Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Resurrection and the Parousia

We’ve been talking a lot lately about the resurrection. So here’s a related quote from the best book ever written on the meaning of resurrection – Karl Barth’s commentary on Romans. In this passage, Barth is talking about the relation between resurrection and the Parousia:

“Will there never be an end of all our ceaseless talk about the delay of the Parousia? How can the coming of that which does not enter in ever be delayed? The End of which the New Testament speaks is no temporal event, no legendary ‘destruction’ of the world; it has nothing to do with any historical, or ‘telluric’, or cosmic catastrophe. The end of which the New Testament speaks is really the End; so utterly the End, that in the measuring of nearness or distance our nineteen hundred years are not merely of little, but of no importance; so utterly the End that Abraham already saw the Day – and was glad…. Who shall persuade us to transform our expectation of the End – the ‘Moment’ when the living shall be changed and the dead shall be raised, and both shall stand together before God (1 Cor. 15:51-52) – into the expectation of a coarse and brutal spectacle? Who, when this spectacle is quite rightly delayed, shall be able to lull us comfortably to sleep by adding at the conclusion of Christian Dogmatics a short and perfectly harmless chapter entitled – ‘Eschatology’?”

—Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans (London: Oxford University Press, 1933), p. 500.

7 Comments:

Christian said...

I like Barth's tone in this quote but I'm not sure of his terminology

"The End of which the New Testament speaks is no temporal event"

Can I provide a counter-quote?(!) Here's Gunton on Irenaeus:

"Eschatology for him is not oriented primarily to another world that is temporally and spatially discontinuous with this one, but to that eternity wherein lies the perfecting of the created order...If the order of time is the order of imperfection, it is not due to its ontological inferiority but for two reasons: first its fallenness, and second....as created..[and] in its temporal nature...it must be perfected in and through time, by the action of the creator of time"
(apologies for the editorial butchering!)

Yes, the End will be reached all of a sudden in way that will dominate the interim. But surely God won't remove time from its timeness, only bring it to completion.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben, I am wondering if Barth would agree with you that the Romans commentary (second edition) is the best book ever written on the meaning of the resurrection. He developed his stringent eschatology for this commentary to overcome misunderstandings arising around his treatment of the theme in the first edition. Famously, he later offered a correction (though not a retraction) of Romans generally - would his later correction have included the manner in which he structured his account of the resurrection in the commentary?

Michael.

kim fabricius said...

The whole passage - before and after too - with its relentless, breathless accumulation of interrogatives, a veritable rhetorical Maranatha! - well, whatever Barth was on, I want some too.

A more measured but also compelling reflection "on what the raising of the crucified and rejected Jesus does to the human spirit and imagination" is Rowan Williams' Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel (sec. ed. 2002).

Ben Myers said...

Michael, you're right: Barth's views continued to develop over time, and he often distanced himself (sometimes quite sharply) from certain aspects of the commentary on Romans. But Barth's own moments of self-interpretation are often highly misleading: he tends to exaggerate (or even misread) the changes in his own thinking, often because his self-critique is driven by specific polemical agendas, e.g., the need to distance himself from early colleagues like Bultmann and Gogarten.

Alex said...

Great quote Christian! Can you tell me what Gunton book that came from? Also, if you know what Iranaeus work(s) he referring to, can you share that too?

Christian said...

Gunton's book is The One, the Three and the Many .

I'm not sure which Irenaeus work, but I imagine his views of time and creation come across in his main one: Against Heresies . Just finished reading the Gunton book, and Irenaeus gets a big thumbs up all the way through.

Dave Belcher said...

Ben, you may be right that Barth tends to exaggerate estimations of his own development, but surely you wouldn't deny that there is not a stark contrast between the kind of "tangential" eschatology you have pointed to in Romerbrief and his later "parable" eschatology?

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