method takes the whole of Scripture as a singularity. Whereas, your methodology takes every sentence as a singularity and pronounces the “Scripture” (a single thing) to be not a singularity but rather a multiplicity of differing singularities all having nothing to do with one another. And it is that lack of a common ontological regress of A with B with C with D…… with Z in your methodology which is presenting all of us with the sort of reasoning taking place within your misguided extrapolations here.

    Presupposition #2 (your entire diatribe thus far in this thread) really cannot coherently contain any of this without the sort of massaging and evidence free assumptions we’ve seen from you thus far. Not unless we discount the larger thematic meta-narrative of what is “taking place” in Theism’s (Christianity’s) statement about God, about Man, and about Reality.

    And what about Scripture’s wider statement there on God, Man, and Reality?

    Though you treat it with mere hand waving, it is rather stubborn in its presence. While anything less than metaphysical necessities higher than non-theism can grant lands us inside of eliminative materialism – and some flavor of absurdity – there are good reasons for distrusting that naturalistic truth claim. But it does not occur to you that the metaphysical necessities of logic, or of reasoning, or of evil, or of good, or of volition, or of being, of any of that weigh in on the Christian’s methodology. You just wave a hand and imply cognitive dissonance – mental pathology..… “-Cause I use to think that way”. That is quite an argument in your attempt to justify your charge. “Cause I use to think that way”. Heavy metaphysics there JBC.

    It seems now that 2 Peter and so on all fall into “that” box you’ve managed to create here between the Christian and the Critic.

    Metaphysically we mean simply that Presupposition #1 (the Christian’s) finds all of this to be perfectly seamless with everything else we find in the language of Scripture – of Peter, of Christ, of Paul, of Revelations, of Prophecy, (and let us add Daniel and even Eden here – for the level of completion that brings intellectual satisfaction), and so on through those contours of what it *means* for the “Infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality” to be – literally – an actuality of constant Imminence and to be ever manifesting (Coming) to us in very literal examples even as such is ever juxtaposed with His ever approaching return (Coming) – itself a very literal event. Mathew 16 and 17 capture that seamlessness, as Peter echoes later in life, as the entire body of Scripture’s A – Z speaks to.

    It is *all of that* which presses in upon both you and us in our reading here as the larger thematic meta-narrative gels seamlessly with all of your referenced examples thus far even as that meta-narrative’s vectors gel seamlessly with my own (“you”) witnessing His literal manifestation, or *Coming*, in my (“your”) lifetime in His Power, even as it gels seamlessly with getting killed for His name’s sake *prior* to His literal manifestation, or *Coming*, at the “End Of The Ages”, even as such gels seamlessly with the statement which pertains to Worlds as – literally – an entire *World* is to hear of such things, to participate in such things, to walk through such things, and all of this casually continues on and gels seamlessly with the wide assortment of *other* events which Christ foretells. The ontic-singularity that ties A to B to C to D….. to Z – each having something to do with the other – seamlessness – just is the Christian’s metaphysical truth-claim about God, Man, and Reality. You do as most critic’s do with the Christian’s ontic-singularity – you wave a hand and merely opine: “It is also symptomatic of a common response to cognitive dissonance: retreat to un-falsifiable assumptions…”

    The metaphysical truth claim of the Christian on God, Man, and Reality pertains to the interface of those three in all sorts of ways, such as evil, good, pain, the metaphysics of logic and reasoning, redemption, man in wholeness, man in fragmentation, man in privation, Law’s dead-end vs. an instantiation of moral excellence through Christ, the literal manifestation of Him in the here and now, ever present, and again in another fashion at what Scripture terms the end of the ages, and so on. The Christian seeks, and finds, logical lucidity carrying us to the epicenter of the singular “ontic-archetype” that is the larger thematic narrative of Scripture. The whole-show there that is the metaphysical background to what is the Christian’s methodology is treated with no more than a wave of the hand by you such that the employment of its (unmistakable) presence and its lucid metaphysical regressions are all labeled by you to be the echoes of the mentally pathological.

    That was most unfortunate.

  30. Tom,

    Regarding my semantics, I make no claim of “absolute knowledge”. I am convinced of what I claim, in the same way that scbrownlhrm is convinced of what he claims and makes no qualification. I don’t presume that he thinks its absolute knowledge, although he may. It just ridiculously tedious to qualify every statement with “I think it likely that…” or “It seems to me more probable that…” or “most scholars agree that…”, etc. You’re already complaining about the length of my comment(s).

    —“It’s not mere assumption. It’s a meaning garnered from the context.”—

    Not in the context of my conversation with scbrownlhrm. He was presenting me with a dichotomy of presuppositions:either we assume Jesus was speaking to every Christian ever (paraphrased) or we assume that He was only speaking to those in front of Him. I rejected that dichotomy, but scbrownlhrm seems to have ignored that. Regardless, it was presented as an assumption. Further, I think it’s clear that one does not get that Jesus is speaking to every Christian ever from the context of HIs pre-Transfiguration pronouncement, claims to the High Priest, Olivet Discourse, etc.

    —“Further, since this is an answer to the charge that Jesus was wrong, the burden of proof doesn’t lie on us.”—

    More specifically, my response was to your OP that indicated Jesus *wasn’t wrong*. So now where does the burden of proof lie? Or, we could stop playing burden of proof games and simply agree that if one makes a claim, they should be able to justify it.

    —“If we can produce one credible interpretation by which Jesus was not wrong, then the charge has been pin-pricked and deflated.”—

    It’s a matter of what is most likely to be true. Presumably, “credible” means at the very least plausible, or even “likely to be true”. But if there are other explanations that have more explanatory value, than the charge isn’t so deflated.

    —‘The best you can say now is, “By my interpretation Jesus was wrong, but there are other credible interpretations by which Jesus was not wrong.”‘—

    I consider “my” interpretation more credible. You consider “your” interpretation more credible.

    —“But by the first statement I quoted here, you seem certain that your interpretation is the only credible one. I mean, yes, you do admit that it’s “not irrational,” but for the rest of your comment here you act as if it is.”—

    No, I asserted that it is presumptuous to simply *assume* that Jesus is speaking to every Christian ever. And I acted as if other explanations are not as credible, and I gave at least some reasons for thinking so.

    —‘”The judge is standing at the door.” That’s right. You and I might not live to see tonight’s sunset. The full context of NT eschatology indicates that no one knows whether their generation will be the one to see Jesus’ return.’—

    The only scriptures that could be interpreted that way are 2 Peter and Revelation, which (coincidentally?) are the most disputed and latest of the texts in the NT canon. And Revelation is so nebulous it can be used to “predict” everything from Nero to Obama, depending on who you ask. The gospels and epistles give every indication that they thought it would happen within their lifetimes (or their contemporaries), and even 2 Peter indicates this *was* the expectation. The whole point of 2 Peter 3 is to explain why this expectation is yet unfulfilled. Again, if the expectation was simply that Jesus would return *at some point*, there would be no need for an appeal to timelessness. If, as you say, the possibility of future generations seeing the parousia was being strongly considered, there would be no perception of an unkempt promise.

