Jun 192011
 

 

While discussing Matthew 24 a FB friend linked an article by the famous Dispensational Eschatologist, Dr. Thomas Ice.  Included is the entire comment below.

 

 

 

 

http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/matthew-24-and-this-generation Ice goes over this subject in great detail using Demars (sic) view as a backdrop for the explanation. For anyone interested in what is being discussed here in more detail. I am not sure if Curtis is a full preterist or not.

The DeMar in question is Gary DeMar of American Vision.  I don’t know which debate Ice was talking about for sure because he didn’t say.   However, the PDF of the article was created 7/24/03 and the debate I heard was on 2/26/02 which you can hear part one here, and part two here.

Following is my review of the article and my assessment of Ice’s hermeneutic for his view.  It will be detailed and in depth exposing every aspect.  Finally as a foot note I will define how I use the terms hermeneutics, exegesis, eisegesis, and empirical.  If a commenter uses them, I expect them to mean those that same way, else pick a different term and be prepared to define it if asked.  I hate undefined terms that end up being fallacious eqivocations.


Ice begins:

Preterism teaches that most, if not all, of the Book of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21) were fulfilled in conjunction with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in a.d. 70. If this notion is granted, then almost all of Bible prophecy is not to be anticipated in the future, but is past history. Their false scheme springs forth from a misinterpretation of Matthew 24:34 (see also Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32), by which they launch an upside-down view of eschatology, which does not look to the future but instead gazes at the past.

“by the Romans”  Not all would concur but close enough as it is irrelevant to exegeting the passage.

“almost all of Bible prophecy is not to be anticipated in the future, but is past history.”  if not all according to some, but again irrelevant so…okay.

 

Here we go, “Their false scheme springs forth from a misinterpretation of Matthew 24:34 (see also Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32), by which they launch an upside-down view of eschatology, which does not look to the future but instead gazes at the past.”  Thomas is writing about a debate which asks a question.  Basically Matt 24 past or future?  Ice is aware that there are plenty of preterists in the world including some of the brightest minds in theology both contemporary and historic, who believe most or all of Matt 24 is fulfilled.  The ‘classical preterist’ or ‘historical preterist’ view dates back to the Early Church Fathers and was actually a (note the ‘a’ not ‘the’) dominant view of Protestants from the reformation to Scofield.  Yes there was division over the details as there is in all views of all doctrinal subjects.  Why do I mention this?  Because, this quote is a fallacy know as begging the question.  Ice has presupposed what he attempts to prove in the rest of the article.  Which is okay I guess, this part is an editorial and not an exercise in rationality, as we will see.  And it is a justified statement of hubris IF he makes his case well.  This too, we will see.

DeMar says, “Every time ‘this generation’ is used in the New Testament, it means, without exception, the generation to whom Jesus was speaking.”[3] DeMar’s assertion is simply not true! “This generation” in Hebrews 3:10 clearly refers to the generation of Israelites that wandered in the wilderness for 40 years during the Exodus.

Ice footnotes his quote of DeMar to one of his books, which is fine.  However in the debate that Ice started with, which came after the book, and before this article, DeMar never said “used in the New Testament.”  Seems a bit uncharitable to the latest, clearest, and most repeated view of DeMar.  DeMar said in the debate and since (paraphrased) “Every time ‘this generation’ is used by Jesus in the Gospels it means, without exception…”  And that is true, I believe.  Now I would think comparing Jesus’ words with Jesus’ words would give us a better idea about what Jesus meant than comparing Jesus’ words to the author of Hebrews.

 

Now, about Hebrews 3:10.  Many standard mainstream bible versions translate the text as “that generation.”  Here is a short list that have “that generation” form my small collection:  KJV, NKJV, ESV, and the NIV… about one third of mine.  Could it be that a rational reason it is translated “this generation” is because it is quoting Psalm 95 which says “this generation” in poetic form about a past event?  Why change poetry when it is clear from the immediate context (exegesis) of Heb 3 that it is a different generation than the audience?  Just leave it ‘this’.  Any moron can figure it out.

