No, I am not going to break my rule on this blog that I don’t speculate about the end times. But I was struck by the extract from Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth, about the temptation of Jesus, quoted by Michael Barber. Here is part of it (typos corrected):
The devil proves to be a Bible expert who can quote the Psalm exactly. The whole conversation of the second temptation takes the form of a dispute between two Bible scholars. Remarking on this passage, Joachim Gnilka says that the devil presents himself here as a theologian. The Russian writer Vladimir Soloviev took up this motif in his short story ‘The Antichrist.’ The Anitchrist receives an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Tübingen and is a great Scripture scholar. Soloviev’s portrayal of the Antichrist forcefully expresses his skepticism regarding a certain type of scholarly exegesis current at the time. This is not a rejection of scholarly biblical interpretation as such, but an eminently salutary and necessary warning against its possible aberrations. The fact is that scriptural exegesis can become a tool of the Antichrist. Soloviev is not the first person to tell us that; it is the deeper point of the temptation story itself. The alleged findings of scholarly exegesis have been used to put together the most dreadful books that destroy the figure of Jesus and dismantle faith… [T]he Antichrist, with an air of scholarly excellence, tells us that any exegesis that reads the Bible from the perspective of faith in the living God, in order to listen to what God has to say, is fundamentalism; he wants to convince us that only his kind of exegesis, the supposedly purely scientific kind, in which God says nothing and has nothing to say, is able to keep abreast of the times. The theological debate between Jesus and the devil is a dispute over the correct interpretation of Scripture…
Well said, Your Holiness. These days I try (not always successfully) not to get involved in disputes with Bible scholars of this Antichrist kind.
With the apostle John in 1 John 2:18, I refuse to identify any single Antichrist but think in terms of multiple antichrists. These may include the liberal Bible scholars Pope Benedict has in mind. But ironically it is not just theological liberals who want to limit what God has to say by “supposedly purely scientific” exegesis. I often come across an essentially similar approach from those who call themselves evangelical Bible believers, but in practice hold that “God says nothing and has nothing to say” beyond the interpretations of the Bible by certain typically 16th and 17th century teachers. So I also wonder if among the antichrists are some evangelical scholars who are so sure of their traditional interpretations that they refuse to read the Bible “in order to listen to what God has to say”.