The Delay Of The Parousia -- By: Richard J. Bauckham
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The Delay Of The Parousia
The Tyndale Biblical Theology Lecture, 1979*
* Delivered at Tyndale House, Cambridge, on July 6th, 1979.
Early Christianity was both continuous and discontinuous with first-century Judaism. Its theology shared many features of contemporary Jewish thought, though these were given a distinctively Christian character by their relationship to Christianity’s unique faith in Jesus Christ. As in the case of many other issues, an adequate account of the understanding of the delay of the parousia in early Christianity must reflect both the continuity and the discontinuity with Judaism.
In some respects the problem1 of the delay of the parousia was the same problem of eschatological delay which had long confronted Jewish apocalyptic eschatology; in other respects it was a new and distinctively Christian problem, in that the End was now expected to take the form of the parousia of Jesus Christ in whose death and resurrection God had already acted eschatologically. Our subject therefore needs to be approached from two angles: from its background in Jewish apocalyptic and in terms of its distinctively Christian characteristics. Within the limits of this lecture, I can attempt only one of these approaches, and I have chosen the former, both because almost all previous study has entirely neglected this approach,2 treating the delay of the parousia as a uniquely
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Christian issue,3 and also because it is only when we relate the Christian understanding of the delay to its Jewish apocalyptic background that we shall be able to appreciate its distinctively Christian features in their true significance. So if this lecture on biblical theology seems to linger rather long over Jewish extra- canonical literature, I hope you will find that this procedure is justified by its contribution to an understanding of the New Testament.
I. Eschatological Delay In Jewish Apocalyptic
The problem of eschatological delay was familiar to Jewish apocalyptic from its earliest beginnings. It could even be said to be one of the most important ingredients in the mixture of influences and circumstances which produced the apocalyptic movement. In the face of the delay in the fulfilment of the eschatological promises of the prophets, the apocalyptic visionaries were those who believed most fervently that the promises remained valid and relevant. Despite appearances, God had not forgotten his people. His eschatol...
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