The advent of Jesus.

Also known as the παρουσια.


What is a παρουσια?

Craig Evans, Commentary on Mark 8.27-16.20, pages lxxxvii-lxxxviii:

The anticipated arrival of the emperor was referred to as a παρουσια (Latin adventus). In honor of the Roman emperors, "advent coins" were struck; e.g., a coin struck in 66 C.E. in honor of Nero reads adventus Augusti, "the coming of Augustus." An inscription in honor of Hadrian speaks of the "first παρουσια of the god Hadrian" (both examples from Deissmann, Light, 371-72). P.Teb. 48 announces the παρουσια of the king to the forum. This manner of speaking is known to Judaism of late antiquity, as seen in Josephus, who also speaks of the "παρουσια of the king" (Ant. 19.8.1. 340; cf. 3 Macc 3:17; T. Abr. 13:4-6).

Papyrus Tebtunis 48 is dated to the second century before Christ.

In 3 Maccabees 3.17a, Ptolemy Philopater is writing (in a letter) of his royal visit to the temple in Jerusalem:

Οι δε λογω μεν την ημετεραν αποδεξαμενοι παρουσιαν, τω δε πραγματι νοθως....

And they in word received our coming, but in deed [it was apparent that they did so] spuriously....

F. F. Bruce, Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, page 57:

The παρουσια (Lat adventus) of a very important person might inaugurate a new era, as happened with the visit of Hadrian to Athens and other Greek cities in A. D. 124--an inscription of A. D. 192/3 at Tegea is dated "in the year 69 of the first παρουσια of the god Hadrian in Greece...." Not long after 1 Thessalonians was written, coins bearing some such legend as adventus Augusti were struck at Corinth and Patras to commemorate an official visit of Nero.

N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, page 341:

Parousia means 'presence' as opposed to apousia, 'absence'; hence it denotes the 'arrival' of someone not at the moment present; and it is especially used in relation to the visit 'of a royal or official personage' [note 95: Liddell-Scott-Jones, page 1343].

The παρουσια in Josephus.

The following instances of παρουσια are the only three in the Wars, and all refer to the presence or coming of a military leader or force:

  • 2.21.6 §79, of Josephus with his army.
  • 4.5.5 §345, of the Idumeans.
  • 5.9.4 §410, of Titus.

The following instances of παρουσια in the Antiquities refer to the presence or coming either of human beings (including royal personages or official dignitaries) or of things:

  • 1.8.2 §168, of Abraham.
  • 1.19.1 §281, of good things.
  • 1.19.3 §287, of Jacob.
  • 1.19.5 §296, of Esau.
  • 2.3.1 §20, of Joseph as housemate.
  • 2.13.1 §279, of Aaron and Moses.
  • 4.8.2 §180, of things lacking.
  • 5.1.26 §109, of the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
  • 5.8.10 §304, of Samson.
  • 5.11.2 §355, of the ark of the covenant.
  • 6.4.2 §102, of Samuel.
  • 8.13.3 §325, of Elijah.
  • 11.8.4 §328, of Alexander the king.
  • 12.2.11 §86, of gift-bearers.
  • 12.2.11 §93, of elders from Jerusalem.
  • 12.6.2 §160, of an ambassador.
  • 12.8.6 §352, of Judas Maccabeus to a military encampment.
  • 13.9.2 §266, of ambassadors homeward.
  • 18.6.4 §161, of Tiberius Caesar.
  • 19.8.1 §339, of a king.
  • 20.2.2 §31, of Izates, king-to-be.
  • 20.2.2 §32, of Izates, king-to-be.

The following instances of παρουσια in the Antiquities refer to the presence or coming of God himself:

  • 3.5.2 §79, on Sinai.
  • 3.8.5 §202, in the tabernacle.
  • 3.8.5 §203, in the tabernacle.
  • 9.4.3 §55, to the servant of Elijah.*

* In Antiquities 9.4.3 §55 Elijah asks God to make apparent his power and presence (εμφανισαι την αυτου δυναμιν και παρουσιαν) to his servant in the face of a humanly superior force. This is the clearest theophanic usage of the term in Josephus, in my judgment, in which the presence of God is set parallel to his power.

The παρουσια in New Testament usage.

The word παρουσια, as we have noted, can simply mean the presence of a person as opposed to his or her absence, or απουσια. All instances of this usage in the New Testament may be found in the following passages:

  • 1 Corinthians 16.17.
  • 2 Corinthians 7.6.
  • 2 Corinthians 7.7.
  • 2 Corinthians 10.10.
  • Philippians 1.26.
  • Philippians 2.12.
  • 2 Thessalonians 2.9 (the advent of the man of lawlessness).

