“My words shall not pass away”
What strong and disturbing words do we read and hear in Luke’s apocalyptic warnings. “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring” (Luke 21. 25-33). Nothing really new about that, of course, “same old, same old,” we might even say, other than being far more eloquent than, perhaps, either the news or the weather!
And yet, it must surely give us pause, “men’s hearts failing them for fear,” anxious and worried on account of “looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” There is a profoundly cosmic quality to these Scriptural warning notes which signal the Advent theme of judgment at once coming to us and ever present.
But exactly how, to use Cranmer’s words in his marvellous collect for Advent II, do such disturbing warnings about judgment provide us with “patience and comfort of thy holy Word”, let alone “hope”? And yet that is precisely Jesus’ claim here. “My words shall not pass away.”
Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all religions of the Word. They are all logo-centric, we might say. Even though the meaning of Logos or Word is different for each, they are all nonetheless quite explicit about the primacy of the Word of God as revealed to our humanity. They are all revealed religions as distinct from the various nature religions and the religions of the political that surround them and out of which they emerge in one way or another. And they are all religions which place a high value on that Word of God as mediated to us through written texts, through Scripture, whether the Scriptures are the Hebrew or Jewish Scriptures, comprising the Torah or Law, the Prophets and the Writings for Jews, or the Arabic Qu’ran for Muslims, the recitation of Allah’s will by the Angel Gabriel (Jibril) to Mohammed, or the Scriptures for Christians which embrace the Old Testament (largely written in Hebrew) and the New Testament written in Greek. Scripture is simply that which is written.
“Whatsoever things were written aforetime,” St. Paul states, “were written for our learning.” Read the rest of this entry »