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Friday, February 09, 2007

Predicting the End

Ok, pool-not-winning Danny Deinde (who once had some very intersting friends it seems) has responded to the post on dates and things with his take on imminent predictions. Let’s show him the truth with a Rapture Ready-worthy response ;-)

Crossley says, " There are predictions of an imminent kingdom within the lifetime of some of Jesus' audience (Mark 9:1) and a prediction that the second coming of Jesus will occur within a generation (Mark
13:30)." Now I hate to accuse, so I'll just point the finger instead. I have serious doubts that this is the correct view of these verses…First off, to do this you are at bottom assuming that these words [Mark 9:1] were placed on the lips of Jesus by the author/community because Crossley is using it for clues to dating. If this is not the case, then you have to believe that the historical Jesus was expecting to leave and "return" again during the lifetime of the hearers for 13:30.
The key thing on Mark 9:1 is not whether or not the words go back to Jesus but the fact that no one saw fit to tamper with the prediction (unlike later writings). Of course, Danny reads 9:1 in the context of the transfiguration and we’ll come back to that. Not sure if Danny is implying this but Mark 9:1 does not refer to the second coming. It refers to the
kingdom of God. Matthew alters it to refer to the second coming (Matt. 16:28)

…he [me] has ripped two verses out of very important contexts that are crucial to their understanding.
Not quite. I was summarizing previous stuff on Mark and we’ll come to that too.

Now I realize there is debate over Mark 13 and what it refers to, but in my estimation the events of c.70 CE are in view here (or at least the front view- I'm open to multiple layers). Previous to 13:30, Jesus--in typical jewish apocalyptic language--has been describing the desolation and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. These are the "things" that will happen within the "generation"- not the second advent.
Hmmm, one thing not mentioned by Danny is Mark 13:26 which obviously comes before Mark 13:30 and it says this: ‘Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory.’ This is also tied in with the desolation. How can you exclude the second coming from ‘these things’? (On the Son of Man coming with clouds of heaven being a reference to the second coming see: Date of Mark ch. 2). As for 70, well there’s always the combination of old predictions with Caligula crisis and other options…

I do not think that the reference to the coming kingdom in Mark 9:1 ought to be read in light of the transfiguration. Firstly it would be a bizarre prediction to say some will not die before the kingdom would come and mean that it referred to an event six days later. For what it is worth I think that the transfiguration ought to be read in the wider narrative context concerning Jesus’ authority on earth (out later this year I think and don’t worry more on it in the future). Besides, how would the transfiguration scene equal the kingdom in any particular way? Also, if it is necessary to insist on narrative cohesion, then I don’t see why Mark could not have placed a kingdom saying here to tie it in with the related theme of the second coming just prior.

This is confirmation for the disciples that the kingdom has (already) come. The kingdom of God is already present in Mark's narrative (see 1:15), the utterance in 9:1 and its fulfillment in the transfiguration is just confirmation of that.
There is nothing unusual about Mark’s use of kingdom. On Mark 1.15, I’m not sure how it implies the kingdom is already present in Mark’s narrative. Of course Mark has a kind of present kingdom And future. These are combined (Mark
4:26-34). This idea is not unknown. Daniel can talk about God’s kingship overall but that there will be a kingdom that will dominate in the future.

That the evangelist used a time marker of 6 days in 9:2 (Mark doesn't often use time markers) helps clue in the reader that this stuff is connected, as R.T. France says in his commentary on the Greek text, it invites "the reader to interpret the one in the light of the other" (345).
Does it? It would invite plenty of ancient readers to follow a fairly standard way of moving the narrative on.

Speaking at a literary level, it is the bolstering of the hero figure that is going on. Jesus prophesies in 9:1 and a mere 6 days later it comes to pass. This is narrative bolstering of the hero figure.
…who makes some strange predictions if that is the case!!

…we would have to have a very good reason to divorce it from that context. The same goes for Mark 13:30.
Again, what about 13:26? Has Danny divorced it from context by not mentioning it?

But there are the old problems with reading and how people read and what they read etc etc so let’s look more broadly. If Mark or the other synoptic writers do not have an imminent eschatology, why does John drop all the references to kingdom and have John 3 where it is re-interpreted in the light of the present and being born again/from above? And this needs to be tied in with John 21:20-23 –

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’ When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’ So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’

Clearly someone thought there were predictions of Jesus’ second coming around. And that they were wrong. Given that it is not particularly difficult to read Mark 13:30 as including a reference to the second coming, the fact that no one tampered with it (and there is a strong case for Mark 13 being almost entirely secondary) would suggest that no one saw problems when Mark was written. Why does John have to do this to the Jesus tradition? And why does 2 Peter 3 have to defend against delays?

There is only one reasonable explanation that I can think of: Jesus predicted the imminent kingdom and the early church added the second coming within a generation to this. Both were mistaken.

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