But the more common New Testament usage is for the advent of Jesus Christ.

As all the scholars cited above note, the term tends to take on special meaning when applied to a very important figure such as a king or emperor. In the New Testament, all instances of the παρουσια of Jesus refer to a future coming, not to an abiding presence in the church or any other kind of presence to which απουσια would be the natural antonym.

Indeed, Wright elaborates on the παρουσια in Matthew 24.3 (the word does not appear in either Mark or Luke) on page 342 of Jesus and the Victory of God:

What, after all, were the disciples waiting for? They had come to Jerusalem expecting Jesus to be enthroned as the rightful king.... The disciples now 'heard' his prophetic announcement of the destruction of the Temple as the announcement, also, of his own vindication; in other words, of his own 'coming'--not floating around on a cloud, of course, but of his 'coming' to Jerusalem as the vindicated, rightful king.

It is in this royal sense of advent, and not in any mundane sense of merely being present rather than absent, that the New Testament speaks of the παρουσια of Jesus.

Listed below are all the New Testament instances of the παρουσια of Jesus.

In Matthew 24.3b, the disciples link the advent with the consummation of the age:

Ειπε ημιν ποτε ταυτα εσται, και τι το σημειον της σης παρουσιας και συντελειας του αιωνος.

Tell us when these things shall be, and what the sign will be of your advent and the consummation of the age.

Matthew 24.27:

Ωσπερ γαρ η αστραπη εξερχεται απο ανατολων και φαινεται εως δυσμων, ουτως εσται η παρουσια του υιου του ανθρωπου.

For just as the lightning goes out from the east and appears unto the west, so shall the advent of the son of man be.

Matthew 24.37:

Ωσπερ γαρ αι ημεραι του Νωε, ουτως εσται η παρουσια του υιου του ανθρωπου.

For just as the days of Noah, so shall be the advent of the son of man.

Matthew 24.39:

Και ουκ εγνωσαν εως ηλθεν ο κατακλυσμος και ηρεν απαντας. ουτως εσται η παρουσια του υιου του ανθρωπου.

And they did not know until the cataclysm came and took them all. Thus shall be the advent of the son of man.

Note that all four Matthean instances occur in chapter 24, on Olivet.

1 Corinthians 15.23:

Εκαστος δε εν τω ιδιω ταγματι, απαρχη Χριστος, επειτα οι του Χριστου εν τη παρουσια αυτου.

But each in his own order, Christ the first-fruits, afterward those who are of Christ at his advent.

1 Thessalonians 2.19:

Τις γαρ ημων ελπις η χαρα η στεφανος καυχησεως; η ουχι και υμεις εμπροσθεν του κυριου ημων Ιησου εν τη αυτου παρουσια;

For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting? Is it not you before our Lord Jesus at his advent?

1 Thessalonians 3.13:

...εις το στηριξαι υμων τας καρδιας αμεμπτους εν αγιωσυνη εμπροσθεν του θεου και πατρος ημων εν τη παρουσια του κυριου ημων Ιησου μετα παντων των αγιων αυτου.

...that he might establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and father at the advent of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

The saints here are οι αγιοι, the holy ones, which could mean either angels or humans... or both.

1 Thessalonians 4.15:

Τουτο γαρ υμιν λεγομεν εν λογω κυριου, οτι ημεις οι ζωντες οι περιλειπομενοι εις την παρουσιαν του κυριου ου μη φθασωμεν τους κοιμηθεντας.

For this we say to you by a word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain to the advent of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 5.23:

Αυτος δε ο θεος της ειρηνης αγιασαι υμας ολοτελεις, και ολοκληρον υμων το πνευμα και η ψυχη και το σωμα αμεμπτως εν τη παρουσια του κυριου ημων Ιησου Χριστου τηρηθειη.

And may the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be kept whole, blamelessly, at the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2.1-2:

Ερωτωμεν δε υμας, αδελφοι, υπερ της παρουσιας του κυριου ημων Ιησου Χριστου και ημων επισυναγωγης επ αυτον, εις το μη ταχεως σαλευθηναι υμας απο του νοος μηδε θροεισθαι μητε δια πνευματος μητε δια λογου μητε δι επιστολης ως δι ημων, ως οτι ενεστηκεν η ημερα του κυριου.

