Second Coming 2a
Meditation and Reflection

Was St Paul wrong about the timing of the Second Coming?

 

If Jesus, being fully and infallibly God, was not wrong about the time of his Second Coming, what about St Paul, being fully and fallibly man?

The whole thrust of his early writings were imbued with a sense of the nearness of the Parousia. New converts in Thessalonica saw their essential Christian task as being ‘to wait for his Son from heaven‘ (1Thess 1:10); and the Corinthians were said to be ‘waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ‘ (1Cor 1:7). Indeed, it was deeply worrying to some believers that their pre-deceased family and friends would somehow not benefit from the return (1Thess 4:13-5:11), in response to which St Paul appears specifically to delimit the timing of the Parousia by asserting that he and many Thessalonians will still be alive at the Lord’s coming (4:15f) – an assumption he also communicates to the Corinthians (1Cor 15:51). He even seemingly counsels the single to remain unmarried on the grounds that time is short (1Cor 7).

However, all of this needs to be understood in the contexts of those communities to whom Paul was writing, as each epistle is carefully composed to address specific and relevant circumstances. The problem in Corinth was an over-realised eschatology – the belief that the Messianic age to come was already present (1Cor 4:8f). Some therefore took Jesus’ teaching on marriage in heaven (Lk 20:35) as being a present directive, which Paul countered (1Cor 7:38). It seems absurd that Paul would be advising believers not to marry because of very imminent Messianic woes when, in fact, he goes on to talk about widows remarrying (7:39). Paul assures the Corinthians that salvation has been inaugurated, and that domestic issues like divorce and remarriage should not interfere with devotion to the Lord. It is a distortion to assert that such teachings delimit the timing of the Parousia.

It can also be asserted that Paul’s later writings display a marked apocalyptic dimming, almost as if his own disappointment had caused him to change his mind (2Cor 5:1-10; 2Tim 4:6-8; Phil 1:20). He tends to emphasise the riches and new life which the believer already enjoys (Col 1:13-23; 3:1-4), whereas in 1 Corinthians 15 he was adamant that believers do not yet enjoy these realities. There is also a clear implication that he may well die before the Parousia (2Tim 4:6-8; Phil 1:20), and, consequently, Paul could be accused of ‘spiritualising’ what he had previously held to be literal.

The truth is that these passages cannot be construed as definitive ‘spiritualising’ at all, nor do they establish that Paul lost his apocalyptic attitude in his later writings. His subsequent thoughts on his own death do not present a contradiction of 1 Thessalonians 4:15f, since these verses establish no more than the possibility of his witnessing the Parousia. Indeed, he writes that witnessing the Lord’s return or pre-deceasing the event are both possibilities (1Thess 5:10 cf 2Cor 5:9). There are also many references to an imminent hope in the later letters (Phil 3:20; Rom 13:11f cf 1Tim 6:14; 2Tim 4:8). Paul’s hope is still in an imminent Parousia, and he makes no reference to the notion of any ‘delay’.

There is, in fact, no evidence at all that Paul made any change in his eschatology, although, as he grew older, he would realise that the possibility of his being alive at the Parousia was diminishing. This does not mean that even at the end of his life Paul abandoned his belief in the imminence of Christ’s return.

Apparent conflicts (as between 1Cor 15:50-57 and Col 3:1-4) cease to be so when it is understood that Paul faced very different situations in Corinth, where he was combatting the super-spirituality of those who believed they were already resurrected and reigning with Christ, and Colossae, where there was need to encourage believers to an awareness of the riches they already have in Christ. A verse removed from these contexts can, of course, be distorted. But contextualising apparent inconsistencies establishes that Paul responded specifically to the needs of his readers: they were definitive words to a specific congregation in a distinct time.

There is, therefore, no evidence that Paul delimited the end, nor that his apocalyptic worldview or hopes of an imminent Parousia somehow faded. Certainly, the Parousia did not happen within his lifetime, but he followed the example set by Jesus – that its timing could not be calculated – and Christians were to remain vigilant, living holy lives, suspended in the perpetual tension between ‘soon’ and ‘not yet’, which is where we still are.

Treating the Bible as literal until proven otherwise imposes unnecessary constraints upon the interpretation and comprehension of many passages. Listed, logical facts can convey truth, but so can metaphor and figurative language. Indeed, the latter can often convey a deeper and more appreciable truth because they communicate a sense of something straight to the heart, bypassing the reasoning of an intellect. Picture language doesn’t move an event into the realms of fiction; it heightens it by evoking emotions. The Spirit sings.

It is a human frailty to seek security in tangible specifics, yet faith demands the opposite (Heb 11:1). The precise date of the Second Coming can easily become more important than the fact that the Lord has indeed prepared a place ahead for each believer, and that he is going to return in glory to usher in a new age. If, in this age of insecurity, Christians are prone to dwell on dates and times, it becomes easier to comprehend that the Early Church certainly had a tendency to demand a specific date. But it is equally clear that Jesus did not set a date for his return, therefore there was no error in perspective on his part. It is, of course, possible that some of his disciples mistakenly understood him to have set a date for the Parousia, but the tendency to misinterpret the words of Jesus endures to this age.

Jesus’ rebuke to Peter (Jn 21:22) is, in reality, a rebuke to all believers who are curious about times, dates and places. Since Jesus (Lk 12:39f) and Paul (1Thess 5:1ff) both stated that thieves give no warning of their arrival, curiosity about the Second Coming can be an unhealthy preoccupation, if not a detraction from following Jesus along the missionary road he has set before us.

The time of the kingdom had and has dawned: the irruption of God into the world heralded and heralds such. Judgement was and is soon to fall. This was and is to spur believers into making good use of time before it was and is too late. This is the essence of eschatology – it keeps alive the sense of imminence in a period of grace, and induces us to holiness.

  • Graham Wood

    “Was St Paul wrong about the timing of the Second Coming?”
    Cranny. I think you answer your own questions in the two excellent articles you have given us. Neither Paul or Jesus could possibly have been “wrong” as you pose a deliberately provocative question, I presume, to stimulate a balanced biblical discussion of eschatology?
    If one single word crystallises the discussion it is the one which you seem to emphasise, in my view rightly, it is that of ‘imminence’ which I believe reflects the primary emphasis of the NT about the return of Christ in glory and judgement.
    Indeed, I believe that the discussion of the “times and the seasons” which Jesus refers to in relation to the consummation of his kingdom is, as he indicated to his apostles then (Acts 1:7), a distraction from more urgent priorities.
    Likewise therefore, is the preoccupation of many Christians with similar distractions in the form of complex theories, usually clustered around what we might call ‘millennial theology’ is also a complete distraction from the imminence of Christ’s coming again.
    It could be asked why a distraction? Did not Jesus himself remind us to observe the clear “signs” which would precede his return? Yes! But only in order that we should be the more prepared for that return, and meanwhile be engaged in the commission to disseminate the Gospel – not confusing the “signs” with that of the coming itself.
    It is interesting that the NT writers do not use separate terms for the time just before Christ’s return because his entire history is described in the same eschatological terms. Indeed, by referring to the time in which he himself lived as “the last hour”, the Apostle John underscores the impossibility of treating Jesus’ times – and the 21 centuries which have followed – as a “non final” end time, while regarding the brief period just before his return as the FINAL end time (1 John 2:18).
    Perhaps you agree that a right eschatological understanding is summarised in the title given to Jesus as himself being the “first and the last” – i.e. it encompasses his birth, life, death and resurrection and ascension as being fully eschatological.
    Millennial theories centered around the single verse in Revelation 20: 2ff are therefore entirely superfluous and equally a serious distraction from the imminence of his return.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Anyone asking such a question as this blog does clearly does not believe that the Bible really is God’s Word.

      • Anton

        ?

        I have often given talks in which the title is a question. It draws people in much more effectively than an assertion. I don’t think it is proper to draw inference from a premise-free question.

