PHILADELPHIA SEMINAR ON CHRISTIAN ORIGINS Volume 7 (1969-70)
Apocalyptic Thought In Early Christianity
chaired by Samuel Laeuchli (Temple) and John Townsend (PDS)
William G. Doty, Identifying Eschatological Language
Howard C. Kee, The Transfiguration in Mark: Epiphany or Apocalypse?
K. Froelich, Montanism
John Gager, Paul
Robert A. Kraft, Jewish Apocalyptic in Early Christianity
Sheldon R. Isenberg, Apocalypticism As a Social Phenomenon
Topic for 1969/70: Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity
Meeting of September 30, 1969; 7 pm, Philadelphia Divinity School Library
The initial session of the 1969/70 Seminar was convened by co- chairman Sam Laeuchli. After customary introductions and announcements, a decision was made to reschedule the March 1970 meeting to the 17th of the month. The members then heard a presentation by William G. Doty of Douglass College, Rutgers University. Those interested in obtaining a copy of the bibliography which was distributed for the presentation should contact Dr. Doty at Douglass College, New Brunswick, N.J. 08903.
Identifying Eschatological Language, William G. Doty
1. Toward a “Phenomenology”.
What I should really like to see written could best be termed a Phenomenology of NT Eschatology. Such a work would identify the ways eschatological language performs its tasks; it would set out a basis for classification of various types or levels of eschatological language; and it would enable us to understand the hermeneutical dynamics of eschatological expression. Such a phenomenology might grant us a much clearer perception: we might, for instance, more readily differentiate between eschatology and apocalyptic, or place specific texts on a scale of theological effectiveness. For a beginning, see R. W. Funk [JBR 34, 197-213; “Language, Hermeneutic, and Word of God”], Ernst Fuchs [Marburger Hermeneutik], and Eberhard Jungel [Paulus und Jesus], Jungel sees eschatological language as itself a qualitative type of linguistic expression, with God’s nearness as the key element. These scholars, however, do not give us the necessary resources to formulate our phenomenology, and hence I have been content to attempt to delineate and to identify only some aspects of NT eschatology, while noting how much careful analysis is needed. There are three main reasons for my restraint: (1) We do not yet have a satisfactory explanation of just what a phenomenology of NT language is, or how it would be related in methodology to the modern historical-critical exegetical procedures. (2) Failing an adequate model in NT scholarship, a paradigm from another discipline might be employed; here I confess ignorance of any explicit model, in spite of surveys of contemporary phenomenologists. (3) Any comprehensive phenomenological analysis of NT eschatology would necessitate a much more inclusive review of the complex Traditionsgeschichte of ancient Israelite and primitive Christian eschatology than is possible here. I will be satisfied if I can establish a preliminary approach which can be elaborated or discarded in the future. We must ask: What is eschatological language? How can an eschatological expression be identified? Are there characteristic dimensions/ aspects/dynamics in eschatological expression?
2. What is “eschatological”?
No one today would demand the rigidity which calls only that language which “speaks of the end” eschatological. How the fabric of our nomenclature may be worked loose is not self-evident, as seen in the fact that the adjective “eschatological” is frequently applied to phrases and situations which are be no means explicitly related to the “end.” Perhaps we would distinguish between “eschatology” and “eschatological,” reserving “eschatology” for explicit language about eschatological topics. This, however, would call for consensus in theological vocabulary, and theological consensus is notably difficult to attain. Such a distinction is also weak at the point of clarifying just what will be termed “eschatological.” It can mean everything or nothing depending on its breadth of meaning. Perhaps there are particular patterns or contexts which determine the way types of language should be labeled.
We are, then, rather roughly confronted by what is traditionally discussed as the relationship between form and content. Should we perhaps restrict “eschatological” to determination of “content,” or is there a fused phenomenon, a hyphenated form-and-content, which can support the use of “eschatological” as a category? I think that we must pursue just such a program. Within a finished work, form is not ultimately separable from content. It is the subject matter of a text itself, the content which shines through the text and which has become form-ed language, which should determine the interpretation of that text. To be sure, we will have to find some way of indicating how certain materials are eschatological; for now I simply accept the consensus view that eschatology deals with the end of time, with the newly realized age, as augmented by Fuch’s and Jungel’s stress upon the “nearness” of God as indicative of eschatological perspective. There appear to be certain aspects of eschatological language which may be phenomenologically portrayed:
4. Plurisignificative Language.
An important aspect of the phenomenon of eschatological language is its resistance to ideational simplification, and, correspondingly; its emotional complexity. Eschatological language shares with other types of primitive Christian language a plurisignificative richness. There is in eschatological language an opening-outward to meanings which are only allusively present. Like metaphor, in some cases as metaphor, eschatological expression hints rather than specifies; it breaks forth as language with gappy promises of less-tortured futures. It is not hermeneutically legitimate therefore to demand reasoned coherence of eschatological diction; rather should our demand be that the interpreter fully respect the manifold dimensions of its diction. Eschatological metaphor and symbol tantalize the propensity of the present for dullness, for lifeless macadam, with the “almost” of a newly-sensed future. If apocalyptic seems less convincing, less evocative of existential permission, one reason may well be that apocalyptic authors -- impatient with the ‘“almost” of eschatology -- have gone over to the “now and definitely.” Apocalyptic wants to limit and define; it specifies and explains in ways foreign to eschatology proper; it ties the future down to a tape-worm plan of eras and aeons.
5. Newness of Speech versus Historicization.
Primitive and early Christian eschatology moved in two directions, toward linguistic liberation, and toward historicization. Liberation, as Farrer aptly phrased it in the title of his study of the Apocalypse of John meant rebirth of traditional theological vocabulary. The occasion for this liberation was eschatology. In tension with this, however, there was also historicization, the rigidifying and concretizing of theology which led in the direction of normative creed, canon, and dogma. Surely apocalyptic historicizes: but the lines of development followed by the growth of dogma also functioned to give Christian thought more specifically historical contours and bench marks, In our analysis of primitive Christian eschatology, it will not always be simple to decide whether a particular eschatological utterance disabuses the traditional in order to elicit newness of speech, or falls into meta-diction, into historicized, “frozen,” credalisms. Methodologically, therefore, we should find some way of evaluating the relative position of eschatological expressions within the particular contexts of the Christian communities. What was shattering and correspondingly evocative of newly creative thought in one context may have become cloyed, clogged, eviscerated in another.
