Preterism is a variant of
Christian eschatologywhich holds that some or all of the biblical prophecies concerning the Last Daysor End Timesrefer to events which actually happened in the first centuryafter Christ's birth. The term preterism comes from the Latin "praeter", meaning "past". Adherents of Preterism are known as Preterists.
History of Preterism
Proponents of Preterism commonly argue that this position was the original eschatological understanding of the
Early Christianchurch. [Farrar, Frederic, 'The Early Days of Christianity', volume 2 (1882)] [ [http://www.preteristarchive.com/Books/2006_demar-gumerlock_end-of-world.html 'The Early Church And The End Of The World'] , DeMar, Gary, and Gumerlock, Francis X, 2006, ISBN 0-915815-58-3] , a claim contested by Historicists. [ [http://www.covenanter.org/Postmil/AntiPreterist/pondreview.htm 'REVIEW OF PROFESSOR STUART ON THE APOCALYPSE: WITH OCCASIONAL REFERENCES TO THE COMMENTARY OF PROFESSOR COWLES'] , Pond, Enoch (1871)] Other Preterists hold that the view was developed in the 16th century, ['This view of the contents of the book had been merely hinted before, by Hentenius, in the Preface to his Latin Version of Arethas, Par. 1547. 8vo.; and by Salmeron in his Praecludia in Apoc. But no one had ever developed this idea fully, and endeavoured to illustrate and enforce it, in such a way as Alcassar', Stuart, Moses, ‘A Commentary On The Apocalypse’, page 464 (1845)] a view also held by many non-Preterists. [‘The praeterist view found no favour and was hardly so much as thought of in the time of primitive Christianity. Those who lived near the date of the book of Revelation itself had no idea that its groups of imagery were intended merely to describe things then passing, and to be in a few years completed. This view is said to have been first promulgated in anything like completeness by the Jesuit Alcasar, in his "Vestigatio Arcani Sensus in Apocalypsi" (1604). Very nearly, the same plan was adopted by Grotius. The next great name among this school of interpreters is that of Bossuet the great antagonist of Protestantism’, Alford, Henry, ‘The New Testament For English Readers’ (1872)] ['Now with regard to the Præterist Scheme, on the review of which we are first to enter, it may be remembered that I stated it to have had its origin with the Jesuit Alcasar', Elliott, EB, 'Horae Apocalypticae', Volume IV, 4th edition (1862)] [Froom, Leroy Edwin, 'The Prophetic Faith Of Our Fathers', volume 2, page 509 (1954)]
There has historically been general agreement that the first systematic Preterist exposition of prophecy was written by the Jesuit
Luis De Alcasarduring the Counter Reformation. ['It has been usual to say that the Spanish Jesuit Alcasar, in his Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalpysi (1614), was the founder of the Præterist School', Farrar, Frederic, 'The Early Days of Christianity', volume 2 (1882)] ['Alcazar was the first to apply Preterism to the Apocalypse with anything like completeness, though it had previously been applied somewhat to Daniel', Froom, Leroy Edwin, 'The Prophetic Faith Of Our Fathers', volume 2, page 509 (1954)] Preterist Moses Stuart noted that Alcasar's Preterist interpretation was of considerable benefit to the Roman Catholic Church during its arguments with Protestants, ['It might be expected, that a commentary which thus freed the Romish church from the assaults of Protestants, would be popular among the advocates of the papacy. Alcassar met, of course, with general approbation and reception among the Romish community', Stuart, Moses ‘A Commentary On The Apocalypse’, page 464 (1845)] and Preterism has been described in modern eschatological commentary as a Catholic defense against the Protestant Historicist view which identified the Roman Catholic Church as a persecuting apostasy. ['It is hardly surprising, given this general context, that the relatively few English Catholic commentators who turned their hands to the interpretation of these same passages should be concerned to counter this widely held, if somewhat variously presented, Protestant view. The response came in three basic forms: preterism, futurism, and 'counter historicism' - a term that has been created for the purposes of this discussion', Newport, Kenneth GC, 'Apocalypse and Millennium: Studies in Biblical Eisegesis', page 74 (2000)]
Due to resistance by Protestant Historicists, the Preterist view was slow to gain acceptance outside the Roman Catholic Church. [Drue Cressener, 'The Judgments Of God Upon The Roman Catholic Church, &c.', preface (1689)] Among Protestants it was first accepted by
