Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Time and Season, Incarnation and Event





16:1 καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι πειράζοντες ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν σημεῖον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς
16:2 δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὀψίας γενομένης λέγετε εὐδία πυρράζει γὰρ οὐρανός
16:3 καὶ πρωΐ σήμερον χειμών πυρράζει γὰρ στυγνάζων οὐρανός τὸ μὲν πρόσωπον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ γινώσκετε διακρίνειν τὰ δὲ σημεῖα τῶν καιρῶν οὐ δύνασθε [GNT]
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. [Mt. 16:1-3, NIV]
5:1 περὶ δὲ τῶν χρόνων καὶ τῶν καιρῶν ἀδελφοί οὐ χρείαν ἔχετε ὑμῖν γράφεσθαι
5:2 αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἀκριβῶς οἴδατε ὅτι ἡμέρα κυρίου ὡς κλέπτης ἐν νυκτὶ οὕτως ἔρχεται
5:3 ὅταν λέγωσιν εἰρήνη καὶ ἀσφάλεια τότε αἰφνίδιος αὐτοῖς ἐφίσταται ὄλεθρος ὥσπερ ὠδὶν τῇ ἐν γαστρὶ ἐχούσῃ καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγωσιν  
5:4 ὑμεῖς δέ ἀδελφοί οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σκότει ἵνα ἡμέρα ὑμᾶς ὡς κλέπτης καταλάβῃ
5:5 πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς υἱοὶ φωτός ἐστε καὶ υἱοὶ ἡμέρας οὐκ ἐσμὲν νυκτὸς οὐδὲ σκότους [GNT]
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. [1 Thess. 5:5, NIV]

17:20 ἐπερωτηθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν Φαρισαίων πότε ἔρχεται βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν οὐκ ἔρχεται βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ μετὰ παρατηρήσεως
17:21 οὐδὲ ἐροῦσιν ἰδοὺ ὧδε ἐκεῖ ἰδοὺ γὰρ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστιν [GNT]

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God
is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” [Luke 17:20-21, NIV]

First off, I admit that there's more Greek NT here than is essential to the aims of this blog post. I offer it primarily for those who trust their own translations more than the New International Version, and to underscore some key terms, like chronos, kairos and basileia. Secondly, I happily join in the popular procedure of noting that 1 Thessalonians is the earliest document of the NT corpus: it is the first to be written, and the first to draw a distinction between chronos and kairos.

Paul's distinction is buttressed by his imagery of light and dark, day and night. He emphasizes the quotidian flow in the context of time as he simultaneously propagates the symbolic dualism of those who know and those who do not know that there is no right time, no right moment. The cognoscenti's vigilance is not to be fooled by the flux of the sun: day must be brought into the night, the light must illuminate the dark. Seasonality, like the the melting of morning into afternoon, afternoon into evening, dissolves into dayless, seasonless, blind time. The moment is coming, something whose coming has no horizon: the shape-shifting viens itself is suddenly present.

The kingdom of God, says the Lucan Jesus, does not appear in a sign, as phenomena, and it cannot therefore be observed or anticipated on a horizon. The kingdom is instead already there, invisible and real, insisting, a call awaiting a response that brings it into existence. The Matthean Jesus demonstrates to the Pharisees that they have not been paying attention, that their vigilance has betrayed them, that the redness (pyrrazo) in the evening means something different than redness in the morning not because of the evening or the morning as kairos would dictate, but because chronos reads kairos. In this reading a red glow is a red glow but the sign from heaven speaks directly to the Pharisees; yet interpretation eludes them because they wait for morning or evening to prod the reading along. The sign is as plain as day: just the day--neither morning nor afternoon, neither noon nor evening. Chronos decontextualizes both the morning and the evening, and so the interpretation of the red glow comes not from context, but from elsewhere. The day as day (chronos) is suddenly upon them, but evening and morning (kairos) prevent the sign from moving from invisibility to visibility.  The sign is in the Pharisees' midst, but they cannot hear the call or read the sign.

The kingdom is the Christ-event, the incarnation, the Logos made man. The invitation, the call, the insistence, is to live life in this event. The move from invisibility to visibility depends on the incarnation. Indeed, if we can defer, even if just for a moment, judging John Paul II's Theology of the Body as Kant gone wrong, then we can allow the pontiff's words to haunt the kingdom: "The body, and it alone is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it" (Feb 20, 1980). The very chiasm of the hypostatic union in Jesus Christ harbors the event in the 'signs of the times.' The Pharisees could hardly have know that their sign, glowing red, was right before their eyes; and Kant would be the first to insist that the body must be free to glow red, and be taken as an end in itself.


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