Re: [asa] A theology question (imminent return of Christ)

From: Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
Date: Wed Oct 15 2008 - 14:50:19 EDT

Hi Bernie,

If I may say, I think the supposition you describe in the below is quite unjustified and possibly one of your major problems!

One simply CAN'T work backward from "the disciples believed X" to "therefore Jesus taught X".

This is particularly so given there seems to be three major reasons for thinking the logic is flawed in the specific case;

First, it seems to me that your position is that the disciples were motivated primarily by a huge emphasis on Christ returning in their lifetime. But we simply don't find that sort of emphasis in their theology - the NT discusses a great many other issues besides. It seems to me inconsistent to claim that their overriding ethical category would be a return of Jesus in their lifetime (i.e. "Jesus is coming soon so we should do such-and-such") whilst it only seems to sneak in as a minor theological theme.

Second, in Acts 1:6 the disciples, clearly thinking in terms of Jesus establishing the Kingdom of God on earth NOW, put the question of chronology to Christ whose response is simply to tell them it's none of their business. That the only recorded comment by Christ after his resurrection should AVOID specific reference to a return within the disciples lifetime ought to temper claims that his unrecorded teaching specifically affirmed the point.

Third, even in the apocryphal gospels there is NO record of Christ having taught "secretly" of a return within the disciples lifetime. Given such gospels often pick up on minor themes in Christian thought and recklessly expand them out of all recognition, I personally think it pretty significant that no early Christian "fringe groups" were engaged in eschatological speculation based on a supposed unrecorded teaching of Jesus.

To this I'd probably add the observation that, even prior to his death, Christ often spoke of eschatology without giving any definite time reference. Here, I have to say, it is simply to overstate the case in regards to early Christian eschatology if one takes remarks about a return which is "sudden and without warning" as being the same thing as a return which is "in the next few years."

My view is that their near as certain wasn't, in the teaching of Jesus, a specific claim about the date of the eschaton even if claims of a "sudden" return were quite naturally interpreted in this way (by us, as well as by them). And, even in the disciple's own eschatological musings, I consider the emphasis to be on "sudden" with the idea of "in our lifetime" to be a marginal theme at best.

Blessings,
Murray Hogg
Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology

Dehler, Bernie wrote:
> Hi Schwarzwald-
>
>
>
> I think one of the disagreements I have with you is that you are only
> considering Christís words from the Bible. Iím considering the 10x to
> 1000x more He taught them verbally. We canít get in the same mindset as
> the early disciples by simply reading some tidbits of Christís teaching,
> as recorded in Scripture. They would have been saturated in Christís
> verbal teaching; so if they expected Christís return in their day, Iím
> supposing Christ taught.
>
>
>
> ,,,BernieTheology

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Received on Wed Oct 15 14:51:34 2008

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