        • Dominic Stockford

          I think (though I may be wrong) that yesterday and today’s posts give us a premise as well.

          • Why do you spend so much time on a manifestly non-Christian blog casting precious pearls before the ignorant swine who “clearly doesn’t believe that the Bible really is God’s word”?

          • Dominic Stockford

            Ok then. Answer, with a yes or a no, “Is the Bible the inerrant and infallible Word of God”

          • Owl

            No. It is a very human book.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Thank you for your honest answer – though I’m after a reply from another!

          • Cressida de Nova

            The Bible is not a clinical Scientific Gazette. The beauty and mysteries are expressed poetically to reach understanding, to encourage reflection and deep thought .The modern day world expectation of instant precise explanations for everything is not pertinent here. Scholars have spent life times interpreting it and decoding it. The Bible is much more than a life manual, a good story…it contains wonder and mystery which connects us to the Divine in ways that other literature does not.

          • Dominic Stockford

            An interesting way of putting it. And of course, I would agree that the world’s desired explanations are not to be found – for without faith the Word of God will remain mysterious, as Jesus himself pointed out.

          • Phil R

            How convenient this must be…..

          • Owl

            Not at all, I makes everything less convenient……

          • All scripture is given by inspiration of God.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Which does not answer my question.

          • It is what Scripture says of itself. Who are you to qualify its authority by adding the words of man? Now, answer the first question.

          • Dominic Stockford

            1. You write this blog to cause debate. I come to debate.

            2. I have not ‘qualified’ anything – I have merely asked whether you hold to the Protestant position that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.

          • It isn’t to *cause” anything, but that can pass. You hurl insults at the host, and hurling insults is not debate. You say a man is “foolish”, yet the Bible says the fool is the one who says there is no God. Your “debate” is haughty and judgmental, and so profoundly un-Christian. You then assert – presumably infallibly – that it is “the Protestant position that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God”. The Bible does not say that of itself – not anywhere. It may indeed be a Protestant position, but it is not “the” Protestant position, unless you have studied and discerned every strand of the movement throughout all Europe in the 15th-17th centuries, and codified it from every tradition since man first began to protest. You have not, of course. Sola Scriptura is a Protestant position. You had quoted back to you exactly what Scripture says of itself, but that was seeming insufficient for you. You had to add to it, which is precisely the doctrinal position of certain other denominations.

          • Dominic Stockford

            You ought to read what people writemore carefully. I said that a specific conjecture of yours was foolish, not you.

            Secondly, the position of the Protestant Reformation is as I have posited. Others who have watered it down over the years may claim to be Protestant and Reformed, but they have moved away from that position.

          • “You
            ought to read what people write more carefully”. As ought you. Indeed, that which you elide and refuse to comment upon is far more illuminating than your petty assertions of folly because you happen not to agree with a proposition. Do you possess neither the humility nor grace to acknowledge that simply disagreeing with you does not make a person wrong? Or is it that every religious opinion you express and every apprehension you make and every interpretation you hold happens to cohere perfectly with Reformation history and the infallible word of God?

          • Dominic Stockford

            All I asked was whether you believe the Bible to be inerrant and infallible. One man replied, I thanked him and moved on. Do you think it is?

          • That question has been answered directly by quoting Scripture to you. Why, for the third time, is that not adequate? How is what Scripture says of Scripture insufficient for someone to whom Sola Scriptura is an infallible dogma? There are three further questions above to which you have not responded. Why is that? (And there’s a fourth).

          • Protestant position? You think the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches deny this?

          • Dominic Stockford

            Pope Francis “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation,
            because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

            The Bible “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, “Let there be an expansea in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God madeb the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each
            according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day….”

            And so on. Someone who believes the Bible inerrant and infallible could not hold the two positions at once, and, last time I looked, the Pope spoke for the Church of Rome.

          • Two things.
            First, the pope does not speak for all Catholics or for the Catholic Church when he expresses personal opinions in interviews or in “off the cuff remarks”.
            Second, on this occasion, Pope Francis was quite correct. The Catholic Church has long held the bible is written in many styles and different genres. The Truth of God creating our first common parents who rebelled against Him, is not necessarily inconsistent with evolution. And that’s what a Catholic has to believe. We have a common set of parents. Jack happens to believe God did create the first man and woman and gave them individual soul. Just how He did this remains a mystery and the words of scripture can be understood in a variety of different ways. It is not a scientific treatise on the creation of the universe or the arrangement of the planets.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Interesting.

            All the criticism I received for asking a question (but not demanding that anyone shared my belief), and yet here we have “that’s what a Catholic has to believe”.

            Where’s the firestorm?

            By the way, I knew pretty much what you would say Jack, and disagree strongly. But then you knew that anyway!

          • “Where’s the firestorm?”
            Jack has the courtesy, humility and grace not to hurl infallible assertions of theological folly at the host, and then demand that his questions are answered within a constricted framework of expression to suit a pre-ordained hermeneutic bias. Your silence, incidentally, on the Sola Scriptura defence of Scripture, speaks volumes.

          • Dominic Stockford

            I am currently bringing together a veritable panoply of theological masters on the matter of infallibility and inerrancy – ranging from Grindal, and Calvin from history, through to Packer Sproul, Dever and Carson from today. Some information has come through from Sproul and Dever, I await some further from Carson and packer. But it will come reasonably soon.

            Meanwhile, if you wish to whet your appetite you might care to have a look at the following video to be found on YouTube – “Battle for the Bible – Defending Biblical Inerrancy”.

            They quote from the 1978 International Conference on Biblical Inerrancy, one of which articles says clearly:

            “We deny that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that such inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the church.”

            Something I also firmly believe as both fair and true.

            P.S. How we approach one another – much lies in the person of the recipient of the comment.

            I note that when it comes criticism of others on this blog there are some who say such things as “You are possessed by a malign spirit, [I] am attempting an exorcism.” Were it said to me I would find that really unpleasant, and in no way even possible to take as jest. Such things are not joking matters.

            And in terms of criticism I would have thought the following was as harsh, or harsher, than any (albeit blunt) critique I made about one comment of yours – “I despair that Cranmer has sparked a debate about the authenticity of scriptures and apostles. We have enough attacks on our faith and scriptures by Muslims. Cranmer – if you have faith the Holy Spirit will show you the meaning of Jesus’ words. Or have you employed a shadow writer?”

            That would cut me far more deeply than having one comment of mine called foolish. Thus, it is perception.

          • “That would cut me far more deeply than having one comment of mine called foolish.”
            So what? Your apprehension and thresholds of tolerance are yours. Those of another belong to the other, and are beyond your apprehension.

            And still deafening silence (now two days) on the Sola Scriptura defence of Scripture which was so inadequate for you.

          • Jack thinks you believe you understand Catholicism and the teachings of the Church.
            (A word of advice, Dominic. The Archbishop responds to reasonable and politely asked questions. Oh, and another word. Before accusing him of something one should carefully read his articles.)

          • Albert

            Aren’t you confusing authority and meaning? Surely, one can hold these things are figurative and still believe the Bible is inerrant and infallible?

          • Dominic Stockford

            No, I don’t believe I am. Ken Ham would of course be far better able than I to explain the whole matter of Biblical creation in full. However, I don’t see how one can possibly be respecting the authority of the Bible and at the same time (in a historical matter) say it doesn’t say what it says.

            I would also question how sin comes into the world if Genesis 1-3 is denied as being accurate – especially given the Bible is clear on that both at start and at end: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned- for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” Romans 5.

          • Albert

            Well you can in principle accept the point I made surely? I believe Jesus’ parables are inerrant and infallible, but not literal. And I assume you agree. So the question comes down to what Genesis 1-3 mean. Now if I have good reason to think the Holy Spirit intended them to be figurative, then surely I can still hold them to be inerrant and infallible, while following that meaning.

