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Particulars of Christianity:
313 Preterism

Preterism Part 4: Appealing to Josephus

Preterism Part 1: The Basics and Partial Preterism
Preterism Part 2: Olivet and the Transcendent "You"
Preterism Part 3: The Remaining "Proof Texts"
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 of Conclusions
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"

To 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 the epistles.

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 do have.

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."