Saturday, December 31, 2016

Is James' Soteriology contra Paul's?

James and Paul are often pitted against one another in liberal scholarship. Paul says that one is justified by faith apart from works and James says that one is justified by a faith with works. All of the grammatical nuances are very important, but there are a few important points to understand when analyzing whether the common claim is accurate.

First, both Paul and James argue that a faith without works is not a saving faith. When Paul argues that one is justified by faith choris "apart from," "distinguished from" works, he is also careful to argue that such a faith produces a freedom from sin and a bondage to righteousness, so much so that those who live by faith are the same who walk by the Spirit and produce good works. In fact, Paul calls this faith working through love. This is in contrast to circumcision being the sign that one is saved and will receive the promises of Abraham. Nowhere in Paul do we see the idea that one is saved by a faith that does not produce good works.

Pauline theology itself is concerned about God fulfilling his predetermined plan of making his people holy (see Ephesians), which includes both the work of God by grace through faith placing us in Christ, and a result of our being unified and becoming holy in our daily conduct as imitators of God.

Hence, when James uses terminology from Paul to counter the idea that one can have a faith that does not produce good works, he is likely quoting the antinomians who have twisted Paul's view of justification by faith alone into being justified by a faith that is alone.

But on the question as to whether one must have a faith that produces works, and that alone is saving faith, both James and Paul agree. The Pauline teaching in the pastorals even clarify the kind of grace that is saving.

 For the grace of God that saves all sorts of men has appeared, training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlledupright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing  of our great God and SaviorJesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good. (Titus 2:11-14)

The Pauline teaching is not opposed to the teaching in James, but many antinomians who were misreading Paul are the likely targets of James' critique (see 2 Pet 3:15-17, as well as Paul's own anticipation that he would be misread in this way in Rom 6:1-4). 

Second to this, it must be said that Paul is not arguing against the idea that saving faith is a faith that displays works. He is arguing against the idea that one must become Jewish in order to receive the promises of Abraham. Hence, the issue is whether Gentiles should become Jewish via circumcision. Paul's answer to this is an absolute negative. But we are also told in Acts that James agrees with Paul on that point as well (Acts 15:1-29). 

So we are told that Paul, Peter, and James all agree on the subject that Paul is actually teaching in Romans and Galatians. 

And, in fact, James isn't talking about circumcision and whether one must become Jewish in order to be saved in his work. There seems to be some assumption that he is addressing the same thing that Paul is addressing when, in fact, he is addressing the antinomian twisters of Paul's theology who are now quoting Paul as though he was teaching that one is saved by a faith without works, rather than one being justified by a faith in distinction from the works that it produces.

Third, there is confusion over the word dikaiō "to be made righteous." In Paul, the term is often in the context of Christ making one righteous via his union with Him by faith. But James is concerned in his context about Christians actually doing what is right and being made right in terms of their daily living. One is a being made right via Christ's historic work and the other via Christ's practical work. This changes the way each of these men speak of "justification." We anachronistically use the word across the board to refer to one's being made right before God vicariously through Jesus Christ, but the term is used in a variety of ways and nuanced by various contexts. James sees faith and works making one righteous, making one like Christ, saving/sanctifying him in the day to day. Paul is talking about one's being positionally made right before God. These are not the same thing.

Four, let's say that this confusion is not just with the reader, but that Paul and James actually misunderstood one another. Let's say that James thought Paul was teaching what the antinomians who took him out of context were teaching. Let's say Paul actually meant to accuse James, and not just certain men from James, that were arguing that the Gentiles must be circumcised (a strange perspective though if Luke's account of the Jerusalem Council is to be taken seriously). As mere men, it is very possible that they could have. I don't think so, but let's just grant the argument for a moment. 

Does this somehow negate the orthodox understanding of inspiration and inerrancy? Hardly. The human reasons why a biblical text is written makes little difference to the end product. James' work is good teaching. Paul's works are good teaching. They each emphasize different things, provide clarification for one another, etc. The divine purpose in using human misunderstanding or even just a feeling that one needs to clarify what is said, even the idea that one may need to contradict it, simply provides the motivation for writing a work. In the end, as I've argued above, James doesn't contradict Paul, nor Paul James. In fact, they both say the same thing with different points of emphasis.

Indeed, this fabricated conflict between the works, regardless of what the men thought, is perpetuated by the fact that Western culture tends to read Paul more like the antinomians and James more like the Judaizers. In fact, neither one of them fit into either one of those camps. In fact, James argues in his work that one ought to show mercy since the law demands absolute perfection and no one accomplishes it, thus becoming guilty of the whole law. Hence, if we are to be judged by the law of freedom (2:12), we should seek to be merciful as those who will seek mercy on the day of judgment. In other words, we are saved by mercy, not by the works of the law. Sounds very Pauline to me. 

In any case, I think that it is reasonable to see that both the fragmentation of liberal scholarship's reading of the Scripture and an honest misreading of the issues each text is addressing has led to what has now become an unquestioned assumption in mainline scholarship these days. I just think good linguistics and a close reading of the texts in their respective literary contexts will evidence what each is actually arguing and prevent us from making up contradictions in the text that don't actually exist.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Disease of Narcissistic Readings of Scripture in Liberal Scholarship and Literary Context as Its Remedy

My experience with Christianity throughout my life has been one of diversity. I was born a Roman Catholic, went to an Episcopal church with my dad when my parents split and an Assemblies of God with my mom. Later we went to an EFCA in my teen years, and then into various baptist and non-denominational churches in my late teens and early twenties. While at Moody, I attended a liberal church, as well as visiting other churches in various denominations. I even visited a Greek Orthodox church from time to time. I landed in Reformed churches due to my epistemological view of bibliology and ecclesiology.

My ministry focus early on was also on divergent theological views, specifically in the cults. Much of my Christianity was formed in an atmosphere where I was continually challenged to evaluate someone's reading of a text by making sure the verse or passage was being used according to the context. In many ways, my diverse upbringing prepared me to be critical of proof-texting simply because everyone could not possibly be right in their contradictory uses of the same text. 

When I later entered the world of scholarship, I realized that most scholars, particularly those most influenced by what were considered more liberal theories of interpretation, do the exact same thing that laymen do when studying the Bible. They proof-text and ignore the context.

