One of the problems with the supernatural aspect of the Christian faith is that dull rationalists keep picking it apart complaining that there are inconsistencies, illogical statements impossibilities and just plain stupid stuff in the Bible.
Explaining the Biblical and religious language is not easy when the person is unschooled and inexperienced in a religious way of thinking. When the language at hand is prophetic language the task becomes even harder because by definition we’re dealing with language that is poetical, mystical and strange. It is often the language of dreams and poetry. It deals in symbols, signs and strange ambiguities. Time is bent, language is pushed to the extreme and imagery is wild and unpredictable.
To then try to explain such stuff to the literal minded critic is rather like explaining a poem to a dull boy who says, “Yeh, but how can your love be like a red, red rose ’cause girls don’t have thorns on them.”
Nevertheless, it is possible to make sense of the prophetic parts of Scripture. To do so, however, you need a good knowledge of the historical context, the prophet’s message and style, his audience and how they would have made sense of his message. The fundamentalist approach of reading the Books of Revelation and Daniels with yesterday’s newspaper sort of like Christian fortune tellers–doesn’t really cut it.
Half the reason rational critics dump Christianity into the trash compactor is because dumb Christians have taken a stupid approach to the most difficult passages of Scripture. One of the most notorious passages to deal with is Matthew 24:34 where Jesus is predicting the end of the world and he says “these generation will not pass away before these things come to pass.” Atheist Bertrand Russell said plainly that this prophecy had not come true, therefore Jesus was a false prophet and not the Son of God as claimed. Lutheran Bible scholar-missionary-musician Albert Schweitzer also thought the passage proved the fallible humanity of Jesus and even C.S.Lewis found attempts to “explain away” the passage to be problematic. Jesus was still the Son of God–but he had made a mistake.
What none of them had to hand were the exegetical skills of David Currie. Author of Born Fundamentalist–Born Again Catholic–Currie is now a research fellow at the St Paul Center of Biblical Theology. In What Jesus Really Said About the End of the World he takes us on a fascinating and detailed study of the difficult passage at hand. By explicating the historical context he shows how Jesus’ words referred at times to the events about to transpire in Jerusalem, and how the prophecies of Jesus were precise about the destruction of the temple and the Jewish Rebellion of 70 AD. Currie goes on to show that the sections of the passage which refer to the end of time are separate from the sections referring to the imminent Roman suppression of the Jewish revolt.
With expert analysis of the literary styles being used in Jesus’ words Currie shows how Jesus is echoing Old Testament prophets while at the same time weaving in current events, prophecies of events to happen within the disciples’ lifetime together with apocalyptic events at the end of time. It was a Jewish style to weave all three strands together into one prophetic statement–prophecy itself being a conflation of time and a compression of past, present and future events. Furthermore, Currie shows that this prophecy–far from disproving Jesus credentials–would have been one of the things which convinced the early Christians of the authenticity of Christ’s claims.
They, however, would have understood the complexities of the Jewish prophetic literary style. They would also have been living within the context of the prophecies and would have understood the code words, the symbols and the literary allusions completely. We need David Currie to interpret this for us, and he does an excellent job. This is a book all Christians who are interested in Biblical prophecy can appreciate. It validates Christ’s message and shows the New Testament to be far more complex and profound and full of unexpected detail than anyone expected. Currie explains it all and enlightens and inspires in the process.