Eschatology Week: The Two Witnesses, Redux

Surely it comes to no surprise to you, my gentle snowflakes, that Eschatology Week at The Voice of Stefan carries on in spite jarring chronological gaps and every indication that the subject has been, at last, exhausted. Just as the millennial turn in every imaginable calendar fans the flames of apocalyptic speculation, so the dawn of a New Year redirects our attention to end-times contemplationparticularly in view of the prophetic events that unfolded yesterday.

Given the winds of eschatological fulfillment, I was pleased to learn that my earlier post in which I irrefutably established the identity of the Two Witnesses of Revelation, chapter 11, verses 3 through 12, caught the attention of the anonymous titan of prophetic study who, alas, came so close to the mark but sadly missed it. (You might recall, of course, that our estimable colleague came to the regrettably mistaken conclusion that the Two Witnesses are John Lennon and Paul McCartneya remarkably close guess, given that, as we saw earlier, these are actually to be identified with Simon and Garfunkel.) Well, a couple of weeks ago, a fine gentleman writing under the assumed name of “Jacob” left a comment on my earlier post alerting me to the fact that, in the ultimate display of altruism, he has now made available his painstaking research on this subject in the form of an e-book, which may be accessed at the following address:

http://thegoodguise.wordpress.com

I encourage one and all to acquaint themselves thoroughly with this breathtaking study, which can only broaden your hermeneutical horizons and enrich your understanding of North American popular eschatology.

No, seriously, I mean it.

While Jacob’s conclusion is, to say the least, hermeneutically impossible, the way he arrives at it is methodologically indistinguishable from that which undergirds much of North American popular eschatological thought (or, as I often call it, “sci-fi eschatology”). This sort of “futuristic historicism” is not exclusive to Jacob, or even the likes of Jack Van Impe: only peruse the popular titles by such Dallas Seminary luminaries Charles Ryrie (The Final Countdown), John Walvoord (Armaggedon, Oil and Terror), and Charles Dyer (The Rise of Babylon). No one, then, can mockingly single out Jacob for his conclusions without calling into question the hermeneutically dubious eschatology of a majority of North American Evangelicals, and beyond them, of many other North Americans who for reasons which elude me embrace one or more of the tenets of “sci-fi eschatology.”

One further thing that piqued my interest. Jacob states the following in the epilogue to his book:

I was raised Lutheran but now have no affiliation with any denomination. I now commune directly with Jesus Christ.

Which is to say that he, and therefore also his eschatology, is independent from any community of faith, and therefore (just like many in the academy!) stands outside the “hermeneutical circle.” In this connection, would all do well to take constantly keep in mind what our good friend Jim West wrote only a little earlier today:

Bible instruction belongs in the community of faith [….]. In the community of faith there are controls. Outside of it, there are none. And that is precisely the sort of situation where dilettantism is spawned and hatched.

2 responses to “Eschatology Week: The Two Witnesses, Redux

  1. Hello Estaban,

    How are you doing? Jacob here; I just wanted to let you know that I read your post and my first impression is ‘wow, what I would give to see you talking face to face with the two witnesses’.

    Other than that, I would just like to point out that you seem more interested in me than the two witnesses, which I find very interesting. Also, as I read this post I couldn’t help but recall that Jesus states in so many words that in the end he will confound the teachers and reward the little children.

    Anyway, I know you are determined to ignore the two witnesses but in the end they will be acknowledged and their message(s) will be acted upon so that Revelation 12 and 13 can properly come to pass.

    Well, continue on down the road you are on as you are so sure that it is the correct one. I myself had no preconceptions at all regarding the two witnesses prior to identifying them and their prophecies. It seems that this variable is proving to be quite important in the overall scheme of things.

    Take care and I wish you the best. I am appearing on a radio talk show tonight so that I can talk about the two witnesses. Perhaps you will be able to find out which station in time to call in and give me a good going over. Please be sure to use words like ‘eschatological’ and ‘hermeneutical’ when you call if you want to stump me because I have no idea whatsoever what those words mean, nor do I view an understanding of them a requirement for a person to get close to Jesus Christ. Do you?

    I’ll leave you with some words directly from the two witnesses to ponder and soundly refute, enjoy!

    “Jesus was alright, but it was the disciples that muddied everything up”

    Jacob

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  2. Jacob> When I come across words I don't understand, I simply consult a dictionary (general or specialized). As per Merriam-Webster:

    Main Entry: her·me·neu·tic
    Pronunciation: \ˌhər-mə-ˈnü-tik, -ˈnyü-\
    Function: noun
    Date: 1737

    1 plural but sing or plural in constr : the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of the Bible)
    2: a method or principle of interpretation

    Main Entry: es·cha·tol·o·gy
    Pronunciation: \ˌes-kə-ˈtä-lə-jē\
    Function: noun
    Inflected Form(s): plural es·cha·tol·o·gies
    Etymology: Greek eschatos last, farthest
    Date: 1844

    1: a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind
    2: a belief concerning death, the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humankind ; specifically : any of various Christian doctrines concerning the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, or the Last Judgment

    My interest is not in you personally, but rather on the hermeneutics that underlies your conclusions–yes, because like it or not, you (like everyone else!) have a set of presuppositions about how to read and determine the meaning of the Biblical text, which informs and shapes your method of interpretation and conclusions. This is, I think, what is most interesting: to read between the lines, as it were, to see how interpreters of all kinds read the Bible how they do. There may be good hermeneutics and bad hermeneutics, but no reader of the Bible can claim not to have any. And good interpreters of the Bible are always looking to understand their own preconceptions so that they can evaluate them in the light of the Scriptures and plain old common sense.

    As for the use of technical words, of course, all disciplines have them. They function as a shorthand of sorts that facilitate communication on a subject. Thus, when I say "eschatology," I can use a single word to mean "the Christian doctrines concerning the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, or the Last Judgment" without having to write all that every time. My readership is, by and large, acquainted with such terms, and so I use them freely. Further, note that the Bible itself uses scores of such technical terms: Gospel, salvation, justification, sanctification, grace, law, covenant, kingdom, etc. These terms are all "shorthand" choke-full with meaning, and require precise and extended definitions.

    Again, I believe your hermeneutics ("theory and method of interpretation") are simply not sound, but I did not refute a single point of your argument. I have no interest whatsoever in polemics; I am far more interested in observing how people read the Bible (especially as regards eschatology ["the doctrine of the end-times"]) and what their reading reveals about their preconceptions regarding the nature and meaning of the Biblical text.

    I hope your program went well. I once heard a radio program where a guest shared his theory that a spaceship had settled atop a nearby mountain and that aliens were amongst us, and several (and I do mean, several) people called to support him and say they had long believed the exact same thing. My point is this: I would not be surprised to hear that you found out that there were others out there who have reached similar conclusions!

    All the best,
    Esteban

    Like

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