Indeed, their so-called exegetical methodologies are filled with linguistic fallacies that are instead eisegetical to the hilt. It may be old news to us now, but James Barr's monumental critique of diachronic methodologies really should not have been necessary; but the abuses of ignoring context had become so entrenched in modern scholarship, there are those who still argue against it today. 

But why is this? Shouldn't scholars understand the Bible more than laymen and cultists? 

I think the primary reason why liberal scholars ignore context so much is because they are not actually taught how to exegete a literary text. They are, instead, taught how to fragment the text. They are taught source criticism, redaction criticism (which would be fine if they used compositional criticism as well, but they often don't), feminist hermeneutics and post-colonial hermeneutics (both of which tend to be anachronistically eisegetical and impose postmodern paradigms onto the Bible), background texts for the purposes of creating contexts that many times end up being contradictory to the literary context of the text itself, and to see contradiction and read controversies into the text that, frankly, may not be there once a good literary reading is given to each book. In short, they are taught to see the Bible as a fragmented text. 

To be sure, one's view of the Bible will dictate whether he or she thinks, even accepting all of these sorts of critical views, that the Bible should be put back together once deconstructed in such a way. 

But my simple point is that this is not exegesis. Many evidence the very diachronic methodology critiqued by Barr so long ago. The problem with Barr's critique is that it was too focused on word studies. What Barr should have really published was a critique of all of these critical methodologies as being linguistically fallacious if one is attempting to determine meaning of a particular text in its current context, rather than put together a speculative history of a text. Indeed, it is not that the word studies of scholarship were fallaciously diachronic in nature, but that all of liberal scholarship treats entire texts this way.

So liberal scholars are taught to impose contexts on the Bible, many speculative and even anachronistic at the cost of the actual literary context and reading a book as a unit, simply because when a context is not observed, it is replaced with another. 

This explains why they often use Scripture in the same way that laymen, also ignorant of context, do. 

Many Bible scholars are not taught logic either. This is why they often clash with theologians who are (as well as the fact that many theologians are often not taught the findings of biblical scholarship very well). That is an important point, since logic courses don't make the list of their required courses, and logic is at the foundation of language study. They are bump into logical arguments, but they do not necessarily have any requirements to take courses on epistemology or philosophy of religion, or even basic cognitive thinking skills. They will often either learn these elsewhere, perhaps in their liberal arts degree or as an elective (which is what I had to do), or not at all. But linguistics is a branch of logic. It is the logic of communication, and it is vital in studying texts written in a language, which is what the Scripture, at its base, is.

In the liberal's view, of course, the Scripture is just a bunch of fragments. His methodologies of inquiry, rooted in ultimate beliefs (the claim that he has come to such an idea of the Bible via biblical study is just naive to say the least), have led him to view the Bible this way. So it is merely an anthology, a very broken one, of diverse opinions, redacted time and again by various people.

I am reminded of this when I read teachers New Testament like James McGrath, who recently attempted to condemn Christians for not following Jesus' teaching concerning "turning the other cheek."

As my readers know, I've clashed with McGrath a few times in attempting to show that he does not understand the vital function of ultimate beliefs in one's methodologies of inquiry (also see this, this and this), nor how, or even why, one ought to read a biblical text "literarily," and this is likely due to his limited education. 

But the dogmatism, and even narcissism, of the idea that those who disagree with him concerning the teaching of Jesus on the matter is a fascinating example of what happens when one is immersed in a particular tradition, and that tradition, rather than the literary context, provides the context for the passage. McGrath is just as much filled with certainty on what he thinks Jesus is saying as any dogmatic fundamentalist who thinks he's just reading what Jesus said without interpreting it (i.e., without placing it in a context). But this is a blog post for another day, so I digress.

This has happened before when we discussed the parable of the Good Samaritan, where McGrath simply could not see that he was moving the characters of the story around, but even more ignoring the context of Luke's overall literary argument, to fit his traditional reading. And why should he see it? He's not trained to do so. He's trained to read it as a separate unit, isolated from a larger context that would inform it, since that larger context is simply filled with contradictory fragments and traditions. 

In other words, like the Jesus saying in the Sermon on the Mount, it has no context. So why not just read the text, as many laymen do, within a particular tradition? As humans, we actually don't read things without context. So if we hear something, like a proverb, in attempting to understand it, we supply one. And if we do not supply the actual literary context in which it is given (or context in which something is said for that matter), we end up creating a context from our traditions, speculative background studies, etc. 

Fundamentalists do this all of the time as well, and it is why I often say that liberalism is really just a form of fundamentalism. A fundamentalist, however, won't use speculative critical methodologies to do this, but his traditions and even other Bible passages. The latter, as the former, are merely brought in to replace the literary context, and the end result is a text that has been transformed to mean something very different than it would have meant within its literary context. 

So let's take McGrath's use of this phrase, "turn the other cheek," as an example. What does the phrase mean? To McGrath and most in the liberal world that has taken it to mean that Jesus is calling for non-violence in every sphere means that one should never retaliate. Some of the immediate context, not the larger literary context of Matthew, is brought in to show that this is in the sphere of one's enemies who "persecute" you. They are called evil and wicked, and of course, this could not be referring to fellow Christians who Jesus thinks are all good and perfect little angels (wink, wink). Hence, to follow Jesus' teaching is to advocate for non-violence against anyone, even enemies (foreign and domestic), period. 

If Christians advocate something else, they are not following Jesus' teaching, and if they attempt to interpret the text within the context of the book, or even in light of Jesus' other teachings, they aren't being faithful and honest like McGrath and other liberals (this is where the narcissism comes in). 

Now, if Christians hold to their traditional interpretation, and it looks like McGrath's, then he actually has a point. Christians ARE being inconsistent. They are inconsistent with they defend their homes and even do anything of a social justice nature as well btw, since social justice action often wants government, backed by the coercion of violence, to enforce just laws (so McGrath and many liberals would also be inconsistent).

When McGrath is called on his arbitrary picking and choosing of what he considers the true teachings of Jesus, or what he considers good in the actual teachings of Jesus, he simply retreats to his personal views (that's the epistemic problem liberals have and we've discussed this time and again on this blog, so I won't rehash it again right now). But it is an interesting display of our current climate where one can be so dogmatic in his condemnation of others and then retreat into the idea of uncertainty when questioned how he knows something so certainly to be dogmatic. Hence, regardless of McGrath's retreat to some ironic dictum about uncertainty, his condemnation that Christians are not following the teachings of Jesus here are pretty certain. 

