Ancient peoples dreaded the prospect of improper burial. To die without any burial at all was seen as more terrible still.1 Such a fate, while no doubt humiliating—a sign of divine displeasure (cf. Psalm 53:5)—also carried effects beyond the grave and into the underworld. It is to these postmortem effects that we will turn in … Continue reading Hades thrown into fire: corpse desecration at the close of the pagan age
In my last post I argued that the early Christian portrait of Satan as a serpent (cf. Revelation 12-13, Luke 10:18-19, Romans 16:20) was primarily built upon the ancient Near Eastern Leviathan myth as appropriated by the writers of the Hebrew Bible (cf. Isaiah 27:1). I conceded, however, based largely upon Wisdom 2:24 and Revelation … Continue reading Was Eve deceived by Satan?
Apocalyptic hope After the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, the Jewish people witnessed and experienced the conquest of the known world by successive pagan empires. Under these idolatrous oppressors, the Jewish people grappled with confusion and hopelessness as their convictions about the sovereignty of their God were viscerally challenged and subverted. Was YHWH unable … Continue reading Psalm 82 and the Christian apocalypse: the Greco-Roman Ragnarök
Paul outlines what appears to be a novel eschatological scenario in his first letter to the churches at Thessalonika. He writes that at the coming of Christ believers will be raised from the dead, collected into the air, and brought into the presence of the Lord (4:16-17). At the sound of the last trumpet there … Continue reading Functional eschatology at Thessalonika
Christ's physical resurrection In two previous posts I tried to discern the significance of Christ's resurrection for earliest Christianity. I came to the conclusion that the resurrection served, for the most part, as a sign pointing to the exaltation of Christ to God's right hand. I argued that this exaltation, in turn, established Christ's role … Continue reading The resurrection to heaven
The Biblical authors occasionally attribute to God and Christ the designation "king of kings." Paul names God the Father "king of kings" in 2 Timothy 6:15 and YHWH is praised as "lord of lords" across the Hebrew scriptures (Deuteronomy 10:17, Psalms 136:3). Likewise, Christ rides out to conquer the kings of the nations as "king … Continue reading Who is the king of kings?
The Kingdom and the kingdoms The precise definition of the kingdom of God continues to allude interpreters. Is it the church? Is it a state of mind? A spirit-led mode of living? Is it an earthly kingdom that comes at the end of history? All of the above? Support for each theory can be readily … Continue reading The kingdom as divine judgement
Crises in heaven and earth The coupling of political realities with spiritual realities is a hallmark of Jewish apocalyptic. In such works the heavenly stage is reflected upon the earthly stage. Examples of this relationship are numerous: disturbances in the heavens spell disaster for the earth, the unrolling of heavenly scrolls ensures the pouring out … Continue reading Signs of the kingdom: the dispossession of Legion
Christ died and was raised Scholars characterize certain New Testament texts as discrete confessions or hymns. The most well-known among these is Paul's good news "of first importance" in 1 Corinthians 15—that Christ died in accordance with the scriptures, was buried, was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and then appeared … Continue reading Christ died and was exalted
"The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15) The first public words issued by Jesus were prophetic in scope. They announced God's imminent regal action in history to judge and restore his people. As we might expect then, Jesus' precursor John preached an … Continue reading Revelation 11 and the whole prophetic narrative