Hugo Grotius, ['The Preterist view was soon adopted and taught, with various modifications, by the Protestant Hugo Grotius of Holland in his Annotationes (1644)', Froom, Leroy Edwin, 'The Prophetic Faith Of Our Fathers', volume 2, page 510 (1954)] [Newport, Kenneth GC, 'Apocalypse and Millennium: Studies in Biblical Eisegesis', page 74 (2000)] a Dutch Protestant eager to establish common ground between Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church. ['all that this very learned man was guilty of in this matter, was but this, his passionate desire of the unity of the Church in the bands of peace and truth, and a full dislike of all uncharitable distempers, and impious doctrines', Hammond, Henry, 'Treatise On The Epistle of Ignatius’ (1655)] His first attempt to do this was entitled ‘Commentary on Certain Texts Which Deal with Antichrist’ (1640), in which he attempted to argue that the texts relating to Antichristhad their fulfillment in the 1st century AD. This was not well received by Protestants, ['When Grotius' authorship of the book was detected, it turned all orthodox theologians against him', Froom, Leroy Edwin, 'The Prophetic Faith Of Our Fathers', volume 2, page 510 (1954)] but Grotius was undeterred and in his next work ‘Commentaries On The New Testament' (1641-1650), he expanded his Preterist views to include the Olivet prophecy and Revelation.
Preterism still struggled to gain credibility within other Protestant countries, especially England. The English commentator Thomas Hayne claimed that the prophecies of Daniel had all been fulfilled by the 1st century (‘Christs Kingdom on Earth’, 1645), and Joseph Hall expressed the same conclusion concerning Daniel’s prophecies (‘The Revelation Unrevealed’, 1650), but neither of them applied their Preterist views to Revelation. However, the exposition of Grotius convinced the Englishman
Henry Hammond. Hammond sympathized with Grotius’ desire for unity among Christians, and found his Preterist exposition useful to this end. [Hammond, Henry, 'Treatise On The Epistle of Ignatius' (1655)] Hammond wrote his own Preterist exposition in 1653, borrowing extensively from Grotius. In his introduction to Revelation he claimed that others had independently arrived at similar conclusions as himself, though he gives pride of place to Grotius. [‘…appeared to me to be the meaning of this prophecie, hath, for this main of it, in the same manner represented it self to several persons of great piety and learning (as since I have discerned) none taking it from the other, but all from the same light shining in the Prophecie it self. Among which number I now also find the most learned Hugo Grotius, in those posthumous notes of his on the Apocalypse, lately publish'd', Hammond, Henry, ‘Paraphrase and Annotations’, introduction to Revelation (1653)] Hammond was Grotius’ only notable Protestant convert, and despite his reputation and influence, Grotius’ interpretation of Revelation was overwhelmingly rejected by Protestants and gained no ground for at least 100 years. ['For most divines in the (early) Enlightenment the choice between the preterist approach of Grotius and the historicist approach of Cocceius was not a difficult one: there was a strong predilection for the latter’, Van Der Wall, Ernestine, 'Between Grotius And Cocceius: The 'Theologica Prophetica' Of Campegius Vitringa (1659-1722)', in 'Hugo Grotius, Theologian: Essays in Honour of G. H. M. Posthumous Meyjer', series in 'Studies in the History of Christian Thought', volume 55, page 202 (1994)] […in 1791 J. G. Eichhorn (1752-1.827), the noted German rationalist, revived and republished Alcazar's Preterist interpretation', Froom, Leroy Edwin, 'The Prophetic Faith Of Our Fathers', volume 2, page 510 (1954)]
By the end of the 18th century Preterist exposition had gradually become more widespread. The first Full Preterist exposition was finally written in 1730 by the Swiss Protestant and Arian, Firmin Abauzit (‘Essai sur l'Apocalypse’). ['The great mass of the religious public became, at last, wearied out with the extravagances and the errors of apocalyptic interpreters. This prepared the way for ABAUZIT, in his Essay on the Apocalypse (see p. 443 above), to broach the idea, that the whole book relates to the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem. His starting point was, that the book itself declares that all which it predicts would take place speedily. Hence Rome, in chap. xiii - xix. points figuratively to Jerusalem. Chap.xxi. xxii. relate to the extension of the church, after the destruction of the Jews', Stuart, Moses, ‘A Commentary On The Apocalypse’, page 470 (1845)] This was the beginning of a series of Full Preterist expositions of Revelation, all of them deriving ultimately from Abauzit. [Stuart, Moses, ‘A Commentary On The Apocalypse’, pages 470, 417, 471-472 (1845)]
The two principal schools of Preterist thought are commonly called
Partial Preterismand Full Preterism. Preterists disagree significantly about the exact meaning of the terms used to denote these divisions of Preterist thought.
