Apr 30 2012

Prophecy and Ethics

“The apocalyptists said, The world is coming to an end: Give up! The Biblical prophets said, The world is coming to a beginning: Get to work!”

Is it only me that has to restrain himself from violence when someone refers to the Revelation as “Apocalyptic”? I guess using a long word derived from Greek is a handy way of disguising the fact that you have little idea of what’s actually going on in the book.

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Dec 23 2011

The Bones of Elisha


or What’s the Problem with Matthew 27:51-53?

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Apr 13 2010

The Black Box

or Tablets of Flesh


Keith Mathison writes:

“…apocalyptic literature was oriented toward the future and expressed its message in vivid symbolism encoded in dreams and visions. It is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing transcendent reality.” [1]

Although this statement from Mathison’s helpful book is true, the more I learn the more I tend to believe our genre classification leaves a lot to be desired. The Bible is more organic than that.

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Apr 28 2009

Sweeping Genrelisations

or How Modern Conservative Theologians Unwittingly Use Literary Genres to Mask Their Unbelief 

One of the big problems with modern theology is its habit of categorising parts of the Bible into literary genres. For sure, the Bible contains historical prose, visions, poetry and songs. But many passages won’t actually fit into these neat little pigeon holes without hamstringing their intended purpose. And as it turns out, these “genre-lisations” are excuses to compromise with humanistic pop-philosophy and pop-history.

The three main gripes I have are misuses of the genres poetry, polemic and apocalyptic.

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Apr 10 2009

Swinging Isaiah like a knife

“Behold, the day of the LORD comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine.”

You’ll never understand a book if you only ever read the last chapter. If you thought this quote was from the New Testament you are almost right. It is from Isaiah 13, and Jesus quotes it. It begins: “The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw…”

Would Jesus’ audience have thought He was referring to the destruction of the cosmos? Nup. They would (or should) have realised that He was calling Judah a new Babylon, and that the “sun, moon and stars”, the governing lights of her kingdom were about to come crashing down.

Jesus had a sharp mind, and a sharp mouth. A lot sharper than us when we misinterpret Matthew 24.

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Apr 10 2009

Hitchens stunned in pub debate

hitchensandwilsonA comment from David Hagopian on the recent pub debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Pastor Doug Wilson:

There was a moment when Hitchens hit Doug with the old, “Jesus didn’t fulfill his words in Mathew 24.” It was an amazing response by Doug. Very authoritative on this section of Scripture being a description of the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. Really powerful. You could hear multiple pin drops in the room between Christopher and Westminster profs and students. The hair on my arms stood up. Hitchens was stunned. He never again in debates brought up Scripture. Powerful stuff.

Gary DeMar writes:

“Can you imagine how a futurist would attempt to deal with Matthew 24? “Well, Jesus didn’t really mean ‘this generation,’ that is, that first-century generation. He was really referring to a future generation. Yes, ‘this generation’ does always mean the generation to whom Jesus was speaking everywhere else in the gospels, but it doesn’t mean that here. It might mean ‘race’ or ‘a future generation that sees these signs.’” Instead of hearing pins drop, there would have been out-loud laughing and dismissal.”

Full article here.

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Apr 10 2009

Feminize the Clergy

by Jack Van Deventer

My Dear Woodworm,

As your most affectionate uncle and Senior Commander in Satan’s Army, I hereby write you to maintain your ongoing efforts to destroy the Enemy’s Church. You are but a Junior Tempter now, but with continued success you will surely rise through the ranks. Your orders are to attack and weaken the clergy, the leaders of the Opposition.

Your attack on the clergy should occur on three fronts. First, while allowing the preacher to pound the pulpit with regard to the truth of the Scriptures, have them deny their applicability. Tell them that the Old Testament is for ancient Israel, not for us. Teach them to hate God’s Law as being irrelevant, outdated, and harsh.

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Apr 10 2009

Jesus the preterist

“The apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. This is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.”

