Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 140:559 (Jul 1983)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

“Thoughts on New Testament Eschatology,” C. E. B. Cranfield, Scottish Journal of Theology 35 (December 1982): 497-512.

Professor Cranfield originally read this article as a paper at the Aberdeen University Theological Society meeting on May 4, 1981. In the article Cranfield rejects the prevailing liberal interpretation of New Testament eschatology and presents an understanding of eschatology that has surprising similarities to the view of pretribulational premillennialists. He mentions Professor C. K. Barrett, his own former colleague, as an advocate of the prevailing view from which he dissents.

This prevailing view of New Testament eschatology insists that Jesus taught and the apostles believed that His return, the parousia, would occur very quickly—not more than a few decades—after His ascension. As time continued to pass and the Lord did not return, however, the apostles realized they were mistaken, and in their later writings they downplayed the parousia or at least its soon occurrence. Cranfield refers to passages from Luke, John, and Acts to show that this position is not correct.

The prevailing view frequently delineates three distinct eschatologies in the New Testament—that of Jesus, that of the church at its beginning, and that of the later church. In opposition Cranfield says, “I believe that there is an essential consistency of eschatological thought in the NT, an agreement which stands out all the more impressively in view of the undoubted differences of idiom, emphasis, and circumstance” (p. 510). He continues, “Insistence on the nearness of the end, on the shortness of the time which remains, is characteristic of the NT as a whole” (p. 510). Biblical conservatives, especially pretribulationists, concur with Cranfield’s recognition of a consistent New Testament eschatology.

Cranfield’s position approaches the pretribulational doctrine of the imminency of the Lord’s return, the fact that it could occur at any moment because no biblically predicted event must take place before it. He writes, “It was not a matter of Jesus’, or of the early Church’s, confidently expecting that the end would necessarily occur within a very short time, but of the clear recognition of the ministry-death-resurrection-ascension of Jesus as the decisive event of history, between which and the end nothing of anything like comparable importance can take place in this world” (p. 510).

Cranfield considers the entire period from the first coming of Christ through His second coming as the biblical end-time (cf. Heb 1:2). He does not recognize the church age as an in...

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