Refuting a Refutation – #2

Refuting a Refutation #2

Examining Sam Frost’s Attempt to Explain Why His Essays on the Resurrection Book is Wrong

Sam Frost finally got around to writing a “refutation” of his book, Essays on the Resurrection. See my first response to his Blog article, in which I demonstrate that Frost’s very first shot in his attempt to explain his departure from what he had written is rife with logical fallacies– according to his own definition of logical fallacies!

Frost was certainly correct on one point. He told us that if he refuted the key arguments in his book that he did not have to address every line and every page. Thing is, he did not refute anything! But, that principle applies to my response. I don’t have to address everything in Frost’s article. If / when I expose the fundamental error of his key statements, then his entire post goes up in smoke. With that in mind, take note of Frost’s amazing claim:

//But, continuing, what indication is there that “the dead” here are exclusively Israelites.  This is the hardest sell that Preston’s view has.  Paul later quotes Isaiah 25.7-8: “And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering that covereth all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He hath swallowed up death for ever; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth: for Jehovah hath spoken it.”  This promise is for “all peoples” and “all nations”, not just Israel.  Again, this is so plain for Paul because he had previously written, “in Adam all die”, and then quotes this verse from the Prophet.  All peoples, all nations die in Adam.  The dead, then, would be inclusive of all.  It is here that “the dead” in Preston’s view (and mine) is a code word for “old covenant Israel”.

Let me repeat this point: the deniers have reasoned among themselves that anyone before the hearing of the Gospel would not be raised.  That only they and those who had fallen asleep, but heard the Gospel, would be “raised from the dead.”  They denied, so Preston wants us to believe, that any Old Testament saint or faithful believer would be raised from the dead.  They did not deny that they themselves and those fallen asleep would be raised.

Allow me to say that this positing of what the deniers believed is totally and entirely made up.  It is an invented construction based on one thing and one thing alone: Full Preterists must locate resurrection of the dead in AD 70.  I Corinthians 15 is a huge obstacle for that case.  And, so, based upon the conviction that the resurrection of the dead did happen in AD 70, this passage must be re-defined, re-interpreted, re-invented, re-constructed and re-construed.  There has never been a more plainer example on my part when I wrote Exegetical Essays than ‘reading into the text’ than this.// (EoQ).

Allow me to say this: Anyone even vaguely familiar with the commentaries, the scholarly thinking on 1 Corinthians 15, will find this claim to be utterly incredible– and unbelievable. For Frost to claim that Paul was not using what the deniers in Corinth believed in order to refute them may well be the first time in history that anyone has made such a claim! It is literally amazing–and unscholarly.

I have read a good bit of the literature on 1 Corinthians 15. Naturally, I have not read all of it, and I certainly may have missed something along the way. But as of the time I am writing this, I can say with undeniable truthfulness that I have never– NEVER- read a single commentator who denied that Paul was using what the deniers did believe in order to refute what they were teaching.

When I first read Frost’s amazing comment, I opened my Logos Bible study program and began a survey of the numerous commentaries there. It was not surprising in the least to discover that I did not find even one – NOT ONE – that even remotely agreed with Frost’s claim, or even hinted at what he is saying. Quite the contrary. And the reader will, perhaps, observe that in Frost’s blog article, he did not offer the reader a single scholarly citation to support his claim. He cited no “early church authority.” He just made his bold (unprecedented) claim, and expects, we assume, that his readers will accept what he claims without checking it out. But without an offering of probative evidence, we have every right to question, challenge and deny his claim.

Anthony Thiselton, (that Frost often cites) to cite one of a vast array of sources that could be given, quotes D. F. Watson, “In his refutation Paul momentarily agrees with the proposition and then shows that its natural consequences include consequences the Corinthians are not willing to grant.” (Anthony Thiselton, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians, (Carlisle, PA; Eerdmans, Paternoster, 2000), 1216. See also Leon Morris, An Introduction and Commentary, TNTC, Logos; Jamieson, Faucett and Brown, Logos, etc., etc.).

See Thiselton’s discussion in which he cites numerous other sources takes note of Paul’s form of logical argumentation, which is known as modus ponens, or the, “If-Then” form of argument. The “If-Then” argument says that if A is true, then B must likewise be true. Thus, Paul says: “If the dead ones are not raised, (which is patently what the deniers DID BELIEVE), (then) your faith is in vain… you are yet in your sins.” Folks, Frost knows and affirms that the deniers did deny resurrection (but as just noted they did not deny resurrection life to Christian dead ones). Thus, Paul was, irrefutably, using what the deniers said, and he was using what they taught to refute them.

