Kenneth Gentry: Confused, Confusing and Desperate. My Second Response to His Third Article

 

Were Jesus’ Apostles Confused in Matthew 24:3

Kenneth Gentry: Confused, Confusing- And Desperate.
My Second Response to Gentry’s Third Article

As previously, with the exception of some ads placed in his articles which I deleted for space considerations, I will be giving the entirety of Gentry’s article, his third, in his attack on my book: Watching for the Parousia: Were Jesus Apostles Confused?

Be sure to read my first response to his third article here. Also, let me urge the readers to obtain a copy of my book, Watching for the Parousia: Were Jesus’ Apostles Confused” to see for yourself if my book is so egregiously wrong as Gentry is trying to convince you.
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ANOTHER CONFUSED DISCIPLE (Matt 24:3) Part 3
AD 70, Matthew 24, Olivet Discourse, Temple November 17, 2020

PMW 2020-100 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.


Gentry continues:

Unfortunately, though Preston thinks he is riding to the defense of the disciples, he mistakenly rides off at full gallop in the wrong direction. For he talks about the wrong issue, while thinking he is destroying my argument. Let me explain.

Preston believes that the disciples could not have been confused by Jesus’ prophecy regarding the temple’s destruction. Why? He points out several places in Matthew’s Gospel prior to Matthew 24 where Jesus had spoken of the coming judgment on Israel. That being so, Preston thinks this should have alerted the disciples to the fact of the temple’s coming destruction. But his “evidence” misses the point. Every single time. Entirely. World without end. Amen.

Let’s consider some proof-texts that Preston brings out in this regard.

Matthew 10:22–23

Notice his argument on p. 36. As evidence that the disciples had heard this before, Preston cites Matthew 10:22–23. He notes that “Matthew 10 shows us, unequivocally, … that [Christ is] coming for the vindication of the suffering of his apostles and in judgment of their persecutors.” This is true, of course. But it is irrelevant to the issue before us! For the issue before us is: Were the disciples confused about Jesus’ judgment prophecy. . . about the destruction of the temple? Please ponder Preston’s peculiar problem (hey, I like this alliteration!):

Nowhere in Matthew 10 does Jesus speak of . . . the temple’s destruction. And the prophecy of the temple’s coming destruction (Matt. 24:2) is what causes the disciples’ confused questions (24:3). This is significant in that I and (as Preston admits) “a consensus among the commentators” (p. 33) believe the disciples were shocked and confused about . . . the temple’s destruction. They were not shocked that the Jewish leadership would be judged or that the nation would be punished. Rather they believed that the beautiful temple (Matt. 24:1; Mark 13:1) was a worthy place to worship God. After all, Jesus twice “cleansed” the temple to make it suitable for God’s continuing worship (John 2:13–17; 21:15).

Thus, they apparently assumed that it would survive God’s judgment of Israel and her leadership. The renowned, first-century Jewish philosopher Philo (d. AD 50) certainly believed it would stand until the end of time, for he wrote:

The temple has for its revenues not only portions of land, but also other possessions of much greater extent and importance, which will never be destroyed or diminished; for as long as the race of mankind shall last, the revenues likewise of the temple will always be preserved, being coeval in their duration with the universal world. (Spec. Laws 1:14 [76])

And the writer of book 5 of the Sibylline Oracles also speaks of the Jewish belief that the temple of Jesus’ day was indestructible:

I saw the second Temple cast headlong, / soaked in fire by an impious hand, / the ever-flourishing, watchful Temple of God / made by holy people and hoped / by their soul and body to be always imperishable. (Sib. Or. 5:399–402)

The first temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians, to be sure. But Herod’s temple was constructed with more massive stones. Some of these weighed well over 100 tons, the largest ones measuring 44.6 feet by 11 feet by 16.5 feet and weighed approximately 567 to 628 tons. And its walls stood twenty stories high. Besides, Philo and the author of the Sibylline Oracles both knew about the Babylonian destruction and yet still believed the current temple would last forever. This hope was rooted in post-Babylonian destruction biblical prophecies. These seemed to promise the rebuilding of the destroyed Solomonic temple and expected it to be a final, permanent place of worship (e.g., Eze. 37:26–28; 43:5–7).

Matthew 16:27–28

On p. 37 Preston cites Matthew 16:27–28 as evidence that the disciples would have known of the temple’s coming destruction prior to Jesus’ Matthew 24:2 prophecy:

“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

But notice once again: there is no mention of the temple, but rather the repaying of “every man according to his deeds” (v. 27). Could not the Jews and their leadership be judged while God’s temple (his own house) is spared — by his sovereign action and under his providential care?

