The problem with Matt’s view is that history doesn’t support it: specifically, Jeremiah’s 70 weeks were not “readily understandable” to its “original audience” (see http://bibleforums.org/showthread.ph...iel-s-prophecy). For harmonization of the biblical and extra-biblical records shows that the 70 “years” of Exile turned out to be nearly one year less than 70 (in fact, no longer than 69 years and about 16 days), or even a half-year less than that, depending on whether Daniel reckoned the anniversary of kings from Nisan (the 1st month) or from Tishri (the 7th month). And so the “public meaning” of what “years” meant at the time Jeremiah gave this prophecy was not understood by the people “of its own time.” Doubtless, this explains why Daniel, arguably the most learned man in Babylonian and Jewish culture, was nevertheless searching the scrolls concerning Jeremiah’s prophecy of the number of years in the Exile despite what surely must have been common knowledge that it was suppose to be 70. For history shows that Cyrus’ edict came a year or more earlier than Daniel expected. And so, Jeremiah’s contemporaries, like perhaps even Jeremiah himself, would have naturally assumed that when the prophecy was first given, these 70 years of the Exile would average to normal tropical solar years (of approximately 365.2422 days), rather than years of 360 days each (which would equal 69 years 2 days), which, as it turns out, alone fits the historical data. This suggests that God was showing the Jews in what manner they should be reckoning years in Daniel’s 70-weeks prophecy, as a countdown to Messiah’s coming. Moreover, the stop gap of 7 weeks on the way to 69 weeks would have provided the Jews with seeing if the finishing of building the City took 49 years of 360 days, as a spot test to whether they had been correct to assume that the counting down to Messiah the Prince involved years of 360 days.The primary question for the interpreter of biblical prophecy must be centered on the AUTHORIAL INTENT and the PUBLIC MEANING which the prophetic word would have carried in the period in which it was given. To put it otherwise: Our first duty with biblical prophecy, no less than with any other genre of Scripture, is to interpret it with reference to its own time. This doesn’t mean that all biblical prophecy must of necessity refer to past events, but that the language of all biblical prophecy must have been readily understandable to the people of its own time. Otherwise it could be liberally reinterpreted according to the changing paradigms of every successive generation. Thus, the true interpretation is not necessarily the one which carries the most perceived value or spiritual application in the twenty-first century, but rather the one which best explains the prophetic language as it would have been understood by its original audience. But again, if we really believe in the authority of Scripture, then we should always assume that the interpretation arrived at through the inductive process will be the one with the most Spirit-filled application for our own time, regardless of our expectations. (bold emphasis mine; ALL CAPS orig. Matt’s lower case italics)
This exception (the 360-day year) to Matt’s claims is important, since even opposing exegetical methods (e.g. futurist vss. preterist) can each be consistent within its own presuppositions, about what percentage of metaphor is appropriate. Therefore something more than consistency of argument is needed to prove one particular hermeneutical approach superior to the other. In fact, what has been needed has been some way to put these methods into the test tube of history. With Jeremiah’s 70 ‘years’, we have such a way.
Yet because most theologians have assumed there is no standard of history to which exegetical methods could be tested, arguments have tended to rest along ‘exegetical’ lines—hence the great argument between preterists and futurists about what constitutes “genres” within Scripture. And so futurists claim that preterists follow Origen in trashing the normal sense of words through excessive overuse of metaphors, while preterists claim that futurists woodenly follow literalism when literalism is so frequently not the authorial intent. Thus Matt returns to futurists the compliment about Origen and adds the charge of “cognitive dissonance,” "not true faith," "doubt in disguise," and so forth.
The problem, then, is that each group believes it is the only group properly identifying genres. Thus the partial preterist Steve Gregg on his Narrow Path ministries website, in his back-and-forth exchange with futurist Norman Geisler, says Geisler is wrong about preterists not following the historical-grammatical hermeneutic. Partial-preterists, claims Gregg, DO use the historical-grammatical hermeneutic; but because they more frequently and properly recognize the genres of hyperbole, poetry, and apocalyptic literature—when futurists do not—naturally the resulting interpretations look different. But (I say) somewhere in all this fray one wonders if either group realizes that even the German Higher critics of the mid-19th century would have claimed the same holy ground in the historical-grammatical hermeneutic argument. After all, wouldn’t they have said they ably identified the genres of myth and legend compilations of which nearly all the ‘historical’ narratives of the Old Testament and especially the Torah consisted?
Notice, then, the predictable path 19th-century error took. First, the biblical critic attacked the historicity of places and persons in the Old Testament, based on the silence of a then spotty archaeological record. Later, when the archaeological record became considerably more complete by the beginning of the next century and proved the critics’ original assumption wrong, the Higher Critics forsook the historical test tube in favor of the more appealing “genre” argument. And so, the Julius Wellhausen et al crowd by the end of the 19th century fell back on the next unfalsafiable strategy that came to mind—the literary-rather than literal method. The result today is that some genuine Christians are naively caught up in this very old approach of those critics whose motive was to discredit the supernatural element of Scripture. Granted, preterists may not embrace all the conclusions of the old German School, but they seem more eager to explore metaphoric possibilities than to examine if predictive prophecy of the kind that required hundreds of years to fulfill was proven with pinpoint accuracy. Here, of course, I am referring to the 69 weeks (173,880 days, if the 69 “weeks” (483 years) years were of 360 days each) that Daniel stated would take place from the commandment/word that went forth to restore and build Jerusalem, to an Anointed Prince [Jesus]. In fact, history shows that Daniel’s prophecy can be reasonably shown proven, and that the interval of the 69 weeks ran from (Julian) April 6, 444 BC to April 27, 33 AD (Day of ‘Triumphal’ Entry).
