Till Jesus Comes: Origins of Christian Apocalyptic Expectation
Twelftree, Graham H., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Till Jesus Comes: Origins of Christian Apocalyptic Expectation. By Charles L. Holman. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, xli + 181 pp., $12.95 paper.
Far from joining the virtual scholarly flight from the apocalyptic, Holman has convincingly argued for the importance of apocalyptic eschatology in early church preaching and for the Biblical perspective of a dialectical tension between expectation and delay being part of Jesus' own outlook (p. 136). While he may have shared certain eschatological ideas with his contemporaries, "No other person saw himself at the center of the great event to come as did Jesus" (p. 137). And this book has a special interest in explaining how it was possible to maintain a living tension between expectation and ongoing delay.
The growing edge of apocalyptic eschatology in the NT milieu seems to be the concept of two ages with a supporting collage of motifs: woes, an anti-god figure, apostasy and extreme persecution (p. 40). The source of apocalyptic is not in Persia or Zoroastrianism (cf. Norman Cohn) nor in the Hebrew wisdom movement (cf. G. von Rad) but in the prophetic tradition (Paul D. Hanson).
Nevertheless, as Holman recognizes (Part One), the roots of Israel's hope are to be traced to its premonarchical covenants. In the literature of the two centuries preceding the Christian era (Part Two), the Daniel tradition set the place where expectation becomes a way of reckoning with delay (p. 82). With the Jewish material roughly contemporary to the time of the origins of Christianity delay comes even more into focus with the recurrent "how long? …