    —“This helps explain Paul’s use of “we;” but really, it’s evident from all of his writings that Paul had the entire church for all generations in the back of his mind, even as he spoke to specific and individual churches.”—

    And yet, again, you would (presumably) make an appeal to the more *immediate* context of time and place when Paul is saying women should be silent, not teach, and men shouldn’t have long hair. There needs to be some mechanism where we can understand the most broad generalization is intended, otherwise the selective appeals simply appear to be the product of motivated reasoning.

    —“Maybe you weren’t there when the question was asked of Peter, and you don’t know why he chose that approach to answering it. Regardless, he answered the question we’re discussing here, even though he came at it from a different angle.”—

    Agreed. He chose his response for a reason. As I mentioned earlier, his response seems fairly symptomatic of cognitive dissonance: when expectations are unmet, retreat to unfalsifiable propositions. If Jesus didn’t come back in any sense that He predicted, then, well, He came back in some *spiritual* sense, and the rest is awaiting fulfillment (note the parallel to Harold Camping). If the timeline wasn’t met, then timelessness is the reason.

    —“If on the other hand you had absolute knowledge of the relational context behind the writing of 2 Peter, you would be in a position to judge that the explanation I’ve given is wrong.”—

    Neither one of us has absolute knowledge (feel free to demonstrate otherwise), which is why the debate is not about who has deductive proof, but who is more likely to be correct.

  31. In the spirit of justifying claims made, I’m more than willing to state a case (and already have, to a certain fragmented extent).

    1. James specifically states “The Judge is standing at the door!”, which seems to be a clear reference to Matthew 24:33. Note that this reference in Matthew refers to having already seen the signs of the parousia, and they are simply waiting for the next step, which Jesus guarantees will be that same generation. So, here you have an apostle who clearly thinks a) Jesus is coming back within his own generation, and b) they have already seen all the signs.

    2. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul clearly connects the parousia to the Roman civilization, stating that the return will come while people are saying “pax et securitas” (peace and safety), a Roman slogan found on coins. In 2 Thessalonians 1, he very clearly is connecting the return to relief for the Thessalonians: “He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” You can, of course, try to claim that “you” is again here a “you” that is consistent with 2000+ years of Christians, but then it is hard to see how Jesus’ return, say, 3000 years later and destruction of a civilization that may have forgotten about the Thessalonians would provide them with any relief. It also obscures the meaning of “us”, which is obviously referring to Paul and his associates. No, this is a case where the context is clearly immediate.

    3. Given the above two examples (James and Paul), it is clear that at least two apostles expected a return within their lifetimes and/or their contemporaries. It is reasonable to ask where they would have received such an expectation. It seems reasonable enough to think that they would have received it from the person who taught them about such things, and that’s not even considering what we already know about what Jesus said. (technically, we don’t know that Jesus actually taught Paul, but it is obviously believed that the apostles reliably transmitted such knowledge, and he may already have been aware of some of it)

    4. Speaking of that, Jesus uses very similar terminology and the same timelines in each instance he refers to the Son of Man coming. This would not be expected if what He had in mind were different iterations of “coming”.

    5. Even if you want to claim that such consistent themes are compatible with multiple senses of the Son of Man coming, it does not mean that it is the most plausible sense in which Jesus meant what He said. In other words, multiple “comings” is not the default position, and simply claiming that different iterations of “coming” are consistent with what Jesus said does not make that explanation more probable than other explanations that are consistent with what Jesus said.

    6. Nor is an explanation of multiple “coming”s compatible with some kind of “coming” after His contemporaries were dead. The only escape (that I see) from this is to make an argument (a) where Jesus meant something else by “this generation” and/or (b) that “all these things” does not refer to His coming.

    a) The argument that Jesus could’ve meant “that” when using “this” is already strained just in terms of normal usage… I mean, Jesus *could’ve* meant “those who are standing here” in Mark 9 to mean some other people who would stand there later, but I think we would all agree that’s ridiculous. And yet, it’s pretty much the same move people try to make with “this generation”. “This” is an immediate qualifier. But also note that Jesus does not normally use the phrase “this generation” to refer to some other generation. It seems pretty consistently employed to refer to His contemporaries, so that would be the most probable explanation, absent any other compelling data.

    Aside from that, however, such an argument reduces Jesus’ statement to “The generation living when all of these things take place will not die out til all of these things take place.” This is a tautologous statement *unless* “all these things” in these verses refer to slightly different things. Which I think they do: the first “all these things” is referring to the signs, and the second to the signs AND His return. So, either you ascribe a tautology to Jesus or you admit that Jesus was not only saying that *all* of these signs would happen within one generation (so there goes the “obviously not all of this could happen in such a short amount of time” argument), but that the same people (more or less) would see Him return. This is significant, considering the fall of Jerusalem is typically taken to be a fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy, and it is obvious that the epistle authors think they have identified signs.

    b) I confess I see no way to do this.

    Jesus makes it clear that he is speaking about the current generation of people in the Olivet Discourse. In Matthew 24:4 when the disciples asked Jesus about the end of the age, he says,

    “Watch out that no one deceives you.”
    “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars…”
    “…you will be hated by all nations because of me.”
    Etc.

    He is replying to them, explaining what they’ll see; and even says that they shall see these things. So, it’s not just “this generation” that would have to be modified, it’s the whole chapter. We’d have to pretend that even though Jesus was speaking to the disciples, He wasn’t saying “you” as in “you standing here”, but “you” as in “they” or “them”. And, again, scbrownlhrm’s (and others) device of assuming that Jesus is not *just* speaking to them, but *also* speaking to future generations simply won’t work here, because Jesus makes it clear that one generation will see all these things. And Jesus makes it clear that the apostles will at least see some of them, and Christians even believe that some of these things were fulfilled at that time. It follows, then, that it was that generation that should have seen Christ’s return.

    7. Statements like “don’t worry about tomorrow” or “don’t bother getting married unless you really have to” (paraphrased, obviously) make much more sense if you think the world is ending within a generation, as opposed to being open to the possibility of it taking 2000+ more years.

    8. Those who would claim the apostles taught an *imminent* return, but not necessarily one that would happen soon, simply distort the meaning of “imminent”. If I say that you are in “imminent danger”, you would not assume that you could die at any moment, but maybe not soon. Heck, that’s just normal life. The emphasis on “last days”, “end of the age”, etc. is not because they thought it could happen at some point. You don’t get excited about things like that. On the other hand, you do get excited about things that you think will happen soon. So, while I can appreciate nuance and figurative language, the “already-not yet” stuff simply relied on straining/twisting language too much, it seems to me. One does not normally do that unless you’re really motivated to reach a certain conclusion.

    9. In the pre-Transfiguration accounts, the statement that “Some will not taste death” *entails* that some will. “Some” means “not all”. Yet, if we are to believe 2 Peter (and others) this statement of Jesus was fulfilled a mere week or so later. Aside from the fact that by saying “some won’t die” Jesus pretty clearly would not have had in mind an event a week later, the fact is this presents a contradiction. “some” = “not all”, yet it is the case that ALL of them did not taste death. I realize for the inerrantist, that none of this matters: 2 Peter said it, it is scripture, and so that settles it – so there’s some other explanation. For those with a more open mind, however, there are now 2 strong reasons for thinking that while 2 Peter may have thought that, it’s not what the gospel authors had in mind – and, in fact, that they probably thought Jesus was referring to the same “coming”. Yes, the proximity of the Transfiguration is tantalizing, but it’s clear that this “coming” is associated with angels, clouds, judgment, etc. which obviously did not happen with the Transfiguration. It’s easy to associate the Transfiguration with a bestowing of power and glory, but that is not the whole story.

