I don’t post often enough on my current research area, the historical study of Jesus, so I’m glad when a conversation turns my thoughts (and my blogging) in that direction.
A recent comment mentioned one of the classic arguments for an ‘apocalyptic’ Jesus – i.e. one that proclaimed the imminent ‘end of the world’. The argument is that it makes little sense to have an apocalyptic John the Baptist, followed by a non-apocalyptic Jesus, followed by an apocalyptic early Church.
I’ve started thinking that perhaps Jesus may have grown more apocalyptic than his mentor over time. John predicts one who is coming who will carry out judgment. Is that necessarily an apocalyptic vision of the future? It involves God, but does it involve the end of history as known up until that point?
I wonder whether John did not expect something to happen within history by human players with God’s aid, rather than a climactic divine intervention that would bring human history to a close. Jesus’ action in the temple, if it was carried out during the period before John was imprisoned as the Gospel of John suggests, might have been an action he undertook while still under the auspices of John’s ministry, delivering, as it were, a message from his mentor.
After this, and after John is imprisoned (perhaps because of the stir one of his disciples had created by doing this), we might envisage Jesus withdrawing to Galilee and finding himself interacting with people who didn’t meet John’s righteous standards, but impressed him nevertheless as more open to God and to change than many of the religious leaders, who were not enamoured with John and his message. As a result of this, and of increasing activity as an exorcist, Jesus becomes persuaded that the time has come not simply for a radical change in the direction of Jewish history, but the end of history itself.
These are just some thoughts and speculations at this stage. I present them here not as a statement of conclusions I have drawn, but in the hope that they will promote discussion (which may in turn help me to draw conclusions!)