Daily Archives: 2010-04-03 15:22:58 GMT+0000

Failed prophecies — forgotten or reinterpreted?

Just a quick thought. I am still attempting to get a handle on how scholars treat the “Little Apocalypse” of Mark 13 and its counterparts in Matthew and Luke. Most recently I have been reading Theissen’s attempts to link it with the “Caligula crisis” of 40 ce.

I hear often enough that it matters not that the prophecy never “came true” as expected, since religious groups are never put off by their failures but always reinterpret them. They maintain their faith in them, we are told, and set them for another time in the near future.

But that’s not quite true. I know that the Seventh Day Adventists and other groups have a long list of failed prophecies that they have swept under their carpets. They are not reinterpreted. They go out of print and into the black hole of forgotten details that “never happened.”

What is reinterpreted is some classic or canonical prophecy that is an established pillar of their texts or prophetic visions. So today religious groups continue to reinterpret Mark 13 and Revelation in the light of whatever is happening today. But when they get too daring and say something that is proved false, that prophetic interpretation is dropped. The European Common Market was to emerge in 1972 or 1975 as the great Beast power at one point. That is forgotten, but Revelation and Daniel still hold centre stage for these prophecy buffs.

But in the case of Mark 13, this was a new text. If it was created in 40 ce as Theissen and others argue, then why on earth was it not as quietly dropped from view as a prophecy that 1972 or 1975 was to mark the beginning of the Great Tribulation II? It did not have the canonical status to have any staying power.

No doubt there is much I don’t understand about this. But I do not understand the argument usually offered. Why was it kept in the church if it indeed was a predicting an imminent threat to the Temple in Jerusalem in either 40 or 70 ce?

I have other suspicions about the prophecy, but I also want to know if there really is something I’m missing with the standard rationalization.

I just don't get it!
Image by larryosan via Flickr

Dying to Win. What Makes Chechen Women So Dangerous?

Robert Pape, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, has analyzed suicide bombings internationally since the 1980s. In Dying to Win he demonstrates that the earliest case of modern suicide terrorism was carried out by mixtures of Islamists, Christians and Socialists without any particular allegiance to religion in Lebanon. In Sri Lanka many were Buddhists. It is not restricted to any particular religion. The cause was in every case political and national. Religion might help some muster a Dutch courage to carry out those missions, but it might just as often restrain many others from surrendering their lives through such an act. Pape’s latest discussion (co-authored) of Chechen suicide bombings in the New York Times adds to this case. An easier-to-read form of this article can be read on InformationClearingHouse.info.

Dr Jim hits the nail on the head whenever he trashes Richard Dawkins’ too-often “pretty pathetic” [Link //drjimsthinkingshop.com/about/ and blog is no longer active… Neil, 23rd Sept, 2015] treatment of religion. I love a lot of how Dawkins handles religion, but as Dr Jim has put it, he can also show himself up as not really understanding “the humanity” (too busy focussed on “the stupidity of it”). Ditto for Sam Harris. Discussed something like this once before.

Simplistic discussions like these do not contribute to the most constructive way to remove this threat.

Reviewing The Burial of Jesus

Sabio Lantz is reviewing in detail The Burial of Jesus, by James McGrath. Because it sets out James’ approach to his historical method I have referred to it a few times (I also addressed its section on Joseph of Arimathea). See The Burial of Jesus: a review.

(I had overlooked that it is self-published. I wonder if McGrath has copped the same flack as Doherty has for “vanity publishing” one of his books.)