Olivet Discourse: Was Jesus Wrong?

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24 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?

.......Two Major issues I'm going to address here: (1) Was Jesus wrong (in the Olivet discourse) in that he predicted the end of the age and his return with an army of angels in the sky within the life time of some listening to him in that day?  (2) Is it the case that all modern scholars agree with this?  As an extension of the no 2 I will also take up the issue about method, is it valid methodological procedure to speculate about the nature of the text's development without textual evidence to back it up?
.......A friend ask me about this passage:"If I demonstrate to your satisfaction that the historical Jesus believed in the end of the world within the lifetimes of his followers, what will that do to your faith?"

It wouldn't do anything to it because I have accepted that he could be wrong about that since he said he didn't know!  I think this is clearly the issue for most atheists because they are looking for a slam duck victory over all of Christianity. What better way to get that than to show that the guy who forms the center of Christianity was not only wrong about something but was a false prophet! Some of the atheists on CARM brought up the subject as an outgrowth of threads with titles like "prophesy blunders." One can easily find atheist mockery on this point.

......If Jesus was wrong about the his return being soon and in the lives of his hearers it does make him a false prophet. First because he did not say "thus says the Lord, this is what the Lord says..." it's not a prophesy just because a known prophet gives an opinion. It is only a prophesy if he says "this is actually the word God is giving me now.." Otherwise you would have a bunch of OT prophets getting stoned for stupid reasons. "He said it would be sunny today!" "he said roast lamb is good with mustard."
......Secondly he said he didn't know. In Mark 13 he says "no one knows the day or the hour" he includes "not even the son." In Acts Chapter 1:
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority
  He says he doesn't know and that it's not for us to know, how can he be held accountable for being wrong? Paul says in Philippians 2:6 that he divested himself of the glory of God and took the form of a servant. This may well have included voluntary limited omniscience. So he chose to be limited in his omniscience while in the flash life. Why? To be truly human to be one with us, as an example to us that he didn't have any special knowledge that enabled him to stay faithful that we ourselves can't have.
.......My position on the so-called "Olivet discourse" is basically that Jesus talked about the fall of the temple, he may or may not have talked about his return. If he did talk about his return he probably didn't say it would be in the life time of those there. If he did say it would be in their lifetimes it's not a disaster for Christianity becasue he also said he didn't know when he was coming back. I'm going to assume that assume he did not talk about the return or that if he did he wasn't including it in the immediate future becuase since he knew he didn't know he probalby would have not have been brash enough to assume.
......I had proposed what I call "the cross thread idea" that he said "this is that generation" (Matt 24) about the fall of temple not about returning in the sky with an army of angles. My assertion was that the redactors put that in. I am still convinced that's true, but if he did say that it was probably with a transition to a future time that the redactors left out because they could not conceive of the world goign on with no temple. The cross thread issue is important, that's just a hypothetical guess as to how the redactors worked. If it's not the case that doesn't really matter. The real substance of my view is that he probably did not make a rash prediction.
......Now we have the  other issue about textual criticism and theological method. I will deal more with that a after examples of scholars supporting various aspects of my view, but I want to point out that some of these quotes back up my view on this second point, so I need to clarify it here. I have been told by the resident "professional scholar" Ben Hakkor on CARM that it's not permissible to speculate about textual criticism based upon the biblical text without specific manuscript examples from variant readings. Yet all the scholars I discuss below do exactly that. They all speculate without specific textual examples form variant readings, they are basing what they say just on the major canonical text. I mention of them for just that reason. None of them actually support the "cross thread' idea but none of them believe Jesus made a prophetic blunder. Hakkor said that no modern scholar agrees that he didn't, but here are several who agree that he did not. Even though they don't use my exact idea they basically shore up the substance of my position.
.......An article by Adams that shows two radically opposing views both of which are different form the "Jesus was a false prophet" or "Jesus was wrong" senerio. Adams argues Against the views of both N.T Wright and R.T. France that the Olivet Discourse is not about the end times at all.

