Kenneth Gentry: Confused, Confusing and Desperate– Gentry’s Second Article – My Response.
This is my response to Kenneth Gentry’s second article which is supposedly a review and response to my new book, Watching for the Parousia: Were Jesus’ apostles Confused? As in my four part response to his first article, I am giving his entire article, with the exception of ads for Gentry’s books and superfluous comments, so that the reader can have all of what Gentry says about my book.
Don K. Preston
ANOTHER CONFUSED DISCIPLE (Matt 24:3) Part 2
AD 70, Matthew 24 November 13, 2020.
PMW 2020-099 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In my last blog article I began a four-part response to Don Preston’s book Were the Disciples Confused? In this (and my first article) I am pointing out his attitudinal problem that turns off so many of his potential readers. You will need to read the preceding article (PMW 2020-098) before engaging this one. For in this one, I am concluding my concerns regarding Preston’s attitude.
Be sure to read my responses to Gentry’s claims about my “attitudinal problems.” Keep in mind that it is Gentry that used so much sarcasm, such insulting and pejorative adjectives that go far, far beyond anything that I say in my book. I have had several people who, having read his articles, contacted me commenting on their shock at Gentry’s amazingly hostile response. Some have told me that they have followed him for years and have NEVER read anything remotely close to his caustic attitude and verbiage that he has unleashed at me.
Not only that, I have had many people tell me that in their opinion, Gentry is arrogant, condescending and sarcastic. Just this week, after reading my first two installments, I had someone contact me sharing that they had interacted with Gentry personally and found him to be extremely arrogant. Is this an attitudinal problem?
Let us not forget that every “reformer” who has ever lived “annoyed” the established orthodoxy. And perhaps Gentry can tell us if he approves of Luther’s language in his discussion of the Jews? And what of Calvin’s adjective (even expletive) laced descriptions of the Pope and the Roman priesthood? Did those men have “attitudinal problems” – or is it just Preston? And let me assure you, folks, that I have not, at any time, used language that even remotely resembled the language employed by Luther or Calvin!
As I stated in my earlier responses, I never set out to purposefully annoy anyone. And I am sure that Gentry likewise does not purposefully intend to communicate arrogance, condescension. He does not set out to “annoy” anyone– well, unless that was the goal of his first article! (If it was his intent, to annoy me, he failed. I actually found his first two articles somewhat gratifying, since as I read them, indeed, having now read all four of his responses so far– I realized how weak and desperate his “arguments” truly are. If this is the best he has, he has nothing).
Of course, the issue is– or should be– is the content of my book valid, logical and scriptural? Yet, Gentry’s adjective laced, sarcastic and caustic first article raises a question. If Gentry believes (hopes) that what he calls my “attitudinal problem” should deter readers from reading my book, would that not suggest that no one should continue reading his articles, given the undeniable fact that they are so acerbic, sarcastic, pejorative, and demonstrate a true “attitudinal problem”? I feel confident in saying that Gentry truly does hope that you will not read my book, because he knows that it strikes a crushing blow to the very foundation of his eschatological paradigm.
My two major points in the preceding article were that Preston has, “A new theology complete with arrogance.” Then my second one dealt with his, “False charges based on erroneous understanding.” I am now ready to finish this line of thought with my concern that Preston has engaged in:
A careless misreading of my argument
On p. 40 (¶2) Preston writes: “Gentry claims that Jesus had not mentioned his coming or the end of the age prior to Matthew 24:2.” This is a serious (though not at all surprising) misreading of my argument for two reasons:
First, I was dealing with the surprised question of the disciples at Matthew 24:3. I point out that there is nothing in the immediate context that could be seen as prompting the question as presented. Certainly there is much before this verse that speaks of the judgment of Israel and even Jerusalem. But this is not the issue; the issue involves the destruction of the temple, which Jesus had just prophesied (Matt. 24:2) and about which the disciples ask (v. 3). (I will have more to say about this error on Preston’s part in my next installment.)
