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on 25 August 2007
`Jesus, Paul and the End of the World' examines Jesus' and Paul's understandings of the whole `End Times' issue (which theologians call `eschatology').

Witherington divides his work as follows:

Part One: the Language of Imminence
Part Two: The Dominion of God
Part Three: The Community of Christ
Part Four: Paul, Jesus and the Israel of God
Part Five: The Day of the Lord
Part Six: The Resurrection of the Dead
Part Seven: Jesus, Paul and the End of the World
(Appendix, Notes, etc. follow)

The topic of eschatology encompasses everything from what happens after we die all the way to what happens at the end of the world (the `eschaton'), and everything in between. Witherington reduces this vast arena by focusing specifically on Jesus' and Paul which necessarily avoids such topics as the Old Testament, how the views of the early church developed and the views of rest of the world (ancient and modern).

So it is a detailed but (very) narrowly focused investigation of eschatology. Witherington's writing style is generally comfortable enough and the layout is clear and simple which both aid the reading process. Unfortunately, Witherington's overly-esoteric approach meant that I couldn't understand un-translated Greek words, or whole sentences, and despite being an avid theology (and general fiction) reader, Witherington used a multitude of English words that I've never come across either. This slowed the reading process significantly, and greatly reduced my enjoyment of it too. (Erickson's 1300 page `Christian Theology' is a much easier read, for instance.)

However, perseverance is rewarded as Witherington offers some useful, occasionally powerful and once or twice some mildly controversial conclusions. If you're studying Jesus or Paul's thought's about resurrection or the Day of the Lord (for instance), then this will be a very valuable title. But if you're looking to understand the whole End Times topic, Hans Schwarz's `Eschatology' is larger, easier to read and "covers all the `End Time' bases" wonderfully.

In the end, Witherington's `Jesus, Paul and the End of the World' does just what it says on the tin, but no more - and it's overly complicated. He places too much emphasise on the nuance of a Greek word or phrase which makes him less convincing. But this is top-notch scholarship at an excellent price so if you persevere, you'll not be disappointed (or led astray)! 3½ stars would be fair.
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