Preterism: Dialoguing with Lindsay Kennedy’s Review of My Book (Part 1)

lindsey kennedy review

If you have not read Lindsey’s review of my book, you can find it here.

Lindsay Kennedy posed a few points in his review of my book, which I would like to begin to address. I realize that the only way I am going to find time to respond is to address it a bit via blogging every morning during my reflection and study time. With that said, I plan to make this a much larger series, which will transcend at times, this dialogue. Lindsay, I do apologize that it has taken me so long to interact my friend.

Lindsey wrote:

[1] “Lewis believes this restoration is entirely fulfilled; for example, “Israel’s restoration promises concerning the end of the exile were fulfilled in the first century” (p30, also p13-14). I’m not sure why this would be, since Gentiles continue to be saved.” Judging by a few statements, the author is a Preterist, so that may provide the reason, but his viewpoint is never articulated in the book. On the other hand, sentences like “the gathering of Israel’s exiles and the salvation of the Gentile nations are coterminous events” (p82) allow the possibility of continuing fulfillment, and thus appear to contradict the earlier statements. [2] “I am confused as to how the promise for the Northern Kingdom to return to the land is fulfilled. For example, “the Gentile nations coming to salvation is one and the same with the restoration of the northern tribes back into the land” (p111). Exactly how? The Gentiles never came in mass to Jerusalem. What’s more, if this were fulfilled in the first century, what role do the events of AD70 play to this ingathering? At very least, this ingathering awaits the complete fulfillment of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21-22). A Preterist may respond that this New Jerusalem is the church, and thus has already come, but Lewis does not address this.”

If I recall, I had mentioned in some comments on my Facebook page that the term “preterist” is extremely problematic for me. Thus, let me begin here. There are Preterists of all stripes out there, e.g., partial, full, and hyper. I know Lindsay knows this already, I’m just providing some context for my apprehensiveness with the label. (A) Partial-Preterists: who posit that though Jesus’s own vision of the future did not extend beyond A.D. 70, not all has been completely consummated. For example, the kingdom and new creation were all “inaugurated” with Christ’s death and resurrection, i.e., from that point on they were present and ongoing without consummation. (B) Full-Preterists: are those who believe everything has consummated, Jesus returned in A.D. 70, at which time the resurrection and final judgment were also concluded. (C) Hyper-Preterists: strangely, they argue that Israel’s promises were limited only to physical Jews and Israelites (i.e., who were actually Gentiles in the first-century), and thus, these promises extended no further than A.D. 70. Certainly, this latter position is the most bizarre that has developed among preterists. It should not be confused with my own arguments concerning the Gentiles and the Ten Northern Tribes of Israel. To this strange perspective, I say, the message of the Kingdom is inclusive, not exclusive. For many of the NT writers, the messianic age of Israel’s restoration and reconciliation was upon “all” regardless of ethnicity. For example, the apostle Paul expected that reconciliation to be present, ongoing, and soon for “all” who were outside the covenant promises and community of God.

Concerning [1]: For clarity, I think Jesus’s vision of the future did not extend beyond A.D. 70 (For whatever reason, I’m hearing Scot McKnight in my ear here). Moreover, Jesus did involve the teachings about the general resurrection and the great judgment in his teachings about the destruction of Jerusalem. In other words, I believe Jesus saw everything taking place—at least in an imprecise way—at A.D. 70, i.e., there is no clear description or limits concerning the nature of all events. Moreover, I maintain that for Paul, the first-century was indeed the focal point of Jesus’ predictions. However, I do not believe the apostle expected that the “end of time” had drawn nigh (i.e., despite his obvious warnings to the Corinthians, 1 Cor 7:29–31). He was not referring to the end of the space-time continuum, but to the end of the present evil age or present world order. Keeping with the Second-Temple Judaic apocalyptic expectation that יהוה (YHWH) would soon break into the world and set the world to rights; e.g., Paul expected the dawning of the age of salvation soon, in contrast to his own age “the present evil age” [τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ] (Gal 1:4).

“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:11-12).

So to answer your first concern, I think Paul expounded a gospel to the Gentiles that was also the fulfillment of Israel’s covenant promises. That is to say that in Paul’s own time, Israel’s promises were reaching their “ultimate significance” or “climax” through the work of the Messiah under the apostle’s own Gentile mission. Thus, perhaps—though tough to admit—“fulfilled” was not the most adequate word to use. For now, let’s replace it with “ultimate significance” or “climax.” At least, that is what I meant.

There are many reasons as why I am willing to do this. In my opinion, though I more closely identify with inaugurated eschatology (at this time; and for reasons I will explain later; and I like to use the academic nomenclature), these positions do not do justice to the complexity of eschatology, esp. as it relates to Judaism’s hermeneutical routine of repositioning prophecy. “Metaleplsis” (Richard B. Hays), wherein the larger context of Israel’s Scripture (both historical and literary) contributes to the NT meaning might be true, but this does not mean that the “predictive–prophecy scheme” is always adequate. In other words, reading Israel’s Scripture as “always” deliberately predicting NT events is a bit naive and does not accurately deal with the early Jewish hermeneutical situation.

Nevertheless, after I answer Lindsay’s other concerns, I’ll elaborate on this in fuller detail. This is such as complex subject. It is impossible to address every nook and cranny in a single post.

5 Comments on "Preterism: Dialoguing with Lindsay Kennedy’s Review of My Book (Part 1)"

  1. Bryan, thank you for taking the time to engage in such depth with my review. This is a first for me! I eagerly await your further replies and will direct my readers to this post.


  2. This is great. I’ve been following Lindsay’s blog for a long time now, and it’s a pleasure to see interaction from the author on a closer look at the nooks and crannies, even if it’s still only an overhead view. I look forward to the rest of your posts, Bryan.


    1. Thanks Spencer! I plan to follow up with more interaction this weekend. I have been out of town since the last post. Blessings.


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