Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Here are some early Christian writers who held to premillennialism:

Clement of Rome (c. 30-95AD)
Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scriptures also bear witness, saying, 'Speedily will He come, and will not tarry,' and the Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy one, for whom ye look (First Letter to the Corinthians, 23).

Let us then wait for the kingdom of God from hour to hour in love and righteousness, seeing that we know not the day of the appearing of God (Second Letter to the Corinthians, 12).

Didache (c.100AD)
And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven; then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the third, the resurrection of the dead; yet not of all (16:6-7).

Shepherd of Hermas (c.140-150AD)
You have escaped from great tribulation on account of your faith, and because you did not doubt the presence of such a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, an say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming (Visions, 1.4.2).

Polycarp (c.70-155AD)
If we please Him in this present age, we shall receive also the age to come, according as He promised to us that He will raise us from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, 'we shall also reign with Him.'

Adapted from Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, 233.


Danny said...

Hi Geoff,

I am having a hard time seeing how these quotes show that these early fathers held to premillenialism.

For example, in the quotation of 1st Clement 23, where you have italicized “temple,” Clement is simply quoting Malachi 3:1, but Clement does not provide an explanation/interpretation of what he understands that text to mean.

Another example: the quote taken from the Didache leaves out an important point of qualification. Where you end the quote “yet not all,” the full sentence is:

and third, the resurrection of the dead -- yet not of all, but as it is said: "The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him.”

Here the didache quotes Zech. 14:5, but again, does not provide an interpretation of that verse. Couldn’t a non-premillenialist also appeal to this section of the didache to rebut premillenialism by simply saying: “Look, he is talking about the saints who have died, not about the raptured saints.”?

One more example: Polycarp quotes 2 Tim. 2:12, but again, does not provide an explanation.

It seems to me that in order to establish that they believed/taught premillenialism, it cannot be simply based on them quoting Scripture, but them quoting Scripture AND then providing an explanation/interpretation of its meaning that accords with premillenialism.

Otherwise, it seems that this method employed by Zuck leads to absurd conclusions: I personally am not a premillenialist, but imagine if I wrote a book where I quote 2 Tim. 2:12. A premillenialist could read his views into my writing and say, “Well, look, he is a premillenialist because he quotes 2 Tim. 2:12.”

That’s what it seems Zuck is doing: he is starting with his assumption that premillenialism is true exegetically and then reads that exegetical interpretation into any instance where a particular text quoted, even though the writer does not provide an interpretation of the quoted text. This is like Roman Catholics reading the doctrine of the Papacy into any instance where a Church Father quotes Matthew 16:18, even though an explanation of the meaning is not provided, and then they say, “See! They taught/believed the doctrine of the Papacy, too!"


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