Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hermeneutics: "Apocalyptic"

Tonight, or early tomorrow as the case may be, I will finish N.T. Wright's tremendous book The New Testament and the People of God. This 400 page magnum opus serves as his introduction to Jesus and the Victory of God, and its magnificence is hard to overemphasize. It reinterprets everything from the Pharisees to the Macabaeans and Hasmoneans, and all done exegetically, soberly, conservatively, and eruditely. Of all the books that I have read in my NSA career, this one has been the most illuminating (save perhaps Capon's eloquence upon the onion) and the most paradigmatically momentous. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Among all of this brilliance, he has a magnificent throw-away paragraph on the exegeting of Apocalyptic literature:

"We do this all the time ourselves. I have often pointed out to students that to describe the fall of the Berlin Wall, as one well might, as an 'earth-shattering' event might perhaps lead some future historian, writing in the Martian Journal of Early European Studies, to hypothesize that an earthquake had caused the collapse of the Wall, leading to both sides realizing they could live together after all. A good many readings of apocalyptic literature in our own century operate on about that level of understanding."

N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, page 282: Part III: First-Century Judaism

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