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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: A Further Thought on the Odes of Solomon 
31st-Oct-2011 01:42 am
Famous Historian
Drat. I just realized that I ought to have highlighted more clearly the significance of The Odes of Solomon as evidencing a "realized eschatology," like the Gospel of John has, in the article being published in Vigiliae Christianae. Like John, and in contrast to earliest Christian literature, the Odes seem not to expect an immanent return of Jesus in a history-ending Day of Judgment, but rather to have reconsidered that Jewish apocalyptic idea and come to decide that the life of Jesus was and remains the great injection of God into human history: that the "Day of Judgment" is the encounter with the Messiah wherever and however that will now happen to people in a world where Jesus and his Holy Spirit are on the loose.

So is this going to be a dorky downside to life in academia: waking in the middle of the night, maybe years after the fact, with you brain still telling you to tweak this or that long-since-submitted piece of research?

I suppose the positive way to spin this is to start working on another article, devoted to that idea alone....
31st-Oct-2011 07:22 am (UTC)
This is one of those areas of Catholic and/or historical Christian doctrine that I know noooothing about. So that alone interests me. Are the Odes of Solomon considered, you know, orthodox? Or is this one of those grey areas? I know it comes from a rather separate tradition. In any case, we do say in the Creed that He will come again in glory to judge the quick and the dead...

Also I just have to say that my first reaction to this entry was: my grandparents would flip over this. I and my immediate family have always believed in a literal Second Coming and a Final Judgment (also, a new heavens and a new earth) in league with that, but never went any further in apocalyptic speculation. My grandparents, on the other hand, are straight-up pre-millenial dispensationalists. One of the first questions my grandma asked me in the year or so after I became Catholic, was whether Catholics believed in the Rapture. All I remember telling her is that the Rapture was not a part of the tradition, but Catholics of course believed in a literal Second Coming and the Resurrection and the new earth etc. She wasn't impressed. And I remember a year or so after I became Catholic, I suddenly realized that their coffee table was full of Israel My Glory (see: http://www.foi.org/img). I don't think I had realized before then what kind of role this Millenial stuff really had for them. And apparently the Friends of Israel organization really does identify modern Israel with "God's chosen national people" of the OT. See their statement of faith, if you scroll to the end (if you dare.)

The theology and the real-world politics it engenders make me cringe, but I can't be totally cynical about their very evangelical affection for Jewish people and Israel. My grandpa grew up in south-side Chicago in a heavily Jewish neighborhood, and his whole life he's viewed Jewish people with about the same respect and sense of divine destiny as orthodox Jewish people do themselves. Thus their impressive athletic skills (?!?), as he's mentioned to me. Also, while my grandparents do favor converted Jews like Jews for Jesus or even Messianic Jews, to still-Jewish Jews, it's never been very strongly stated. And I was basically converted to traditional Christianity through the books of Chaim Potok (orthodox and Hasidic Jews in New York...) so there's something there. I really think evangelicals are hungering for some kind of traditional religious sensibility, even if it's only a kind of projected nostalgia, and the only people they could reconcile with their sensibilities were the Jews. It's sweet, to me, somehow.

(Also one of the greatest revelations for me, in the past year, is that Chaim Potok said the reason he became a writer was because of reading Brideshead Revisited, when he was the same age that I was when I read his books. I went and found this quote: “I started to write when I was fourteen years old. I’ve been writing since I really was a kid. I wanted to write the day I finished reading a novel that really changed my life. It was a novel about upper-class British Catholics. … You won’t believe this story. Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. It absolutely changed my life. It was an extraordinary encounter with that novel. It was the first serious adult fiction I had ever read. I lived inside that book with more intensity than I lived inside my own world. It was the exact reverse of anything you would think would affect a nice Jewish boy in New York going to a Jewish parochial school. When I closed the book, I was overwhelmed by my relationship to that book. I remember asking myself, ‘What did he do to me? How do you do this kind of thing with words?’ That’s where my commitment to write began. It was really born - very concretely - out of that encounter, with that one book. And it lasted.” This literally blows my mind. I'm not kidding when I say that Potok's books changed my life and were the first great shift towards my becoming Catholic. It just stuns me!)

Sorry this got so wildly off topic! Did you ever read Chaim Potok?
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