    10. There is more that can be said, but I’ll end with this: we would expect that by the time the generation of Jesus’ followers started dying out, that excuses would start to be made. And I will again note that when such things are done, we know that people will commonly retreat from falsifiable predictions to unfalsifiable ones. And 2 Peter seems to be an exercise in both. There is clearly the perception of an unkempt promise regarding the parousia. There would be no reason to think there would be such a perception… unless people thought it had been *promised* that Jesus would be returning before “this generation” died out. And, of course, 2 Peter makes no attempt to correct the interpretation of the promise, which would be expected if it were incorrect. Instead, he makes appeals to the timelessness of God as explaining the delay.

    Side note: while it is common for apologists to point out bias, prejudice, etc. in critical readings of the Bible (and rightly enough in many cases), this is an instance where it is tougher to make that case, considering there are many Christians who read it the same way the “critics” do.

  32. scbrownlhrm,

    I think I’ve addressed some of your concerns in my past couple of comments. In your last (#31) comment, you were reiterating what Tom said in comment #3, that it just doesn’t seem like these things are all containable within 1 lifetime. One can think that, but it’s pretty obvious the apostles didn’t think that, as – again – James refers to Matthew 24:33 and having already seen all of the signs. He was just waiting for the return.

    As for the gospel being preached to the “whole planet”, well, that’s not quite what Jesus says. He says all nations. And Acts specifically mentions the disciples preaching to Jews of “every nation” and making disciples. I mean, if you think that Jesus can refer to people not all being dead by a certain point and think that was fulfilled only a week later, I don’t see why you couldn’t also think in terms of a compressed time frame here. Oh ye of little faith!

    —“That is why Tom’s approach in comment #3 is simply the right approach – the right methodology. Such a method takes the whole of Scripture as a singularity. Whereas, your methodology takes every sentence as a singularity and pronounces the “Scripture” (a single thing) to be not a singularity but rather a multiplicity of differing singularities all having nothing to do with one another.”—

    Interesting, because we seem to be talking about the same scriptures. So, when you talk about these scriptures, they are related in the sense that they can be fitted into some kind of cohesive whole, a “meta-narrative”. But when I talk about these same scriptures, they are unrelated, period. More likely is that you just don’t like the methodology of pitting scriptures against each other. Better to assume more, and question less.

    —“While anything less than metaphysical necessities higher than non-theism can grant lands us inside of eliminative materialism – and some flavor of absurdity – there are good reasons for distrusting that naturalistic truth claim.”—

    Fair enough. How is this relevant?

    —“But it does not occur to you that the metaphysical necessities of logic, or of reasoning, or of evil, or of good, or of volition, or of being, of any of that weigh in on the Christian’s methodology.”—

    If by “methodology” you are referring to Presupposition #1, then yes, it did not occur to me. Feel free to elaborate on how the metaphysical necessity of logic leads us to believe that when Jesus speaks to the apostles, He speaks to every Christian ever.

    —“You just wave a hand and imply cognitive dissonance – mental pathology..… “-Cause I use to think that way”. That is quite an argument in your attempt to justify your charge. “Cause I use to think that way”. Heavy metaphysics there JBC.”—

    What does metaphysics have to do with cognitive dissonance or mental pathology? And you still aren’t getting what I said straight because what I said was that presupposition #1 was not evidence of cognitive dissonance, it was evidence of motivated reasoning. You can get offended at that all you want, but for the average Christian, it is true. Maybe you’ve somehow worked from the metaphysics of volition to scripture being a unified whole, but the average Christian has not, and in fact most of them will not know what metaphysics are. No, instead, they like to think that not only Jesus, but the OT speaks to every Christian ever, which is why the Prayer of Jabez was so popular. They assume it peaks to them because they want it to.

    —“Metaphysically we mean simply that Presupposition #1 (the Christian’s) finds all of this to be perfectly seamless with everything else we find in the language of Scripture”—

    If by “seamless” you mean “startling”, then sure. I’m going to go ahead and say that C.S. Lewis did not call Matthew 24:34 the most embarrassing verse in the Bible because he thought it was seamless. Nor would preterists buy a lot of what you’re selling.

    —‘You do as most critic’s do with the Christian’s ontic-singularity – you wave a hand and merely opine: “It is also symptomatic of a common response to cognitive dissonance: retreat to un-falsifiable assumptions…”’

    If you could do more than vaguely refer to ontic-singularities, and actually demonstrate (as opposed to assume) ontic-singularities, then maybe we’d be onto something. If I was expecting a seamless meta-narrative, then what I would expect is for there to be early attestation to the idea that, “hey, God is timeless, so let’s not get too carried away in thinking Christ is coming back soon”. If it were really seamless, I would not expect a group of Christians to have the perception of an unkempt promise regarding Christ’s return. Instead, what we see is early excitement – so much so that Paul is actively encouraging folks not to get married, and late rationalization. You can object to that characterization, of course, but doing so requires more than just vaguely appealing to “God approaching man”, ontic-singularities, and/or meta-narratives.

    —“The whole-show there that is the metaphysical background to what is the Christian’s methodology is treated with no more than a wave of the hand by you such that the employment of its (unmistakable) presence and its lucid metaphysical regressions are all labeled by you to be the echoes of the mentally pathological.”—

    We all employ cognitive bias, motivated reasoning, etc. at some point or another. So, it’s not like I’m claiming Christians are pathological, and no one else is. But what is clear is that taking a position that assumes much and questions little – and, in fact, takes umbrage with skepticism – is, at least, very consistent with motivated reasoning. Now, you want to claim there is more to it than that. Fair enough. But rather than actually demonstrate that, you’re just condescending about how unfortunate it is that I’m missing the unmistakable.

    Well, if a whole bunch of people seem to be missing it, perhaps that’s because it’s not so unmistakable.

  33. JBC,

    All you’ve managed to do – again and still – is to submerge your entire diatribe to presupposition #2 rather than presupposition #1 and all of this based on the Imminence of God right now, right here – always. Based on two or three verses. How many verses are in Scripture, JBC? Based on what bias do you insist that we forget the rest of Scripture and thereby move into presupposition #2’s assertion that no verse in Scripture has anything else to do with all other verses?

    In other words, you’ve not added anything new here to your diatribe as your “One Life Time – Full Stop” assertion becomes irrational as it fails to take in the rest of scripture. And you’ve not given a reason for us to presuppose based on your bias, your motivated reasoning. Your presupposition #2 just assumes A has nothing to do with B, which has nothing to do with C, and so on until we reach Z. You can presuppose that if you want based on a few slices of Scripture given your motivated reasoning / bias. But the full-body of Scripture, historicity, genre, and the many, many statements that Christ, Peter, Paul and Daniel all make, and which OT prophecy makes about *Man* and about *All Tongues* and about the *World* coming into such vectors as our current Age comes to a close, as Man approaches God, and God Man, and which Revelation’s makes about a *World* and all of its nations as – again – the current Age comes to a close as – again – the great serpent, that enemy who deceives the *Whole World* pulls in *all of mankind* into the whole-show, and so on, as all such thematic archetypes come to weigh on these things and lead reason to see the wider picture and rationally conclude that one cannot escape the wider thematic narrative if one seeks accuracy.