6. The Ranges of Meaning in Eschatological Language.
It is as difficult and as misleading to reduce eschatology to a set of lowest-common terms as it is so to reduce NT Christology or ecclesiology. Fortunately, there are indications that NT scholars recognize the complexity of eschatological usages. Even within Pauline theology , for instance, a considerable range of eschatological immediacy is recognized, and Jesus’ initial -- and essentially apocalyptic -- eschatology is understood to have been considerably modified, especially in cases where the evangelists were uncomfortable with his eschatological position. If a substantial range can be demonstrated within the thinking of simple figures such as Paul and Jesus, the range of eschatology in the whole NT, it would seem, would be even more extensively spread. Such is indeed the case, and hence part of the task of a phenomenology of NT eschatology should consist of charting the developments and/or differentiations. A number of variables and extremes can be noted: -it should be helpful to analyze the profile of each eschatological utterance according to its concept of the reality of temporal existence, according to whether it stresses the present or the future, its nearness to prophetic or to apocalyptic patterns, and according to its degree of fundamental creativity, as opposed to secondary repetition. Other polarities are present also, and will need to be incorporated into this initial schema.
A full analysis would also have to place NT eschatology as a feature of the NT theologies: how does an author’s eschatology function within his total theological system? Was NT eschatology the major theological factor which penetrated or molded everything else? or was it merely one of the desks at which our primitive Christian authors performed their theologizing?
7. The Social Reference of Eschatology.
We are often misled by the emphases of popular tradition into describing eschatology (specifically apocalyptic) as a subject which was by and large esoterically conceived and executed. The model of the author of the Apocalypse in seclusion on Patmos, furtively reveling in a great secretive ciphering, is one such tradition; the model tends to hide the fact that the language of eschatology does not primarily intend to hide but to disclose. Eschatology is a corporate language which seeks to catch up the rich cultural associations of the past in order to weave a marvelously shining new tapestry of anticipation. There are social factors, historically and contextually conditioned factors, within eschatological language. Eschatology is not a-historical, but a radicalizing of historical perspective. We must ask future study of eschatology to take more seriously the actual contemporary situations in which eschatologies were formulated. Two examples: the relationship between eschatological and liturgical diction, and the role of social change as it is reflected in eschatological diction. The impact of social-cultural realities may be rather obvious in terms of liturgical influence, but it should be no less obvious in terms of the developments and changes of eschatological thought as a whole.
8. The Style of Eschatological Language. There are certain stylistic characteristics of apocalyptic literature which are recognized by most scholars: transcendentalism, mythology, cosmological survey, pessimistic historical surveys, dualism, division of time into periods, teaching of Two Ages, numerology, pseudo-ecstasy , artificial claims to inspiration, pseudonymity, and esoterism. Such lists could doubtless be multiplied according to the particular authority on apocalyptic or eschatology to which one takes reference. The lists of characteristics, however, lack the sort of analytical acuity which would enable us to define the style of eschatological language with any real precision. Rather, what a phenomenology of eschatology might be able to provide is a consciousness of the way eschatological expression has been uniquely tensed in particular stylistic directions. We need to be watchful for ways in which eschatology molded linguistic expression -- in much the same way that earlier form criticism sought to determine how primitive Christian ecclesial contexts were responsible for peculiar shapings of the logia traditions. Here emphasis on the form-and-content of a text bears fruit. (E.g. the work of Amos Wilder and J. M. Robinson). The eschatologies of primitive Christianity produced varied formal expressions, and a phenomenology of eschatology will attempt to map these reactions. What will be evident is that eschatology does not relate passively to world events, but rather has a way of jarring inert worldliness, sowing seeds of discontent, and launching man into change and history.
Following the presentation of the paper, the seminar discussed at length some aspects of the phenomenology of eschatological language. It was felt that there needed to be more stress on the study of the texts themselves, since they contain the models to which the phenomenological analysis is applied. Even the study of particular texts, however, can be deceiving, since the object of study is really the phenomena behind the text, which can often be seen only by a study of comparative texts, or of a living tradition which continued for several centuries. The textual problem became apparent when the seminar turned to the various suggested aspects of eschatological language. The dangers of historicization to newness of speech, for instance, became less obvious when it was noted that Tertullian and Cyprian were able to utilize quite successfully an historical appreciation of Roman law as the structure of the present and future Kingdom of God. Likewise, in Luke-Acts, eschatological emphases seem to be part of the understanding of the institutional church. Thus, it can be questioned that historicization/institutionalization tend to reduce eschatological intensity. Defining “newness of speech” also became a matter of some difference of opinion. Liveliness of language must be considered not so much a matter of novelty as of contemporary application, which can differ from time to time, or from person to person. The criterion of “newness” may be too subjective to use successfully in a phenomenological analysis.
Much of the discussion was taken up in the attempt to determine the proper relationship between apocalyptic and eschatological language. Although the presentation suggested that the former was a sub-classification of the latter, characterized by a specificity which tends to lose much of the eschatological mystique, it was apparent that many in the seminar did not share this outlook. A textually-centered approach was suggested in which certain texts are denoted as apocalyptic, and their characteristics are then sought in other texts which do not so obviously fit the pattern. Another approach suggested was that apocalyptic is more poetic than eschatological language in general, or more “symbolic.” It could be that a successful writer of apocalypse was able to use images which bore traditional reference, providing communication to the reader, in such a way that these images were also transformed spatially and temporally into a new form and expression.
Other points considered in the discussion were: Can the social application of eschatology be demonstrated from the texts? It is often considered that the church did not take the world seriously until it lost its eschatological emphasis. Also, is plurisignificative language the same as ambiguous or even ambivalent language? It was felt that perhaps plurisignificance was more than ambiguity, and should be considered a factor in the outlook of the writer rather than a deliberate technique of his language. Another question was that of the relationship of apocalyptic language to the future: does it speak of the future in a real way, or is it merely a speaking of the present expectantly?
Respectfully submitted, Robert V. Hotchkiss, Secretary
Topic for 1969/70: Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity
Meeting of November 11, 1969; 7 pm, Philadelphia Divinity School Library
The second session of the 1969/70 Seminar was convened by co- chairman John Townsend. After customary introductions and announcements, the members heard a presentation by Howard Kee of Bryn Mawr College.