In fact, in 63 BC did not the Roman general Pompey lay siege against and conquer Jerusalem, thereby wresting power from the century-old Jewish Hasmonean kingdom? And he did this even while leaving the temple physically unharmed (Josephus, Wars 1:7:1–7)? Could the disciples not believe that Jesus’ reconstituted people of God (cf. Matt. 6:10; 8:11–12; 12:32; 19:28; Luke 22:30) might well use this temple for God’s worship? Especially since the OT has prophecies about the temple being everlasting (e.g., Eze. 37:26, 28; 43:5–7)?

Matthew 21:33ff

On p. 38 Preston deals with Matthew 21:33ff. According to him (and rightly so), this is speaking “of the coming judgment of the Jerusalem leaders for persecuting the saints.” But again: there is no mention of the beautiful temple where God is worshiped. And this is the very point at issue before us! Could not the Jews and their leadership be judged and their temple spared? Could the disciples not believe that the reconstituted people of God (cf. Matt. 6:10; 8:11–12; 12:32; 19:28; Luke 22:30) might well use this temple for God’s worship? Especially since the OT has prophecies about the continuing temple as everlasting (Eze. 37:26, 28; 43:5–7)?

Matthew 22:1ff

On pp. 39–40 Preston mentions the Parable of the Wedding. This does speak in parabolic form of the destruction of “their city” (v. 7), to be sure. In the parable, this destruction will be accomplished by a king who is the father of a son for whom the wedding feast was prepared. The father obviously represents God the Father. And the son represents Jesus. But again, nowhere in this parable is the destruction of the temple mentioned. Rather it only mentions the burning of “their city.” But since it is God destroying those ungrateful leaders and burning their city, he could easily spare the temple. For it was a beautiful place worthy of his worship (in the disciples’ view, Matt. 24:1; 13:1).

Luke 13:25–30

Then on pp. 42–44 Preston mentions Luke 13:25–30. And we have the same problem: the temple is not mentioned. Read it yourself. Preston is not dealing with the issue at hand. He hits a target, but the wrong one. And that does not count.

A recurring problem

Preston continually broadens the disciples’ question regarding the destruction of the temple. He does this by extending it beyond the temple to either the people, their leadership, or the city of Jerusalem. But he does not seem to notice his error. Note the following quotes from Preston:

“Matthew 24:3 stands in the cross hairs of the eschatological controversy. Jesus had just predicted the demise of the awesome Herodian Temple” (p. i ¶1). Then he reiterates this: “the apostles simply could not imagine that marvelous edifice being destroyed” (p. i ¶2). But in the next paragraph he starts broadening the point: “Were the apostles confused. Did they wrongly connect Christ’s coming, the end of the age and the destruction of Jerusalem?” (p. i ¶3).

He properly recognizes the issue is the destruction of the temple elsewhere: “We are concerned here about Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple” (p. 3 ¶2). “Jesus did predict the destruction of the temple” (p. 3 ¶ 3). But after rightly noting that “Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple” (p. 6 ¶2), he then states: “upon what basis would the disciples have EVER linked the fall of Jerusalem and the temple with the end of the Christian Age?” (p. 6 ¶3).

And several times later the spark to the disciples’ question is rightly limited to the prophecy of the temple’s destruction (e.g., p. 8 ¶1, 30 ¶6, 35 ¶2).

But Preston stumbles again later: “were the disciples wrong to connect the fall of Jerusalem with the end of the age” (p. 9 ¶4)? And: “the question of whether the disciples were confused to link the destruction of Jerusalem with the end of the age” (p. 12 ¶3). And: “when Jesus foretold the impending destruction of Jerusalem, the disciples were so shocked and confused that they wrongly conflated that coming destruction with the end of time” (pp. 26 ¶5–27 ¶1).

On and on I could go. But it’s almost lunch time. [2] And I am not one to miss lunch.

This is only one chapter of the book, but it betrays the failure of the rest of the book. Preston’s argument against the disciples’ confusion is confused. And his argument causes further confusion to any alert reader. In fact, I am now so confused that I would even ask my readers:

Turn your eyes away from me,
For they have confused me;
Your hair is like a flock of goats
That have descended from Gilead. (Song 6:5)

Response:

I have withheld response to all of the above so as to set before the attentive reader the hermeneutical principle that is guiding Gentry’s comments. Repeatedly, Gentry speaks of the predictions of the temple, versus a prediction of the judgment of the city.

