This Tuesday we are beginning our discussion of 2 Thessalonians with 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2:12. This letter continues Paul’s eschatological (end-times) focus that we saw in 1 Thessalonians. According to Paul, at the close of age, Jesus will come again. The Greek word used for “coming” is parousia. The Greek word means “personal presence” and was used to describe a royal visit. Usually, the emperor or governor visited a place via agents, emissaries, or heralds. However, when the governing official himself personally visited a place, that visitation was described as the coming (Parousia) of that official. This idea of Jesus’ intimate and imminent personal return was a hallmark of the teaching of the very early church. As we looked at last fall, Mark was the first of the four written gospels and the genre of Mark is apocalypticism. Mark reveals (Gk: apokalupsis) to us the cosmic battle between Jesus and the demons culminating in the Little Apocalypse of Mark 13 when the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus) personally returns to execute judgment and gather the elect. When we look at Paul’s later letters and the other Gospels (especially John, the last gospel written) we begin to see a deemphasizing of these apocalyptic visions.
The problem faced by the early church is that the Parousia didn’t immediately occur, not even when Romans razed Jerusalem in 70AD. I have attached an excerpt from Jaroslav Pelikan’s The Christian Tradition: Vol. 1, on “The Apocalyptic Vision and Its Transformation.” pp.123-32. Pelikan describes the church’s movement away from a literal and immediate understanding of the Parousia. For example, in the very earliest liturgies (such as the Didache c.125), the personal presence of Christ in the Parousia is seen as being fulfilled in the Eucharist itself. The coming of Jesus occurs in the Communion celebration, for then he becomes really and personally present. Ultimately, Pelikan tells us that creedal Christianity replaces an apocalyptic-oriented Christianity as “Par-ousia” is replaced by “Homo-ousia.” “Ousia” means “being.” “Par-“ is the prefix for “beside” and so “Parousia” means “beside being/person” and thus “personal presence.” “Homo-ousia” means one-being. And in the Creed, we affirm that the Son is of one-being (“homoousia”) with the Father. Therefore, Pelikan opines that the theology of the church shifted “from the categories of cosmic drama to those of being, from the Revelation of St. John the Divine to the creed of the Council of Nicea.” If you have the time and inclination (no outside reading is required) please read through the excerpt from Pelikan and see if you agree with his description of the Church’s transformation from and domestication of its eschatological understandings.
Dinner is at 6. Menu is Jambalaya. Discussion about 6:45. I will not be with you Tuesday. Fr. Ferebee will be leading the discussion. Please bring your difficult questions.
Remember, Lord, Your Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Your love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Your kingdom which You have prepared for it; for Yours is the power and the glory forever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David!Didache, Post-Communion Prayer