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There have been 17 items by Phil (Search limited from 01-November 19)
I am not especially tied to the need for the fig tree to represent Israel, though I think there is a case, not totally convincing, that could be made (The "naughty figs", the similarity to the undisputed symbol of the vine, the use of the cursed fig tree by Jesus). However I do think that things that go on "behind the scenes" in scripture are a very powerful argument, perhaps the most powerful argument.
Well if people want the fig tree in this context to be Israel, then it's probably the only argument
But it still doesn't make it a good one, especially when Jesus actually gives us the answer. If he had stopped at "you know that summer is nigh", it might be completely reasonable to start on about trees representing nations, the fig tree Israel, etc etc... because then we actually have to look for a meaning, but he does follow it up with a definition. "so also, when you see these things taking place, you know..."
So Jesus tells us exactly what he means. And i appreciate that people like Matthew and Paul drew much longer bows than this one (Hagar comes to mind). But they were inspired; they've got the right. Many of the passages used to prove the prophecy of the death of Christ came directly from Christ himself (road to Emmaeus style) I just can't see that we, 2000 years after the fact, have got the right to use passages for purposes that contradict the self-defined meaning, and pretend that it's anything other than fantasy. Otherwise it really is up for grabs, and the post-modernists had it right all along.
And i strongly suspect you agree with me, so i'll stop there
1. They've been taught it since day one. I can remember this being taught fairly regularly when i was little. Or not this so much as some variation on the idea (Israel is the fig tree, the budding of the figtree is the establishment of the nation of Israel, etc). it's a cherished idea, and since the re-establishment of the nation of israel was the founding element of the faith for many (or the capture of jerusalem, depending on the era), they're very reluctant to let it go.
2. People are bad readers. They can't distinguish between metaphor and simile, they invent causal relationships where there are none given or ignore an explicit one in favour of something they made up.
3. People want scripture to have secret meanings and impressive connections and behind-the-scenes stuff. I remember a young brother from Britain telling me that's exactly what excited him so much about scripture. I told him that was bizarre and all backwards, and he candidly told me that if that wasn't the way God wrote the bible then he'd lose his faith.
4. People will read what Jesus said about the day and the hour, ignore the spirit of it completely, and use it as a justification to find some odd means to turn it into an exhortation to scrutinise the scriptures looking for clues as to the time-frame, the month, the season. Anything but the day and the hour.
In short, people are weird and irrational. and sometimes the more you challenge them on their weird irrationalities the more entrenched they become.
Probably the best example of large and dangerous is this: i wrote the control program for a massive friction saw in a steel pipe mill. We had two saw blades (each around 1.2m diameter and 8mm thick), one mounted each side of the pipe on a trolley controlled by hydraulic ram. The whole unit weighed around 8 tonnes. As the pipe was formed (from steel strip coils between 4mm and 13mm in thickness) and traveled down the line (at something around walking pace, so not high speed), the trolley would synchronise with the pipe, clamp, and then punch the saw blades (a 250kW motor driving each blade) through the material, before releasing and travelling back to the starting position to await the next cut.
Not the kind of thing you want to get wrong
I'm going to be working remotely for my current company, at least until i go crazy with lack of interpersonal contact
I can remember listening to many expositions on the tabernacle which were determined to wring types of Christ out of every cultic object
I think we've got RR to blame for that one. I think it's in the Law of Moses (one of the few 'pioneer' works i've read) where he says something horrific like "Christ is the veil, the altar, the shewbread, the candlesticks, the laver, the everything".... i can't remember the exact phrasing, but i remember reading "...the everything" and thinking "you can't say that!" But he did.
By and large i think we're relatively good at that. Any study of an epistle will usually spend some time talking about "the background", which helps to establish a bunch of that context. And that's a pretty good nod to the genre. But then it's often quickly dispensed with, in favour of the assumption that every "you" means "us" or maybe "me", that every "us" means "us", and that every "I" also means "I", normally without stopping to think about whether or not that's reasonable...
I think it'd be healthier to maintain more distance from the text than that, and realise that applications to "we" and "i" can't be made automatically, but comes after we've figured out what Paul (or James or John or...) was saying, and why, to the Galatians (or Corinthians, Philippians, etc). Having established that, we can work out the general Christian principles and what it means for us.
It's a good start. When i first started doing talks i had subconsciously inherited that kind of approach, that for a talk to be a good talk it had to weave an intricate tapestry of passages drawn from all over the shop. The reason i used that model was simple - i was just imitating the dominant technique i'd seen since day one.
I'll see what I can do, but for a start any time we say 'Now we can only understand what Paul says here if we first go to three other passages in two other epistles', we're doing something wrong.
The older i got the more i think i realised it was a fairly lazy approach, and probably misses a lot of the nuance. If a passage in Collosians is tricky, it might not necessarily help to go to Philippians, because that's not the letter that Paul wrote to the Colossians, which can and should be understood on it's own terms.
I completely agree with you, and i know i've had the same reaction many times when hearing different talks. But right now i can't think of a particular moment when someone did it and it lead to a glaring error of exposition, and i'd love it if you could think of an example, if only to confirm my bias :P
Smells a bit weird to me.