Let me make one thing very clear: I do not accept, implicitly or otherwise, Gentry’s bifurcation of the prophecy of judgment of the temple versus the city. When he claims: “They (the apostles, DKP) were not shocked that the Jewish leadership would be judged or that the nation would be punished.”- but that they could not believe that the temple would be judged and destroyed, that is a false hermeneutic, a false distinction. For instance, in Jeremiah 5, when the Lord condemned the leaders of the people, it was the city and the temple that was destroyed in their judgment. The leaders were judged through and in the judgment of the city and temple.

Do you see what Gentry has done in his comments on Matthew 21:33f? He says that since Jesus spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, and does not mention the destruction of the temple, that this means:

Could not the Jews and their leadership be judged and their temple spared? Could the disciples not believe that the reconstituted people of God (cf. Matt. 6:10; 8:11–12; 12:32; 19:28; Luke 22:30) might well use this temple for God’s worship? Especially since the OT has prophecies about the continuing temple as everlasting (Eze. 37:26, 28; 43:5–7)?

This is stunning! According to Gentry, since Matthew 21 does not specifically mention the destruction of the temple, this means that the disciples might well believe that the Jerusalem temple would survive the coming destruction of the city and then be reconstituted Jesus’ disciples to us for worship. If that does not indicate that Gentry is positing a literal, physical temple in Jerusalem for use by his disciples, I am not sure what it does mean!

A quick note. Gentry appeals to Ezekiel 37:26 to speak of the everlasting temple, as if that were a prophecy of the continuance of the Herodian temple– or at the very least of a physical temple. That prophecy had nothing, Zero, NADA, ZILCH to do with any kind of a physical temple. In 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul quotes verbatim from Ezekie’s promise of that everlasting temple, and tells the church at Corinth– “You are the temple of God, as it is written.” Thus, Paul falsifies Gentry’s appeal to Ezekiel as a prophecy of any kind of a physical temple.

Has Gentry forgotten that the “temple” that was to remain – the eternal continuing, everlasting temple was not the reconstituted or restored Herodian temple, but, as Gentry himself says, commenting on Ezekiel 48:35:

“The name of the city from that day shall be, ‘The Lord is there.’ That visionary temple symbolizes god’s glorious presence in Christ’s kingdom, which comes in the new covenant era. And it is so because even further defined, it is symbolic of Christ himself.” (Dominion, 2009, 362).

So, the real temple is Christ, and yet, Gentry suggests that in Matthew 21 Jesus was positing that at some point, the Herodian temple, (which was doomed to absolute destruction), will be reconstituted and to be used by God’s people! The eternal temple of Ezekiel and in the Tanakh had nothing to do with a reconstituted physical edifice that would somehow survive the coming judgment of Jerusalem! I mean, after all, Gentry tells us that the Herodian temple would be dismantled “no stone on another.” So, just how would that temple be “reconstituted”?

Furthermore, Does Gentry now espouse the Dispensational view that there  will one day be (or that there should currently be?) a literal temple in which we must worship the Lord? Since he says that the temple spoken of by Ezekiel refers to the current Christian age, and since he indicates that in Matthew 21 Jesus was implying that the physical Jerusalem temple might be “reconstituted,” for his followers to worship in, why don’t we have a physical temple today?

The bottom line is that Gentry’s comments are confused and confusing. On the one hand, he tells us that the eternal temple foretold by the OT prophets was actually Jesus. On the other hand, he ponders whether the physical edifice of the Herodian temple might be “reconstituted” for his followers to worship in.

Thus, when Gentry tries to claim that I actually know that Jesus was predicting only the fall of the temple (and not the city) that is a misrepresentation of my writings and my position. When I speak of that coming destruction of the city, I know and affirm that Jesus had the demise of the temple in mind– as Gentry himself affirms in his own writings. When I speak of the AD 70, stone by stone dismantling of the temple, I am not hinting, suggesting or implying that the land, the people and the city, were not squarely in the cross hairs of that coming holocaust.