Here is why I don't think they should be, and why I don't think his interpretation of this passage has much to do with actual exegesis, and is rather a good example of eisegesis.

Matthew is not arguing about anything having to do with unbelievers. The argument in Matthew, if taken as a literary whole, is presenting the idea that since Jesus is the true Israel, everyone in Jesus is a part of Israel and will receive its promises (everyone outside, including ethnic Jews, will receive the curses of those outside of Abraham, David, and the Diaspora--which is why Matthew's genealogy centers on these three points). Hence, everyone who is a disciple of Jesus is a fellow Israelite who represents the Lord Jesus. This includes fellow Jews who are at odds with one another, women, little children, and most importantly in Matthew's argument, Gentiles who have received the baptism and teachings of Jesus, and are under his lordship. Hence, all evil toward those in Christ are to cease, all manner of reconciliation toward fellow disciples is to be pursued in forgiveness and even church discipline, all good is to be done to "the least of these brothers of Mine," not causing any one "these little ones who believe in Me" to stumble. 

If one does not forgive a "fellow servant," if one does not pursue reconciliation, or beats his "fellow slave," practices "lawlessness" toward one who is in Jesus, he does not have the fruit of repentance and evidences that Christ is not His Lord. He is thus thrown out with the unbelievers.

The unbelievers will be violently destroyed by Christ, cut to pieces, thrown into the Gehenna of fire, etc. Not quite the non-violent view of Jesus painted by traditional contexts seeking to replace the literary one, is it?

So Matthew's argument has nothing to do with how one treats unbelievers. It has nothing to do with governments or the issue of self defense. It has nothing to do with pacifism. Jesus is going to violently destroy all of His enemies. That doesn't sound very pacifist to me.

Instead, since Matthew is concerned with reconciling everyone in Christ, particularly Jews who see the Gentiles as their enemies and oppressors, i.e., those who have done evil to them, his argument is that Jesus' teaching demands that all believers, whether at odds with one another for various reasons, are to forgive one another, love one another, and do good, pray, and bless one another. 

In other words, the literary context indicates that Matthew is not taking a break from his entire argument that has to do with how one treats fellow believers in order to say a little isolated blurb about treating unbelievers well, especially when Jesus doesn't treat them well. Jesus actually curses unbelievers, and violently so, in throughout the book.

Is He a hypocrite? Maybe in McGrath's theology, but maybe that conclusion would be due to poor exegesis, rather than an actual hypocrisy (and no, Jesus is not allowed to be hypocritical because He is God, since He just argued that God does this with wicked men--although taking the analogy that God causes the rain to fall on the just and unjust as absolute in isolation from Matthew's argument is part of the problem of the traditional reading). 

My simple point is that the entirety of Matthew's argument is concerned about how believers treat other believers due to internal conflicts within the religious community, and the greatest conflict was the Jewish-Gentile conflict we see reflected time and again in the New Testament (Acts, Romans, Galatians, etc.). 

So the great irony is that McGrath isn't actually following Jesus' teaching here via non-violence, as it has virtually nothing to do with how a government defends itself or retaliates or whether Christians would back a particular government for doing so. They may or may not for various reasons but it has little to do with Jesus' teaching here.

On a final note, the persecution involved in Matthew is said to be slander, not people killing you, as unbelieving oppressors would be doing. Persecution is seen as one "saying all sorts of false things about you." In other words, turning the other cheek from persecution is not elevating a conflict with other believers by returning insult/slander for insult/slander. Slapping one's cheek is not a term that refers to some violent physical attack, but someone cursing or saying something bad about you. That's why one is told not to "curse," as that would be the natural response. Jesus does not say, don't physically attack the person back, as he isn't talking about someone physically attacking his disciples at all. Instead, they are to bless when receiving curses from other Christians who don't like them, are angry at them, etc. They are to leave their worship aside until they have settled things with their fellow Christians. 

The great irony is that I know plenty of people who would make the argument McGrath does and yet willfully continue to be at odds with other Christians, simply because they don't actually know how to read this text in its literary context. 

As I have said before, if the entire story is about the relationship of two ducks, then a passage isn't suddenly talking about one's relationship with an aardvark out of nowhere. Yet, that absurdity is precisely to what a fragmented, proof-texting, interpretive methodology brings us.

What McGrath has done is to create a false dilemma by dogmatically asserting his alternative, traditional reading to the literary one. But in doing so, he really isn't condemning conservatives who support Netanyahu for not following Jesus. McGrath is merely condemning them for not following his own teaching and tradition. As I've said before, when one does not have a reliable divine revelation as an accurate measuring stick, he merely uses himself as one, which is why liberalism seems to produce nothing but narcissism. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Christo-Telic and Christo-Centric Hermeneutics

If you've every seen the movie Ever After, there is a dialogue that ensues as follows:

Henry[as Danielle hurries away] Have we met before?
Danielle: I-I do not believe so, Your Highness.
Henry: I could have sworn I knew every courtier in the province.
Danielle: Well... I am visiting a cousin.
Henry: Who?
Danielle: My cousin.
Henry: Yes, you said that. Which one?
Danielle: Th-the only one I have, sire.
Henry: Are you coy on purpose or do you honestly refuse to tell me your name?
Danielle[stops quickly] No. [quickly heads towards the gate] And yes.

All of this is meant to speak about a person without revealing who the person is. Many words are used, and some information is given, but the dialogue ignores details. 

Such are common uses of the Christocentric and Christotelic interpretations. Details tend to be left out by some in both camps.

Now, these terms are thrown around quite a bit, and frankly, there are probably as many definitions as there are biblical interpreters; but I will attempt to define them in a way that I think best describes what I commonly see out there.

First, let me say that there is a type of Christo-telic interpretation that seeks to end all things in Christ. What I mean by that is that it views the Bible as largely either produced from the socio-religious concerns of the people groups that wrote the Bible or as a divine accommodation to those groups. Either way, as I'll soon note, I reject these ideas, and think, in the end, they are actually conveying the telos of modern/postmodern theological and moral sensibilities, as even Christ is pulled through that grid by most of these people.

