Friday, May 6, 2011

Did Josephus record the Second Coming of Jesus c. 70 AD?

Josephus, in his War (6:5:3) records an amazing sight, as the Roman army closed in around Jerusalem (circa 70 A.D). There is a good chance he was witness to this himself:

A few days after that feast, on the twenty-first day of the month Artemisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities.

Moreover at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, "Let us remove hence."

Fulfillment of Christ's Prophecies?

The significance of this description is clear to anyone who is familiar with Christian eschatology, for it corresponds exactly to how Christ described his parousia, his second coming. As for example, described in Matthew 24, in the passage known as the Olivet Discourse:

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" 4 Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. ....
30 "Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. ...
34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

This same idea is described in all three synoptics (Luke 21, Mark 12), as well as in numerous epistles, and of course, in the Book of Revelation.

One of the nice side-effects of seeing Jesus' prophecy as fulfilled in 70 A.D. is that it relieves him of the charge of false prophecy, as he clearly stated on numerous occasions that he would come in that generation, that people living at that time would see him come again from clouds.

I have never heard of this theory before, but I must admit, it makes a whole lot of sense. I think it helps that I was not raised with the futurist idea of the second coming. If you were raised with that idea, it is harder to put away, as it is part of your bedrock of faith. Perhaps because I was not raised with the idea, I am more open to the argument from scripture.

The basic argument follows:

Christ believed and taught that He would return to the same first century people He had ministered to, including some of the same people who were alive at the time of His first coming (Matthew 10: 23, 16: 27-28). He taught that He would return to the same generation He ministered to (Matthew 24: 34). We have seen that he had told Caiaphas that he would see the Christ sitting on the right hand of God and coming in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26: 64). That John the beloved disciple might still be alive at the return of Christ to the earth. (John 21: 22). These are incontrovertible passages that make absolute statements as to the timing of the parousia.

The reason many do not like these passages is that they have accepted and embraced a presuppositional view that demands that when Christ returns all of earthly history must come to a halt. It is because the framers of the major creeds of Christendom simply took the futuristic statements of the New Testament writers at face value without considering things like audience relevance, time statements, and the like, that we have ended up still waiting for a parousia. Which, if it did not occur when Christ said it would in the first century, frankly makes liars out of Christ and the writers of the New Testament. This is the importance of embracing the Biblical, Preterist view.

Once it has been established and accepted that Christ meant exactly what he said relative to His Second Coming, then all these supposedly "troubling" passages like the one we are now dealing with (1 Corinthians 15: 23-25), fall into place naturally and effortlessly.

from here

also, against the charge of engaging in a heresy:

We merely contend that every single reference to the Parousia in the New Testament was a reference to His coming back in AD 70, and that He did exactly what He promised to do—He came back and established the New Kingdom as the One and Only True Kingdom! The issue isn't whether we believe Christ will come back, the issue isn't in denying eschatological events in Scripture. The issue is only over the time and nature of those fulfillments.