The Transfiguration in Mark: Epiphany of Apocalyptic Vision (Mark 9.2-13), Howard Kee
Bultmann may well be correct in seeing Mark’s transfiguration account as inserted in the middle of a connected set of eschatological statements. If this is the case, then it is the more evident that Mark has placed the story here with full intent, so that the wider context should give us greater insight into his intentions. Peter’s affirmation that Jesus is Messiah (8.29), followed by his rejection of the notion of Jesus’ suffering and its subsequent rebuke (8.32-33) shows that there is a wide gap between asserting that Jesus is Messiah and the awareness of what his messiahship involves. For Mark, the terms Christos, Davidic King, and Son of God are synonyms (see 12.35- 37; 14.61; 11.10; 10.47-48; and a well-attested variant at 1.34). There is also an explicit link between Jesus as Christ and as Son of Man (13.21,26; 14.62), Thus, Christ, the kingly descendant of David, is awaited as the Son of Man. Mark, in the gospel narrative, attempts to show by what process Jesus achieves the full realization of his kingly power. The disciples expect a quick and easy achievement of kingship, with the result that they object to Jesus’ predictions of suffering. The threefold passion predictions (8.31; 9.31; 10.32ff) are each followed by a call to share in the suffering of discipleship and then by a power play on the part of the uncomprehending disciples. This incomprehension continues even through the crucifixion. The disciples cannot grasp that suffering must precede triumph (10.35-45). The opening chapters of Daniel also show the necessity of suffering before triumph (cf. Dan 3.28 and Mk 13.7), to show that the faithful endurance of suffering leads inevitably to divine vindication.
The coming of Elijah, which in Mark may refer to John the Baptist or to Jesus himself (9.11-13), is described as (1) necessary, and (2) the first in a series of divinely determined events in a program already laid down in Scripture. In either case, all that is described is the coming and suffering of Elijah, leaving some doubt about the outcome. Here again, Daniel shows how the promise of deliverance is given as a means of offsetting the prospect of suffering. For Daniel, this involves the time when the kingdom is given to “one like a son of man.” By the 1st century C.E., and perhaps somewhat earlier, Son of Man came to be used by Jewish apocalyptic writers as a designation for the redemptive figure of the end time.
One dominant view of the transfiguration story in modern scholarship is that of Dibelius, who treats this pericope in his chapter on mythology as an epiphany of the future glory of the Son of God. Schulz sees this in hellenistic terms, where the divine sonship involves possession of the divine essence. Bultmann appears to view the passage in terms of a legend, in some sense related to a theophany. If we consider that the theophanic or epiphanic disclosure of Jesus to the disciples is the point of the story, however, we find in the story little manifestation of his power as a divine being. Instead, all we read in Mark is the instruction, “Listen to him (9.7). Note that Peter, after witnessing the radiant garb and the conversation with Elijah and Moses, still addresses Jesus as Rabbi (9.5), rather than the expected kurios. There seems to be no suggestion within the pericope of an epiphany along Hellenistic lines. There are analogies with literature from the Hellenistic period.
Eduard Schweizer is correct in suggesting a link between the six days that Moses waited to receive the Law and the “after six days” of 9.2. Likewise, the reference to a mountain, which parallels the experience of both Moses and Elijah in their confrontations with God’s agents. Jesus’ metamorphosis also reminds us of Moses at the mountain, when his face shone. There is precedent, moreover, in Jewish apocalyptic writings for the radiance of those who come into God’s presence (Dan 12.3; Syr Apoc of Baruch 51.1-3; Rev 7.13-14; 2 Cor 3.7-18; Nt 13.43). This radiance appears to be a “borrowed glory,” and not a fundamental change of nature. The central meaning of the whole incident is disclosed in the voice which came from the cloud. The only thing that can be inferred from the radiance is that Jesus was seen as entering proleptically into the eschatological glorification which Jewish apocalyptic expected the righteous to share.
What follows, however, indicates that Jesus was not represented by Mark as merely one among the many righteous. His conversation with Moses and Elijah, often described as embodying the Law and the prophets, actually represents his participation in the eschatological fulfillment. Elijah was not numbered among the Nebi’im, but was considered the prophet of the end time, in keeping with Malachi 3 and 4, Sirach 48.10 portrays him as restoring the tribes of Israel, and inaugurating the new age. In chapters 9 and 10 of the Assumption of Moses, Taxo appears to have the function of Elijah, and expresses a willingness for martyrdom in order to bring in the kingdom. As summarized by Billerbeck and Jeremias, the rabbinic tradition expected Elijah to bring about penitence in Israel, to reassemble the scattered of the nation, and to settle disputed points of the Law, ritual, and Biblical exposition. The Apocalypse of Elijah, perhaps as early as the 1st century C.E., has Elijah and Enoch battling the anti-Christ and defeating him. The evidence thus points to the conclusion that Elijah was considered in 1st century Judaism as an almost exclusively eschatological figure.
The role of Moses is far more varied than that of Elijah. Mark does not seem to stress the role of law-giver in this passage, but rather gives us only one clue as to the meaning of Moses: the allusion to Deut 18.15, “listen to him” (9.7). From it, one can only conclude that Mark wants to present Jesus as the eschatological prophet whose coming Moses had announced. Wayne Meeks has pointed out that in both rabbinic and Samaritan traditions, Moses was enthroned at Sinai as God’s vice-regent. This may give meaning to Peter’s suggestion about erecting booths, as an eschatological enthronement of Jesus. Peter saw rightly that the eschatological end was being enacted in the conclave of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. He was wrong in rejecting Jesus’ prediction that the path to kingship must necessarily lead through suffering and death. His proposal, therefore, was for a shortcut to the kingdom.
The attempt is made to set the disciples straight in the voice from the cloud -- the closest thing to a theophany; and a parallel to the experiences of Moses and Elijah. Jesus is declared to the inner circle of the disciples to be the Son of God. This Jewish eschatological term, referring to the king as the instrument of God’s rule, is closely linked with the concept of Israel as God’s son (see Fohrer in Kittel-Friedrich), The only appropriate background against which the term is to be understood here is that of the Jewish kingship, viewed in terms of its eschatological fulfillment. Jesus’ enthronement, which was announced to him at baptism, is now seen proleptically in the apocalyptic vision granted to the inner circle of his followers. It is interesting to note the parallels between the transfiguration scene and Daniel 10, an apocalyptic vision.
