Bible Bookends

If it is not legitimate to use Genesis as a literal record of Earth’s origins (disruptive as that is to a comfortable theological package) then, redirecting that principle, is it not also illegitimate to use Revelation (and Daniel) for constructing future end-time events? Disruptive also you might say.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11733
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Uh oh. Get ready. The apologists will come out of the woodwork to prove that the ancients could both look into the distant past and also foretell the future with pinpoint accuracy.

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Here’s a good treatment describing how biblical scholars interpret revelation, as relayed by Bart Ehrman.

The lecture starts about the 7 minutes into the recording.

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Well said, I stop arguing such things after studying the New Testament at a non-SDA Bible college and after studying the Old Testament under a Jewish Rabbi.

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The unspoken reality here is that since “apocalyptic” is a literary genre, there is no reason to accept the claim that the writer objectively “saw” anything in a “vision”. He composed his message in a well known style of the time. He could have simply written his message in straightforward prose, but chose this genre for impact. What implications might there be here for the concept of inspiration?

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And there is no reason not to accept that John “saw” these things either!

Proof is in the pudding! “In the eating.”

Hi Darrell. So the author of 4 Esdras, 2 Baruch, 3 Baruch, The Apocalypse of Abraham and the author of the Apocalypse of Peter simply wrote in the apocalyptic genre but saw nothing, but the author of Revelation wrote in their style and actually saw something? Right… So he even “saw” all these things in another familiar genre type, a chiastic structure (see Kenneth Strand “Perspectives on the Book of Revelation”). Sometimes, it is better to go with the simpler explanation for a phenomenon rather than always arguing for the fantastic. We are looking at a literary type, not a fantastic projection of history.

You might find this link edifying. Dr. James Tabor (UNC) has argued for a Jewish pre-Christian version of Revelation which can be easily recovered. Check it out. Can A Pre-Christian Version of the Book of Revelation Be Recovered? – TaborBlog It shows the very real possibility that there is an earlier embedded text within canonical Revelation.

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That’s Correct Bart. Internal and historical evidence confirms this.
Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire began 303 with Diocletian and ended in 313. Jesus warned the early church of this, predicting a 10 year period of persecution. Vaticinium ex eventu cannot explain this confirmation and many others, because we know Revelation was not written post 313AD and there is no evidence of corruption. If this in not convincing then many other later historical confirmation of prophecy can be used.
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

I’m sorry. But this article is confusing to me. What is a Seventh-day Adventist without a literal creation week and the prophecies?
I have read this article three times and I’m still puzzled. In fact, I am even puzzled at Spectrum. I have always logged on for engaging, challenging, thought-provoking conversation.
But this appears to be an effort to teach me reasons why Adventism, at its very core, is wrong. And I cannot quite grasp why I am finding this message on this site.
My head is spinning. It’s like going to a tire store and finding out they only sell batteries, not tires.
Writer, are you saying that I have been deceived my whole life? Maybe I should look into Mormonism or Catholicism. Or atheism. That one probably makes the most sense then. The belief of no beliefs.

You are of course free to find any historical event which can be shoehorned into a prediction and claim it as a miraculous fulfillment. Or as an alternative, we could assume that the writer was simply writing about local, current events. Unfortunately, there are huge gaps in our historical knowledge of antiquity, so we may never know the writer’s intention.

I prefer historical explanations to things like prognostication, fortune telling, palm reading and the like; that is, claims of supernatural “knowing”.

I’m guessing that you didn’t check the James Tabor link.

