Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Kind of Jesus?

In my last post on Lee Harmon's John's Gospel: The Way It Happened, I mentioned Lee's view that John was John of Gisclala, who was influential in a Jewish revolt against Rome that led to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.  According to Lee, John still had dreams of a bloody end to evil when he was exiled on Patmos, which was when he wrote the Book of Revelation, but John later had a change of heart, as the Gospel of John reflects.  John stopped expecting a bloody end and embraced a realized eschatology that emphasized love, Jesus' presence with the church, and Jesus' victory over evil on the cross.

One question I have had as I've read this book is this: Was the John who believed in realized eschatology more faithful to the teachings of Jesus?  Lee narrates that John certainly understood some of Jesus' teachings differently when John became committed to realized eschatology.  For example, Matthew 10:23 says that you (presumably the disciples) will not pass through all the tribes of Israel before the Son of Man comes.  According to Lee, John came to interpret Jesus' coming here, not as a cataclysmic event that would bring a bloody end, but rather as Jesus' coming to the church through the Holy Spirit.

As far as what Jesus himself taught, Lee refers to scholarship that holds that Jesus' message was not particularly apocalyptic, but there were Christians who later added an apocalyptic layer.  In light of that, Lee appears to be arguing that Jesus himself had a realized eschatology, which was reflected in the sources behind the Gospel of John.  And yet, in one of his narrations of the life of Jesus in this book, Lee presents Jesus as one who proclaims a sort of Jubilee, which entails the healing of the oppressed and sharing with the poor (page 228).  How would that fit within a realized eschatology?  Or would it fit better within a futurist (and yet imminent) eschatology, in which Jesus is seeking to overthrow the present world system?  Perhaps it could fit a realized eschatology, as Christians continue to heal and show love to the poor in the here-and-now, and hopefully that would lead to a widespread Jubilee.  (UPDATE: On page 344, Lee associates the Jubilee with Christians forgiving and people being forgiven.)

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