We have an interesting, not to say frightening, mix of Bible readings for tomorrow, the First Sunday of Advent. I have some comments, and then some of the lectionary (Advent1C) and other related text is quoted below in English.
Through Advent we are dealing with old stories, traditions, beliefs and expectations. Advent One is our apocalyptic Sunday that, using those old traditions, looks toward the eschaton, the End of Time. Paul, in 1st Thessalonians, his first extant writing (maybe about 45 CE?) anticipates the eschaton coming very soon and encourages his audience in their acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ and his God; as Jesus, Paul teaches, will be the One returning from heaven to earth to rule for God. Ancient Jewish tradition, at least from about the second century BCE through the first century CE, seems to have been that God would apocalyptically bring an end to life on earth as it was known, would resurrect the dead, and would call everyone, living and resurrected, before him for judgment. Judgment would consider whether the judged had lived righteously. Those judged unrighteous would be damned to eternal death (whatever that entailed). Those judged righteous would be saved to live in God’s kingdom on earth, which would be ruled by the Son of Man, the apocalyptic figure from Daniel 7 who had existed in heaven but now was sent to earth by God to reign for God. This Son of Man from Daniel 7 is the figure of whom Jesus is speaking in Luke 21:25-36, tomorrow’s Gospel. When Jesus uses the term “Son of Man” (υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου) in the gospels, each instance of usage may be different, and may mean one of three things: he may mean human beings in general (i.e., sons of Adam the Earthling), he may be speaking obliquely and perhaps modestly of himself instead of using the Greek “ego” (“I”), or he may be referring to the Daniel 7 figure. In each instance, it’s the reader’s job to discern what the evangelist intends. It’s not always straightforward, but it seems so in Luke 21:25-36. It also seems to me that Luke means for his audience to discern that Jesus is himself that Son of Man, and so the figure in tomorrow's gospel may be taken two ways: I, and Daniel's Son of Man. I think that’s what Luke means and means his audience to understand.
Just as I love the Revelation of John, I love Daniel 7, which never ceases to intrigue me, even in my abysmal ignorance. There is always room for argument, and scholars make their living by arguing with each other and by pointing out various contrasting and contradictory possibilities, but from the scholars I have read, I think Daniel, including Daniel 7, was written in 165 BCE, probably in Aramaic but perhaps in Hebrew, by an anonymous author writing retrospectively, historically, imaginatively, and biographically (and attempting autobiography in behalf of Daniel), about one Daniel who lived in the time of the Exile, wrote it as a message of encouragement (as the Revelation of John is a message of encouragement) to Jews living in the time of the brutal Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes (BCE 178-164). Mark (Luke lifts his 21:25-36 from Mark 13:24-37), and especially Matthew, reads from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. So, the evangelists report Jesus speaking of υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου, son of man. He’s been in heaven forever, but he is sent by the Ancient of Days, to rule on earth as the Eschaton comes. This is all relevant for Advent, during which we celebrate both the first coming of Christ in the manger of Bethlehem and the Second Coming of Christ (as the Son of Man in Daniel 7). I’m loving it, see, because I kind of visualize this most every evening at sunset up here in my seventh heaven.
Thos+ in +Time+
Luke 21:25-36 The Coming of the Son of Man
Luke 21. 25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Exhortation to Watch
34 “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Daniel 7. 9 I beheld until the thrones were set, and the Ancient of days sat; and his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head, as pure wool: his throne was a flame of fire, [and] his wheels burning fire. 10 A stream of fire rushed forth before him: thousand thousands ministered to him, and ten thousands of myriads, attended upon him: the judgment sat, and the books were opened. … 13 I beheld in the night vision, and, lo, [one] coming with the clouds of heaven as the Son of man, and he came on to the Ancient of days, and was brought near to him. 14 And to him was given the dominion, and the honour, and the kingdom; and all nations, tribes, and languages, shall serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom shall not be destroyed.
and the Ancient
(one) like the Son
1 Thessalonians 1 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
2 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. 9 For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.