Reviews of

Eschatologie – Eschatology

In Ben Sira, Christof LANDMESSER, Eschatology, Hans-Joachim ECKSTEIN, Hermann LICHTENBERGER, Michael J. Thate, Mohr Siebeck on February 4, 2012 at 8:07 am

2012.02.03 | Hans-Joachim Eckstein, Christof Landmesser and Hermann Lichtenberger (eds.), Eschatologie – Eschatology: The Sixth Durham-Tübingen Research Symposium: Eschatology in Old Testament, Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (Tübingen, September, 2009) (WUNT I 272; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011).

Reviewed by Michael J. Thate, Durham University.

RBECS would like to thank Mohr Siebeck for kindly providing us with a review copy. You can find RBECS on facebook, here.

There has been an ongoing fruitful partnership between the Theology Faculties of Durham University and Tübingen University. The partnership is, in part, a product of the friendship of C. K. Barrett and Ernst Käsemann. The first official symposium took place in 1988 in commemoration of the 50th year of Adolf Schlatter’s death under the theme “Paulus und das antike Judentum.” The history of this partnership is detailed in Hermann Lichtenberger’s “Zur Geschichte der Durham-Tübingen-Symposien” (pp. 361–64). The Durham / Tübingen Symposium has produced six volumes of the proceedings of this symposium, with the current volume under discussion, Eschatologie – Eschatology, being the most recent product of this collaboration.

Not counting the Geschichte der Durham-Tübingen-Symposien, there are nine articles from German scholars from the Tübingen Theology Faculty, and seven essays from the Faculties of Durham, Dublin, Aberdeen and Cambridge. They consist of historical, exegetical and hermeneutical studies on the broad concept of eschatology and notions of finality within the sphere of the temporary. The essays are broken into five main sections: Old Testament and Early Jewish Writings (pp. 3–87); Gospels (pp. 91–169); Paul (pp. 173–246); Early Christian Writings (pp. 249–302); and Historical and Systematic Approaches (pp. 305–59).

Bernd Janowski’s chapter on the animal eschatology of Isa 11:6–9, “Der Wolf und das Lamm” (pp. 3–18), is an intriguing investigation into the textual history and theological implications of Isaiah 11:6–9 within the divergent ideas about the eschatological age. Janowski sets out the problematics of the text, and then proceeds in explicating der Tierfrieden through a close reading of the contextual setting, linguistic nuances, as well as the heilsgeschichtlichen Perspektive (p. 18) of the passage.

Lutz Doering’s essay, “Urzeit-Endzeit in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Pseudepigrapha” (pp. 19–58), builds upon the importance of Urzeit-Endzeit correlations in the Hebrew Bible and NT. It is from this groundwork which he forays into its “occurrence and profile in the Pseudepigrapha and the Dead Sea Scrolls as a significant part of ancient Jewish literature and an important literary and traditio-historical context for emergent early Christianity” (p. 22). Doering limits his investigation of Urzeit-Endzeit correspondence to four different types: first, the use of flood imagery within eschatological expectation; second, varied expectations of an eschatological temple as the restored Eden; third, eschatological formulations of restored Eden within a community; and, fourth, within the messianic reign and transformation of the cosmos.

Anna Maria Schwemer looks at the Promise Land in early Jewish eschatological expectation and early Christian mission in Syria (pp. 59–87). The chapter is an intriguing investigation into the role of Abraham and the promises given to him within the imaginary of Jewish self-understanding and early Christian mission. In particular, emphasis is given to Paul and how the “[das Land Abrahams wurde für ihn universalisiert” (p. 86). It was this Universalisierung which corresponds to eschatological understandings of varying apocalyptic traditions which Paul draws on for his missional strategies and theology.