Here is what this means, in simple form. Paul was addressing some who said “there is no resurrection of the dead ones.” Frost argues that the deniers were rejecting any and all idea of resurrection. He takes Paul’s statement “If then the dead are not raised….” as a categoric, blanket denial of resurrection, which of course, Frost claims was a denial of any and all forms of physical resurrection.

But Frost knows (knew, when he wrote Essays) that this is not what the deniers were teaching, and he cited the scholars to prove it. Frost cites Gordon Fee, on Paul’s form of argumentation:

Fee writes, ‘The nature of that argument [vv. 12-34] makes it plain that the purpose of this opening paragraph is not to prove Christ’s resurrection, but to reestablish that fundamental premise as the common denominator from which to argue with them, as he will in vv. 12-34 (ital. his).’ (Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, (Carlisle; Paternoster and Peabody Press, Mass,: Hendrikson, 1996), 737).

And so, Frost knew- in Essays- that the scholars reject his current claim that Paul and the deniers had a shared belief in their own faith, salvation and the status of Christians. This can hardly be over-emphasized. Frost’s current claim that Paul was not using the beliefs of the deniers against them is an unhistorical, un-scholarly, unsupported, truly aberrant and unorthodox claim. And let me remind the reader that in his blog article he made no attempt to cite a single scholar in support. No citation of any early church writer. No documentation whatsoever.

When Frost claims of the idea that Paul was using what the deniers said to refute them, “It is an invented construction based on one thing and one thing alone: “Full Preterists must locate resurrection of the dead in AD 70″– this is literally ridiculous! Commentators who have no belief in, agreement with, or affiliation with the preterist view, take note of the fact that Paul was using what the deniers believed to refute them. These commentators have no agenda to posit the resurrection in AD 70. In fact, the vast majority of them would deny that! Frost’s comment here is one of the worst comments imaginable, with not a shred of truth- not a syllable of truth to it.

As one commentator, whose name slips my mind at the moment, observed many years ago, if the deniers were rejecting any and all concept of resurrection, Paul had to have been one of the worst debaters, one of the worst logicians, of all time, because if the scoffers were arguing what is normally claimed, they would have said AMEN to every thing that Paul said! Here is what I mean.

If the deniers were denying resurrection, totally, then when Paul said:

✔ “If the dead are not raised, we, the apostles, are found false witnesses.” If the deniers were teaching what Frost claims, they would have responded, “That is precisely what we are saying, Paul!” There is no resurrection of the dead, so when the apostles claim that they were witnesses of the resurrection they were deluded, deceived- and that includes YOU!”

✔ “If the dead are not raised, You are yet in your sins.” If the deniers were teaching what Frost claims, they would have responded, “That is precisely what we are saying, Paul! There is no resurrection of the dead, and thus, there is no forgiveness of sin!” Meaning that they would likewise have believed that there is no hope of any kind and that “we are of all men most miserable.”

✔ If the deniers were teaching what Frost claims, then when Paul said, “If the dead are not raised, “Your faith is in vain!” The deniers would have responded, “That is precisely what we are saying, Paul! The Christian faith is false to the core! We have no faith– no one can have faith in Jesus, or the so-called gospel! We are all lost.”

✔ If the deniers were teaching what Frost claims, when Paul said, “Then not only are the ‘dead ones’ perished, but, “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” The deniers would have responded, “That is precisely what we are saying, Paul! There is no resurrection of the dead, and, Yes, we are saying that even the Christians who have died have perished! They will never live again!”

Thus, per Frost’s current claim, Paul would have been affirming what they believed! I am pretty sure that the Corinthians (who had not accepted the denier’s teachings) would have been confused when Paul, who was supposed to be refuting the deniers, wound up saying: “Okay, you scoffers, if you deny the resurrection, then you logically believe that I am a false witness, that our faith in Christ is in vain, that all the dead, including the Christian dead, have perished, and that even you yourselves are still in your sin.” And all the while, per Frost’s claims, Paul was simply repeating what they were saying, while not refuting one thing that they said and believed!

