Hyperpreterism Introduction and Critique of Misuse of Romans 8

I have been studying this for some time now, as I see a real need for this issue to be addressed. Granted, when you are studying Aramaic inscriptions, and Akkadian contracts, the amount of time you have for study on a topic like this is limited. However, I have been thinking and praying about entering this discussion for some time, and I believe that God is calling me to spend, at least some of my time, dealing with this position known as “hyperpreterism.”

Actually, I say that tongue and cheek, because hyperpreterism is the cyber equivalent of multiple personality disorder. You will hear it sometimes called “Neo Hymenaenism,” “Full Preterism,” “Consistent Preterism,” and “Pantelism.”

Now, if that weren’t confusing enough, there is a blurring of the line between orthodoxy and hyperpreterism. Here is how this happens. There is an orthodox position of eschatology simply referred to as “preterism.” Preterism is simply the belief that  the major doomsday prophecies [such as Matthew 24, the great tribulation of the book of Revelation, etc.] were referring to the period leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. However, hyperpreterists will simply call themselves “preterists,” and the reader is lead to believe that they hold to orthodox preterism [i.e. traditional preterism], when, in point of fact, they are hyperpreterists.

There are at least three distinguishing characteristics of hyperpreterism, which I will lay out here:

1. There is no future, visible, bodily coming of Christ. All of passages which speak of Christ coming back in the Bible refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

2. The resurrection happened in A.D. 70 at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. Thus, there is no future resurrection.

3. Because there are still physical bodies of people in graves who died long before A.D. 70, hyperpreterists believe that there is no bodily resurrection.

4. The final judgment happened in A.D. 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem.

5. Thus, sin and death will continue forever on this earth.

There is a real danger here, first of all, because this teaching is denying something Christians have believed for 2000 years. Secondly, it is a danger because it is extremely platonic. Because they believe that Jesus will never return bodily, and that, after death, our souls will never be reunited with our bodies, it tends towards a kind of dualism which is the total opposite worldview of the entirity of the Judeo-Christian worldview. The physical and the spiritual are eternally kept separate, and thus, there is never a reuniting of the two.

Now, Christians do believe that, for the time being anyway, there is a separation of body and soul at death, and a separation of our bodies from the bodily presence of Christ. However, Christians believe that all of these things are unnatural, and that, one day, our souls will be reunited with our bodies, and we will be in Christ’s presence to enjoy him forever. While this world is infected by sin, it is unnaturally effected by sin, and, eventually, that sin will be removed.

There has been a recent attempt by a hyperpreterist by the name of Mike Sullivan to try to get around one of the clearest text in this viegn:

Romans 8:16-27   The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God [NASB].

The text seems to be perfectly clear, that the creation will be redeemed from the corruption due to our sin. However, Sullivan quotes comments and then quotes Sam Frost:

There simply is no 2000 + years-and-counting “not yet” resurrection taught in the NT. We affirm with Gentry and DeMar that the NT time texts “demand” a preterist interpretation and there can be no “double fulfilling” of the Olivet discourse or the book of Revelation post AD 70. However, the problem for these men arises when it becomes apparent that the NT authors clearly foretold an imminent first century “not yet” resurrection (Acts 17:31YLT, 24:15, 25YLT; Romans 8:18YLT/WEY). Commenting on the imminent resurrection of Acts 24:15 Sam Frost writes,

“There, the Greek ‘mellein esesthai’ is rendered “about to be”. The two verbs, respectively, are present infinitive active and future infinitive middle (deponent). We only find this particular construction in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles three times. The other two spots are Acts 11.28 and 27.10. The first is Agabus’ prediction about the coming famine. Certainly something “about to happen” (and did). The final verse is Paul, while on the boat, predicted that their voyage was “about to” end in disaster. Certainly something on the horizon.

This construction occurs three times in Acts only. Two times is clearly of events “about to happen” in terms of time. One passage, because it deals with the resurrection (24.15) is not. I have yet to hear any sound answer to what appears to me as arbitrary exegesis on the basis of assumptions. I have studied all occurences of “mello” in the LXX, the GNT, and the Apos. Fathers. It is a word that sharpens the vague future indicative. It adds to it the certainty of the event from the standpoint of the speaker (hence, it is often translated “certain”). The event in question is certain because it will most certainly happen within the near time of the speaker, without doubt. That is the way this word is used, and particularly this unique construction in Acts. Therefore, I can exegetically conclude that the “resurrection of the just and the unjust” laid for certain in the time of Paul as something that would take place within his own lifetime, and that he based that certainty upon the source that he based all of his assuredness: “the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scriptures” (Westminster Confession).”

