Response to Elton Hollon’s Critique of Full Preterism- #7- Final Installment- The Honor -v- Shame Motif

Final Installment: Responding to Elton Hollon’s Critique of Full Preterism #7

Please be sure to read my previous installments in response to my friend Elton Hollon. Hollon’s critique can be found here:

Be sure to read the previous six articles in this series. Also, let me say again that since my footnotes are not coming through properly, if you wish to have those, just contact me.

In this our final installment in response to my friend Elton Hollon’s critique of full preterism, I want to every so briefly introduce a critical issue that is only seldom discussed extensively in discussions of eschatology. While the “thought world” of what is known as the “shame versus glory” motif is widely known in the scholarly world, and while some few commentators (among those I have examined) make some passing notification of the importance of this issue as it relates to eschatology, I have yet to find one that fully explores the connections. It is entirely possible, of course, that I have simply not found those discussions.

Shame Versus Honor and the Parousia

As noted, an area of investigation that is seldom fully explored in discussions of eschatology is the ancient cultural ideology of Shame versus Glory. An in-depth study of this fascinating and important topic is beyond the scope of this paper which has already grown too long.

For brevity, I will present here only a brief outline of a more in-depth discussion that I am currently writing. When that work is finished I will post it here as well as on my website.

☛ Defining the shame / honor motif

Simply stated, in the ANE world, if a group (or a person) had been defeated in battle, that was a matter of shame. If a group was considered in violation of the cultural “norms” they were considered a group or body of shame and disgrace. If a group was persecuted, they were outcasts and thus, objects of derision and shame. Even a person that had a terminal illness was in a state of “death” and shame. Conversely, a victorious general, politician, or any group that had achieved an exalted status through any kind of actions, were the recipients of honor. A person who had once been “shamed” could recover from that if, for instance, accusations against them were found to be false. If the oppressor of a group was destroyed, the “shamed” group was vindicated and glorified.

In the ancient world, and to a degree even in modern times, honor could be ascribed, for instance a person was born into an influential and powerful family. They did nothing to earn their honor, it was simply ascribed to them because of their associations. For instance, the Jews boasted, “We have Abraham as our Father.” They were claiming ascribed honor. On the other hand, honor could be earned by deeds of valor, courage, great teaching, moral and virtuous living, etc.

For our purposes, the key to understanding the status of shame was the fact that the first century saints’ shame was in being persecuted and oppressed. But they were given the promise that Christ would vindicate their suffering and shame and turn their shame into glory – at his parousia as the Son of Man. Thus, the concept of the vindication of the martyrs plays a foundational role in understanding the shame versus glory motif in the NT. When we realize that Christ posited that vindication at his parousia against their persecutors, i.e. the Jews, this becomes a probative confirmation of the preterist paradigm.

☛ The early church, persecuted for their faith, was promised that they would be vindicated for their faith and suffering and when that happened, they would be glorified; “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed” (Romans 8:18); It is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation, those who are troubling you, and to give to you who are being trouble rest, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in flaming fire (2 Thessalonians 1:5ff).

☛ Not only was the early church promised vindication and glory when their persecutors were defeated and destroyed, they were given the promise that their “glory” was imminent: “Will not God vindicate His elect, who cry out to him day and night? Yes, verily I say to you, he will avenge them speedily?” (Luke18:8). I suggest that the very idea – found in virtually all commentators – that the vindication of the suffering first century church was to be delayed for two millennia borders on exegetical malfeasance.

☛ Jesus and the NT writers invariably posit that vindication at the resurrection and the parousia of Christ (Luke 18:8 / Romans 8:18-23 / 2 Thessalonians 1:4-12– “In the day when he comes to be glorified in his saints.” (cf. 1 Peter 4:12; Revelation 6:9-17).

