Book Plunge: Jesus – Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

Did Jesus fail at prophecy? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Just yesterday, I finished reading Bart Ehrman’s “Jesus – Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.” Before I had even started the book, I made a prediction on Facebook. I predicted, as an orthodox Preterist, that not once would Ehrman mention Preterism in his book.

Turns out, I was right.

Makes me wish I’d made a bet with someone….

Honestly, I don’t even think he mentioned dispensationalism or any form of futurism by name. Christian eschatological systems were absent, which is quite odd. It’s why I found this book to be quite a mixed bag. Of course, there’s the usual material about historical methodology, which is fine, but yet while there was much talk about apocalyptic thinking, there was not much looking at apocalyptic thinking.

At the start, Ehrman wants to paint a string of predictions from our time down to Christianity. He first starts with Edgar Whisenant and then Hal Lindsey. Next we go to the Millerites. Then, it’s Joachim of Fiore around 1200. After that, Montanus at the end of the second century. From this, Ehrman concludes every generation has had its own apocalyptic visionary.

Could be, but looking at such a sparse sample in 2,000 years does not show it. It gives the impression that Ehrman has looked at a sparse sample and made a strong conclusion based on it. Of course, his case could be correct still, but the problem is that there was not sufficient evidence given.

Of course, for Ehrman, the first examples of this were Jesus and Paul. So does he make that case well?

Before making his case, Ehrman wants to tell us about the historical method and how he studies the text. It’s at this point that those who read Ehrman frequently, like I do, start to hear repetition going on. If you have read one Ehrman book, you have read all of them essentially. You’ll find the same themes and the same arguments, a number of times they’re even quoted verbatim. (I checked. pages 114-115 quote much of page 241 in the third edition of his NT introduction word for word. Of course, it could be I’m just mistaken and both times he copied from an E document….)

Of course, when reading a book like this, it’s important to note the concessions he makes that most internet atheists would run in terror from. For instance, on page 22, he says the best sources, of course, are those nearest the time of Jesus Himself.” He then says “It turns out, as I’ll show later, that the oldest narrative accounts happen to be the four Gospels of the New Testament.”

Interestingly, when talking about the authorship of the NT, he says on page 43 that the tradition from Papias needs to be considered seriously. Apparently, it wasn’t serious enough that students reading the NT introduction needed to consider it. Ehrman also makes the statement about how Eusebius thought Papias was a man of exceedingly small intelligence, not mentioning that Eusebius said this because of Papias’s views on eschatology.

Ehrman tells us the testimony is 100 years later and looks suspicious. Why? We are told that Irenaeus would want apostolic origins for the gospels. Then why have Matthew, Mark and Luke? Matthew was an apostle, but he certainly wasn’t the most famous one of all! If you’re making up an apostolic name, why not Peter or James? Why would you have Mark be the author of a text instead of just saying Peter? Why would you choose Luke?

And of course, a more fundamental question, when is the source for the claim that Plutarch wrote the works of Plutarch? For all of Ehrman’s suspicions, it is appropriate to just ask the question of other historical accounts of the time that we accept on much less evidence.

Ehrman makes the claim about bias we’ve seen often. On page 89 we read, “Whenever you isolate an author’s biases, you can take them into account when considering his report. That is to say, statements supporting his bias should then be taken with a pound of salt (not necessarily discarded, but scrutinized carefully.)”

Can I not look at this and claim “I’ve seen Ehrman’s bias. He’s a non-Christian wanting to argue for the unreliability of the biblical account. Therefore, I should take his claims with a pound of salt.” Of course, someone could take the same approach with a Christian author. My contention at this point is simply that bias is often an excuse.

Bias can make people color reports, but it can also lead to increased accuracy. Holocaust museums ran by Jews are quite accurate. Does anyone want to deny that they have a bias? Is there any doubt the NT authors had a bias? None whatsoever. Yet how does that lead to the conclusion they would make inaccurate reports? It’s just as arguable that they would realize the importance of their mission and how essential the claims were and want to make doubly sure they were accurate.