I have long thought that Revelation was initially penned during or shortly after the Bar Kochba revolt (132-135 CE), which lasted 3 1/2 years (1260 days). The total and final destruction of Jerusalem and the temple occurred then. A temple to Jupiter and Venus was set up on the temple mount. Jewish observances were outlawed such as sabbath keeping and circumcision. Jews were forcibly removed from Judea resulting in the diaspora (This might explain John’s exile on Patmos). This was the bloodiest war of the Romans against the Jews, surpassing that of 70 CE, though we don’t have a Josephus to detail the events. The writer of the apocalypse could only hope that behind the scenes, Yahweh was planning on quickly bringing into being a new Jerusalem. In Tabor’s scenario, a later Christian editor Christianized the original apocalypse by tacking on some Jesus references near the beginning and at the end, otherwise leaving it intact. Lacking those references, the book reads very much like a Jewish work.

See the James Tabor link Can A Pre-Christian Version of the Book of Revelation Be Recovered? – TaborBlog. He is one of Bart Ehrman’s fellow profs. I posted this below also for Darrell.

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I’m quite sure any serious historicist apologist would not waste their breath refuting any of this rather generalized sketch of biblical understanding.

The opening statement presents an intractable chasm between the author and the historicist. So why even bother with the rest?

In the ongoing discussions of “Adventist Criticism of Historical Criticism” you chastised me on pointing out that Adventism along with other fundamentalist groups depend on something close to Biblical inerrancy or infallibility to construct beliefs. “Not true” you said (remember the “vessels of clay”). Yet here you are doing precisely that. Your interpretation relies on pasting together disparate phrases to unlock a code by which to decipher veiled meanings in other phrases. You blithely restate the prediction to read 10 years rather than what it actually says…10 days.

Your assertion of prediction-fulfillment depends on a phrase:

“For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.” Numbers 14:34 This then becomes a universal principle, a code which unlocks any time period prediction, replacing a day with a year.

You than apply it to Rev 2:10 saying “you will have tribulation for ten days”. Voila: scouring historical records, you find a 10 year period of (spotty and not universally applied) persecution in the fourth century. MIRACULOUS FOREKNOWLEDGE!!

This method is limited only by the interpreter’s imagination and ability to read through histories and link an event with an obscure “prediction”. Hey, this could work, therefore it is true.

But think of what you are doing. The verse you quote was written to a limited group of people in the town of Smyrna in Asia minor. We can debate the date, but let’s say somewhere between the 90’s CE to 140’s CE. The admonition says “the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation 10 days.” “About to”?? You have rendered that warning meaningless. Nothing happened to those recipients. Not in a short time. Not in 10 years. Not in 50 years. According to your take, the predicted event had to wait for two centuries! What kind of advice is that? Weren’t they themselves supposed to be facing prison and death? So the event doesn’t happen and the interpreter goes on a snipe hunt to find some way to show the prediction’s validity far off in the future? When prophecy fails…reinterpret.

This makes a mockery of apparent original intent. It was written to particular people in a particular place at a particular time. The only reason historicist interpretive methodology even came into being is because the expectations of John of Patmos and other expectations of the gospel writers and Paul for an imminent culmination of all things didn’t occur. Assuming inspiration and refusing to acknowledge failure, the persistent interpreter had to push the predictions into the future. Thus, we have no end of holding newspapers in one hand and the Bible in the other. And somehow, their group is the focus of the predictions.

It is a failed methodology. Get over it.

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Ruth, I don’t blame you for being confused. Adventist belief at the core is not wrong depending on what one means by core. Prophecy is real. Its historically verifiable, but that does not mean we have understood everything correctly. I mentioned to brother Bart regarding Daniel 9 and Revelation 2 recently to show that God has spoken in scripture regarding things to come. This is impossible for some to believe regardless of the soundness of the evidence because there is no God in their view. Thus, all the rationalizing.

Genesis 1 can be understood, biblically speaking to mean a week of epochs in which God created instead of 24 hour periolds. YOM or day in Hebrew is often used to be an epoch of time Gen. 2:4
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth, in the day they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

We keep every seventh day, weekly ‘24 hour day’ in commemoration of this seventh epoch of God’s finished Creation. We as believers are to cease from our works, and rest spiritually as God did in Creation, Hebrews Four.
Sabbath is still a memorial of Creation and now a memorial of rest in Grace as well.

