Friday, January 21, 2011

Pilgrim's progress

My question then, is if indeed it was prophesied that the House of Israel would be taken into the 'wilderness' as part of the new covenant, after they were sifted through the nations [Isa 30:28,38][Amos 9:9][Jer 15:14][Jer 17:4], how do we distinguish biblically between descriptions of the final post-judgement 'heaven' and the historical location of the House of Israel's punishment?

i) Certain eschatological imagery carries over from the OT into the NT, including NT prophecy. Therefore, I don’t think it’s limited to the OT, or ethnic Jews.

Although stock imagery can be used to illustrate a specific situation, the imagery isn’t tied to that situation.

ii) There are fairly literal descriptions of the general resurrection, the resurrection of the just, and the resurrection of Christ (which is the prototype of our own). That’s an anchor for extrapolating certain features of the final state. For bodies don’t exist in a vacuum. They occupy space. A physical environment.

Moreover, Jesus could eat. Indeed, we’d expect a body to eat. The fact that a body is naturally immortal doesn’t mean you can’t starve to death if you don’t eat.

His glorified body retained scars. So that suggests a fairly high degree of continuity between his mortal and immortal body.

iii) And we’re talking about many embodied persons in fellowship. That implies a concrete, interactive environment.

iii) Metaphors are analogies. So analogies, to be meaningful, must have some literal counterpart.

Offhand it’s hard to see how certain eschatological motifs, like the restoration motif, can be meaningful without some essential continuity between the past and the future, to ground the analogy. Therefore, I think it’s probably valid to extrapolate from this life to the afterlife–as long as we make allowance for revealed discontinuities. 


  1. Steve said: "i) Certain eschatological imagery carries over from the OT into the NT, including NT prophecy. Therefore, I don’t think it’s limited to the OT, or ethnic Jews."

    Thanks very much for this post. It's interesting. What do you mean "ethnic Jews"?

    From at least 125 B.C. onwards, Edomites, who certainly were not Israelites, were "ethnic Jews". Herod the Great, Jewish King, for example, was an ethnic Jew, but was an Edomite rather than an Israelite (a goat rather than a sheep, say).

    Likewise, no Hebrew of the "House of Israel" was ever called a "Jew"; that being a term which originated in Babylon. The bulk of Israel were never "Jews".

    In fact, from the first appearance of the expression "Jew" in the Bible onwards, the "Jews" were at war with Israel. For example, [2 Kings 16:6 KJV] shows the Jews (under Ahaz, King of Judah) was at war with Israelites (under Pekah, king of Israel), and [2 Kings 25:25 ESV] is confined to the House of Judah only by [2 Kings 25:22].

    So it makes sense from [2 Kings 16:6] to every point afterwards, in order to recognize prophetic fulfillment of the House of Israel, we cannot look to the history of the Jews since the two are not the same, and Jewish history, includes the Edomites.

    Or do you not distinguish between "Hebrew Israelite", "Judean" and "Jew"?

    Regardless, Jesus certainly does not appear to be speaking figuratively in either [Matt 10:6] or [Matt 15:24].

    In [Luke 15:4-6] where he is speaking figuratively, it does not seem to be a metaphor, given the pharisees comment in [John 7:35]

    I completely agree with what you say in iii. above, however I still think the question remains open, of whether something should be taken as literal historically, or figurative, and indeed whether there aren't some things taken to be eschaton where they should be taken as historically literal (I always favour literal).

  2. You continue to commit the word-concept fallacy. Bone up on basic lexical semantics.

  3. We're talking about prophecies that apply to a historical people. Terms denoting historical people are seldom ambiguous in common usage.

    For your benefit, the post above "boned up on" the basic lexical semantics of the Bible's historical people to which prophecy applies.

    Mis-using biblical ethnographic terms such as "ethnic Jew" to denote Israelite, or Judean, fails to appreciate the distinct and unrelated meanings of the bible's ethnographic terms is a fine-example of a word-concept fallacy (since it projects onto a word an incorrect meaning).

    However, it would be beneficial to everyone if you could highlight where I've inappropriately applied meaning to a word in our discussion.