The Christological assimilation of the apocalypse
An essay on fundamental eschatology
Biblical apocalyptic texts that make imminent predictions of the end of the world as we know it, have fascinated Christians from the earliest times. Understandably, over the centuries such texts have been interpreted in a variety of different, even opposing, ways. This is particularly so in twentieth century biblical exegesis. Many authors would hold that apocalyptic texts, far from truly predicting the end of time, final resurrection, universal judgement and perpetual separation of just and wicked, are to be seen as merely existential or performative expressions of the sinner's radical dependence on a Sovereign Divinity. Any kind of literal interpretation of apocalyptic predictions, therefore, would seem to involve insoluble problems of a scientific, ethical and social kind that modern society cannot envisage.
In this extensive biblical study, Prof. O'Callaghan considers in detail not only the eschatology present in apocalyptic works in general, and the complex debate on New Testament eschatology that flourished throughout the last century. He has also shown that the powerful apocalyptic message present in the New Testament is essentially an application and direct consequence of Jesus Christ's saving work among humans. Principally on the basis of a narrative analysis of Matthew's Christology (apocalyptic motifs abound in the first gospel), he shows that New Testament apocalyptic as it stands, while radical, challenging and theologically stimulating, is neither irrational nor ethically untenable. And this for the simple reason that the Judge who will come at the end of time, to save the just and condemn sinners, is one and the same Jesus of Nazareth, who has already offered the gift of salvation to the whole of humankind.
Fr Paul O'Callaghan, Professor of Christian Anthropology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, and Fellow of the Pontifical Academy of Theology. He is the author of Fides Christi: the Justification Debate (FCP, 1997), which deals with the ecumenical dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics on the topic of Christian justification. Additionally, he is the author of numerous books and articles, in six languages, that have been published worldwide.