Monday, March 3, 2008

The Amillennial Preterism of Clement of Alexandria [A.D. 162]

Clement of Alexandria was a second century Christian apologist. Even though his theology was greatly influenced by Greek philosophy, his work was valuable in addressing the growing Gnostic heresies of that time. He addresses the Daniel’s 70 week prophecy, the Olivet Discourse, and places the timing of John’s banishment under Emperor Nero.

Clement clearly places the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70 week prophecy in 70 AD.

“From the captivity at Babylon, which took place in the time of Jeremiah the prophet, was fulfilled what was spoken by Daniel the prophet as follows: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to seal sins, and to wipe out and make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal the vision and the prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies. Know therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the word commanding an answer to be given, and Jerusalem to be built, to Christ the Prince, are seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; and the street shall be again built, and the wall; and the times shall be expended. And after the sixty-two weeks the anointing shall be overthrown, and judgment shall not be in him; and he shall destroy the city and the sanctuary along with the coming Prince. And they shall be destroyed in a flood, and to the end of the war shall be cut off by: desolations. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the middle of the week the sacrifice and oblation shall be taken away; and in the holy place shall be the abomination of desolations, and until the consummation of time shall the consummation be assigned for desolation. And in the midst of the week shall he make the incense of sacrifice cease, and of the wing of destruction, even till the consummation, like the destruction of the oblation.” That the temple accordingly was built in seven weeks, is evident; for it is written in Esdras. And thus Christ became King of the Jews, reigning in Jerusalem in the fulfillment of the seven weeks. And in the sixty and two weeks the whole of Judaea was quiet, and without wars. And Christ our Lord, “the Holy of Holies,” having come and fulfilled the vision and the prophecy, was anointed in His flesh by the Holy Spirit of His Father. In those “sixty and two weeks,” as the prophet said, and “in the one week,” was He Lord. The half of the week Nero held sway, and in the holy city Jerusalem placed the abomination; and in the half of the week he was taken away, and Otho, and Galba, and Vitellius. And Vespasian rose to the supreme power, and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place. And that such are the facts of the case, is clear to him that is able to understand, as the prophet said.” - (Stromata – Book I Chapter 21, The Jewish Institutions and Laws of Far Higher Antiquity Than the Philosophy of the Greeks).

This clarified even more by his description of the Abomination of Desolation in Matthew 24:15.

“We have still to add to our chronology the following, - I mean the days which Daniel indicates from the desolation of Jerusalem, the seven years and seven months of the reign of Vespasian. For the two years are added to the seventeen months and eighteen days of Otho, and Galba, and Vitellius; and the result is three years and six months, which is “the half of the week,” as Daniel the prophet said. For he said that there were two thousand three hundred days from the time that the abomination of Nero stood in the holy city, till its destruction. For thus the declaration, which is subjoined, shows: “How long shall be the vision, the sacrifice taken away, the abomination of desolation, which is given, and the power and the holy place shall be trodden under foot? And he said to him, Till the evening and morning, two thousand three hundred days, and the holy place shall be taken away.” (Daniel 8:13-14). These two thousand three hundred days, then, make six years four months, during the half of which Nero held sway, and it was half a week; and for a half, Vespasian with Otho, Galba, and Vitellius reigned. And on this account Daniel says, “Blessed is he that cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.” (Daniel 12:12) For up to these days was war, and after them it ceased. And this number is demonstrated from a subsequent chapter, which is as follows: “And from the time of the change of continuation, and of the giving of the abomination of desolation, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.” (Daniel 12:11-12)” - (Stromata – Book I Chapter 21, The Jewish Institutions and Laws of Far Higher Antiquity Than the Philosophy of the Greeks).

Clearly, Clement sees the main prophecies of Daniel as having been fulfilled in the first century. He also ties the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15 to the same event. Regarding the fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse, Clement gives the following exposition.

