2 Thessalonians seems to be a specific death nail for Partial Preterists. At least as far as the Futurists see it. The basic premise is this: Partial Preterists hold to the already fulfillment of the Great Apostasy and the Antichrist. But how could these be already (more…)
You always have to be wary of those who know enough Greek to be dangerous but not enough to make sense about what Greek grammar and syntax is saying in the New Testament. I’ve always wondered why very smart people make a serious blunder on passages like 1 Corinthians 13:8, saying that the middle voice, παύσονται, creates some kind of sequence of voices. Where παύσονται must mean that it ceases on its own and therefore ceases before the terminus ad quem of verse 10.
Such a concept is foreign to the grammar of the Greek text and is more concerned with doctrinal distinctives of cessationism rather than Greek grammar. Which is peculiar in this case, because it is my view that 1 Corinthians 13 teaches cessationism. Thus, there really is no reason to misrepresent the grammar there.
The same concept holds true to Full Preterism, which I wholeheartedly reject, on the concept of the resurrection. Not every Full Preterist has this problem, but there are plenty who hold to an unorthodox view of the resurrection. This view was never held to in any credal statement in the entirety of Church History and is nowhere confirmed in the Biblical text.
Collective Body Resurrection
The advocates of this view, however, do look to a particular passage of Scripture to justify this claim. Bear in mind, that Full Preterism does not need to mess with the resurrection in this way in order to be true or followed.
Again, I believe Full Preterism is wrong. But Full Preterists don’t need to subscribe to the collective body view of the resurrection e.g. Ed Stevens. Although Stevens doesn’t account for the orthodox view of the resurrection as he holds to the individual view, that you receive an immortal body upon your death and enter into heaven, fully glorified and resurrected.
The basic idea of this view is that the resurrection, that for 2000 years of Church History has been viewed as a future, physical bodily resurrection, is actually not what the Bible teaches. Collective body advocates hold that the resurrection is purely a spiritual transformation of a person. Those who experience this resurrection enjoy all the privileges that physical body resurrection has.
In other words, technically it’s the eradication of sin and dwelling in the New Heavens and New Earth. Varying degrees of preteristic beliefs hold to this concept but some have even classified it as a sort of “imperfect” experience of the New Heavens and the New Earth.
The collective body advocates hold to the concepts surrounding the resurrection of the dead but maintain that it’s not physical. To attempt to justify this, they look to 1 Corinthians 15:35:
“But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?””
(1 Corinthians 15:35 ESV)
The specific phrase is, “With what kind of body do they come?” As compared with the word “dead” in the previous phrase. They point to the grammatical reality that the word “dead” is plural and the word “body” is singular. Therefore, it’s speaking of a collective resurrection into one body.
The Problems with the Collective Body View
There literally is not a single grammatical concept that confirms this. There is nothing in Greek grammar and syntax that says that if the word “dead” is plural and a noun that refers to it is singular that therefore it must be one body for all the dead.
So let’s think about the argument. It can’t be true with respect to the fact that the concept of a singular body can be applied to the living without necessitating that the living doesn’t have physical bodies. For example, if I said, “The living (plural) all have a human body”, then you can recognize that I’ve applied a singular noun, “body”, for the whole group collectively.
Why is this an important illustration? Because it’s the very type of illustration that Paul himself uses. Notice the context:
“And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another.”
(1 Corinthians 15:37–40 ESV)
What a minute. There are multiple bodies (plural) in the context. Did you notice the phrase, “There are heavenly bodies (plural) and earthly bodies (plural)? But back to the point that I was making, Paul used the very same illustration that I used, referring to a body (singular) for humans. It’s a kind of body. And there is a body for animals i.e. another kind of body. Notice the pattern? Paul is referring to the physical bodies of creatures and humans. He says that “Not all flesh (physical) is the same”.
Don’t miss the fact that Paul’s proof for heavenly bodies is based on the fact that there are already multiple types of physical bodies. And also, don’t miss the fact that Paul’s use of the singular isn’t to prove that believers are all raised into a singular, spiritual body.
