The End of Time?

I have just returned from SBL’s Annual Convention and as always it was a great time. Caught up with old friends, met new friends, and even put a few faces to cyber-friends.

Even though the main reason I make the annual trek is the people, there is another part of the conference…the papers. And as always, I heard really good papers, good papers, and others.

One paper I was really looking forward to this year was Ann Jervis’ “Christ and Time” and it did not disappoint. Last year at a conference at Princeton, Dr. Jervis gave what she called a preliminary look at “Paul’s Understanding of Time” and since it was a smaller conference I had the privilege of discussing the ideas with her at length (a great reason to attend at least one smaller conference each year). When I saw she was going to be giving a paper on the topic at SBL, I knew it would probably be a highlight of the conference.

In her paper, Dr. Jervis offered a critique of the Pauline Apocalyptic School’s view of time (see Paul’s Apocalyptic Imagination). She focused on three points of difference:

  1. The End of Time: According to Jervis, contrary to what many in the apocalyptic school assert, time will not end (or in some cases has not ended). What Paul does say will end is death, and in the defeat of death time will be drawn together so it may be seen more clearly. In other words, there is no last day in Paul just a last day for death to disrupt time.
  2. Time and Eternity: Jervis also concludes that eternity is not a distinct Pauline category. In her view, time and eternity are not different ages; there is not a moment when time stops and eternity begins. She is not claiming that life will not reach into eternity but that eternal is a qualification of life. Eternal life, according to Jervis, is the nun kairos lived without death and therefore without sin.
  3. Christ Changes Time: Finally, Jervis based her claims in the fact that Christ connects time with life not death. For those in Christ, time is now invaded (a play on common apocalyptic motif) by life. Death gives way to life and so there is no end of time, life is lived eternally “in Christ time.”

Dr. Jervis ended by illustrating that time is often seen as the story of conflict in humanity’s relationships with each other, creation and God. She stated that if this is your definition then time will certainly end. But in her view time is not a story about conflict, that is the result of sin and death’s disruption of time, but a story about relationships. Thus, when in Christ humanity’s relationships with each other, creation, and God are restored so is time; time is eternal.

I find the discussion of time in Paul fascinating, especially since so many rely on the now-not yet paradigm when interpreting Paul without ever defining what now and not yet mean. In this manner, I appreciate Dr. Jervis’ efforts to define time by Christ and in particular to struggle with this very complex topic.

(One further note, one questioner asked how, in her view, does God relate to time? This was a very good question and one I look forward to hearing her answer as she continues to ponder on “Christ Time”)

4 thoughts on “The End of Time?

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