Friday, December 28, 2007

The Preterism of James the Just [A.D. 62]

In the Holy Writ, The Apostle James, the brother of Jesus, writing to “To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (James 1:1), warns them of the imminent coming of the Lord.

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8)

James tells his first century readers to “be patient” (vs. 7-8), “do not grumble” (v. 9), etc. The reason given is that “the coming of the Lord is at hand”.

The twelve tribes mentioned here could not have been the Jews of the 70 AD “Diaspora”, since James was martyred in A.D 62. Likely, this was a reference to Jewish Christians who had to flee Jerusalem, is the church of the First Century.

In addition, we have this extra-biblical account of the Martyrdom of James, given by Eusebius, where he proclaims that the Son of Man “is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.”

“On account of these words some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the sects mentioned above did not believe either in a resurrection or in one's coming to give to every man according to his works. But as many as believed did so on account of James. Therefore when many even of the rulers believed, there was a commotion among the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees, who said that there was danger that the whole people would be looking for Jesus as the Christ. Coming therefore in a body to James they said, 'We entreat thee, restrain the people; for they are gone astray in regard to Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade all that have come to the feast of the Passover concerning Jesus; for we all have confidence in thee. For we bear thee witness, as do all the people, that thou art just, and dost not respect persons. Do thou therefore persuade the multitude not to be led astray concerning Jesus. For the whole people, and all of us also, have confidence in thee. Stand therefore upon the pinnacle of the temple, that from that high position thou mayest be clearly seen, and that thy words may be readily heard by all the people. For all the tribes, with the Gentiles also, are come together on account of the Passover.' The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees therefore placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple, and cried out to him and said: Thou just one, in whom we ought all to have: confidence, forasmuch as the people are led, astray after Jesus, the crucified one, declare to us, what is the gate of Jesus.' And he answered with a loud voice,' Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.'” (Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History - Chapter XXIII).

Certainly, no one among James’ listeners would have expected Christ’s coming “upon the clouds of heaven” to have been a distant future event. Any objective reader would have to conclude that James was a Preterist.


Marcus Harvey said...

I would agree that James (and the other apostles) did expect the Lord to return soon, in that very generation as He said many times that He would (e.g. Matt. 24:34; Mark 14:62). I believe that the Lord did return, in judgment on His former people, the Jews, who had rejected the Messiah, but it was not the Second Coming, as many (perhaps including James and the other apostles) may have expected. But 70 A.D. was a Day of the Lord, and He came in judgment, in the same sense that the Lord came to Egypt in Isaiah 19:1, riding on clouds, in judgment.

Puritan Lad said...

Right On Marcus. I have undertaken this task in order to examine the claim made by premillennialists that the early church was predominantly premillennial. So far, I have found as many preterists as premillenialists.

Covenanter said...

Please post your early church references to preterism.

While I am a preterist, everyone claims it was invented by a Jesuit.

Puritan Lad said...

Hi Covenanter,

Thanks for the comment. As we can see, there is evidence of Preterism in James the Just, as well as Clement of Rome , Mathetes, Clement of Alexandria, and possibly in the Didache. All of these have been examined on this blog.

However, it was Eusebius who was the first systematic preterist. I've been slow lately in writing on this blog do to other priorities, but I would like to complete the ante-Nicene fathers by next summer.



Tanith said...

Good for people to know.

Anonymous said...

Why did you note your astrological sign on your profile?

Puritan Lad said...

Don't know. Default setting I guess...