Quickly–In a Few Thousand Years!

Source: H. Graetz, History of the Jews, volume II (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1893) 167-168.

“[Jesus’ disciples] believed that some then alive would not taste death until they had seen the Son of Man enter his kingdom. His disciples were hourly expecting the return of Jesus…This kingdom was to last a thousand years: the Sabbath year of jubilee, after the six thousand years of the world, would be founded by Jesus when he returned to earth, bringing the blessing of peace and perfect happiness to the faithful.”

The Armstrong movement often taught the seven thousand year plan. It pointed out that the week has six days of toil and labor, with a Sabbath of rest on the seventh day. According to the Armstrongs, this pattern existed on a larger scale as well. God has given human beings six thousand years to toil and live independently of God. Then, Christ will return and establish a millennium of rest, peace, and joy. They based their belief on verses like Psalm 90:4 and II Peter 3:8, which say that a day in God’s eyes is like a thousand years. And the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, supported this notion with Romans 8, which affirms that the earth is in bondage and suffers labor pains. He likened that condition to the six days of labor.

The first-second century Epistle of Barnabas has a similar view, which is articulated in Barnabas 13:4-6. But I’m puzzled: if the early Christians believed that Jesus was coming soon, how could they also maintain that he would return six thousand years after the creation of the universe? Most calculations place that date in the twentieth or twenty-first century, basing their conclusions on biblical chronology. Did the author of Barnabas see things differently?

If Barnabas is a late book, as in from the second century C.E., then my dilemma is not as bad, or so it would seem. According to some scholars, the second century was a time when people didn’t really expect the imminent return of Jesus Christ. That was the historical context of II Peter’s remark about a day in God’s eyes being as a thousand years. Christians by that time pushed the date of Christ’s return far into the future, since Christ hadn’t come back yet.

Yet, the above paragraph is rather simplistic, for we find an imminent expectation of Christ’s return in second century sources. The Shepherd of Hermas warns Christians to repent, since the time for repentance will soon come to an end. And Barnabas 3 appears to have an imminent expectation, which is why he exhorts and warns his fellow Christians.

So how did Barnabas reconcile his belief in Jesus’ imminent return, with his notion that Christ would return in the seven thousandth year? I have no idea.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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7 Responses to Quickly–In a Few Thousand Years!

  1. I don’t think Barnabas expected an imminent return, though many other Christians did, because of inaccuracies in the genealogies of most of the Septuagint versions of the Bible. They thought Yeshua was born 5,500 years after creation, and that the millennial kingdom would come in 500 CE at 6000 years after creation.

    In all reality, Yeshua will return 6,000 years after the fall of man, which will be around the year 2,150 CE.


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Thanks for your comments, Anayah! If you can direct me to any information about the inaccuracies in the Septuaging genealogies, I’ll appreciate it.


  3. reslight says:

    While I believe that the years given in the Septuagint are, in many cases, grossly exaggerated, there are those who believe that the Septuagint genealogy is the true genealogy, and that the Hebrew text that we now have is in error. I believe that there are errors in both texts.

    While many claim that the Septuagint existed in the days of Christ, it appears that the Septuagint, as we have it, was produced some time after Jesus died, possibly in the second or third century AD.

    Many believe that the genealogy of the Septuagint was produced due to the desire to have Christ’s return to be seen as imminent, thus, a hundred years was added to many of the “years” given in the book of Genesis.

    However, it is misleading to say that Charles Taze Russell was the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Russell was a non-sectarian, who believed that true Christians could be found in all Christian denominations. Russell preached against such an authoritarian organization as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and certainly was not the founder of an organization such as he preached against.


  4. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Hi Reslight,

    I may change my post. I don’t know. I thought Russell had something to do with the group that came to be called the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They look to him as their father, in some sense.

    On the LXX, I thought the non-Pentateuchal parts came about in the intertestamental period, but that’s something I need to bone up on. The New Testament has references to what we know as the LXX.


  5. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Okay, I read your blog post. What should I write instead? Spiritual forebear, or ancestor of the Jehovah’s Witnesses?


  6. jamesbradfordpate says:

    I see you address that in your post. I think people who believe the non-Pentateuchal parts came in the intertestamental period do so in part because of the fragments from the B.C.E. period. Also, Philo quotes the LXX, and he lived in the first century C.E.


  7. i’m sorry i did not see your comment. the inaccuracies of the Septuagint mainly involve adding an extra 100 years to every date. so, instead of Adam begetting Seth at age 130, the Septuagint says it was 230 years after creation.

    you can find table of comparison online, and you can also read translations of the septuagint itself and compare them to the Masoretic version. I advocate the use of Samaritan Pentateuch, and sometimes the Masoretic. Very rarely the Septuagint. the septuagint is flawed mainly in the dates. however, a lot of its content is better than both the Masoretic and Samaritan Pentateuch. You kind of have to take the manuscript issues on a case by case basis.


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