Some Partial Preterists prefer to call their position Orthodox Preterism, thus contrasting their agreement with the creeds of the Ecumenical Councils with what they perceive to be the Full Preterists' rejection of the same.Fact|date=April 2007 This, in effect, makes Full Preterism unorthodox in the eyes of Partial Preterists and gives rise to the claim by some that Full Preterism is heretical. (Partial Preterism is also sometimes called "Classical Preterism" or "Moderate Preterism".)
On the other hand, some Full Preterists prefer to call their position Consistent Preterism, reflecting their extension of Preterism to "all" biblical prophecy and thus claiming an inconsistency in the Partial Preterist
hermeneutic. [Sproul, R.C. [http://books.google.com/books?id=KDVlICMWGCoC&pg=PA155&lpg=PA155&dq=%22Consistent+Preterism%22&source=web&ots=Q4zsg7X2vx&sig=bFCvmpsyXrx3be8nrx1Pg86fmA4&hl=en The Last Days According To Jesus] 155.]
The correct labeling of the positions in relation to each other is a matter of heated dispute amongst some Partial Preterists and Full Preterists who would reject those labels and argue for others, most notably, which view may simply be called "preterism".Fact|date=April 2007
Some Partial Preterists choose to label the belief as "Kingdom Eschatology" due to an emphasis put upon the implications of the Partial Preterist belief [Blume, Mike [http://mikeblume.com/prophecy.htm] ] . These proponents believe that emphasis should be put upon the present Kingdom of God and its practical nature, including the differences of the implications of preterism in contrast to some futurist beliefs that Christ is not yet ruling in the Kingdom and that there will be a physical kingdom of Christ on the earth after the Church Age, rather than an emphasis upon prophecies that have already been fulfilled.
Sub-variants of Preterism include one form of Partial Preterism which places fulfillment of some eschatological passages in the first three centuries of the current era, culminating in the
fall of Rome.
In addition, certain statements from classical theological liberalism are easily mistaken for Preterism, as they hold that the biblical record accurately reflects Jesus' and the
Apostles' belief that all prophecy was to be fulfilled within their generation. Theological liberalism generally regards these apocalyptic expectations as being errant or mistaken, however, so this view cannot accurately be considered a form of Preterism. [Allison, Jr., D. C. (Winter 1994). "A Plea for Thoroughgoing Eschatology". Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 113, No. 4 (Winter, 1994), pp. 651-668.]
Partial preterism is the older of the two views, dating back to even the 2nd century Church fathers,Fact|date=April 2007. Partial Preterism holds that prophecies such as the
destruction of Jerusalem, the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, and the advent of the Day of the Lordas a "judgment-coming" of Christ were fulfilled c. AD 70when the Roman general (and future Emperor) Titussacked Jerusalemand destroyed the Jewish Temple, putting a permanent stop to the daily animal sacrifices. It identifies "Babylon the Great" (Revelation 17-18) with the ancient pagan City of Romeor Jerusalem. Some adherents of Partial Preterism see the Emperor Diocletian as the fulfillment of the "little horn" prophecy of Daniel 7. Partial Preterism is also known by several other names: Orthodox Preterism, Historic Preterism, and Moderate Preterism.