    It is academically comical that you assert that the meta-narrative of Scripture, from A to Z, does not include the *World* within its thematic margins. That is just what it takes though to get your entire diatribe to remain coherent. How very, very unfortunate for you. You are welcome of course to stand your ground on that point, to remain faithful to your presupposition and motivated reasoning based on just a few slices of Scripture. But your presupposition’s few slices here and there being the basis of defending such a presupposition (#2) just fails to bring enough intellectual sway to the reasoned and rational approach of presupposition #1, and in fact begins to reveal hints of the desperate on your end where *World* comes into play within Scripture’s meta-narrative there from A to Z, from Eden and Mankind to Revelation’s New Earth and Mankind.

    But again, you can claim *World* is just not there in Scripture’s thematic margins in order to keep your presupposition coherent. Earth? Eden? Mankind? Enemy deceiving the *whole world*? End of Ages? New Earth? All tongues? Did we mention New Earth?

    Just toss it all out…. -Cause of your motivated bias.

    Unlike you, the Christian takes the whole body of Scripture, of Prophecy (both OT and NT), God’s ceaseless Imminence, historicity, and genre all into play and finds all of the rational vectors described already – none of which you’ve managed to prove irrational or ill-reasoned.

    Not even close.

    All you do is keep coming back to a few slices of Scripture as your whole premise just is that those few slices are the whole show, that no verse in Scripture has ontic-ties to all other verses, and that – “therefore” – all of Scripture’s other verses ought to be – as if by magic – just forgotten, ignored, and left out of the equation. And all of this is merely because of your motivated reasoning, your bias.

    In short – nothing you said has by reason showed presupposition #1 to be incoherent – and in fact you’ve managed to reveal your own presupposition’s need to slice out OT prophecy, the Imminence of God, NT prophecy, and a wide array of other Scriptural themes just to make your case. Then, even worse, and almost as insulting as your initial inference of cognitive dissonance (which you did infer initially try as you might to hedge after the fact), you subtly infer that Logic and Metaphysical seamlessness ought to have nothing to do with the Christian’s approach. Huh? You must base that bit of motivated bias on the premise that – in Scripture’s meta-narrative – Man’s Knowledge of God is a fixed, static entity within Man which never grows within Time. But you give us no good reason to believe that absurd premise. Do you base it on one verse? Two verses? The full body of Scripture’s A – Z ? Then, after all of these unsound moves, you continue to fail to make full use of historicity and genre – and all because of one or two or three verses all taken in isolation – an isolation which cannot be justified but by the motivated bias leading to presupposition #2.

    That’s just what it takes, though, to get presupposition #2 to rise to the level of a rational appearance.

    Which is why we are – again and still – unimpressed with your diatribe thus far.

  34. It’s the same theme over and over.

    14 …..which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. 15 (Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walked naked, and they see his shame.) 16 And they gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew Har-magedon…..

    Here we see again the Imminence of God – right now, today, always – married to – amalgamated with – prophetic vectors which find the entire world’s citizenship at some locus of history entering into, participating in, experiencing, all the affairs of an Age’s consummation in what appears to be one brief time – less than one life time. Perhaps such all-tongues, such all-nations, as here and in OT lines and …. well…. elsewhere, are as Christ states here and in the Gospels. But then such converging with such a world wide all-inclusive citizenship of perception of Christ in some very real sense would mandate that the name of Christ be preached in all places, and that all such places have some semblance of a working knowledge thereof. Now, such educational achievements to such far reaching distances all taking place – and then – all being followed up by all such places and distances – now aware – all then coming together in a more global arena – and then – all finding themselves again re-converging in some sort tension – well as noted travel was quite slow in the first century…. and the globe was anything but, well, global, and so presupposition #1 seems quite more robust here.

    But all of this is a fairly minor example as such is but one part of what is Scripture’s repeating theme of this marriage of God’s ever present Imminence with God’s having yet to come.

    “Eat, drink, and be merry – for the End is far away” – just is nonsense on Scripture’s unmistakable thematic genre of God and Mankind.

    It is always, ceaselessly, I stand at the door……

  35. This marriage of the concrete and ceaseless “Imminence of God” with God’s concrete “Yet-To-Actualize” begins in Eden.

    From the get-go. God ever at the door – with us – always. God ever pressing upon us the soon to come – always.

    It’s seen there in Abraham.

    And in Issac.
    And Jacob.

    It’s there in Israel.

    It’s there in all the Prophets.

    It’s there in the Gospels.

    It’s there in the entire NT.

    It’s there in Revelations.

    From A to Z. Until a wedding of sorts.

    It just is the topography of God amid Man, of Man amid God. Metaphysically and logically speaking, that topography seems unavoidable. In fact, given the ontology of “God” and of “Man in Privation”, nothing else seems to add up. As it happens, there is only one Genre on planet Earth where we find all these vectors casually, comfortably converging.

    “Eat, drink, and be merry – for the End is far away” – just is nonsense on Scripture’s unmistakable thematic genre of God and Mankind.

    It is always, ceaselessly, “I stand at the door……..”

  36. JBC, the burden of proof lies with you, if you want to claim that Jesus was wrong about the time of his return.

    If you don’t want to claim that, then my post, its claims, and the burden of proof really all ought to be irrelevant in your eyes. I mean, why would you care?

    Suppose you didn’t care about claiming that Jesus was wrong. Suppose you also succeeded in showing I can’t bear the burden of proof; that I can’t substantiate my claim. What would you have accomplished? You would have shown that I was wrong. Congratulations for that. Meanwhile you’d still be in the state of not caring whether Jesus was right or wrong.

    I can live with that outcome. My post was written for people who believe Jesus was wrong.

    So what is your position, anyway?

  37. scbrownlhrm,

    —“Based on what bias do you insist that we forget the rest of Scripture and thereby move into presupposition #2’s assertion that no verse in Scripture has anything else to do with all other verses?”—

    You are setting many strawmen aflame here. First, I have already told you that I do not accept presupposition #2. I do not accept presupposition #1 either, but you presented a false dichotomy. That a meta-narrative can be fashioned out of the 66 books of the Bible, I have no doubt. Heck, a meta-narrative could be fashioned out of the 66 books as well as apocryphal texts. I mean, when we’re content to ignore contradictions, we can even include heretical texts, and still find a “God approaching man” narrative. I could fashion a meta-narrative out of the Upanishads, the Koran, and Huckleberry Finn if I really wanted to. But you wouldn’t expect it to be true; and you would (rightly) question why I would. The question is motivation.

    You have claimed that presupposition #1 is somehow tied to metaphysics, but I have yet to see any justification for that.

    —“In other words, you’ve not added anything new here to your diatribe as your “One Life Time – Full Stop” assertion becomes irrational as it fails to take in the rest of scripture.”—

    On the contrary, I have showed how – with the exception of 2 Peter – it is perfectly consistent with the rest of scripture. Feel free to show how my arguments fail, but don’t pretend that I haven’t made them.

    And, yes, I do realize the the “except for 2 Peter” is the deal-breaker for someone working from presupposition #1. The problem then is that you have to show how “this generation” or “all of these” means something other than what they obviously mean. You have to ignore contradictions.