            A few points:

            1. I would say there are two creation stories, and they contradict. Therefore, one or both is not literal.
            2. In Genesis 1 there are problems with a literal reading. Light is created before any physical sources or light, for example. Thus it is plausible that “light” is used metaphorically, here as in “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” This is not to do violence to the text, but to take it seriously (even if I’m wrong).
            3. Genesis 1 has creation in 6 days, and Genesis 2 speaks of only one day. This opens the possibility of Augustine’s interpretation, in his literal interpretation of Genesis.
            4. We later read that they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. This cannot be literal since God, having no body, has no legs. For the same reason, God does not literally plant a garden, as Origen points out. Again, I do not question the inerrancy or infallibility of scripture if I take this figuratively.
            5. I can perfectly well accept a figurative meaning and still accept that meaning as authoritative infallible and inerrant. So God created an ordered creation which is good (contra the Babylonian myths). God caused the entire universe to come into being at once, but it then took time to assume the shape it does now (Augustine on Genesis 1 & 2). This process of assuming its present shape is also the act of creation, for the physical processes of the universe are themselves immediately dependent on God’s creative power. The first human beings fell by sin, even if they weren’t called Adam and Eve. And so on.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Dear Albert, none of the points you make is new to me. I simply disagree. I would say, however, that it is nice to know that you have a reasoned view which you can defend and explain. What is more, it is far more sensible a view than many I have heard. As I said, I simply disagree.

            Try the video I linked (below somewhere I think) for a detailed explanation of mine.

          • Albert

            I didn’t expect they would be new to you, to me you’re a Catholic priest! I just wanted to be put, as you put it a reasoned view. I’ll see if I can track down the link.

          • Dominic Stockford

            If you can’t find it ping me again and I’ll look on my other computer and find it.

          • Albert

            Oh hang on. It’s an hour long! Could you give me a resume, please?!

          • Dominic Stockford

            They quote from the 1978 International Conference on Biblical Inerrancy, one of whose articles says clearly:

            “We deny that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that such inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the church.”

            That’ll give you starter. It also speaks of the Nature of God, and how stating that ‘words in the Bible needing re-definition from its clear meaning’ inevitably brings questions about the Nature of God. Why would, how could, a good and faithful God give his people something that clearly and plainly is written saying one thing, when it means something else which requires semantics and re-interpretation to do so?

            The example for that is Genesis 1-3, and is the point Ken Ham would forcefully make.

            Another example would be as follows, though they may not mention specifically mention Jesus words in that video, I remember not – but they are relevant.

            “”He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’?” (Matthew 19:4-5)

            The key to Jesus words is the “and said” in the middle. the one who said this is also “he who made” – that is, the speaker is, directly, God. Jesus states, therefore, that the Words of Genesis are in fact God’s own, personal, words. Moses merely recorded God’s words.This is Jesus testimony. Unless, of course, people then reject whatever they choose to, or re-interpret it. But this is the plain meaning of what Jesus says.

          • Albert

            Thank you Dominic. I think the trouble here is that there are assumptions about what is the plain meaning of the words. That strikes me as problematic when dealing with a scripture which is a revealing God, who though knowable, remains incomprehensible. Indeed, as God is incomprehensible, I would have thought it was important that his meaning not always be simplistically evident (I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense), lest we reduce him to human words and concepts. So in a sense, I would rewrite your sentence:

            Why would, how could, a good and faithful God give his people something so clear that are in danger of idolatrously assuming that language is always used univocally?

            There are plenty of occasions when we would all agree the proper meaning of the world is not literal. We cannot apply words univocally to God and creatures. It is also clearly the case that often the Bible uses stories, figures of speech etc. Therefore, I think there are problems with this sentence: something that clearly and plainly is written saying one thing, when it means something else which requires semantics and re-interpretation to do so? We all have to do that anyway, given the nature of God, and in a sense, one makes that kind of judgement in any engagement with any text/speech.

            If you tell me approximately where in the video Ken makes the point, I will see if I can find it.

          • Powerdaddy

            Ancient anecdotal textual hearsay is a terrible way to spread any truths. Any God with any intelligence would recognize this. (We have been here before, haven’t we Albert?)

          • Albert

            Well it rather depends how the power of God’s omnipotence.

          • What does “inerrant” and “infallible” mean in the context of a book written in many different styles and using a variety of genres?

          • Jack has reread both articles and cannot discern said premise. Mind, Jack can be obtuse at times. What is this premise?

      • Royinsouthwest

        If you don’t ask questions how will you know anything?

    • dannybhoy

      Loren Cunningham who founded Youth with a Mission declared himself a Pan Millennialist i.e he believes it will all pan out okay in the end..

  • Jon Sorensen

    Maybe Paul got it all wrong and Jesus was never going to come back. Paul’s followers kept Paul’s story about Jesus’ coming back in Christians founding myth and 50 years later added that to Jesus’ lips in Gospels. Paul’s followers forged letters and added Col 3:1-4 and 2Tim 4:6-8 and described Jesus as eternal God (John). Maybe it was all Paul’s mistake.

    • The Explorer

      Good points. Impossible to answer in the detail required in a blog post. I would refer you to a book like Craig Evans’ ‘Fabricating Jesus’ which deals with issues of this kind.

      • Jon Sorensen

        Rather than reading modern evangelical Craig Evans I would recommend going to early sources. Read Didache, Clement of Rome, Ignatius (the short versions) and Justin Martyr. See what early sources say about trinity, Jesus’ divinity and baptism, Gospels, etc. Read yourself rather than get it interpreted by someone else.

        • dannybhoy

          But what those people say is only their interpretation, is it not?

          • The Explorer

            Just what I was going to say.

          • Jon Sorensen

            1850 years apart. That should mean something.

          • CliveM

            In relation to DB’s point, what?

          • dannybhoy

            That means it’s a long time Jon, that’s all.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Evans introduces ideas and stories Christians had not heard. I guess that does not mean anything. Maybe somebody 1850 years from now believe Christians stories modern Christians have never heard and “That means it’s a long time Jon, that’s all.” Well at least with this mind set Mormons might have it right them…

          • dannybhoy

            I’m not in a position to affirm or deny the speculations of those men is what I am saying, and surely the fact that they wrote a long time ago does not mean that they were right, does it?
            I have plenty of theological and doctrinal books at home, that I occasionally tackle. I am currently working through “God’s Strategy in Human History” in two volumes, at the moment. The last one I read was Tom Wright’s “Scripture and the Authority of God.”
            These fellows are far more educated and erudite than myself. I have always believed the basic premises put forward by Roger Forster and Paul Marston, but that does not stop me reading other stuff that disputes their ideas.
            The Christian faith centres around the individual’s relationship with the living God, not having the indisputably correct doctrine. Being made spiritually alive to God through our Lord Jesus Christ isn’t a chore or a burden.
            Worshipping Him moves me deeply. It fills me with peace and hope and the motivation to be more like Jesus and see Him to the best of my ability in this life.
            That’s what matters.

          • Jon Sorensen

            You would think Church fathers 1900 years ago had better understanding of Jesus’ message than modern ones. Oh well… all religions change and adopt or die.

            I get that worshipping moves you deeply, and it fills you with peace and hope and the motivation to be more like Jesus and serve Him to the best of your ability in this life. I hear this from Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist etc. To me truth matters more than feelings. And I don’t even know what “be more like Jesus” means. Modern scholars can’t agree on any of his characters.

        • The Explorer

          Doesn’t have to be either/or of course. No reason not to read early sources as well as modern explications. like those of Evans or Craig Keener. Evans has read the sources you mention, and refers to most of them. They, for obvious reasons, have not read him.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Why would Evans’ view matter compared to James who walked with Jesus?

          • The Explorer

            I’m confused here. James as in son of Zebedee, or James as in brother (step-brother/cousin if you’re Catholic) of Jesus who wrote the epistle and was head of the Jerusalem Church? That James was executed early, and his is probably the earliest NT epistle. You won’t find out about forgeries committed after fifty years by consulting James: he was dead before they happened. (If they did.) You need someone like Evans who has the benefit of hindsight.

