Is Jesus a false prophet? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
If you have been following the blog for the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably recently noticed that I’m reviewing a book by John…..what was his name again?….Loftus! That’s it! In today’s look, he’s taking on one of my favorite topics! Was Jesus wrong about when He would return?
Glad we got that taken care of. We can move on to……oh? You want more? Okay. We’ll see what John actually said.
Loftus says at the start that he will argue that even if the NT is somewhat reliable, that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet in the line of other Old Testament prophets. So far, so good. We are completely in agreement. It’s the next portion where he goes wrong where he says Jesus was wrong about the Son of Man not coming within His generation as predicted. On this, we thoroughly disagree as I think that Jesus came exactly when He predicted because I do read Him as an Old Testament prophet whereas Loftus puts on His fundamentalist glasses and reads Jesus that way.
One notable problem in this passage is when we take passages like the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew 24, Loftus never offers any interpretation of the passages. There is no detailed exegesis. It’s more along the lines of “Look at this passage. Seems clear doesn’t it?”
Maybe it does, but maybe what is clear to us is not clear to them. Suppose I said, “In the skirmish that took place last night, the opposing side was massacred entirely by the victorious champions.” I could be writing about a major battle that took place somewhere in the world, or I could be writing about a sporting event.
Jesus did indeed preach the Kingdom of God. The difference was most of His contemporaries would think that Israel was going to be overthrowing Rome and having a literal kingdom like David. Jesus taught something different. He wasn’t interested in overthrowing Rome, but in overthrowing sin.
Loftus also says the disciples would understand that the sign of the coming Son of Man was the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. This would fit in with Mark 9:1 about some will not see death before they see the Son of Man coming in power. It is not about the Transfiguration as it is not a strong prophecy to say some people will be alive about a week later or so.
Loftus is also correct that generation does not mean race. After all, the Jews were convinced they would never pass away. It most certainly refers to the contemporaries of Jesus. I agree entirely.
Paul does write some about the day of the Lord, but I don’t think he’s writing about the Olivet Discourse. He wrote mainly about the return of Christ. One clue to this is Paul mentions in 1 Thess. 4 and 1 Cor. 15 a resurrection. You can look high and low throughout the Olivet Discourse and you will not find the resurrection in there. Seems like a detail Jesus would have mentioned.
Not only that, but in Matthew, Jesus refers to Daniel. Daniel spoke about the coming of the Son of Man. What direction was the Son of Man going? He was going to the throne of YHWH. He’s going up. He’s not coming down.
Did Paul think the resurrection would happen in his time? Not necessarily. He says, we, but what else could he say? If he says they, he means that he knows the return won’t happen in his time, but he doesn’t know that. We is a nice editorial word to use. Any of us who are alive who are in Christ will meet the Lord when He returns.
Some statements Loftus sees as eschatological I don’t. Jesus says to not worry about the future. That’s good advice anyway, but it makes sense in an age without safety-deposit boxes. Jesus says to not bury your own father but follow now. Quite likely, the father was still alive and kingdom duties have to come first. Jesus was not going to talk about fulfilling careers and working for a living. That wasn’t his emphasis. Those are also ideas that work in an individualistic society, but not in the one Jesus was in.
I am puzzled though that if Loftus thinks this is a failed prophecy and Matthew was written “decades after Mark” why would Matthew include what was a failed prophecy? Would that be an encouraging example to skeptics? Would Christians proudly share that Gospel?
In all fairness, Loftus does mention Preterist views. At least he’s ahead of Bart Ehrman here who in his book, which I have reviewed, nowhere mentions Preterism. Still, just a mention is not that big of a difference. It could be worse because Loftus knows about this reply and yet he never interacts with it. He never responds to the detailed exegesis of Christians like Demar or Gentry or others who hold to this interpretation.
He does say Wright is a full preterist who denies a future resurrection. I would certainly like to see a source for this claim. Loftus names people like Demar in speaking about theocracy, but he doesn’t interact with their interpretation of the Olivet Discourse.
In conclusion, I advise readers to look up material on Preterism, some of which is on this blog. Loftus didn’t leave me concerned at all in his writing. He’s just grasping for anything he can to avoid Christianity.