Apocalypse Now? Or not yet

Six days later debate still rages (though slower now) on the Friendly Atheist thread (I even scored a second post about my comments that was actually quite flattering… check it out)… here’s a testimonial from the author of the original post – it probably gives a more balanced view than the quotes I mined here.

First of all, I want to thank Nathan for his continued patience and politeness in comments. Yes, we disagree with him – vehemently on some issues – but I’m impressed that the comments have stayed mostly productive and substantive.

Fellow commenter, Wayne, has raised an interesting interpretation of the mission of Jesus and the kingdom he proclaimed. His comments alone make that thread worth reading. He is singularly the most interesting commenter I’ve ever come across there. He is prepared, it seems, to not completely dismiss the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ teaching. He just interprets them in an interesting way.

He introduced his views like this:

You comment that you follow the teachings of Jesus. I assume that, like most Christians, you consider him the Son of God. I submit to you that, on the contrary, he was a human being who was an apocalypticist who was preaching that God was about to arrive in his kingdom and that the people must prepare themselves. In Mark 9:1, Jesus states “Truly I tell you, some of you standing here will not taste death before they have seen the Kingdom of God having come in power. And Mark 13:30 Truly I tell you, this generation (i.e., presumably, the one he was addressing) will not pass away before all these things take place. In Mark 14:62 Truly I tell you, You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven. In Mathew 16:27-28 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

I am a former Christian who had questions that religion could not answer, such as why Jesus would be preaching fervently for the people to prepare themselves for the coming Kingdom when it wasn’t supposed to happen for millenniums later. It simply made no sense. I’ve since realize the problem after much research from non religious sources, that it was actually supposed to happen back then, but it didn’t, which blew Christianity out of the water for me.

Then he brought up this theory on the promise to David…

Here is something to cogitate over. Yahweh made a covenant with the House of David that David’s descendants would hold the reigns of power over Israel for ever. Let me remind you that this is from a god who is all knowing. Well, the leader of a nation, I forget which, removed the ruling Davidian and replaced him with a nonDavidian. So much for an all knowing god.

Like most Christians I think Jesus was talking about his kingdom coming at the crucifixion (and resurrection). I’m a 2 Corinthians 1:20 man myself…

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

One thing I hate in these arguments – and it’s similar to Ben’s disdain for experts – is when people quote “scholars” as though an issue is decided. Like this quote from Wayne (who really did have an interesting hermeneutic, and one I hadn’t really encountered before. I knew it existed, I’d just never met anybody who bought it):

“How can we look at the Old Testament and take it seriously? Scholars have determined that Abraham was simply a legend and didn’t exist. Also, the book of Joshua tells a powerful tale of conquest, supported by a God who showed no respect for most of the Holy Land’s existing inhabitants, however scholars have determined it is not history and it never was.”

Oh yeah, and anything in the Bible that contradicts his interpretations of other bits of the Bible is invalid…

Unfortunately, scholars are convinced that Paul did not write the books of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (called the “Pastoral” epistles, because they deal with how these pastors should oversee their churches.) So this passage you quoted has no validity.

When I objected to his “scholars”, I got this response:

When it comes to religion, I will pick the majority of scholars over the majority of Christians anytime, especially when their interpretation makes more sense.

I decided that Wayne had been pretty heavily influenced by the previously featured Bart Erhman… I found, and posted, this quote from a scholar about Ehrman’s “scholarship”…

A criticism of Erhman from an NT lecturer:

It is mystifying however why he would attempt to write a book like Jesus, Interrupted which frankly reflect no in-depth interaction at all with exegetes, theologians, and even most historians of the NT period of whatever faith or no faith at all. A quick perusal of the footnotes to this book, reveal mostly cross-references to Ehrman’s earlier popular works, with a few exceptions sprinkled in—for example Raymond Brown and E.P Sanders, the former long dead, the latter long retired. What is especially telling and odd about this is Bart does not much reflect a knowledge of the exegetical or historical study of the text in the last thirty years. It’s as if he is basing his judgments on things he read whilst in Princeton Seminary. And that was a long time ago frankly.