Thus, the transfiguration scene is not a theophany to nor an epiphany of Jesus, but is a proleptic vision of the exaltation of Jesus as Son of Man. It is placed here in the narrative as a message of assurance to the disciples in the most vivid and compelling manner, even though they did not comprehend it. This interpretation of Mark 9 has implications for the ending of Mark; the disciples remained uncomprehending throughout the narrative, running little risk of revealing the messianic secret they did not understand. It was only after the Son of Man has risen that they themselves understood the vision, the passion, and the coming enthronement.
Following the presentation of the paper, the Seminar discussed the presuppositions which lay behind an apocalyptic interpretation of the transfiguration. Dr. Kee sees the Gospel of Mark as a pastoral work, written to strengthen the church as it faced its two main problems: (1) There was a certain amount of waning interest, presumably because the apocalyptic hopes of the people had not been immediately fulfilled. (2) The church was fearful of an impending crisis, which could involve personal suffering for many Christians. Mark strove to prepare the church for this by showing that the disciples themselves had not understood the apocalyptic need for suffering, even though Jesus had attempted to make it quite clear. The transfiguration scene is put in the midst of a string of apocalyptic sayings which point out this sequence of events: (1) the coming of Elijah (John the Baptist) (2) the suffering of the Son of Man; (3) the suffering of the disciples; (4) the destruction of Jerusalem; (5) the disclosure of the Son of Man and the establishment of the Kingdom. Although the transfiguration scene itself does not seem to mention suffering, both the context and the mention of Elijah are sufficient to show that it is part of the scheme.
The disclosure of the Sonship (Kingship) of Jesus comes to the world in three stages in the Gospel of Mark. First, at the baptism, privately; then, at the transfiguration, to the disciples as an indication of the future apocalyptic kingdom; and finally, at the crucifixion-resurrection, to the gentiles, as exemplified by the “confession” of the centurion. The disciples do not understand the full implication of the Sonship all through the gospel. This understanding would appear to come to the disciples, as to the church, only with the parousia, although it is possible, as suggested by Dibelius, that it came to the disciples in the original, but lost, ending of the gospel. Thus, the gospel points beyond itself to a future time of full reinstatement of the disciples, and of the church as well.
It was noted that the transfiguration is not at all what Bultmann terms an epiphany: a transforming experience in which the essence of the mortal is changed or given a new being. Nor is it a theophany: an appearance of God to men. The distinctive NT use of epiphainw does not carry the connotation of “transformation” found in more hellenistic literature, so that the antithesis between epiphany and apocalyptic vision is not so apparent.
Respectfully Submitted, Robert V. Hotchkiss, Secretary
Topic for 1969/70: Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity.
Meeting of 20 January 1970, 7 pm, Philadelphia Divinity School Library.
The third session of the 1969/70 seminar was convened by co- chairman John Townsend. After customary introductions and announcements, the members heard a presentation by Karlfried Froehlich of Princeton Seminary, a summary of which follows:
The Montanist Oracles, Karlfried Froelich
Literature on the Montanist movement is relatively limited. Adequate collections of sources are found in works by Labriolle (1913), Bonwetsch (1881; Kleine Texte 1914), and Faggiotto (1924). In English, the only monograph is by De Soyres (1877, condensed reprint 1965); helpful studies are contained in the works of W. Ramsey (1893ff.) and W.M.Calder, as well as a chapter by Ronald Knox (Enthusiasm, 1950). The most productive studies are in German: A. Schwegler (1841), of the Tubingen school, argued for the Jewish Christian origin of the movement; A. Ritschl (l850), saw Montanism as a gentile Christian reaction to the growing institutionalism of the faith; Bonwetsch’s history of Montanism (1881) has already been mentioned; W. Scheperlern (1929) dealt with Montanism and the Phrygian cults; and most recently Kurt Aland has written a long article in Kirchengeschichtliche Entwurfe (1960) as well as an article in ZNW (1955).
Summary of Aland.
Aland has found very few “new” sources not contained in the older collections other than a couple of “new” inscriptions. The most important sources are the oracles themselves. Like most contemporary scholars, Aland prefers the date given by Eusebius for the beginning of the Montanist movement (172 C.E.), rather than that given by Epiphanius (156/157). Since the last prophetess died by 179, this means that the early period of the movement was rather brief. Aland finds a definite break in the movement following the death of Maximilla with later “prophecy” taking a much different and milder form. Thus Tertullian reflects a later stage of Montanism, even in his eschatology. It may be that Tertullian had little knowledge of the original Montanist prophecies. Aland cautions against thinking of Montanism in its totality as an eschatological movement, except perhaps at the very first; its eschatological outlook was not so very dissimilar from that found in the NT writings. In fact, Aland finds some special coincidences with Johannine material (including Revelation) and sees Montanism as basically an inner-Christian phenomenon, nourished from Christian sources but lacking much of early Christian eschatology. It was largely Asiatic, with little strength in the west.
The roots of Montanism seem to be genuinely Christian. Perhaps it began as a sort of “hold-on” revival while “catholic Christianity” was being formed, rather than as a revival of Phrygian paganism. Recent studies have also revived the idea that Montanism might be a Jewish Christian heresy; e.g. an article in Byzant. Zeitschrift by Scharf (1966) notes that in 721/722, “Hebrews and Montanists” were forced to be baptized by Leo III, which suggests that by the 8th century, Montanism may have become a form of Jewish messianism, or of nationalist dissent within Byzantine Jewry.
Source Materials and Analysis.
A collection of citations from Montanist oracles (reproduced from Bonwetsch, 1881) was sent out with the notice of this seminar meeting. (Requests for additional copies should be addressed to Dr. Froehlich; a similar convenient collection, but in slightly different sequence, is included in Hilgenfeld’s Ketzergeschichte 591ff.--it is noted below by the symbol ‘H’ where its enumeration differs.) It should be noted that Aland considers 15 of these as original, plus another saying (identified subsequent to Bonwetsch’s collection) similar to Bonwetsch #5 (=H #1). “Doubtful” quotations are }## 6, 19, and 21 (=H ##6, 15, post-21), while #17 (=H #20) is a ‘report’ only; ## 14 and 20 (=H ## 14,16) are not included in Aland’s list.