          • chiefofsinners

            Great work here with Jon, Explorer. If only we could open the eyes of the blind with a bit of mud and spit…

          • IrishNeanderthal

            Acts 12:1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.

            2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

          • The Explorer

            Yes, as you say, the death of Zebedee James is recorded. There is no biblical record of the death of the other James, but it is thought to have been around 62 AD.

    • Dominic Stockford

      The Bible is inspired of God. It IS God’s truth. It is correct, even when man questions it.

      • sarky

        Then why does it contradict itself time and time again?? (The nativity is my personal favourite, the writers just can’t seem to make up their mind what went on)

        • Martin

          Sarky

          It doesn’t. It’s just that you have reading comprehension problems.

          • sarky

            I dont think it’s me with the problems. Just read the accounts in Matthew and luke and then get back to me.

          • The Explorer

            Matthew is writing for the Jews, Luke for the Gentiles. So different focus, and different details. Same issue the other end of Christ’s life with the crucifixion and Resurrection.

          • sarky

            ??? But shouldn’t the basic facts be the same?? One has them fleeing herod, one has them just going home. One has Shepherds, one has wisemen.
            I would have thought that the begining and end of the son of gods life would have the exact same details if it really happened.
            If you and me wrote a football report, the facts would be the same, but our take on it might be slightly different. When the facts start changing you have the to question whether the event actually happened.

          • The Explorer

            Matthew is focusing on Christ as the new Moses: hence the murder of male babies which is common to both stories. It would have had more significance for the Jews than for the Gentiles. If you were subject to the limitations imposed by writing on a scroll, and there were other things you wanted to mention, you’d simply say they went home. Why not wise men and shepherds rather than wise men or shepherds in building up a composite picture?

            If you had the exact same details in all of them, there’d only be a need for one account.

            Xenophon and Plato both wrote about Socrates. Xenophon, having a military rather than a philosophical background, brings a different perspective. Mrs Thrale understood things about Dr Johnson that Boswell missed.

          • sarky

            The ‘take’ may be different, but the facts are the same. That’s the difference.

          • The Explorer

            Actually, they aren’t. Mrs Thrale mentions things that Boswell doesn’t.

            On the shelf to the right of me are two art books. One is chronological, focusing on different countries in turn.. The other is thematic: Family, Still Life, War etc. A lot of pictures in common, but in very different places in the two books. And, since there has to be selection, several different choices. You could say, on this basis, “This editor has it wrong!. He says Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa, when actually he painted The Last Supper!”

            Matthew tends to be thematic rather than chronological. That’s his perspective.

          • Pubcrawler

            I would add to that:

            The Gospels should not be read as if they are biographies in the modern, quasi-forensic or journalistic sense — such a genre was unknown in the ancient world. A closer model would be the Lives by Suetonius or Plutarch (both pretty much contemporary with the writing of the Gospels) which, while containing biographical detail, have an extra purpose. In the case of the Gospels, each is composed from a particular Christological perspective according to the interests and purposes of the respective authors with regard to their respective audiences.

          • sarky

            To me it’s just a case of Chinese whispers of stories heard round campfires.

          • The Explorer

            Distortion of an original story through repetition is a different issue.

          • Martin

            Sarky

            You “dont think”? That’s very modest of you. there are no contradictions in Matthew and Luke’s accounts.

          • Jon Sorensen

            I might have reading comprehension problems. Can you tell me what were the last words of Jesus if there were no contradictions?

          • Martin

            Jon

            We aren’t actually told what were Jesus last words.

          • Jon Sorensen

            You should read the Bible one day.

          • Martin

            Jon

            I gather you can’t actually answer me.

          • The Explorer

            Seven statements are recorded across the four Gospels, some statements obviously made at an earlier stage than others. None of the accounts says, “These were Jesus’ very last words.” They select from the last things he said, and so complement one another.

            The sequence seems to go, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Quoting Psalm 22, and the estrangement from God as He took human sin upon Himself.) “It is finished.” (As in accomplished/debt paid in full.) “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Self-explanatory.) To me, it makes a perfectly comprehensible progression.

          • dannybhoy

            Additionally…
            “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
            John 21;25

          • Jon Sorensen

            When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit – Gospel of John 19:30

            Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last – Gospel of Luke 23:46

            When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and did not gave up his spirit. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. – Gospel of The Explorer 20:8

            Harmonisation is creating your own Gospel while claiming “it makes a perfectly comprehensible progression”, and losing the real meaning of the message. Sure way to corrupt the Gospels.

          • The Explorer

            Tatian’s ‘Diatessaron’ was a harmonisation for a Syrian audience with limited access to manuscripts. It seemed to work well enough as a temporary measure, and Tatian felt able to harmonise.. Later, the Syrians got the four separate Gospels.

            Not sure what ‘the real meaning of the message’ means. Which message, if there are four contradictory ones? And why should you understand the real meaning better than I do? Surely it’s just your opinion versus mine?

          • Jon Sorensen

            Sure Diatessaron, and Codex Fuldensis, and every apologists explanation… those all have their harmonisation Gospels.

            When you change the story (= harmonising) you’ll change the meaning of the story. I’m not claiming that I understand the real meaning any better than you do. I’m saying that the Bible is already the most changed book in the history of mankind. Changing it more makes it more difficult to understand the original meaning what ever it was.

          • The Explorer

            If one commentator mentions sour wine and another doesn’t, that’s not a contradiction. That Christ refuses vinegar but accepts sour wine IS a contradiction if the vinegar and the wine are the same event. But if the vinegar was a sedative (which Christ refused), and the sour wine was the soldier’s own standard drink (which Christ accepted) then there is no problem.

        • Hi sarky

          Well the Jewish approach , as my girlfriend says -fun akasha shtorbt man nischt- you don’t die from a contradiction . But I’m not sure of the Christian approach.

          • When Jack first read that he thought you’d said: “One doesn’t die from a contraction.”

            The seeming contradictions and mysteries in scripture are what spurs theological development and biblical study.

          • Hi happy Jack

            You need to go to spec savers then !!

            “theological development and biblical study.”

            Yes well we are known as people of the book(s). Did my Torah study( Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) last night .

      • Jon Sorensen

        How did you come to that conclusion that “it IS God’s truth”?

        • Dominic Stockford

          Faith.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Just like Muslims, Jews, and other religious people. I wonder if there is a better way to find truth…

          • Dominic Stockford

            They place their faith in doing what they say god wants them to do, I place my faith in God.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Muslims say Christians place their faith in doing what they say god wants them to do, Muslims say they place their faith in God. How would I know who is right?

          • Dominic Stockford

            Some who call themselves Christian think they have to fulfil certain activities (rituals particularly) to please God and gain eternal life with God. The Bible, however, is clear that we ‘are saved by faith, not by works, lest we boast’. Islam does demand works be done to earn salvation from God – Christianity, in the Bible, says that we are saved by the works of God, in Jesus Christ, not by anything man has done.

          • “Some who call themselves Christian think they have to fulfil certain activities (rituals particularly) to please God and gain eternal life with God.”

            What Christians believe that Dominic? Jack knows of no Church teaching this.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Many believe baptism is necessary. Others believe good works are necessary.

          • You have not answered Jack’s questions, Dominic.

            What Christians rely on rituals to please God and gain eternal life? Jack knows of no Christian Church teaching this.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Those who believe baptism is necessary. Is that not clear?

          • You don’t believe baptism is necessary?
            What Church teaches that baptism is a ritual to please God in order to achieve salvation?

          • Dominic Stockford

            I am saved by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The words of Jesus to the theif on the cross demonstrate baptism is not necessary for salvation.
            Baptism is a ritual.
            There are many Christians who believe it necessary for salvation, I am amazed you have never met one.

