Tuesday, November 11, 2014

For many will come in my name

For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray (Mt 24:5).
i) Commentators debate what this refers to. That depends in part on whether the commentator is a preterist, futurist, or idealist. 
ii) Traditionally, Protestants identified the pope (or papacy) as the Antichrist. This was prooftexted from 2 Thes 2 and Rev 13. 
I don't think those texts single out the papacy by any means. But in a more generic sense, the pope usurps the role of Christ. He presumes to be the "Vicar of Christ" and Alter Christus
iii) However, I'd like to consider a neglected angle. Let's begin by distinguishing between a personal Antichrist and a literary Antichrist. Every since the Enlightenment, there have been reconstructions of the "real Jesus." Reimarus, Strauss, and Renan are three earlier examples. 
Ever since, there's been a stream of reconstructed Christs, viz. E. P. Sanders, John Dominic Crossan, Dan Brown, Bart Ehrman, Reza Aslan, and–most recently–Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson. 
These are literary Christs. But to be more accurate, these are literary Antichrists. They attempt to replace the historical Christ, the Biblical Christ, with a substitute Jesus. Swap out the real Jesus and swap in an impostor. A fictional Jesus, whether by "scholars" or tabloid writers. 
iv) Moreover, this doesn't require rewriting the Gospels. It can just as well involve reinterpreting the Gospels. Take David Gushee's open and affirming Jesus. That's an Antichrist.
Without denying a personal Antichrist, we should be alert to the fact that people can be led astray by a literary Antichrist. They follow a Jesus of their own imagination. 

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