A study of these texts leads us to conclude that the Johannine parallels claimed by Aland are not nearly as significant as they first seem, since better parallels exist for almost all the quotations in other literature. Even #12 (from Eusebius, EH 5.16-17), which mentions the wolf and the sheep, as well as a trinity of word, spirit, and power, does not actually parallel the gospel of John. The “I am” quotations, likewise, are not strictly Johannine, but have been shown by H. Becker (1956) to be a classic form for gnostic revelatory speech. Indeed, there appear to be a number of gnostic elements in the oracles, both in their general outlook and in their form of speech: the awakening of the revealer (# 1, =H , #2) the two classes in the kingdom (#2, =H #3); the characteristic dream story (# 9); etc. This does not mean that the texts are “gnostic,” but that they make use of “gnostic” terminology and imagery, often obscured for us because of the seemingly non-gnostic Montanist chiliasm. However, Epiphanius, in describing the ‘Alogoi’ (Her. 51), raises the possibility of a chiliastic gnosis, or proto-gnosis, which links the Johannine literature and gnosis by the forms of speech found in the world of Cerinthus. This could be a clue to the heritage of Montanism.
* * *
During the discussion that followed the presentation, various alternate possibilities for the background and origins of Montanism were considered:
(1) There appears to be little possibility that Montanist ideas were derived from the NT, at least as far as the oracles themselves are concerned. Much biblical language is attributed to the Montanists, but this appears only during the later stages (e.g. Tertullian), when Montanists may have been trying to justify their position from the scriptures. The oracles do seem to have a few verbal analogies to Matthew.
(2) The “gnostic” elements cited in the presentation seem to be explained just as satisfactorily by reference to Jewish apocalyptic ideas (see, e.g. the treatment in Bauer, Rechglaubigkeit, and the thesis of R.M.Grant that Gnosticism is an outworking of frustrated Jewish apocalypticism). Eusebius’ anti-Montanist sources may hint at a link between Montanism and Judaism where they claim that Montanists were not being persecuted by Judaism. The possible 8th century link with Judaism has already been noted -- if it really has any relevance for 2nd century Montanism!
(3) These allegedly “gnostic” parallels also show great affinity to common Hellenistic ideas and phenomena, especially ecstatic utterances as described by such authors as Plutarch, Porphyry, or Lucian (e.g.. his Alexander).
(4) The whole Montanist movement fits into the anti-cultural phenomenon of the 2nd century empire, where the anti-Roman and anti-imperial feelings of the Christian rural population were expressed by adherence to Gnosticism or Montanism, with their ecstasies, asceticism, and strong eschatology (see, e.g. the presentation by R.M.Grant in the PSCO minutes 4.2, from 8 November 1966). The strictness of the anti-Montanist laws of Justinian would seem to be for political rather than for purely religious reasons. From this viewpoint, Montanism would be basically Christian -- conservative rural faith set over against sophisticated urban Christianity.
Respectfully submitted, Robert V. Hotchkiss, Secretary
Topic for 1969/70: Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity.
Meeting of 17 March, 1970, 7 pm, Philadelphia Divinity School Library.
The fourth session of the 1969/70 seminar was convened by co- chairman Sam Lasuch1i. After customary introductions and announcements, the members heard a presentation by John Gager of Princeton University, a summary of which follows:
Apocalyptic Elements in Paul, John Gager
Among the major advances in NT studies of the last 75 year has been the rediscovery of the strong eschatological orientation of primitive Christianity. One of the more interesting facets of this has been the debate between R. Bultmann, E. Kasemann, and others of Bultmann’s students on the significance of apocalyptic or eschatological motifs in Pauline thought [see JTC, vol 6, for the pertinent papers]. Kasemann’s thesis is that some material in the synoptic gospels, especially in Mt, shows clear traces of a strong apocalyptic vein in primitive Christianity. G. Ebeling and E. Fuchs noted that Kasemann had confused historical and dogmatic categories, had not specified the manner in which apocalyptic ideas were transformed within the Christian community by the experience of Jesus and Easter, and had attributed too much to apocalyptic as the basis of all historical and theological thinking. Kasemann’s reply turned to the use of apocalyptic language by Paul as an example of Christian apocalyptic modified by faith in Jesus. Bultmann entered the controversy at this point, distinguishing carefully between eschatology and apocalyptic. To Bultmann, Kasemann had not recognized the individual as the center of Pauline theology, as opposed to the cosmic concerns of apocalyptic. Thus, apocalyptic cannot be the mother of Christian theology.
Much of the controversy appears to stem from Kasemann’s vague and provocative terminology. He is correct in asserting that apocalyptic eschatology underlies some aspects of Pauline theology, but is misleading in suggesting that this apocalyptic element is an essential component of every valid theology--a confusion of historical and theological categories. Until we determine more precisely how and when Paul uses eschatological language, the debate will remain unresolved. We propose to examine four passages, each of which raises the general problem of ethics and eschatology, to suggest that the debate over Paul’s use of eschatological material has not done justice to the complexity of the data.
The Problem of Marriage (1Cor 7.25-35).
Paul approaches this problem with greater caution than any other in his letters, explicitly mentioning that he expresses his own opinion which, while not devoid of authority, is clearly less binding than a word of the Lord (vv 6,12,25,40). His opinion about marriage is that all should remain as they are because of what he calls the “present difficulty” [enestosa anagke, v 26]. This is usually considered an appeal to the common Jewish theme that the time prior to the coming of the Messiah would produce great hardship and temptation, for which the added duress of marriage could be an unnecessary burden. If this is so it seems unusual that Paul uses anagke as a reference to the end only in this text [cf 1 Cor 7.37; 2 Cor 6.4; 9.7; 12.10; 1 Thess 3.7; Phlm 14, where the reference is to difficulty in general]. It may be that Paul uses the phrase in a deliberately ambiguous manner, and that his preference for the unmarried state is independent of the eschatological material which he introduces in vv 29-31, Such preference appears to reflect contemporary popular Stoic-Cynic philosophy [cf Epictetus, Diss. 3.22.67ff; Philo, Apologia pro Iudaeis, 11.17]. Paul thus uses the eschatological material in vv 29ff to intensify and support his view that celibacy is in and of itself preferable to marriage. Although we must be careful with this combination of popular philosophic and eschatological language, it seems that here the popular philosophic language does predominate, while the eschatological language enables Paul to support his position by placing it within the broader context of disengagement from the world as preparation for the imminent kingdom.