Second, let me say that, although I see the Christo-centric hermeneutic as an admirable attempt to honor Christ and see Him as the center of the whole Bible, I think that there is a tendency in this hermeneutic to ignore the literary contexts in which these individual passages exist in favor of a simplistic reading of the text. I would agree with the Christo-centric hermeneutic in many places, as long as typological application was being made to an already thoroughly exegeted text that noted all of its original contextual referents, but to go to the typology without doing the hard exegetical work first, ironically, in my mind, ends up missing Christ in the text.

And it's this last comment that I wish to use to say why I would push for a Christo-telic hermeneutic that sees all things as speaking about Christ, revealing who He is, what He has done with His people in the past, what He desires of His people, etc.

In other words, instead of the Christo-telic idea that all things stated in Scripture are theological or moral accommodations to culturally bound people groups, or that they are merely the theological and ethical musings of these people, that must be vetted through Jesus, a Jesus Himself vetted through modern and postmodern/ultramodern inclinations, I would say that these passages are all a part of Jesus. They make up who He is because they tell us who God is, what His people in the past looked like, what God would do because we see what God did do. They tell us about His character and work in a way that merely going straight to typology or allegory do not do.

It is easy to disregard the Canaanite conquest as something that displays Joshua/Jesus as the destroyer of chaos and sin in the world through the cross, something true enough, but it also tells us that Jesus is the judge who really will destroy people in judgment because, in fact, He's done it before. It's a part of His character to do so.

Christ is truly God's Son He called out of Egypt, but to understand the contextual argument that Matthew is making with that typological allusion involves understanding the original exodus of God's people out of Egypt and His work to save them. Christ, then, becomes the Son who fulfills the role of Israel where it failed. He goes into the wilderness to be tempted as Israel, but, again, where Israel failed, He is victorious. Understanding the original tragedy of the story in its own literary context illuminates the typology used.

This is not only true of historical ideas, but of theological and ethical arguments made through contextually responsible literary readings of the books. If we understand Genesis in its context, we understand that the world is in the midst of creation, and that through that which is chaotic and evil, God will bring about what is ordered and good. The cross becomes central in the fulfillment of this theology, as the filling up of the earth with God's covenant images, what was originally purposed for creation, would have come to nothing had Christ not provided the means to complete this purpose, thus validating the theology of the book.

Understanding the literary argument of Exodus and Deuteronomy helps us understand what considers as worship and gives us the means of worship, i.e., through what is commanded. We then understand what John is saying more when He calls Jesus the Word, the truth, the bread of life, who alone has words of eternal life, that God must be worshiped through spirit and truth, and that if one claims to love Christ he must keep His commandments. Christ affirms that He is the fulfillment of not just the prophecies and historic redemptive themes of the OT, but of the theology and ethics of the OT.

This hermeneutic allows both for a contextual interpretation of the OT and a contextual interpretation of the NT. It allows for each book to make its own unique contribution to the Christian worldview and our view of Christ without having to ignore what the books were saying in their original contexts. It is also what I think the NT authors are doing with the OT. We see typology and development, but also the development of theological and ethical teachings of the OT books as having their fulfillment in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

One can see, therefore, that both a Christocentric view that ignores the original context and the Christotelic view that allows for the occasional rejection of the teaching of those contexts are equally distorted views of Christ and His work because they either ignore or reject those elements of His character and work that those contextual readings supply.

In this regard, it is very possible that both of these hermeneutics will end in a somewhat to very distorted view of who Jesus is, what He did, what He will do, and what He wishes of His people because it, in one way or another, dissects Him from the larger texts that are actually meant to teach us about Him.

This is what happens when we leave the details out. We can often get a different Christ; and I have to wonder if these hermeneutics subconsciously exist so that we can fill in the details with a Christ we find more in line with our desired versions of Him. When we allow all of the passages to speak in their respective contexts, we allow all of them to tell us about Christ, His work, His people, His will, etc., and they fill in the details for us, details that may push our own details out of the picture, and indeed, change the picture for us.

At best, our pictures are simply missing some minor elements. At worst, those missing elements distort the picture so that it becomes something else entirely.

Indeed, it may be that a confusion in hermeneutics has led to a confusion as to who God, Christ, His work, and His people are, leading to a diversity of religions under the name "Christianity," claiming to follow the Jesus of the Bible. But if we allow the texts to speak for themselves, we allow them to teach us the real Jesus of the Bible and provide for us a critical guide that runs against the tendency of our own, mental idol factories to produce false "Jesuses."

Monday, November 14, 2016

Against the Looting and Violent Rioters

Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants
Martin Luther, May 1525

In the former book I did not venture to judge the peasants, since they had offered to be set right and to be instructed, and Christ's command, in Matthew VII, says that we are not to judge. But before I look around they go on, and, forgetting their offer, they betake themselves to violence, and rob and rage and act like mad dogs. By this it is easy to see what they had in their false minds, and that the pretences which they made in their twelve articles, under the name of the Gospel, were nothing but lies. It is the devil's work that they are at, and in particular it is the work of the archdevil who rules at Mühlhausen, and does nothing else than stir up robbery, murder and bloodshed; as Christ says of him in John VIII, ‘He was a murderer from the beginning.’ Since, then, these peasants and wretched folk have let themselves be led astray, and do otherwise than they have promised, I too must write of them otherwise than I have written, and begin by setting their sin before them, as God commands Isaiah and Ezekiel, on the chance that some of them may learn to know themselves. Then I must instruct the rulers how they are to conduct themselves in these circumstances.

The peasants have taken on themselves the burden of three terrible sins against God and man, by which they have abundantly merited death in body and soul. In the first place they have sworn to be true and faithful, submissive and obedient, to their rulers, as Christ commands, when he says, ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's,’ and in Romans XIII, ‘Let everyone be subject unto the higher powers.’ Because they are breaking this obedience, and are setting themselves against the higher powers, willfully and with violence, they have forfeited body and soul, as faithless, perjured, lying, disobedient knaves and scoundrels are wont to do. St. Paul passed this judgement on them in Romans XIII when he said, that they who resist the power will bring a judgement upon themselves. This saying will smite the peasants sooner or later, for it is God's will that faith be kept and duty done.