Second, my point is actually that Jesus does not mention either the parousia or the “end of the age” in the immediately preceding context so as to spark their questions as uniquely framed. But these are the very issues raised in their questions (Matt. 24:3).
Nowhere previously in the Gospels do we read of Jesus using the word parousia in his teaching. And it is only much earlier (not in the near context of the Olivet Discourse) that he uses the phrase “end of the age” (Matt. 13:39, 40, 49). Obviously Preston disagrees with me (and “most commentators”, as well as the historic, corporate, public, universal, systematic Christian faith) regarding the proper understanding of the parousia and “the end of the age” as these concepts appear in Matthew. But that is an issue for another time.  Here, though, I am only correcting his misreading of my blog article as presented.
There is not much new here, but let me comment on a thing or two.
1. Gentry’s point is presuppositional. He assumes a doctrine of the end of the Christian age and a literal, physical bodily coming of Christ at that time, and assuming that to be true, he then says that Jesus had not said anything prior to Matthew 24 that would have prompted the apostles to ask about those consummative events. Of course, it is not enough for Gentry to assume without proof (petitio principii) that such a doctrine is true. He must prove it, and he has not even tried.
2. Gentry claims that, “Jesus does not mention either the parousia or the “end of the age” in the immediately preceding context so as to spark their questions as uniquely framed.” Well, it is true that Jesus did not use the word parousia or the term end of the age in the immediately preceding context, but, it is wrong to claim that nothing he said would have prompted the apostle’s questions about the conflation of the end of the age and his coming.
As I demonstrate in my book, the apostles knew– and Gentry admits this! – that Jesus had predicted his coming several times prior to Matthew 24. Furthermore, as I will prove from Gentry’s own writings and scriptures, Jesus used words that Gentry admits are the same as parousia. That means that unless he can prove- contra his own writings – that parousia is a distinctive word used exclusively of the imaginary “end of the Christian age” his point is moot and meaningless. This being true, it raises the burden of proof for Gentry to prove that the apostles were ignorant of any of those prophecies and their application and that the words that Jesus used of his coming in those previous texts cannot be synonyms for parousia. As you will see, from Gentry’s own keyboard, he does not believe either one of these things!
3. What is true is that prior to Matthew 24 Jesus had spoken extensively about his AD 70 coming, in judgment of Jerusalem. In an upcoming article, I will document from Gentry’s own writings how Gentry agrees with this, and how he even posits that the end of the age was in AD 70! Thus, it is specious for Gentry to claim that Jesus’ prediction of that impending disaster had to have conjured up the idea of the end of time in the apostles’ minds. Even more incongruous is the idea that the prediction of the destruction of the temple would have caused the apostles to think of the end of the Christian age. Why in the world would the apostles have thought of the end of the Christian age, when Jesus had predicted the destruction of that temple which had nothing whatsoever to do with the Christian age???
As I document heavily in my book, and as stated above, the OT contains many prophecies of the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the temple at the time of the end, and at the Day of the Lord. Gentry knows this, since he personally applies Daniel 9:24f to the AD 70 destruction.
4. Once again, Gentry appeals to the historic, universal, and systematic Christian faith. This is a logical fallacy, as I noted in the previous posts, and Gentry realizes and admits that an appeal to church tradition, an appeal to scholarship proves nothing. And yet, he keeps making this “argument”– which he admits proves nothing– over and over and over again.
5. Gentry is arguing: “Nowhere previously in the Gospels do we read of Jesus using the word parousia in his teaching.”
And exactly what does this prove? Is there some magical hermeneutical rule that says that a writer or speaker must use certain specific words? Let it be noted also that Jesus did not use the word parousia at all, up to Matthew 24. It was the apostles that used the word parousia, as they conflated Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the city and temple with his parousia and the end of the age. It is, therefore, technically inaccurate for Gentry to say that Jesus used parousia and that his use of that word prompted the apostle’s questions. Jesus did not use the word parousia at all until Matthew 24:27, in the section that Gentry seemingly admits is about the Lord’s coming in AD 70.