Consolation and Universalization (Rom 8,18-25).
Romans 8 describes the present state of justification as a time of transition between the sinful aeon prior to the Christ and the final reconciliation with God which is yet to come; vv 18-25 is an excursus on v 17, dealing with the necessity of suffering with the Christ in order to be glorified with him. Having established this basic tension between present suffering and future glory in terms of the believer, Paul universalizes the tension in vv 19- 23: “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (v 21). Creation (ktisis) is a key to the passage. From Jewish sources alone it could speak only of inanimate creation. However, H. Hommel [Das Harren der Kreatur] has shown how the terminology of Rom 8 bears great similarity to Rom 1, so that the ktisis must refer at least to humanity, and primarily to the non-believing human world. The slavery metaphor of vv 20ff is used by Paul to reinterpret the punitive understanding of the fall and sin, transforming them into necessary, preparatory stages in God’s economy of salvation. This means, of course, that the traditional dualism of apocalyptic thought has been sharply reduced inasmuch as the present, evil age has been ordained by God not as a punishment but as the basis for hope. Verse 23 places the believer firmly within the context of the groaning of the entire creation. Through the eschatological material in Rom 8, Paul makes three basic claims: 1) the way to glory leads necessarily through suffering; 2) the present age is a time of hope for, not fulfillment of, the final act of salvation; 3) the believer is bound up with the non-believing world in a common longing for redemption from suffering and slavery. It becomes apparent how integral and indispensable the eschatological perspective is to the inner logic of Paul’s position. Without it, the hope is without content and suffering without final meaning.
No Share in the Kingdom (1 Cor 6.9-10; Gal 5,21).
On three occasions, twice in 1 Cor 6 and once again in Gal 5.21, Paul uses the formula, “such and such will have no share in the kingdom of God.” In each instance, the formula is preceded by a list of evil doers who are denied such a share. The formula itself appears to be a rabbinic topos dealing with heretics [cf M. Sanhedrin 10.1- 4; Pirke Aboth 3.15] which has been appropriated by Paul for his own use. In 1 Cor 6, Paul shows anger and amazement that a dispute between two members of the community had been referred outside for adjudication. He argues that the disputants should not appeal to non-Christian judges and that the dispute should never have arisen in the first place. Finally, in vv 9-11, he concludes his appeal with an eschatological threat, that unless the community at Corinth change their ways, they will be numbered among the adikoi at the coming of the kingdom. The situation is not substantially different in Gal 5.21, where Paul is again distressed by divisions and enmity within the community. This time, he uses the traditional two-way ethic -- the way of the flesh and the way of the spirit. He cites the works of his readers as actually or at least potentially works of the flesh, and in v 21 warns them that “those who do such things will not share in the kingdom of God.” Thus, the prospect of the future kingdom is used to reinforce a general ethical exhortation. For Paul, the logical connection between such indicative or “is” statements and imperative or “ought” statements was obvious and entailed specific moral consequences, but the connection seems not to have been as self-evident to others. Indeed, the logical connection between such “is” and “ought” statements exists only in generally accepted conventions. Paul’s use of the rabbinic anti-heretical formula in these two instances is a clear case of how eschatological language can be used to reinforce such a connection.
We can no longer assume that apocalyptic eschatology provides the unique point of departure for understanding Paul. This is not to say that eschatological material does not play an important function in his thought. With the primitive community, he shared the belief in the imminent return of Jesus to consummate the act of salvation. He did not, however, develop a thoroughly consistent system of apocalyptic eschatology as a foundation of his thought. In addition, Paul must be distinguished from the tradition of Jewish as well as Christian apocalyptic eschatology by virtue of his belief that the decisive salvation event had already taken place, and that the present was a period of proleptic and partial participation in that which will be consummated at the end of time. It is difficult to accept Kasemann’s use of Paul’s apocalyptic as the normative expression of “the tentative character of faith,” considering the obvious fact that Paul’s belief in the imminent end was unsubstantiated. A theological concern underlies much of Kasemann’s preoccupation with Paul and his apocalyptic. He is clearly not satisfied with the solutions of Bultmann and Ebeling, but yet he has proposed no alternative solution apart from his incomplete analysis.
Following the presentation, the seminar discussed several issues which had been brought forward:
1) There appeared to be some difference of opinion as to whether the traditional differentiation between eschatology (the genus) and apocalyptic (the species) is a valid one. It was suggested that eschatology is so broad a category, including so many different linguistic patterns, that it tends to be more metaphysical than useful. On the other hand, the distinction has proven to be a valuable one, historically valid in terms of modern scholarship, even though the models of use are quite varied.
2) An attempt was made to determine the locus of the argument between Kasemann and Bultmann over eschatology-apocalyptic. One suggestion was that Bultman seems to attribute to Paul an outlook which would remain unchanged by the future, while Kasemann sees the future for Paul as the moment of fulfillment. However, it seems more likely that both Bultmann and Kasemann accept the eschatological reservation (fulfillment in the future) as part of Paul, but Bultmann sees it in terms of the individual while Kasemann sees it in terms of the cosmos.
3) Most of the discussion centered around the problem of how central eschatology is to Paul’s thought in general. In spite of the danger of a “holistic” interpretation, it was felt by several that Paul does have a primary eschatological focus to his ideas, stemming from his outlook before becoming a Christian. Yet, it also seems evident that in several of the passages studied, the eschatological thrust appears to be used as a device in order to reinforce a particular pattern of behavior. It is an oversimplification to deny an inner logic between the indicative and the imperative in Paul, for in his outlook, ethics and eschatology are inseparable. Paul inherited an eschatological tradition, and both passed it on and transformed it in the light of his theology of the cross. He uses apocalyptic to defend what is crucial in the gospel, and to preserve the idea that all is not yet fulfilled.
Respectfully submitted, Robert V. Hotchkiss, Secretary
PHILADELPHIA SEMINAR ON CHRISTIAN ORIGINS: Minutes, Volume 7, set 5.
Topic for 1969/70: Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity.
Meeting of 28 April, 1970, 7 pm, Philadelphia Divinity School Library.
