Who's cooling off? Bible question for the day.

by kwintestal 37 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • blondie

    I'll tell you that JWs/WTS use this scripture to their advantage when you point out that the numbers are dropping at the local KH.

    "Oh, but the Bible says the love of the greater number will cool off."

    But then when there is an increase it is Isaiah 60:22, that God would speed up the increase.

    The fact that they themselves in print/officially do not apply it to themselves/the organization blocks using it has an explanation for the decrease.


  • Leolaia

    Narkissos.....I did not mean to imply that v. 10 applies specifically to the Pharisees and I already noted that the Pauline application is indeed probable, especially in the linkage between "false prophets" (pseudoprophètai) and anomia (cf. Matthew 7:15). But I don't agree that the entire passage of v. 9-14 targets just Pauline Christians, for the reasons provided in my last post. The language in Matthew 23 dovetails that in Matthew 10, which refers to persecution in the synagogues (dependent on a Markan source; cf. Mark 13:9), and the further parallel in 23:34 specifically names the Pharisees as persecutors. I also don't concur that the anti-Pharisee rhetoric in the gospel represents a late stage of redaction in Matthew, for it is contained within the proto-Matthean Sermon on the Mount and the pre-Matthean "Woes Against the Pharisees" of Q 11:47-52 (as well as in Gospel of Thomas 39:1-2 and 102, which reproduces anti-Pharisee material in the Woes). Koester writes concerning the Woes: "This would suggest that 'scribes and Pharisees' are the opponents of the Q community throughout its history, from the composition of the sapiential speeches -- polemic against those who took away the key of knowledge would be quite appropriate here -- even to the reformulation of the Q material in the Sermon on the Mount and ultimately to the Gospel of Matthew itself" (p. 164). Thus, considering the passage's kinship with anti-Pharisee material elsewhere in the gospel (including the application of anomia to the Pharisees in 23:27-28), I think that the author has the Pharisees in mind here as well.

    As for the pseudoprophètai, I agree that this applies best to Pauline Christian "prophets" (cf. Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 13:9, 14:4-39; compare also Ephesians 2:20, 3:5, 4:11), here viewed in the guise of the eschatological False Prophet (cf. Mark, Revelation, the Didache, and other Christian apocalypses), but the pseudokhristoi drawing away the "elect" in v. 24 (paired with the pseudoprophètai in the same verse) are probably not individuals within Pauline Christianity (who were unlikely to claim to be Christ as in v. 5 and 23) but to Messiah claimants within rabbinical and popular Judaism lying outside of Jewish Christianity. Going a little further afield, it is also interesting that pseudoprophètai is applied in 1 John 4:1-2 to those who deny that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh, which (if Griffith's thesis is right) could refer to ex-Christians who abandoned their faith in Jesus as the Christ. Within Matthew, prophètai is used to refer to the Matthean community and "true" Christians in general who are persecuted by the Pharisees (cf. 23:34; just as the old Prophets were persecuted and killed), so it is possible that by extention the pseudoprophètai are those who profess to be "prophets" but who lie outside the bounds of the accepted community. In the context of 24:9-13, the pseudoprophètai appear to play a role in the persecution of the righteous, and the parable in 24:45-51 also refers to those in authority over the faithful as "beating" and "mistreating" them, which in the Christian context could refer to Pauline Christians though the parable itself goes back to Q (cf. Q 12:42-46).

    I think it would be quite natural for both the Pharisees and Pauline Christians to be addressed in the passage since it occurs in an eschatological oracle about the "end of the age" and these were the two groups the community saw itself as in opposition to.

  • Narkissos


    Sorry I missed the last edition of your previous post when I answered. I perfectly agree with a multi-target theory about Matthew 24:9ff as a whole, including Pauline christianity (especially v. 11ff) and Pharisaism (even the pseudochristoi of v. 24 can be related to the latter when you think of r. Aqiba's support to Bar Kokhba for instance).

    About the Pharisees, I would only point out that in the final GMatthew they can be pictured as typical "enemies" from two opposite standpoints: (1) the early Nazorean view (quite close to the Essenes') which would regard them as laxists; (2) the later proto-Catholic view which includes Post-pauline christianity and would regard them as legalists.

    Anyway (to those who might wonder) I think this discussion is relevant to the topic of this thread inasmuch as it shows that Matthew 24 is sufficiently explained from a 1st and 2nd century perspective, and is not in any way a "prophecy" about our times. Strangely enough the WT debate about whose love is cooling off is reflecting the earlier Nazorean perspective, fearing that the Jewish sect might be corrupted by some Christian influence (cf. the similar perspective of Revelation, 2:4 about the loss of "love", and 2:14,20 about the Pauline view of idolothytes).