But we request you, brethren, with regard to the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering unto him, that you not be quickly agitated from your mindset, nor disturbed, whether by a spirit or by a word or by an epistle as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

2 Thessalonians 2.8:

Και τοτε αποκαλυφθησεται ο ανομος, ον ο κυριος ανελει τω πνευματι του στοματος αυτου και καταργησει τη επιφανεια της παρουσιας αυτου.

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will slay by the breath of his mouth and destroy by the appearing of his advent.

James 5.7a, 8:

Μακροθυμησατε ουν, αδελφοι, εως της παρουσιας του κυριου.

So be longsuffering, brethren, until the advent of the Lord.

Μακροθυμησατε και υμεις, στηριξατε τας καρδιας υμων, οτι η παρουσια του κυριου ηγγικεν.

You too be longsuffering; establish your hearts, because the advent of the Lord is at hand.

2 Peter 1.16 is the only reference to the advent of Jesus that could possibly refer to his incarnation or earthly life. But it is certainly best understood as his future coming even in this verse, of which the transfiguration was a foreshadowing (1.17-18). The prophetic word of 1.19, then, is the prediction of the future παρουσια, and it was made more sure by the transfiguration:

Ου γαρ σεσοφισμενοις μυθοις εξακολουθησαντες εγνωρισαμεν υμιν την του κυριου ημων Ιησου Χριστου δυναμιν και παρουσιαν, αλλ εποπται γενηθεντες της εκεινου μεγαλειοτητος.

For we did not follow sophisticated myths when we made known to you the power and advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, but became eyewitnesses of his majesty.

2 Peter 3.4:

...και λεγοντες· Που εστιν η επαγγελια της παρουσιας αυτου; αφ ης γαρ οι πατερες εκοιμηθησαν, παντα ουτως διαμενει απ αρχης κτισεως.

...and saying: Where is the promise of his advent? For ever since the fathers fell asleep all things continue just as from the beginning of creation.

I include 2 Peter 3.12 here, despite the fact that the advent is actually that of the day of God instead of Jesus, because of its obvious relationship to the rest of the references:

...προσδοκωντας και σπευδοντας την παρουσιαν της του θεου ημερας, δι ην ουρανοι πυρουμενοι λυθησονται και στοιχεια καυσουμενα τηκεται.

...watching and hastening the advent of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed, burning, and the elements will melt in flames.

1 John 2.28:

Και νυν, τεκνια, μενετε εν αυτω, ινα εαν φανερωθη σχωμεν παρρησιαν και μη αισχυνθωμεν απ αυτου εν τη παρουσια αυτου.

And now, children, remain in him, in order that if he should appear we might have boldness and not be put to shame by him at his advent.

The παρουσια amongst the church fathers.

All of the above New Testament instances refer to a future advent of Jesus Christ, not to his earthly tenure in Galilee and Judea.

Some of the apostolic fathers, however, soon began to apply the term to the incarnation as well, and to write of both the first and the second παρουσια of Jesus.

This tendency to count which advent is meant by numbering it with an ordinal finds a close parallel in the Tegean inscription dated to year 69 of the first παρουσια of Hadrian to the city.

When, however, the context makes it manifestly clear to the reader which advent is meant, the term may stand without the ordinal, as in the epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians 9.2a:

Εξαιρετον δε τι εχει το ευαγγελιον, την παρουσιαν του σωτηρος, κυριου ημων Ιησου Χριστου, το παθος αυτου, και την αναστασιν.

But the gospel holds out something exceptional, to wit, the advent of the savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, his passion, and the resurrection.

Justin Martyr writes of the two advents, one in humility and the other in glory, in his Apology 52. See also his Dialogue with Trypho 14, 32, 40, 52, 110, 121. This motif, in fact, seems to have been a favorite of his.

Lines 20b-26a of the Muratorian canon, late century II, affirm that the four gospels, all together by one and the same spirit, speak...:

  1. ...de nativi-
  2. tate, de passione, de resurrectione,
  3. de conversatione cum discipulis suis,
  4. ac de gemino eius adventu,
  5. primum in humilitate despectus quod fu-
  6. it, secundum potestate regali prae-
  7. clarum, quod futurum est....
  1. ...of the nativity,
  2. of the passion, of the resurrection,
  3. of conversation with his disciples,
  4. and of his twin advent,
  5. the first despised in humility, which is past,
  6. the second manifest in royal power,
  7. which is future....