Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pregnant Refugees in the Olivet Discourse

A common feature of all three accounts of the Olivet Discourse is the announcement of woe upon the pregnant and nursing (Matthew 24:19, Mark 13:17, Luke 21:23). It is placed in about the same place in the unfolding story in Matthew and Mark but in a slightly different place in Luke. It wouldn't appear to be a different detail, so can it be used to "align" all three accounts? I think that it could, but if it is, it removes any possibility at all that the Lucan account was referring to events foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

If the woe is the same woe in all three accounts, then Matthew and Mark's reference to the gospel being preached to all nations is a detail skipped over by Luke, and the surrounding of Jerusalem and its desolation mentioned by Luke is just a different way of saying "the abomination of desolation" used by Matthew and Mark. Even though the Lucan description of this section seems to me to better fit the events of 66-70 AD, the phrase "all that is written will be fulfilled" doesn't really fit well with 70 AD--especially considering it's 2010 and all that is written still hasn't been fulfilled.

The only way to keep the preterist hope alive, therefore, is to see the woe on the pregnant and nursing as referring to two distinct occurrences of such a plight. Otherwise, the language of the end which dictates the interpretation of Matthew and Mark, would carry for Luke's account too. The dual fulfillment of things like the "Abomination of Desolation" (seemingly fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes, yet used by Christ to refer to something yet undone) perhaps allow such an approach, but I think it strains credulity, so in the end I must dismiss it, and with it, the preterist interpretation of the Olivet Discourse.


  1. Hello SLW

    Was asked by son,"Did the Trojan War really happen,or was it a legend?" Looked it up in encyclopedia. First account 400 later in Homer's poetry. Talked about how a recently deceased lady in our church would be accurately remembered only for as long as we who knew her were alive. "Unless we wrote down what she was like," Pointed out that a poetical account 400 yrs later not reliable.

    Son knows date of temple destruction -- can't remember his MATHS, though! Turned to Jesus' predictions about stones on another etc. If gospel had been written after AD 70, writers would have been glad to mention how Jesus' words were confirmed by subsequent events. Shows gospels written between AD 30 and AD 70.

    Dunno what that tells you about THE END OF THE WORLD, but do know it shows historical reliability of gospels, simply enough that a child can understand it. Said child not genius or prodigy. We love him, of course, but talk about "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child"... And people say the Bible isn't relevant.


    PS I did not grasp meaning of preterist in previous post. Is this to do with De End Tames. According to my Aunt Liz in Canada, everything on the news is "A Sayan of the End Tames"

  2. Anthea,
    You and your discerning son have a handle on the reliability of source material and your dating of the gospels is correct. His career in higher criticism awaits! ;-)

    P.S. I did put a response on the earlier post that should help you with preterist. Let me know if it helps, or I suppose, that should really be if it doesn't help. ;-)


  3. SLW,

    At this point, I'm unsure of the exact ideas that you dismiss. For example, Do you dismiss that the AD 66-70 Jewish war was at least a prefiguration of what Jesus meant by the "the armies surrounding Jerusalem" and "the Abomination that causes Desolation"?

    And if your answer to my question above is no, then I would like to know why you think that it "strains credulity," especially in the light that this discourse began with the apostles asking Jesus to clarify his comment about the future destruction of Herod's Temple.

    By the way, my over all view of this from Daniel, the Synoptic Gospels, 2 Thessalonians 2, and Revelation is what I call "multiple fulfillment" instead of your term "dual fulfillment."

  4. JG,
    I have to dismiss the preterist interpretation for any of the three accounts of the Olivet Discourse. Your idea of prefiguration is actually very interesting to me, because that is exactly what happened with Daniel 11. Antiochus Epiphanes was a remarkable prefigurement rather than an actual fulfillment. If that was the intention with the Olivet Discourse, it would go some way toward explaining the unusual features of Luke's account. If you'd like to, I wouldn't mind hearing more about your concept of multiple fulfillments.