In the second place, they are starting a rebellion, and violently robbing and plundering monasteries and castles which are not theirs, by which they have a second time deserved death in body and soul, if only as highwaymen and murderers. Besides, any man against whom it can be proved that he is a maker of sedition is outside the law of God and Empire, so that the first who can slay him is doing right and well. For if a man is an open rebel every man is his judge and executioner, just as when a fire starts, the first to put it out is the best man. For rebellion is not simple murder, but is like a great fire, which attacks and lays waste a whole land. Thus rebellion brings with it a land full of murder and bloodshed, makes widows and orphans, and turns everything upside down, like the greatest disaster. Therefore let everyone who can, smite, slay and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog; if you do not strike him, he will strike you, and a whole land with you.

In the third place, they cloak this terrible and horrible sin with the Gospel, call themselves ‘Christian brethren’, receive oaths and homage, and compel people to hold with them to these abominations. Thus they become the greatest of all blasphemers of God and slanderers of his holy Name, serving the devil, under the outward appearance of the Gospel, thus earning death in body and soul ten times over. I have never heard of a more hideous sin. I suspect that the devil feels the Last Day coming and therefore undertakes' such an unheard-of-act, as though saying to himself, ‘This is the last, therefore it shall be the worst; I will stir up the dregs and knock out the bottom.’ God will guard us against him! See what a mighty prince the devil is, how he has the world in his hands and can throw everything into confusion, when he can so quickly catch so many thousands of peasants, deceive them, blind them, harden them and throw them into revolt, and do with them whatever his raging fury undertakes.

It does not help the peasants, when they pretend that, according to Genesis i and ii, all things were created free and common, and that all of us alike have been baptized. For under the New Testament Moses does not count; for there stands our Master, Christ, and subjects us, with our bodies and our property, to the emperor and the law of this world, when he says, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.’ Paul, too, says, in Romans XII, to all baptized Christians, ‘Let every man be subject to the power’, and Peter says, ‘Be subject to every ordinance of man.’ By this doctrine of Christ we are bound to live, as the Father commands from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son; hear him.’ For baptism does not make men free in body and property, but in soul; and the Gospel does not make goods common, except in the case of those who do of their own free will what the apostles and disciples did in Acts IV. They did not demand, as do our insane peasants in their raging, that the goods of others - of a Pilate and a Herod - should be common, but only their own goods. Our peasants, however, would have other men's goods common, and keep their own goods for themselves. Fine Christians these! I think there is not a devil left in hell; they have all gone into the peasants. Their raving has gone beyond all measure.

Since the peasants, then, have brought both God and man down upon them and are already so many times guilty of death in body and soul, since they submit to no court and wait for no verdict, but only rage on, I must instruct the worldly governors how they are to act in the matter with a clear conscience.

First. I will not oppose a ruler who, even though be does not tolerate the Gospel, will smite and punish these peasants without offering to submit the case to judgement. For he is within his rights, since the peasants are not contending any longer for the Gospel, but have become faithless, perjured, disobedient, rebellious murderers, robbers and blasphemers, whom even heathen rulers have the right and power to punish; nay, it is their duty to punish them, for it is just for this purpose that they bear the sword, and are ‘the ministers of God upon him that doeth evil’.

But if the ruler is a Christian and tolerates the Gospel, so that the peasants have no appearance of a case against him, he should proceed with fear. First he must take the matter to God, confessing that we have deserved these things, and remembering that God may, perhaps, have thus aroused the devil as a punishment upon all Germany. Then he should humbly pray for help against the devil, for ‘we are battling not only against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in the air’, and this must be attacked with prayer. Then, when our hearts are so turned to God that we are ready to let his divine will be done, whether he will or will not have us to be princes and lords, we must go beyond our duty, and offer the mad peasants an opportunity to come to terms, even though they are not worthy of it. Finally, if that does not help, then swiftly grasp the sword.

For a prince and lord must remember in this case that he is God's minister and the servant of his wrath (Romans XIII), to whom the sword is committed for use upon such fellows, and that he sins as greatly against God, if he does not punish and protect and does not fulfil the duties of his office, as does one to whom the sword has not been committed when he commits a murder. If he can punish and does not - even though the punishment consist in the taking of life and the shedding of blood - then he is guilty of all the murder and all the evil which these fellows commit, because, by willful neglect of the divine command, he permits them to practice their wickedness, though he can prevent it, and is in duty bound to do so. Here, then, there is no time for sleeping; no place for patience or mercy. It is the time of the sword, not the day of grace.

The rulers, then, should go on unconcerned, and with a good conscience lay about them as long as their hearts still beat. It is to their advantage that the peasants have a bad conscience and an unjust cause, and that any peasant who is killed is lost in body and soul and is eternally the devil's. But the rulers have a good conscience and a just cause; and can, therefore, say to God with all assurance of heart, ‘Behold, my God, thou hast appointed me prince or lord, of this I can have no doubt; and though hast committed to me the sword over the evildoers (Romans XIII). It is thy Word, and cannot lie. I must fulfill my office, or forfeit thy grace. It is also plain that these peasants have deserved death many times over, in thine eyes and the eyes of the world, and have been committed to me for punishment. If it be thy will that I be slain by them, and that my rulership be taken from me and destroyed, so be it: thy will be done. So shall I die and be destroyed fulfilling thy commandment and thy Word, and shall be found obedient to thy commandment and my office. Therefore will I punish and smite as long as my heart bears. Thou wilt judge and make things right.’

Thus it may be that one who is killed fighting on the ruler's side may be a true martyr in the eyes of God, if he fights with such a conscience as I have just described, for he is in God's Word and is obedient to him. On the other hand, one who perishes on the peasants' side is an eternal brand of hell, for he bears the sword against God's Word and is disobedient to him, and is a member of the devil. And even though it happens that the peasants gain the upper hand (which God forbid!) for to God all things are possible, and we do not know whether it may be his will, through the devil, to destroy all order and rule and cast the world upon a desolate heap, as a prelude to the Last Day, which cannot be far off - nevertheless, they may die without worry and go to the scaffold with a good conscience, who are found exercising their office of the sword. They may leave to the devil the kingdom of the world, and take in exchange the everlasting kingdom. Strange times, these, when a prince can win heaven with bloodshed, better than other men with prayer!