The final session of the 1969/70 Seminar was opened by co- chairman John Townsend, with the following items of business: Relations Between Judaism and Christianity in the Early Centuries was chosen as the topic for 1970/71; Sheldon R. Isenberg and David Hay were elected co-chairmen. Peter Naurer and Robert V. Hotchkiss will again perform the coordinating and secretarial duties. The schedule of meetings will be: 29 September, 10 November, 26 January, 9 March, and 27 April. The Philadelphia Divinity School has again offered its facilities, for which the Seminar repeated its appreciation. The members next heard and discussed presentations by Robert A. Kraft (University of Pennsylvania) and Sheldon Isenberg (Princeton University).
In place of reading a paper, Dr. Kraft chose to enlarge upon an outline which was sent out with the announcement of this meeting. Along with a bibliography and a few examples of Christian adaptation of Jewish apocalyptic materials, the outline contains a methodological schema for the identification of “apocalyptic” material. The question of the identification of such material, or the differentiation of it from merely “eschatological” writings, has occupied the Seminar during the discussion periods throughout the year. Copies of the outline can be obtained from Dr. Kraft.
It is possible to identify apocalyptic material by a study of its form, function, and content, with special attention paid to the agent through which the material comes, the form in which it is presented, and the purpose for which it is used. Although such schematization will present complications, it seems necessary to proceed along these lines in order to differentiate the material at all. The group discussion emphasized several limiting factors: (1) We must be careful to distinguish between the categories the critic sets up for understanding material, and the categories the author himself assumed he was using. It may be that the authors of most of the apocalyptic material thought of themselves as fulfilling some sort of prophetic function, rather than following a particular literary form. (2) The critic’s function is largely descriptive: start with a concrete form which we label “apocalyptic,” find the essence of technique in it, and then look for this essence in other forms which less obviously fit the pattern. (3) No definition of “apocalyptic” can be ultimately satisfactory. If we speak of apocalyptic as “poetry,” we are in danger of overlooking the possibility that the author himself considers his images to be concrete or “scientific.” If we look for the essence of apocalyptic in cosmic imagery which indicates a radical rupture with the present, we find that some of the material, such as parts of 1 Enoch, is much more mundane. When we identify apocalyptic imagery as expressing a radical conflict between the forces of good and evil, we discover that sometimes, as in the Sibyllines, or the various portions of 1 Enoch, such conflict is lacking, (4) The most important consideration in the study of apocalyptic must be the outlook and intention of the author. This can only be discovered from a study of the work as it presents itself, without primarily attempting to categorize it as either a particular literary form or the typical expression of a particular place and period.
As an example of a Jewish apocalyptic text which has been adapted to Christian use, Dr. Kraft presented his translation of the 9th chapter of the Paraleipomena Jeremiou, a popular Eastern text found in many forms and rescensions, in Greek, Slavic, Armenian, Ethiopic, and Arabic. Largely unknown to Western scholars, this work shows in its last chapter a definite turn toward Christian material, although the first 8 chapters do not even suggest a Christian editor. Copies of a translation of an eclectic text of this work, including chapters 1-4 and 9, with a summary of the intervening material, may be obtained from Dr. Kraft.
Appendix 1: Jewish Apocalyptic in Early Christianity Brief, Selected Bibliography
F.C.Burkitt, Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (1914)
H. Weinel, “Die spatere christliche Apokalyptik,” in Eucharisterion (Gunkel Festschrift, 1923), 141-173
P.Volz, Die Eschatologie der judischen Gemeinde im neutestamatlichen Zeitalter (1934(2), reprinted 1966)
J.Danielou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity (1958, ET 1964)
H.H. Rowley, The Relevance of Apocalyptic (1963(2))
D.S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic (1964)
P.Vielhauer, “Apocalypses and Related Subjects: Introduction” and “Apocalyptic in Early Christianity: Introduction,” in Hennecke- Schneemelcher NT Apocrypha 2 (1964, ET 1965), 581-642; see also W. Schneemelcher on 684-689 (“Apocalyptic Prophecy”) and 751-754 (“Later Apocalypses”) of the same volume.
L.Hartman, Prophecy Interpreted: the Formation of Some Jewish Apocalyptic Texts and of the Eschatological Discourse Mark 13 par. (1966)
Appendix 2: Identification of “Apocalyptic” Material: Problems of Form, Function, and Content
1. The agent through whom the material (message) comes, and the mode of reception.
1) “Angelic” (extra human) assistance or mediation, especially in relation to visionary experiences -- e.g. Dan 8.19, 10.11; Zech 4; 4 Ezra 4; Rev 17; Ascen. Isa. 7.8; etc.
2) Human agents not in conscious/voluntary control of themselves:
--visionary experiences, while asleep or awake (primarily pictorial) -- e.g. Ezek 1.1, 40.2 (visionary journey); Dan 7, 8; etc.
--ecstatic trance in which recipient seems to leave the body (a special sort of sleep; see Acen. Isa.6,11f, 6.17, 7.5, 8.11; ParalipJer 9.9ff) -- the communication can be auditory (cf. 2 Cor 12) or visionary
--oracular utterance, where human agent is vehicle in a quite passive sense -- e.g. SibOr, some Montanist oracles, etc.
3) Human agents (or the earthly Lord) in control of themselves (‘prophecy of a sort) -- e.g. Mark 13 parr., 1 Cor 15, 2 Thess 2 (These categories are not exhaustive, nor necessarily mutually exclusive.)
2. Forms in which material is presented: ‘historical’ survey, predictive discourse, symbolic panorama or detail, oracular utterance, farewell discourse, prayer, &c.
3. Purposes for which material is used:
1) focus on the past -- provide example and warning (e.g. Jude), as well as some justification (predictions, types, etc.) for present situation.
2) focus on the present -- as impetus to ethical action or even to political action and ‘religious’ action (e.g. 1 Cor 7); to boost morale.
3) focus on the future -- assurance of vindication of past and present values (expectations) and actions, ‘fulfillment’ of all that has begun.
Note: numerous complications are present in any attempted schematization -- e.g. ‘apocalyptic’ forms may have non-apocalyptic function or content (e.g. Hermas). Apocalyptic material may be found in forms that are not particularly apocalyptic -- e.g. farewell discourse (Ascen. Mos.), general discourse (Mark 13); sometimes the apocalyptic “agent” enters the "other” world to obtain his message, while other times the message comes to him in his world.
Selected Examples of a few Types of Christian Adaptation
1. At the level of the Symbolic: the political imagery of beasts/faces/horns (cf. Ezek 1.5ff, Dan 7, 4 Ezra 11-12, Rev 13, Barn 4, etc.)
