Monday, August 07, 2017

Pretenders and the Parousia

23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man (Mt 24:23-25).

i) The Olivet Discourse is often thought to be an embarrassment for Christian theology because, on one interpretation, Jesus made a false prediction. He synchronized the Parousia and the end of the world with the fall of Jerusalem. 

Certainly there are element to the extended prophecy that suggests events leading up to and including the fall of Jerusalem. Yet on another interpretation, there's a shift from a short-term oracle to a long-term oracle. I myself find that persuasive. 

ii) But I'd like to make another point. Consider vv23-27. This doesn't fit the fall of Jerusalem. So it suggests that at this juncture, the oracle is looking beyond the fall of Jerusalem to a more distant denouement. 

I take the thrust of vv23-27 to be that Christians won't have to go looking for messiah when he returns. The onus will not be on them to apply criteria to ID the messiah. Rather, when he comes back, the return of Christ will be so unmistakable that this will undoubtedly be the true messiah, in the person of Jesus.

But it's hard to see how the fall of Jerusalem fills the bill. To begin with, Jesus refers to false prophets and messianic pretenders who perform signs and wonders. That's a stock phrase that triggers associations with the miracles of the Exodus. But Jesus said even that's an unreliable indicator. Yet Exodus-redux miracles are far more impressive than what happened at the fall of Jerusalem. So if even miracles on the scale of the Exodus fail to ID the true messiah's return, the fall of Jerusalem would surely fall short. There was nothing supernatural about the fall of Jerusalem. At best, Josephus reports a few miracles. But even if we credit them, those are less spectacular than Exodus-style miracles. If, in the greater case of Exodus-redux miracles, these are unreliable criteria, then a fortiori, the lesser case of Jerusalem's downfall would be even more ambiguous.  


  1. Replies
    1. Being on a Preterist binge lately, I recently finished George Holford's classic 19th century book The Destruction of Jerusalem an Absolute and Irresistible Proof of the Divine Origin of Christianity.

      Preterism does seem to simultaneously yet contradictorily 1. support and 2. call into question the divine inspiration of Scripture. This blogpost of Steve and his one on Two-stage prophecies adds to the case for Partial Preterism. And so affirms and supports the divine inspiration of Scripture, as well as undermining the Skeptic's charge of failed prophecy.

  2. Brother, I believe I have discovered the meaning for the Exodus language found in these verses. You can find my book on Amazon or my website