What is funny about this whole discussion is that he quotes the passage I just mentioned. However, we can date the book of Romans with relative certainty. Dr. Daniel Wallace writes:

B. Date and Place of Origin

This epistle can be dated with relative certainty. It was written between 56 and 57 CE. Paul states in 15:26-28 that he has just completed the raising of funds for the poor believers in Jerusalem after visiting the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. This corresponds to Acts 20:1-2, identifying the time of composition as the year after Paul left Ephesus on his third missionary journey. Harrison states succinctly:

Fixed dates for the span of Paul’s labors are few, but one of them is the summer of A.D. 51, when Gallio arrived in Corinth to serve as proconsul of Achaia. After this the apostle stayed in the city “some time” (Acts 18:18). Possibly in the spring of 52 he went to Caesarea and Jerusalem, stopping at Antioch on the way back and probably spending the winter of 52 there. Presumably, his return to Ephesus was in the spring of 53, marking the beginning of a three-year ministry there (Acts 20:31). At the end of 56 he spent three months in Corinth (Acts 20:3), starting his final trip to Jerusalem in the spring of 57. When he wrote Romans the fund of the Jerusalem church seems to have been finally completed (Rom. 15:26ff.). This may indicate a date in early 57 rather than late 56 for the writing of the letter. (The fund was incomplete when Paul, on the way from Ephesus to Corinth, wrote 2 Cor. 8–9.)2

Paul was in Greece when he wrote the letter, most likely in Corinth. This is seen in two incidental comments: (1) Phoebe of neighboring Cenchrea was apparently the letter-bearer (16:1-2) and (2) Gaius, who is Paul’s host (16:23), was a prominent Christian leader at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:14).

Notice how, in interpreting all of these passages about what the Greek term me,llw means not once did Sam Frost stop to consider the audience background. Even if we grant that the resurrection happened in A.D. 70, this is still 13 or 14 years away from when Paul wrote this letter. Thirteen or fourteen years ago, I was just graduating from Junior High School. I am now about to get my master’s degree. Now, would it have been appropriate to say to me, when I was graduation from Junior High School, “You will soon be getting a masters degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Old Testament and Semitic Languages.” No, that would be utter nonsense. In fact, Sullivan quotes Acts 17:31 as an example, and Paul’s address in this chapter happened long before he wrote Romans!

Because of this [and other clear usages in contemporanious literature], all lexicons will argue that these are two distinct meanings. In Romans 8, the context is very clear:

8:17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,

a. if indeed we suffer with Him

b. so that we may also be glorified with Him.

a’. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared

b’. with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

The relationship between a and b is a purpose clause as can be seen by the usage of the common construction “hina+subjunctive.” The purpose of our suffering is so that we will reign with Christ. Thus, there is a clear connection drawn here between the sufferings of Christ, and our reigning with him. That connection is then parallel to a’ and b’. Thus, it is easy to see how we would be talking about certainty here, and not immediacy.

This is a common mistake of hyperpreterists. They will often isolate words from their contexts, and just take them in fragmented sentences, without understanding that there are many facits to semantics, including authorial background, and structure. All Sam Frost did is just look up every instance of me,llw, and was not thinking about the background, audience, and structure of the texts as he was reading them. The same is true of Mike Sullivan.

In fact, the reason why hyperpreterists think they are the only ones who are consistent is because they have a very undeveloped view of semantics. For instance, you will see how, in the article just mentioned, Sullivan sets up parallels to Matthew 24. However, he never mentions is that there is no destruction of Jerusalem mentioned in Romans 8. Nothing is destroyed, no nation falls, and obviously, therefore, while the olivet discourse does have the theme of suffering resulting in glorification [although, only mentioned in passing, and not nearly the focus of Romans 8], it is in the context of the fall of a nation, whereas Romans 8 is not. Not only that, the glory that is mentioned in Romans 8 is shared with believers, because we have shared in Christ’s sufferings. Where is this in Matthew 24? The only glory that is spoken of is in verse 30 [as Sullivan mentions], but it is not believers who are glorified, but it is the glorified Christ. Also, verse 30 is very clearly a reference to Daniel 7:13 which is talking about Christ coming into his kingdom, and that is why the tribes of the earth mourn. However, there is no mention of this judgment in Romans 8. Not only that, but the birth pangs of Matthew 24 are the birthpangs of “wars and rumors of wars,” whereas the birthpangs mentioned in Romans 8 are the birthpangs related to the freedom from corruption. Also, specifically in Romans 8, it is all creation that is suffering birth pangs. Where is this in Matthew 24?