The really aggravating thing here is that, except for the phrase in Daniel 12:1 foretelling an unprecedented time of international distress, the O.T. phrases claimed by preterists to be “poetic hyperbole” are hardly more linguistically 'exaggerative' than those disasters Moses predicted and described before Pharaoh. And so, considering preterist principles, the question arises why the entire Exodus narrative shouldn’t also be supposed one large effort of poetic epic, invented by Moses, who, after all, was learned in all the wisdom of Egypt, and therefore certainly literate enough to have been a poet. Indeed, don’t we already have the Mosaic poetry of Psalm 90? Well, admittedly, no preterists I know of have yet taken that step. Perhaps, instead, they merely feel that when Moses predicted that water would turn to blood it came to pass the next day, not hundreds or thousands of years later. But, then, I ask, must John’s predictions in Revelation of waters turning to blood be assumed hyperbole or befitting an “apocalyptic genre” that cannot be literally true, simply because its fulfillment might remain in the future? Indeed, I can only wonder why preterists haven’t also (1) labeled the Daniel 12:2 term “everlasting life” hyperbole, since it occurs nowhere else in the O.T., and (2) regarded its use an error by N.T. figures unattuned to the genre of poetic exaggeration. Perhaps that step will be taken by the next generation of disciples who are made twice the preterist children of today.
Inevitably, it seems to usually come down to two issues: preterist insistence about what “this generation” must mean in Matthew 24:34, and also what the Revelation word “quickly” and the phrase “at hand” imply.
Regarding the first of these issues I continue to be amazed that “this generation” cannot simply mean that generation which follows that time which is “not yet the end” (vs. 6), mainly meaning the generation that witnesses Daniel’s 70th week, the latter portion of which is so destructive that, as Mark tells us, unless those days were shortened, no flesh should survive. To me that is the natural meaning, i.e., that “this generation” will justifiably feel so threatened with its possible extinction, having lost 50+% of its world population in less than 3.5 years, that the Bible confirms that no flesh would survive were not those days shortened.
Moving on, re: the Greek word rendered “shortly” by the KJV (see 1:1; 22:6) or “soon” and “quickly” in the NASB, note that the same word occurs when the angel strikes Peter in the side and tells him to arise “quickly.” But this is a far cry from suggesting the angel said “Arise shortly!” Rather, the angel was telling Peter to arise speedily, i.e., how to rise, not when to rise, the when being obvious in the circumstance in which Peter was scheduled to be executed the next day. In fact, Revelation sometimes uses a different word to express “a short time” (12:12) and “a short space” (17:10). And so, even IF it were true that the Greek word translated “soon” (NASB) in Rev. 1:1 were a legitimate meaning, other occurrences show that the word answers how, not when, the action should take place, and that therefore this particular argument could go either way and is therefore neutral. But IMO the word shows a consistent meaning of “speedily.” For just because “soon” makes sense in certain verses in which the Greek word appears, is no real argument that it therefore IS the meaning.
Finally, as for the phrase “for the time is at hand,” the lexical use does indicate a meaning of “near.” And so, since in Revelation 22:10 John’s fellow servant tells John not to seal up “the sayings of the prophecies of this book: for the time is at hand,” i.e., ALL the sayings, it seems we have one of three choices of interpretation. Either we must concede (1) that ALL of Revelation has been fulfilled and is now in the past, including any and all resurrections, rewards to the saints, destruction of the wicked, etc.; OR (2), that the Bible has failed in its predictions, with preterists making silly metaphoric excuses while futurists await the prophecy’s fulfillment in a Never Never land; OR (3) that the time that is “at hand” (lit. near) is uttered from the divine perspective, in which a thousand years seem to him as yesterday, when they are past. I see no logical middle ground here between any of these. But IMO with numerous evidences favoring the futurist view, in which all of them but one point in the same direction, I refuse to allow the tail to wag the dog. In other words, to me it is more reasonable to assume that “at hand” means “near” but from the divine perspective, rather than to have no answer for why Jeremiah’s 70 years were not 70 years in the normal sense, yet how this fact leads to the pinpoint accuracy of Daniel’s prediction of when an Anointed Prince would appear. Indeed, to assume the divine perspective on this point about "near" would only be in keeping with the fact that, while words in the Bible normally ARE meant to be understood in the normal sense, the 70 “years” of Jeremiah is the exception that proves the rule. And so, arguably the “near” could be one more exception. In short, the point is rogue.
And so, all things considered I’m dismayed to see many people falling prey to preterist arguments. But, of course, in one sense it’s understandable. The book of Revelation is certainly the hardest book in the Bible to understand, with what appears to be a vision in which scenes of future historical footage feature persons and objects sometimes mixed with surrealist-like imagery, or in which the persons or objects seem to shapeshift or are metaphoric, in a timeline featuring flashbacks and flashforwards. But besides all this, certainly no one here, least of all me, would advocate that when in the gospel Jesus says “I am the door” He really meant he was a door. But I think Christian theologians would be better advised to take the literal path whenever the narrative appears historical. And though I admit this path isn’t as clearly marked as I might prefer for ideal navigation, I think it will land us in a safer place than to where preterists wish to take us.
[author's note: I'm less likely to respond to 'slice 'n dice' type responses than those formatted in simple paragraph or essay form.]