Larry Spargimino's "The Anti-Prophets"

Those who critique preterism in its various forms (whether the orthodox form -- my view -- or the extreme form) tend to fall to the same problem: They read the Bible as though it was written yesterday and for them personally. Larry Spargimino apparently got a doctorate at seminary, but somehow managed to miss this crucial point while there, along with a host of other crucial points about the world of the Bible. Quite ironic, since he spends a couple of pages instructing us that the Bible does need to be read with a first century eye.

As far as I have gotten with my study on eschatology I am able to say that I don't see a whole lot of reason here to change my mind. Much of the book is spent arguing that a preterist view necessitates a "replacement theology" (the church is the new Israel and subject to all its blessings; Israel as it now exists is irrelevant) and leads to reconstructionism (we will evangelize and take over the world) and a total preterist view. I don't subscribe to any of these views and see no need to.

Some space is also devoted to Spargimino lamenting that when he believed preterism, it made it impossible for him to see any real significance in the day's headlines. Ironically, that is the very problem that preterists have been trying to cure: the use of the newspaper as a guide to Biblical interpretation, with the result that dispensational eschatologists have fallen like a line of dominoes, from Lindsey to Van Impe to Whisenant. Will the lesson ever be learned? Not as long as writers like Spargimino let their hearts rule their heads when it comes to exegesis. (There's also a pointless diversion on infant baptism which rather suggests a lack of focus.)

This shows in the way Spargimino responds to preterist points on the Olivet Discourse (see my take on that here). Preterist exegeis and theory is described in such terms as "evasion" [24], "pathetic" [27], "blatant wresting of Scripture...[preterists must believe] God gave prophecy to confuse, not to reveal," [130] and so on; not that we mind the riposte, but when it comes down to tacks, it's just the same argument: We need to read passages like Olivet in a "literal, straightforward manner" rather than grasping it in its context as symbolic apocalyptic -- which Spargimino disparagingly refers to as reading it as "gross exaggerations", which is the sort of description we would expect from Skeptics who advise us to read the Bible like a newspaper. Yes, apocalyptic WAS "exaggeration" of a sort (actually, more like symbolic excess) -- and that's how those who read it in the first century understood and interpreted it. Parallel OT cites are disposed of the same way: "The same language was used to describe the Fall of Babylon in 539 BC? No, actually that hasn't been fulfilled yet either."

When actually confronting preterist arguments on Olivet at least, Spargimino often operates under the shortchange principle. The word "world" in Matt. 24:14 was the word used for the Roman Empire, not the whole earth. Spargimino's response: 1) To the NT writers, the Roman world was the entire world (which only would prove the preterist view -- but it is false anyway; nations like India and China were known of, but not considered part of the Roman oikoumene; 2) preterists give no way for God to refer to the entire earth and would miss any such message (which is simply false, as Spargimino would know had he read DeMar carefully; the oik-word is a specific term, whereas Jesus' "ends of the earth" command offers a much broader delimitation).

Isaiah could not refer in Ch. 13 to the 539 BC destruction of Babylon, in part because the Medes and Persians came from the east, where Isaiah says they will come from the north (13:3 -- as DeMar explains, but Spargimino also apparently missed, all ancient armies approached their city-prey from the north; approach from the east, west, and sometimes south [in the Northern Hemisphere during battle season] and you'll get the sun-in-your-eyes disadvantage). Matthew's end of the age must mean the end of the world (not a word about the two ages believed in by the Jews which frame this reference culturally). It doesn't look like Spargimino took any preterist writer seriously enough to read carefully what they had to say.

On the other hand, the important "time texts" ("this generation") are explained away via standard methods. "This generation" means "the generation this was meant to apply to and that will see these signs." (This is also answered by the writers Spargimino cites.) The one point I do grant Spargimino is his admonition that many prophecies had double fulfillments, and I grant this as a possible avenue for a repeat of sorts of Olivet events, in a strictly typological, pattern-fulfillment sense (as Is. 7:14 fulfilled both something in Isaiah's time and thematically was fulfilled in Jesus). Nevertheless, this is entirely theoretical, and does not get around the necessity of a complete fulfillment in 70 AD.

In conclusion: It is clear that Spargimino has been blown away by what Wright calls "the folly of trying to fit the hurricane of first-century Jewish theology into the bottle of late-modern western categories..." His work adds nothing new to the debate.