1-2 Thessalonians and the Olivet Discourse

To download the entire article with footnotes click here: Shogren_1 Thess 2 Thess and the Olivet Discourse

How can we sketch out the outline of Christian eschatology from the years AD 40-50s and earlier? The Thessalonian epistles provide the clearest, datable data. The Thessalonians learned their eschatology from Paul; the apostle added to or further developed their understanding by the two epistles; and it is likely that Timothy refined their eschatology during his stays in Thessalonica.

How would Paul’s presentation compare with that of his contemporaries? Another very early set of eschatological teaching might have been circulating in the “Little Apocalypse”. This is typically defined as an oral or written tradition that was later incorporated into Mark’s gospel as chapter 13 (more…)

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Christian urban legends

I can remember my first brush with an “urban legend”. In the early 1970s, I was in a group for Christian boys, and we got a monthly magazine, similar to “Boys’ Life”. One article passed along the following story, saying it was solid fact:

In a southern state, two men were traveling along a rural road. They saw a hitchhiker and decided to give him a lift. He sat in the back and chatted with them. Then out of the blue, the hitchhiker made the statement: “Jesus is coming back, you know, and very soon.” When they turned around to ask him what he meant by that, they saw that…the stranger had disappeared! They immediately braked, thinking he might have fallen out and gotten killed. They drove back and forth and couldn’t find him, so they pulled over at the next town to alert the sheriff. When they told him their story, the sheriff said, “Normally this would constitute an emergency; nevertheless, you’re about the tenth person this week to tell me they’ve had this same experience!”

Maybe you’ve heard the same story and are certain that it happened to a friend of a friend. Well, I too was a believer and repeated it as true. It didn’t strike me as odd that the details were a little vague: Now, where exactly did this happen? When? What was the sheriff’s name? In what newspaper was this reported? and so on. It was years later than I learned that I’d been pulled in by an “urban legend” – a story that is repeated again and again over many years. In fact, Jan Harold Brunvand, the authority on urban legends, titled one of his collections The Vanishing Hitchhiker. The whole phenomenon fascinated me enough that I got in touch with Dr. Brunvand and we exchanged several stories. In 2009 “the vanishing hitchhiker” started turning up again, with the new twist that now he says, “Gabriel is putting the trumpet to his lips; the Lord is coming back” (click HERE). People on this blog who affirm that the story is true report the experience happened to the aunt of a friend of my husband; my son’s friend’s mother; the friend of a friend of a co-worker. See the pattern? (more…)