Note: I apologize that my footnotes- which are numerous- are not showing. I do not know why and do not know how to correct it. My apologies for this. If you want a copy of the entire article that will include the footnotes, just contact me.
A Response to: UNSOUND AND INFORMALLY FALLACIOUS PRETERIST ARGUMENTS ON MARK 13:24-27. – Part Two
This is the second installment of my response to Dr. Elton Hollon who recently wrote a critique of the full preterist view of eschatology. Be sure to read the first installment here. In that first article I shared Dr. Hollon’s objections to the temporal statements of the imminence of Christ’s parousia in the Olivet Discourse. I noted in that first article that while the temporal statements are indeed critical for the defense of the full preterist view, they are by no means the only supportive evidence or data. For instance, the subject of the Jewish Feast days is critical for understanding NT eschatology – including the Olivet Discourse. Yet, the subject is seldom even mentioned in attempts to interpret Jesus’ extended Discourse. Likewise, the theme / motif of Shame-Versus Glory, which was a power societal attitude, plays a major role in the Discourse, but like the Feast Days, is seldom, if ever, mentioned in commentaries on the OD. This is a major exegetical and hermeneutical failure in my estimation. I will be discussing this motif later.
In the first installment, I examined Hollon’s first point and that is that the time statements can be viewed as:
Proleptic futurism, which Hollon describes thusly: “According to proleptic futurism, the time statements and cosmic details are literal, but the literal time statements are proleptic. Prolepsis ‘is a t.t. (Technical term, DKP) for that type of prophetic speech which treats as past that which is in fact only a future possibility.
Hollon says that Mark uses this literary /rhetorical device to “de-eschatologize the false association of the parousia with Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C. E.. Thus, he does not retain the theme of imminence because he corrects it (p. 5).”
In this installment we will examine another of his objections, which is Interwoven futurism.
Hollon says that, “According to interwoven futurism, Mark uses the pattern of incremental direct parallelism to correct a false eschatology associating the parousia with Jerusalem’s destruction by interweaving the themes of local and eschatological judgments. Mark begins with Jerusalem’s destruction and then moves to the eschatological judgment (p. 5).
So, according to Dr. Hollon the apostles had a false conception that the destruction of Jerusalem and the parousia of Christ were to be synchronous events.
This objection to the preterist view seems to me to present some insurmountable problems. It suggests that the OD is an admixture of predictions of AD 70 and a yet future end of human history. The problem is that this suggestion is based on several presuppositions.
First it assumes that the apostles incorrectly and ignorantly conflated a proposed end of human history and the Christian age with the destruction of the temple. But why would this have been true?
The first assumption is built on a similar assumption and that is that the apostles believed in a future end of human history. Hollon believes this to be the case. Likewise, scholars such as Edward Adams, Dale Allison Jr. (Cited by Hollon) and a host of other scholars concur in this. My discussion below will address this assumption. It is to be noted of course, that a host of scholars reject the idea that the Jews anticipated the end of material creation. Wright offers this:
We may safely say that Jesus didn’t expect the world to come to an end. That bizarre idea, which has been touted around the learned halls of New Testament scholarship all this century, should not (now ?) be given a pauper’s funeral. Schweitzer was 100% right to say that Jesus should be understood in terms of Jewish apocalyptic. He was 100% wrong in saying what the language meant.
G. R. Beasley-Murray concurs:
None of the descriptions of theophany in the OT envisages the destruction of the universe at the coming of God… At all events, when the language of theophany is used in relation to the parousia, there is no suggestion that the Son of Man comes to destroy the world.
As a result of the first two assumptions, we are told – to repeat #1 – that the apostles ignorantly and incorrectly conflated the judgment on the temple with the end of the world. This a common view. Even John Calvin said, “the disciples did not suppose that while the building of this world stood, the temple could fall to ruins.” Such an assertion and assumption cannot be proven.
The apostles were acutely aware that the temple had been totally destroyed in BC 586, were they not? Yet, “the building of this world” (i.e. material creation) had not been destroyed. In fact, Israel observed four fasts to commemorate that catastrophe (Zechariah 8:19f). We are on safe ground to say that the apostles knew that material creation was not destroyed at that time, although the language of the prophets who foretold that event – if taken literally – would demand that it was (Jeremiah 4:25-29 / Zephaniah 1).
It is a valid question therefore to ask: Since the apostles knew full well that time did not end and the cosmos was not destroyed when the Chaldeans destroyed the Temple, what logic demands that they had to think of the end of material creation in response to Jesus’ prediction in Matthew 23 / 24:29f?
The reality is, as noted briefly in my first installment, that in the Tanakh, every eschatological prophecy of the end times is tightly bound up with predictions of the end of the Old Covenant Theocracy of Israel. That is, the predictions of the coming of the Lord, the judgment, the resurrection, are all tied to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. This is mostly overlooked in studies of eschatology.
The establishment of the kingdom / the Day of Salvation / God dwelling with man / the vindication of the martyrs, are all tied to the Day of the Lord, when God would rise to shake the earth mightily (Isaiah 2:19-21), the time of the judgment on Jerusalem during famine (3:1-3), the time of warfare when Israel’s men would fall by the edge of the sword, and when the beautiful branch of the Lord would come to be glorified (4:1-2). That would be at the avenging of the blood of the martyrs (4:4).
