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Part 4: Appealing to Josephus
Part 1: The Basics and Partial Preterism
Preterism Part 2: Olivet and the
Preterism Part 3: The Remaining
Preterism Part 4: Appealing to Josephus
Preterism Part 5: Uninterrupted
Futurism into 2nd Century
Preterism Part 6: Nero, History,
and Biblical Details
Preterism Part 7: Scripture and
a Delayed Coming
Preterism Part 8: Brief Summary
Behold I Come Quickly
Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass
When Was Revelation Written?
A Throne of His Own
Addendum: "The Time Is At Hand"
help bolster their theory that New Testament prophecy was
fulfilled by 70 AD, Preterists at some point usually turn
to the historical record for support. We have already pointed
out one example of this, the Preterists' appeals to Nero as
the antichrist. Another example are the Preterists' desire
to use unbelieving historians such as Josephus to back up
their claims. (We will go into a more detailed analysis of
both of these momentarily.) In this section we will assume
Preterists will not retract their appeals to historic events.
(However, it should be noted that Preterists are quite fond
of appealing to the historical record when it suits them and
then using appeals to Luke 17 to deny its relevance whenever
it contradicts them.)
We will start with Josephus. Josephus was a historian that
lived 37-101 AD. By birth he was a member of Jewish priestly
lineage. Taken captive in 67, Josephus was freed by Emperor
Vespasian in the year 69, and according to custom, he took
Vespasian's last name Flavianus as his own and became known
as Flavius Josephus.
Josephus' first work was Wars of the Jews. In his second
work Jewish Antiquities, he wrote about Jesus Christ,
but it is particularly Wars of the Jews that is of
concern to the Preterists.
In Wars of the Jews, Josephus recorded the besieging
of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. In
this account, he spoke of some marvelous phenomenon including
signs in the skies. From these strange phenomenon, Preterists
like to infer the fulfillment of the Olivet and other Gospel
prophecies as well as the prophecies found in Revelation and
But is Josephus really a valid source of proof for Preterists?
The answer is "no" for several reasons, each of which we will
discuss in detail. First, Josephus was not a Christian. Second,
Josephus does not mention the return of Christ. Third, inferring
the second coming from Josephus conflicts with orthodox Christian
writing from the first few centuries following 70 AD.
The first reason Josephus writing is not a valid support of
Preterist theory is that he was not a Christian. Now, it is
true that secular history records many of the events spoken
of and prophesied in the Bible. So this factor alone would
not disqualify us from accepting Josephus' testimony if, in
fact, he did testify to the return of Christ, the coming of
the antichrist, or the mark of the beast, etc.
However, in this particular case, the fact that Josephus was
an unbeliever is particularly relevant. As an unbeliever,
Josephus would not have been looking for a second coming of
Christ. This in turn illustrates the problem for using his
writings as a testimony of that event. Because Josephus did
not believe in Christ or a second coming, he did not write
his historical accounts bearing witness to such an event.
Any direct statements about Christ's second coming are therefore
completely absent from Josephus' accounts and as such they
have to be inferred by the Preterists from what he does record.
On this point, Preterists often pilfer through Josephus' writings
for anything resembling the details of Biblical end time prophecies.
When they do so, they again uphold that Preterism is subject
to historical validation by comparison with the details of
prophecy. And by looking at the historical record, they also
uphold that we can expect to see the details of prophecy literally
fulfilled. A little while later we will adopt this exact method
of comparing history to the details of Biblical prophecy to
demonstrate that end time prophecy concerning the antichrist
and the return of Christ, did not come to pass by 70 AD.
For now, we will get back to Josephus. Even Josephus, a secular
source, records Jesus' first coming. We mentioned that he
wrote about Christ in his second work Jewish Antiquities.
Now, let us imagine for a second that there is no writing
by believers recording Christ's first coming. Imagine that
the first coming of Christ was recorded for us ONLY by one
single, secular historian.
This is, of course, a ridiculous scenario. Without Christian
writing witnessing to the first coming of Christ, how would
Christians in the coming generations be able to preserve and
understand the truths of that event? It would be impossible
to maintain correct Christian doctrine about Christ without
a canon of scripture concerning his first coming. It would
be impossible to preserve Christian doctrine with only a secular
account of Christ Jesus. As ridiculous as such a scenario
may seem, it is exactly what Preterists are asking us to do
with Josephus and Jesus' second coming.
Without Christian writing attesting to the second coming of
Christ in 70 AD or the coming of the antichrist or the mark
of the beast, etc., Preterists have turned to a secular historian.
Without Christian writing to confirm and pass on the truths
of these things, how are future generations of Christians
supposed to be able to preserve, test, and understand these
things. So, we ask, where is the testimony of the believing
community of that day? What did they say? Or is this secular
historian all that the Preterists have? Imagine an event so
significant as the return of Jesus Christ without a single
Christian writing as a witness to it.
So, Josephus cannot be used to support Preterism because he
was not a Christian and because, as an unbeliever, he did
not write specifically any accounting of Jesus second coming,
an event that is the central claim of the Preterist theory.
Now that we have covered our first two points against using
Josephus as proof of Preterism, we will turn to our third.
Inferring the return of Jesus Christ, the coming of the antichrist,
and the mark of the beast from Josephus conflicts with the
orthodox writings of Christians in the first few centuries
immediately following 70 AD.
In our imaginary scenario, we pointed out that Preterists
want us to assume that Jesus returned to the earth without
any Christian witness to that fact. But that is not all they
are doing. In reality, Preterists want us to accept this premise
in direct contradiction to the Christian writings that we
In their quest to prove Preterism using Josephus they commit
two errors. First, they prefer modern, subjective inferences
from a secular historian over the ancient testimony of orthodox
Christians. Second, they ignore an unbroken chain of Futurism
in orthodox Christianity from Jesus and the apostles through
the first three centuries following.
All of the writings we have from the Gospels to the epistles,
to the non-canonical works of first, second, and third century
orthodox Christians perpetuate a Futurist perspective that
the second coming of Christ and the coming of the antichrist
and mark of the beast along with the resurrection of the dead
and gathering together of the elect HAD NOT YET happened in
their day. The fact that non-canonical, orthodox writings
from the first, second, and third centuries continue to attest
to a FUTURE coming of not only Christ but the antichrist,
etc., demonstrates clearly that, unlike Preterists, they understood
and employed the principle of the Transcendent "You."