Most (but not all) Partial Preterists also believe that the term "Last Days" refers not to the last days of planet Earth, or the last days of humankind, but rather to the last days of the
Mosaic Covenant, which God had exclusively with the nation of Israeluntil the year AD 70. (see also New Covenantand The Fig Tree).Fact|date=April 2007 The "last days", however, are to be distinguished from "the" "last day", which is considered still future and entails the "last coming" of Jesus, the "Resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous dead" physically from the grave in like manner to Jesus' physical resurrection, the "Final Judgment", and the creation of a literal, non-covenantal "New Heavens" and "New Earth" free from the curse of sin and death which was occasioned by the fall of Adam and Eve. Thus Partial Preterists are in agreement and conformity with the historic ecumenical creedsof the Church and articulate the doctrine of the resurrection held by the early Church Fathers. Partial preterists hold that the New Testamentpredicts and depicts many "comings" of Christ.Fact|date=April 2007 They contend that the phrase " Second Coming" means the second of a like kind in a series, for the Scriptures record other "comings" of God even before Jesus' judgment-coming in AD 70fact|date=June 2007. This would eliminate the AD 70 event as the "second" of any series, let alone the second of a series in which the earthly, physical ministry of Christ is the first. Partial Preterists believe that the new creation comes in redemptive progression as Christ reigns from His heavenly throne, subjugating His enemies, and will eventually culminate in the destruction of the "last enemy", i.e., physical death (1 Cor 15:20-24). In the Partial Preterist paradigm, since enemies of Christ still exist, the resurrection event cannot have already occurred.
Nearly all Partial Preterists hold to
amillennialismor postmillennialism. Many postmillennial Partial Preterists are also theonomic in their outlook. Partial Preterists typically accept the authority of the Creeds on the basis that they believe the Creeds are in conformity to what the Scriptures teach.
Full Preterism differs from Partial Preterism in that Full Preterists believe "all" prophecy was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem, including the
resurrection of the deadand Jesus' Second Comingor "Parousia". Full Preterism is also known by several other names: Consistent Preterism, Covenant Eschatology, Hyper-Preterism (a term used by some opponents of the Full Preterist position and considered to be derogatory by Full Preterists), and Pantelism (the term " Pantelism" comes from the Greek and means, "all things having been accomplished"). Full Preterism holds that Jesus' Second Coming is to be viewed not as a future-to-us bodily return, but rather a "return" in glory manifested by the physical destruction of Jerusalem and her Temple in AD 70by foreign armies in a manner similar to various Old Testamentdescriptions of God coming to destroy other nations in righteous judgment. Full Preterism also holds that the Resurrection of the dead did not entail the raising of the physical body, but rather the resurrection of the soul from the "place of the dead", known as Sheol(Hebrew) or Hades(Greek). As such, the righteous dead obtained a spiritual and substantial body for use in the heavenly realm, and the unrighteous dead were cast into the " Lake of Fire". Some Full Preterists believe this judgment is ongoing and takes effect upon the death of each individual (Heb. 9:27).Fact|date=April 2007 The New Heavens and the New Earth are also equated with the New Covenant and the fulfillment of the Law in AD 70 and are to be viewed in the same manner by which a Christian is considered a "new creation" upon his or her conversion.