The next three chapters engage with eschatological concerns within the Gospels. Jens Adam looks at Markan eschatology through the rubric of Jesus’ Leidensankündigungen (pp. 91–124). Adam argues that these pronouncements not only function as oracles of the ‘beginning of the end’ but also the ‘end of the beginning.’ Martin Bauspiess follows with an essay on the eschatological themes within Luke/Acts with respect to the presence of salvation (pp. 125–48). Particularly helpful is his brief survey of Lukas-Forschung (pp. 125–29) and a thematic reading of eschatology within Lukan theology (pp. 143–48). Hans-Joachim Eckstein rounds off the Section with an essay on the contested issue of Johannine eschatology (pp. 149–69).

The next Section on Paul contains four essays: Christof Landmesser and the complexities of Paul’s theology of eschatology and issues of development (pp. 173–94); John M. G. Barclay and matters of grace and recompense with respect to believers and the last judgment (pp. 195–208); Friederike Portenhauser and a kind of anthropological analysis of early Christian experience on the basis of 2 Cor 5:17 (pp. 209–28); and another essay by Christof Landmesser on eschatology in Galatians and Romans (pp. 229–46). Noteworthy amongst this Section is Barclay’s reworking of worn discussions of grace. Within the milieu of Graeco-Roman social economy, notions of gift relations (as opposed to mere relations of economy) are read across Paul’s soteriology (pp. 203–08).

The fourth Section of essays contains three essays on early Christian literature—or, more accurately, two essays on the Apocalypse and one on the Gospel of Thomas. Benjamin G. Wold presents the first essay on the literary function of the Exodus Plagues within the Apocalypse (pp. 249–66). Wold argues that “the plagues would have been understood as part of the saints’ exodus from exile in ‘Babylon’ and that this motif is interwoven with notions related to restoration” (p. 249). Hermann Lichtenberger follows with further reflections on eschatology within Revelation with respect to explicating the temporal puzzles of Rev. 1:1 (pp. 267–79). Lichtenberger’s essay is informed by keen exegesis and theological sensitivity (e.g., [d]ie historische Nichterfüllung kann kein Beweis für ihre grundsätzliche Nichterfüllung sein [p. 279]). The final essay of this section by Simon Gathercole explores the complicated issues of eschatology (or lack thereof) in Thomas (pp. 280–302). He suggests that despite initial diversity, the eschatology of Thomas is actually quite “coherent”: viz., “a future dissolution of the cosmos which will leave unchanged the ultimate realities which are already present” (p. 302).

The fifth and final Section explores various historical and systematic approaches to eschatology. Stephen C. Barton offers a powerful meditation and investigation on the practical implications of the resurrection with a “Particular Reference to Death and Dying in Christ” (pp. 305–30). Francis Watson follows with an essay on the reception of Schweitzer, “the founding father and patron saint of twentieth century historical Jesus scholarship,” in English (pp. 331–47). Watson provides an interesting exposition of the way in which the translation of Schweitzer into English has dominated the imagination of subsequent historical Jesus scholarship. He also compares Schweitzer’s eschatology with Weiss, Modern Theology, and Wrede. Though I think his Schweitzer is painted too consistently(!) with respect to, e.g., his views of human agency and the arrival of the kingdom of God—he does seem to say both at the same time in places—the essay is a massive corrective in much of Schweitzerian studies and alteration for the program of the so-called quest of historical Jesus. The final essay by Philip G. Ziegler, “Eschatological Dogmatics—To What End?” (pp. 348–59), explores the thought of Gerhard Forde as an entrée into a resurgent eschatological dogmatics which resists the seeming evacuation of genuine transcendence in some regimes of historicism.

As a publication of proceedings from a Symposium there is, naturally, an uneven feel to an investigation of eschatological dynamics and currents within biblical, theological, and historical perspective—e.g., can two essays on Revelation and one on Thomas really account for Frühchristliche Schriften? What is more, the social and historical contingencies which led to the construction of eschatology as discourse within the imaginary of eighteenth and nineteenth century German academy is only hinted at throughout the volume. But such a critique is off-base when the volume is read as a collection of essays—each with their own sizable contributions to make.

Michael J. Thate
Durham University
m.j.thate [ at ]


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