You are herePreterism meets Judaism
Preterism meets Judaism
by Marcus Booker
About ten minutes ago, I posted the following article on the "Jews for Judaism" site. These Jews have mostly confronted Dispensational and Evangelical Christians. Jews for Jesus (to which they are a counter movement) typically puppets the same mantra. We, for our parts, know these things to misrepresent Christianity. But Catholics and Evangelicals are all that they have faced. Yet all of that is about to change. They shall no longer confront a strawman. Here's my first post: It's entitled "Gentile Christian Agrees with Jews for Judaism." About ten minutes ago, I posted the following article on the "Jews for Judaism" site. These Jews have mostly confronted Dispensational and Evangelical Christians. Jews for Jesus (to which they are a counter movement) typically puppets the same mantra. We, for our parts, know these things to misrepresent Christianity. But Catholics and Evangelicals are all that they have faced. Yet all of that is about to change. They shall no longer confront a strawman. Here's my first post: It's entitled "Gentile Christian Agrees with Jews for Judaism." I am a gentile Christian, and on textual interpretation I agree probably more with Jews for Judaism than with so-called "Evangelical Christians." My intent here is not to malign my brothers in Christ but rather to expose their mistakes, which make the testimony of Jesus a confusion.
The mistake of Evangelicals is that they don't understand how Jesus and his apostles reference the Law and Prophets according to the principles of midrash. Yet in their allusions to the Scriptures, the apostles employed the original to express a new truth. They are not trying to interpret the originals as might a modern commentator attempting to draw out the text's grammatical-historical (p'shat) meaning.
Evangelicals seem to have this concept that they call Messianic prophecy, which makes the prophets into little Nostradamuses who prognosticate concerning obscure and ambiguous events about Jesus. Jews for Jesus seems to espouse this same basic misunderstanding.
I, for my part, do not share this view. For instance, Matthew says, "this was done to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken through the prophet, 'out of Egypt I called my son.'" You and I both know that in its original context Hosea looked back to the exodus: "when Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." Some Christians might imagine that somehow Hosea literally (under the surface) had Jesus' boyhood departure from Egypt in mind. Yet to make this claim is a giant leap. Rather, what Matthew does here is employ midrash. He knows Hosea's original intent and assumes that his audience would know it as well. Nobody among his audience would not immediately know that Israel was the unique son of G-d, His firstborn, who G-d had called out of Egypt. The attempt of Matthew, therefore, is to cause his audience to begin drawing a logical connection between Israel and Jesus. As other places show Jesus' body to be the temple, Matthew is showing Jesus to be Israel; he is saying that there is a nation in this man. Matthew's account of Jesus' 40-day temptation in the wilderness (parallel to the 40-years of Israel) is also clearly intended to carry on this same theme.
Of course, this example is among the most obvious. Isaiah's "suffering servant" (originally Israel) is another example. There are many. The apostles consistently employed this methodology. The key to understanding them is to know the original context and from there to see what point concerning Jesus they are trying to express. The Evangelicals do it backwards. They read the new into the old rather than understanding the new from the old. The result is confusion and the destruction of the historicity of the text and its relevance to its original audience.
What I find disappointing about Jews for Judaism is that they simply accept the Evangelical interpretation of the apostles as the Christian view. You attack the message of the apostles as if they themselves also had this Nostradamus view. You don't even recognize their midrashic use of the text, so you don't know what they say and fail to discern their mysteries.
As for what I believe concerning Jesus, I will tell you. Whether you believe the apostles or not, this message is what they proclaim. Jesus systematically shows how he supersedes the law. He is the covenant incarnate, the word made flesh. The law, in all of its particulars, is fulfilled in him. He is the circumcision, the temple, the holy days, etc. He is the nation itself and its restoration. He is its Messiah.
Jesus appealed to an original righteousness off of which the law was patterned. The law, then, was a copy and shadow of something better (a pattern given to Moses), which he was about to reveal fully. It is beyond dispute that the law itself was symbolic of heavenly realities; it was not the realities themselves. For instance, Jacob sees the house of the Lord in his vision, with angels ascending and descending upon it's steps. This temple is not a house made with hands, for what place could man build for G-d? Rather, it is the real temple. Subsequent temples were but copies of it. To abide in the true temple is to abide in G-d and in righteousness. To presumptuously (i.e. apart from righteousness) trust in the temple made with hands is to be an idolator. Jeremiah, prior to the destruction upon Jerusalem in his day, proclaims to Judah that G-d would destroy the house which is called by His name "in which they are trusting." As is characteristic, G-d destroys idolators along with their idols. Jesus, by calling the temple that so impressed his disciples a temple "made with hands," shows that he, like Jeremiah, envisioned a destruction upon that temple and those who trusted in it, which would spell his vindication and victory. Jesus proclaimed the spirit of the law over the letter. The letter is Saul, who offered sacrifices that were not pleasing to G-d because he disobeyed the command to completely destroy the city. The spirit is David, who was a man after G-d's own heart. G-d plainly reveals that the outward form of righteousness does not cleanse the conscience. Sacrifice is nothing without mercy, without ears prepared, without a heart broken and bruised. Circumcision is accounted as uncircumcision if it is not upon the heart. For those who disobey, G-d does not heed their prayers, He hates their new moons and sabbaths, and their fragrant incense is a stench. In the days of the prophets, many in Israel pretended to obey G-d through their adherence to these shadows; their deeds were done to be seen by men. In truth, however, these things and rules which state "Do not handle; do not touch" have no value at restraining fleshly indulgence. The Pharisees in the first century also took comfort in their idols, which they served and of which they boasted. As the apostles document, these men (like Cain) harshly persecuted the assembly (their brother Abel), killing many as had their fathers who killed the prophets. Vindication and victory would come with much longsuffering. G-d would bring great tribulation and judgment upon their persecutors who had blasphemed true righteousness. Thus would end the law, which became an idol and brought death because its children had made void the covenant. G-d would cast out Hagar and her son so that the son of the free woman would receive the inheritance (as per Paul's teaching in writing the Galatians).
