domenica 9 marzo 2008

Brief thoughts concerning eschatology and apocalyptic

What puzzles me most in the work of N.T. Wright is his peculiar reinterpretation of apocalyptic eschatology, which he sees as a mere metaphorical language to describe events which are in themselves totally historical, earthly and especially political.
Now, the kingdom of God concept in the Jesus tradition probably has some social and political nuance, but in the end it also entails a transcendent and "supernatural" dimension. Wright is simply wrong in insisting on a radical alternative between an historical interpretation of apocalyptic imagery (his one) and the pseudo-common scholarly interpretation of it in terms of "end of the space-time continuum".
The “cosmic drama” envisioned in apocalyptic writings nor is a simple historical-political happening neither an "end of the world" catastrophe in the sense of an annihilation of the space-time continuum: it is rather a transformation of this world, envisioning an earthly reality redeemed and deeply changed through the direct presence of God and the final banishing of all evil.
Thus, the social and political issues that Wright, Borg and other scholars underline in Jesus' proclamation can perfectly coexist with his eschatological announcement (envisaging judgment, resurrection of the dead, and a new transformed reality): one just has to look at his "socio-political agenda" for Israel as the human beginnings (the seed) of something which is up to God (only!) to establish in power.
I think that everything becomes quite clear when one puts Jesus in a "millenarian" perspective: that is the only interpretative context which allows both the socio-political as well as the apocalyptic instances of the Jesus-tradition to make sense, without dismissing a-priori one or another.
We’re not needed to choose between the Schweitzer’s (and Ehrman’s) apocalyptic mistaken fanatic or the Jesus Seminar anti-imperial cynic-like sage. The right path is instead the “millenium utopia”: see the works by Dale Allison [ "Jesus of Nazareth. Millenarian Prophet" and also his criticism of Wright in: C. Newman (ed.) "Jesus & the restoration of Israel"] and I think those of Gerd Theissen as well (commonly view as a mere proponent of a portrait of Jesus as a social reformer – like Horsley - but actually well-evaluating also the eschatological dimensions of his ministry: see his “Jesus als historische Gestalt”). Here in Italy I guess it’s more or less the view sustained by Mauro Pesce, who sees Jesus’ kingdom eschatology as deeply informed by the socio-religious ideal of the Jubilee (see his article: “La remissione dei peccati nell’escatologia di Gesù”, as well as some insights in his best-seller “Inchiesta su Gesù”).

Johannes DeSilentio

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