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Norman Geisler, "You," & "Zechariah the Son of Berechiah"

By Gary DeMar
President - American Vision
http://www.americanvision.org/

7/9/7

Gary DeMar Study Archive | Norman Geisler and "This Generation" | Norman Geisler, "You," & "Zechariah the Son of Berechiah" | Biblical Minimalism and the "History of Preterism" | Thomas Ice and the Time Texts | Will the Real Anti-Prophets Please Stand Up? | Time's Puff Piece: The Devil is in the Details | Dispensationalism : Being Left Behind | Zechariah 14 and the Coming of Christ | Defending the Indefensible | No Fear of the Text | The Passing Away of Heaven and Earth | Who or what is the Antichrist | Rapture Fever: Why Dispensationalism is Paralyzed | Identifying Antichrist | On Thin Ice | Using the Bible to Interpret the Bible | DeMar Articles

Since the publication of the first edition of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1907, dispensationalism has mostly dominated the field of Bible prophecy. There have been several critiques of dispensationalism over the years, Oswald T. Allis's Prophecy and the Church being the first comprehensive study (1946). Attacks on dispensationalism escalated after te rapture did not take place in 1988 as predicted by Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth (1970). Dispensationalism went through a mini-renaissance with the publication of the multi-volume Left Behind series, a fictional depiction of what the "Great Tribulation" might look like after the "rapture." Current unrest in the Middle East supplies a steady supply of prophecy books for eager readers.

While all of this has been going on, a numbeer of books have appeared assessing the interpretive methodology of dispensationalism. As a result, dispensationalists have struck back with critiques of the critiques. This shows that the anti-dispensational critiques have been effective. The latest attempt to save dispensationalism from its growing list of critics has come from Norman L. Geisler's review of Hank Hanegraaff's The Apocalypse Code. It's not my place to answer Geisler for Hank, but I would like to respnd to a number of issues raised by Geisler that I have raised and, if not refuted, are death blows to dispensationalism. The first is audience context, the use of "you" in Matthew 24. Here's how Geisler states the argument:

Another argument for the preterist1 view is that “you” in many texts must refer to the immediate first century audience (7). They cite Matthew 23:35 as proof: “On you may come all the blood shed on the earth . . . .” Ironically, that very verse proves the contrary since a “you” is used in it of the people who slew Zechariah in the Old Testament who was long dead. So, “you” can be used historically to refer to “your ancestors” just as it can be used proleptically of “your descendants.” For example, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you” (Mt. 5:11) in the Sermon on the Mount is not limited to Jesus’ immediate audience but also for future generations.2

Throughout the Olivet Discourse, Jesus continually uses the second person plural (“you”): (24:2, 4, 6, 9, 15, 20, 23, 25, 26, 32, 33, 34). When Jesus’ disciples ask Jesus about His coming, Matthew writes: “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you’” (24:4). There is no question that Jesus is addressing His present audience, the same disciples who “came up to point out the temple buildings to Him” (24:1) and those who asked Him “when will these things be?” (24:3). Geisler doesn’t say anything about how “you” is used in Matthew 24 and how the obvious reference to Jesus’ then present audience somehow shifts to a distant future audience. He’s not the only one to try this sleight of hand.
           
In Tim LaHaye’s Prophecy Study Bible, the editors admit that the use of “you” in Matthew 24:2, 4, and 6 refers to Jesus’ immediate audience, but then they see a change in audience reference at 24:9 where they maintain that “‘you’ must be taken generically as ‘you of the Jewish nation.’”
3 There is no indication that the use of “you” in Matthew 24:9 and following refers to any other audience than the one to whom Jesus is speaking. Jesus is not laying down universal principles of behavior in the Olivet Discourse; He is outlining when certain events are going to take place and to whom. In Matthew 5:11, Jesus is telling His first-century audience how to live in the midst of persecution (cf. 5:10). Read Matthew 21:23 through 24:33 and see if you can find the places where the second person plural shifts to a future audience. The burden of proof is on Geisler and his fellow dispensationalists to prove otherwise, and as we will see, Matthew 23:35 doesn’t change a thing.
           