2. As a key to historical Chronology, based on Dan 9 (see patristic use of text!)
3. In the interests of Messianic Prediction (esp. Asen. Isa. 6-11, ParalipJer 9; see also passages in Testaments of Patriarchs, etc.)
[The original minutes contain another appendix here, an English Translation of Paraleipomena Jeremiou 9, which was subsequently published as part of the text and translation of that document.]
Apocalypticism is not in essence a literary phenomenon; it is a social phenomenon, and the methodologies developed for the study of social phenomena are appropriate to its study. Students of apocalypticism have, for the most part, attempted to understand it as theological literature, subject mainly to exegesis. There have been few attempts to deal with it in a more general way, as part of the religious activity of the ancient Near East and the Greco-Roman world, but even this perspective is limiting. The historian of religion must have as a primary area of interest the community which produced the literature. Thus he must be prepared to ask questions of the materials which go beyond the literary, the philological, the theological, and even the historical. He wants to know about the nature and structure of apocalyptic activity; he wants to know about its function in the society -- he wants to study the psychology and sociology of the phenomenon. What he must not do is mistake the literature for the phenomenon itself. The approach to apocalypticism exemplified by the Kasemann discussion is promising precisely because, through form-critical considerations, it raises sociological questions. Nevertheless, the discussion is still highly theological, and doesn’t seem to get very far in its reconstruction of the apocalyptic community.
I want to begin to look at Jewish and Christian apocalypticism as religious movements, as part of what can happen to social groups or sub-groups in certain situations, asking the questions: What occurs? Why does it occur? There are two perspectives which should be exploited. The first, already begun, involves the recognition that Judaism and Christianity, ordinarily studied diachronically, must also be studied synchronically; i.e. as part of the complex of Greco-Roman religions of salvation. The second perspective involves achronism i.e. apocalypticism as part of the religious behavior of man -- part of the phenomenology of the totality of religion. If we find 20th century religious movements in Africa or Melanesia which have similarities to apocalypticism, we cannot ignore the opportunity to find out what we can about them. Such studies have been done on the millenarian movements of Oceana, with parallel phenomena observed among American Indians and sub-Saharan Africans. One such study, of considerable methodological importance to us, is New Heaven, New Earth by Kenelm Burridge (Schocken, 1969).
Burridge asks three basic questions: (l) Under what social conditions have millenarian movements tended to occur? (2) What was the basic pattern of the movements? (3) How can their occurrence be explained? He defines religion as the systematic ordering of different kinds of power, entailing a specific framework of rules. The redemptive process involves an appropriate death which brings to an end one’s obligations under those rules. Millenarian activities occur when there is social upheaval, and a group feels itself deprived and oppressed; i.e. the current assumptions about power have been undermined so that individuals can no longer believe in the efficacy of the redemptive process. New assumptions, new rules are necessary. A millenarian movement occurs when the new assumptions, beliefs, and rules are organized and articulated by a prophet who bases his outlook on a reinterpretation of the tradition. Burridge sees three phases to such movements: (l) Recognition by the community of deprivation and disenfranchisement; along with recognition of the need for new redemptive processes. (2) Concrete expression of the new assumptions, beliefs, and feelings about man by the prophet. The prophet claims to transmit the new order of things from a divine source, whose authority transcends the power system. His revelation both predicts the new order and prescribes for the participants in the new order. (3) The aftermath: the cult may be institutionalized into a sect, or with its expectations unfulfilled may fizzle. If the same social conditions prevail, however, a recurrence of millenarian activities is to be expected. Burridge goes on to explore various explanatory hypotheses, including the psychological, the ethnographic, the Marxist, and what he calls the “Hegelian.” He finds most adequate for his purposes the “Hegelian,” which posits a broad historical process whose goal or end is not available to the student. Whether or not we find such an explanation satisfactory, we ought to realize that an explanation is needed. Merely describing is not explaining. Psychological or ethnocentric explanations tend to be grossly inadequate, as are those which refuse to take into account the interrelatedness of cultural phenomena.
Let us approach Burridge’s theory first, and then move to his stages, using Qumran as our test case. In Qumran we do indeed see a community whose primary concern is the legitimacy of power. For them, as for most Judaism of the period, the ultimate power is God, and all human authority is delegated. Where Qumran parts from the establishment, obviously, is on the question of the legitimacy and validity of claims to such authority on the part of the Jerusalem establishment, which has control of the redemptive media -- the Temple. The main lines of the Manual of Discipline and the Damascus Document seem to involve the reorganization of the society in anticipation of the near cultic situation on the one hand, and the eschatological battle to achieve it on the other. As for the phases, it seems rather obvious that the Qumran community were conscious of relative deprivation and alienation, as evidenced by their choice to remove themselves from the rest of society. It would be worthwhile to examine, as best we can, the ways in which the Qumran community felt itself to be disenfranchised; who and what were the enemies of the sect; and what sort of person joined it. Adopting Burridge’s analysis, we see the importance of determining precisely the content of the millenarian hope (the second phase), involving especially the Essene picture of the ideal life and the nature of the new order (e.g. the passage in 1QM 12-10-14, which is an interesting collection of pertinent Biblical texts). One may profitably speculate about the function of the Righteous Teacher (the prophet), who experienced the revelation which galvanized the membership. He was the founder and the leader; his authority was based on his access to the divine apart from traditional channels. The community which grew around him generated a new social structure with new redemptive media serving as a transition to the “New Times.” The Teacher served as a bridge between the traditional mode of existence and the novel.
What I have done is to suggest rather freely the sorts of questions that night be asked of materials which have been fairly thoroughly studied in other ways. I have not even approached the question of explanation, nor have I done anything terribly specific comparatively. We should take note of the similar movements in other cultures, recognizing their social situations and observing the function of the movements in organizing for social change. This sort of thing would provide a promising perspective for our studies.
In the few moments following the presentation, the Seminar discussed the problems involved in differentiating between the prophet as a spokesman for the community and the prophet as the author of an individual and imaginative work of literary art. Since the images used by the prophet must be intelligible to the community, and since at least sometimes the prophet is identified with the community (e.g. “son of man” as interpreted within the book of Daniel), it may be that such differentiation is not valid.
Respectfully submitted, Robert V. Hotchkiss, Secretary