    Again, when Jesus said “some who are standing here will not taste death” in the pre-Transfiguration accounts this is not logically consistent with what 2 Peter claims. “Some” = NOT all. Yet, ALL of them survived. Jesus statement entailed that some of them would be dead (according to 2 Peter) by the time of the Transfiguration. This didn’t happen. Aside from all of the other obvious inconsistencies with claiming the Transfiguration fulfilling what Jesus claimed about the Son of Man coming in these pre-Transfiguration accounts, this contradiction presents a big problem. Logical contradictions are the opposite of “seamless”.

    —“And you’ve not given a reason for us to presuppose based on your bias, your motivated reasoning.”—

    My motivation is to find what is most likely to be true. To do that, I try to use evidence to back my conclusions. So, when one claims that Jesus is speaking to every Christian ever, the obvious response is why would we think that is true. That He is speaking to the apostles is clear. Claiming more than that requires additional justification.

    You’ve claimed that Jesus couldn’t have been claiming it would have occurred within His generation, because of the short time frame. But this contradicts scripture elsewhere (see how I’m not claiming scriptures are completely unrelated?). You’ve claimed that there is a “God approaching man” meta-narrative that we keep in mind, but this is obviously NOT the whole story. Scripture makes plain that the Son of Man *arrives*. There would be no reason to hope if this wasn’t the case. And, unfortunately for your indefinite-approaching thesis, there were time constraints put on this arrival. So, God/Son of Man arriving is not inconsistent with a “God approaching Man” meta-narrative. It is inconsistent with a “God never arriving” meta-narrative. But no Christian believes that.

    —“Your presupposition #2 just assumes A has nothing to do with B, which has nothing to do with C, and so on until we reach Z.”—

    How so? I’ve made it clear that scriptures are related to each other. Maybe not to the same extent that you think they are related, but I don’t *assume* they are not. It’s an open question. Feel free to make your case.

    —“You can presuppose that if you want based on a few slices of Scripture given your motivated reasoning / bias.”—

    Just curious, how many scriptures does it take to make a contradiction? How many prophecies must someone get wrong to become a false prophet?

    It is true that I have mentioned only a few verses to make my case. How many are necessary to prove a point? How many verses do Christians use to assert homosexuality is a sin? You can keep making vague references to meta-narratives all you want, but you haven’t demonstrated that the meta-narrative contradicts my claim. “God approaching man” is not inconsistent with “God arrives”. And every Christian believes that God eventually will. My point is that there was initially a timeline on such a belief. Simply asserting that scripture teaches God approaches man does nothing to undermine such a claim, nor do vague references to OT prophecy.

    —“But the full-body of Scripture, historicity, genre, and the many, many statements that Christ, Peter, Paul and Daniel all make, and which OT prophecy makes … all such thematic archetypes come to weigh on these things and lead reason to see the wider picture and rationally conclude that one cannot escape the wider thematic narrative if one seeks accuracy.”—

    Well, let’s see… Daniel was railing against the Seleucid Empire and Antiochus Epiphanes in particular. Revelation was railing against the Roman Empire and Nero in particular. But, for some reason, I am to believe that because we can fit these texts into a “God approaching man” meta-narrative, that somehow this is inconsistent with a “Jesus claimed it was supposed to happen within a generation” claim?

    The assumption that you are using, but not explicitly stating, is that none of these scriptures can be *wrong*. Because this is impossible, it is simply on us to figure out how they are all correct. Hence, the reliance on a too-vague-to-be-falsified meta-narrative.

    —“It is academically comical that you assert that the meta-narrative of Scripture, from A to Z, does not include the *World* within its thematic margins.”—

    It is academically comical to assume that your source material cannot be wrong. Regardless, I have no idea what you mean by this. How does “Jesus claimed that He would be back before His generation died out” entail “the meta-narrative of scripture does not include the world?”

    —“You are welcome of course to stand your ground on that point, to remain faithful to your presupposition and motivated reasoning based on just a few slices of Scripture.”—

    Just curious, when scripture says “Jesus wept”, how many other passages of scripture do we need to confirm that point? Do we need the entirety of scripture, or will just a few passages suffice?

    —“Just toss it all out…. -Cause of your motivated bias.”—

    Again, it’s not like “critics”, or those who would employ presupposition #2, are the only ones who see these statements and conclude that Jesus and His followers expected a 1st-century parousia. Christians do as well. Did C.S. Lewis call Jesus’ proclamation the most embarrassing verse in the Bible because of His motivated reasoning? Do preterists?

    —“Unlike you, the Christian takes the whole body of Scripture, of Prophecy (both OT and NT), God’s ceaseless Imminence, historicity, and genre all into play and finds all of the rational vectors described already – none of which you’ve managed to prove irrational or ill-reasoned.”—-

    It’s difficult to demonstrate the irrationality of anything, when it is presented in the vaguest, least-specific manner possible. I don’t disagree with you that immanence is a theme of scripture. I disagree that immanence entails the lack of an arrival. Presumably, you would as well. So, it is not that this “meta-narrative” is irrational, it is that it is irrelevant.

    Historicity is obviously relevant, but I’m granting historicity. I’m not claiming that Jesus didn’t exist. I’m not claiming 2 Peter wasn’t written by Peter. I am claiming that what is written in 2 Peter creates a contradiction. Unfortunately, that’s what follows if you assume both 2 Peter and the gospels are correct.

    Genre. Now that’s an interesting discussion. We could discuss the genre of Daniel and Revelation for a while, I imagine. Rest assured, I do not ignore such issues.

    —“All you do is keep coming back to a few slices of Scripture as your whole premise just is that those few slices are the whole show, that no verse in Scripture has ontic-ties to all other verses….”—

    Again, this is not my claim. My claim is that if this is *your* claim, then it needs to be justified. Such ontology is an open question to me. I do not assume a priori that John 11:35 is related to Romans 1:1. I do not assume that they aren’t, but neither do I have reason (yet) to think that they are such ontic ties.

    You haven’t really even specified what “ontic ties” with other verses entail that Jesus couldn’t have meant what, say, James and Paul obviously thought He meant. You are welcome to presuppose such an ontological status of course, but then again, a fair reply is to ask what the motivation is.

    —“In short – nothing you said has by reason showed presupposition #1 to be incoherent ….”—

    I’m sorry, is that the standard for truth now? If it’s coherent, we are rational to believe it? Certainly, demonstrating that something is incoherent would prove it false, but I don’t think presupposition #1 is *incoherent*, nor did I claim such.

    —“…and in fact you’ve managed to reveal your own presupposition’s need to slice out OT prophecy, the Imminence of God, NT prophecy, and a wide array of other Scriptural themes just to make your case.”—

    No, I just don’t assume a priori that OT prophecy, etc. disproves my conclusion. I am certainly willing to consider such. What is it about OT prophecy that entails that Jesus couldn’t have meant that the Son of Man would return in His generation?

    —“Then, even worse, and almost as insulting as your initial inference of cognitive dissonance (which you did infer initially try as you might to hedge after the fact), you subtly infer that Logic and Metaphysical seamlessness ought to have nothing to do with the Christian’s approach.”—

    So many strawmen, so little time. Where did I infer that metaphysics *ought* not have anything to do with it?

