Thursday, August 21, 2008

More on the 'E' word

Well, we fell at the first hurdle with the 'E' word.

Eschatology is a word derived from the Greek word eschaton which means 'the end' and eschata meaning 'the things of the end' with ology derived from the Greek word logos meaning 'the study of' or 'words about' tagged on the end.

So, strictly speaking eschatology is the study of the end or things about the end and in Christian theology was traditionally associated with the end of the world and the second coming of Christ, the last judgement and the new heavens and the new earth.

Simon makes a good point that it's all very well to use the 'E' word in lectures but in a series at church, where you might define it in week 1, people will have forgotten what it means by week 2 or 3 and the preacher will forget to keep defining it.

Even at Spring Harvest this year, where I gather it was being regularly used in all the morning seminars, there were still baffled folk in various places asking what it actually meant.

When I was writing my Bible guide on Galatians and my Discovering the New Testament, I tended to use the word apocalyptic to describe similar ideas because the word apocalypse is at least in general use and so is not an entirely unfamiliar term.

Indeed I remember having a robust exchange of views with my then editor over whether people in church should know and understand what a word like eschatology means. Fortunately for all my readers, she prevailed and we didn't use it.

So, the 'E' word will probably not feature as we look at reasons to be hopeful. I will blog soon on why apocalyptic is a good word and whether we might use that one. I'd be interested in your views.


Jonathan said...

I'm not sure that I'd rule Eschatology out as the term you're looking for. Apocalyptic may be more to do with the actual events of the end times, and eschatology more to do with the Kingdom, the way it begins now - "this is the last hour" and the way the Christian hope affects our present reality.

Simon, you often have good instincts, I'd caution against jettisoning them so soon. There's no reason a Sunday morning can't feed both faith and knowledge!

Anonymous said...

Just tell 'em you have a 'brillante weblog 2008' award and they'll believe everything you say ;-) (check my blog for details if you're sad enough!!)