The essential key iin this view is that Gen 2:1-3 ( the seventh-day ) has no ‘evening and morning’ closure. The 7th Epoch of is still here and now-- Nothing New has been created in the last 10 000 years for example. This is one way to approach the text.
Nearly 1800 years ago, Augustine noted this, and indicated that the seven days of Gen 1-2a stood for great epochs of time and God’s creation. Note: Augustine saw this before there was ‘need’ to reconcile geology with theology.

The reason why there is no ‘evening and morning’ refrain for the seventh-day is because the seventh-day epoch hasn’t ended. God began resting and has continued ever since. Nature is now superintended by the digital programs of Epigenetics and God rarely intervenes.

In John 5:16-18 Jesus defended His healing on the Sabbath by saying that His Father is always at work to this very day, and I too , am working” (verse 17) The key here is "to this very day.’ Translation: in spite of this being the Epoch of Sabbath Rest God still works, therefore do not criticize me for working on the Weekly memorial of The Epochal Sabbath Rest.

Jesus is saying that he is honoring the Sabbath just as his Father does. “To this very day” God has worked EVEN during this Sabbath Period of history (“up to this very day”). God has stopped creating during our time but not stopped working. Thus each day of the week may also commemorate the actually time periods of the actual creation “week.” As stated–‘Yom’ in many texts of the Hebrew Bible can mean periods of time. Gen. 2:4.

In the Hebrew, days 1-5 have no definite article (ha), while days 6 and 7 do have the definite article, because they are the most importance to us - we were created on the 6th and now rest on the 7th. These are about us, there (the) is used.

This probably opens more questions, but there are good answers to them

Hanging on by your fingernails. It is fascinating to watch the mental gymnastics of apologists as they replace previous certainties with new possibilities and maybe’s in the attempt to evade reality; somehow, kicking and screaming all the way, beliefs will evolve to reconcile with science, and scripture will thus be validated :wink: When beliefs become indefensible…reinterpret.

I’ll make a prophecy. The current “epoch” will go on and on and on…and on.

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Dear Bart, our epistemic foundations are opposites. I believe independent from any written Divine revelation that the evidence for a Creator is extremely strong. Thus, I am open to the Creator somehow communicating to us in a more direct way than nature alone, as well as nature.
You are closed to any of the above because you have chosen to not believe in the existence of the Creator!
Naturally, no matter how compelling Prophecy might be or the evidence from science might impress, a priori are closed to the subject.
I think maybe you can relate to Thomas Nagel possibly.
“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It is not just that I do not believe in God and, naturally, hope that I am right in my belief. It is that I hope there is no God! I do not want there to be a God; I do not want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism in our time.”
“One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about human life, including everything about the human mind.”

Nagel, The Last Word, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, p. 135, 1997.

God has blessed you with a good mind Bart. I am sorry something has turned you away from God. But I know God loves you; praying for you too.

You have misstated my positions. I am committed to reason and sufficient evidence for any and all claims. If you think that you have actual sufficient evidence for that which you claim, feel free to present it. I have noticed that there is a very strong tendency to quickly revert to faith in the absence of evidence or in spite of evidence to the contrary whenever extraordinary claims are proffered and somehow lacking that evidence. I don’t start with a presupposition regarding god(s). Rather, I begin with a recognition of objective reality which can be known through rigorous processes of examining data and evidence and building up a pyramid of verified knowledge.

ARGUMENTS ARE NOT EVIDENCE. That is an important distinction. The criterion of astonishment is not evidence for anything. Gaps in verified knowledge is not evidence for anything.

Darrell, this is condescending. It also begs the question. You are assuming that I turned away from God (the one you accept). Did you turn away from Jupiter? Or maybe you also turned away from The Great Kahuna. I reject faith as a method for gaining knowledge. I am using this in the precise epistemological meaning of believing claims made by others without evidence. Darrell, why have you rejected reason? turnabout…

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