To simply repeat what the scoffers were saying was not a refutation of what they were saying! Only if Paul was truly employing the modus ponens form of argumentation did his “if the dead are not raised, then…” have any effect to refute the scoffers. And yet, evidently, Frost wants us to believe that Paul was NOT attempting to refute the deniers by saying “If-Then,” he was simply reiterating what they believed.

But ask yourself the question: Why would Paul feel the necessity of saying, “If you believe this, then the following is also true”? Did the deniers not know what their beliefs implied? And if Paul was pointing out to the deniers the implications of what they believed, then was he not using what they believed to refute what they believed after all?

The fact is that while Frost claims that the idea that Paul was using what the deniers believed in order to refute them is wholly a preterist invention, it is Mr. Frost who has invented a brand new argument. And make no mistake, his invented construction is based on one thing and one thing alone, and that is his desire to try to refute Covenant Eschatology, therefore he invented his idiosyncratic, unorthodox claim.

As noted, I have been reading the literature on 1 Corinthians 15 for many years, and not once have I ever found a commentator, old or new, that has claimed that Paul was not using the beliefs of the deniers against them. And thus, while Mr. Frost so aggressively claims that he stands in perfect agreement with the historical church, the historical creeds, and the scholarship of the world, the actual reality is that he stands alone on this, so far as I have been able to ascertain.

Notice now what Frost wrote in his Essays book about the significance of Christ being the first fruit:

Secondly, the ‘first-fruits’ metaphor also confirms who the ‘dead’ are. Jesus was a Jew ‘made like his brothers in every way’ (He 2.17). The first-fruits of wheat means that the harvest will be exactly like it: more wheat. It is here that the solidarity becomes evident. The first-fruits are inseparably bound to the harvest. If the first-fruit is ripe, then so is the harvest: the dead are being raised. Paul is proving that they cannot affirm the first-fruits without also affirming the harvest (‘dead ones’). 

Citing Richard Hays, he makes this observation:

For Paul, Christ is the ‘first-fruits’ of them that have fallen asleep. The first-fruits, taken from the Scriptures, meant that the harvest was ready to be harvested. Hays: ‘The metaphor of “first-fruits” serves to express the idea that the great harvest of the general resurrection is at hand.’ (Hays, 263). 

Paul’s argument is clear: how can you have Christ as the first-fruits of the dead and deny that the dead are ready to be raised? It was ‘the dead’ being denied, and it is the dead that Paul is equating with the harvest. The ‘first-fruits’ imagery is used by Paul elsewhere (Ro 8.23; 11.16;  Eph 1.12) in the plural and refers to believers. John also calls the 144,000 Israelites ‘the first-fruits of God’ (Re 14.4). (See Preston, (Babylon, 2006), 63f for a discussion of the first fruit and harvest). (These were the ‘first to believe’ and accept the Spirit’s baptism into the ‘death of Christ,’ and were also already being raised ‘into newness of life’ (Ro 6.4). The same Spirit that would raise the ‘dead’ was already raising the first-fruits (those living). To say that only the first-fruit (Christ) and the first-fruits (those who believed) are the only ones being raised (‘the already’) is to deny the link between the Old Covenant dead ones. If Christ is the first-fruit (and those who believed), then the harvest must follow. That Paul calls Messiah the first-fruits shows his solidarity with the dead who were being denied, and thus his argument above is shown for what it means: ‘if the harvest is not raised, then the first-fruits is not raised either, but if the first-fruit has been raised, then, logically, the harvest is ready to be reaped.’ You cannot have a first-fruit stalk without the harvest. There would be no first-fruit stalk!

Now, if the reader here has read Frost’s blog article they will immediately notice that he did not say one word, not a key stroke about the significance of the imagery and language of the harvest, as he had done in his Essays book. In Essays he recognized, as virtually all scholars do, that Paul’s appeal to the harvest imagery and Christ as the first fruit, demands that Paul believed that the resurrection had begun. Notice the words of Dale Allison Jr.:

If the death of Jesus is, in the Pauline epistles, assumed to have been a death in the great eschatological tribulation, it is also true that Paul interpreted the resurrection of Jesus as part of the general resurrection of the dead, To begin with, in 1 Cor. 15:20 he calls Christ “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (cf. 15:23). The first fruits denoted partly the first or beginning, and partly the best or main part of the crop; and it could represent not only the whole but symbolize the onset of a new period of time. As regards the meaning of the expression in 1 Corinthians 15, we may quote James D.G. Dunn. The metaphor of the first fruits here ‘denotes the beginning of the harvest, more or less the first swing of the sickle. No interval is envisaged between the first fruits and the rest of the harvest. With the first fruits dedicated the harvest proceeds. The application of this metaphor to the resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit expresses the belief that with these events the eschatological harvest has begun; the resurrection of the dead has started, the end-time Spirit has been poured out.’” ( Dale C. Allison, The End of the Ages Has Come, (Philadelphia; Fortress Press, 1985), 67). 

