Parousia – Online Discussions

AlanF in the following note refers of course to Alan Feuerbacher who has written extensively for several years on the subject. The note itself was written by “Leolaia” and can currently be seen at this address. (There is a lot more where this came from.) Not to take anything away from the excellent research work of so many others, but when it comes to subject area articles on many subjects related to WT doctrine, you can’t go wrong by searching for work by AlanF and Leolaia.

AlanF and I have written some pretty lengthy researched posts on this subject, but they appear to have fallen into the memory hole of the archives. I have not been able to find them without a working search utility, and Google is of no help. Sorry…because that was your best bet. So I can only give a very rough summary — without the relevant evidence. (1) The word parousia did not only mean “presence”. As in the case of interpreting the words stauros and kolasin “punishment”, the Society evidences an etymological fallacy… the belief that a particular meaning is necessarily the appropriate one in a given text because it is the original or etymological one. (2) The event structure of parousia was not limited to a STATE, the state of “being present”. The word was used to signal CHANGES OF STATE, such as semantic achievements and accomplishments, and there are many examples in Josephus and in Greek literature with the sense of x BECOME [STATE: PRESENT], in addition to the stative x [STATE: PRESENT]. I wish I could find the examples I posted earlier from Josephus because these are very clear. Here is one example from the apocrypha:

“When news reached Judas concerning Nicanor’s invasion, he warned his men of the enemy’s approach (parousian), whereupon the fainthearted and those who lacked confidence in the justice of God took to their heels and ran away” (2 Maccabees 8:12-13).

The change of state is explicit here by the verb “warn”; Nicanor was not previously “present” but Judas warns that he will be present. The actions of the “fainthearted” are also clearly construed as prior to the arrival of the enemy; they escape before he BECOMES PRESENT. (3) There is also a technical sense in the papyri and inscriptions of parousia as indicating a royal visit, an official arrival. This sense is relevant considering the depiction of Jesus as coming in kingly power. (4) The Society, ironically, also construes parousia as a change of state because they argue that “something changed” in 1914 relating to Christ’s parousia. Thus, they say that he “became invisibly present”. This is a distinction without a difference, it is still a coming…only in a different mode. The Society’s own interpretation of parousiathus conflicts with the “original” sense of the word. (5) Moreover, there is NOTHING in the sense of parousia that implies an INVISIBLE presence, or (in the case of 1914) an invisible coming. There is no evidence at all that “invisibility” is entailed by the semantics of the verb. (6) Indeed, the words erkhomai “come”, epiphaneia“manifestation”, and apokalupsis “revealing” are used to refer to a VISIBLE act of eschatological coming:

  • Matthew 24:30: “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear (phanésetai) in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of Man coming (erkhomenon) on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
  • Matthew 26:64: “Yet I say to you men, From henceforth you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming (erkhomenon) on the clouds of heaven.”
  • Mark 8:38: “The Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he arrives (elthé) in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
  • Mark 13:26: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming (erkhomenon) in clouds with great power and glory.”
  • Mark 14:62: “You persons will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming (erkhomenon) with the clouds of heaven.”
  • Luke 21:27: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming (erkhomenon) in a cloud with power and great glory.”
  • Acts 1:9-11: “He was lifted up and a cloud caught him up from their vision. And as they were gazing into the sky while he was on his way, also, look! two men in white garments stood alongside them, and they said: ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus who was received up from you into the sky will come (eleusetai) thus in the same manner as you have beheld him going into the sky.'”
  • 1 Corinthians 1:7: “Do not fall short in any gift at all, while you are eagerly waiting for the revelation (apokalupsin) of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:16: “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8: “It is righteous on God’s part to repay … relief along with us at the revelation (apokalupsei) of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:8: “Then will be revealed (apokaluphthésetai) the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the breath of his mouth and annihilate him at his glorious appearance (epiphaneia) at his coming (parousia).”
  • 1 Timothy 6:14: “Observe the commandment in a spotless and irreprehensible way until the appearing (epiphaneias) of our Lord Jesus Christ, who at the due time will be revealed (deixei) by God.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:1: “The Lord Jesus Christ is to be the judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of his appearing (epiphaneian) and his kingdom.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:8: “From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day, yet not only to me, but also to all those who have loved his appearing (epiphaneian).”
  • 1 Peter 1:67: “You have been grieved by various trials, in order that the tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation (apokalupsei) of Jesus Christ.”
  • 1 Peter 1:13: “Set your hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to you at the revelation (apokalupsei) of Jesus Christ.”
  • 1 Peter 4:13: “Go on rejoicing … that you may rejoice and be overjoyed also during the revelation (apokalupsei) of his [Christ’s] glory.”
  • Revelation 1:7: “Look! He is coming (erkhetai) with the clouds, and every eye will see him.”

