Review of Greg Carey “Ultimate Things: An Introduction to Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Literature”

Posted: April 18, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Biblical Studies, Book Reviews, Eschatology, Hermeneutics, Intertextual - Old Tetsament in New Testament, Joel, Pentecost, Pentecostal/Charismatic Interests, Theology

Carey, G. (2005). Ultimate Things: An Introduction to Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Literature. St. Louis, MO: Chalice.

Commenting on Joel 2:28-32, Carey (2005:61) says:

…it proclaimed an eschatological age marked by prophetic and visionary activity…Peter recites part of the passage to interpret the manifestations of the Spirit at Pentecost (2:16-21). Likewise, Paul, who testifies to prophetic activity within the churches, interprets such dramatic signs of the Spirit among his congregations as demonstrations of their authentic religious experience (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:4-5; 4:20’ Gal. 3:2; 1 Thess. 1:5).

It is no small thing that Peter and Paul both share a common conviction that the presence of the eschatological charismatic Spirit was validation for the NT people of God. The presence of the Spirit was not only an objective reality, but was also a demonstrable reality, on in which both Peter and Paul refer to. The Qumran community was looking for a Messianic age that would be accompanied by the Holy Spirit as validation for their status as God’s people. Their expectations may have not been too far off from the testimony we have in Peter and Paul regarding the Holy Spirit’s presence in the Church.

Carey (2005:62) sees three major sections in the book of Joel:

By emphasizing what we might call Joel’s point of view with respect to the question of Zion’s salvation, we have identified three major movements: (1) an examination of the present calamity, with hope for future deliverance (1:1-2:17); (2) assurance that God’s salvation will emerge from pity for the people (2:18-27); and (3) eschatological confidence in Jerusalem’s final salvation (2:28-3:21).

I would concur with Carey and only add that the calamity may have been past, present, or even future. The salvation that was provided could have been a historical fact that Joel is reminiscing upon, a present reality, or yet future. The third and final section (2:28-3:21) is easier to pin down as the full testimony of Scripture would view this as eschatological in nature, however some still disagree as to what extent its fulfillment began on Pentecost or is yet future.

Another possibility is to view all three sections as a metaphorical “wisdom literature” of sorts. As such, the message speaks broadly to calamity, need for repentance, God’s promised blessing, and ultimate final deliverance. There is broad consensus among most commentators that the dating of Joel is uncertain. Even though, most all are agreed that the disadvantage is minimal and that the message of Joel has enduring applicable value to the people of God throughout the ages.

Carey (2005:63) makes mention of how Israel came to view their history within an eschatological framework, thus living in perpetual imminence of God’s coming deliverance and realizing their need for wholehearted repentance:

Joel interprets the present crisis as the eschatological tribulation. In that moment the prophet cries out for repentance, which (he is certain) will bring about Zion’s eschatological blessings….From the outset, Joel interprets the locust swarms as an eschatological crisis, a sing that “the day of the LORD” is at hand….[N]o layer of Joel is free from eschatological reflection…As apocalyptic discourse develops, we will observe a tendency to interpret a current challenge as marking the culmination of history….[A]pocalyptic discourse can adapt texts and even recollections of history to address continuing concerns in the life of a people.

We move ever closer to the climax and consummation of all thing. The Messianic age has commenced in Christ’s coming, the Spirit has been given, and the Gospel is to be preached to the ends of the earth.


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