I finished N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope yesterday. As are all his books, it is excellent.
I’m really excited, also, because some of the Element peeps and I are attending this event tonight.
Wright’s writing is always enlightening and provocative, but the most interesting thing I encountered in Surprised by Hope is his contention that Jesus never taught his second coming. Wright reads the Olivet Discourse, for instance, as referring to Christ’s coming in glory and judgment in the resurrection, and a bit to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Now, this perspective is not new to me. It is a sort of preterism I am familiar with and find valid, despite disagreeing with it. The interesting part here is that Wright does not deny the future second coming of Jesus; he just says Jesus himself doesn’t refer to it, that he was concerned with other things.
This view, as far as I can tell, makes Paul the “inventor” of the second coming. Now, I don’t have a problem per se with doctrines originating with Paul, as I believe his canonical epistles are the revelation of God, inspired by God from beginning to end. So even if we encounter a New Testament viewpoint for the first time in Paul, it doesn’t mean it came wholly from Paul’s imagination. But my understanding is typically guided by the notion that Paul expands/extrapolates/applies the teaching and work of Jesus. Jesus provided the sheet music for a beautiful symphony, and Paul is concerned with teaching the Church how to play it.
That is an illustration I got straight from Wright, actually, in the first book of his I ever read, The Challenge of Jesus.
I guess I just see glaring parallel ideas between the Olivet Discourse and Paul’s eschatology in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. He even appeals to “the Lord’s own word” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and uses the “thief in the night” metaphor from the Discourse in 1 Thessalonians 5:2. And the stuff in 2 Thessalonians 2 seems to draw from stuff in the Discourse.
Anybody got any thoughts on this? Did Paul innovate the second coming and just happened to use the same language Jesus used to refer to something else?