The Direction of my Dissertation, Paul’s Inaugurated Eschatology, & N.T. Wright

The Direction of my Dissertation, Paul’s Inaugurated Eschatology, & N.T. Wright

I will be writing my dissertation on the subject of Pauline theology and eschatology. Loosely speaking, it will deal with the implications of a 70 CE Parousia for Paul’s Inaugurated Eschatology (obviously, not the official title).

Of course, I will need to spend a lot of time developing my thoughts on the possible inconsistencies, lacunas, etc. However, unless I have missed something major (and it is always possible), Tom Wright beginning with NTPG, primarily in JVG, and recently in PFG, continually emphasizes that Paul saw the eschatological program as having already begun in Jesus’ death and resurrection (i.e., partially realized or inaugurated eschatology). However, he also says that this same program would be “consummated” at Jesus’ Parousia. Still yet, he defines the Parousia as imagery for Jerusalem in 70 CE (as did Dick France and a few others). Therefore, it seems to me that Wright has placed the Cross of Christ and the Parousia of Christ in the same eschaton. For example, he has made the end of Israel’s exile, the restoration and resurrection of Israel, the establishment of the new covenant, and the establishment of the Kingdom—to be synchronous events with the Parousia (i.e., the coming of the Son of Man, Dan 7, Mk 13), and yet, simultaneously argues that both Jesus’ and Paul’s eschatology would consummate at the Parousia—which for him is 70 C.E.

It seems like a contradiction to posit the “already, but not yet” dimension of partially realized or inaugurated eschatology, and yet, simultaneously place it in the same eschaton as the Parousia. Either Paul’s “already and not yet” belongs to the same eschaton as the Parousia, which consummated in 70 C.E., or it is still ongoing. Either his eschatology is “partially” realized or “fully” realized (of course, demanding a change in the nature of ostensible realized events, e.g. a utopian kingdom).

Of course, a dissertation would involve much more than just critiquing Wright. And, I do think there is much more to his position than what I have said here, e.g. his position on the significance of the ascension in his definition of the Parousia in Mk 13 in its apocalyptic context (esp. the Danielic context, see, e.g. JVG chapter 8, esp. pages 339ff. and 360ff., cf Surprised by Hope chapter 8 and also the background material in NTPG chapter 10). Yet one must also consider whether the ‘coming’ described in Wright’s assessment of Jesus’ thought (which he connects to Daniel 7 and the events of 70 CE) is the same thing as the various statements about the return of Christ in Paul’s inaugurated eschatology!

Anyway, it was Wright’s position that initially got me to thinking in this direction for my dissertation.