The Society gets around this clear evidence by saying that all these refer to a VISIBLE event during a much longer “presence”. But this is an empty distinction. ThusMatthew 24:3 asks for the “sign (sémeion) of your parousia“, and this corresponds in v. 30 to the “appearing” (phanésetai) of the “sign (sémeion) of the Son of Man” in heaven which occurs as the Son of Man “comes” on the clouds of heaven. Furthermore, just a few verses earlier, the word parousia occurs to refer to a sudden visible appearing: “The coming (parousia) of the Son of Man will be like lightning striking in the east and flashing far into the west” (v. 27). Like lightning, theparousia will be sudden and instantaneously VISIBLE in all parts of the world. The word parousia next occurs in v. 37-44, and again it is used interchangeably witherkhomai and refers to a sudden event — like the Flood that suddenly came in the days of Noah: “They took no note until the cataclysm came (elthén, = erkhomai) and swept them all away. It will be like this when the Son of Man comes (parousia)” (v. 39). The parousia is not a drawn-out period of time with a later visible part but a sudden visible event. Outside of Matthew, the term occurs only in Paul where it also refers to the end-time eschaton during which the resurrection occurs (1 Corinthians 15:23), the “coming” (parousia) of Lord Jesus “with all his holy ones” in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 (cf. erkhomai in Mark 8:38Jude 14-15 in similar descriptions of angels coming “with him”), and as “coming down from heaven” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16, and the parousia designated as a “glorious appearance” (epiphaneia) in 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Such an assumed distinction thus is not supported by the use of parousia in these passages.


I just did a search in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, and found the following examples of parousia as indicating changes of state:

“My rule shall be terminated (suntelesthésetai) by men of alien race, until (heós) the salvation of Israel comes (elthein), until the coming (heós parousias) of the God of righteousness” (Testament of Judah 22:2)

This example is about as clear as it comes. The reign of the tribe of Judah over the kingdoms of Israel and Judah will terminate when “men of alien race” rule over the Jews. The state of “ruling” has thus been replaced by a state of “being ruled by Gentiles”. This state is itself terminated by the “coming” of the “salvation of Israel”. The temporal adverb heós “until” occurs in the last two predicates, indicating that the preceding state ends with a new event indicated by elthein (= same verb aserkhomenon “coming”) and parousia. The parallelism between the two clauses and the use of heós in both indicates clearly that parousia is here interchangeable with elthein “comes” and indicates a change of state.

“Then Jacob gave him [Laban] an account of the whole reason for his flight (pasan … aitian diégeito) [to Haran], and told him that … Esau sought to kill him, as deprived of the kingdom which was to be given to him by God, and of the blessings for which their father prayed, and that this was the reason (aitian) for his coming there (enthade parousias) as his mother had commanded him to do” (JosephusAntiquities 1.19.6).

Here Jacob was visiting Laban and described the purpose for his flight to Haran; the word aitian “reason, purpose” is applied both to the act of fleeing (a change of state) as well as to parousia. This suggests that parousia is the same act of “coming” as Jacob’s fleeing to Haran to his uncle Laban.

“So the Hebrews were full of courage, as supposing that, by the arrival of the ark (tén aphixin tés kibótou), they should be too hard for their enemies; their enemies also were greatly concerned, and were afraid of the coming of the ark (tén parousian tés kibótou) to the Israelites” (JosephusAntiquities 5.11.2)

Another good example. The parousia “coming” of the ark of the covenant is the same as the expected aphixin “arrival” of the ark. It is the change of state that is being highlighted here (something that the Philistines fear and the Hebrews eagerly anticipate), not an already existing presence.

“When he roused from his sleep he greatly rejoiced and declared to all the warning he received from God according to which dream he acted entirely, and so waited(exedekheto) for the coming of the king (tén tou basileós parousian)” (JosephusAntiquities 11.8.4).

