A Response to Dr. Elton Holland’s Critique of Full Preterism- #3

A Response to: UNSOUND AND INFORMALLY FALLACIOUS PRETERIST ARGUMENTS ON MARK 13:24-27. – Installment #3

Remember that for some reason my footnotes are not coming over when I copy and paste the article. For those who want the footnotes, feel free to contact me and I will send  you a copy of the article that has the footnotes.

This is installment #3 in my response to Dr. Elton Hollon who recently wrote a critique of the full preterist view, with the title given above. Be sure to read those first two installments.   #1   #2
One of the suggestions that Dr. Hollon offers is that Mark was writing after AD 70 to help deflect the disappointment of the Christian community over the failed eschatological predictions of Jesus found in the Olivet Discourse. Mark, in this suggestion, delineated between the predictions of the coming destruction of Jerusalem – which patently did come true- and Jesus’ parousia. But, is positing a failed eschatology a viable suggestion?

☛ Failed futurism
Hollon, as many scholars do, posits Mark (and all the Gospels), as a post-AD 70 production. He believes that Mark distinguished between the near events of Jerusalem’s demise and the actual physical parousia in order to correct a “mistaken understanding” on the part of the apostles about the connection between AD 70 and the parousia. Mark did this by supposedly delineating between the truly imminent tribulation period of the War but then saying: “But in those days, after that tribulation” (v. 24). This statement supposedly demands that Mark was trying to settle the minds of the first century saints who may have been becoming disenchanted over the failure of the parousia to come.

This argument is actually telling. It tacitly admits that the first century saints, prior to AD 70, had a sense that the parousia was coming very soon (Cf. Hebrews 10:37, this comports with the citation in Clement noted earlier). Several things can be noted.

In Mark 13 prior to the suggested delineation of v. 24, Jesus predicted the great tribulation. What must not be missed is that throughout the Tanakh, the Great Tribulation is inseparably linked with the parousia and the resurrection. Jewish scholar Emile Schurer wrote that in Jesus’ day,

Reference to the last things is almost always accompanied by the notion, recurring in various forms, that a period of special distress and affliction must precede the dawn of salvation…In Rabbinic teaching, the doctrine therefore developed of the birth pangs of Messiah which must precede His appearance (the expression is from Hosea 13:13; cf. Matthew 24:8).

Brant Pitre also notes this connection:

According to the O. T., the resurrection itself would be preceded by a period of great tribulation.”… Daniel 12, which is the most explicit prophecy of resurrection in the Hebrew books of the Old Testament. Strikingly, this description of the resurrection is preceded by the Great Tribulation.

The point here should be clear. Since the argument is made that prior to Mark 13:24 the predicted events pertained to the impending judgment on Jerusalem, including the Great Tribulation, it is therefore dubious, to say the very least, that in verse 24 he was now speaking of an event temporally divorced from that time and those events. This would mean that Mark was either unaware of the OT prophecies that linked the tribulation with the resurrection, that he was incorrectly relating Jesus’ words, or, he was rejecting that connection, without any contextual indication of doing so. But an examination of Matthew’s account of the OD belies that idea.

Notice that while Mark simply has “after those things” Matthew is explicit in Matthew 24:29-31f:

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

So, while Mark simply says, “after the tribulation” Matthew graphically says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days.” Matthew uses the word eutheos (Eutheōs / Εὐθέως). That word means precisely what virtually all translations render it. The vast majority render the word as “immediately” with a few rendering it as “right after,” “soon” or even “very soon.”

This word eutheos is used some 82 times in the NT, commonly to speak of the miraculous, instantaneous nature of Jesus’ healing works. It never refers to an event that was even weeks, months, and certainly not years away. It is tenuous therefore to suggest that Mark was somehow telling his audience that perhaps 2000 years after the Abomination and Tribulation the Lord would finally come. That would contradict Matthew’s account and it would break the theological bond between the Tribulation and the resurrection / parousia.