Tyndale Bulletin 56.1 (2005) 39-61.
Edward Adams

This article defends the view that Mark’s sayings on the coming of the
Son of Man (Mark 8:38; 13:24-27; 14:62) refer to Jesus’ parousia,
against claims made by R. T. France and N. T. Wright. According to
France and Wright, these sayings call attention to the vision of Daniel
7:9-14, in which ‘one like a son of man’ comes into the presence of
God for the purpose of enthronement, and point to Jesus’ post-mortem
vindication, not his second coming. It is argued here that the Markan
passages in question link Daniel 7:13 with other Old Testament texts
and motifs, in particular, texts (such as Zechariah 14:3) and images
about God’s future coming to earth; the selective combination of
Scriptures and scriptural images and their application to Jesus
generates the essential concept of his parousia – his coming as exalted
Lord from heaven to earth at the end of history.
Adams may be right, or he may be wrong, in any case this is a different view, one worthy of consideration.
France, Jesus: 145. France accepts that there is a fully eschatological application of
the language in Matt. 25:31, but he insists that this saying does not envisage a descent
to earth; rather it presents a heavenly judgement scene (144). France is not the first to
argue that the reference in Mark 13:24-27 is to the ruin of Jerusalem. The view has a
long history, though it has never been more than a minority opinion: see G. R.
Beasley- Murray, Jesus and the Future (London, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1954):
167-71; M. Casey, Son of Man: the Interpretation and Influence of Daniel 7 (London:
SPCK, 1979): 172; France, Jesus: 229-31.
This is a summary of Richard Buauckham's idea. This is imporant because he is seen speculating about the text without a specific ms example to prove his speculations, which on CARM Ben Hakkore says scholar don't do it so I must not do that. Here's a scholar doing it.

Richard Bauckham points out that ‘much early Christian thinking
about the Parousia did not derive from applying Old Testament
messianic texts to Jesus but from the direct use of Old Testament texts about the coming of God’.17 To a significant extent, the New Testament expectation of Jesus’ parousia is a christological specification of the Old Testament and Jewish hope of God’s end-time coming.18 It is my contention that Mark’s sayings on the coming of the Son of Man reflect this wider pattern of transferring the hope of God’s advent to the exalted Christ, and so express the essential concept of Jesus’ parousia

Lo, and behold, Buckham' s view asserts that the redactors change the focus from God to Jesus and put the emphasis of Jesus' parousia. Which is a less strident view than mine but somewhat working along the same lines because it puts the interpretation in the  hands of the redactors and says "Jesus did not say this himself." Of course it's ridiculous to say that I can't assert that the redactors' changed the focus because everything we see in the bible is the result of the redaction process.

Then there is the view of Luke Timothy Johnson who is a major scholar (Emory University) can be compared with any the other guy's quoted. Johnson argues that: (1) Luke's account is more conscious of history and thus more careful about the order of events and time frames, while Mark is not careful at all and Matthew follows Mark. Thus the implication is clearly made that it was the authors and redactors of the Gospel who stuck in "this generation will not pass away" as a reflection of their understanding. (2) he also argues that generation doesn't mean what we think it does. Johnson's commentary on Luke (Luke's version of the Olivet discousre is in Luke  21:5-36).

Luke, as Johnson tells us, makes a transition from the fate of the city and the believers in it to the whole world. This transition is marked by the term "sign'