Now, one might ask if we are meant to read all of these things into Romans 8. Hyperpreterists will answer “yes,” and it is here that they betray a grave linguistic fallacy. When you are proposing a parallel, you must show that there is a semantic relationship between the two texts. For example, one of the reasons why Matthew 24 and Isaiah 13 are related is because they are both talking about the fall of wicked nations. However, it would be a grave mistake to read into the text the idea that Israel is Babylon, and that the Godpel of Matthew was actually written during the fall of Babylon to the Persians, and we are really not talking about the temple of the Lord, but the temple of Ishtar, and that this is Jesus coming to destroy Babylon, because they have destroyed Israel.

Consider parallels to be like a ven diagram. A ven diagram is two circles that intersect. Let us make one circle Matthew 24, and another circle with Romans 8, and have them intersect. I have illustrated this in the attached graphic file. Where the meaning of Matthew 24 and Romans 8 intersect is the only place you can say there is parallel meaning between these two texts.

In fact, hyperpreterists are not the only ones who do this. This is very common amongst liberals who find all kinds of parallels to other extrabiblical literature. This is fallacy is what D.A. Carson and Samuel Sandmel call “verbal parallelomania.” Carson [pgs. 43-44] discusses the study of Robert Kysar who reviewed the studies of both C.H. Dodd and Rudolf Bultmann who both wrote on the topic of extrabiblical parallels to the prologue of the Gospel of John. He found that, even though they were writing on the same topic, and each produced around 300 parallels, there was only about a seven percent overlap suggesting that they had not at all exhausted the possible number of parallels! One scholar saw the backgrounds to be the Mandaean Literature, and the other to be the Hermetica literature [Carson, pgs 43-44]. Carson writes these very harsh words against these scholars:

Both of these backgrounds are dubious even on the grounds of the dating of the sources; yet both scholars proceed to ascribe to the words of John’s prologue the meanings of similar or identical words in fundamentally different corpora. Neither scholar exhibits much linguistic sensitivity to the need for contrastive paradigmatic equivalence or, more broadly, for equivalent contracts in the semantic fields of the texts being compared [Carson p.44].

Indeed, this is the same criticism that can be layed against most hyperpreterist attempts to find parallels to Matthew 24, and other A.D. 70 passages. The burden of proof is on the hyperpreterist to show semantic parallels between the “coming” of Christ in the passages that are clearly talking about A.D. 70, and the other texts that talk about the “coming” of Christ. Simply because they use the same word “coming” won’t do. You have to show that there is semantic overlap between the way in which these two texts use the word “coming.”

For example, I remember reading a couple of weeks ago in one of our textbooks about the usage of the converted perfect in Biblical Hebrew. There are two usages that are translated in exactly the same way, but have different meanings. Consider these excerpts from two paragraphs:

My friend asked me if I would be willing to go to the store. I said that I would go to the store if I had some money.

Let me tell you about something that happened to me when I was a boy. After school, I would go to the store if I had some money. This was a particularly special day, because I had just gotten my allowance.

Now, let me ask you, is it rational to assume that, because the “going to the store” in the second example is clearly intended to mean that he repeatedly went to the store, does that mean that the first example means that he would repeatedly go to the store? No, of course not. Here is another example:

We had our big Basketball game today, and we killed them. They had clearly not practiced all week, and looked very unprepared.

We waited for the enemy troops to get close, and when they did, we suprised them, and we killed them.

Notice how, again, the exact same words, but a different meaning. This should suffice to show that, just because you have the same, even combinations of words used, it does not mean the same thing. That is something you must demonstrate, even if there are parallels. In the previous example, there is a parallel in both groups that got “killed” in that they were unprepared for what happened to them. However, does that mean that the basketball team showed up with knives, and slaughtered the other team?

This is why verbal parallelomania is so linguistically fallacious. Yet, hyperpreterism is built upon this exegetical fallacy. As you will see, when we deal with this position more and more, the same kinds of linguistic mistakes will be made over and over again.

Works Cited:

Carson, D.A. Exegetical Fallacies Second Edition. Baker Academic. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2003.

Wallace, Daniel B. Romans: Introduction, Argument, and Outline. Bible.org. Dallas, Texas. Available at http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=1153 accessed 2/16/2009

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8 Responses to “Hyperpreterism Introduction and Critique of Misuse of Romans 8”

  1. Roderick Says:

    Hi there Adam, I just wanted to interact with your article a bit. As a FORMER hyperpreterist myself, I want to let you know you have zeroed in on some important points of the view/movement.

