Eschatological Dynamics

The consideration of linear versus cyclical time should not divert our attention from other aspects of the Old Testament concept of time. Interesting observations can also be made by using distinctions between dynamic and static concepts of time as an analytic tool.69 A dynamic view of time is found in classical prophecy. It sees history as a battlefield on which evil powers attack the reign of God. The present is therefore often viewed critically: It is the place of decision. The perspective is oriented toward the future, toward the end of history and the dawning of a new eon. God is above all the God who is coming. In contrast, in the tradition of the priesthood we encounter primarily a static view of time. Here, the present is understood from the perspective of the past. The present relatedness to God has existed forever and is tied to the fixed order of the Law. God is the supreme ruler, even if the world rejects God. God is always the God who has come. Thus, a tension arises between the present that is interpreted in light of the future (as in the prophetic tradition) and the present that is understood in light of the past (as in the Priestly tradition). A one-sided, dynamic understanding can degenerate into enthusiasm, complete relativism, or pessimism with respect to the present. A one-sided, static understanding runs the risk of a deistic dissociation of God from the world, a rationalization springing from an overestimation of order, or a complacent conservatism that is certain of eternal truths.

As the considerations about linear and cyclical time have already suggested, the interesting question is less whether time should be conceived either dynamically or statically; it is the interplay of the different perspectives that is much more instructive. How do the divergent perspectives in the different traditions relate to one another? What happens when emphases shift or when a specific outlook becomes predominant? How do historic events affect the concept of time? Do crises always promote a dynamic understanding of time, while "normal situations" more likely go hand in hand with a static view?

The dynamic nature of time emerges particularly in conjunction with eschatological ideas. Here once again, it becomes clear that time is primarily understood in terms of its contents, because Old Testament eschatology deals less with the end of the world, time, and history than it does with the end of evil brought about by God's transformation of human beings, society, and nature.70 For this reason, Donald E. Gowan prefers to conceive of the core of eschatology as being spatial rather than temporal, since its central concern is with Zion, God's city, not with a return to the garden of Eden; its primary concern is with the realization of the full complexity of

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