  • Leolaia

    I find it interesting that the term anomia "lawless, without law" is found only in Matthew in the gospels; it apparently is a Matthean-specific term. It is found in Pauline writings (cf. Romans 4:7, 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:14), and curiously in 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 Paul uses the related word anomos to refer to Gentiles who were not hupo nomon "under the [Mosaic] Law," and declares himself as "not being myself under the Law" (mè hòn autos hupo nomon) when he preaches to the Jews who are under the Law, and specifically being "lawless" (hòs anomos) to those "who are without Law," the Gentiles, to bring them instead under the "Law of Christ" (ennomos Khristou). This appears to be a precedent for the Matthean use of anomia to critique (Pauline) followers of Jesus who do not observe the Torah.

    I like your connection between Pauline Christianity's rejection of the Torah and the loss of community love in Matthew 24:12, for Matthew has love as the cornerstone of Torah observance and the entolais "commandments" (22:35-40), and it is a dominant theme in Jesus' teaching (5:45-46, 6:24, 10:37, 19:19). There is an interesting link here with the Johannine writings. 1 John 2:3 says that we know Jesus "if we keep his commandments (entolas)," and 4:21 (cf. 3:23) says that "he has given us this commandment (entolèn): Whoever loves God must also love his brother," the primary commandment being love. Interestingly, 1 John 3:9 says that "no one who is born is God practices sin, because his seed abides in him and he cannot sin," and v. 23-24 show that those who "love one another" and "keeps his commandments" are those who abide in God, whereas those who do not love "practice sin" (poiòn tèn hamartian), and "everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness (anomia), for sin is lawlessness (anomia)" (3:4). Like Matthew, there seems to be a connection between agapè "love" and keeping the entolais on the one hand and the anomia that results from the lack of agapè or entolais observance. 1 John also seems to reflect the same social circumstance discussed in Matthew 24; the work critically discusses the antikhristoi who are born of the Devil, who do not show love towards their brethren, and who had originally been members of the religious community (2:18-19, 22; 4:3), and 1 John 2:17, 3:24 is reminiscent of Matthew in its focus on works: "The one who does the will of God abides forever...The one who keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in him." This is not to say that 1 John necessarily endorsed the same Jewish-Christian notion of Torah observance as Matthew (for the term "commandment" clearly has a different meaning for the Johannine community), but the broad outlines appear quite similar, particularly in the linkage between anomia and the lack of agapè and entolais observance in a so-called Christian group the author's community saw itself in opposition to. Similarly, in the gospel, Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments....He who does not love me does not keep my words" (John 14:15, 24).

    If Griffith is right in his analysis, I think the connection between Matthew and 1 John, John may be in the critique of ethnic Jews who had become disciples (cf. 1 John 2:19, "[they] went out from us") but who slid back into Pharisee Judaism, renounced their faith in Jesus Christ, and even took part in the persecution of Christians in the synagogues. This seems most clear in John 8:31-59, which Mark Stibbe (John's Gospel, published in 1994) characterizes as "satirizing apostasy ... those who start on the road to discipleship, but who give up when the going gets tough" (p. 124). Verse 31 describes them with the perfect participle pepisteukotas as "those who had believed in Jesus (e.g. but do so no longer)," and the language in this passage has the most parallels with 1 John than elsewhere in the gospel (including characterizing such people as "children of the Devil"). John 16:2 goes on to say that "they will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God," a pasage which best reflects Pharisee persecution and which parallels Matthew 10:17-23. Justin Martyr (Dialogue, 47.4) mentions Christian apostates as those who "once professed and recognized that this is the Christ, and for some cause or other passed over into the life under the Law, denying that this is the Christ (arnesamenous hoti houtos estin ho Khristos)," which compares well with the statement in 1 John 2:22: "Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ (arnoumenos hoti Ièsous ouk estin ho Khristos).