Full Preterists typically reject the authority of the
Creeds to condemn their view, stating that the Creeds were written by uninspired and fallible men, and that appeals should be made instead to the Scriptures themselves ( sola scriptura).Fact|date=April 2007
Influences of Preterism within Christian thought
Partial Preterism is generally considered to be a historic orthodox interpretation as it affirms all eschatological points of the ecumenical Creeds of the Church. [cite book | last =Garland | first =Anthony | authorlink =Anthony Charles Garland | title =A Testimony of Jesus Christ - Volume 1 | date =2007 | pages =114 | url =] [cite book | last =Anderberg | first =Roy | authorlink =Roy W Anderberg | title =The Return Of Christ: A Biblical Study | date =2008 | pages =174 | url =] [cite book | last =Sproul | first =RC | authorlink =R C Sproul | title =The Last Days According to Jesus | date =1998 | pages =156 | url =] Still, Partial Preterism is not the majority view among American denominations founded after the
16th centuryand meets with significant vocal opposition, especially by those denominations which espouse Dispensationalism. [cite book | last =Riemer | first =Michael | authorlink =Michael A Riemer | title =IT Was At Hand | date =2000 | pages =12 | url =] [cite book | last =Garland | first =Anthony | authorlink =Anthony Charles Garland | title =A Testimony of Jesus Christ - Volume 1 | date =2007 | pages =114 | url =] [cite book | last =Sproul | first =RC | authorlink =R C Sproul | title =The Last Days According to Jesus | date =1998 | pages =156 | url =] Additionally, concerns are expressed by Dispensationalists that Partial Preterism logically leads to an acceptance of Full Preterism, a concern which is denied by Partial Preterists. [cite book | last =Garland | first =Anthony | authorlink =Anthony Charles Garland | title =A Testimony of Jesus Christ - Volume 1 | date =2007 | pages =117 | url =]
Although Full Preterism is viewed as heretical by many, [cite book | last =Anderberg | first =Roy | authorlink =Roy W Anderberg | title =The Return Of Christ: A Biblical Study | date =2008 | pages =174 | url =] [cite book | last =Garland | first =Anthony | authorlink =Anthony Charles Garland | title =A Testimony of Jesus Christ - Volume 1 | date =2007 | pages =114 | url =] [cite book | last =Sproul | first =RC | authorlink =R C Sproul | title =The Last Days According to Jesus | date =1998 | pages =156 | url =] this condemnation is not universal. Many of those who condemn Full Preterism do so not based solely upon the historic creeds of the church (which would exclude this view), but also from biblical passages that they interpret to condemn a past view of the Resurrection or the denial of a physical resurrection/transformation of the body — doctrines which many Christians (but not all) believe to be essential to the faith. Critics of Full Preterism point to the Apostle Paul's condemnation of the doctrine of Hymenaeus and Philetus (bibleverse|2|Tim|2:17-18), which they regard as analogous to Full Preterism. Adherents of Full Preterism, however, dispute this assertion by pointing out that Paul's condemnation was written during a time in which the Resurrection was yet future (i.e., pre-AD 70). Their critics assert that if the resurrection has not happened yet the condemnation would still apply.
The influence of preterism on Christian thinking in regard to the Middle East crisis cannot be underestimated. One of the basic tenets of preterism is that Israel's establishment in 1948 was not a fulfillment of biblical prophecy and therefore would be viewed as insignificant in terms of God's dealings with man, the second coming, and signs leading up to the second coming. Since preterism views those signs and the second coming as past events and that the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 by the Roman armies was the decisive event to end the Old Covenant era and Mosaic economy, events in the 21st century are moot concerning biblical prophecy. If Israel is no longer a special nation chosen by God, then it would logically follow that any support from Christian Zionists to continue the establishment of Israel to the neglect of Palestinians would be to undermine the Christian principle of loving one's neighbor. Islamic fundamentalist terrorism has vindicated its attacks against Israel, Britain, and the United States primarily because of the miliary and financial backing Israel receives from Britain and the U.S.
