Matthew 26:64 is NOT a “Preterist Time Indicator” Pointing to AD70

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BY TODD DENNIS
APRIL 21, 2008

Hopefully, readers are starting to get the picture that, so far, the best support for the Hyper Preterist (HyP) view of “time indicators” is assuming the the point in question — as though AD70 was always in view, even if the fall of Jerusalem is not in the text or the context. It was certainly a shock to me once I realized that so much of what had seemed unassailable was now being recognized as the pure wishful thinking that it was, being based upon a lot of presuppositions and a couple of filtered eyes. For those who are willing to see, such has been revealed with Matthew 10:23 and Matthew 16:27-28.

Well, Matthew 26:64 represents the worst argument in support of HyP yet. After all, it could be understandable to equate the judgment of Matthew 16:27-28 with the undeniable events of AD70. Lightfoot certainly did, although he didn’t make the extraordinary leaps with that belief that HyP does.. as though this one judgment was the final judgment of the Lord!

Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 26:64 is consistently listed among the “preterist time indicators” (PretCoz #13) ; and yet, I would be very surprised if most seasoned Preterists who claim such were not actually aware that there are very serious problems with using this text as an indicator of AD70. If that is so, it hasn’t seemed to have effected the promotion of this passage as a support of the HyP view… But with this passage, there is just no excuse except (at best) a lamentable inability to see beyond the presupposition of AD70 fulfillment or, at worst, callous indifference as to whether it is a tight fit or not. This is the tendency to consider a verse “troublesome” at best or a “trouble text” at worst when it does not support the presupposed conclusion.

Follow up:

Frankly, I would be able to tolerate HyP a whole lot more if its scholarship was more willing to take a critical look at itself. If those who have elevated themselves to positions of teacher/leadership were most willing to admit error (even in the slightest), then there probably would have been no reason for me to have been excommunicated as I was.

Sadly, however, this just hasn’t been the case (except for with Kurt Simmons, who has been one of the few I’ve seen openly admit certain errors). Instead, I have been targeted for smear campaigns, integrity slams, and IP redirects to leftbehind.com. However, don’t mistake this for a pity-party. All of the abuse I have received from full preterists was very instrumental in my being able to break free and observe the system in its true light.

The fact is that there is A LOT of data available with which to refute the Hyper Preterist narrative, and (honestly) a WHOLE LOT of enjoyment for me in pointing it out. (The suffering/vindication model having been played out in my own life as well.) What is most gratifying to me is that a lot of my friends, including some who have prosecuted me unjustly, have begun to see the truth for themselves in leaving Hyper Preterism.

Anyway, here is the text of Matthew 26:64:

“Jesus says to him, Thou hast said. Moreover, I say to you, From henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Darby ; Weymouth fails with this one)

Here we have yet another “son of man coming” passage which is often HyP’d as a time text pointing to AD70. In fact, I just received a new full preterist book which uses this passage as its cornerstone text upon which their AD70 narrative is built. If I can find it, I’ll add the chapter one Matthew 26:64 quote here.

The typical HyP’d argument goes like this: Jesus told Caiaphas that he would see Him (Jesus) coming in His kingdom, which was fulfilled in AD70 when Caiaphas saw Jerusalem crumbling around him at the hands of the Romans.

The sad fact, however, is that Caiaphas was long dead by AD70.

RECIPIENT OF JESUS’ PROPHECY DEAD BY AD70

I am not going to spend much time tracing the history of Caiaphas because there are more important considerations (and to do so is to lay myself open to the oft-given charge that secular historians are being relied upon — an absurd charge to come from Josephus-reliant HyP). Instead, let it suffice for now that there is not one source which suggests that Caiaphas lived very long past his being deposed by the Syrian governor Vitellius in AD37. The most thorough biographer of Caiaphas, Helen K. Bond (Senior Lecturer in New Testament Language, University of Edinburgh), concluded after a decade of studies that, “after eighteen years (as chief priest, Caiaphas was) rather too elderly and infirm” to have done much, and that he “more probably” died soon after that date. (Caiaphas: Friend of Rome and Judge of Jesus, p. 89)

METICULOUS BURIAL POINTS AWAY FROM REVOLT

In 1990, the ossuary of Caiaphas was apparently discovered. This relic has withstood all scholarly attack (so far as I have seen) on epigraphical grounds, including the petina of the inscription and whatnot, and has come out certified as genuine. In this extremely ornate box inscribed with Caiaphas’ name lay the bones of a 60 year old man. If it is indeed Caiaphas, and he had lived to see AD70, then he would have been only 8 years old when he began to reign as chief priest in Israel, and was only 20 years old when he condemned Jesus… yet another manifest absurdity.