 

Next lets look at the language of Matthew 24:34 vs Heb 3:10.  Pardon that I don’t know how to do the special characters for Greek in FB Notes.  I don’t know enough about what they mean anyway, lol.  Matthew 24:34, the Greek terms in question and in order, hee (untranslated definite article used to tie geneá to haútee (I think)) geneá (generation) haútee (‘this’ in all bibles), hee  geneá  haútee.  Hebrews 3:10, the terms in question and in order, teé(untranslated) geneán (generation)taútee (this or that depending on bible version), teé  geneán  taútee.

 

These are clearly not the same phrases.  This could be another reason why many bibles translate it ‘that generation.’  If I were a Greek scholar I might be able to give you more.  When we combine all the information, Tommy’s lone exception seems to be a rather lackluster exception to exactly that….the rule that Christ was always referring to his contemporaries and the vast majority of the other NT ‘this generation’ texts were also.  Remember exegesis starts with the text its self.  This language and the grammar are not the same.

 

Next Ice gives us the first rule for understanding what generation ‘this’ refers to in any text, “We learn this by going and examining how each is used in their context.”  He offers Mark 8:12 as an example, “…Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation” and explains, “it refers to Christ’s contemporaries, because of the controlling factor of the immediate context.”  Good so far but keep this in mind as later we will see Ice leave this rule in the trash heap.  Then Ice presents a caricature (straw man) of DeMars hermeneutic by expecting us to believe he, ” just say(s), as DeMar and many preterists do, that because something means X . . . Y . . . Z in other passages that it has to mean that in a given verse.”  I hear this one all the time ie. you just this or you just that.  I’ll not speak for DeMar but I first look to the text and if a meaning is given clearly there (Ice’s rule) I except it unless there is good reason to do otherwise.  I could just as easily say here that Ice just uses empirical eisegesis, but that wouldn’t be very charitable now would it.  I would need to show that was all he does, and Ice needs to do the same about DeMar else he is politicing and not teaching or proving.  That makes this just more editorializing using the weasel word ‘just’.  The rule from above is now repeated, clarified and further explained making no mistake now that it is the rule:

You must make your determination from the passage under discussion and how it is used in that particular context. Context is the most important factor in determining the exact meaning or referent under discussion.[5] That is how one is able to realize that most the other uses of “this generation” refer to Christ’s contemporaries.

I’ll just give the next paragraph as I’ll refer back to it later.

 

Matthew 23:36 says, “Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.” To whom does “this generation” refer? In this context, “this generation” refers to Christ’s contemporaries because of contextual support. “This generation” is governed or controlled grammatically by the phrase “all these things.” All these things refer to the judgments that Christ pronounces in Matthew 22-23. So we should be seeing that in each instance of “this generation,” the use is determined by what it modifies in its immediate context. The scope of use of every occurrence of this generation is determined in the same way.


Okay, we have the hermeneutical rule laid out no less than three times, so how do we apply it to Matt 24:34, Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32?  Wait a sec….Strange, this is the passage under consideration but Ice doesn’t reproduce it.  Could it be because it is so similar to Mat 23:36 above?  Surely not.  I’ll give all three from the King Jimmy.

 

Matt 23:36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

Matt 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Mark 13:30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

Luke 21:32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.

 

Matt 23:36 (relevant portion) teén  geneán  taúteen

Matt 24:34 (relevant portion) hee  geneá  haútee

Mark 13:30 (relevant portion) hee  geneá  haútee

Luke 21:32 (relevant portion) hee  geneá  haútee  and for completeness of comparison.

Heb 3:10    (relevant portion) teé  geneán  taútee

 

Now I’m not a Greek expert and I confess this is NOT ANY KIND OF PROOF precisely for that reason.  But of the two Ice has chosen so far (Heb 3 and Matt 23),  one he says means ‘that’ and the other means ‘this’, though they have (by Greek standards) identical structure and both are different than the (exactly identical) three from the Olivette Discourse.  But this is not what I want to point out.  I placed that here in case a Greek scholar should happen along to tell us if it makes a hoot. 8\  Now I’m going to repeat the last quote from Ice twice more only in the second I’m going to modify his references and you tell me, what is the difference?  First the exact Ice quote:

 

“Matthew 23:36 says, “Truly I say to you, All these things shall come upon this generation” To whom does “this generation” refer? In this context, “this generation” refers to Christ’s contemporaries because of contextual support. “This generation” is governed or controlled grammatically by the phrase “all these things.” All these things refer to the judgments that Christ pronounces in Matthew 22-23. So we should be seeing that in each instance of “this generation,” the use is determined by what it modifies in its immediate context. The scope of use of every occurrence of this generation is determined in the same way.”