          • Be a tad difficult for the thief to join Christ in His death and resurrection (i.e. Baptism), and thus be freed from sin, whilst both were dying on their crosses.

            Baptism is not a “ritual” – it is an infusion of sanctifying grace that frees one from original sin and from any personal sin.
            You don’t accept the truth of scripture concerning Baptism? It is a command of Christ.

            Christians understand that the necessity of water baptism is normative rather than an absolute necessity. There are exceptions to water baptism. It is possible to be saved through “baptism of blood” or “baptism of desire”.

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, are saved even if they have not been baptised”
            (CCC 1281)

          • Jon Sorensen

            Interesting. The guy who walked with Jesus said we are not saved not by faith alone and the guy who never met Jesus said we are saved by faith, not by works. And you go with guy who never met Jesus.

          • Dominic Stockford

            If you refer to James and Paul…

            James was clear that the one who is saved will inevitably act in a way that demonstrates that they are saved.

            Paul was given a personal meeting with Jesus Christ in his ‘Damascene’ moments.

            But then if someone doesn’t actually believe that what the Bible says is truth from God then why would one believe either of the writers? The obvious corollary then is that it was their personal choice to believe the one they wished to believe, and to reject the one they wish to reject.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Paul was given a personal meeting with Jesus Christ in his ‘Damascene’ moments just like Mohammad, Joe Smith, David Koresh and many others had their ‘Damascene’ moment (or not.)

            This is a fallacy:
            “if someone doesn’t actually believe that what the Bible says is truth from God then why would one believe either of the writers”
            You can believe one of them was right and the other was wrong. Surely James knew he was right about Jesus and Paul got it wrong if he disagreed.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Dear Jon,
            What you posit means that it seems that some know which bits of the Bible are right and which are wrong. It would be fascinating to know how someone (a sinner) can decide to trust one part and deny another. What is the process by which they discern which parts are true and to be believed, and which parts are wrong and to be rejected?

          • Jon Sorensen

            This is a fallacy of circular reasoning:
            “It would be fascinating to know how someone (a sinner) can decide to trust one part and deny another.”
            You assume the answer (someone is a sinner) before you decide what parts to trust. A circular reasoning is not the way to truth.

          • Dominic Stockford

            I do not believe that the portions of the Bible that say ‘We are ALL sinners, every one’ are all wrong (Psalm 14:3, Paul in Rmns 3:23, Peter in 1 Ptr 2).

          • Jon Sorensen

            You believe something and then define that as “truth”. Then you build on this “truth”.

            This is not the way to find truth as if it is based on any belief then anything can be defined as truth. You need a better method.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Ok, fine. I was already clear about that. You don’t like faith being the reason. We know where you stand on my position. I am, however, still trying to understand your position.

            Let me summarize what I want to know.
            (Although,as I have said, I disagree with you that they are different), You believe that Paul and James say different things. You then reject one and accept the other.

            On what grounds do you reject one and accept the other? What are the logical and reasoned steps of thinking that lead you to do so? HOW have you reasoned to a position where you ‘know’ which is right and which is wrong?

            I would really like to know the justification of those who have it for holding this approach to the Bible.

            It would also then be nice to be presented with a comprehensive list of what is right and what is wrong in the Bible according to this approach. Is there an agreed one?

          • Jon Sorensen

            I don’t “believe” that Paul and James say different things. Bible tells how James’ Church followed the law Paul did not. Both can’t be divinely inspired unless divinity is relativist. I don’t know which one (or neither) is right, but my money would be on a guy who walked with Jesus.

            And history of religions show that religions change over time. Closer to the source, more likely it is to be the original message. You can inspect the truth of Jesus by checking if his prophecies came true or who well praying works compared to praying someone/thing else. Clearly this is not “agreed” just my view.

            This is not a place for “a comprehensive list of what is right and what is wrong”

          • Dominic Stockford

            Dear Jon,

            For me it is impossible to debate with someone who says in one post

            “The guy who walked with Jesus said we are not saved not by faith alone
            and the guy who never met Jesus said we are saved by faith, not by
            works”

            and then in another says

            “I don’t “believe” that Paul and James say different things.”

            I believe debate requires some form of agreed logic to be applied to the discussion, and it clearly is not possible here.

            I note also that you give no logical reason for your decision to decide that one is right and the other wrong, beyond your own guess (“but my money would be on”). That’s a very thin argument indeed.

            (I clarify for others who may read this post – I do not accept that Paul and James say contradictory things, but was merely seeking to find out the process by which Jon – who thinks they do – accepts one and rejects the other).

          • Jon Sorensen

            You nicely take my out of context:
            you say:
            “I don’t “believe” that Paul and James say different things.

            I said:
            I don’t “believe” that Paul and James say different things. Bible tells how James’ Church followed the law Paul did not.

            It is not controversial that James’ church followed the law and Paul taught food laws don’t need to be followed. James and Paul taught opposite view towards Jewish food laws.

            You can actually read this in the Bible. If you still claim that ” I do not accept that Paul and James say contradictory things” just answer this: Did James’ church follow Jewish food laws?

          • dannybhoy

            Let us know if you find it. The search for truth starts through man’s intellect and his senses, and ends with He who is beyond our understanding.
            There aren’t many credible alternatives.

          • Jon Sorensen

            The search for truth will never ends with “He who is beyond our understanding”. That is an intellectual cop out.

          • dannybhoy

            Not at all old bean!
            It would be like a dodo like myself searching for the most intelligent man in the world, sitting down to tea with him and pretending I completely understood his critique of ‘string theory.’
            God is far above His creation.The Framer of worlds. Without beginning or ending, outside of time, Holy, Compassionate and all knowing.
            How would you put Him right?

          • Jon Sorensen

            your ‘string theory’ vs your god is a false analogy fallacy. ‘string theory’ is a natural world hypothesis.

            You need to compare your critique of your God concept to critique of other God concepts; like Mithras, Allah and Shiva. They are in the same category and should be critiqued/accepted on same bases.

          • dannybhoy

            Jon,
            The point is that our intellect can only take us so far in wrestling with the big problems of Origins and Meaning. Your intellect would take you much further than mine, but as I understand it, from what I can see of the universe, our world and the amazing complexity of a simple cell, and the diversity of life, it couldn’t just have happened.
            Therefore something or someone must be responsible for it, and someone or something far cleverer than any human.

          • Jon Sorensen

            This is logical argument from ignorance
            “it couldn’t just have happened. Therefore something or someone must be responsible for it”
            and not the way to truth.

            You ask “How would you then proceed?”
            Start from the premises “I don’t know”. Then gather data, form a hypothesis and try prove your hypothesis wrong. Most importantly don’t believe without [good] evidence (=must not fool yourself – Richard Feinman)

          • dannybhoy

            “Start from the premises “I don’t know”. Then gather data, form a hypothesis and try prove your hypothesis wrong. Most importantly don’t believe without [good] evidence (=must not fool yourself – Richard Feinman)”

            Believe it or believe it not, that’s what Christians do, Jon.
            I already said your intellect can only take you so far. So for me the theory of evolution (version umpteenth) only gives an answer of how life might have evolved, not why. I personally find the concept of adaptation more believable.
            Then there is the problem of Abiogenesis. How did life on earth happen anyway?
            You are aware that there are qualified Christian scientists out there who have looked at the same issues and come up with design rather than chance?

          • Jon Sorensen

            Yes there are limits where intellect can take us. No point making up stuff if we don’t know. Abiogenesis is not a problem. It is something that we don’t fully understand yet. It is ok not to know and accept it. Evolution is a fact, it not about believing it or not.

            There are qualified Muslims, Buddhists, Jews who started with the premises that God created us and come to the conclusion that there is a design(er). Circular reasoning is powerful and comforting. But look at their scientific papers; what assumptions did they make about supernatural in their work? It might surprise you and give you a clue where the truth lies.

          • dannybhoy

            Abiogenesis is not a problem. It is something that we don’t fully understand yet.