Even if Caiaphas didn’t die around AD40, there is still not the slightest shred of evidence that Caiaphas lived anywhere close to AD70. If he had, there is virtually no chance that A) there would have been time to wait the typical year for his flesh to decay off of his bones for transport to the ossuary, and that B) he would have been so painstakingly laid to rest in an ornate ossuary in his family tomb! His family tomb is south of Jerusalem, in an area that had been controlled by the Romans since around AD68, so all of this time and expenditure renders the case more than highly unlikely.

The reason that Caiaphas is so important in this narrative (and not just one character among scribes, elders, and the whole Sanhedrin) is that in the immediate context of this declaration, Caiaphas is specifically named as the recipient of the prophecy. Feel free to look it up:

26:57 – Jesus taken to Caiaphas the chief priest
58 – Led to the courtyard of the chief priest (Caiaphas)
62 – The chief priest (Caiaphas, whose courtyard they were in) spoke
63 – Responding to Jesus’ silence, the chief priest (Caiaphas) said
64 – In response, Jesus said to “him” “Thou hast said” and “I tell you”

Some, attempting to avoid the bind this presents to the system, suggest that it was the Sanhedrin to whom Jesus was speaking, and not Caiaphas personally ; however, this contradict the scriptural account. Besides, it doesn’t offer very much help either.

The best defense, using this line of reasoning, is that Jesus, though recorded in scripture as responding to Caiaphas, was actually looking over Caiaphas’ shoulder to someone else (a young and lowly scribe in the corner, perhaps) while He uttered His prophecy (lest He be found a liar, considering that Caiaphas was long dead by AD70).

Obviously, this will not do in the least. Boldly assuming, or even tacitly allowing, such speculation to stand without so much as a mention of critical evidence, shows a complete lack of critical scholarship or checks against the extreme doctrines coming out of the system.

I now move on from opposition to advocacy.

What is most significant in this passage is obviously the reference to the “son of man coming in the clouds of heaven.” If you have read my treatments of Matthew 10:23 and 16:27-28, then you will be up to speed on the significance of these statements regarding the Holy Spirit’s revelation of the power and glory of Jesus Christ in His people and upon His enemies. This motif of suffering/reward and revelation/judgment runs throughout the Word of God, and Jesus doesn’t skip a beat by imposing the Old Testament prophets’ language upon His contemporaries.

And yet, to LIMIT the meaning to the contemporaries of a single generation is a mistake that many make, among both futurists and preterists. There is no question that the power of glory of Jesus Christ as Great King (“sitting on the right hand of the Father) was revealed to a great many people in that generation (such as to the centurion who, after beholding the Divine power respond to the crucifixion, said “Truly, this was the Son of God” 27:54).

There is, however, a much weightier matter that must be considered first: That of the “Apo Arti” phrase in the Greek texts of Matthew 26:64.

“Apo Arti”

In short, the usage of “Apo Arti” in Matthew 26:64 [Apo (“from” – Strongs 575) and Arti (“now on” – Strong’s 737)] is highly suggestive of the themes that have been previously offered at this blog ; that is, a series of revelatory recognitions of the power and glory of Jesus Christ’s dominance by friend and foe alike.

Though the typically pret-friendly Weymouth translation would like to make Jesus say “later on, you will see..” this is not really honest. I would rather say that it was simply a mistake, but I find it impossible to believe that neither Richard Francis Weymouth (“If this belief ever obtains general acceptance the earlier date of the Apocalypse will also be regarded as fully established. For it will then be seen that the book describes beforehand events which took place in 70 A.D.”) nor Earnest Hampden-Cook (co-editor and author of “The Christ Has Come”) were aware of how important (ironically) a futurist spin on this passage is to uphold their Preterist assumptions. However, not only is there no sense of futurity in this very emphatic Greek phrase, but rather we see quite the opposite.