As noted above, the Little Apocalypse anticipated the destruction of creation (24:1-5, 19-21) and posited it at the time of the judgment of “the people” and “the city” (the city of confusion, Ariel / Jerusalem- Isaiah 29:1ff) that sat “in the midst of the land” (24:10f; Cf. Ezekiel 5:8ff). The resurrection is posited at the time of the Messianic Banquet on Mt. Zion, when the city and the temple would be turned over to strangers and destroyed (25:1-8). Finally, the vindication of the martyrs at the Day of the Lord coming out of heaven, salvation, the destruction of Leviathan, were all to take place when the fortified city was desolated, the altar of the temple was turned to chalkstones, and the people whom the Lord had created would no longer receive mercy (26:19-21 / 27:9). Yet, the Lord would gather the remnant at the sounding of the great trumpet (27:12-13).
Finally, in the climatic final chapters of Isaiah the prophet foretold the coming New Heaven and Earth, when, “the Lord God shall slay you and call His people by another name” (65:13-17). The New Creation would flow out of the destruction when the Lord would bring on the city and temple “that which they dread” (66:3f) when there would be a voice of doom in the streets of the city: “A voice in the city, a voice from the temple! (See below).
Other passages could be adduced but these suffice to show that the predictions of the Day of the Lord, the New Creation, salvation, etc., were clearly linked to the time of the destruction of Old Covenant Jerusalem and the temple.
Were the apostles ignorant of all of these prophecies? Did the apostles have no knowledge of these connections? The destruction of Jerusalem at the end of the age was in fact well known in ancient Israel. William Lane points out:
Jesus announces its destruction in close connection with the establishment of his sovereign dignity. The prophecy is distinctly eschatological in its significance. Malachi 3:1–6 had described the coming of the Lord to his temple in the context of the judgment for the refining and purifying of His people. In this context the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 is to be understood as the judgment of God upon the rebelliousness of his people, and not simply the response of Imperial Rome to insurrection. Significant strands of Jewish literature also attributed the fall of Jerusalem to the sin of her people.
In his footnote #28, Lane cites several pre–AD 70 ancient rabbis who predicted the AD 70 judgment. Other ancient commentators viewed that destruction as the fulfillment of Daniel’s seventy weeks– i.e., the eschatological consummation.
Dale Allison Jr. also says, “Several Jewish texts before AD 70 announce that the old temple will not continue into the New Age.” Thus, there was an understanding in first century, pre–AD 70 Judaism, that the temple was to be destroyed to bring in the New Age. This “fits” the disciples’ question in Matthew 24:3 very well.
The assumption that the apostles had to be confused in Matthew 24:3 is based on a logical fallacy called Illegitimate Totality Transfer. What this means, in simple terms, is that a person examines the use of a word, term or phrase in, let’s say, ten passages. He determines that the meaning of that word, term or phrase is the same in all of those texts. He then comes to another example of that word in another context, and assuming that the other contexts must be the same as the new one, he “transfers” the definition and meaning of the word, term or phrase from those texts onto the new text. While consistency of use must always be considered, this is not the whole story.
It is being argued that Jesus’ apostles were clearly confused about his teaching on many other occasions. This supposedly means that they did not understand him in Matthew 24:3 and therefore, their questions were based on ignorance or misunderstanding. If they misunderstood on other occasions, they must be confused now is the argument. But this is misguided.
First of all, in not one of the examples of the apostles’ confusion was the subject the end of the age. Not one dealt with the destruction of Jerusalem and the impending judgment. The most common source of their confusion was Jesus’ teaching about his impending death and resurrection. But to reiterate, we do not have a single text in which Jesus expounded on eschatological matters and Jesus had to correct their understanding or chided them for their confusion.
In fact, in my book, Watching for the Parousia: Were Jesus Apostles Confused? I explore at great length how every time that the apostles were confused about something Jesus said so, often chiding them for their ignorance, or the Biblical writer specifically said they were confused (cf. John 2:19f). We find no such statement in the OD. Furthermore, in Jesus’ parables about the end of the age (συντελείας tou το aionos – Matthew 13:39-40, 49-51) in which he cited Daniel 12:3, he asked the apostles “Do you understand?” The apostles responded “Yes.”
The key is that in Daniel 12 Daniel said that the righteous would shine in the kingdom at the time of the end which would be, “when the power of the holy people is completely shattered” (v. 7). Thus, Daniel linked the end of the age with the judgment on Israel. Jesus applied Daniel to his coming at the end of the age. In Matthew 13 the apostles said they understood that connection. What happened between Matthew 13 and Matthew 24 to make them lose that connection and ask such a (supposedly) misguided question? In Matthew 24 the apostles did not ask about the reality of that coming event but only about the signs of its coming. I find the claim that the apostles had a misguided “false eschatology associating the parousia with Jerusalem’s destruction” to be mistaken and false.
This is an acknowledgment that the temporal indicators truly are indicators of imminence, yet they are not to be applied to the context under discussion. How would the apostles know that?
In the next installment I will examine Hollon’s third point and offer some additional arguments in support of the preterist paradigm.
In the meantime, be sure to get a copy of my book Watching for the Parousia: Were Jesus’ Apostles Confused? for a fuller discussion of the important point. Virtually all futurists insist that the apostles were confused, ignorant or simply wrong to pose their questions as they did. That is a claim that is itself based on false assumptions.