Finally, there is another thing that ought to move the rulers. The peasants are not content to be themselves the devil's own, but they force and compel many good people against their wills to join their devilish league, and so make them partakers of all of their own wickedness and damnation. For anyone who consents to what they do, goes to the devil with them, and is guilty of all the evil deeds that they commit; though he has to do this because he is so weak in faith that he does not resist them. A pious Christian ought to suffer a hundred deaths, rather than give a hair's breadth of consent to the peasants' cause. O how many martyrs could now be made by the bloodthirsty peasants and the murdering prophets! Now the rulers ought to have mercy on these prisoners of the peasants, and if they had no other reason to use the sword, with a good conscience, against the peasants, and to risk their own lives and property in fighting them, there would be reason enough, and more than enough, in this - that thus they would be rescuing and helping these souls, whom the peasants have forced into their devilish league and mho, without willing it, are sinning so horribly, and who must be damned. For truly these souls are in purgatory; nay, in the bonds of hell and the devil.

Therefore, dear lords, here is a place where you can release, rescue, help. Have mercy on these poor people [whom the peasants have compelled to join them]. Stab, smite, slay, whoever can. If you die in doing it, well for you! A more blessed death can never be yours, for you die obeying the divine Word and commandment in Romans XIII, and in loving service of your neighbor, whom you are rescuing from the bonds of hell and of the devil. And so I beg everyone who can to flee from the peasants as from the devil himself; those who do not flee, I pray that God will enlighten and convert. As for those who are not to be converted, God grant that they may have neither fortune nor success. To this let every pious Christian say Amen! For this prayer is right and good, and pleases God; this I know. If anyone think this too hard, let him remember that rebellion is intolerable and that the destruction of the world is to be expected every hour.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Little Political Analysis

The map is very red today, more so than it has been in many years. However, I don't think it's because America suddenly went back to conservatism. Instead, I think that the democrat/liberal strategy of instilling distrust toward authorities in the West, in order to argue that the democratic party is the party of change and people should, therefore, vote for them, is a monster that has grown out of their control.

Think about this for a moment. A lot of people didn't vote at all because they distrust the whole system now. These are the same people who tend to buy into every conspiracy theory that comes down the road. They just don't trust any authority anymore. They trust themselves. They trust their little groups. But they do not trust actual authorities. They tend to believe everyone is lying to them. It's a paranoid disposition toward authority in general that rules their thought processes.

Hence, many did not vote. So what we could be seeing with that map is that the country is far more liberal than it used to be. Conservatives are where liberals were in the seventies on a few issues. Liberals have grown radically liberal. Think of millennials. The little seed of distrust instilled in their parents has become a radical, almost certifiable, distrust in authority and the government. The media and university that sought to gain control of them by injecting them with such radical distrust has now lost control of them because they no longer trust them either.

This is displayed as well in our culture with people's distrust of the church and its authority. Self reigns supreme, as though it were a reliable authority at all, and those who have a little trust left in authority rule the world.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Cringe-worthy Reviews of My Book

It is rather disappointing to read reviews of one's own work when the reviewers don't seem to agree. It is, however, absolutely frustrating when it seems they don't agree because they haven't seemed to have read the book carefully.

Such is the case with a couple of reviews I've recently read of it, one of which in RBL by Jeffery Leonard. Leonard's review is one big strawman of my book. His review was then quoted by Peter Leithart, who also seems to have not read the book, in a blogpost with a further strawman objection. Here is what Leonard concludes:

“While the author does a workmanlike job of demonstrating how various numbers in Gen 1–11 could be interpreted symbolically, it is not at all clear to me that the biblical authors necessarily intended that these numbers should be interpreted in this fashion. It seems just as likely to me, for example, that the ancient Yahwist believed there was a flood and that the rains of that flood lasted for forty days as it does that he intended only to symbolize the trials Noah faced in the ark by supplying the number forty for the days of diluvian rain. Hodge attempts to sidestep this issue in part by arguing that we cannot divine from these texts the biblical authors’ beliefs about history and cosmology because the authors did not intend to teach these subjects; their purposes were theological. Simply asserting this to be the case, though, is not the same as demonstrating that the biblical authors did not place historiographic concerns alongside their theological concerns. A symbolic reading of the text may ease the interpretive task by marginalizing questions of what the biblical authors believed about the actual past. Were it the case, though, that the biblical authors intended their numbers to be understood literally, the comfort of a symbolic reading would be a false comfort that only obscures the real issues involved in understanding the thought world of the biblical authors.”

Leonard does this throughout his review. He continually makes this strawman that I am arguing that because the author could be using numbers symbolically, he, therefore, is using them symbolically. 

This, of course, is complete rubbish. I argue no such thing. The entire book is meant to show that the language of the Primeval History is symbolic, and therefore, the numbers should be taken as symbolic as well. To do the opposite of this, and take them as literal, not only creates unnecessary contradictions in the text, but it contradicts the symbolic nature of this genre of literature. 

Leonard gets past the contradictions by critiquing that I don't take the lazy route of most of scholarship and blame contradictions on the sources used. I say up front that I have no problem with conflicting sources, but argue that this is not what is happening with Genesis. It is simply a superficial view of the text that retreats back into this idea. The author has crafted a text out of sources that coheres to the message he wishes to convey. To argue otherwise is to stubbornly remain a fossil in the outdated relic that is nineteenth and twentieth century scholarship. 

Leonard has also completely misunderstood my argument. At no time did I pit the symbolic description of history as either historical or symbolic. In fact, I spend a lot of time in the opening chapters explaining that the author believes all of this to be history but still describes it symbolically. Leonard wants to create some false distinction between the two that I explain at lengths are not opposed to one another.

Indeed, Leithart's objection in his blogpost is that the ideas of "literal" and "symbolic" are not opposed, as though he is arguing against something I said in my book. In fact, he is arguing against Leonard, not me. My point is that there is a dichotomy between literal and symbolic description. I am not arguing that if the language is symbolic, the event is as well. This is nonsense.

But what of Leonard's argument? Instead of actually refuting anything I argue, what Leonard has done is show the weakness of his position. I have argued that since the language used is symbolic and filled with ancient Near Eastern symbolism evidenced in other texts that also vary in their descriptions (as texts that are not attempting to describe something literal would) that the numbers, which are often used symbolically both in the Bible and the ancient Near East, should be understood in context as symbolic as well. 