So how do we deal with Geisler’s argument that the “you” in Matthew 23:35 is used “of the people who slew Zechariah in the Old Testament who was long dead” (2 Chronicles 24:20–21). First, I’m amazed that Geisler ignores dozens of examples of the second person plural in the prophetic context of the Olivet Discourse to focus on a single verse that has at least five possible interpretations with the one he chooses to be the most complicated to reconcile with a literal interpretation.
4 Second, while it’s common to link the Zechariah of Matthew 23:35 with the Zechariah of 2 Chronicles 24:20–21, I don’t believe it should be. The Zechariah of 2 Chronicles is identified as “the son of Jehoiada,” while the Zechariah of Matthew 23:35 is said to be the “son of Berechiah.” The only Zechariah that is said to be the “son of Berechiah” is Zechariah the prophet (Zech. 1:1), and there is no evidence from the Old Testament that he was “murdered between the temple and the altar” (Matt. 23:35). Bible scholars who take this approach assume that Jesus is making reference to the first person murdered (Abel) and the last person murdered (Zechariah) in the Bible. Third, if Jesus meant the Zechariah of 2 Chronicles 24, who was killed “in the court of the house of the LORD” (2 Chron. 24:21), then why didn’t He say “the son of Jehoiada” in order to avoid any confusion? He didn’t say it because he had a different Zechariah in mind.

In the New Testament, John the baptizer’s father’s name is Zacharias, but in Greek it’s spelled the same way as the Zechariah of Matthew 23:35. Could this be the Zechariah who Jesus said was murdered? Such a deed isn’t beyond the Scribes, Pharisees, and priests (Matt. 23:34). Consider how often they wanted to kill Jesus (John 11:53). Of course, we learn later that they did conspire to crucify Jesus (Mark 9:31; 14:1; John 5:18; 7:1). Killing a pesky priest who confirmed the work and ministry of Jesus fits with what we know about them.
5
Of course, it’s also possible, because Zechariah was such a common name, that it could have been another Zechariah in the New Testament era who was murdered by these religious leaders.

Geisler’s argument on the second person plural does not stand up to exegetical scrutiny. By not dealing with the above arguments, he shows that he is not a trustworthy critic of the preterist interpretation of prophecy.  



1A preterist is someone who believes that certain prophetic texts refer to events that have been fulfilled based on audience reference (“you”) and time indicators such as “this generation,” “near,” “shortly,” and “quickly.” Geisler’s analysis of these topics will be discussed in future articles.

2Norman L. Geisler, “A Review of Hank Hanegraaff’s The Apocalypse Code: http://preteristarchive.com/CriticalArticles/geisler-norman_07-01.html

3Tim LaHaye, ed., Prophecy Study Bible, note on Matthew 24:15.

4D.A. Carson, “Matthew,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 8:485.

5The second-century non-canonical work the Protoevangelium of James (chapters 23–24) records the murder of Zechariah the father of John the baptizer.

What do YOU think ?

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Date: 12 Jul 2007
Time: 12:44:42

Comments0:

We have a omnicient God who is perfect "All scripture ..2nd Tim.3:16 and if the preterists put so much weight on such words as you. time,generation, near, shortly, and quickly and debate on it seems to be such a waste of time and pray for true guidance from the Holy Spirit who is the true source of perfect wisdom


Date: 06 Jan 2011
Time: 16:48:29

Your Comments:

The real modern day tragedy of dispensationalism is that it is and has been used as justification for the militarism of the USA and Israel. A case in point is Joel Rosenberg, who has written fictional books about a Middle East seen through dispensationalist eyes and has now written a "non-fiction" account of his dispensationalist Middle East with reference to Iran and its alleged nuclear threat and support of terrorism. Here we have the "antidote" to any future bombing and invasion of Iran by western forces, just as dispensationalism is an antidote to effective Christian action against the excesses of modern corporate political and economic power.


Date: 07 Nov 2012
Time: 15:35:26

Your Comments:

Great and cogent response. It boggles my mind why and how such learned theologians and professors like Geisler fail to see such simple and clear statements of Jesus for what they say? Probably to defend their books on the market is all I can think of.
 


Date: 06 Jan 2011
Time: 16:48:29

Your Comments:

The real modern day tragedy of dispensationalism is that it is and has been used as justification for the militarism of the USA and Israel. A case in point is Joel Rosenberg, who has written fictional books about a Middle East seen through dispensationalist eyes and has now written a "non-fiction" account of his dispensationalist Middle East with reference to Iran and its alleged nuclear threat and support of terrorism. Here we have the "antidote" to any future bombing and invasion of Iran by western forces, just as dispensationalism is an antidote to effective Christian action against the excesses of modern corporate political and economic power.

 


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