On page 195, Ehrman writes that “For events in the ancient world, even events of Earth-shattering importance, there is sometimes scant evidence to go on.” He had earlier said on page 57 that the eruption of Vesuvius was only mentioned by one author. Unsaid is that that was an off-the-cuff remark even. The purpose of the writing was not really to tell about the eruption. If this is the case, what’s the big deal with no one mentioned an empire-wide census on page 39?

When he talks about apocalypticism, he does make the case that I would make in many instances. We need to talk Jesus’s claims about a kingdom coming seriously. We need to realize what he was doing with the sermon on the mount and with miracles. We need to realize that he was showing what the kingdom of God would be like.

The problem is that Ehrman dances all around the edges without really considering what he’s arguing. For him, the end of the world did not come and the kingdom supposedly did not come and so Jesus was wrong.

If Jesus had been thinking about the end of the world, it is a wonder why he would tell people in the Olivet Discourse to flee. If the world is coming to an end, there is really not much place to flee to. Ehrman’s problem is the same one he had as a fundamentalist. Actually, he’s still a fundamentalist which is the problem. He is taking the text literally. He is assuming there must be a grand cataclysmic judgment. (Although to be fair, there was. It was the destruction of the temple, something unbelievably huge for the time.)

Could it be the Kingdom came and Ehrman didn’t realize it?

Could it be that the spreading of the Christian gospel and the name of Jesus being spread through all the Earth is the Kingdom coming? Could it be billions of people on Earth proclaiming that Jesus is Lord is showing that He is king? Could it be that the Kingdom is indeed growing as a mustard seed?

Ehrman has the same problem as he often does. He does not interact with contrary ideas. He has instead made a weak case that only depends on a literal interpretation of the text and therefore says that the case is made.

My Preterist self is not convinced.

Frankly, I’m enjoying being part of the Kingdom and especially love seeing that it demonstrates that Jesus was right.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Note: We will be discussing this book 3-5 EST on Saturday on the Deeper Waters Podcast. Why not join in?

Book Plunge: The Destruction of Jerusalem

What hath 70 A.D. to do with Christianity? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Awhile back I posted on Jehovah’s Witnesses and Doomsday and stated that I am an orthodox Preterist in that post. What that means I believe that much of prophecy has been fulfilled, including the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. I look forward to the bodily return of Christ and the bodily resurrection from the dead. It’s my thinking that God will redeem the Earth for man to live on forever with Christ ruling as king.

Being an owner of a Kindle now, one advantage is that old books are so easy to come by. You can get several for free. The one I’m reviewing today is not free, but recently a Christmas gift didn’t work out and I was told in exchange “Get on Amazon and buy within this price range.” So I did. One book I got was one that my friend DeeDee Warren, of the Preterist Podcast, recommended to me. It’s called “The Destruction of Jerusalem: An Absolute and Irresistable Proof of the Divine Origin of Christianity”, by George Holford

Something else important about this book. It wasn’t free. Many old books are, but it wasn’t. I suspect it’s because it is reprinted a number of times. In fact, the original one was written in 1805. This is not a new idea that is being presented. If anything, the futurist idea that is most common today is the new kid on the block. In responding to objections even, Holford doesn’t even mention anything about not taking the text literally or something of that sort. There is no mention of a futurist idea.

What do we have instead? We have a description of the destruction of Jerusalem. Our main source if Josephus, but Holford gives a good basic run down. I can warn people that if you are squeamish, this is not the book for you. In fact, if you are really that bad, this might not even be the blog post for you. We can look and say “Jerusalem got destroyed. Was it really that bad?”

Let’s see. Blood pouring through the temple. Trees being cut down just so everyone could be crucified. Bodies being cut open just so that thieves could get to the precious metals that people swallowed hoping to pass out through their system later. Mothers having to cook their children just so that they could have something to eat.

Yes. It was that bad.

And that’s just a minor sample of it.

So what has this to do with Christianity being true?

