In my book on Revelation I am planning to contrast the violence and wrath of God there with what we find in the teachings of Jesus. It would be easy but too simplistic to paint an obvious contrast: unlike John (the author of Revelation) Jesus believed in love and so was opposed to violence. It is certainly true that he was, at least on one level (as we’ll see). Jesus did not only think his followers should not be violent against one another, but also not against their enemies, not even the Romans. But the same can probably be said about the book of Revelation. It also does not urge the followers of Jesus to engage in violence. The massive destructions that take place on earth in the book are sent from heaven.
And Jesus too thought a massive destruction was to be sent from heaven. So, well, what’s the difference? That will be the complicated issue.
To understand the views of destruction of both Jesus and the prophet John, I need to situate them in their broader context. Both of them were deeply indebted to the Jewish world view I have discussed a number of times before on the blog, Jewish “apocalypticism.” This would be a good time to discuss it again, both for those have heard it before, but whose memories are as sieve-like as mine, and for those who weren’t around yet for all those years of previous blog fun.
Jewish apocalypticism was a very common view in Jesus’ day – it was the view of the Essenes who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, of the Pharisees, of John the Baptist, later of the Apostle Paul – and almost certainly of Jesus. This is a widely-held view among critical scholars – by far the majority view for over a century, since the writings of none other than Albert Schweitzer.
What did early Jewish apocalypticists believe? Let me break it down into four component themes. I have drawn this discussion from my textbook on the New Testament.
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