However, it is at this point that Leonard's argument turns on him. Leonard is arguing that since one can take these numbers as literal, one should take them as literal. Leonard would have to show that there is not ancient Near Eastern symbolism in these chapters, that the numbers are not used symbolically in the Bible and ancient Near East, and that the author's mindset is one of plain historical facts laid out in literal speech. Since he has not produced a work that has done this, nor could he, and has not refuted my book's real argument, his review just muddies the waters with logical fallacies.

The reviews done by fundamentalists like Andrew Kulikovsky are equally bad. In fact, they share some of the same objections but for different reasons. Kulikovsky's review is so riddled with logical and exegetical fallacies I cannot address them all here, but he, as well as his liberal counterparts, are committed to reading Genesis within their own modern context and concepts of historiography rather than attempt to understand how the text would have been read in an ancient Near Eastern context. The book attempts to show this, but alas, if one is dead set against the idea to begin with, there is really no evidence that would prove otherwise.

I'm still waiting for someone to address my actual argument, but it seems the desire to maintain one's quota for writing or to just be published outweighs the desire to understand an argument. The problem is that scholars tend to read reviews more than books, so their view of my work will be based on these strawmen; but this also causes me to wonder how much literature is misunderstood because of poorly thought out reviews.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Last Day

 We discussed the concept of the "last days" or "latter days" in an earlier post. Today I want to talk about the singular, however, as I don't hear much of an answer to the counter-Preterist argument that Jesus says He is going to resurrect everyone who believes in Him on the "last day." Unlike the plural form, the last day refers to a future day, and is often understood as the final day in the future.

In John 6:39-40, 44, He states:

Now this is the will of the one who sent me – that I should not lose one person of every one he has given mebut raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father – for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal lifeand I will raise him up on the last day . . . No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day."

Now, Preterists can often claim that resurrection was secured on the last day. It was literally performed upon those who were dead at the time, and maybe even has an effect upon those who are living at the time, but it is merely secured for those who will follow after in future generations. Not everyone is literally resurrected on this day because not everyone has yet come into existence; but that is not what this text says at all.

The text is very clear that the same ones who are drawn by the Father to the Son (i.e., every single believer), believe on Him (i.e., every single believer), and He will raise these very ones (i.e., every single believer) up on the last day. The same group who is drawn and believes is the same group that is raised up on the last day. They are not two different groups. They are all the same people.

The problem with the Preterist interpretation is that it fails to note that not everyone who is drawn and believes on the Son is even alive yet in A.D. 70. How exactly are they being raised. They're not dead. They're not even alive. 

Again, it is the same people group, not a different one, who are raised on that last day. Preterism argues that there is only a representative group that is raised on that day, and then resurrection continues on from there indefinitely for those who are drawn and believe. 

But this text says that it is actually on this same day that all that the Father has drawn, everyone, each one who believes on the Son, are raised. In other words, it says X will be raised on the last day. X includes everyone who is drawn and believes in the Son, which includes every Christian from the dawn of time until the final number of God's elect is complete. That has not occurred yet, so this last day has not occurred yet.

This is not even to mention that, in the context of John, raising refers to the physical resurrection to come with only an already fulfillment beginning at the time of Jesus' in terms of spiritual regeneration ("the time is coming and now is" 5:25 as opposed to the "time is coming," but is not occurring presently in Jesus' ministry, when Christ raises the dead out of their tombs vv. 28-29).

What we have here is a bona fide time reference with a nature reference that both indicate that this resurrection is a future event that has not yet even occurred to this very day. It could not occur, as it includes everyone being resurrected on this singular day in the future, and everyone had not even existed yet.

Now, one can say it's metaphorical, but that is part of the problem of eisegesis. Whenever the evidence does not fit the hypothesis, the evidence is twisted into figurative language. There is nothing, however, that indicates in the context that what Jesus means here is figurative or representative. In fact, the fact that He mentions that "all" must be drawn, and the very same ones who are drawn are the very same ones who come to Him, displays that the "all" here is not representative, but literally all-encompassing of every believer. Everyone who believes will be raised up on that last day, nor in terms of providing a way for a future raising, where they are not actually raised on that day.

The judgment of the entire world is also said to occur on that same day (John 12:48; Acts 17:30-32, and the nature of that judgment is hardly something that has occurred. The day of judgment is the same day that God will judge past pagan nations and Israel together, stating that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for an Israelite town that rejected the proclamation of the gospel(Matt 10:15). The same is said of Capernaum in contrast to Sodom and of Chorazin and Bethsaida in contrast to Tyre and Sidon (11:20-24). Notice that it does not say that it was more tolerable for them that it will be for these Jewish towns, but that it will be, implying that they will all be judged on that same day together (cf. 12:41-42). 

People will give an account for what they speak on the day of judgment (12:36-37). The ungodly will all be annihilated on the day of judgment (2 Pet 3:7). It is called "the day of wrath" for which those who are unrepentant are storing up wrath, a day in which everyone will be rewarded with eternal life or punishment (Rom 2:5-12). 1 John 4:17 states that Christians should have confidence on this day. The angels are said to be reserved for the judgment of this great day (Jude 6). Felix, who is neither Jewish nor near Jerusalem, becomes frightened when Paul begins to talk to him about the judgment to come (Acts 24:25), as though it included himself. The antinomian believers who claim to know Christ will make their case on that day and will be condemned (Matt 7:22).

Instead, again, Preterists must assume the stance that the judgment is merely representational, dealing with only the group that is thrown into the lake of fire or goes off to eternal life that is dead in A.D. 70 with a lasting effect that happens every day since. But this is not everyone being judged on that day. That is judgment taking place on that day. In the same way, it is not everyone who is drawn and believes being resurrected on that day, it is merely some people being resurrected on that day with others resurrected and judged on every day since. Again, this is simply not what the text says. Every single person who is drawn and believes in the Son will be resurrected together on that singular future day. Verses 40 and 44 do not say resurrection will be secured for every person, but that "I will resurrect HIM on that day." Verse 39 says that not one of every person given to Jesus by the Father will be lost by the Son and the Son will resurrect ALL OF THEM on the last day. 