And speaking of the apostles and the word parousia. Gentry knows – or assuredly should know– that the Jews of the first century and earlier used the word parousia to speak of the Lord’s coming within history. For instance, Josephus, who was of course writing later than Matthew 24, contains several examples of the use of parousia to refer to events that had nothing to do with an imaginary end of time. (Compare Antiquities of the Jews, Book 3, chapter 5, paragraph 2; chapter 8, paragraph 5; Book 9, chapter 4, paragraph 3; Book 18, chapter 8, paragraph 6). In other words, it is simply inaccurate to assume, as Gentry does, that the apostles’ use of parousia suggests (it certainly does not demand) that they had the end of history in mind.
Take note of this. Gentry believes that the parable of the Wheat / Tares and End of the Age in Matthew 13 is about Christ’s end of time parousia. Yet, that word is not used! In fact, catch the power of this, not one of the words normally translated as “coming,” (erchomai, and cognate elthe) or “revelation” (apocalypsis) or “appearing,” (epiphany) “manifested,” (phaneroo), is used in the parable at all! Not once! How can Gentry hope to prove that Matthew 13 is about Christ’s parousia when that word, and not one word for coming, is even used in the text, based on his appeal to the non-use of parousia in Matthew 13?
Not only that, since his use of parousia in Matthew 24 supposedly proves that he is now speaking of something different from the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, then the absence of parousia in Matthew 13 would logically demand that he was not speaking of that end of time event. And in fact, as I demonstrated earlier, Matthew 13:43 cites Daniel 12:3 to speak of the righteous shining as the stars at the end of the age. But, Gentry applies the resurrection prophecy– which is the prophecy of the end of the age when the righteous would shine as the stars– to AD 70!
If it is significant, as Gentry claims, “that Jesus does not mention either the parousia or the “end of the age” in the immediately preceding context” (of Matthew 24:3, DKP) then since Jesus did not mention parousia prior to or in Matthew 13, how can he eisegetically insert it into the parable, in light of the fact that the word does not appear in the parable at all? Jesus had undeniably spoken of his coming (erchomai / elthe) prior to Matthew 13 (Matthew 10:23/ 16:27-28- erchomai) and Gentry admits that those texts speak of AD 70. And as I will show later, Gentry admits that erchomai and its cognate elthe, can refer to the parousia. Thus, his arbitrary “rule” that he applies in Matthew 24:2 is wrong.
Thus, here is what we have:
Gentry claims, (even though parousia is not used in Matthew 13), that the parable of the Wheat and Tares and the end of the age, is about Christ’s end of human history parousia. Thus, for Gentry, the absence of parousia in Matthew 13 actually means nothing. Indeed, the total absence of any “coming” word evidently carries no evidentiary significance for Gentry! Yet, in Matthew 24, the prediction of the impending destruction of the city and temple supposedly conjured up the idea of a physical, bodily return (parousia) of Christ (something he truly had NOT mentioned previously!) And then, in spite of the fact that Jesus had predicted the judgment of Jerusalem, and thus the temple, several times prior to Matthew 24– which Gentry admits!!– when he predicted it in Matthew 23:37-38 / 24:2, that blew the apostles’ minds so much that they now linked that event to the end of the (endless) Christian age! Why didn’t they make that connection on all those other occasions that Gentry admits were predictions of the coming destruction of the city and temple? In other words, why did not all of the (many) previous predictions of Jesus about the coming destruction of the city and temple not prompt them to ask about his parousia and the end of the Christian age???