As you can tell, my understanding of the end times is radically different than that of the Evangelicals. The word for my view is preterist. The dragon is the adversary. The "synagogue of the adversary" are the synagogues in which the disciples of Jesus were scourged, from which they were outcasts, and to which they were handed over. I see the beast as hardened Israel (particularly its elders). The false prophet deceives the people, as had false prophets prior to the captivity. The whore is Jerusalem, which was wont to strumpet herself in the past and had done so anew. It is the great city in which the Lord was crucified (as per Rev). The woman who bears a male child is Zion who gives birth to a blessed nation, one with G-d's presence [John applies this principle to Jesus and the nation that is in him]. John shows through his imagery how Jesus supersedes the law (incense being prayers of the holy ones, playing harps which represent hearts expressing joy over sacrifice, etc.). After the victory is won, a heavenly Jerusalem triumphs over what Paul calls the "Jerusalem that is" (in Gal) which was in slavery. John affirms that there is no temple in it for G-d and the Lamb are its temple.
Anyway, following the apostles' midrash is the key to understanding their message. What they meant by a "new covenant" was not identical to what Jeremiah meant. They spoke not of physical restoration in the land but of a heavenly gathering of the elect into a "better fatherland." This was the everlasting life of which they spoke, not Psalm 133's "life age-lasting" which was in the [physical] land. It is in this context that the apostles speak of a resurrection of the just and unjust that was about to occur. They speak like Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones. Resurrection equals the recovery of the "hope of Israel," which had perished. It is life again into the land. Yet the apostles speak of the spiritual sphere.
Another point that Evangelicals often neglect is that G-d changes his mind and that His promises are conditional. The prophets are not false because the new covenant and restoration (as literally prophesied) never came to be. If so, Jonah was not a true prophet because Ninevah was not destroyed by 40 days. Indeed, the prophets spoke the words of the covenant. The covenant promises restoration (after exile) if the people turn back to G-d. The Davidic covenant is conditional upon David's sons keeping the covenant (as per Psalm 132). G-d had told Eli that his house would walk before Him forever. Yet after Eli fails to discipline his wild sons, G-d says, "Far be it from me. Those who honor me I will honor, and those who dishonor me will be lightly esteemed." The examples are numerous. G-d says through Jeremiah that if he speaks of a nation or kingdom to build up and to plant and it turns from his face, He would think better of (lit: repent of) the good which He had planned to bring it. The converse it true as well. God exercises this prerogative.
The point is that G-d's election can shift, as it did from Saul to David, the former of which G-d had regretted making king. G-d nearly destroyed Israel and almost made of Moses a nation. Yet the covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (and other stated factors) led G-d to spare them. G-d, then, is not obligated to bless anyone, for He has mercy on whom He has mercy and He hardens whosoever He will. So...G-d transfers blessing from those to whom it naturally belongs unto unnatural recipients. Indeed, the birthright fell to Jacob, even though Esau was the firstborn. This is the doing of the Lord. In like manner, G-d took the kingdom from those for whom it was prepared and gave it to a nation producing its fruits. It was in this way that the Gentiles became sharers in the blessing, no longer strangers to the covenant and national life of Israel (as per Paul's epistles).
The good news is not anti-semitic. If so, Moses and the prophets stand convicted as well. The issue was obedience versus rebellion. Indeed, the good news was not a matter of Jew versus Gentile but the two becoming one in Jesus. The law stood in the way. It was the barrier between Jew and Gentile. Yet being that righteousness was based upon faith and not circumcision (and other works of the law), the distinction was obsolete. It was growing old and ready to pass away. It was no longer circumcision or uncircumcision that matteed but faith that worked by love. The law's dissolution was not lawlessness but the revelation of the "law of Christ." Two covenants are hereby contrasted. The law was written on tablets of stone, saying "you shall not murder." The nation had made void this law. Yet the new law was kept; it was written upon the heart, saying, "if I hate my brother in my heart, I have already killed him." Notice the stricter requirements of the second covenant. G-d looks upon the heart and does not judge as man, who looks upon the outward appearance. G-d's law, also, is upon the heart. It is there where we must be circumcised. The flesh profits little.