A debut book offers an examination of a key passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew.
In Chapter 24 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is walking with his disciples when they ask him what could be considered fairly elemental questions: what will be the signs of the end of times? How will they be able to tell that Jesus is returning to the world? And Jesus answers them at length, warning them against false messiahs and revealing the various disasters—“great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall”—that would presage the Apocalypse. “It is critically important that we approach these passages—and all the Word of God—in as straightforward a way as possible,” writes Kalbach in his scholarly and well-presented work, “putting a premium on context, comparing Scripture with Scripture, and using other tools for the literal interpretation of Scripture.” Since he characterizes Jesus as the omniscient Son of God who knows the future, the author refers to Matthew 24 as “the gold standard against which we should measure all other prophetic passages.” That “gold standard” forms the core of Kalbach’s extended work of eschatology, in which he scrutinizes every verse of that Matthew passage, every line, every word, often in compellingly intense detail. When reading this chunk of Matthew, which the author asserts cannot be seen as anything other than one of the most important teaching segments in all of Scripture, Kalbach stresses that “God’s Word to us is intended to be understood by us in its normative sense.” But as in all eschatology, the “normative” approach doesn’t work: vast amounts of extrapolation are necessary to turn Jesus’ generalities (“there shall be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places,” etc.) into a highly specific timetable of the end days. Yet the author’s thorough account is so energetic that his conjectures are uniformly engrossing.
A searching, rigorous, and comprehensive study of how Jesus described the end of the world.