    You said:

    hyperpreterism is the cyber equivalent of multiple personality disorder. You will hear it sometimes called “Neo Hymenaenism,” “Full Preterism,” “Consistent Preterism,” and ”Pantelism.”

    Whether in the theological or political realm, when a view/movement is constantly renaming itself, you will usually find out that it is trying to hide or distance itself from the logical conclusions. Liberals no longer like to be called liberals — they want to use “progressives”. Mormons typically like to be called “Latter Day Saints” & so forth.

    Thanks for pointing out to your readers how hyperpreterism tries to pretend it is simply “preterism”. I noticed this happening more & more these days. I suspect the word will have to be abandoned altogether as a loss to the heretical, sort of like the word “gay” had to be abandoned to the homosexuals.

    In commenting about hyper-preterist treatment of the word “mellow” as if it means it must happen soon you said:

    This is a common mistake of hyperpreterists. They will often isolate words from their contexts, and just take them in fragmented sentences, without understanding that there are many facets to semantics, including authorial background, and structure.

    Good call, but even further hyperpreterist isolate entire biblical concepts such as the purpose of creation & flood accounts & then they inject a good dose of speculation. I think we call that “private interpretation”.

    I like how you contrast that Mt 24 & Rom 8 are different because Mt 24 clearly talks about the destruction of Jerusalem & the Temple whereas Rom 8 does not. And where you say texts must have a “semantic relationship” before we consider them speaking of the same thing.

    I liked your examples of “verbal parallelomania”. Keep this in mind too, some people think issues can be settled once a person learns the original languages — but it isn’t always the case — the original languages are merely a different battlefield & I’m glad guys like you are entering thereupon. Thanks for the article.

  2. Jason Stumpner Says:

    Like I posted before, if I were you, I’d just use one of the other words for hyperpeterist. And to the previous commenter, there are actually more Latter Day Saint churches than just the one commonly refered to as “Mormon”. There is also the Church of Jesus Christ, and the Community of Christ, as well as other smaller off shoots. The word Mormon is mostly used to refer specificly to the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS. Just like word “Quaker” is used to refer to the Society of Friends. And the word progressive,in America, is a description of any one whom is broadly leftwing. Mostly those who are left of center politicly. The word “liberal” can have differing meanings, depending upon whether or not you are refering to classical liberalism, or social liberalism. For instance, in European countries, liberal commonly refers to the former rather than the latter. But I feel that good social etiquette dictates that one should not address someone using a adjective that is disapproved of by the addressee.

  3. Covenant Creation Introduction and Refutation « Old Testament Studies Blog Says:

    […] By otrmin If you have not done so, I would recommend that you go back, and reread this post in order to get the background to this discussion. If you do not have a basic understanding of […]

  4. Dee Dee Warren Says:

    “But I feel that good social etiquette dictates that one should not address someone using a adjective that is disapproved of by the addressee.”

    Oh please. Mormons want to be called Christians. Do you cave there too?

    A used car is a used car. It isn’t “pre-owned.”

    Adultery is adultery. It isn’t an “affair.”

    Homesexuality is homosexuality. It isn’t “gay.”

    And abortion is murder. It isn’t choice.

    I could care less who might get their feathers ruffled. Hyperpreterism is specifically that. I don’t particularly care when heretics don’t like their heresy nailed.

  5. The Preterist Blog ~ 100% Hyperpreterist Free » Blog Archive » Parallelomania Says:

    […] on his coinage of “parallelomania” to describe hyperpreterist “exegesis.” (Here is another entry on that blog you will want to read as […]

  6. Amir Larijani Says:

    Don’t call them “hyperpreterists”; they are just plain heretics.

    Denying the literal Second Coming is like denying the literal Resurrection of Jesus. If the latter didn’t happen, they we are fools. Ditto for the former.

    And for those heretics who insist that “hyperpreterism” just implies that it already happened, if that is true, then God must be dead, as He obviously is not sufficient to judge with any semblance of justice.

    In such a case, we’d all be wasting our time.

  7. The Preterist Blog ~ 100% Hyperpreterist Free » Blog Archive » What’s New at The Preterist Site? Says:

    […] Creation Introduction and Refutationand Hyperpreterism Introduction and Critique of Misuse of Romans 8 by Old Testament Studies Blog […]

  8. A Hyperpreterist Replies…Sort Of « Old Testament Studies Blog Says:

    […] Replies…Sort Of By otrmin Mike Sullivan, the hyperpreterist against whom I wrote the Romans 8 article has replied to me…sort of. There is really only a few things of substance. However, I […]

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