It’s not only a new year, but it’s a Sunday, so a sermonette is in order. I decided to dredge one up from the archives because of e-mail asking my opinion on the so-called “End of Days.” This is the beginning of a new year, so the whole alpha and omega vibe hangs heavy in the air. It’s not as heavy as Y2K was, but it’s still there.

A famous American writer once told a story of two fish swimming along. Another fish swimming by nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” The two fish keep swimming until one looks at the other and says, “What the #$!& is water?”

We are surrounded by our own culture and many times it determines how we think and view the world without us realizing it. In our culture time structures our world. If you have to go to work, you are expected to be there at a certain time. Church services are scheduled at a specific time. Your GPS can tell you down to the minute how long it will take you to get somewhere. You can track the progress of a package being delivered. Whatever device you are using to read this on has a clock that is synchronized over the internet by an official clock somewhere.

Our concept of time is something we are so embedded in that we have a hard time realizing that our concept of time is unique in all of human history. Up until a few hundred years ago the smallest unit of time anyone really used was the hour, and even that was a little hard to measure. For most of human history, time has been measured by the position of the sun, moon, and stars. The modern obsession we have with exact times is new to humanity.

Time in the ancient world, the world of the Bible, was a very different thing. For us time is something that increments up. Events start at some time, other events follow, and then things happen after that. There is a specific order to events. We want to keep things in chronological order. If you study history you will probably study it in chronological order, or will study a specific time period according to the years on a calendar.

In the world of the Bible how people interacted with time was very different. There was no exactness. Meetings or events didn’t start at exact times. No one was checking the clock to see if a meeting should start, because there were no clocks in the sense that we know them. A festival, feast, celebration, or meeting would start when the necessary people were there to start it.

In Hebrew, the word for time is יום, or Yom. The concept of yom is simple, but for us it can be confusing. Yom can be translated, depending on context as “day”, “year”, “age”, “epoch”, “season”, or just an undefined amount of time. In one way we use the word “day” in the same way when we say, “Back in my day….”

In Greek, time is broken down into two separate concepts. Greeks used the word Χρόνος (Chronos) to talk about time as we are familiar with it. When King Herod asked the wise men what time they saw the sign of Christ’s birth (as recorded by Matthew, which was written in Greek), he was asking them about the chronos of the event. It was something that could be put on a calendar. Time, as it relates to chronos has a start and an end. Or it could be used to indicate the time “before” something happened. But chronos could be an undefined amount of time, but it was still something that could be put on a calendar.

The other Greek word that gets translated into English as “time” is καιρός (kairos). While you could put kairos down on a calendar, it doesn’t refer to a specific time. It refers to the right or opportune time. A comedian telling a joke has to time it right to make people laugh. Comedic timing isn’t a chronos, thing, it’s a kairos. When growing food in a garden you don’t follow an exact schedule. You plant the garden when the time and weather conditions are right, and you harvest the food when it is ripe. If it’s not ripe, you just have to wait. It’s not something you can sit down with the plants and work out a day when they will be ready. This is a case of kairos.

The Apostles who recorded the words of Jesus used the word kairos to talk about the time of the “harvest”. There wasn’t a chronos for the time of harvest, there was a kairos. The time wasn’t set. It depended on the conditions of the wheat. At times the apostles would call the saints to action saying that now was the kairos to actnow was the right time. It wasn’t because they had reached the correct date set in heaven for it. The conditions were right to preach and convert many people. They had to take advantage of that moment before it passed.

When it came to the second coming, Jesus and the apostles never spoke of the chronos of the second coming. They only spoke of the kairos, the unknown time that would be the right moment for it to happen.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time (kairos) will come. (Mark 13:32-33)

Even speaking of the “time of the gentiles” it was not a specific set period of time. There would be a beginning and end to the time of the Gentiles. But those times were not, and are not set.

And importantly some of the critical “times” used by people to try to predict the chronos of the second coming, are not chronos at all, but kairos.

14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time (kairos), and times (kairos plural), and half a time (half a kairos). (Revelation 12:14)

These times are not set times (chronos). They are movable times (kairos) that depend on certain conditions.

With this view, God does not have a planner that He keeps hidden so that no one will know when He has scheduled the second coming. God is waiting and watching for the correct moment of the second coming. It is not a set time, and Jesus warned us against those who thought they knew the chronos or even the kairos of the second coming. God is not bound by any timetable. There is only one who knows the correct conditions (kairos) for the second coming, and that is God, and he will act when the conditions are right.

Additional materials/reading:

Here’s all the times chronos appears in the Bible (New Testament). You can check out how it is used and how it is translated.

https://biblehub.com/str/greek/5550.htm

When you separate the two concepts some things in the Bible start making a lot more sense.

 

Happy 2023may it be a prosperous year – “and may the odds be ever in your favor”.