All of this was prophecied by Jesus. Jesus was seen as just a carpenter’s son. He was not a statesman or a politician. He was a teacher and yet, he made this prophecy. What it says about Him then is that He had divine knowledge about what would happen, which was never amended with “Thus says the Lord.”

Instead, Jesus spoke as if in the place of God. Why was the temple destroyed? Because Jesus was the Messiah and in rejecting Jesus, the Jews at the time broke the covenant with YHWH and thus, He abandoned the temple and left it to be destroyed by the Romans.

This would mean that Jesus was who He claimed to be and the charge of rejecting Him was incredibly serious. Of course, Holford deals with objections to his idea such as maybe Jesus was just fortunate or maybe the accounts were written after the events took place. For the latter, we today have the blessing of further scholarship which can make a powerful case that the accounts are indeed written before the fall of Jerusalem.

A negative point is that Holford does make a point about Israel not being reinstated until they repent. Unfortunately, they have been reestablished as a nation. It is my contention that this has zip to do with prophecy. Why? Check the OT. The requirement for returning to the land and restoring the covenant was national repentance. Has anyone seen repentance on the part of Israel on a national level and them turning to their Messiah?

As an aside to this, I will stress that I do support the nation of Israel still, but not for theological reasons. I support them for political reasons. I see Islam as a threat and I see Israel as a buffer to them over there. I don’t center all my policies on Israel, but I certainly don’t think America should abandon such a strong ally.

Also, I think if you have a good defense of the resurrection, that would be an excellent supplement to this book, but I would hope something like this could at least open the door to the possibility that maybe Jesus had some divine insight and maybe if Jerusalem was destroyed in this way, the claims should be taken seriously.

Skeptics need to read this book in order to get an understanding of what exactly happened and consider the possibility that maybe prophecy be real. This is especially true in a day and age where so many skeptics say “Jesus could not have been the Messiah since He even got wrong the time of His return.” (I would contend He said zip about His return. He was talking about His coming to His throne.)

Futurists should read this book in order to consider the possibility that maybe the Preterists have a point. I meet too many futurists who think they don’t need to read anything on Preterism because we don’t take the Bible literally there and so it’s ipso facto absurd. (For interpretation, the best resource is Last Days Madness by Gary DeMar.) If you have a view you think is true, you should have the courage to read one who disagrees.

Preterists need to read this in order to have a good explanation of why this is so important. One blessing with this is our futurist friends can read this book in a day. I did. In fact, it’s just 69 pages long. You could read it in a couple of hours. Also, if you are unfamiliar with DeeDee Warren who recommended this book, I will include a link to the Preteristsite which also has a link to the Preterist Podcast.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a good short read that would be a complement to any library.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The book can be found for sale here

The Preteristsite can be found here

Is Sandy Prophecy?

When a natural disaster strikes, how are we to understand the situation? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Let me say at the start that this post is not meant to give any consolation to people who are suffering from Hurricane Sandy. Prayers are with you. If you are hurt by this now, this is not the post for you to read at the time. This is providing a rational answer to a question that is risen and is not meant to deal with current emotional suffering. That is the area of a good counselor instead.

A friend of Deeper Waters told me yesterday that her brother is someone who is highly into prophecy and thinks that Hurricane Sandy is a fulfillment of prophecy. Now I have in the past stated that my view on prophecy is that of orthodox Preterism. For all who don’t understand that view, my position is that Jesus Christ is going to physically return some day and that there will be a future resurrection of all the dead. I will put a link at the end of this post to the web site of DeeDee Warren, the best I know of to explain Preterism.

Also, with regards to what I was told yesterday, I have indicated numerous times that I am politically a conservative and that I do vote conservative. It is not essential to this post that you agree with either of the viewpoints that I present. I can easily picture a liberal who is a futurist agreeing with what I have to say.

