Larry Hurtado has roused blogospheric attention with his adverse evaluation of the N.T. Wright’s unconventional interpretation of what the early Church believed about the “second coming” of Jesus.
The Bishop of Durham has broached the idea before but Hurtado’s criticism his directed towards the relatively recent (2013) Paul and the Faithfulness of God. Wright contends that Paul’s teaching that God’s Spirit dwelt in the Church as his Temple could only mean one thing among Jews of Second Temple days: God had returned to dwell on earth with his people. God’s Temple was once again filled with the Glory of God. God, YHWH, had returned to his people in Jesus who was vindicated after the resurrection and that same YHWH now shed his glory on earth in the lives of the saints. Christ is the first to be resurrected and the rest of his brethren will be raised at his final appearance from heaven (the parousia). The (extended) day of that resurrection is now, but God’s promise to return to his people and dwell among them was fulfilled when he came in Jesus and continues now that he lives in his earthly temple, the church. This final event is merely seen as the completion of the renewal that has begun with Christ’s resurrection. Thus there is no “second” coming: God has fulfilled his promise to come to live with his people now.
Hurtado will have none of it. Christians (like Hurtado) are still waiting for the second coming just as Paul really taught their original generation. So deep is this belief furrowed into the mind of the conservative scholar that any contrary view must be bereft of all supporting evidence.
My own piece is a critical study of Wright’s claim that the earthly ministry of Jesus was seen from the first as YHWH’s “return to Zion,” . . . .
I judge his claims faulty, unsupported by the evidence.
Hurtado maintains that the long promised return of YHWH to Zion will be fulfilled in the second coming of Jesus. It was not fulfilled in his first visit.
(I am singling out only part of the contention in this post. For Wright, the early belief that YHWH’s return is fulfilled in the Church is linked to the belief in YHWH visiting Israel in Jesus, and in Jesus’ resurrection, to explain why Jesus was worshiped by the earliest Christians. Wright argues that Hurtado’s own thesis for explaining early Christ worship — the experience of revelatory visions — is less satisfactory than his own.)
Here is where it gets interesting. On informing his readers that Wright’s claim is “unsupported by the evidence”, Hurtado proceeds to demonstrate why Wright’s case has no support and why his own interpretation does:
What I see is that the earliest use of the OT theme of YHWH’s return to Zion/Israel, in Paul’s letters (our earliest texts), posits that it is in Jesus’ “second coming” (parousia) that this is fulfilled. See, e.g., the use of such imagery in 1 Thessalonians 3:13, where Jesus will come (again) “with all his holy ones” (μετά πάντων τῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ), which seems to draw this phrasing from Zechariah 14:5 (one of the “YHWH’s return” passages). For further analysis of the NT appropriation of this theme, see Edward Adams, “The ‘Coming of God’ Tradition and Its Influence on New Testament Parousia Texts,” in Biblical Traditions in Transmission: Essays in Honour of Michael A. Knibb, ed. Charlotte Hempel and Judith M. Lieu (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 1-19.
Surely it would be difficult to find a clearer example of inability to read the Bible. Even the most learned cannot set aside the presuppositions of their own faith when they read.
Hurtado knows that the plain words of the Scriptures he quotes do not make it clear that in the writings of Paul Jesus is said to be coming “again”, a “second” time. He knows that he has to insert those “clarifying” words into the original text to convince readers he is right. We must assume that Hurtado cannot believe that the words he reads mean anything other than what he knows he must add to explain their “true” meaning to his readers.
Yet without those words that he consciously adds he must suspect that some readers will indeed see that the plain unadorned evidence does truly support N.T. Wright’s case all along.
It is Wright’s case that has the evidence; it is Hurtado’s claims that are “unsupported by the evidence”.
Larry Hurtado’s post: https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/yhwhs-return-of-zion/
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