Then another commenter took me to task for bringing Ehrman into the discussion. How dare I be so presumptuous. And Wayne linked me to this friend of his, where he’d commented with similar views (almost word for word) in the past… and credited Erhman. Priceless.

“I was originally Christian, but had too many questions like why did Jesus preach back then that you must prepare yourself for the coming Kingdom if it wasn’t going to happen until millenniums later. Or why did Jesus tell his disciples that some of them would still be standing when his Father would arrive in glory in his kingdom, if it wasn’t supposed to happen then? Ministers could never give me an answer, but Bart Erhman did.”

Perhaps this post will be enough to bring Wayne here to continue this discussion. Lets see. It’s certainly the rambliest thing I’ve posted for a while.


Wayne D says:

__Part 1__Just wanted to comment that Nathan has got to be the most interesting Christian debater I have come across. His comments on FriendlyAtheist blog were very well thought out and I found it very refreshing not to get the usual quote of a bible verse with no further comment which I have seen all too often from Christian commentators. I know you would like for me to continue on with further discussions. I will leave one, but since my wife is killing me because I am neglecting other duties, my posts may be a bit sparse. I will invite you to check out my friend’s blog which he has recently started and agrees with me that he needs some Christian commentors to balance out my comments since his other friends are not leaving many comments and what outside commentors there are are from FriendlyAtheist board. My friend is a believing Christian, but admits he cannot prove his belief, thus the reason he named his blog thebelievingagnostic. His web is:__http://thebelievingagnostic.blogspot.com/____

Wayne D says:

I may have to place my comment on FriendlyAtheist blog since I am only able to leave the briefest message here. Unfortunately, the FriendlyAthiest blog appears to be down right now.

Wayne D says:

I appologize for not leaving my comment here, but I would have had to split it up into a dozen or more segments, so I left the comment at http://friendlyatheist.com/2010/01/07/20207/

Peter Kutuzov (Kutz) says:

Hey WayneD *waves*

Perhaps I'll get over to the friendly atheist site sometime to interact with your position. Hopefully. I'm forgetful and not on my home computer to bookmark this!

All the best,
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Autumnal Harvest says:

Then another commenter took me to task for bringing Ehrman into the discussion. How dare I be so presumptuous.

Um, I believe I'm that commentator. Is that honestly how you saw my comment? That I was "taking you to task" for having the "presumption" to bring Ehrman into the discussion? I believe what I criticized you for was acting as if the problem of pseudonymous works was some invention of Ehrman, or maybe Ehrman and a few fringe historians, rather than a general problem recognized by historians. If that's your honest characterization of what I said, I think meaningful communication between us is impossible. Which makes me a little sad, because I do actually like your posts, but the more we interact, the more I feel like there's some insuperable communication barrier.

Andrew says:

How is the following supposed to be understood then?:

Nathan, Wayne didn’t bring up Ehrman. You did, it’s a little strange to choose to attribute his views to an author of your choosing, and then attack that author.

Nathan says:

Umm wow. Comments.

I will make the following comments to clarify my language when I said "taken to task". That was pure hyperbole on my part. See it as a synonym for disagreed with. I don't think it was any more than that. I was really just pointing out my own brilliance (which happens here occasionally, it is my blog afterall – though I do hope it is balanced with self deprecation). I had predicted that Wayne was quoting Erhman – and it turned out that from what I have since read from Wayne elsewhere it is Ehrman that was probably the influencer of Wayne's thinking.

I would suggest that the quite from Andrew (quoting you) above is an example of someone being "taken to task" – that language doesn't infer that I felt insulted or anything though…

But lets face it – the views in question are held by an academic fringe when it comes to theological scholars. They're quite popular with atheists or agnostics who are interested in textual criticism of the Bible (and often interested in selling books through controversy).

I have enjoyed discussions with you both here and at the Friendly Atheist. I'm glad you appear to give me the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the question of whether or not I'm about to pull the trigger for God.

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