Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Apocalypse How

With this morning's study I was skimming the surface of apocalyptic as worldview and the concomitant historical and social context. The apocalyptic rose in the period beginning around the Babylonian exile of the Jewish elite around 570BCE to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans around 70CE. This directly influences the thought, language, and literature throughout this era. The cultural zeitgeist of apocalypticism and subsequent literature is one marked by the themes of crisis, secret knowledge, and a dispensational or periodized perspective.

What I find particularly interesting is that within rabbinic tradition following the destruction of Jerusalem the apocalyptic view fell out of favor and was rejected as a way of continued framing of cultural identity and understanding of their world. It only survived and proliferated because of the fledgling movement known then as "the way" which was the early followers of  the ethic of Jesus. They had taken interest in and appropriated it, obviously modified using more ethereal elements as it continued to frame their worldview. It is in this sense these ideas never had a true "Christian" origin.

Recently, within the stream of a seven year long theological discourse, and before beginning this overview, I had put forward the idea that the only reason that the strange language and beliefs unique to the ancient apocalyptic era still exist within the sub-culture of religion is because of it being mishandled by the reformers. So this is only partly true in that its roots go back much further. The hope within the second temple era seemed to be inextricably linked to an apocalyptic expression of messiah as a deus ex machina of violent redemption. That simply never was to be and was subversively redefined by the ethic and self-giving life and death of Jesus. The destruction of Jerusalem brought with it the deconstruction of the apocalyptic worldview from within Jewish rabbinical thought.

This new movement-followers of the way-was able to grasp-albeit in limited ways-the subversive aspect of the hope yet they did not critique and leave behind the apocalyptic cultural bias as did the more scholarly rabbinical groups. So apparently it seems then that those deeply knowledgeable of and acculturated to the Jewish "way" missed the subversive appearing of messiah while the multicultural-and largely illiterate-adopters of "the way" of Jesus were able to grasp this subversity yet were still adrift within a world of cultural ideas and hopes framed almost entirely by folklore and superstition.

This simply shows why there is need for a fully orbed faith. A faith that never turns its eyes and mind from reality in favor of embracing cultural or religious sub-cultural delusions. What is sometimes obvious to those who make a habit of broad study is missed by those who merely do devotions-by definition the antithesis of study-and participate in religious culture at large. Yet those participants can if not careful find themselves first on the margins, then at the center, of irrelevancy by not getting the mind in the game and working things out.

It doesn't require much thought to question whether something is true or not. An entirely more engaging question is to ask: "How is it true?"

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