By Jay Rogers
Published April 27, 2008
One of the reasons why futurism became popular in the 1800s was because of the liberal conjecture of the higher critics. The Second Coming of Jesus was debunked by the liberals who saw in Matthew 24 (and elsewhere) a promise of the Second Coming in the first century. Since Jesus had not returned bodily to the earth by AD 70, according to the liberals, then this prophecy is obviously wrong …
… Or it means something else.
Most fundamentalists of the 20th century decided to twist the plain meaning of Matthew 24 toward a future fulfillment. But it is difficult to explain verse 34, “This generation shall not pass away until all these things come to pass,” as having an application beyond the “generation” of Jesus and the Apostles. This is one reason why many conservative scholars have now turned back to preterism.
Premillennialists, amillennialists and postmillennialists all agree that at least some of Matthew 24 was fulfilled in the first century. Even Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth admits that this passage had a partial first century fulfillment. And all should agree that parts of the Mount Olivet passage (Matthew 24, 25) have a future eschatological significance as well. Therefore, all orthodox views of Matthew 24 are “partial preterist” views. But once we accept preterism to any degree we are constrained to use this paradigm to interpret similar passages of scripture as well.
Liberal scholars up until the time of the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls assigned a later date to many Old Testament prophecies, because so many of the prophecies about the Messiah were fulfilled to the letter by Jesus Christ. Since liberals reject the supernatural in scripture, they thought these texts must have been of a later date than the events described.
But with the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947, we have each of the books of the entire Old Testament, which proves that these books existed at least as far back as the early 2nd century B.C. All of the books of the Hebrew Bible are represented in the Dead Sea Scroll collection except Esther.
Archaeological and historical evidence indicates that Qumran was founded in the second century B.C., during the time of the Maccabees, a priestly Jewish family that ruled Judea in the second and first centuries B.C.
- 168 B.C. Antiochus IV Epiphanes captured and pillages Jerusalem.
- 167 B.C. Antiochus IV Epiphanes built a statue of Jupiter Olympus in the holiest part of the Temple in Jerusalem. Beginning of Maccabean War of Liberation against Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Vaticinium Ex Eventu?
The popular liberal opinion is that a pseudipigraphal Daniel has vaticinium ex eventu (prophecy after the event) and relates events leading up to the Maccabean revolt. “The abomination that causes desolation” in Daniel 9:27 is thought to describe the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus in 167 BC, not by Titus in AD 70.
However, if Daniel first appeared at Qumran during or shortly after the time of Antiochus IV, then it must have existed earlier in order to have been copied and distributed so widely. We find the book in a desert commune, so it is evident that it had a wide circulation. Since we have extant copies of Daniel from this time, it is certain that the book existed much earlier than that. Further, some archaeologists date Qumran from the 3rd century BC.
The fact that Daniel was not accepted as inspired by the Jews until after his prophecies were fulfilled, does not mean that the book did not exist prior to that. Once it became accepted by some Jews, it enjoyed a wider reading. But by the time it was read by those at the community of Qumran, it was already accepted as inspired.
How do liberals explain that?
They merely ignore the evidence and insist that Daniel is pseudo-prophecy written in the late second century BC.
F.W. Farrar writes in his commentary on The Book of Daniel:
If we have found much to lead us to serious doubts as to the authenticity and genuineness i.e., as to the literal historicity and the real author of the Book of Daniel in its historic section, we shall find still more in the prophetic section. If the phenomena already passed in review are more than enough to indicate the impossibility that the Book could have been written by the historic Daniel, the phenomena now to be considered are such as have sufficed to convince the immense majority of learned critics that, in its present form, the Book did not appear before the days of Antiochus Epiphanes. The probable date is BC 164. As in the Book of Enoch 90:15,16, it contains history written under the form of prophecy….
The attempt to refer the prophecy of the seventy weeks primarily or directly to the coming and death of Christ, or the desolation of the Temple by Titus, can only be supported by immense manipulations, and by hypotheses so crudely impossible that they would have made the prophecy practically meaningless both to Daniel and to any subsequent reader.
Critics such as Farrar wrote prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They explain the clear application in the Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24:15) of “the abomination that causes desolation” in Daniel 9:27 to the destruction of the Temple by the Roman Titus as a scribal gloss that occurred of the late 60s or early 70s AD.
But if Daniel was written prior to Antiochus Epiphanes, then the bias against the authenticity of Daniel is scattered to the winds. One thing that would almost prove with certainty that Daniel existed prior to the second century BC would be to investigate whether there are any extant commentaries on Daniel at Qumran that existed by this date. That would almost guarantee an earlier date.
Did the community at Qumran give us any evidence that they accepted Daniel as insired and canonical? Was the book of Daniel quoted or referred to in other writings found at Qumran?
One writing refers to the “Anointed of the Spirit, of whom Daniel spoke” (Dan. 9:25-26). There is a quotation of Daniel 12:10 in the Florilegium as being from the “book of Daniel the prophet.” This is significant for three reasons: (1) It proves that by about 25 BC Daniel was already being quoted as Scripture. (2) It shows that the author of the Florilegium knew Daniel as a complete book. (3) It suggests that at Qumran Daniel was included among the Prophets and not among the Writings. Several other manuscripts — all written in Aramaic — also mention Daniel or events associated with his book. This indicates that at Qumran Daniel was classified among the prophets rather than the writings (Abegg, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible).
Twentieth century archaeology has shown much of the liberal Higher Critical Method to be groundless. Modern liberal assumptions are merely 19th century conjecture first designed by those with an agenda to debunk the authority of the Bible. Strangely, these opinions are held to even though their claims have long ago been refuted.
A futurist interpretation of Daniel’s “fourth kingdom” can never debunk liberal conjecture. However, a reading that shows Daniel to have been written prior to 167 BC — by an authentic Daniel who lived around 500 BC — can be shown to be a remarkable prediction of future events that were fulfilled in minute detail. Therefore, Daniel is shown to be a supernaturally inspired book.
And this is why a preterist view of Daniel is needed.
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Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
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All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
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Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
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