Consider the force of eutheos in light of the contention that Mark was attempting to counter discouragement over the failed predictions of the parousia by saying “after these things.” We are told that Matthew wrote well after Mark and had that same purpose and intent. But that flies in the face of eutheos. If Mark was trying to assuage disappointment by delineating between the impending Judean catastrophe and the parousia by saying “after these things” (i.e. after AD 70), that the parousia would come, then Matthew, writing a good bit after Mark, would have been exacerbating that disappointment. After all, he posited the parousia “immediately after” the destruction – not at some indeterminate, unknown “after” time in the distant future. Yet, if we are to take the language of Christ’s parousia on the clouds literally and physically, Matthew’s audience could only have marveled at how disingenuous Matthew was, when he insisted that the parousia was to have been “immediately after” the events that were two decades in the past. They knew, experientially, that Christ had not come out of heaven literally, visibly, bodily and physically, immediately after AD 70. This casts Matthew – not to mention Luke – in a worse light than Mark.

Keep in mind again that in the objection under consideration all of the events prior to Mark 13:24 foretold the first century conflagration. That would include the preaching of the Gospel into all the nations (which Jesus gave as a sign of the impending end of the age and parousia, (Matthew 24:14), the Abomination of Desolation (which Daniel 9 and 12 posited at the time of the judgment of Jerusalem), the Great Tribulation, the coming of false christs.

Paul and the NT writers were clear that the Gospel had been preached into all the world as predicted (Romans 1:8f / 16:25-26; Colossians 1:5-7, 24, Titus 2:13, etc.). Both Paul and John posited the arrival of the false christs, the anti-christs, the man of sin, as signs of the parousia (2 Thessalonians 2:3f). John even said, “It is the last hour! As you have heard that anti-christ should come, even now there are many anti-christs, thereby you know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Did John “mis-read” the signs?

We find this in Mark 13:28-30:

Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

So, all of the signs would prove that the parousia was near, at hand, right at the door. Grammatically, Mark’s “all these things” should refer to these antecedent events. Mark (Jesus) patently posits the signs as indicative of the objective imminence of the end: “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors!” Further, Jesus was emphatic: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” So, if Mark was, as is supposed, telling his readers that the parousia would not, after all, be in that generation, he was contradicting Jesus. Matthew and Luke would be contradicting him as well. Jesus did say “all of these things” would be fulfilled, and to repeat, grammatically that would demand that “all these things” included the parousia.

In light of all of this, it stretches credulity to suggest that the Synoptic writers, writing decades after the AD 70 destruction, and writing to settle the hearts of discouraged believers who were wondering “where is the promise of his coming?” Yet, what they wrote emphasized that the parousia was supposed to have been “immediately after” the event that was now two decades in the past. How would that encourage the hearts of the faithful?

It is worth noting that Clement of Rome, writing in the 90s, said this: “Wretched are the double-minded who doubt in their soul and say, ‘We have heard these things even in the days of our fathers, and look, we have grown old, and none of these things have happened to us”…Truly his purpose will be accomplished quickly and suddenly, just as the Scriptures also testifies: ‘He will come quickly and not delay, and the Lord will come suddenly to his temple, even the Holy One you expect.’” Cited by Richard Bauckham in (Word Biblical Commentary, Jude, 2 Peter, (Vol. 50) Waco Tx; Word Publisher, 1983), 293). There is nothing in the OD that comes close to this kind of language. There is no language of disappointment. There is no language of delay. There is no correction of mistaken expectations. (Clement’s words clearly echo and reflect a knowledge of 2 Peter 3).

Thus, to suggest that although the signs (admittedly) occurred in the first century (indicating the nearness of the end), nonetheless, Mark was telling his audience that the parousia was not, after all, “near – at the door” or was not to occur in that generation is disjunctive. It violates the context.

In the next installment we will examine Dr. Hollon’s contention that it is possible that Cognitive Dissonance (the realization of a falsified paradigm leading to rationalization to justify it) led the early church to “spiritualize” the language of Jesus’ predictions of his parousia. Stay tuned!