Chapter 12, written by John Loftus, is entitled “At Best Jesus Was a Failed Apocalyptic Prophet.” He argues that if the Gospels are reliable historical sources then Jesus falsely predicted the end of the age within a generation of his preaching (Mt 10:23; 24:36; Mk 9:1; 13:24-31; 14:16) and that the rest of the NT writers shared Jesus’ view (Rom 13:11; 1Co 7:29; 15:20; 2Co 6:2; 1Th 4:15; 5:1-2; 2Pet 3:3-10; 1Jn 2:18, 28; Rev 1:1; 3:11; 22:6-7, 10, 12, 20). Ben Witherington III’s book Jesus, Paul and the End of the World addresses such passages in far more depth than I can give in this review.
In addition to the texts above, Loftus believes that Jesus’ ethic was an “interim ethic” for the supposedly short period of time before the end of the age. His reason for believing this is because Jesus’ commands are not livable over the long haul. I probably interpret the passages differently than Loftus, but giving to the poor, trusting in God, and placing God above family are no more impossible today than in the first century.
Near the end of the chapter Loftus briefly interacts with N.T. Wright’s arguments from Jesus and the Victory of God. Loftus provides examples where later Christians apparently took the apocalyptic language of Jesus literally as opposed to metaphorically as Wright does. It would have been nice to hear Loftus’ explanation of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2: “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.” Apparently the Thessalonians thought the day of the Lord could arrive without cosmic signs.