The grammatical antecedent for auton "him" in verses 40 and 44 is the Greek adjective pas "everyone," which means that the everyone is the him that is resurrected on that day. The grammatical antecedent for auto is the neuter pan "all," which means that the entire group, all of them, are resurrected on that same last day. 

There is simply no one outside this group, as Jesus just argued that no one comes to Him unless the Father draws him. The same him being drawn comes to the Son, and the same one who beholds the Son and believes in Him is resurrected on the last day. So the whole group that is given to the Father, no one excluded among believers, is the whole group that is raised up on the last day.

Again, this is impossible in a Preterist framework if there are believers who are not dead in A.D. 70, do not yet exist in A.D. 70, and if we take John's 2d Temple understanding of the resurrection seriously so as to understand what he means by the terminology (cf. 11:23-24). 

There is certainly an already-not yet element of judgment and resurrection, but these are precursors to the final judgment on that day, not a final judgment with a lasting affect that continues on idefinitely beyond the last day. In fact, the very claim that it is the last day may indicate that there are not other future days of judgment. It is the final one. There are no future days of resurrection. It is the last day when all will be resurrected upon it.

This is a genuine time indicator that works with the nature passages rather than drowning them out to fit misunderstood time references, as we have seen in previous posts. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Preterist Time References, Part XIV

In Matthew 16:28, Christ indicates that some of the disciples will see Him coming in His kingdom. This is taken by Preterists as an indication that Christ will return in their lifetimes. However, it seems clear instead that this is a reference to the Mount of Transfiguration scene to follow. There are numerous reasons for understanding it this way.

1. The parallels indicate that this is a reference to God beginning to give the kingdom over to Christ.

And he said to them“I tell you the truththere are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mark 9:1)

 But I tell you most certainlythere are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:27)

I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." (Matt 16:28)

The Son of Man coming in His kingdom is a parallel idea to the kingdom of God coming with power and the kingdom of God itself. We are told that the kingdom of God has already come. We are also told that the kingdom of God comes with power in Jesus' ministry. It also comes with power in the ministry of the apostles and the church in the coming of the Holy Spirit. But the point I would make here is that I think that Preterists miss the complexity of this verse by assuming that there is only one coming of Christ, only one reception of His kingdom, rather than many, as the New Testament indicates. They do not understand the micro-macro nature of apocalyptic speech, the already-not yet nature of a future fulfillment also being fulfilled in smaller ways before the time, and hence, they conclude by the language preceding Christ's statement here that this must refer only to the Second Advent, and not anything that might come before and would be spoken of as one with it, even though separated by time. 

2. The placement of the narrative.

But there is more to indicate that the fulfillment, at least the initial fulfillment of Christ's coming/reception of His kingdom is on the Mount of Transfiguration.

First, it is important to note that every single Synoptic places the Mount of Transfiguration scene immediately after Christ's statement here. This is significant, since the Gospel authors seem to have no problem moving things around in order to present their Gospels around their themes. Yet, even with differing themes and the recasting of many events, this one is placed immediately after what Christ says here in every one of them. 

Narrative makes it arguments this way. When an author places things together in a narrative he is often meaning to communicate that the one goes with the other. 

3. The mimicking of language from the Daniel 7 "Son of Man coming in the Clouds" narrative in the Mount of Transfiguration Scene.

But there is more to consider even than this. The language of coming, as we have seen in the other Gospel presentations of what Christ said, is actually the language of the Son receiving the kingdom. It is a royal conferment, the transference of majesty from the Father to the Son. This idea is taken from Daniel 7.

In Daniel 7, the Son of Man comes on the clouds of heaven and goes up the Ancient of Days, i.e., the Father, and receives the kingdom from Him. God is described as glowingly white like snow, like wool, and glowing like fire. 

In the Mount of Transfiguration scene, Jesus is the one glowing, a display of His deity, but he ascends/goes up to the Father on the mountain, they are enveloped in a cloud, and the Father confirms the authority/power the Son has and that all should now listen to Him. Even the declaration by the Father, i.e., the Ancient of Days, that Jesus is His one beloved Son, is terminology of kingship, as the anointed king was considered God's son. 

The coming language of Matthew 16:28 is explained as reception of the kingdom/conferment of the kingdom by the Father to the Son. It is a fulfillment of Daniel 7 (not the fulfillment, but a fulfillment), where God gives His majesty to the Son in the clouds of the sky, here upon the mountain top. 

So the Mount of Transfiguration is a beginning fulfillment that is witnessed by a few of the disciples a few days after Christ proclaims that some will not taste death until they have seen the kingdom of God//the kingdom come with power//the Son coming in/into His kingdom.

4. Peter links them together.

But there is even more than this that indicates that the Mount of Transfiguration fulfills this prediction, at least in part. Peter links the two ideas together himself.

In 2 Peter 1:16-18, Peter states the following:

For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and parousia "coming" of our Lord Jesus Christ; no, we were  eyewitnesses of His majesty (i.e., royal conferment)For He received honor and glory from God the Fatherwhen that voice was conferred to Him by the Majestic Glory: “This is my dear Sonin whom I am delighted.”  When this voice was conveyed from heavenwe ourselves heard it, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

Notice, both the ideas that power and royalty were given to Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, and this is referred to as Christ's parousia "coming." 

The disciples will also witness Christ's reception in His resurrection, His ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentacost, etc. Some will see it in His destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 as well. There are many "receptions/comings" of His kingdom that will lead up to the final and ultimate coming and reception of His total kingdom in the end. Indeed, as we have noted, He states to the priests before His death that "from now on, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Matt 26:64), which indicates an ongoing reception of the kingdom (note the contradiction between sitting at God's right hand and coming in the clouds if taken literally, yet both convey the reception of power in the Bible). 

Luke even records that the ultimate day, the final coming, will not be seen by the disciples even though they will see other days, other comings, that precede it. In Luke 17:21, Christ argues that the disciples already have seen the coming of the kingdom, but in v. 22, that they have not yet, nor will they, see the final coming of Christ in their lifetimes. 

Hence, the most natural understanding of Christ's words is to see them in light of the Mount of Transfiguration first. If there are other fulfillments the disciples will see, and there are, then they are secondary to the fact that Christ's prediction is already fulfilled a few days later.