Christ is not a soothsayer but a prophet

This is as close as Girard ever gets to talking directly about the apocalypse in the fashion that most authors spend hundreds of pages doing.

For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the word and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:23-24)

All the exegetes want to see this as an allusion to the destruction of the Temple by Titus in A.D. 70, and they conclude from this that Luke’s text is later than the three others. These theories are completely uninteresting because the fall of Jerusalem does not mean only A.D. 70, but also 587 B.C. The Evangelists were continuing the Jewish prophetic tradition, which was attentive to “signs of the times.” Here too human history is caught within that of God. The fall of Jerusalem is thus primarily an apocalyptic theme: Christ is not a soothsayer but a prophet. One of the wonders of the texts is that they make it impossible to know whether or not they are speaking of Titus. However, historians mix everything up without even realizing that the mixture is part of what they are talking about, and that what they are talking about could not care less about them.

There is no doubt that the apocalyptic passages refer to a real event that will follow the Passion, but in the Gospels they were placed before it. The “time of the Gentiles” is thus, like the seventy years of servitude to the King of Babylon in Jeremiah, an indefinite amount of time between two apocalypses, two revelations. If we put the statements back into an evangelical perspective, this can only mean that  the time of the Gentiles, in other words, the time when Gentiles will refuse to hear the word of God, is a limited time. Between Christ’s Passion and his Second Coming, the Last Judgment, if you prefer, there will be this indefinite time which is ours, a time of increasingly uncontrolled violence, of refusal to hear, of growing blindness. This is the meaning of Luke’s writings, and this shows their relevance. In the respect, Pascal says at the end of the twelfth Provincial Letter that “violence has only a certain course to run, limited by the appointment of Heaven.”

-Rene Girard, Battling to the End, p.111

I think we end up using a too-generic definition of prophet when talking about figures in the bible. They didn’t know the future like someone gazing into a crystal ball and surfing the internet news sites for next year. Instead, they had specific messages to deliver, to warn the people to forsake their violence and idolatry. John the Baptist, and then Jesus Christ, (when he talks about the future) is still doing the same thing. I’m sure someone has developed this idea more somewhere else, but I’m not sure where.

As or what this says about the mechanics of the apocalypse, I guess Girard can be placed in the “getting worse before it gets better” camp which would seem at odds with post-millennialism, but perhaps the two can still be reconciled.

“The time when Gentiles will refuse to hear the word of God, is a limited time” is certainly a hopeful statement.