To begin with, I’m not sure what prophecy Sandy is said to fulfill as none was given, but I do know the habit of going to the Bible, finding one verse that agrees with you, and then wresting it from its historical context and plopping it right down in modern times and saying that it is a fulfillment of prophecy, because we all know that in ancient Israel 2,500 years or so ago, God was warning them about a hurricane that would happen in a totally separate country today.

This does not mean the prophecies are irrelevant to us if they have already been fulfilled. We can still see a precedent on the kind of behavior God universally opposes, particularly when He speaks about behavior outside of Israel. Why? Because that nation is not one that is under the law of Israel that is civic and ceremonial, although to be fair, most of the criticisms of Israel were the failure of the moral law.

The problem is that when we have these disasters, there is always someone claiming it was a fulfillment of prophecy. It doesn’t matter that this “prophecy” has been fulfilled several times before. This time, this is it. This is our generation! We are the one! It’s irrelevant that every other generation has had someone who has thought that before. We are obviously the exception this time.

Of course, this could be the generation that the kingdom comes into full realization. We should always be open to that. We dare not proclaim it without clear revelation from God however. We play a dangerous game when we do that. There were numerous books that were written that showed Saddam Hussein was the antichrist. Some were saying Bin Laden was the antichrist. What are those books doing now? They’re gathering dust on bookshelves somewhere. They have embarrassed the Christian faith and the authors are going to go out and try it again. To use an extreme example, what do you think someone like Harold Camping does to the Christian faith?

Still, I would not be surprised if someone like Pat Robertson will go out or has already gone out and said that the east coast is being judged and Hurricane Sandy is the proof. This lady I was talking to about her brother said that we are being judged with this election. Look at the states that are hit the most. Those states are New York and New Jersey. These states are blue on the map and so they are being judged for supporting Obama.

Now I find this just odd. To begin with, you’d think if this was the kind of thing being done, we’d see the disaster on the West Coast which is even more liberal. We don’t. Instead, we see the hurricane come and people say “Obviously God is directing this hurricane. This hurricane has to be judgment. Why could these states be being judged? Look! They’re both blue states! That has to be it!”

I was also told that hurricanes aren’t common at this time of year. Common? Perhaps not. Unheard of? No. Hurricanes have happened. Back in 1993 here in Tennessee, in March, we had a blizzard come. Blizzards don’t normally come at that time of year and I as a young boy thought I would never see it again. The reality is, I did. I saw it in APRIL of 1996. Should I have concluded both were a divine act of God for some reason? To say something is unusual and uncommon does not mean that it is a judgment of God.

Of course, this does not mean that God cannot use a hurricane to judge, but I need a clear reason to think that it is. What message we can get out of such things is to realize the fragility of life and we dare not grow complacent where we are. We can look at Luke 13 where tragedies happen and the reply of Jesus is “You repent just in case!” (And from my viewpoint of course, they had a really big disaster come 40 years later and unfortunately, they did not repent.)

When we have situations like this happen, it leads to further embarrassment of the Christian faith and more attention paid to non-essentials. As I told my friend yesterday, it is a tragedy that Christians today tend to spend more time seeking to understand who the antichrist is rather than spend that time seeking to understand who Christ is.

Having said that, I do want to make it clear that I have no problem seeing my futurist friends as Christians. I would rather you be right on the Jesus question and wrong on the eschatology question, than be right on the eschatology question and be wrong on the Jesus question. This is an in-house debate. I have no problem with futurists. I’m married to one after all. I do have a problem with dogmatism either way. I have a problem with preterists seeing futurists as second-class Christians and I have a problem with futurists who like to accuse me of just wanting to “Allegorize” or “spiritualize” the Word of God.

Let’s be careful with how we are presenting ourselves to the world and handling our interpretation of Scripture. We must always try to first find out what it meant to the people then before finding the application for our own day and age. If we are reckless with how we interpret it, we will pay the price. Let’s also remember that there are people who are hurting from Sandy and the last thing we need to tell them is that God is judging them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The preterist site can be found here.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Doomsday

How does a dialogue go with JWs on this topic? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As I was sitting in our living room recliner doing some work on the laptop, my wife said she heard someone outside. I look and notice a car has pulled up and coming out are two nicely dressed women carrying books and bags.