“But our Master did not prophesy after this fashion; but, as I have already said, being a prophet by an inborn and every-flowing Spirit, and knowing all things at all times, He confidently set forth, plainly as I said before, sufferings, places, appointed times, manners, limits. Accordingly, therefore, prophesying concerning the temple, He said: "See ye these buildings? Verily I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another which shall not be taken away [Matt. 24:3]; and this generation shall not pass until the destruction begin [Matt. 24:34]. . . ." And in like manner He spoke in plain words the things that were straightway to happen, which we can now see with our eyes, in order that the accomplishment might be among those to whom the word was spoken.” (Clementine Homilia, 3:15. See Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, 8:241.)

Clement tells us that the events Jesus prophesied of were to happen within that generation, and that they could see the accomplishment of those things with their own eyes. While Clement doesn’t expound much on John’s Apocalypse, he does support the preterist view of both Daniel and the Olivet Discourse, all without mentioning a millennium.Clement was also the first church father to give a clue to the time frame in which John wrote the Book of Revelation.

“And to give you confidence, when you have thus truly repented, that there remains for you a trustworthy hope of salvation, hear a story that is no mere story, but a true account of John the apostle that has been handed down and preserved in memory. When after the death of the tyrant he removed from the island of’ Patmos to Ephesus, he used to journey by request to the neighboring districts of the Gentiles, in some places to appoint bishops, in others to regulate whole churches, in others to set among the clergy some one man, it may be, of those indicated by the Spirit.” (Clement - Quis Salvus Dives? - Section 42)

The “tyrant” is never identified by name. However, the universal fear and hatred of Nero makes him the most likely candidate. While many Roman emperors, including Domitian, were cruel tyrants, Nero was far and away the worst and most infamous. In the line of Roman tyrants, Domitian would have been mostly an afterthought, and would have likely been mentioned by name.

Clement did hold to a future advent of Christ, and like many throughout history, supposed that it would be within his own lifetime. Thus, while Dispensationalists like Thomas Ice use the “immanence” argument to support a “pre-trib” rapture, the only real conclusion that we can draw from this statement is that Clement was wrong. Clement’s eschatology is clearly not premillennial. He makes no mention of a millennium, holds that most, if not all, prophecies in Daniel and the gospels have been fulfilled. Therefore we must conclude that Clement’s eschatology is aligned with either amillennial or postmillennial preterism.


Patricia Burns said...

The Abomination of Desolation

The start of the three and a half year tribulation under the beasts of Revelation chapter 13 will occur once the abomination that makes desolate is SET UP, and then ENFORCED.

The abomination that makes desolate is a law that will be enacted which will cause as many as will not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

The law will be SET UP 1290 days prior to the sounding of the Seventh, and final, Trumpet. Thirty days AFTER the law is set up the law will be ENFORCED.

When the law is SET UP that will be the time that the 144,000 are to flee. The 144,000 are protected during the three and a half years of tribulation when Satan goes after the rest of the seed of the woman.

Patricia (ndbpsa ©) Bible Prophecy on the Web
Author of the self-study aid, The Book of Revelation Explained © 1982

Puritan Lad said...

Hay Patricia,

The Abomination of Desolation has already taken place. It was the armed invasion of Jereusalem by the Romans in 70 AD.


Jesus clearly tells us that this prophecy was to be fulfilled withing that generation (Matthew 24:34).

Anonymous said...

Re the reference to a pretrib rapture, your readers might be interested in learning that noted scholar Timothy C. F. Stunt has discovered that the Robert Norton MD who stated in his books that Margaret Macdonald was the first to teach a pretrib rapture later married her! Jon Edwards

Alan said...

Clement didn't say the entire Olivet discourse would be fulfilled in 70 AD. He said the destruction would begin.

and this generation shall not pass until the destruction begin[Matt. 24:34]. . . ." And in like manner He spoke in plain words the things that were straightway to happen, which we can now see with our eyes, in order that the accomplishment might be among those to whom the word was spoken.”

Puritan Lad said...

Thanks Alan.

Would you agree that Clement was referring to the destruction of the Jewish Temple? If so, do you believe that destruction to still be going on?