Tuesday, May 6, 2014

No One Knows The Hour (part 21)

What must be done when one hears the disciples ask about Jesus’ coming, is hearing them ask that question as first-century Jews whose mindsets were thoroughly influenced by the imagery on offer in the extraordinarily popular and influential work of Daniel.  In the seventh chapter of Daniel, a vision is reported in which “with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching.  He went up to the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him.  To Him was given ruing authority, honor, and sovereignty.  All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him.  His authority is eternal and will not pass away.  His kingdom will not be destroyed” (7:13b-14).  In this vision, one like a son of man came to Ancient of Days.  Presumably this movement is from earth to heaven.  This is the coming to which the disciples make reference, and to which Jesus will make reference in His answer as reported by Matthew. 

Is this a leap of logic and an unsupported assertion?  Well, the issue of common sense has already been addresses, demonstrating that the disciples could not possibly have been asking Jesus about a coming to earth when He was already there, as there is nothing in the Gospel narratives to that point that would suggest that such a question would be appropriate or that such thinking would be warranted.  As supported by the Gospel narratives and the general disposition of the vast majority of the members of the nation of Israel, the disciples were not expecting Jesus to die, let alone be raised from the dead, nor ascend to heaven following a resurrection or return to earth from heaven at some point in the future. 

To go along with that, the prevalence and popularity of Daniel in that time and culture compels the reader to hear talk of “coming” along the lines that it suggests, which was a coming before the Creator God (the Ancient of Days) of that one that represented Israel, that Israel might be delivered from those under which it suffered oppression.  That, of course, was one of the primary concerns of the day.  In any consideration of Jesus’ presumptive messianic activity or mission, the deliverance of Israel was paramount. 

Matthew underscores the fact that Daniel is in mind and that it was an instructive work in that day, as later on, as Jesus answers the disciples’ question, He makes reference to Daniel, saying “So when you see the abomination of desolation---spoken about by Daniel the prophet” (24:15a).  It is fascinating to make note of the fact that it is Matthew alone that has Jesus specifically naming the book of Daniel as part of His responsive discourse, informing his audience that Daniel was a major influence of his worldview and is one of the primary lenses through to which to view his Jesus story, especially when it is Matthew’s report of Jesus’ “end times” vision that is so often mis-interpreted. 

Though Mark makes reference to it by mention of the abomination of desolation, there is no specific mention of Daniel.  In Mark, it is the mention of the abomination of desolation that first calls Daniel to the mind of the hearer or reader, whereas the one hearing Matthew’s tale has already had Daniel called to mind by the mention of the signs of Jesus’ coming.  It therefore makes sense that Matthew’s Jesus makes mention of Daniel, whilst Mark’s Jesus merely makes a reference.  Both build on the crucial reference.  For Matthew’s purposes, Jesus’ coming (not to earth but to the Ancient of Days) is what marks the end of the age (of Israel being oppressed, among other things) and is emphatically linked to the destruction of the Temple.  He makes that explicit in the foreground, with his framing of the disciples’ question.  This link is also found in Mark and Luke, but as has been shown, they do not have the disciples marking their query with a concern for the end of the age, so the connection between the two comes later in Jesus’ response to the question. 

No comments:

Post a Comment