By Nestor Ravilas
When the visionary Daniel said that he sees someone like the son of man coming in the clouds, it marks that beginning of the new era in Israel’s eschatological hope. Once considered anomaly, apocalyptic literature that were produced during the last 300 years before the dawn of the Common Era now gaining recognition as source of revolutionary temperament of the people who just surfaced from long and traumatic exile.
Pseudepigrapha as a disparaging category is suddenly collapsing and beginning to see Jesus and the rest of New Testament writers not unique among their contemporaries, but people created by same era called apocalypse which scholars assigned its prevalence lasted until second century CE.
The cosmic vision, among many, is one the reasons apocalypse materials failed to gain serious study at first. Foreign influence was suspected culprit of the seeming shift. The long prophetic hope for political leaders as saviours to implement the reign of God has lost its clout and suddenly replaced by God, or his divine agent, to appear and deliver what the kings of the old failed to accomplish.
This is obviously a desperate measure, a fruit of a long frustration to human capacity to implement justice, mercy, and righteousness. The shift to divine agent as saviour is not only an act of rejection of political leaders, but putting them in the same way under judgment of the divine agent. Hence, in Matthew 25:31ff, all people stand before the divine, sitting in his throne, judging everyone even the kings.
There is no enough space to evaluate the pros and cons of this development here. Enough to underscore how people was treated in this progress. Although hope was transferred from human to divine, people remained portrayed as weak, docile, and powerless, and nothing they can be achieved without charismatic leaders, human or divine, leading them to emancipation.
The metaphor of sheep is the favourite one used in the Bible to describe the “faithful” as dumb throng in need of “enlightened individual” to lead them to salvation. The perpetuation of such imagery can work in our disadvantage since display of such docility and subservience attitude will not give us an assurance to entice a leader like Jesus to lead us. Out there are charismatic leaders who have the propensity for being dictators, fascists, and a populists who prey and take advantage of these innocent looking sheep to provide them platform for evil.
In one of my articles published in Facebook, I inveighed the role of religions as breeding ground for “yes-yes” people. They internalize such docility as virtue. But the critical development in the Bible between the interface of faith and society gives us the leeway to continue this questioning and searching for the way that will lead us into the reduction of the precariousness of everyone. As long as we see some people enjoying security at the expense of precarity of other people, the search will never be over.