 

Redacted with modified portions underlined for clarity:

Matthew 23:34 says, “Truly I say to you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” To whom does “this generation” refer? In this context, “this generation” refers to Christ’s contemporaries because of contextual support. “This generation” is governed or controlled grammatically by the phrase “all these things.” All these things refer to the judgments that Christ pronounces in Matthew 24:3-31. So we should be seeing that in each instance of “this generation,” the use is determined by what it modifies in its immediate context. The scope of use of every occurrence of this generation is determined in the same way.

 

So if we follow the rules so far it seems we should come to the same interpretation.  But wait! Ice yet has a reason that these are different even though the language and context make them both mean Christ’s contemporaries, according to Ice’s thrice stated rule and demonstration of it.  And that’s good because we still need a reason.  We wouldn’t want someone just saying so.  Why did I redact Ice’s explanation?  Well lets now look at the rule and Ice’s use of it on Mat 23:36, and Matt 24:34.

 

The rule given, “Context is the most important factor in determining the exact meaning or referent under discussion.”

The application, “this generation” refers to Christ’s contemporaries because of contextual support.” which is, “all these things”      So far so good.

 

And now as used on Mat 24:34.

The rule given,”Context is the most important factor in determining the exact meaning or referent under discussion.”

The application, “not refer to Christ’s contemporaries? Because the governing referent to “this generation” is “all these things.” ”        That’s right! Read them again if necessary.

 

WOW!!  Tommy uses the exact same rule with almost identical language from the texts and his explanation, except in one the rule proves one thing and in the other the rule proves the opposite.  Bad rule?  or Bad application?  Well maybe there is another reason that will seem a bit more… reasonable.  Obviously, “You must make your determination from the passage under discussion and how it is used in that particular context.” doesn’t seem to apply.  So what modifies the interpretation?  On we go.


Since Jesus is giving an extended prophetic discourse of future events, one must first determine the nature of “all these things” prophesied in verses 4 through 31 to know what generation Christ is referencing.

If asked why a modification, the answer above is, because the prophecy is long with many details.  I guess Jesus needed to say ‘this generation’ many times scattered through out the prophecy to make it clear?  I’m not sure what hermeneutic that is, as it is not in any standard textbook and Tommy doesn’t explain, he just says so.  No one, to my knowledge, has given a rational explanation for why the prophecies need split up.  Ice will give one but is it rational?  He begins an explanation in this quote by saying we must know ‘what’ (the nature) in order to know ‘which’ generation.  He’ll give more in a moment but first and again, by what rule does he make this determination?  I would think an exegetical answer to ‘when’ form the text would do just as well (probably better) than trying to exegete the nature from INSIDE the text.  Tommy agrees because he can’t exegete the nature from inside the text and instead goes outside the text for the nature and ignores the ‘when’ that is clearly exegeted from inside the text.  He then uses eisegesis to bring the outside view of the nature into the text to determine his interpretation.  But what standard of interpretation does he use to determine the nature?  Shall we continue.

 

First Ice gets it right when examining which generation will see ‘all these things.’  “Christ is saying that the generation that sees “all these things” occur will not cease to exist until all the events of the future tribulation are literally fulfilled.”  However before this he denies which people (part of a generation) Christ repeatedly says will see them.  ie. The many times he told the disciples that were present “when you see”, “when you are” this, “when you are” that.  List to follow:

v6 two times, v9 three times, v15, v20, v23, v25, v26, v32, v33 twice, v44 THEY are admonished to be ready in parable, a total of 14 times!  Yet we need to go elsewhere to find out what generation would see “all these things.”  Lets see why it can’t be the one Jesus said it would be.

