HERMENEUTICS: DO PRETERISTS “SPIRITUALIZE” BIBLE PROPHECY?
Thomas Ice, an outspoken critic of Covenant Eschatology, says, “Preterists,…overall tend to allegorize key texts (i.e. Matthew 24:29-31). Allegorization occurs when an interpreter brings into a text a meaning, based on ideas, from outside the text. Thus, their interpretation cannot be supported from a normal reading of the words and phrases.”
Ice has raised a question of hermeneutics- and his charge is very serious. To bring into a text what is not there is called eisegesis, and is a distortion of the meaning of any text. So, if preterists are guilty of allegorizing the Biblical texts (which is not even a technically accurate term for Ice to use) then this would amount to a falsification of the preterist perspective.
However, preterists do not allegorize. We do honor the metaphoric nature of apocalyptic language. We honor the type/anti-type use of language. Even more importantly, we honor the inspired application of O. T. prophecy by N. T. writers. And this is where Ice and dispensationalists fall so short. There is where Dispensationalism is actually guilty of a false hermeneutic. Let me illustrate.
Where in the words “animal sacrifices” is one compelled to see Jesus’ sacrifice? “Lamb” does not mean “Jesus.”Yet, “Christ is our Passover.” Does the literal word “Temple” mean “church?” No, but that is how the Hebrew writer interpreted the typology of the OT temple (Hebrews 8:1; 9:24f).
See my book Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, for an in-depth discussion of how Old Covenant Israel and her cultus was, from the very beginning, only a shadow of better things to come. This is a huge issue that is essentially ignored by the premillennial world. To ignore the New Testament application of OT prophecy is to ignore the hermeneutics of the New Testament itself!
A Dispensational reading of the OT would not allow that Israel was a shadow of good things to come. But again, this is a fatal error on the part of the millennial paradigm.
The NT writers clearly viewed Israel’s history as typological: “those things happened as types of us” (literal rendering of 1 Corinthians 10:11). This cannot be over emphasized. It is not allegorization for the NT writers to make spiritual application of OT language! It is inspired application!
In my recent YouTube moderated debate with Dr. Michael Brown, I noted how the NT writers interpreted the OT prophets, and claimed to be the authoritative and final word on the proper understanding of those prophecies. I noted that in 1 Peter, the apostles discusses the prophecy of Hosea of Israel’s last days restoration to “the land” the city, the temple, the priesthood, etc., and how Peter emphatically interpreted those prophecies spiritually as fulfilled in the body of Christ. Dr. Brown was clearly stunned by this argument and made the amazing statement that the NT writers did not have the right to interpret those OT prophecies that way. To do so would “subvert the language” of those OT prophecies! You have to catch the power of that! Dr. Brown was saying that the NT writers were wrong to interpret the OT prophecies in the way they did! I suggest that this is an overt denial of the inspired hermeneutics of the NT.
Preterism honors the shadow-v-reality doctrines. The NT inspired writers say that the literal realities anticipated coming spiritual realities. It is not “allegorization” to honor these applications. It honors the NT hermeneutics. Israel failed to see the spiritual realities, and they killed Christ because he did not fulfill their nationalistic and literalistic expectations.
So, when the NT writers make a spiritual application of OT prophecies, it is not allegorization. Through inspiration, they revealed what those OT realities foreshadowed. In other words, the spiritual meaning was there all along, recorded, but “unrevealed.”
To reject the spiritual application that the NT writers make of OT prophecies therefore, denies the inspiration and the authority of the NT authors who claimed to be revealing what the O. T. prophets foretold, but did not understand (1 Peter 1:10-12). Be sure to see my YouTube video series on Biblical Hermeneutics.