Transition in Matthew 24 from A.D. 70 to the Parousia
Is there evidence of a transition in Matthew 24 from events describing the fall of Jerusalem in the first century to a description of Christ’s parousia at the end of time as we know it? This paper will argue that there is evidence for a transition in the response of Jesus to the questions of his disciples, specifically at verse 36. While certainly not dealing with all the issues of difficulties of Matthew 24, this paper will first look at the issues surrounding the question of a transition and provide evidence primarily from Matthew 24 but also from other parts of the NT that belief in a transition is exegetically reasonable, though there are some difficult issues that need to be carefully considered. General Introduction to the Problem
To say that there is not general agreement among Christians concerning Matthew 24 would be a major understatement. This is not merely a modern problem either. Luz notes five main interpretations of Matthew 24 that have developed over the years and remain today, sometimes in modified form. These five interpretations of Matthew 24 are the eschatological, historical, mixed, church or world history, and spiritual.1 Wilkins note that probably the most common interpretation among evangelical Christians is an interpretation that finds a mixing of historical and eschatological fulfillment. Separating the two may not always be possible and there is disagreement on exactly how the discourse can be so divided.2 Some have taken the position that the entire discourse was fulfilled in the events of Jerusalem’s destruction by Titus and the Romans in A.D. 70. Scholars such as N.T. Wright have argued for such an interpretation.3 Wright states: We must, however, stress again: as far as the disciples, good first-century Jews as they were, were concerned, there was no reason whatever for them to be thinking about the end of the space-time universe. There was no reason, either in their own background or in a single thing that Jesus had said to them up to that point, for it even to occur to them that the true story of the world, or of Israel, or of Jesus himself, might include either the end of the space-time universe, or Jesus or anyone else floating down to earth on a cloud.4 Others have argued an even more radical position believing not only that Matthew 24-25 was fulfilled in A.D. 70 but also that the resurrection, judgment, and 2nd coming were completely fulfilled. Such an extreme position has been called hyper-preterism or pantelism by its critics.5 Modern postmillennial interpretation, the theological background of this author, has varied on its view of Matthew 24. Some such as Gary DeMar6 also believe that Matthew 24-25 was fulfilled entirely into A.D. 70. Others such as Ken Gentry7 believe that there is a transition in Matthew 24 from events fulfilled in A.D. 70 to events that will be fulfilled in the future at the return of Christ. A very similar understanding of Matthew 24 is presented by France in his recent commentary.8 The Evidence for a Transition
Both France and Gentry argue in a similar way for a transition from A.D. 70 to the return of Christ at the end of time at verse 36.9 A summary of France’s arguments are as follows: 1. The use of the words peri de. Also found in 22:31 to mark a change in subject (936). 2. “That day and hour” – here is the first singular ‘day’ or ‘hour’ in contrast to ‘those days’ found in vv. 19, 22, 29. Day – 24:42; hour – 24:44, and both ‘day’ and ‘hour’ in 24:50; 25:13. (937) 3. Vv. 4-35 have spoken of an event that can be predicted. Signs have been given. From this point on, Jesus starts to speak of an event that cannot be predicted. It will come without warning. Jesus’ confession that he does not know that ‘day and hour’ shows that the subject has changed. (937) 4. Vv. 4-35 have used the participle erchomenos found also in the vision of Dan. 7:13-14. Parousia was used in...
Bibliography: Danker, Frederick William, ed. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Kittel, Gerhard, and Friedrich, Gerhard, ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 11 vols. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977.
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