His point is that they are all raised with a specific kind of body. Which grammatically requires the use of the singular. It’s grammatically and even doctrinally incorrect to say that they all would have specific kinds of bodies (plural). Because that would mean that believers would be raised with all sorts of kinds of physical bodies.
How the collective body advocates can miss this is beyond me. The only possible conclusion is that they are definitely reading their doctrine into the text because they believe if this passage teaches physical resurrection or even individual resurrection that it undermines their Full Preteristic beliefs.
Thus, don’t be fooled by Full Preterists who attempt to use their limited knowledge of the Greek to influence those who may have less knowledge of the Greek into thinking that their views are supported by the text. Both the Greek and the context of 1 Corinthians 15 are against them.
This is the first in an installment of posts related to a partial or orthodox, preteristic harmony of the Gospel accounts of the Olivet Discourse.
This an attempt to recognize an exceptionally important hermeneutical approach to the Gospels. That is, recognizing that although each Gospel has a different perspective, they don’t have a different message. Each perspective can and should be taken in light of the others. This is something that will become clearer when approaching the Olivet Discourse from the perspective of allowing all three accounts to speak for themselves.
All three accounts of Christ’s lengthy presentation begin the same way. There’s an examination of the Temple and a promise and prophecy by Christ of its destruction. What is specifically interesting is how much information is contained in one account and how little information is contained in the other two.
The reason for the interesting differences in the amount of information is because of the typical assumption by both futurists and full-preterists of the discourse relating to, almost entirely, the actual event of the Parousia of Christ. Christ does refer to and concludes His discourse with a presentation of the Parousia, for example, after Matthew 24:34. However, the beginning content that holds as the primary material for responding to the disciples happens to include everything but the actual event of the final coming or Parousia of Christ.
Christ basically initiates the discourse the same way in all three accounts. That is, the Temple is going to be destroyed, and there are going to be certain events that surround its destruction.
But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
— Matthew 24:2 ESV
And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
— Mark 13:2 ESV
“As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
— Luke 21:6 ESV
It really is quite remarkable to point out the fact that this discourse was introduced by the specifics of Christ pointing out merely the destruction of the Temple.
He didn’t introduce His final coming. He introduced the Temple’s destruction. Beyond that, all Christ had introduced before this point is the fact that the promised Kingdom of God was at hand (of course never referring to it as a thousand years).
That kingdom that Christ said was not of this world (John 18:36). That same kingdom that Christ indicated He inaugurates within the lifetime of some of His contemporaries, and that He Himself would come to bring into effect (Matthew 16:28).
This is further underscored by the fact that the Greek word παρουσία referring to the Second or Final Coming of Christ isn’t used in Matthew’s Gospel prior to Matthew 24. It isn’t used at all in Luke’s Gospel nor in Marks.
Which means, in the parallel accounts of Mark and Luke, there are absolutely no mentions of the parousia by name. They only mentioned the Parousia by inference, recognizing the specifics of events that coincide with the Parousia (Mark 13:32). Interestingly enough, it appears from Luke’s account that Luke really does not discuss the Parousia at all.
This means that in Luke’s and Mark’s account it is incumbent upon the interpreter to actually spot and recognize the Parousia. Which would logically conclude that there is a margin of error that may feasible on all sides of the eschatology debate. If there is nothing intrinsic in the text itself, then it requires us to think critically about the text its context to determine if a text is Parousia or not.
Moving on to the actual question of the disciples themselves. This brings us back to one of the original assertions, namely, harmonizing each Gospel account together. The fact is, that we must interpret all three accounts in a symbiotic way. The fact that one account has less information than another requires us to apply the same understanding to both. The Gospel with more information must be used to define the Gospel with less information and vice versa. Each Gospel can say more or less but no Gospel can something different.
We cannot assume that because a Gospel has less information than another that the Gospel with less information recorded the account incorrectly and the Gospel with more recorded information either “fixed” or “got it right”.
The lack of information supplied, therefore, must serve as a sufficient amount of information to essentially be saying the same thing as the account with more information. And the account with more information must be capable of providing further clarity, understanding, and insight to the account with less information.