  5. I suppose that the best way to describe my view of multiple fulfillments is to include a draft excerpt from the book that I'm writing for Wipf & Stock:

    'Some biblical prophecies have multiple fulfillments. For example, Revelation 17:9–11 taught about multiple fulfillments of the beast who has "seven heads":

    [9] This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. [10] They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. [11] The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. (Revelation 17:9–11 NIV)

    A mind with wisdom can understand that the seven heads represented both "seven hills" and "seven kings". The seven hills in Revelation 17:9 referred to the Seven Hills of Rome while the seven kings in 17:10 referred to Roman emperors. And 17:11 taught that the beast also represented "an eighth king." Likewise, these verses teach that the prophecy of the seven heads included at least three fulfillments: (1) Rome, (2) a series of Roman Emperors, and (3) a final eighth Roman Emperor.

    This reference to the capital city of Rome and Roman Emperors also illustrated the biblical concepts of prefiguration and postfiguration. A prefiguration foreshadows a future person, place, or event while a postfiguration analogizes a previous person, place, or event. And Revelation 14—18 on six occasions figuratively refers to "Babylon" as the capital city of governmental persecution that opposed Christians. This Babylon was the capital city of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which in 597 BC sacked Jerusalem and in 586 destroyed Jerusalem. However, Revelation 17:9–10 identified "Rome" as the capital city that opposed Christians. Likewise, Revelation conflated symbolic references of both Babylon and Rome to describe governmental persecution that opposed Christians. In this case, Babylon was a prefiguration of Rome while Rome was a postfiguration of Babylon. Some scholars alternatively use the terms type for prefiguration and antitype for postfiguration. And the study of biblical prefiguration and postfiguration (type and antitype) is called typology.

    Important principles for interpreting end-time prophecy include understanding the concepts of prefiguration, postfiguration, and prophecy with multiple fulfillments. Also, these concepts help both traditional futurism and conditional futurism incorporate many valid ideas from alternate end-time theologies such as preterism and idealism. As noted earlier, full preterism says that events in AD 70 completely fulfilled all prophecies in Revelation while idealism says that the prophecies in Revelation apply to all periods of time. And many of the ideas from these theologies work with futurism while considering prefiguration, postfiguration, and prophecy with multiple fulfillments.'

  6. Hello SLW

    Our son not that discerning, I fear. He still has not completely grasped the connection between handwashing and dinner time. Press your ear against our walls come 6 pm BST and you will hear the cry: "Have you REALLY washed your hands? Let me smell the soap, then ... I can't smell it! Go back to the bathroom -- NOW!"

    I owe the bible evidence conversation to Craig Keener. He occasionally does little interviews on radio and is an amazing outstanding NT and Classical History prof who explains, simply, why you can trust the Gospels. Someone else has said that mothers and fathers should not only teach their children that Christianity is true, but why we should believe it.

    I took the opportunity presented by our son's question on the Trojan War to have a go at Kiddie Apologetics. It's just about manageable if I connect it to history, since that's what he loves.

    Any advice you can offer (as a veteran homeschooling dad) on how to connect times tables to history would be much appreciated, since Arithmetic is an intellectual dead zone round here.


  7. JG,
    I think there are some difficulties in using the Whore as an example of multiple fulfillments. The symbol is designated by the text itself as having the layers of meaning you referenced. Is it really a multiple fulfillment, or is it a dual use of a symbol, each use having a single fulfillment: 1)seven hills the whore sits on, 2)seven kings (+1)?

    I suppose it could be precedent setting in that regard, but it would be difficult to accurately apply the method to any prophecy for which we don't have a scriptural instruction by which to do so (i.e., the Olivet Discourse). If multiple fulfillments are not stated in the text of the vision itself, or by Holy Spirit inspired authors in another text, I do not believe we could make that jump to multiple fulfillments ourselves.

    I do agree with the concepts of prefigurement, postfigurement and typology, however (even if I apply them somewhat differently than do you). That the events of 70 AD provide an antetype to the Olivet Discourse, I would not argue against.

  8. SLW,

    You're bringing up another point. Per Revelation 17:9–11, one of the meanings of the "seven heads" is "the Seven Hills," which is the seven hills of Rome. And yes, the whore also represents Rome. And I'm not the one making this up, but the whore sits on the seven hills. I don't completely understand this, but his verse includes imagery of Rome sitting on Rome. Again, I'm not claiming to understand this, but what else could "seven hills" mean?

    And I thank you because I see that I need to mention this possible "symbolic redundancy" or whatever else it could be called.

  9. JG,
    This ought to blow your mind, or then again, maybe not.


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