Luke Timothy Johnson (Luke, Sacra Pagina) notes:
The transition to this third part of the discourse is unobtrusive, marked mainly by the repetition of the term "sign" from 21:7 in 21:25. It quickly becomes clear, however, that the things now being described no longer concern the history of the believers or the fate of the city, but the worldwide experience of humans at the judgment: Luke speaks of the "distress and confusion among the nations" (v. 25), the things that are coming on "the inhabited world" (oikoumene, v. 26), on everyone inhabiting the earth" (v. 35). And if these indications were not clear enough, his description of "signs" are no longer those of wars and revolutions (v. 10) or even of earthquakes, famines, plagues and portents in the sky (v. 11) or armies around the city (v. 20), but entirely of cosmic events in sun, moon and stars (v. 25), the tumult of the ocean (v. 25), shaking of the heavenly powers themselves (v. 26). [p. 330]
He's alluding to prophetic passages such as Isaiah 13:9-10 or:Ezekiel 32:7-8 the drama is in heavenly bodies and all the people of the earth. There's a clear line between the two questions of Matthew, we've moved form the city of Jerusalem and temple to the whole world and the heavens,  a universal stage. This idea is echoed in the Adams article too that there's a transition from the immediate to the universe or the future because the circumstances mirror each other, not because they occur at the same time.

Johnson divides Luke's account into three periods the third being the future. So once again we see a major scholar doing what Hakkor says I can't do, that is speculation based upon the existing without an addition extra canonical text back it up. Johnson seems to understand the emphasis shifted to the future so Jesus is not talking  about returning soon and he seems to understand it to be the redactors who have brought it to this focus.

He makes an interesting point in his work on Luke (326) when he points out that Luke presents Jesus as a successful prophet. Even by the standards of conservative dating the events of the fall Jerusalem would have been the post when Luke was redacted and published. Why then would they present these aspects of the prophesy that clearly were not coming true? The successful part pertained to the fall of the temple and the return was viewed as latter.

Edward Adams, N.T. Wright, France, G. R.Beasley- Murray, M. Casey, Richard Bauckham, Luke Timothy Johnson some of the scholars who seem to do what I'm not allowed to do and who take issue with the idea that Jesus was wrong. Thinking about the second issue of working method:
.......The whole edifice of modern text crit is based upon Q and there is no textual support for Q. We don't even have one tiny fragment of a Q document. It's all conjecture based upon the quotes form the canonical Gospels. It's exactly what he says I can't do. We see this all over the scholarly world. They do not have manuscripts of Q, there are none, yet they treat Q like it was a proved fact. They do not have any manuscript evidence of M, L or any of the other synoptic devices but they treat them like proven facts. That is a total violation of the working method Hakkore argues for and the entire basis of modern textual criticism relies on it. they go much further and subdivide Q into stages of development and make attributions about how much Jesus said. The Jesus seminar said only  eleven verses were Jesus actual words, eleven verses! Yet this Hakkore guy is telling me that I can't speculate about the text without textual back up and that it's ridiculous to thin the redactors changed something! That's nuts, the whole modern textual criticism is about the readcotrs changing the story! It's all about the redactors.
......Look at the theory of Helmutt Koester in Ancient Christian Gospels where he talks about how all four canonical gospels and Gospel of Peter are derived form one source the pre Mark passion narrative. There is no fragment of the pre Mark passion narrative. Kirby says it's the consensus now that tit existed. There's no manuscript of it now could there be. The manuscripts wither away when they are combined into new works becasue people stop copying the old one (Koester). We can't even expect to find one. We must work from the existing canonical text.
......When Charles Hedrick tallied up the number of lost gospels he included hypothetical gospels of which we have no fragments and that is included in the number of 34 lost Gospels. With Koester they don't have copies of the pre mark passion narrative what they have is readings from it preserved in the ms of latter versions. He's basing that upon the way latter things read as preservation of older copies. It's on that basis that Crosson suggests the cross Gospel. He doesn't have a copy of it. It's based upon the readings he finds in the canonical gospels and other gospels, they are specific copes of hte corss the gospel. He's hypothetically working backwards to speculate about it.
.....That is exactly the very same thing I was doing with the cross thread idea. I was speculating about prior nature of the text based upon readings in the current text. Hakkore tells me I can't do that that isn't done every example of a textual critic or a Bible scholar working I find is doing that.

