Even before Bart Erhman published his book I had long held this belief myself through a thorough analysis and interpretation of the biblical texts alone, not relying on other textual documents for my final conclusion. In this post I will like to share some of those conclusions with you and hear what you may have to say about the matter as a whole. Note that I will be quoting heavily from scripture and I will be using the New Jerusalem Bible for those quotes.
I thought that the best way to go about this is to simply start from the gospels with the book of Matthew and work my way through from there. One of the things that I find humorous about Christianity is that they read the scriptures as if they were meant to be a message to all who read them no matter at what day and age they do so. For a general point of reference during biblical times a generation was considered to be about 40 years, keep this in mind when we read the texts I will be presenting.
In Matthew 10:23 Jesus sends out his disciples to preach to the house of Israel only, that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
23 If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another. In truth I tell you, you will not have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of man comes. Matthew 10:23
This text all by itself is very revealing and when read and interpreted literally then its meaning is quite obvious. But before you even attempt to interpret this what is the first thing you must ask yourself? Actually there are two things you need to ask yourself and they are: Who was Jesus speaking to? and What was Jesus talking about? As is indicated in the chapter he was speaking to his 12 apostles directly on this occasion. And he was referring to his second coming where he was going to redeem the house of Israel. Jesus actually confirms this several times in the N.T. Matthew 15:24 is one of many examples of this. In fact he specifically instructs them to go to the lost house of Israel and to not go to the gentiles.
But the ending of this passage is in and of itself very interesting in that he tells his disciples that they will not even be done with their rounds before his return! Indicating to the disciples that he would return very very soon. How soon? The N.T. has several texts where he even reveals this in an ambiguous way. This was very clever because it leaves itself open to several interpretations as theists have demonstrated. Do you really think that during the time Jesus allegedly spoke these words that he was referring to future generations thousands of years removed from his time? Was this a long term prophecy that was to be fulfilled at some indeterminate time in the future? I don't think so!
Speaking again to his disciples regarding the end of the age and his return Jesus allegedly spoke these words:
34 In truth I tell you, before this generation has passed away, all these things will have taken place. Matthew 24:34
Who was he speaking to? Christian believers 2,000 plus years removed from his time? Is it possible that when Jesus said "this generation" that he actually meant 20 centuries later? I don't think so! Taking this verse literally it seems that Jesus was talking about something that was about to happen very soon and during the lifetime of his disciples. This same statement is reiterated in Mark 9:1 where Jesus is not only addressing his disciples but apparently a crowd that is listening to his sermon.
1 And he said to them, 'In truth I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.' Mark 9:1
Some theists like to take this as something that had already been fulfilled during Jesus alleged transfiguration which was only witnessed by Peter, James, and his brother John. It refers to a time when Jesus walked up a mountain and there he shone with a great radiance and the prophet Elijah and Moses appeared with him. This in my opinion is a far cry from seeing Jesus descending on a cloud with great power and glory! Read Matthew 24 in context and tell me what you think.
Others like to play the semantic game of you say potato I say patato lol. They insinuate that when Jesus said "this generation" he did not mean what he said the way we think he did. He was referring to the Jews as a people, or using the word generation in some other crazy way. But don't you think that the disciples would have been aware of this and made it known so that future believers would not be confused about this matter?
Luke 9:27 reconfirms that Jesus meant that his return would be during the lifetimes of the apostles and his other followers when while he was addressing them on the issue he said:
27 'I tell you truly, there are some "standing here" who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.' Luke 9:27 (the emphasis is mine).
Upon reading this text it does not appear that he was referring to future generations. Especially, future generations 2,000 plus years removed from his time. Who was he addressing when he allegedly said these words? The disciples and others that were gathered there to hear him speak.
Hebrews 9:26 supposedly written by the apostle Paul says:
26 or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. As it is, he has made his appearance once and for all, at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Hebrews 9:26
Here Paul was referring to Jesus crucifixion and death and basically explaining its significance in a spiritual sense. But in this text Paul also reveals that he was expecting the return of Christ to be very soon. He referred to his age as "the last age." There it is!
Here is my theory regarding this matter. Jesus was a prophet whose sole mission was to recover the lost sheep of the house of Israel. When the prophecies of his return did not come to pass the writers of the gospels decided that this plan of salvation was to be extended to the gentiles. This is why Peter has that vision on the rooftop and is commissioned to preach the gospel to the gentiles. Christianity basically piggy backed off of ancient Hebrew promises and texts and made it their own after the death of Jesus. And thus was born a new religion.
If you've made it this far I am sorry for the length of the post and I thank you for your patience. Once again I am grateful for all of my followers and detractors and I am very much interested in hearing what you all have to say regarding this matter.