Make no mistake, though, that dramatic dichotomization between the fate of the city and the temple is foundational to Gentry’s claim about the divided discourse and his attack on my book. It is crucial to Gentry. The bifurcation of the prophecies of the destruction of the city from the predictions of the dissolution of the temple must be proven by Gentry. His view is radically atomistic. For Gentry, the prediction of the city’s destruction cannot– absolutely cannot! – be linked to the destruction of the temple. Over and over and over again, Gentry makes the claim that Matthew 24:2-3 is about nothing but the destruction of the temple– not the city. But of course, in his own comments on Matthew 23:37 he knows that Jesus predicted the destruction of both city and temple. Catch the power of that fact! It was that prophecy of the coming desolation of both city and temple that led to the apostle’s pointing out the stones of the temple! They knew that Jesus was speaking of both, but, as could naturally be expected, since they were in the temple, that was the focus of their question. But they were not by any means unconcerned with the fate of the city.

For Gentry, however, it is either the destruction of the city– not touching the temple – or, it is the prediction of the temple’s destruction, having nothing to do with the fate of the city, the land or the people. He never explains how it would be possible to destroy the temple without any impact on the city. (I will address his comment on Pompey later). Now, since the temple was the virtual “center” of the city, that meant that you had to go through the city to get to the temple, and in Josephus’ description of the siege and war, that is precisely how it happened. Nothing could more positively demonstrate Gentry’s “argumentum ad desperatum.” (That is a NON-LATIN, “Latin” term that I personally invented years ago, meaning “argument from desperation.”

While what I have already written effectively dispels Gentry’s dichotomization between the destruction of the city versus the temple and vice versa, let me nonetheless put this argument away by citing Gentry’s own words.

To grasp the power of what follows, let’s do a brief examination of Luke 21.

Luke 21:5-7:

Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.” So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?

According to Gentry’s atomistic, bifurcating hermeneutic, since the only prediction that Matthew 24:2 and Luke records was about the destruction of the glorious Herodian TEMPLE, then the fate of the CITY is not under consideration. But, looking closer at Luke 21 falsifies that approach. For brevity, we will look only at Luke 21:20-24:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Now, wait! According to Gentry’s hermeneutic of “temple not city” these verses don’t belong in Luke 21! After all, the apostles did not ask about the fate of the city, the land or the people! They were just concerned about the temple. The reality is that Gentry’s hermeneutic is artificial to the core. And btw, when he claims that in my book I actually realize this but that I try to hide it in my comments, he is totally misrepresenting my position. I do not – as he does – dichotomize between the fate of the city and that of the temple.

But to continue…

Why, based on Gentry’s interpretive view, does Jesus discuss “the land and the people” if his entire, exclusive focus is on the temple? Now, should Gentry – or some of his followers -respond by saying that you can’t discuss the fate of the temple without including the fate of the land and the city, I would say, AMEN! But, that admission is totally destructive to Gentry’s claim that neither the apostles or Jesus were concerned with the fate of the city, the land or the people. The ONLY thing they were concerned about was the temple. But I think that the logical, discerning reader will easily realize that you cannot divorce those things; they are inseparably bound up together. To destroy the temple would involve the destruction of the city, which would involve the fate of the people and the land.

To nail this down, we come now to consider what Gentry himself says about his “temple versus city” argument.

In his book, He Shall Have Dominion, (2009, p. 351), discussing the Great Tribulation and the Abomination of Desolation, Gentry says, “this refers to the AD 70 event, as we may discern from several angles:

(1) The temple is then standing in “the holy place’ (Jerusalem, Mt. 4:5; 27:53).
(2) In the context of the disciples point to that particular temple (Matthew 24:1), giving rise to this very discourse (Matthew 23:38-24:3).
(3) Christ points to that temple, when he speaks of the temple’s destruction (Matthew 24:2).
(4) The specific time frame demands an AD 70 reference for the ‘abomination’ (24:34).

The ‘abomination of desolation’ will be so awful that it will result in desperate flight from the area (24:16-20). It will occur ‘in the holy place.’ Surely this involves the temple, but it may be broader, speaking of both the city and the temple. (My emphasis, DKP).

Two problems present themselves to the temple-only view:

(1) Luke 21:20 interprets the phrase as the surrounding the city, which does indeed happen (Josephus, J. W. 5:12:1). Jerusalem itself is a holy place, being the capital of the ‘holy land’ (Zechariah 2:12).

(2) The original Old Testament context mentions both ‘the city and the sanctuary.’”  (EoQ).

