Terry Cropper is an excellent Bible student, and I am honored from time to time to share some of his articles. In this article (two parts) Cropper shows how the claims that there was no preterist belief among the early writers is false.
Don K. Preston
Guest Article by Terry Cropper: Why Study Church History- Part 1
Why should we study early Church history? Many have been taught to believe that within the majority of the traditional Church no one held the position that all scripture was fulfilled by A.D. 70. Could this be true? The truth is there were a number of early Church Fathers who made significant statements. One doesn’t have to look too closely to find some real gems.
It is a matter of history that not all of the early Church fathers held a futurist, position as many today would love for us to believe. All it takes is some time to do some research and digging into the writings of the early Church fathers to learn the truth of the matter. The church fathers back that far did not write much about the Parousia and destruction of Jerusalem, but some of them did. We will look at some early statements. Here are a few of the earliest. All the emphasis are mine.
Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 153-193-217), in The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Book 1 page 329, in The Ante- Nicene Fathers, vol. 2, placed the abomination of desolation of Daniel’s 70th week prophecy, in the time of Nero. He said: ‘ in the one week; was He Lord. The half of the week Nero and in the half of the week he was taken away, and Otho, and Gaiba, and Vitallus. And Vespasian rose to the supreme power, and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the Holy place.”
Even earlier then Clement of Alexandria, was Clement of Rome, who wrote to James and told him what Peter had to say to the Jews,: ” ‘ For we; said I, ‘have ascertained beyond doubt that God is much rather displeased with the sacrifices which you offer the time of sacrifices having now passed away; and because ye will not acknowledge that the time for offering victims is now past, therefore the temple shall be destroyed, and the abomination of desolation shall stand in the holy place; and then the Gospel shall be preached to the Gentiles for a testimony against you….; “When I had thus spoken, the whole multitude of the priests were in a rage, because I had foretold to them the overthrow of the temple…;’ (Clement, p 94, vol. 8, The Ante-Nicene Fathers).
Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian (145-220) told of how the coming of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem was a fulfillment of predictions that had been made in Daniel 9:26. He said: “Accordingly the times must be inquired into of the predicted and future nativity of the Christ, and of His passion and of the (extermination of the city of Jerusalem,) that is, its devastation.”
For Daniel says, that ( ‘both the holy city and the holy place are exterminated together with the coming Leader), and that the pinnacle is destroyed unto ruin; (And so the times of the coming Christ, the leader), must be inquired into, which we shall trace in Daniel; and, after computing them, shall prove Him to be come, even on the ground of the times prescribed, of the consequences which were ever announced as to follow His advent; in order that we may believe all to have been as well fulfilled as foreseen. “In such wise, therefore, did Daniel predict concerning Him, as to show both when and in what time He was to set the nations free; and how, after the passion of the Christ, that city had to be exterminated;, (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, p. 158). Clement of Alexandria, here links ‘both the destruction of the holy city and the holy temple together with the coming Leader, “Christ.”
Tertullian was also a preterist in his interpretations of Zechariah 14:4. He said, ” ‘But at night He went out to the Mount of Olives; For thus had Zechariah pointed out: ‘And His feet shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives; ” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, p. 417). As one can easily see, the preterist position was taught by various writer clear back to the time of the apostles.
I want to call the reader’s attention to the fact that in my book, The Resurrection of Daniel 12:2: Fulfilled or Future? I also share the preterist beliefs of many of the early writers. It is literally amazing how those early men could – and did- make the statements that they did, and not realize that all things were truly fulfilled! (This is much like many- and a growing number- modern scholars who make amazing preteristic comments, and yet, still believe in some future eschaton). Be sure to get a copy of my book. You can order it here:
We will continue Terry’s article on early church history and preterism later. Stay tuned!