Furthermore, each account must be capable of standing on its own and, therefore, the interpreter must be able to arrive at the same conclusion about the meaning of the discourse in one account as would be the case in any of the others. This is necessarily the case. Another way of stating is, is that even with looking at, for example, Luke’s account which states less that Matthew, we should still be able to arrive at an accurate conclusion of Luke’s message that is similar to and in harmony with Matthew’s account without needing Matthew’s account to correct, expand, or fix our interpretation.
If we interpret Luke, we should expect to find consistency with our understanding of Luke’s account when we open up Mark. The only thing that should happen is that we would find greater clarity and insight into the discourse itself, not a difference of information.
Mark and Luke record the Disciples’ question as asking for less than Matthew’s account does. Both Mark and Luke only ask for when the Temple will be destroyed. Whereas Matthew records the Disciples asking for the destruction of the Temple, the sign of Christ’s παρουσία, and the end of the age.
So here’s the point. Mark and Luke’s Gospels are actually not asking for different information than Matthew’s Gospel, they are asking for the same thing.
In other words, what Matthew records as the destruction of the Temple, the sign of Christ’s final coming, and the end of the age are all simultaneously the same event and can be spoken of with the simpler, summary form of purely asking about the destruction of the Temple.
The only clarification is to point out that the disciples were most likely asking for the end of history and the end of the world. They did, in fact, ask for συντέλεια i.e. the consummation or the total, final end of everything. This word is a compound Greek word, combining τέλεια, meaning “end” with συν meaning “with”.
In other words, it would be totally accurate to state that this would refer to all things that should be ending together. Whereas τέλεια would simply refer to a singular end of some particular thing. In this case, it’s a specific reference to the age.
However, there is a misunderstanding then on the part of the Disciples. Because they were using the word συντέλεια, with the singular word for “age”, αἰών, they weren’t asking for the consummation of the end of the ages but were thinking that the end of the world would then be synonymous with the end of the age they were currently living in. Thus conflating the idea of the destruction of the Temple with the end of the world.
This is essential if were are to understand the discourse correctly. As the Temple was the center of Jewish religion and life, for it to cease was certainly devastating. Therefore, the disciples were primarily interested in the destruction of the Temple and were confusing the destruction of the Temple with the end of the world.
But what about the portion of their question that deals with the Parousia? Certainly, the order of events as recorded by Matthew in 24:3 would indicate they thought there would be the final coming of Christ as well that would happen after the Temple’s destruction but before the end of their age.
The problem though, for futurists and full-preterist is that they didn’t ask for His Parousia, they asked for the sign of His Parousia. And considering how frequently the Jews of Jesus age were asking for a sign, we can recognize that Jews were very interested in signs as proof of something. The BDAG confirms this definition:
a sign or distinguishing mark whereby something is known, sign, token, indication.
William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 920.
Why would this be an important definition? Because they’re specifically asking for proof that Christ will have another Advent before their age ends. They’re asking for proof that there will be another Advent of Christ. They also asked for the timeframe. When will these things be, and how will know whether or not Christ will visit another time?
Before we conclude it’s important to introduce the definition of Parousia. It differs from “come” in the sense that “come” only involves the action of moving from one place to another whereas “Parousia” means coming and staying, just like a visit. We can distinguish between Grandma’s coming to visit and when Grandma is actually here.
The two events are linked, but they are not the same. As we continue through our harmonization as well as continuing to discuss eschatology, we will constantly need to recognize when “coming” is discussed verses when “arrival” or “visit” is discussed.
This is a good starting point for recognizing the harmony between the three accounts. Even though the disciples may have conflated the destruction of the Temple with the end of the world, their entire focus was still on the destruction itself. And the specific reason why Luke and Mark don’t record that would have to solidify the understanding that the entire focus of the question was centered on the Temple’s destruction.
And Jesus answer didn’t quite deviate from that understanding as well. We will continue this series of posts to attempt to further harmonize these accounts.