“Honey. I think we have Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

So I watch and when they get to the door open it and say that my wife thought she heard someone. When they identify themselves, I ask them if they’d like to come in. They tell me they can only stay for a minute and then hand me a copy of their “Awake” magazine talking about Doomsday. Let me warn you at the start that in my recount of the exchange, that you will see my Preterist understanding of Scripture.

So their first passage they go to is Psalm 37:29 which reads as follows (All verses are being read from their own New World Translation, NWT):

“The righteous themselves will possess the earth,
And they will reside forever upon it.”

I told them I agree with that. I do think God has a plan for the Earth and that we are meant to inhabit it into all eternity. This was a surprise to them so they asked me what I thought it would take for that to be brought about. I answered that I think the gospel has to be preached everywhere and believed majority worldwide. They said they disagreed with that and first indicated where they thought I was correct in Matthew 24 which they said they think talks about the end and how in verse 14 it says:

“And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”

But in Matthew 7 we read:

“13Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it;14whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”

I replied by turning to Matthew 13 and showing them this first in verse 33:

Another illustration he spoke to them: “The kingdom of the heavens is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three large measures of flour, until the whole mass was fermented.”

And then before that in 31-32.

31Another illustration he set before them, saying: “The kingdom of the heavens is like a mustard grain, which a man took and planted in his field;32which is, in fact, the tiniest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the largest of the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of heaven come and find lodging among its branches.”

I pointed out to them that in each of these cases, something starts off small and goes through the whole of what it starts to penetrate. With the mustard seed, we can remember that in Daniel 4 there was a prophecy about a tree filling the whole Earth. I finally took them to Matthew 16. Verse 18 reads:

“Also, I say to you, You are Peter, and on this rock‐mass I will build my congregation, and the gates of Ha′des will not overpower it.”

Gates are defensive. The kingdom of God is on the move and it will never be the minority. They were stumped at this point to which I said “Let’s go back to Matthew 24. You say you think it says the end is coming. The end of what?”

“Oh. The end of the Jewish system which happened in 70 A.D. (I was surprised that they had that right) and the end of this system of things since it says that this is the great tribulation and that no time has come like it or ever will come again.

I asked them in response if they thought Jesus was the wisest king who ever lived. They told me He wasn’t a king on Earth. When I told them He is one now, they agreed He is the wisest. With that, I turned to 1 Kings 3. In verse 12 we read the following promise to Solomon from God.

“look! I shall certainly do according to your words. Look! I shall certainly give you a wise and understanding heart, so that one like you there has not happened to be before you, and after you there will not rise up one like you.”

So I told them that if they take that text literally, then Solomon is wiser than Jesus which is a problem. It is better to read it as hyperbole and how instead, what is being said in Matthew 24 is that this is an example of the worst possible thing.

At this, they asked me if I believe anything big is coming. I said I certainly do and it’s the event that’s not talked about in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, which leads me to think that that passage is not about this event. That is the bodily return of Christ and the mass resurrection from the dead.

At this point, they told me that Jesus laid down His body. Why would He take it up again? I responded that I saw no reason to think that He did not rise bodily. I pointed out that we are told that our bodies will be like His body and if we rise bodily, then it is because He did. They agreed that we do rise and live in perfect bodies on Earth, but flesh and blood does not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. (I do realize they have a different idea about who goes to Heaven based on the 144,000)

I pointed out that that is a euphemism and gave the example in Genesis. When Noah’s nakedness is seen by his son, it doesn’t mean his son just inadvertently walked in and saw his dad naked. That might be awkward, but no great sin. It means that his son did something to him that should not have been done while his Dad was naked and in a drunken stupor. It was a euphemism. The same is the case with flesh and blood which just means sinful human nature.

At this point they did have to go as they had indicated earlier. Let’s pray they return and are open to having their views examined and following the evidence where it leads.

In Christ,
Nick Peters