Preterism versus Futurism
Like most theological disputes, the divide between Preterism and its opposite, Futurism, is over how certain passages of
Scriptureshould be interpreted. Futurists assert that Preterists have ignored prophecy recently fulfilled and spiritualized prophecies they interpret as describing literal, visible events, whereas Preterists believe that Futurists do not take certain passages such as bibleref|Matthew|16:28 literally enough and do not give sufficient weight to scriptures that seem to show that the first century Church believed that a major eschatological event would certainly take place in their lifetime.Fact|date=April 2007 Many "time texts" in the New Testament appear to indicate this, e.g., bibleref|Matthew|10:23, bibleref|Matthew|16:27-28, bibleref|Matthew|24:34, bibleref|Matthew|26:64, and Rev. 1:1-3. Preterists also maintain that futurists are unaware of the various metaphors, idioms and prophetic language that the New Testament mentions, that are proved to be idiom and metaphors by their use in the Old Testament, and are not meant to be taken literally, e.g., being seen coming in clouds, bibleref|2Samuel|22:11-12, and the reference to a "thousand" years in Rev. 20:2, (bibleref|Psalm|50:10, bibleref|Deuteronomy|7:9). Full Preterists would assert that there are passages which also place the Second Coming and Resurrection at that time (Dan. 7:18; 12:1-7). Partial Preterists, however, assert that there are additional long-term indicators and futuristic goals of the Consummationthat include the complete eradication of sin, the absolute removal of Satan's influence from the Earth and the restoration of the Earth from its fallen state.
Preterism versus Historicism
Expositors of the traditional Protestant interpretation of
Historicism have often maintained that Revelation was written in AD 96 and notAD 70. E.B. Elliott, in the classic
Horae Apocalypticae(1862), argues that John wrote the book in exile on Patmos"at the close of thereign of Domitian; that is near the end of the year 95 or beginning of 96". He notes thatDomitian was assassinated in September of 96. [Elliot, E.B.: "Horae Apocalypticae", Vol 1, page 47. Seely, Jackson and Halliday, London, 1862] Elliot begins his lengthy review of historical evidence by quoting Irenaeusa disciple of Polycarpwho was a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus mentions that the Apocalypse was seen "no very long time ago [but] almost in our own age, toward the end of the reign of Domitian". [Elliot, E.B. (1862). "Horae Apocalypticae", Vol I, page 32. Seely, Jackson and Halliday, London, 1862.] Other Historicists however have seen no significance in the date that Revelelation was written, and have even held to an early date. [cite book | last =Thomas | first =John | authorlink =John Thomas | title =Eureka: An Exposition of the Apocalypse (In Three Volumes) | date =1861 | pages = | url =]
Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D., wrote the book "
Before Jerusalem Fell" (1989) to provide evidence in support of an earlier date. The book was meant to be an exegetical and historical argument for the pre-A.D. 70 composition of Revelation. [Gentry, Jr., Th.D., K. L. (1989). Before Jerusalem Fell. Retrieved from http://www.entrewave.com/freebooks/docs/a_pdfs/kgbj.pdf.]
Other commentators have noted that the book of Revelation does not mention the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, but rather speaks of it as still standing. If the book had been written after 70 A.D., they reason, surely John would have mentioned such an important event as the destruction of the temple.
William Barclay[The Revelation of John. Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1976. ]
Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer[The Return of Christ. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972. ]
F. F. Bruce["The Revelation to John." In A New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969.]
G. B. Caird[The Revelation of St. John the Divine. Harper's New Testament Commentaries . New York: Harper, 1966]
Robert Henry Charles[A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John . 2 vols. Edinburgh: 1920. ]
J. Massyngberde Ford[ Revelation . AB. New York: Doubleday, 1975]
Bruce Metzger[Breaking the Code Understanding the Book of Revelation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993]
Leon Morris[The Revelation of St. John . Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969]
Scott Hahn[ The Lamb's Supper: Mass as Heaven on Earth,1999]
Wilfred Harrington[The Apocalypse of St. John: A Commentary . London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1969]
Henry Barclay Swete[The Apocalypse of St. John. New York: Macmillan, 1906]
Andrew Corbett["The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible" (ISBN0-9775186-2-0]
R. C. Sproul["The Last Days According to Jesus"]
David Chilton["Days of Vengeance"]
Gary DeMar["Last Days Madness:Obsession of the Modern Church" (ISBN 0-915815-35-4) ]
Kenneth Gentry["Before Jerusalem Fell"]
Hank Hanegraaff["The Last Disciple" , "The Apocalypse Code" ]
Hugh J. Schonfield[ "The Original New Testament" (ISBN 1 86204 252 7)]
Larry T. Smith[ "The Coming of the Lord, The Last Days & The End of the World" ]
Summary of Christian eschatological differences
Expounding of the Law
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