(From C. S. Lewis, “The World’s Last Night” (1960), found in The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 385)

Either C. S. Lewis was right, or Jesus was. The choice is obvious. All those things came to pass.

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Apr 10 2009

An Apparent Dead End

Revelation can become a mere distraction. Charles Spurgeon wrote about prophecy buffs:

“He is great upon the ten toes of the beast, the four faces of the cherubim, the mystical meaning of badgers’ skins, and the typical bearings of the staves of the ark, and the windows of Solomon’s temple: but the sins of business men, the temptations of the times, and the needs of the age, he scarcely ever touches upon. Such preaching reminds me of a lion engaged in mouse-hunting, or a man-of-war cruising after a lost water-butt.”*

That’s a fair comment if study of symbols becomes an end in itself, but they were intended to convey crucial information. Surely the symbolic passages have more authority than our own anecdotes when trying to communicate abstract truth? There is nothing in Revelation that isn’t also elsewhere in the New Testament. It was not intended to be an isolated book, and the better it is understood, the more powerfully it can be incorporated into our teaching and preaching.

*Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, p. 76.

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Apr 10 2009

A Book You Should Own

 No Bible commentary is the last word, but James Jordan’s seven-year effort gets the ball through the hoop on Daniel. Here’s an excerpt from David Field’s review:

The approach of the book is marked by

handwritingonwall-s1. Immersion in and informed reference to the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures. The use of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah is astonishing and enriching at every turn. Use of or comment upon other books along the way are unfailingly stimulating and this applies to NT books as well, not least to Revelation which is greatly illumined by this work on Daniel.

2. Confident deployment of redemptive-historical paradigms which have themselves been recognized through close and repeated study of the whole Bible. In particular, theologico-spatial zones, old creation /new creation eras, and prophet /priest /king roles feature heavily and often have real power to unlock or clarify the subject in hand.

3. The closest of close structural analysis of the sort that comes from multiple readings. Chiasms and parallels and other patterning devices are attended to with great care and in such a way as positively informs the interpretation rather than being mere observations along the path.

4. Seriousness about chronology. This is one of the characteristics of Jordan’s work overall, since he sees emphasis on “ideas” at the expense of history as revealing and strengthening the gnosticism of much contemporary Christianity. The detailed chronological work lying behind his interpretation of Jeremiah and Ezekiel and his resolution of some of the Daniel “difficulties” is awesome.

5. Interpretative weight given to what still gets called “inter-testamental” history. Inter-testamental history is redemptive history and Jordan emphasizes that God speaks to and about that period in the patterns of Daniel 1-6 and in the prophecies of Daniel 1-7.

6. Attention to numerics: word-counts, significant numbers, and the meaning of numbers. There is work here to compare with Bauckham’s work on Revelation.

7. Typology. This is not a “typological” commentary as such because although half of Daniel is narrative, half of it is apocalyptic prophecy. But when you attend to redemptive-historical patterns and to literary structures and sequences and to the importance of history as Jordan does, then, in some sense, all your work will be typological. At the macro-historical this means that Daniel is one of God’s major interpretative words for the entire second phase of the first creation. The first creation has a former days and a latter days and then gives way to the new creation. Daniel tells us about the last centuries and decades of the latter days of the old world.

8. Cheerful (and sometimes curmudgeonly) unfashionableness. Early dating, traditional authorship, defense of biblical chronology, unashamed constant reference to Christ (how could it be otherwise?!), impatience with “unbelieving scholarship”, utter lack of interest in being respected and consistent resolve to be useful. This may be a difficult example for young scholars (like those in Daniel 1!) to follow but it is thoroughly refreshing.

9. Theological creativity at level “Genius”. I thought I knew Jordan’s work reasonably well but over and over and over again there are “aha!” moments. In my copy now there are almost more sentences and paragraphs marked than unmarked!”

“The Handwriting on the Wall” is available from www.americanvision.com
Also available as an e-book.

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