    Another thing to note which has been neglected up to now is the whole eschatological and apocalyptic flavor of anomia in Second Temple Judaism. The Testament of Dan 6:6 refers to a final "period of iniquity" (en kairò tès anomias) that precedes the coming of the Messiah and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refers to a "man of lawlessness" (anthropos tès anomias) as the ultimate apostate that rebels against God at the time of the end. Barnabas 4:9 admonishes: "Let us be on guard in the last days, for the whole time of our faith will do us no good unless now, in the age of lawlessness (tò anomò kairò), we resist as well the coming stumbling blocks," and 15:5 states that "when his Son comes, he will destroy the time of the lawless one (kairon tou anomou) and will judge the ungodly and change the sun, moon, and stars". There are also parallels in the Apocalypse of Abraham 24:5, the Apocalypse of Elijah 3:1-13, 5:10, the Ascension of Isaiah 2:4, 4:2, and the Sibylline Oracles 3.69. It would thus be good to recognize that we are dealing with a standard apocalyptic motif here, which might be sufficient to explain the occurrence of anomia in the apocalyptic portion of Matthew (ch. 24) -- rather than the use of the term elsewhere in the gospel, where it pertains more to Torah observance. It is quite possible, of course, that the author conceived that Pauline Christians and the Pharisees were themselves rebelling against God and were thus "wicked" and "men of iniquity," but the apocalyptic genre of ch. 24 might be enough to warrant such a statement regardless of the community's views toward these groups. I should also note that there is a close parallel to Matthew 24:12 in the Didache apocalypse (which is similarly Jewish Christian), which reads as follows:

    "For in the last days the false prophets (pseudoprophètai) and corruptors will abound, and the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love (agapè) will be turned into hate (misos). For as lawlessness (anomias) increases (auxanouses), they will hate and persecute and betray (paradòsousi) one another. And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and will perform signs and wonders, and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before" (Didache 16:3-4).
    "And at that time many will fall away and will betray (paradòsousin) one another and hate (misèsousin) one another. And many false prophets (pseudoprophètai) will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness (anomian) is increased (plèthunthènai), most people's love (agapè) will grow cold" (Matthew 24:10-12).

    The reference to sheep and wolves is interesting in the passage, as it forms a link with Matthew 7:15-23 which refers to the "false prophets" (pseudeprophètai) "who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" who are also "workers of lawlessness (anomian)". The Didache passage also makes clear that ones who lose their love are those who were formerly "sheep".

  • Narkissos

    Against Matthew, the paradoxically, or dialectically positive uses of anomos / anomia in Pauline and post-Pauline literature, are remarkable indeed. Besides 1 Corinthians 9:

    Romans 4:7: Blessed are those whose iniquities (anomiai) are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

    It is particularly interesting that this quotation of Psalm 32 is used, along with the Abraham story, as a prooftext for the Pauline Gospel (v. 6): "David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works."

    Romans 6:19 For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity (anomia), so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
    Luke 22:37: For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, 'And he was counted among the lawless (anomoi); and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled."

    In contrast, the pseudo-Pauline 2 Corinthians 6:14 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3ff offer an absolutely negative use of anomia which suits Jewish (e.g. the Testaments) and Judeo-Christian apocalyptics (Matthew, Barnabas and Didachè).

    About the Johannine perspective, 1 John 3:4ff is only understandable against the background of the same absolutely negative (and especially apocalyptic) view of anomia as the ultimate rebellion (when we lose sight of this the text appears as mere tautology):

    Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness (anomia); sin is lawlessness (anomia). You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.
    (I'm still not entirely convinced by Griffith's thesis but this is another topic... )
  • LittleToe

    Just a brief interjection.
    Do you think Romans was a rebuttal of the Mt attack?
    I'm particularly thinking of the "God forbid!" passages of Rom.3:31; 6:2,15.

  • Leolaia

    The second-century Acts of the Apostles presents a portrait of a harmonious, united early Church, but the anti-Pauline rhetoric in Q and Matthew shows that the Jewish-Christian community in Syria did not accept Paul's mission and teaching. This was particularly the case among Jews who looked to Peter as their founding apostle. Matthew arose in such a community, for Matthew 16:18-19 (alone of the gospels) designates Peter as the head of the community (ekklesia) and recognizes him as the one holding the "keys of the kingdom of heaven," the same keys of halakic interpretation that the Pharisees had hidden (according to Matthew 23:13, Gospel of Thomas 23:13, and Luke 11:52), and describes him as having the authority to give rabbinical halaka on the Torah (cf. "binding and loosing," in v. 19, and apostolic halaka in ch. 18). Peter's authority is thus described in very Jewish-Christian, Torah-keeping terms. Many scholars also regard the provenance of Matthew as Syria (specifically Antioch), considering its affinity with the Didache and Jewish-Christian Petrine writings. Fortunately, many of these Syrian second-century Ebionite writings were edited together and preserved in the third-century Pseudo-Clementines, which open up a stunning window into Petrine Ebionism and its animosity with Pauline Christianity. Such works include the Epistula Petri, the Ascents of James, and the Kerygmata Petrou. Paul repeatedly appears as the primary apostate and persecutor of the righteous. It should be recalled that Paul by his own admission started out as a persecutor of the early Jewish Christians (cf. Galatians and the narrative in Acts), and for those who rejected Paul's claims to apostleship, Paul was a false teacher who pretended to be a follower of Jesus and drew people away from the Law and the path of righteousness. The Epistula Petri, for instance, makes reference to the "lawless and absurd doctrine of the man who is my enemy" (2.3), and goes on to refute the Pauline characterization of Peter (cf. Galatians 2:11-14, and the Lukan portrait of Peter in Acts 10, 15) with respect to Torah observance:

    "Indeed, some have attempted, while I am still alive, to distort my words by interpretations of many sorts, as if I taught the dissolution of the Law and, although I was of this opinion, did not express it openly. But that may God forbid! For to do such a thing means to act contrary to the Law of God which was made known to Moses and was confirmed by our Lord in its everlasting continuance" (Epistula Petri 2.4-5).

    In the Itinerary of Peter, we also encounter a discourse on false prophets that clearly comments on Paul and likens him to the wolves mentioned in Matthew 7: "Our Lord and Prophet, who has sent us, declared to us that the wicked one, having disputed with him forty days (i.e. Satan the Devil), and having prevailed nothing against him, promised that he would send apostles from among his subjects to deceive. Therefore, above all, remember to shun any apostle or teacher or prophet who does not first accurately compare his preaching with that of James, who was called the brother of my Lord, and to whom was entrusted to administer the church of the Hebrews in Jerusalem....He who has sent us said that many will come in sheep's clothing, in inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you shall know them" (Hom. 11:35).

  • Leolaia

    LittleToe....Paul was certainly responding to his Jewish-Christian critics, even more so in his apologia of Galatians -- just as James is a Jewish-Christian response to Paul. But since Matthew was not written until the turn of the century, Paul clearly was not responding to this work but to earlier criticisms that were voiced in the community.

  • ozziepost
    Matthew was not written until the turn of the century

    Is that a statement, as in fact, or opinion?

  • Leolaia

    ozziepost....I would say that it is the scholarly concensus, that Matthew was written broadly between AD 70-110, and most likely around 80-100. A complicating issue, of course, is that gospels went through several editions so it is possible that the final redaction occurred in the second century, but the major editing that produced the gospel apparently occurred sometime before that, and certainly after the time of Apostle Paul. The most important fact is that Matthew incorporates the text of Mark, including the Little Apocalypse, which points to a date after AD 70 (cf. Mark 13:14). The wording in 22:7, significantly in the past tense, also reflects the destruction of Jerusalem: "He sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers and burnt up their city". The editing of the Little Apocalypse in ch. 24-25 shows that the crisis of the siege and war was in the recent past, as the writer wished to distinguish between this seeming end and the real end still to come. A strong piece of evidence indicating a date after AD 85 is the reference to persecution of Christians in the synagogues (cf. 10:17, 23:34; compare Mark 13:9), and more importantly the frequent reference to synagogues as their (autón) synagogues (cf. 4:23, 9:35, 10:17, 12:9, 13:54) when addressing fellow disciples of Jesus and your (humón) synagogues when addressing the Pharisees (compare the parallel passage in Mark 13:9, which lacks a possessive pronoun). This suggests that Matthew was edited during a time when Matthean Jewish Christians were gathering at different meeting places than synagogues. There are also references to an already existing Christian community in 16:19 and 18:18, involving excommunication (18:17) and a mission to the Gentiles (28:19). More significantly, we find phrases such as heós arti "till now" (11:12), heós tés semeron "till today" (27:8), makhri tés semeron "to this day" (28:15), which indicate that a considerable interval has elapsed since the days of Jesus, and pasas tas hemeras heós tés sunteleias tou aiónes in 28:20 also assumes a prolonged period during which the preaching to the Gentiles occurs. But Matthew probably existed by AD 110, for Ignatius of Antioch appears to be the first to allude to specific Matthean redactions (Smyrnaeans 1:1, Polycarp 2:2, Trallians 11:1, Philadelphians 3:1; cf. Matthew 3:15, 10:16, 15:13), and some form of the gospel (whether the original Q, or the later gospel under the name of Matthew) was in existence for some time before AD 140 when it was explicitly mentioned by name by Papias of Hierapolis. Matthean redactions were also attested AD 150-160 by Justin Martyr and the anonymous author of 2 Clement.

    Hope this helps answer your question!

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