Response to Daniel Karistai Review
Daniel Karistai kindly took the time to review my book, here. Below is my response:
I want to thank you very much for taking the time to engage with my book and to write this review. I’m very pleased that you found it to be engaging, and I’m grateful that you’re spreading the word.
You only made a few criticisms, so I’ll just respond to those briefly.
Although I don’t “deal” with Matthew 25 in an exhaustive sense, it does come up in my discussion of the “escape clause” on pp. 186–87. I agree that the first two parables in Matt 25 would have been included in light of the fact that the parousia did not occur immediately after the destruction of the temple as anticipated. Matthew would have been writing about a decade or more after those events, most scholars conclude. However, I do not think it is accurate to say that Matt 25 is delaying the parousia “indefinitely.” As I argued, the thrust of the parables in Matt 25 is still imminence. If we take them seriously, their message is that there is absolutely no time to engage even in routine day-to-day affairs. While this is somewhat hyperbolic, the message is clearly that the parousia is still expected sooner rather than later. Thus, as I argued in the book, even as late as the 80s, the expectation of an imminent final judgment was still a feature of Christian belief, at least in many of the circles represented in the NT.
I disagree with your interpretation of Matt 28:20. You said that the statement, “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” “suggests a certain longevity to the commission that a judgment that’s right around the corner doesn’t afford.”
This is not true if Jesus is saying these words in 33 CE or thereabouts. This would only be a few months at most after the Olivet Discourse, bear in mind. The end of the age was still several decades off, so his claim to be “with them” until the end arrived does not imply any extended longevity. Even if these words aren’t ipsissima verba, and they were added by the author for his own purposes, their significance would be that Christ is still with the community, and that the end of the age is near.
As for Acts 1:8, I do deal with that text in a couple of places, particularly on pp. 187 and 203, and note also fn. 54 on p. 203. I do not think it speaks to an indefinite delay, but again even there the logic of imminence is underneath; they are to focus on the task not the precise date, precisely because the time is near.
Finally, with regards to John, note that on p. 206 I do indicate that the fourth Gospel is one of the few voices in the NT (the other being 2 Peter) that has tried to reconfigure apocalyptic and make an apologetic for the delay. John does this through a sort of realized eschatology as you point out (though John still does have a concept of a second coming), and 2 Peter does this by extending the timing of the parousia indefinitely.
So while there is certainly more to be said on these subjects, I think that I did try to deal with them in the book, and I don’t think they represent a significant challenge to my thesis.
Daniel, thanks again, very much, for your time and your engagement!