 

Coming Attractions

On January 22, the Year of the Water Rabit begins so you still have something to look forward to celebrating. Some people confuse the year of the Rabbit with the Year of the Cat.*

On a morning from a Bogart movieIn a country where they turn back timeYou go strolling through the crowd like Peter LorreContemplating a crimeShe comes out of the sun in a silk dress runningLike a watercolor in the rainDon’t bother asking for explanationsShe’ll just tell you that she cameIn the year of the cat…etc.

* In 2023, the Chinese New Year begins on 22 January and will last until 9 February 2024. While most of Asia celebrates the Year of the Rabbit, Vietnam celebrates the Year of the Cat. New Year is celebrated on the same date in both China and Vietnam.

 

The Orthodox Church recognizes January 7th as the day that Jesus was born. The difference in the timing of the Christmas celebrations stretches back to 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII, ruled that the Catholic Church should follow a new calendar – called the Gregorian calendar, as it was closer to the solar calendar than the Julian calendar.

The Julian calendar now runs 13 days behind, so Orthodox Christmas falls on January 7th—through 2099; in 2100, when the world next omits a leap year, it will move to January 8th.

The debate continues: A branch of Ukraine’s Orthodox church has announced that it will allow its churches to celebrate Christmas on December 25, rather than January 7, as is traditional in Orthodox congregations.

 

Question:

Should ancient religious texts be studied as stand-alone documents, in isolation or should they be studied in context with the religious claims that they make upon adherents/readers?

 

Longevity

This is a bust of my grandfather (who raised me) in my office at the White Wolf Mine. I have officially outlived the colonel, which is a thing that I would never have thought possible.

42 COMMENTS

  1. “no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
    From my admittedly theologically unsophisticated perspective, isn’t this an argument for Arianism?

    As to isolation vs in context, again bearing in mind my heathen ignorance, it seems that everything should be considered in context. But nota bene that this does not mean everything is relative. I believe there is objective reality, and that there are universal values and truths. (Regardless of whether this is true — whatever “true” means, we need to believe, and act as if, it’s true. Similarly, I used to joke: “We must believe that, and act as if, we have Free Will. We have no choice in the matter.” It’s a cheap laugh and a seemingly flippant remark that conceals my sincere conviction.)

    Finally, Happy 2023.

    • And, Acts 7:55 – But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

      But I digress, life gives us two things only. Time, and the choice of how we will use that time. It’s true that in many cases you’re up against the wall – Matthew. 6:24 – No man can serve two masters: for either he. will hate the one, and love the other; or else. he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. One choice takes you in good direction and a different choice leads you elsewhere. But we have that option.

      • As the great American philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” which is another way of saying “Choose this day who you will serve.” Choose wisely.

        • Another song says it this way…
          “If you choose not to decide, you have still made a choice”
          So the paradox of free will continues,
          For those who choose to believe that there is no such thing as free will…

          For the rest of us, I choose Him, for He chose me before the beginning of the world.
          I think that would definitely be kairos time.

          God Bless us ALL, Everyone,
          And mat you have a Blessed New Year.

          MSG Grumpy

    • As to Arianism, because of what Mike_C quoted, Jesus (Philippians 2:6) Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
      Something is going on there that is difficult for us to fathom, since like Larry’s reference, we don’t swim in that water. But it seems throughout the Gospel, Jesus looked to the Father for guidance as an example to us. It was a temporary condition that He placed Himself in.

      • The Council of Nicaea was the first council in the history of the Christian church that was intended to address the entire body of believers. It was convened by the emperor Constantine to resolve the controversy of Arianism, a doctrine that held that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were separate and distinct from each other.

        It took place between May and August 325 AD at Nicea, attended by about 300 clerics. Jesus Christ and the apostles had been dead for twelve generations (give or take a generation) by then. The Trinitarian Council had a spiritual agenda and a political agenda since it was convened at the whim and expense of the Holy Roman Emperor (and his mother).

        This blog’s readership can study the conclave and its minutes.

        Augustine of Hippo, also known as Saint Augustine, a Berber was born 25 years after that first convening and died August 28, 430 AD, at Annaba, Algeria. His observations, since he was a contemporary, provide some insight.

        The Second Council of Nicaea. (787 AD) is recognized as the last of the first seven ecumenical councils by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. 350 years later. Exploring the political dynamics quite apart from everything else in the intervening years since 100 AD and 787 AD, is interesting.

  2. I once wrote a short story that described the the plans of an alien civilization to subdue the earth.
    First, to get us used to slavery, they introduced timepieces.
    It wasn’t a particularly good story.

  3. Year of the Cat lyrics. Thanks for the reminder. I have been using 4K downloader (free) to download music videos from YouTube. For whatever reason, this one pops into mind–

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xN0hmNS_IU

    I too have outlived my grandfather. We are babysitting our grandson today. He turns two next month. As I type this, he is driving his little wheeled toy across my desk, across the old ink blotter that once resided on my grandfather’s desk.

    “All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us”.
    Gandalf

  4. I never once in my life thought about time being different in the past, I wonder if that will change anything as I get more accustomed to that reality? I wonder what other misconceptions I’m walking around with?
    No matter really, I understand that “my” time is mine to do with as I will/can and when it stops it just does.