    —“It is always, ceaselessly, I stand at the door……”—

    No, this is wrong. Scripture doesn’t claim that God will ceaselessly stand at the door. Scripture claims that God will open the door, judge mankind, etc. Again, if the theme was that God would never arrive, then you might be correct that it is insane to think Jesus would have meant what He said. But this is not the theme, is it?

  38. Tom,

    —“JBC, the burden of proof lies with you, if you want to claim that Jesus was wrong about the time of his return.”—

    Agreed. See comment #33. My problem is not being told that I have a burden of proof. I just find it silly when people insist that they do not. We all have a burden of proof.

    —“I can live with that outcome. My post was written for people who believe Jesus was wrong.”—

    Seems like you should care if you were wrong, regardless of how much I care about the issue.

  39. I’m having trouble figuring out where I implied otherwise. I made a hypothetical, worst-case-scenario argument showing that even if your argument succeeds, it fails. I didn’t say I don’t care whether my argument succeeds.

  40. JBC,

    Yes, I know, you have to believe that Christ’s words in Revelations have nothing to do with a global picture, or else your presupposition fails – the presupposition that you ascribe to – but say you don’t – that all verses stand in isolation from all other verses – Full Stop – and that the whole show is One Life Time – Full Stop. Just like I know you have to believe that God is not here according to Scripture – From Eden to Revelations. Just like you have to believe that God is not in the world according to Scripture – From Eden to Revelations. Because – per your presupposition – God is not ever here, not ever at the door, not ever in the world. You have to believe that, because on presupposition #2 the redemption of mankind is non-entity from Eden onward – because the Imminence of God must be tossed out – or else that (your) presupposition fails for yet another reason. Just like you have to believe that the marriage of the concrete and ceaseless “Imminence of God” with God’s concrete “Yet-To-Actualize” is not found in Scripture – from beginning to end – or else your presupposition fails. Just like you have to believe that – in Scripture’s meta-narrative – it is – from A to Z, “Eat, drink, and be merry – for God is far away”, or else your presupposition finds yet another flawed thematic assertion within itself.

    So far you’ve added nothing new here – just all the same presuppositions which Scripture cannot help you with.

  41. We almost missed this comedy:

    “Paul clearly connects the parousia to the Roman civilization, stating that the return will come while people are saying “pax et securitas” (peace and safety), a Roman slogan found on coins.”

    “Cleary connects…”

    Hmm….. so Christ’s reference to coins means that it really is the case – it is the actual state of affairs – that Rome, and not God, actually has ontological control of the metaphysical vectors sustaining the city of Rome – that such actually does belong to Caesar. But what about the book of Romans and such final ownership linked to God yet still?

    That’s that silly “no verse is connected to all other verses” presupposition of the Critic once again.

    Funny.

    Reason in a vacuum.

    Like Peter telling us later in life that he saw the Son of Man in His Power. That too has no connection to any other verses. -Cause presupposition #2…..

    Just like, “Eat, drink, and be merry for God is far away” ought to be the thematic tone of Scripture “if” it was inspired by God, “if” presupposition #1 housed accuracy, and, so, therefore, because the thematic tone from A to Z is God ever amid Man – ceaseless Imminence – then clearly such a “constant” is proof of error. Surely God would tell Israel to party it up -cause the Messiah is far off all those centuries, and surely God would tell the Church to party it up all those centuries -cause God is far away, -cause that is what God “should” do. But He didn’t. So therefore presupposition #1 is irrational, unreasoned, and incoherent.

    That’s even funnier.

    Nothing connected to anything else. All verses – like the coin thing – just stand in isolation and “clearly indicate….”

    Reason in a vacuum.

  42. For interesting reading, a more reasonable approach to layer atop Peter’s claim to already have seen the Son of Man in His Power, and, also, to layer atop the presupposition of the Critic that scripture’s thematic tone either “is” or “should be”, from Eden to Revelations, from cover to cover, from the Fall to the New Creation, the general tone of “Eat, drink and be merry, for God is far away”, and, also, to layer atop the Critic’s presupposition that all verses stand in isolation from all other verses thus justifying the Critic’s sort of odd presuppositions and bizarre approaches and hence to then claim that, say, Christ’s statement about coins can be used to “…clearly connect…” the actual ontological ownership of Rome to, not God, but to – wait for it – Caesar. Then a bit more that is somewhat related.

  43. Honestly, scbrownlhrm, what was the point of this reply? You seem to think you know a lot about how I think, despite me telling you that you are not accurately describing it. Why do you think you know better?

    —“Yes, I know, you have to believe that Christ’s words in Revelations have nothing to do with a global picture, or else your presupposition fails…”—

    First, what presupposition? The one which I rejected, yet you insist I use?

    As for “a global picture”, I have no motivation to avoid such. If Revelation is full of genuine prophecies, no big deal. We’ll just have to sit back and see if they come to pass. If they were “retrodictions”, on the other hand, we can at least test supposed explanations to see how well they fit the data. It is impossible to test unfulfilled predictions, obviously, so at that point we have to rely on genre. Is it an apocalypse or book of prophecy? Both? Neither?

    Note that that these questions have nothing to do with global pictures. Your insinuations are impossibly opaque.

    —“…the presupposition that you ascribe to – but say you don’t – that all verses stand in isolation from all other verses…”—

    If you think you know me or the way I think better than myself, or think I’m being dishonest, you’re going to have to do better than “nuh uh”. Literally nothing I have said indicates that I think all verses stand in isolation to each other. In fact, precisely the opposite is the case. It is by connecting verses together that I have made my case.

    You have pointed out that I have not used all of the verses. Fair enough. Space seems to preclude that, however. Presumably, by mentioning this, you think that there are verses in particular that make my case improbable/impossible. Presumably, one of these verses is not John 11:35. Or Proverbs 31:1. So, why not just make your case, or directly respond to mine?

    —“…and that the whole show is One Life Time…”—

    What do you mean by this? Are you referring to the Parousia as “the whole show”, our lives, or what? Because I’m certainly not assuming that there is no afterlife.

    —“Just like I know you have to believe that God is not here according to Scripture…”—

    Why would I have to believe that?

    —“The Imminence of God must be tossed out – else your presupposition fails for yet another reason.”—

    Again, no. Neither the imminence nor the immanence of God is relevant. They do not entail the lack of an arrival. What’s at issue is not whether God is immanent/imminent. I agree with you that scripture attests God is both. What’s at issue is whether scripture also attests the Son of Man would arrive by a certain time. Presumably, immanence/imminence of God didn’t preclude God from arriving to earth in the form of a child in Mary’s womb. Likewise, there is no reason to think that immanence/imminence precludes a second “coming”, or a deadline on such.

    —“So far you’ve added nothing new here – just all the same presuppositions which Scripture cannot help you with.”—

    Well, sincerest apologies for not enlightening you with new information. However, you remain 100% incorrect in your characterization of how I think, so I’m not entirely sure you’re not already convinced that you have nothing to learn (at least, nothing inconsistent with your presuppositions). Assuming much and questioning less will do that to you.