Tommy, why couldn’t it be the generation Christ said would see them?  “Since (because) “all these things” did not take place in the first century…”  And how do you know that?  No answer yet, just a say so.  Ice also appeals to Dr. Darrell Bock which will follow but first note that Bock is commenting on Luke and some don’t think Luke is recoding prophecy beyond the destruction of the temple in 70ad.  Bock concludes:

 

If this view is correct, Jesus says that when the signs of the beginning of the end come, then the end will come relatively quickly, within a generation.


Then we have some editorializing about Preterists.  And a statement about what Ice believes, “I do not think that any of the events in Matthew 24:4-31 occurred in the first century.”  I’ll get to this later.  For a few paragraphs following, Ice pits scholar against scholar agreeing with some (without reason) and disagreeing with others, also without reason.  But in that he makes a few claims.  I’ll examine two of them.

 

“If this prophecy has something to do with the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, then Dr. Gentry has not been able to tell us exactly what it is.”  Ice can’t tell us exactly how many RPM’s the baseball will be turning when it flies from the pitchers hands therefore the pitch isn’t part of the game.  Or, Job 41 tells us of ‘leviathan’.  If this creature has something to do with God’s creation, then Ice has not been able to tell us what exactly this creature is.  Response to all three…..what does any of that matter?

 

“If Jesus returned in a.d. 70, as preterists say, then, on what day did He return? Since this is a past event, we should be able to know the exact day our Lord supposedly returned and fulfilled this passage.”  If God created the earth as Ice believes, then, on what day did He do it?  Since this is a past event, we should be able to know the exact day our Lord supposedly created the earth.  Wonderful logic, Thomas!  I know he did so because He said he did so in scripture.  Same reason I know His parousia has happened?  He promised so, to that generation.  Not I say so.  He is a much better authority than me or Ice.


So we’ve reached the end.  Ice never gave us anything beyond his say so that ‘all these things’ didn’t happen in the first century, however twice he said that was the standard above the grammatical exegesis of the text.  He never explicitly stated what ‘all these things’ are but centered only on v27-31.  Interestingly enough these are the passages that Preterists believe were fulfilled after the NT writers were finished writing.  But, here are two places where he expanded on ‘all these things’:

 

I do not think that any of the events in Matthew 24:4-31 occurred in the first century.

one must first determine the nature of “all these things” prophesied in verses 4 through 31 to know what generation Christ is referencing.

 

I’m going to run with that.  It’s clear enough to me and many other scholars would agree that the predictions of v4 thru 31 indicate the generation Christ is referencing.  I cannot prove through scripture that 27-31 were fulfilled by 70ad.  Like I said before this was after the cannon was complete or at least the events are not recorded there.  However the standard is not just 27-31 but any of the events from 4-31 as described in any version of the Olivette Discourse.  If I can find one fulfilled in any generation then the rest had to occur within that generation.  Remember Ice agrees with Dr Bock on this, “If this view is correct, Jesus says that when the signs of the beginning of the end come, then the end will come relatively quickly, within a generation.”

Following are a list of the predictions from Matt 24 and NT language that indicates they are fulfilled.

 

1. Predictedv7 famines and earthquakes

Acts 11:28 “Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.”

Acts 16:26 “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.”  and if you think that wasn’t of God read the rest of the passage.

 

2. v9:  shall deliver YOU up to be afflicted (thelipsis, afflicted, anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble),..shall kill YOU

Acts 6:9 thru 7:60, the stoning of Stephen

Acts 16:22-23(Paul and Silas) “And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. 23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison”

2 Cor 11:24-27 “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness —”  There is tons more but you get the picture.  Who doubts that nearly everyone of the Apostles were tortured and executed along with THOUSANDS of other first century believers.

 

============interlude===============

I gottata get to work.  There are others and I will get to them (I hope.)  The point is, if even one is past then ‘this generation’ saw them all.  Virtually every response I’ve seen to these and the others I will list fall into one of two categories.  One, ‘that wasn’t it because that wasn’t bad enough, world wide’ etc..  or just that wasn’t it with no explanation, just a say so, like Ice.  Two, ‘well you forgot to divide the discourse in two, from the destruction of the temple to the actual second coming’ events.  My response, Ice said, none were fulfilled from v4-31, if I show that is not so then you deal with the logical implications.  Ice didn’t divide it in this article nor did Bock, and nor do most modern scholars.  In fact Ice made it centrally important that the events be examined to determine the proper generation.