Here the parousia of the king ENDS a state of “waiting”. A state ends not with another state but with a change of state; thus parousia here has the sense of “coming”, not “being present” (i.e. “waiting for the king to become present”).

“He promised however that he would make this day on which they came to him (élthon pros auton) remarkable and eminent every year through the whole course of his life, for their coming to him (parousias autoi) and the victory which he gained over Antigonus by sea proved to be on the very same day” (Josephus,Antiquities 12.2.11).

In this case, parousia is used as the equivalent of the verb for “come” (erkhomai, inflected as élthon), and both represent the same punctual event.

“There was now one Joseph, young in age, but of great reputation among the people of Jerusalem… His mother was the sister of Onias the high priest, who informed him of the coming (parousian) of the ambassador; for he was then sojourning at a village named Phicol, where he was born. Not long after that, he came (elthón) to the city [Jerusalem] and reproved Onias for not taking care of the preservation of his countrymen” (JosephusAntiquities 12.4.2).

In this text, the word parousia occurs in its technical sense of referring to an official visit. The ambassador was not yet PRESENT (indeed, he was on his way and was sojourning in a nearby town) and the next sentence refers to his subsequent arrival to Jerusalem. The verb has a sense of directed motion and not a state of presence.

“And this misfortune befell them by their disobedience to what injunctions Judas had given them, not to fight with anyone before (pro) his return (parousias)” (JosephusAntiquities 12.8.6).

Here the people were disobeying the commands given to them by Judas for his ABSENCE from them, which they were to keep until he RETURNED, or BECAME PRESENT with them again. Again, clearly a change of state.

“They exhorted her at least to keep them in bonds until (mekhrihe should come (tés ekeinou parousias), and that for their own security” (JosephusAntiquities 20.2.2).

Another “until” clause….the act of “coming” terminates the STATE of bondage.

“He exhorted him to administer the affairs of the kingdom until (mekhrihis brother should come (tés tou adelphou parousias), who came suddenly (héke …takheós) upon hearing that his father was dead, and succeeded his brother Monobazus who resigned up the government to him” (JosephusAntiquities 20.2.2).

This example is also very clear. Monobazus administers the kingdom in the ABSENCE of his brother and does so UNTIL the parousia of his brother, who comes “suddenly” after their father dies. It is the parousia of Monobazus’ brother that brings the prior state to an end, and this event is described further in the next sentence: the brother comes suddenly and Monobazus hands the government over to him.

“Upon the receipt of this letter of Silas, I took two hundred men along with me, and traveled (poreian epoioumén) all night, having sent before a messenger to let the people of Tiberias know that I was coming (parousian)” (JosephusVita 90).

In this text, Josephus describes his journey to the city of Tiberias and while he was en route he sent a messenger ahead of him to let the people of Tiberias know that he was approaching. The message was not to inform them that he was already present, but that he was shortly to BECOME PRESENT. 

These quotes from Josephus are especially significant in light of Watchtower claims that Josephus “did not apply parousia to a mere approach or momentary arrival”.  These claims are false.

*** w96 8/15 p. 11 Jesus’ Coming or Jesus’ Presence—Which? *** Examples from Josephus: At Mount Sinai lightning and thunder “declared God to be there present [pa·rou·si´a].” The miraculous manifestation in the tabernacle “showed the presence [pa·rou·si´a] of God.” By showing Elisha’s servant the encircling chariots, God made “manifest to his servant his power and presence [pa·rou·si´a].” When Roman official Petronius tried to appease the Jews, Josephus claimed that ‘God did show his presence [pa·rou·si´a] to Petronius’ by sending rain. Josephus did not apply pa·rou·si´a to a mere approach or momentary arrival. It meant an ongoing, even invisible, presence. (Exodus 20:18-21; 25:22; Leviticus 16:2; 2 Kings 6:15-17)—Compare Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, chapter 5, paragraph 2 [80]; chapter 8, paragraph 5 [203]; Book 9, chapter 4, paragraph 3 [55]; Book 18, chapter 8, paragraph 6 [284].

Josephus, of course, did also use the word to refer to a “presence” as well, but it is striking that in this passage the Society selectively quotes him to give the impression that he ONLY used parousia to mean “presence”.

This site has some info that may be of interest to you:

Here’s a link to a conversation on B-Greek some time ago:

Here one of AlanF‘s posts on parousia.  You’ll need to scroll halfway down past the discussion on stauros:

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