  44. JBC,

    I’ve learned a lot from you – much I’ve had to look up and read about. Thanks to you I’m not only more educated on several lines here, but I am also out of what were to be many free hours of relaxing. But, that said, and meant, I have not seen anything compelling which grants you enough sway to declare presupposition #1 to be irrational, incoherent, or unreasoned. That is in part do to your methodology, and in part do to content. If the Christian is to find that there is any global reach in Scripture at all, then you’ve a serious problem with your entire thesis. When we allow all verses to speak to all other verses, there is a global reach throughout all tongues of the earth, and all nations of the earth, and all peoples of the earth, and all tribes of the earth, and all….. such that Christ’s words in Revelations cannot be “divorced” from His words in the Gospels such that the words in Eden cannot be divorced from…. such that……. cannot be divorced from….. and so on. Such “divorce” is seen in your method with the Roman coin (among other places). Your use of the Roman coin and “clearly connects” was absurd given what that method permits one to say of Christ’s statement about coins and Caesar’s ownership, and then how that all ties into the book of Roman’s tie-in to God’s ownership transcending that. Christ’s words about the coin – on your method of not allowing all verses to speak to all verses – could be used to devise some odd doctrine of Caesar’s ownership in some hard and fast sense. Dr. Craig’s methodology in the links is more systematic and robust for many reasons – one of which is allowing Scripture to define Scripture – all verses speaking to all other verses. Christ’s words in Revelations cannot be divorced from Christ’s words in the Gospels cannot be divorced from Paul’s words on the Roman Coin cannot be divorced from Peter’s words in his epistles cannot be divorced from Eden’s words about Mankind cannot be divorced from the OT prophets words on the Messiah cannot be divorced from….. Imminence which cannot be divorced from….. That is really the only fundamental difference in our two approaches. The Roman Coin thing was an obvious an absurd case on your end which reveals a confused method should we apply that same method to Christ and Caesar but that same method is consistently able to be extricated in your methodology overall. While that method is perfectly in line with presupposition #2, it is quite unsatisfactory for presupposition #1 for a whole array of sound, coherent intellectual reasons in terms of logic, in terms of ontology, and in terms of Scripture such that there are, without question, soundly reasoned and coherent justifications for refusing your conclusions in favor of other more well-rounded, inclusive, conclusions.

  45. scbrownlhrm,

    —“I have not seen anything compelling which grants you enough sway to declare presupposition #1 to be irrational, incoherent, or unreasoned.”—

    Fair enough. Like I said earlier, I don’t think it is incoherent. I think for many/most Christians it is unreasoned. However, that does not make it untrue, or unreasonable. In order to determine if it is irrational, I would actually have to see the justification for it. My expectation would be that such a thought process would be long and dependent on a lot of suspect premises. But I could certainly be wrong.

    —“When we allow all verses to speak to all other verses … Christ’s words in Revelations cannot be “divorced” from His words in the Gospels …”—

    Which is irrelevant unless you can demonstrate how words in Revelation would render my conclusion inadequate. It’s one thing to assert that scripture is “global”. It’s quite another to demonstrate how that is meaningful to the issue at hand.

    —“Your use of the Roman coin and “clearly connects” was absurd given what that method permits one to say of Christ’s statement about coins and Caesar’s ownership…”—

    Context, context, context. Jesus’ instruction on giving/taxes was just that: instruction. He was imparting wisdom; providing insight on a principle. Taxes, giving, etc. are not issues/principles restricted to the Roman era.

    On the other hand, Paul was referencing an event (or a process, if you prefer). And Jesus does make it clear that the Parousia is an event/process that is restricted in space and time. In other words, when the Son of Man returns, He will be returning in space and time.

    Thus, the context provides zero reasons to think Jesus’ statement was meant to *only* refer to the Roman era, and every reason to think that Paul’s statement is time/place-dependent. The very nature of slogans is such that we don’t assume that they’ll be around for thousands of years. For instance, an American Paul may have said “God will return when you hear people saying ‘In God we trust’.” It would not have been unreasonable to conclude that American Paul expected God to return within the lifetime of the American government, nor would it be unfair to inquire as to how he may have come to such an expectation.

    —“Christ’s words in Revelations cannot be divorced from Christ’s words in the Gospels cannot be divorced from Paul’s words on the Roman Coin… That is really the only fundamental difference in our two approaches. The Roman Coin thing was an obvious an apparent case on your end which gives it away…”—

    Presumably, “your” approach does not preclude context from affecting interpretation. Thus, again, not only is it not the case that I am isolating scriptures from each other (in fact, the opposite: I am using them to inform each other). And, again, vague appeals to scriptures informing each other is meaningless unless you put teeth to it.

    The difference in our methodology, it seems to me, is that where I saw a blatant contradiction and contrary evidence, I stopped and questioned my presuppositions (as well as the legitimacy of the contradiction). Of course, it may be that you disagree with those characterizations, and that is fair. But I don’t actually see you attacking my conclusions (much). Instead, you consistently attack the methodology, which you say is isolating scripture from each other, but yet you still haven’t provided other relevant scripture that would render my conclusion invalid or unsupported.

    Again, even if scripture is “global”, I doubt you think that means that every verse can inform every other verse. Thus, vague appeals to other scripture carries no weight.

  46. JBC,

    After reading your methods, and Scripture, and Dr. Craig’s systematic method and conclusions, it becomes painfully obvious that your conclusions fail to incorporate nearly as many Scriptures as Dr. Craig’s (Etc.) Your thesis suffers just too many times on just too many nuances with just too many repetitions to do the work of toppling the soundness and coherence of Christ ever Imminent, Christ yet to return, Christ offered for every tongue, and in every tongue, and to the World.

  47. The marriage of the ever-present “ontic-posture”, as it were, of the Imminence of Christ, of God, on the one hand, with the ever-present “ontic-posture”, as it were, of Christ yet-to-actualize, of God yet-to-actualize, on the other hand, is seen throughout the OT, and, just the same, is also seen throughout the NT. Of course the landscape amid God/Man just cannot be anything other than “that landscape” given the ontology of “God” and the ontology of “Man in Privation” and the ontology of “Final Redemption” as all three of those are ceaselessly in-play. On the “End of the Ages” then there comes the question of the timing of such finality. On that point Dr. William Craig touches on that question and his methodology is intellectually satisfying and also makes more sense of more of Scripture than other more ad hoc attempts. Some of this is found in Dr.Craig’s question of, was Jesus a failed eschatological prophet, with some more with the question of, was Jesus wrong, and then a little more here and then a little more on the delay of the parousia.

  48. scbrownlhrm, I appreciate the references to Dr. Craig’s work. I respect his work, even if I don’t always agree with what he says.

    —“The marriage of the ever-present “ontic-posture”, as it were, of the Imminence of Christ, of God, on the one hand, with the ever-present “ontic-posture”, as it were, of Christ yet-to-actualize, of God yet-to-actualize, is seen throughout the OT and also throughout the NT.”—

    Again, I agree. That Christ/God has “yet-to-actualize” is perfectly consistent with the thinking that He would, and within a certain time frame. This is not a theme, meta-narrative, ontic-posture, or whatever you want to call it, that disconfirms the claim that Jesus and His followers expected/predicted a 1st-century parousia.

    —‘On the “End of the Ages” there comes the question of the timing of such. Dr. William Craig touches on that question and his methodology is intellectually satisfying and also makes more sense of more of Scripture than other more ad hoc attempts.’—

    And, again, you’ve yet to actually present any scripture – aside from 2 Peter, which we’ve discussed – that disconfirms the parousia-on-a-deadline hypothesis.