In fact, the sense is much more along the lines of Jesus telling Caiaphas that “from now on” or “from this point forward” he would personally behold the power and glory of the Lord (as in passages such as Zech. 12:10 and Matthew 24:30). Notice how the NASB and NIV treat this exact same phrase in the various other locations it is to be found in the NT:

Matthew 23:39 —— NASB: from now on ——— NIV: again
Matthew 26:29 —— NASB: from now on ——— NIV: from now on
John 13:19 ———- NASB: from now on ——— NIV: from now on
John 14:7 ———– NASB: from now on ——— NIV: from now on
Revelation 14:13 —- NASB: from now on ——— NIV: from now on

And yet, when these versions come to the exact same phrase in Matthew 26:64, they translate thusly:

Matthew 26:64 —— NASB: hereafter ———– NIV: in the future

It has been argued (probably soundly) that the only reason “Apo Arti” has been rendered differently in this location (as “in the future” or the more ambiguous “hereafter”) is that there would be profound doctrinal consequences to the futurists for making Jesus’ statement in Matthew 26:64 refer to the time then present.

The New Jerusalem Bible translates thusly:

“It is you who say it. But, I tell you that from this time onward (apo arti) you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed. What need of witnesses have we now? There! You have just heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?’ They answered, ‘He deserves to die.'”

G. Abbott-Smith’s Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament gives this definition for arti: “adverb. of coincidence, denoting strictly present time, as contrasted with past or future, just, just now, this moment.”

A very loose paraphrase of Jesus’ declaration in this light might be : “You said it, bro. But I’m telling you, player hater, that though you think you’ve got me now, you’ll be seeing plenty of me and my posse getting the best of you and your homies from now until your sorry murderous lives end” (cue Jules’ pseudo-Ezekiel rant in Pulp Fiction).

R.T. France, in his Commentary of the Greek Text of Matthew (TNTC), makes this hugely relevant statement:

“Coming on the clouds of heaven (together with the phrase ‘the Son of man’) is a clear allusion to Daniel 7:13,already similarly alluded to in 24:30. . . . We have seen that its natural application in terms of its Old Testament source is to the vindication and enthronement of the Son of man in heaven, not to a descent to earth. It is therefore in this verse a parallel expression to ‘seated at the right hand of Power’; the two phrases refer to the same exhalted state, not to two successive situations or events. In this verse the appropriateness of this interpretation is underlined by the fact that this is to be true ‘from now on’ (hereafter is a quite misleading rendering of the more specific phrase ap’ arti, which, as in 23:39 and 26:29, denotes a new period beginning from now). Indeed it is something which Jesus’ inquisitors themselves will see”

All of this content is easy enough to prove… but what is sorrowful here is that Jesus’ language being applied to the revelation of power and glory is not at all outside of the bounds of typical HyP hermeneutics ; except that, in this case, Matthew 26:64 points away from AD70, and not towards it!

So then, Matthew 26:64 is the same type of power metaphor as 10:23 and 16:27-28… except in this case the end of the path is NOT the salvation of souls, but desolation. And very personal destruction, not some impersonal corporate concept of Mosaic or national desolation. Nowhere is AD70 mentioned or even hinted at. The only way to make this passage refer to AD70 is by recognizing how THAT revelation of His power and glory, dramatic though it may be, is on an even plane with other revelations and manifestations in that generation (such as the stoning of Stephen — an event Caiaphas is likely to have participated in. — ah, a light bulb!). All of them teach the exact same lesson – that natural power, no matter how consolidated or brutal, is superseded by the spiritual power of God and of Jesus (and of those who speak in His name).

When Jesus interacts with anyone, they are from then on faced repeatedly with the manifestation of His power and glory through many means. In the aftermath of the cross, Caiaphas and his buds would surely have been terrified by the splitting of the veil and the quakes and signs in the heavens. Thereafter, the noticeable change in the character of the disciples of Christ (e.g. their boldness, their bravery, their perseverance and joy amid horrendous trials even unto death) would likewise have made them see the power and glory of the Lord. In short, witnessing the unparalleled phenomenon of all of the divine manifestations in that generation(primarily in the conversion of Gentiles!) must have been “sights” that Caiaphas would rather not “see” — just as the enemies of God would rather not have seen His power and glory in every subsequent generation.

So THIS, then, is offered as the true meaning of Matthew 26:64.. not the HyP about Jesus referring to an event that would take place long after the antagonist was dead!