So, direct from Gentry’s own keyboard, we see that he considers whether or not Jesus and the apostles were concerned with, and whether Jesus only foretold, the coming desolation of the temple– and not the city. We have Gentry himself rejecting the “Temple Not The City” view! He teaches, undeniably and irrefutably, that it is untenable to restrict Jesus’ answer to the temple only idea. He knows and teaches– or taught– that the subject was not “temple only” but involved the land, the people and the city. He knows that although the words of Matthew 24:2-3 / Luke 21 mention the temple, verbally, that contextually, the Lord was not saying that the temple and not the city was to be destroyed. Thus, his own words negate his appeal to the time of Pompey in BC 64. (Which, incidentally, to my knowledge was not the fulfillment of any prophecy, much less one that would predict the destruction of the city and not the temple)!

Gentry contradicts his own hermeneutic. Even though he knows that Luke 21:5-6 mentions only the temple and does not mention the land, the city or the people, nonetheless Gentry knows that those things are involved in Jesus’ answer to the questions about the fate of the temple. There is no “temple not the city” contrast or dichotomization going on. That is a contrived invented (false) hermeneutic.

Let it be noted that in his comments above Gentry was not attacking the true preterist view. He was defending his brand of partial preterism against the Dispensational and Amillennial views. But, when he attacks Covenant Eschatology, he abandons his earlier views, virtually inventing a brand new interpretation of Matthew 24:2-3.

Note: I have not found another commentator that argued that in Matthew 24:2-3, the apostles and Jesus were concerned exclusively with the temple, and had no concern for the fate of the land, the city and the people. While the actual language is about the temple, no scholar that I know of restricts the discussion to the temple alone. It is understood that any prediction of the temple’s destruction would involve the fate of the land, the people and the city. To my knowledge Gentry’s claim is truly a novel, innovative, un-historical view unsupported by the overwhelming consensus of scholarship (and what about that 7.2 Billion people??) . So far as I have determined to this time. Perhaps Gentry could give us some documentation for his views from the early church, the consensus of the scholars, or the creeds?

There is no escape from the dilemma and self-contradiction Gentry has created for himself. If he defends his “temple not city” claims that he presented in his articles, he rejects what he wrote in his book. If he defends what he wrote in his book, he falsifies the foundation of his argument against my book. Which “horn of the dilemma” will Gentry grab hold of? These two positions are unreconcilable with one another.

There is something else here. Gentry offers this: “Jesus twice “cleansed” the temple to make it suitable for God’s continuing worship (John 2:13–17; 21:15).”

So, Gentry says Jesus cleansed the temple, making it suitable for God’s continuing worship. Okay, then why did it have to be destroyed at all? If it was now “cleansed” then it was cleansed, and that cleansing took place immediately before Jesus predicted his coming in judgment of Jerusalem and the burning of that city and the temple, and his own lament: “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that kills the prophets, how often would I have gathered you together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing, but you would not! Behold, your house is left to you desolate!”

Isn’t that the house of God that he had just cleansed to make it once again suitable for continuing worship and service? If it was now- Matthew 21 – so “suitable” why was it going to be destroyed– Matthew 21:33f; Matthew 22; Matthew 23? The reader will note that in his listing of the earlier predictions by Jesus (Matthew 21, 22, 23) of the coming destruction, he makes no distinction of “temple not city.” He clearly viewed that coming disaster as comprehensive, not restricted to the temple and not the city.

Gentry Continues:

Now that is confusing! In my next article I will conclude my disappointments with Preston’s arguments.

Notes
1. As Preston confesses, he stands against “a consensus among the commentators” (p. 33), “most commentators” (p. 34), “most commentators” (p. 35), and a “widespread agreement among commentators” (p. 47).

Response:

More of Gentry’s Argumentum ad veracundium. A logical fallacy that Gentry makes over and over again, even though he admits that it is not a valid argument. It proves nothing!

Let me remind the reader of what I just said: At the time of this writing, I have not found one single scholar or commentator who attempts to limit the focus of Matthew 24:2-3 to the temple to the exclusion of a concern for the land, the city and the people. None limit Jesus’ prophecy in Mark, or Luke to the temple, even though linguistically, the temple is the specific word that was used. We will see if Gentry can (or will) produce from that vaunted consensus of scholarship, any scholars who restrict Matthew 24:2-3, or Mark or Luke, to strictly and exclusively the temple– and NOT the land, the city and the people.

The reader will please note that in his articles he made no attempt to document his position from any scholar or commentator. I suspect we will hear a lot of silence on this. Thus, Gentry’s concern for the “consensus among the commentators” stands in serious jeopardy. He is taking a position that, again, to my knowledge, is unknown in the entire history of commentary! But perhaps Gentry can enlighten us!

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