    As for Dr. Craig, the problem with his proposal(s) should be readily apparent. His biggest point is that we don’t really know the context of Jesus’ words, and so we can’t really know what He meant. Really? This coming from the guy who would defend scripture from and debate the likes of Bart Ehrman on this very issue (the words of Jesus)?

    I have a lot of respect for Dr. Craig, but this is the equivalent of taking a 12-gauge shotgun to your foot. Do we not really know what Jesus meant about marriage, because we don’t have the original context and sometimes gospel authors summarize His words? Do we not really know what Jesus meant when He said “love God” and “love thy neighbor”? Etc. I have no doubt that Dr. Craig would defend that scripture is sufficient for these things, so his remarks here amount to special pleading: it looks wrong, it can’t be wrong, therefore it must mean something else. But there’s no plausible way to defend that notion, so he essentially appeals to mystery.

    The “sometimes His words are summarized” point is especially ill-advised, given the remarkable consistency in which the pre-Transfiguration narratives and Olivet Discourse passages share. Read the Mark, Matthew, & Luke parallel accounts and they are near-verbatim copies, a fact that is well-documented.

    He points to a difference in Matthew’s pre-Transfiguration account, as opposed to Mark and Luke’s, as potentially significant and potentially confusing. But it isn’t really. His point was that only Matthew adds the Son of Man coming in connection with the Kingdom, and that we don’t know why. But of course we know why (not with absolute certainty, mind you): the coming of the Kingdom and the coming of the Son of Man were inextricably linked. This much is made obvious in all three pre-Transfiguration accounts, the coming of the Son of Man is mentioned in connection with the coming of the Kingdom, (and judgement, angels, clouds, etc.). Daniel (see how I’m NOT using scriptures in isolation to each other?) makes it clear that the Son of Man is connected to the coming of the Kingdom. Note also that Dr. Craig only offers a “*may* be fulfilled” in the Transfiguration in reference to these passages. Even he recognizes that there is trouble in claiming this, despite what 2 Peter claims.

    The more interesting claim, to me, is the reference to Matthew 10 – which I had actually forgotten about. Here again Matthew makes includes a reference to the Son of Man coming that the others do not, although here the connection is a bit more curious. Mark and Luke do not provide any clues for connecting the apostles task to the parousia, but Matthew does. Dr. Craig concludes from this passage the following: the apostles completed their task, the writer of the gospel knew this, so the author could not have had the parousia in mind, therefore we really don’t know what was in mind, therefore we don’t know what was in mind in any of the parousia passages.

    That this is a non-sequitur should be obvious. The fact that we don’t know what Matthew may have meant in Matthew 10 doesn’t mean that whatever was meant in Mark and Luke is also a mystery, especially since the addition in Matthew is *unique*. Regardless, the addition Matthew provides seems to be the connection of the parousia to the completion of a task (preaching to all the towns in Israel). Jesus states that the Son of Man will come before this task is completed. Dr. Craig simply assumes this task was completed, but there is no reason to think so. That the apostles return and report their activities is attested to, but that is all we know.

    Alternatively, one could claim that Jesus had some other “coming” sense in mind. I have mentioned before that numerous iterations of “coming” are not inconsistent with that, whatever else Jesus meant in other passages, He did intend for some final “coming” to occur before His generation died out. That this is the one passage where the coming of the Son of Man is *not* mentioned in reference to angels, clouds, judgment, etc. would actually lend some credence to this idea. However, there is no elaboration on this Matthew: the apostles return, and that’s it. The fact that Jesus indicates in Matthew that they would have flee some towns, and other passages that indicates all Israel must be saved (Romans 11) would also lend some credence to the idea that Jesus knew this mission would not be finished. Either is consistent with my hypothesis, but main thing is that there is no reason to think, as Craig indicates, that the author knew this task was completed and/or because we don’t know what Matthew meant here, we don’t know what was meant anywhere.

    One could also easily interpret this as one more instance where Jesus was wrong, as Schweitzer famously did. My only hesitation in doing so here would be that if the author of Matthew really thought that, or saw the potential for that, I would expect there to be some explanation for why Jesus wasn’t wrong. We don’t see that, so it seems more likely (to me) that either the task was considered unfinished, or that some other sense of “coming” was in mind.

    Note also that Dr. Craig makes the very move I cautioned against with respect to attributing a tautology to Jesus. He references Mark 13 and says that “all these things” are referring to signs leading up to His parousia, but not the parousia itself. This results in the following meaningless (paraphrased) statement:

    “When you people see all these signs, know that the time is near. In fact, you people will not be dead when you see all these signs.”

    No kidding. Of course, if you are seeing the signs, you won’t be dead. Again, the only way out of this is to interpret this passage, as most reasonable people do, as acknowledging that Jesus is referring to signs in the former instance, and referring to the signs and the parousia in the latter.

    Finally, Dr. Craig portrays the parables that follow the Olivet Discourse as emphasizing the uncertain time frame of the parousia (i.e. “it could be anytime”). Now, it is obviously the case that Jesus said He didn’t know the day of the hour. But that, of course, is a far more specific time frame than “before this generation dies off”. But to support the idea that Jesus may have meant “it’ll happen at some point in the somewhat distant future”, rather than an imminent time frame, Dr. Craig presents the parables that speak in terms of those who were asleep when the bridegroom arrived, the slave who says “My master is delayed in his coming”, etc.

    One can interpret these in any number of ways, most if not all of which are not even mutually exclusive. But note there are none where 2000 years pass. Note also that all of them are perfectly consistent with the “thief in the night” imagery, which is also perfectly consistent with “before this generation dies off”. The point is easily seen that we cannot relax, cannot let down our guard. One can broadly interpret these as meaning His return will take longer than we think, but then again we must grapple with the question why anyone would have had a time frame in mind to begin with.

  49. JBC,

    As I noted, I’ve read yours, Craig’s, and Scripture, and I find far more congruence in the Scripture/Craig combo than in the Scripture/JBC combo. When I take the OT alone, that is the case “for the most part”. When I take the NT alone, that is the case “for the most part”. But when I take the entirety of Scripture with both the OT and NT, well the seams just fade out far more into what begins to approximate a more intellectually satisfying cohesive whole there in milieu of the former combo over and above the milieu of the latter combo. That said, your contribution to my perspective has buttressed me with a new and more thorough awareness of the various lines of tension here, which has been and will continue to be valuable.

  50. Tom wrote,

    For these reasons, I conclude that “this generation” does not refer to the generation of those who were standing there listening to him, but to the generation that sees the final signs coming together, as he refers to throughout the chapter.

    I have to disagree. I’m late to the game but one point that I don’t see discussed here (if it was I apologize) is how the disciples questioned Jesus in Matthew 24 (ESV).

    Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
    3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

    There are two events here—the destruction of the temple (which I think all agree refers to AD70) and the end of the age. The disciples arguably ask about these two events as if they will happen together. Here Jesus could say: “that’s not a good question—you are talking about two events that might be separated by many millennia.” Instead he answers as if the question is sensible (so therefore it was) and gives signs and astronomical anomalies typically associated with the end times. But that association may be wrong. The whole of the discourse, as evidenced by Jesus’ providing an answer rather than correction of a misconception, would point (in my opinion) to a first (this current generation) century fulfillment.

    As to whether getting this right matters–I think (and hope) not.