☛ Finally, and of course this is most controversial point, that vindication – and thus – the resurrection and parousia – was to take place in and through the AD 70 judgment of Jerusalem and the Jews the inveterate killer of the prophets and saints (Matthew 23:29-37 / 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 / 2 Thessalonians 1). While many, many commentators speak of the final vindication of the martyrs they posit it at the “end of human history.” (It should be noted that some commentators, particularly Postmillennialists, do acknowledge that AD 70 was the vindication of the martyrs, but then they claim that AD 70 was a type or a foreshadowing of the “real” end of the age, the “real” vindication of the martyrs. This bifurcation of the martyr vindication doctrine is untenable).

For an entire generation the early church was persecuted. And it was not the Romans guilty of those bloody crimes; It was the Jews. Adolph Harnack noted some time ago and subsequent studies have confirmed his assessment:

Unless the evidence is misleading, they (The Jews, DKP) instigated the Neronic outburst against Christians; and as a rule, whenever bloody persecutions were afoot in later days, the Jews are either in the background or the foreground.

In more recent times, N.T. Wright notes:

Persecution of Christians did not in fact, initially come from pagans.” He continues, “In fact, the earliest and best evidence we possess for serious and open hostility between Jews–especially Pharisees–and the nascent Christian movement is found in the earliest period for which we have evidence, namely in the letters of Paul. He, by his own admission, had persecuted the very early church with violence and zeal.

So, for a full generation the Jews persecuted the early church. They reviled them as traitors against the honorable history of their forefathers and subjected them to the worst sort of shame and humiliation. All the while the church proclaimed that very soon their persecutors would themselves be the object of derision and shame, because the Lord Jesus, the Christ, was going to come in judgment and “repay with tribulation, those who are troubling you.” More and more scholars are seeing that in the destruction of Jerusalem, both Jesus and his followers were fully vindicated – and thus – glorified. For instance, N. T. Wright comments on Mark 13 (And Matthew 24): “Thus the form that this vindication will take, as envisaged within Mark 13 and its parallels, will be precisely the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.” (N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 362).

Needless to say, it is an empirical fact of history that the Jews did become the persecuted. They did become the shamed dead body, while the church was raised out of death to vindication and glory! AD 70 became the greatest “We told you so” in all of history.

In light of the empirically irrefutable fact of the destruction of Jerusalem just as foretold by Jesus and his apostles, and given the indisputable fact that Jesus and his apostles conflated that judgment with the parousia and resurrection we conclude that the full preterist advocates are fully justified in pointing to that event as the time of the end of the age, the parousia and the resurrection. To say that this is a challenge to tradition, to the creeds and commentators is a huge understatement.

Be looking for the more extensive discussion of the shame versus glory motif.

Summary and Conclusion

I did not intend for this rejoinder to be so long! But my friend covered a lot of territory and I felt compelled to do the same in order to do justice to his post. I hope I have not overlooked any particularly important point.

So, what have we seen?

I have shown that the NT writers did indeed draw upon the diachronic (ancient, OT) matrix of apocalyptic, non-literal de-creation language when speaking of the parousia of Christ.

I have shown that the non-literal, figurative use of cosmic de-creation language was part of the warp and woof of Hebraic poetic thought and literature, and was not, in any way, the creation of cognitive dissonance.

I have shown that the attempts to make Mark delineate between the destruction of Jerusalem and the parousia fail in the light of Matthew and Luke, as well as other internal factors.

I have shown that one of the great dangers facing modern interpreters is the failure to realize how strongly the Hellenization of Jewish culture and literature impacted the early church’s understanding of the true ancient (diarchronic) understanding of apocalyptic demonstrating that the writers of the NT were not drawing on synchronic (contemporary) sources but directly from the Tanakh.

I have shown that neither proleptic imminence or projected imminence is a viable suggestion for understanding the temporal imminence of the OD. Jesus’ “this generation” cannot be extrapolated by two millennia!

I have suggested that one of the most overlooked motifs and themes for understanding the NT doctrine of the parousia – including the Olivet Discourse – is the theme of shame versus honor. I find very, very little discussion of this in the literature on the Discourse. Perhaps I have simply not found it.

In sum, then, I find Elton Hollon’s claim that the evidence from the Discourse best fits the futurist view lacking. The evidence is – in my estimation – quite compelling in support of the Full Preterist view.