    I’d like to with everyone here (& especially our host LL) a happy, prosperous & better 2023!
    A Much better 2023…

  5. The header picture of the desert sunrise is nice, it reminds me of the winters I spent in the Arizona desert. I miss the sunsets & sunrises.

    I’m in Florida this winter, it was raining yesterday but it wasn’t cold, not a problem. It reminded me of the holiday seasons in Hawaii. But in Florida we have roads that actually go somewhere 🙂
    I’m not going anywhere but I’m aware that I can!

  6. Isolation vs. context: It depends who sets the context, and how. From within the context of faith, one looks at the documents through a particular set of lenses. From a secular perspective, the lenses are very different. Consider liberation theology: same Bible, same teachings, but analyzed so radically differently that it’s effectively no longer classic Christianity at all, but Marxism with religious overtones.

    Another problem is how context affects analysis and the development of theology and dogma. Take the question of the Church. The Catholic Church identifies itself so strongly with Christ Himself that there’s no distinction in the eyes of a lot of traditionalists. Tell them that they believe more in the Church than they do in Christ as a person, and they’ll merely nod and say that the two are indistinguishable. Many of us would argue that the structure, the institution, is not the same as the person. Certainly, most Protestants would agree with that perspective. Thus, the Catholic Church can (and does) hold the dogma that there is no salvation outside her ranks, because her ranks are the living, breathing presence of the Savior. The “separated brethren” may be saved only because Christ’s mercy operates through the Catholic Church to reach them in an imperfect way; but they can never have the full truth of the “deposit of faith”. Try to argue against that, and one is dismissed as having an imperfect understanding of the point.

    *Sigh*

  7. X2 to every comment above, very well said all.

    Something I learned much later in “study” was that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are written chronologically where John is Kairologically, events versus timeline to paint a picture of Jesus’ life and teaching as it relates to Salvation. (Not to put too fine a point on it.)

    Context- This is something I harped on from the pulpit on multiple occasions. Taking a piece of Scripture from its larger context will, generally, obfuscate the original meaning “in the whole”. Like “snake handling without injury”, not only is it stupid, but it mocks God. One cannot put their hand into a flame while praying to God not to get burned. Often this is done to serve man, not God. So yes, as with just about anything, especially Biblical matters, context is critical to a full understanding of meaning and/or admonition.

    Your grandfather’s bust, absolutely love it…keeping watch over his grandson. I have a few things of my fathers, who I have now outlived for 5 years (geez). They are there as a reminder of his wisdom, brilliance, and influence on all those he came in contact, especially his three his sons and one cousin. We call it The LFM Factor…it honors his legacy.

    Somehow we have made it 2023, praying it will be intentionally better than the last dumpster fire trainwreck for everyone who is motivated to see the good in life.

    Skaal!

    • ” Taking a piece of Scripture from its larger context will, generally, obfuscate the original meaning”
      I once led a Bible study of Matthew and I was amazed as we read verses that we regularly seen taken out of context (bumper sticker scripture) to mean the opposite of it’s meaning (in context).

    • Too many think the gospels are supposed to be 20th Century Western Civilization chronologically accurate biographies. It would be better to think of them as a set of arguments saying that Jesus was the Christ, with each one taking a different point of view in order to point to the same conclusion. I heard that Mark starts off with an argument style that would have been very familiar to the Jews at that time.
      It’s almost like the gospels follow this pattern: “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

  8. Happy new year! May this one be better than your last.

    As to your question: Everything needs context, but we should not let context blind us to the value of the thing itself. To know the culture and the climate and the mindset of the origins is to understand the record itself far more deeply and richly…

    But when you’re talking about documents that survive to application in a day and age that is culturally alien to the time in which it’s made, it’s equally important to not forget that today’s culture and climate and mindset informs what people take from it now. Sometimes, illuminating the etymology and origins allows you to change minds in the present… and sometimes, it’s abused as a way of dismissing the value of the document to the present, or justifying twisting it to suit. The latter rarely ends well.

    So even the study of context needs context.

  9. Happy New Year and, as always, an excellent sermon.

    Question: Wouldn’t it be the case that chronos and kairos are one in God’s eternal present moment of absolute knowledge? He knows, in eternity, the season and the time.

    Here on earth it’s a different matter and I like the way you make the two temporal distinctions, certainly helps understanding the Word. And yes, context.

  10. Should a periodic table of the chemical elements be studied as a stand-alone document in isolation, or should it be studied in context with the factual claims that it makes upon adherents/readers?

    There are facts, theories, hypotheses, mistakes; there are no separate magisteriums. OF COURSE values may be chosen by analysis of facts.

    The Council of Nicaea was designed to support the first multinational corporation, the Catholic Church. Dissenters claiming you could know God without a bureaucracy were run out of town and had to bury their writings in caves, which became the dead sea scrolls. We should analyze the CoN’s reports for politics as carefully as we do the statements of the United Nations today.

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