            Care to share any musings you might have on the subject?

            Evolution is a fact, it not about believing it or not.

            It is not a fact, and there are plenty of people with no faith who do not believe it is a ‘fact’.
            I accept that God designed adaptability into His creation. Works for me.
            Finally you are assuming that people of faith who also happen to be scientists are only pretending to believe in their faith. But could it also be that they believe in a God who designed the world and all that is in it, and are simply finding out how He designed things?

          • Jon Sorensen

            I don’t know much about Abiogenesis, sorry.

            You can always find people with faith/no-faith who do/don’t believe X. I’ve met atheists who believe in creator. But science is not about someones faith/view/opinion. It’s about evidence. People who do not accept evolution have never described an alternative method how life developed or provided any evidence for it. The best alternative was lamarckism but it is not true.

            This is true:
            “people of faith who also happen to be scientists, are only pretending to believe in their faith.”
            Just check their scientific papers like I said. Remember these people usually believe that God interacts with His creation.

          • dannybhoy

            “But science is not about someones faith/view/opinion. It’s about evidence.”
            Jon , I think people/scientists do build a hypothesis from thinking about an issue and then set about testing it.
            Most ordinary people including myself, do not need to understand and verify everything to enjoy the benefits thereof.

            All people have the freedom to speculate according to their level of curiosity and intelligence. So those who believe in God do not have to understand exactly how He did things. It is enough to believe that God is who He reveals Himself to be in Scripture. If that belief boils down to “Thou shalt love the Lord they God and thy neighbour as thyself..
            So as long as one has investigated the case for Christianity as far as their intellect will take them and are satisfied it is reasonable, they may then be prepared to take that step of faith, and live by faith.

        • dannybhoy

          Read Hebrews chapter 11 as an example..

        • alternative_perspective

          Faith is an answer… But do you know what you mean when u pose that question, what kind of answer you might expect and what kind of response would accept.
          For instance, if you do not believe in the existence of a god or gods then that question is demanding not only proof that God inspired the bible (are u clear in your own mind what that very term implies and are you sure the person to whom you asked that question shares the same definition?) but also that God exists. If you are a firm atheist then you have a priori bias against any answer you might receive, are u questioning historical accuracy, spiritual authority or relevance for instance? In my opinion very strong argument for the bible bring the inspired word of God can be made by answering each of these questions carefully, but a quick sound bite answer will provide you with nothing. Depending on your background I’d recommend ‘the case for Christ’ and its various follow ups as a nice introduction to the topic and Cold Case Christianity which can be readily googled.
          As for your second question regarding, Is there a better way to find truth? id respond by asking, what kind of truth are you thinking about and how do you want to use it. If youre talking about the five questions of meaning, origin, morality, destiny and purpose I’d categorically say no, but if you’re thinking about say the atomic weight of boron then I’d suggest there certainly is, happy hunting / balconeering.

    • CliveM

      To many maybe’s and to much conjecture for this to be a proper argument.

    • dannybhoy

      Maybe.
      Maybe not.
      On the other hand…

  • Anton

    Your Grace wrote that: “Since Jesus (Lk 12:39f)… stated that thieves give no warning of their arrival, curiosity about the Second Coming can be an unhealthy preoccupation”. Yes it can; the risk is that the eschatological passages are studied to the exclusion of the rest of scripture. But the passages about thieves in the night need also to be taken with the fact that Jesus, on the Mt of Olives, gave the signs to watch for in the run-up to His return.

    How can these apparently incompatible strands be reconciled? The answer is that His faithful, who know what to look for, will expect His return; whereas the world will not have a clue that it is imminent. In the “thief” passages, Jesus was talking about the world’s view of the event.

  • The Explorer

    In ‘Galatians’ 2 , Paul sees himself as having authority over Peter on the issue of circumcision. Although Peter was an original disciple, and Paul was not, Paul sees himself as having been given unique authority as Apostle to the Gentiles. Either he is supremely arrogant; or he is simply speaking the truth.

    If he is speaking the truth, then revelation was given to him by God. Our task is to understand what was meant for his contemporary audiences, and what is meant for us, his later audiences.

    If Paul was not correct about his unique authority, then he was simply a deluded first-century bigot. Not only were his views about the Second Coming simply his opinion, but so were his views about marriage, the status of women, and the sinfulness of homosexuality.

    Those who would like to discredit Paul on these other issues would thus have a vested interest in first discrediting him about the Second Coming. If he’s unreliable about that, he’s unreliable about other things as well.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Well put.

    • dannybhoy

      I’m looking forward to meeting him!

  • IanCad

    YG,

    “This is the essence of eschatology – it keeps alive the sense of imminence in a period of grace, and induces us to holiness.”
    How very well put.

  • dannybhoy

    As I said before it seems to me that the NT writers were busy recording their experiences, addressing immediate problems in the congregations of believers and ‘feeling their way’ as regards end times prophecy.

    I don’t have a problem with that.

    It’s obvious from Acts that the Apostles were extremely busy people, and would have been carried along by events, addressing immediate problems and thinking through the theology later.

    Thus John 1 chapter 2:>
    “18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.”

    There is always a difference between reading about an event and actually being there in the thick of it, and individuals will remember some things but not others.

    • CliveM

      Theology is a luxury for those with time in their hands.

      Which in the main the apostles didn’t have.

      Good post.

      • dannybhoy

        Thank you Clive.

  • bockerglory

    Jesus is speaking to us as individuals. Christians will die, be with Christ then witness the resurrection and end times.

    We all have separate timelines. We will all experience the second coming as resurrected individuals. The disciples have died and experienced this and we too will die soon enough and experience this.

    There will be the living who will experience the second coming.

    So Jesus and Paul are addressing two groups of individuals.

    It does not matter whether you are alive at the time of the second coming or resurrected – still the same outcome.

    Jesus as divine and part of God knows the law of physics in relation to the nature of time and space.

    So Jesus, Peter and Paul are all correct – Jesus is not wrong

    I despair that Cranmer has sparked a debate about the authenticity of scriptures and apostles. We have enough attacks on our faith and scriptures by Muslims.

    Cranmer – if you have faith the holy spirit will show you the meaning of Jesus’ words. Or have you employed a shadow writer?

    • dannybhoy

      Why despair?
      It’s important for all of us to know what we believe and why, and to have those views challenged by friends, fellow believers and unbelievers.

      If it’s AC’s blog he has the right to express his opinion, play devil’s advocate or whatever.
      The fact that he allows so many shades of opinion here is imo admirable.

      • bockerglory

        You are right. I am in an environment where Muslims are often the majority and will use anything in the internet that casts doubt to hassle Christians. That is why I despair.

        • dannybhoy

          I feel for you Bro. Really I do.

          Ephesians 6>
          12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

          Sounds easy enough don’t it, but the Bible says that’s the reality behind so many anti Christian, anti God movements, philosophies and religions. There are powerful spiritual forces at work in this world, and sometimes we need a personal revelation to enable us to take hold of His promises and protection.

    • Dominic Stockford

      I agree with your concerns and your theology.

  • Broadwood

    When Jesus returns, it is game over for ‘sin, the flesh and the devil’ – he’ll be no longer the carpenter, he returns in all his glory.
    Our job as the ecclesia to get the world ready – how do you think we are doing? May he be holding back, in mercy, until we are ready? Because – ‘Behold, I come suddenly’ Rev 22.12

  • preacher

    Excellent follow up on yesterdays post Dr Cranmer.
    I think you’ve given us the opportunity for a good spiritual workout, often needed in this day & age. Many thanks & Blessings. P.

  • Anna

    When Jesus spoke about his impending death and resurrection, his language was often unintelligible to his hearers. The disciples were puzzled (John 14:1-10 and 16:16-18) – just as we are today when we examine the passages about the end times and Christ’s second coming.

