Here is a newspaper report and interview with Harold Camping:Washington Post article
The thing that people seem to be feeling bad about is that some gullible individuals got duped. I am sympathetic with the mild compassion. But I think that there is something far more sinister and devastating that we should be piping mad about and are justified in mocking (or at least being cynical about).
I remember in 1988 and 1991 people dropping out of the Bible College that my dad taught at to go home and ‘save’ their family and friends…. also no sense in racking up credits for a degree you are never going to finish! Look – until we stop all this mumbo jumbo stuff, the newer folks are going to continue to get duped.
I was shocked last week at how many Christians said things like “well – Camping is mostly right, this stuff will all happen, its just that we don’t know the day or hour.”
SO basically (as it has been presented to me)
- Thinking all this stuff will happen on May 21 = crazy.
- Thinking all this will happen but we don’t know when = acceptable.
I was raised to read the Bible this fantastical way. But I noticed that even knowing a little bit about the 5 centuries before Christ and the 2 after quickly made reading the Bible that way nearly impossible.
Reading the Bible in this ‘dispensational’ way – or what is called the “mountain tops” view of history – is not really faithful to the text or historically accurate. It is based on linear view of time, a literal reading of the text, and sketchy view of history.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Apocalyptic literature is not to be read like a newspaper or a contract. It is a different genre. If we don’t know how to read the Apocalyptic narrative then we do odd things with the details of the text in Daniel, Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation.
If we have hope for the future, if we believe that Jesus is ‘coming back’ – for me, it has far more to do with the resurrection than it does with the prophecy passages of Scripture.
Check out Tripp Fuller’s video about the resurrection.
Here is N.T. Wright in a 2001 article “Farewell to the Rapture” where he says:
“Paul’s mixed metaphors of trumpets blowing and the living being snatched into heaven to meet the Lord are not to be understood as literal truth, but as a vivid and biblically allusive description of the great transformation of the present world of which he speaks elsewhere.”
May 23, 2011 at 10:06 pm
So true, Bo. “It didn’t happen Saturday, but it’ll happen someday,” just doesn’t cut it. We need completely new categories.
May 23, 2011 at 10:12 pm
Time out! Did you cop-and-paste from this to my wall, or from my wall to this? You are such a conversational cheater Bo.
I’ll push back a little on this one. While it is certainly justifiable to be cynical about doomsday predictions, our response to those who were duped has to come from a compassionate place. The jokes don’t bring people toward a more rich understanding of Biblical genre and scholarship, it alienates them from ever wanting to speak with us about it. I say this as a joke-first pastor who dropped a joke or two about it yesterday in front of the congregation without thinking it through first.
My queries are: what are we mocking, the ideas or the people? And, will they be able to tell the difference?
We can push back against this way of reading the Bible in a compassionate manner that does not alienate those who fell prey to Harold Camping’s call.
May 23, 2011 at 10:41 pm
Yep. good distinction. and zhoag is right – new categories are the way to go about it.
June 28, 2011 at 1:23 am
I know we often criticize people for “literally” interpreting prophetic, poetic and apocalyptic literature. It goes against our modern hermeneutic.
But then I am amazed how much Jesus literally fulfilled during the time of the incarnation. His virgin birth was foretold by Isaiah 700 years before his birth. Some argue that the word can also be translated as “young girl” but when the Hebrews translated it into Greek about 200 years before Christ they used a word that can only mean virgin.
According to the Gospels, Jesus himself said repeatedly that he would suffer, die, and rise three days later. Luke says that the risen Christ explained that all these were written in advance. Jesus explained it all to them Luke says, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets.”
It’s amazing that we criticize people’s interpreting the rapture as literal when it is written in a didactic portion of scripture. It’s not in wisdom literature, not in prophetic or apocalyptic literature.
Those types of literature would expect to be interpreted more symbolically. But didactic literature is most likely to be, well, didactic.
One could tweak Wright’s quote to say that the OT is filled with “mixed metaphors of virgins, sufferings, redemption and resurrections and are not to be understood as literal truth, but as a vivid and biblically allusive description of….”
But it seems to me that so far the OT prophecies, whether they are found in the prophets, or poetry, wherever, have been fulfilled literally.
I’m not a dispensationalist, but I do believe that the eschaton is a still future event. Jesus will come to “put things right” as NT Wright says.
We do need to engage our world today, to comfort those who suffer, and to promote justice and peace and reconciliation. But, I think all of our efforts will be incomplete, if you will.
Scripture talks about That Day which is yet to come when Jesus will appear and when death will be no more.
I think that this understanding is consistent with the teaching of scripture and the interpretations of most throughout church history.
It is also consistent with observations of the world around us. We still read obituaries every day. Natural disasters strike every day. People are diagnosed with awful medical conditions every day. Poverty is all around us. Governments are powerless to stop the economic down spin.
I think Jesus and only Jesus will put all these things right. I’m looking forward to that day.