Really, what is most troubling in this regard is that caliber of printed and online literary scholarship is so uncritical in HyP, with a lack (if not intolerance) of peer review where critical investigation of the fundamental AD70 assumption is concerned. Blatant contradictions and textual misrepresentations escape serious rebuke (but are encouraged by those who know better – silence implies consent), so long as AD70 consummation is upheld! No wonder, then, that such a large amount of extreme doctrines likewise surround the HyP system. This is no coincidence. I believe that those who have elevated themselves to positions of teacher/ministry leader owe it to everyone to clearly define what they believe is extreme preterism. As of now, I have only seen three definitions of Hyper Preterism coming from full preterists.

I could quote many sources respected by HyPs, but it really is not necessary. Much more could be said about this passage, such as the important connection with the parallel passage Luke 22:69, but it will have to wait until later.

Instead, I’ll close with a quote from N.T. Wright, which emphasizes the persecution/vindication motif which is being advocated at this blog as being of primary significance in New Testament eschatology:

“The Daniel text, as we saw a few pages back, has nothing to do with a figure ‘coming’ from heaven to earth. Despite the widespread opinion that this is what it ‘must’ mean in the gospels, there is no reason to suppose that on the lips of Jesus, or in the understanding of the earliest traditions, it meant anything other than vindication. It speaks of exaltation: of one who, representing ‘the people of the saints of the most high’, is raised up from suffering at the hands of the beasts and given a throne to sit on, exercising royal power… Jesus’ response, then, resonates with ironic power. Now at last, when it can no longer be misunderstood, he can retell the story of Daniel 7 in his own revised version. He is claiming to the representative of the true people of God… Caiaphas will witness the strange events which follow Jesus’ crucifixion: the rise of a group of disciples claiming that he has been raised from the dead, and the events which accelerate towards the final clash with Rome, in which, judged according to time-honoured test, Jesus will be vindicated as a true prophet.” (Jesus and the Victory of God, pp. 524-525)

So, as alluded to in an earlier post, Matthew 26:64 is NOT a Preterist time indicator . The only way that this passage could be seen as pointing to AD70 is by assuming that by saying “the son of man coming” Jesus was referring to AD70. And, of course, this is assuming the very point in question.

So far, I have shown how three of the core time indicators of preterism are misrepresented to present a presupposed view. There are many more to come, and in due time I hope to address them all. My main hope is that those who are lagging behind, still assuming that HyPs scholarship is sound, will now take the reigns into their own hands and critically study for themselves whether these things be so. I truly apologize if the abuse directed towards Hyper Preterism is taken personally.. but just as with the doctrines of Dispensationalism, some times the consequences of bad doctrine are immense and must be opposed.

blessings!
todd

[Update: It has been five months since this material was published. To my knowledge, not a single Hyper Preterist has critically interacted with a single point made here. Sic Transit Gloria]

Luke 18:7-8 “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”

Dave Green on Jesus’ Parousia being “from now on” at his trial: “6. Jesus told Caiaphas, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, and the whole Sanhedrin (in AD30/33 TD) that “from now on,” they would be seeing the Parousia (Matt. 26:64; Mk. 14:62; Lk. 22:69).” (Theology Today, August 30, 2009). Green’s Typically Strict AD70 Parousia Date : “Today the condemning old covenant is ancient history and we dwell securely in the heavenly places in our Redeemer. These things are realities today because of Jesus’ once-for-all Appearing “for salvation” in A. D. 70.” (Q&A 17) & “Thus were the saints “manifested” with Christ in His Parousia, when the worldly sanctuary fell.” (Q&A 102) “& “Today, since the Parousia in 70, the Gospel is fulfilled and all believers in heaven and on earth are the living, spiritual Body of Christ and the eternal Tabernacle of God.” (Response to McLaren)


What do YOU think ?
Submit Your Comments For Posting Below


Date: 13 Sep 2012
Time: 17:52:22

Your Comments:

Sir,

Jesus said to the high priest “thou hast said.” Thou is singular 100% of the time. Then Jesus said, “Ye shall see.” “Ye” is plural 100% of the time. The statement about seeing Him in power and coming in the clouds was directed at more than just Caiaphas.

[TD: Are you suggesting that Jesus was NOT speaking to Caiaphas?  Do you see the problem there?  You would do well to investigate instead of dismiss.]