    Events have been described which appear vague and shadowy from where we stand. These are meant to be signposts and as we approach a particular point in history that was foretold (such the restoration of Israel after WWII), then things become clearer and our confidence is his word is vindicated.

    I believe that Jesus deliberately chose to reveal only the tiniest fragments of future events. His purpose was not to give us a clear timeline for the future, but to secure our faithfulness when these terrifying events unfold. We are to remain watchful at all times since we do not know the time. The wise virgins fell asleep because the Bridegroom ‘tarried’, but were not caught unawares by his coming.

    As the end draws near we are not to panic, but remain steadfast in the knowledge that he will triumph and all will be well.

  • alternative_perspective

    When Jesus does return humanity will be scratching around in a dense fog of deception, unable to discern apparent goodness from that of God’s and subject to deep and disturbing corruptions of the flesh.

    We are rapidly moving into those kind of times: spiritually, epistemologically and even materially.

  • len

    ‘Imminence’ regarding the return of Christ means we Christians should put our house in order and keep it that way and also gives a sense of urgency that the Gospel goes out to give everyone a chance at salvation..

  • Inspector General

    The only people who are wrong about aspects of our faith is us. For example, we have misinterpreted obvious angelic activity as something called the Holy Spirit. Anything else attributed to said spirit is imaginative conjecture. We have also bestowed deity upon (as far as we are concerned) God’s chief messenger, Jesus, another angelic form. So, how did that happen. Yes, we did it.

    Right, back to behind the sofa, wearing one’s tin hat..

    • CliveM

      I know where you could get some decent body armour.

      I look forward with interest to peoples comments!

      • Inspector General

        They’re not biting tonight Clive….

        • CliveM

          Probably still recovering from their attack of the vapours.

          • The Explorer

            The thing is, I’m not convinced the Inspector believes his own post.

          • CliveM

            I did wonder.

          • Inspector General

            He does!

          • The Explorer

            Jack/Chief of Sinners

            That joint exorcism of a couple of threads back obviously wasn’t a complete success.

          • It’s just attention seeking behaviour, Explorer.

          • The Explorer

            Yes. And who is that reminiscent of?

          • Hah …

          • Inspector General

            Think of it as a new appreciation of what is, brought to you by someone gifted with a higher understanding. No more superstitions and suppositions like the Trinity…

          • Pissoir …

          • The Explorer

            Legionnaire’s disease. Something malign still lurking. Keep it up though, Jack, you’re doing great! Between us all, we’ll restore him yet.

          • Inspector General

            The Inspector is still trying to make sense of Jack’s reasoned reply…

          • You are possessed by a malign spirit, Inspector. Jack is attempting an exorcism.

          • Inspector General

            God’s intervention in this world is not to be feared. Nor are his champions who explain it…

          • Ah, so God has told you these things then?

          • Inspector General

            Do give it some thought. We don’t have to be doctors of divinity to understand the reality of it all, (which is what you’ll need to take on the Trinity) now do we.

          • Inspector, over the past few days you have dismissed scripture as man made and questioned, if not openly denied, the divinity of Jesus. There’s a limit to ‘thinking aloud’. It’s called manifest heresy.

            Read the Baltimore Catechism. A child can comprehend it. Some adults struggle.

          • Restoration? This presumes a return to a former state that was orthodox. Unfortunately, the Inspector’s *issues* are more complex and we’re looking at a complete rebuild and transformation.
            He has very odd ideas, Explorer.

          • chiefofsinners

            Pissoir

          • CliveM

            With all the talk of secret knowledge, higher learning, Angels etc, I had begun to wonder if he has joined the Masons.

          • Inspector General

            Not at all dear chap. Merely trying to marry what God has achieved with the limitations of his universe. In other words, logistics. No more rabbits out of hats…

          • CliveM

            One of the interesting things I’ve noticed over the last few months, is how few people who subscribe to Sola Scriptura actually mean it. Because if they did, more of them would say “I don’t know” or “we can’t be certain”. It is interesting how theologies that are drawn from scripture, but are not detailed in scripture, become hard and fast rules.

            I think Dominic inadvertently gave an example of that today.

            So although I am entirely orthodox (for a Prespyterian!) I am not particularly worried by others heresies!!

          • Inspector General

            Sola Scripture is making sense of our contact by God from a human manuscript. It never had a chance…

          • CliveM

            Of course RC’s don’t subscribe to it anyway. Which, in relation to the point I made, is certainly rational.

            However I personally still think a humble, “this is what I believe, but scripture is open to different understandings on this point” makes more sense.

          • Except scripture on its own, without an authoritative interpretation, opens the door for all forms of human error. Think of all the varieties of ‘truth’ around and tell Jack God intended this.
            And ignore the Inspector. He’s running around in a mouse wheel.

          • CliveM

            Well as I said I think the RC position is logical (and coherent).

            I think most Christians put their faith in some sort of authoritive understanding. Few have developed their position simply by themself. Some will look to the Magisterium, or a great Church theologian or a Paster. Or more likely a combination.

            I don’t agree with the Inspector and I do wonder what his Priest would say, but as we didn’t ignore a certain Frenchman I’m not going to ignore the Inspector.

          • dannybhoy

            But Jack, hasn’t the Catholic Church has made serious mistakes too? From the selling of indulgences to the infallibility of a Pope, to the torture of people until they became ‘proper’ Christians..

            For example I’ve been reading the first letter of Peter, and these verses leapt out at me..
            ” So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,[a] not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;[b] not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”
            Peter doesn’t refer to himself as anything other than an elder in this letter; nothing more, nothing lesS.
            I think we can have differences of doctrine whilst remaining united in our love for God and the basic tenets of our faith, as in Hebrews 10>

            23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near…”

          • The Church, of course, has made mistakes in matters of practice. It has also had sinful and wicked men. You confuse two things -sinful men and the indefectibility of Church teaching. The Church cannot err in matters of faith and morals.
            Purgatory, for example, exists and the theology of indulgences is not the same as flogging indulgences to make money. The doctrine has been abused for evil purposes. Papal infallibility, in matters of faith and morals, to take another example, flows from the promise of Christ to oversee and guide His Church and from Him appointing Peter as the leader of the Apostles and handing Peter the “Keys to the Kingdom” to act as His steward until He returns. Again the doctrine is sound but individual popes may be sinful and corrupt men. No matter how bad they are, God will not permit them to formally teach false doctrine.

          • CliveM

            I believe in scripture and in the main I believe what has been handed down by the Churches greatest thinkers, I just happen to think there is dogmatism when honesty says theirs doubt.

          • dannybhoy

            ” I just happen to think there is dogmatism when honesty says theirs doubt.”
            What meaneth this sentence brother Clive?

          • CliveM

            You see what I mean in some of the debates on here and also in the history of the Church. Using an historical example the nature of Christ which let to the first and most damaging split. When you read the history of it, there is a big whiff of clashing egos unwilling to own to doubt or permit doubt. It had to end in ine side triumphing over the other. Demanding agreement to a definition of the nature of Christ you won’t find in the bible.

          • dannybhoy

            Absolutely Clive.
            If we look at the ‘Old Testament Greats’ we see that every one of them were flawed. There are no perfect saints, only people who despite their flaws loved God deeply and were obedient to His commandments. It’s the difference between Saul and David. Both called to be king, but Saul lost his way spiritually and David despite his manifold sins, bared his heart in repentance and wrote Psalms..

            So it seems to me that both the OT and NT are records of God’s dealings with men, people and nations in history, and that is what we see. In the New Testament historical events are recorded by the Apostles and they show the different facets of memory and understanding of the same events and their implications.
            We don’t need to know the fine detail of what the Atonement achieved to taste and enjoy its benefits. We don’t need to fight our doctrinal corner to have a close relationship with God.

          • Hmm … everything necessary for our salvation is present in scripture. The problem is that the books of scripture are written in different styles and contexts. Human intelligence and imagination can have a field day with it – and has. This is why Jesus Christ appointed an Apostolic Church. All scripture is written under the guidance and inspiration of God. It contains no error if read and understood correctly. So far as Jack is concerned, it was never intended to be a stand alone text.

