Friday, February 03, 2006

apocalypse NOW!

'Apocalyptic,' as I have appropriated it in my previous post is a rather narrow and perhaps banal description of much broader phenomenon. At the very least apocalyptic is resistance literature that is written in times where a community feels threatened. I like it when Wright states that apocalyptic literature, 'is a way of investing space-time events with theological significance; it is actually a way of affirming the vital importance of the present continuing space-time order,' no matter how bad in 'reality' things had become.[1] So I see 'apocalyptic' as a way of reclaiming the imagination by denying that 'evil' will have the last word. The cultivating of the imagination is essential to see beyond the status quo, to glimpse the 'reality' that we are not seeing. 'Apocolyptic' then has everything to do with social policy, in that it denies the prevailing 'empires' (what or who every they may be) the thing they desires most, the imaginations of their subjects.[2]

In this sense I take Paul to be an apocalyptic theologian, for as soon as Paul became convinced that in Christ's crucifixion and exaltation God had inaugurated the fulfillment of history, the delivery of the promises to Abraham, the return from exile, he understood his own role to be not simply the preaching of the 'good news' of that fulfillment. But also the organizing of communities and more specifically the imaginations of individuals within those communities upon the revolutionary ethic of the crucified Lord. [3]


N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 280-99.

[2] I am aware of the scholarly approaches and definitions of Apocalyptic and its cognates. My use of 'Apocalyptic' is, of course, in comparison rather basic and pragmatically suited to fit my discussion, and thus simply another construct. Precise definitions have still eluded scholars and continue to attract debate. See the informed discussion in, R. Barry Matlock, Unveiling the Apocalyptic Paul: Paul's Interpreters and the Rhetoric of Criticism (JSNTSup 127; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996). I like the notion of Paul's apocalyptic vision being akin to Edward Said's notion of 'decolonizing cultural resistance,' an alternative way of conceiving human history, so Said, Culture and Imperialism, 216. That being said it is not my contention that Paul was a proto-post-colonialist, but rather ironically, his gospel in its original setting was quite post-colonial. As John Howard Yoder reminds us 'Apocalyptic literature is written by and for the others.' John Howard Yoder. " Twenty Years Later: Translation of the Italian Epilogue in the Politics of Jesus." (Place Published, 1991), (accessed November 11, 2005).

[3] Horsley, "Imperial Biblical Studies," 165.


Alan S. Bandy said...

Apocalyptic is such a slippery term isn't it? You make some very good points.

metalepsis said...

Yea, no doubt, and when people say that it is the key to unlock Paul, you would at least expect them to be able to explain it!

my def. is pretty loose and fast, it allows a lot of room to wiggle.