But of course, the current Frost knows that to admit to the imminence of the resurrection in the first century, in the event of Christ as the first fruit, is to surrender his new found futurism. And thus, he did not so much as mention Christ as the first fruit, and did not so much as mention the harvest. It should go without saying that when you have to ignore what was to Paul a central, foundational truth in your attempt to refute Covenant Eschatology, then your attempt is misguided and untenable.

Further, notice that Paul’s argument includes the fact- ever so conveniently ignored by Frost’s blog post, that Paul sets forth Christ as the first fruit of those who “had” fallen asleep. This is actually one of the first of Paul’s counter arguments. He has already said, “if the dead are not raised then Christ is not raised” and now, he says, “Christ is become the first fruit of those who had fallen asleep.”

Paul simply does not say that Christ had become the first fruit of anyone and everyone who has or will die. After all, Christ himself had raised people from the dead, right? Little wonder that Frost did not want to discuss the first fruit in his blog article.

The Greek in 1 Corinthians 15:20 is very clear – which Frost conveniently ignores. Paul uses the perfect participle- (kekoimēmenōn- (It is either middle or passive) – the perfect carrying with it the force that the dead under consideration had fallen asleep before Christ died, and were still dead when Christ arose, out from among them as the first fruit of that body of dead ones.

The point being that Paul was not talking about the Christian dead. He was not talking of the dead generically. He was setting Christ forth as the first fruit of a specific group of people that the deniers were denying soteriological life. To reiterate, the deniers were not denying that Christians who had died had perished, only that the dead who had died prior to Jesus had perished. (One can make a strong case that Romans 11, and the Gentile claim that Israel had been cut off and would not receive resurrection life, is parallel with 1 Corinthians 15. If that conflation is correct, then the deniers at Corinth were Gentile Christians denying that Israel had been cut off and would not receive salvation. I will not develop those parallels since that would greatly expand this article.

And so, again, we have no need to go into every sentence, every paragraph of Frost’s attempt to debunk his own book. What we have offered in the previous article and here completely undermines and refutes his entire post.

Frost has offered as rebuttal an argument not to be found in any commentary, not one ancient writer. Let that soak in. Here is a man that claims that he stands shoulder to shoulder, in full agreement wiht the historical church and the creeds. But that is specious in the extreme. The reality is that he is motivated by one thing and one thing only: his desire to refute Covenant Eschatology.

In his efforts all he has offered is a massive argumentum ad desperatum– (my own invented “non-Latin, Latin” term, which means “argument from desperation”). That is precisely what Frost’s claim that Paul was not using the denier’s own beliefs to refute them. If it does not bother you that Frost has become so desperate, contradicting his claims to be fully orthodox and in line with the commentators, perhaps you should rethink.

We have shown further that Frost’s failure– more like refusal- to consider or discuss what scholars admit is a crux interpretum of 1 Corinthians 15– the imagery of first fruit and the harvest- should raise all sorts of red flags. To reiterate, the one reason, the only reason, that Frost ignored these subjects is because he knows that to honor the imagery and language demands that the harvest– the end time harvest had begun with Christ and was imminent when Paul wrote.

And we have noted how Frost conveniently, but of necessity, ignored the force of the Greek about Christ being the first fruit of those “who had fallen asleep.” This too is crucial, and yet, Mr. Frost gave us not a keystroke that would demand that we rethink its importance.

Thus, this Refutation of a Refutation has totally undermined the totality of Mr. Frost’s blog article. Mr. Frost’s attempt to refute his own book has failed, miserably so.

For those who wish to read Frost’s original Essays on the Resurrection, it is available on my websites. If you wish to order, and if you mention that you read this article, I will refund your shipping, saving you $5.00.