the rest of the atheists are total hypocrites becuase they have time and time again spurned boat loads of scholars that I quote to back up my view. I had 45 schoalrs supporting my 8 levels of verification arguemnt and they would not look at the marital because one document was an outline. they tried to assert that an outline was not proof so that was grounds to ignore the documents that had the proof. the docs that combined the outline points with the quotes that proved the points they refused to examine becuase I had an outline. That makes no sense at all.
/......Time and time again they have ridiculed, mocked, derided, rejected, refused, spurned, criticized and just plain ostracized scholars that I've quoted merely becasue they back up a view they can't handle. When you quote the guys supporting their side it's so clear, so obvious. I'm violating some kind of canon not to just accept their word as a law. they have five whole schoalrs agreeing that Jesus was false prophet and an idiot he was wrong. Because I don't accept that that means that I'm fundie and I'm not being honest.
.......If it was my five guys they would revile them as always. Moreover, of the scholars they quoted not all really qualify as Christians. Hakkore sure doesn't he said he doesn't. Now he says he is one because it helps his case, when he first came back he said he was no longer a Christian. Two of them are notorious anti-Christian scholar such as Bart Erheman. He's a fine scholar and is willing speat out against ate hits and Jesus mythers when he feels it's necessary, and I admire him. He does have his biases. taking sides against Daddy is one of them. HIs father was a big shot fundie at Moody bible college so he's working his whole carrer to disprove Daddy's work.


Anonymous said…
Atheists never usually address the passage you showed in Acts when dealing with Matthew 24. There is a distinction between "This generation shall not pass" (which deals with the temple destruction) and "it is not for you to know the times and seasons" (which deals with the end times).
yea but that's my point, they would have seen them as the same event, so they would have assumed the two events come together,
Jason Pratt said…
While I don't think there's a problem, I don't think your first defense is going to fly, Joe: Jesus doesn't operate like a normal prophet (that's part of the high Christology claims being made by and about him, or Him rather), and Jesus isn't giving a trivial opinion like whether today will be sunny or whether lamb tastes good with mustard. He's giving a series of signs to watch for -- there's no way the context cannot be regarded as prophetic. (Your own reply generally agrees about the prophetic character, so a defense that Jesus doesn't have to be speaking prophetically doesn't fit.)

I didn't say he's not prophetic., I didn't sy the predictions are not predictions,. That was about one issue,
just saying you will see an army of angels coming does';t mean it;s going to happen when the temple falls. I didn't say he's not prophetic he didn't attach a time frame,
Jason Pratt said…
Joe: {{If Jesus was wrong about the his return being soon and in the lives of his hearers it does[n't] make him a false prophet. First because he did not say "thus says the Lord, this is what the Lord says..." it's not a prophesy just because a known prophet gives an opinion. It is only a prophesy if he says "this is actually the word God is giving me now.." Otherwise you would have a bunch of OT prophets getting stoned for stupid reasons. "He said it would be sunny today!" "he said roast lamb is good with mustard."}}

What I was saying, Joe, is that you might as well not have even made this defense, because (A) you actually agree he was speaking as a prophet not not-prophetically; (B) Jesus isn't speaking trivially in the section under consideration, as though he's giving advice about whether a person might like mustard with lamb; (C) Jesus doesn't operate in any case with normal prophetic signifiers (which is part of his high Christology controversy claims), so a lack of them here makes no difference to whether he's making a prophetic claim -- which you agree anyway that he is!

In all possible regards what you're calling your "First" defense is completely void; so much so, that it's weird you make this your first defense. You never go on to qualify that this defense couldn't possibly apply to Jesus (in this case or at all).

I figured I should point this out for editorial purposes before someone else does for adversarial purposes. (Similar to my emendation of your dyslexia typo in the quote above: I know you meant to say "doesn't" or "does not", not "does".)

no he doesn't say a time fame for the army in the sky, he doesn't say the two events happen together that[s the point.
Jason Pratt said…
So, you're going to keep ignoring that your first defense makes no sense, then, including in your relation to your second defense, and keep responding like I'm criticizing your second defense (what most of your article is about) when I'm not doing that at all?

Whatever you prefer. I've pointed out the problem often enough; I wash my hands of it. On to other matters.


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