Conclusion

 

Now briefly, what is the real controlling principle governing ‘this generation’ for Ice and others?  It’s Empiricism.  Remember, “Context is the most important factor in determining the exact meaning or referent under discussion.”  The context of what?  In this case it is the context of Ice’s empirical mind.  That context is eisegeted into the text.  Nothing in the text can be exegeted from it to say ‘it hasn’t happened yet’, beyond that generation.  That must be presupposed and brought into the text.

 

Why couldn’t it be the generation Christ said would see them?  “Since (because) “all these things” did not take place in the first century…”  And how do you know that?  Ice never answers.  I know why.  Because he doesn’t see it in history, not even in the history recorded in the bible.  As one put it to me, “it didn’t happen…last time I checked.”  The last time I checked modern eye witnesses and historian approval is not what determined whether a promise that is made to a specific audience was fulfilled or not.  Abraham by faith believed the promises.  When Jesus healed the Centurion’s daughter, he did not need to see it.  He knew by faith.  Jesus said it…it happened.  We live by faith not by sight.  Empiricism as evidence here runs counter to Revelatory Truth.  Empiricism is not a valid hermeneutic.  You can’t properly take what you do or don’t see recorded in history, interpret that to be contrary to scripture, then eisegete it back into an interpretation that already has firm, linguistic, grammatical, and contextual, evidence that determines and plainly reveals the object of ‘this generation’ and overturn it on your empirical view of ‘it didn’t happen.’  That is Emperical Eisegesis. I would call it Anachronistic Emperical Eisegesis but that’s just going overboard. 🙂


Terms

Biblical Hermeneutics:  The hermeneutics used when interpreting the bible….duh.  Hermeneutics is the art and science of interpreting any text.  Hermeneutics has rules.  There are standard hermeneutics that all follow, and there are special rules that some follow and some don’t at various times for various reasons, hence the ‘art’ part.  I’m only dealing with standard rules here.This is not to say that the rules are cut and dry and if you follow them you will always come to the correct conclusion, but they help greatly in discovering why one interprets a text one way instead of another.  Hermeneutics encompases all aspects of interpretation form the history and origins of the text in question to the language and culture of the author and audience to the grammar and definitions of the words used.

Exegesis: One of the main disciplines of hermeneutics if not the main one.  Exegesis, though tied in with all other aspects of hermeneutics (herm) mainly contends with the language and grammar of the text.  It asks what does the text itself mean first in it’s parts then in the whole, ie. in context.  Exegetical interpretation has widening rings of consideration.  For instance at the center (primary) of concern is the meaning of the words used.  The next of importance if not equally important with definitions would be the grammar of the individual statements, then sentences, paragraphs, whole passages etc…  Also considered are wider hermeneutical rules such as historical and cultural usage of the language in the text.  Exegesis seeks to find meaning first within narrowest text it can then widening the scope to see if that meaning holds in the broader context.  Exegesis comes from the Greek ‘to lead out’ or in biblical exegesis ‘to draw out.’  Thus its first priority is to draw meaning out, from inside a text.

Eisegesis: If it is ever appropriate to use eisegesis it would be of last resort.  Biblical eisegesis (to draw in) is the opposite of exegesis (to draw out.)  It is usually used to refer to a particular error that leads to misinterpretation.  It can be intentional or not but one ‘reads into’ the text something that is not found through proper exegesis of the core text.  Now, I suppose it could be proper if the core text renders no rational interpretation in it’s context, to go as far out as necessary to find a meaning.  But the further we get away from the text the less likely our interpretation will be certain.

Empirical: (adjective) Knowledge is empirically verified when it’s source is based on sensory experience.  Empiricism is an epistemology (theory of knowledge, ie. how we know what we know) that says we can only know what we experience through the senses and the rational conclusions from that experience.  Included within ’empirical’ things are the ‘hard sciences’ which all boil down to math and history, in my opinion.  Thus we know a thing because we can measure or describe it in sensory, mathematical or historical terms.