But, as I have shown, and this is important, Gentry applies Daniel 12:2 to the AD 70 spiritual resurrection of Israel. Yet, Daniel 12:3 is connected grammatically to verse 2, and Matthew 13:43 cites Daniel 12:3 to speak of the end of the age – which Gentry posits at the end of time! So, for Gentry, of necessity, he has Daniel 12:2 as AD 70 and verse 3-4 to the so called end of time! Confused yet? You should be! This is more than confusing. It is arbitrary “proof texting.”
To make this matter worse for Gentry, we have Paul using parousia in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, (applied to AD 70 by Gentry!), but in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul uses parousia twice and Gentry demands that Paul was speaking there of the supposed end of human history! Confused? Yes. Confusing? Absolutely. Inconsistent? No question.
The hermeneutical question that should be asked by readers of Gentry’s posts is: What rule of exegesis and hermeneutic demands that a writer or speaker must use certain words exclusively of any given subject? Based on his own application of parousia in Thessalonians, Gentry surely cannot argue that. And based on what he says about the interchangeability of erchomai and parousia, that falsifies any such claim as well. What rule says that a writer or speaker does not have latitude and liberty to use a variety of words, terms and phrases to speak of the same subject?
Interestingly, though he confuses my point most of the time, Preston does seem to know what I was actually arguing. For on p. 41 (¶2) he writes: “while Gentry tries to make a point in Matthew 23 stating that Jesus did not mention either his coming or the end of the age in that temple discourse….”
And so, Gentry says that I confuse his point, and yet, somehow I understood his point! Now, that is confusing! It is confused.
It is to be noted, and I will have much to say about this later, that Gentry ignores the fact that the OT clearly posited the end of the age, the coming of the Lord, the New Creation, the resurrection, at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. And you really must catch the power of this: Gentry believes– and I will document this from his own works- that the end of the age, the Wedding at the coming of the Lord, the New Creation, the resurrection, judgment, all happened in AD 70! You read that correctly!
Gentry conveniently ignores the fact that I documented those prophecies heavily in my book, and also in my book, We Shall Meet Him In The Air. What this means is, whether the apostles fully understood every nuance of eschatology or not, (and their knowledge did not have to be perfect for them to know that the end of the age and the Lord’s coming was linked to the destruction of the City and Temple), it is undeniably true that the OT did conflate the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple with the coming of the Lord and the end of the age. But of course, I do not ascribe such abject ignorance and confusion to the apostles as does Gentry.
There are more such concerns, but I must get to work on Preston’s position, instead of focusing solely on his attitude. Oops! Time is out. I will continue this in my next blog.
In this article, I will not be dealing with the unique terminology of parousia and “end of the age” found only in Matthew — and very rarely at that. I will deal with this issue in my new edition of The Olivet Discourse Made Easy. If interested, the reader may look up Jeffrey A. Gibbs, Matthew 21:1–28:20 (Concordia Commentary) (St. Louis: Concordia, 2018), 1250. R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 531, 535, 889-896.
A critically important claim of Gentry is that Matthew uses the distinctive Greek term for end of the age (συντέλεια aiōnos) to speak exclusively of the end of human history, the end of the Christian age. This is a false claim, as I will document when he focuses on it, and as I discuss in my book, We Shall Meet Him In The Air, the Wedding of the King of kings.
BTW, both books that Gentry recommends are helpful in many ways, but I can tell you this: neither one of them makes a claim concerning Matthew 24:2-3 closely resembling what Gentry does, i.e. demanding that the destruction of Jerusalem was excluded from Jesus’ prediction and the apostles’ questions about the coming desolation of the temple. As I will show from Gentry’s own works, his attempt to bifurcate between the destruction of the city and the temple is untenable.
Gibbs does believe that the apostles were confused, but he makes the same glaring logical fallacy as Gentry. He says because they were confused on other occasions they must have been confused in Matthew 24:3. Thus, just like Gentry, he either ignores Matthew 13:50, or must have the apostles claiming they understood when in fact they didn’t.
Be watching for our response to Gentry’s third article. In the meantime, take advantage our fantastic December 2020 three book special, and save yourself almost $20.00!