To talk about the Flood in some of these texts is also in the same breath to think about the present. . . . The Nephalim and mighty men of Genesis 6 were interpreted in several influential, Jewish, apocalyptic works as giant-sized offspring of disobedient angels and daughters of humanity whose destructive activity has led to a crisis in which God intervenes to destroy their bodies, punish the angels, and ensure the survival of humans. . . . who are integral to the created order. Those texts were not simply attempts to reinterpret the sacred past; they conveyed to Jews from the third century until the beginning of the common era an assurance that evil (however rampant and overwhelming it may be in the present age) is but a defeated power whose time is marked. Divine victory in the sacred past could even be understood as an expression of God’s royal power. . . . Since God’s rule has asserted itself in the cosmos on a global scale, the present era is represented as a time when those to are pious can proceed with some confidence in dealing with the effects of demonic power, knowing that although it cannot be gotten rid of altogether before the ultimate end of things, it is nevertheless possible to address, to curtail, or to manage its effects. This understanding of sacred past and imminent future was not simply a matter of charting how time works, it was a way of defining what it meant to be God’s people in the present and it could manifest itself in terms of a theological anthropology that negotiated the relentless uncertainties of life with the certainty of victory under the covenant. (circa min.39ff)
And then, a bit later in the lecture:
The present is shaped by both an eschatological past a future that loops back as an inclusio to bring God’s activity in history to it’s proper end. The thing to get from these Jewish texts is that there is no flight attempt to escape the reality of suffering. At all. Absolutely no. And when we look to even what is presented about Jesus in the Gospels and even to Paul, there really is no escape either from suffering. … Evil is never destroyed; it is simply relocated when Jesus exorcizes demons. (circa min.49ff)The title of Stuckenbruck's lecture is "How Much Does the Christ Event Solve?" Loren concedes at the beginning of the lecture that research presented will work toward the backdrop of that question rather than answering directly. It is, however, interesting that Loren hints (quite forcefully) toward an answer. The Christ event as conceived by Paul is an answer to the problem of evil in the world. But--and I hope that you'll listen to Loren's lecture rather than taking my word for it--those with first-century apocalyptic worldviews (including several NT authors) had a different narrative of evil than we do. Paul and Mark had a narrative and mythology of evil that could not be concluded once and for all by the death and resurrection of Jesus, only inaugurated. Moreover this notion of inaugurated eschatology was not invented by the New Testament authors.
As if Loren's lecture wasn't stimulating enough, I was struck again by the erudition of my friend Chris Keith (who organized this conference). Chris' question to Loren was nothing short of brilliant. Chris asks:
Is Jesus a Jewish answer to a Jewish question, a Christian answer to a Jewish question, or a Christian answer to a Christian question? (circa min.53ff)I won't provide Loren's answer here even though I think it's fascinating. For the moment, I am stewing on the implications of the question. Or, to nuance the title of this post, if Jesus is the theological answer to the problem of evil, what was the nature of the question?
My deepest gratitude to both Loren and Chris for this lecture and the many new avenues it anticipates!