The church seems to have slackened its grasp upon the Parousia hope under pressure from materialistic thought; and western capitalism, naturally biased towards conservatism, has hardly encouraged the church to re-affirm its hope in the impending judgement and renewal of the present world order.
Parousia in the New Testament
TABLE OF CONTENTS AND INTRODUCTION
By A.L. Moore
- 1967: A.L. Moore, Delay of the Parousia in the New Testament (PDF)
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- The Background of N.T. Expectation
- Consistent Eschatology
- Realised Eschatology
- Continental Demythologizing
- Salvation-History and the Parousia in the N.T.
- The N.T. Insistence on the imminence of the Parousia
- Did the Early church delimit its expectation of the Parousia?
- The early church’s near Expectation of the Parousia
- Did Jesus delimit his expectation of the Parousia?
- Jesus’ near expectation of the Parousia
- The Significance of the N.T. imminent expectation of the Parousia for the life of the church today
The present interest in· eschatology owes much to J. Weiss and A. Schweitzer. The question they raised was that of the overall structure and significance of New Testament eschatology, but this was bound to involve considerable examination of the idea of the Parousia in particular.
Surprisingly this renewal of interest has not fostered in the church a firmer conviction regarding the Parousia expectation. In fact the idea of the Parousia, at least in the form in which traditionally it has been expressed, has had to face many criticisms from various quarters.
From within the realm of critical theological investigation the Parousia hope has encountered considerable opposition. Schweitzer maintained that Jesus held to a Parousia hope only because it formed part of the contemporary Jewish apocalyptic which he accepted, and that such first century apocalyptic has no place in Christian thought. This view, introduced into this country with varying sympathy by W. Sanday and F. C. Burkitt, is expressed strongly to-day by M. Werner and others. An apologetic elimination of the Parousia hope, or at least a radical re-interpretation of its traditional expression, has flourished particularly in the Anglo-Saxon world through the work of C. H. Dodd, followed by T. F. Glasson and J. A. T. Robinson. A somewhat similar reinterpretation has been expressed on the Continent by E. von Dobschiitz and R. Otto, and, most recently, by J. Jeremias. Behind these views one can discern the pressure of evolutionistic materialism and of the· whole secular climate of thought. Even more apparent is the pressure of a secular philosophy behind the reinterpretation of eschatology in terms of existentialism. This, not unheralded before 1939, has been expressed most radically and consistently during and following the second world war by R. Buhmann and has many adherents to-day.
Other factors also have tended to weaken the church’s Parousia hope. The contemporary concentration of the church on its worship directs attention away from a future end-expectation, and although this concentration is especially marked in Roman catholic circles it is not by any means unknown in Anglicanism.
The church seems to have slackened its grasp upon the Parousia hope under pressure from materialistic thought; and western capitalism, naturally biased towards conservatism, has hardly encouraged the church to re-affirm its hope in the impending judgement and renewal of the present world order. Some recent ‘bomb psychosis’ has given rise to a form of secular apocalypticism to which, usually, the churches have responded with nervous indecision.
Some sects have consistently maintained a Parousia hope, but too often their fanaticism (sometimes morbid, sometimes comic) and their concentration upon dates, has meant that they have failed to see or proclaim the implications of the impending end for present life, thought and obedience.
Existentialist and materialistic philosophies have, however, succeeded in shaking the church’s confidence in the Parousia hope (at least in the form ‘he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead’) generally only at an intellectual level. Certainly on the plane of general congregational life and thought there is a tendency to ignore the Parousia expectation. Following the Evanston Conference in 1954 some widespread interest in this theme was aroused,” but this was only temporary. Yet there seems to be no parallel, on the congregational level, to the intellectual antagonism towards the traditional Parousia hope, and there is no general movement aimed at removing it from the creeds. Unfortunately there is little positive integration of the Parousia hope into the life, thought and work of the church.
This, surely, has resulted in a serious impoverishment of the church’s witness. The conviction underlying this thesis is certainly that a real and extensive impoverishment must follow from a weak, indifferent or uninformed Parousia hope, or from the abandonment -for whatever reason- of the Parousia expectation altogether. The intense urgency with which the church should undertake its tasks of repentance and of missionary proclamation of the gospel, is weakened if not entirely lost. This thesis, therefore, seeks to pose and probe again the question as to the authenticity of the Parousia hope in the New Testament.