          • dannybhoy

            I totally agree with your first three sentences, and they sum up my thoughts more clearly and exactly.
            But then.
            “This is why Jesus Christ appointed an Apostolic Church.”
            ?!
            Surely the differences are as a result of those Apostolic writings Jack; and I really don’t think it matters, because as you said,
            “.. … everything necessary for our salvation is present in scripture….”

          • …. properly understood, Danny.
            The Church existed before the New Testament and God ordained that scripture was written just as it is written. Do you really suppose that all the questions the Apostles and their successors have asked about Jesus’ life, His death and resurrection, are resolved by reading scripture alone? The meaning we give to God’s word and how we understand His revelation, requires divine assistance and divine authority.

          • dannybhoy

            Well Jack,
            you yourself said that “everything that is necessary for salvation is present in Scripture….”
            On this we agree.
            I have already said (many times now) that there are essential beliefs and peripheral beliefs. As long as salvation, the process of sanctification, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Lordship of Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel are held as core beliefs, all the rest is up for discussion.
            As long as it doesn’t divert from those core beliefs and become an obsession.
            I also think that different personalities are attracted to different traditions -unless coerced, and again that isn’t a problem for me. For example, Malcolm Muggeridge left his atheism and joined the Roman Catholic Church..
            I was once briefly involved in the Shepherding movement.
            That was enough structured authority for me!
            Now my wife and I are actively involved in our village CofE
            and work closely with our minister and curate.
            But we’re not Anglicans, we’re Christians..
            I found this article which I think you may actually enjoy about a Jewish convert who delved into these same issues..
            http://www.protomartyr.org/first.html

          • “I have already said (many times now) that there are essential beliefs and peripheral beliefs. As long as salvation, the process of sanctification, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Lordship of Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel are held as core beliefs, all the rest is up for discussion.”

            Can you spot the one in there that was one of the root causes of the protestant reformation? Christians are deeply divided on “the process of sanctification”. On a Catholic’s understanding of this rests the Apostolic succession, the male ordained priesthood and the sacramental system of the Church.

          • dannybhoy

            I was going to use the word ‘discipleship’ which we used a lot in YWAM, but I chose sanctification in deference to your own good self..
            There are books such as Thomas a Kempis’s “The Imitation of Christ”, Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the presence of God” John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” and many more.
            They all have the same theme of discipleship/sanctification,
            If this is our personal desire (and all that is necessary unto salvation is in the Scriptures.. John 15 etc). then the congregation we choose to belong to and adhere to, is between us and God who judges the intents of our hearts.
            Btw, did you read that article? I thought it was very interesting.

          • CliveM

            I understand your point and I certainly do not believe in personal revelation with regards these issues.

            It’s not that I don’t think that God works through the Magesterium, I believe he works through other channels as well.

          • Dominic Stockford

            End times, exactly what will happen then? When will they be? I don’t know. The Bible (God’s revelation of his truth to us) doesn’t tell us.

          • dannybhoy

            Interesting observation Clive, could you expand on it?
            I think one can say “sola scriptura!” as the source of all doctrine, but also believe that there are parts which are obviously the personal opinions, musings or conclusions drawn from their experiences. Especially in the New Testament.
            I think we have to look always at the context of what is going on, and who is speaking. I don’t have a problem with that, because I believe that God has revealed Himself within its pages and shows how we can know Him. I accept the overall authority of Scripture whilst holding some things in tension.

          • CliveM

            Generally I agree with that. Although sometimes I get the impression with some doctrine that sola scriptura acts more as an inspiration rather then a source.

          • dannybhoy

            I affectionately place The Inspector in the same category as the late lamented Mrs Proudie. An entertaining ‘one off’ who sometimes says outrageous things, refuses to conform and whom one could never dislike; he adds a certain sparkle to our deliberations.
            (But Mrs Proudie was more fragrantly sophisticated and witty… )
            ;0)

        • dannybhoy

          To whom shall we go Inspector?
          For you have the words of mystical confusion, and we have come to believe that you are more mixed up than most….

          ;0)

          • Inspector General

            Keep reading Danny…

          • Let’s call it “confusion of the spirit”. Whiskey, probably.

  • Dreadnaught

    Having browsed the comments here, I can see why people have become tired of trying to fathom the birds nests of confusion upon which all religions rely, if for no other reason than preserving that which sustains their priests’ salaries and continued employment. Without the smoke and mirrors and built in contradictions buried in the competing texts, translated from unverifiable sources and selected, depending on the flavour of the times and whims of Conquerors. Religions just don’t stand up to scrutiny as being in anyway a reliable to the existence of gods and the pronouncements of prophets.
    Profits?: now that’s totally understandable.

    • Ivan M

      There are easier ways to make money nowadays, Dreadnaught.

  • Sir Walter Tyrell

    Whatever Jesus had actually tried to tell them, there appears to be evidence in Acts 4:34-37 that the early disciples did indeed think that the Lord was returning in the very near future. It will be noted that they did not merely put their land and buildings into a common fund to provide a steady income for the congregation but went out and sold them, something which risked turning all of them into paupers once the money had been spent on those in need – unless the present world ended.
    Only later did the apostles realize that they were having to spend their whole time dealing with a series of capital receipts instead of preaching the Gospel and appointed deacons to handle the financial side. The failure to keep their patrimonies and other properties intact might also be part of the reason why St Paul (1 Corinthians 16:1-4) felt the need to collect money for the church in Jerusalem.
    What the short term effects on the property market in Jerusalem were is not recorded.

    • Ivan M

      What you wrote seems right. There was an early attempt at millenarian communism. A less than enthusiastic contributor, Ananais, probably an unrepentant kulak who really had something to lose, fell dead with his wife Sapphira following him shortly later. Acts 5:1-11, is rather disturbing in a Jonestown sort of way.

      “Comrade, if you had two houses, would you not give one to your fellow toiler who has none?”
      ,“Sure, sure comrade commissar, I would.”

      “And if you had two tractors, would you not do the same?”
      “Most certainly comrade commissar.”

      “And again if you had two horses, give one to say the luckless comrade Ivan here.”
      “No, no I would not”

      “Why not, comrade peasant!”
      “I have two horses.”,

  • len

    Interesting that the disciples that walked with Jesus Christ often failed to understand what He was saying and He often got annoyed at their inability to grasp essential facts and doctrine.
    Now in our ‘blame shifting culture’ we tend to blame Jesus for our own shortcomings.
    I am not pretending that scripture is easy to interpret and one line of scripture can have many possibly interpretations (possibly even influenced by ones own prejudices and preconceptions?)
    But Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit to interpret Scripture for us and to lead us into all Truth.

    The Bible is a supernatural Book from a supernatural source and relays events hundreds sometimes thousands of years before events happen with astounding accuracy.
    In examining the scriptures the very day that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem and the time and the method of His execution was prophesied.
    Pure water (Gods Word) poured through contaminated filters(us) can and does become confused and incoherent at times but that fault lies with us and we need to go to the source (every time) to gain understanding….

    • Jon Sorensen

      Are you sure that the disciples that walked with Jesus Christ often failed to understand what He was saying? More likely they are literary characters that take the place of readers question, like Watson in Sherlock Holmes, and a way for later church fathers undermine early leaders.

      • Anton

        In a couple of hundred years people might look at this exchange and wonder if Jon Sorensen really existed or was made up.

        • Jon Sorensen

          Jon is so insignificant that nobody cares in a couple of hundred years if he existed

  • Dodgy Geezer

    …Treating the Bible as literal until proven otherwise imposes unnecessary constraints upon the interpretation and comprehension of many passages….

    Whereas treating the Bible (or, indeed, any document) as capable of metaphorical and figurative interpretation allows you to make something mean anything you want it to mean…