Preterism is a Christian doctrine teaching that the second coming of Jesus and all Bible promises occurred by or before AD70. Among other things, several that the Bible Study Framework addresses, it requires a Christian to take a position that a New Testament writer must always quote an Old Testament prophecy in context. In other words, when a New Testament writer quotes any Old Testament prophecy, the NT writer is not at liberty to alter the quotation’s application in any way.

This is the position taken at a public debate from 2020 by one affirming this position. The following quotes are from Holger Neubauer arguing that “the Scriptures teach…Jesus of Nazareth returned the second and final time in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70”:

  • Night One/Hour 0/Minute 51 – “When a New Testament writer quotes from an Old Testament text, they always quote in context(a). They never make up new meanings(b); they fulfill the meaning of what the Old Testament prophet had in mind(c).”
  • Night One/Hour 2/Minute 15 – “He’s quoting in context. He’s [Paul’s] not making up some new meaning(b). He’s quoting in context….A New Testament author always quotes in context.(a) (when speaking about Romans 11:25-27 quoting Isaiah 27)
  • Night Two/Hour 0/Minute 38 – “Hear me well: When a New Testament writer quotes from an Old Testament text, they always quoted in context(a). We have no more liberty to think they took a text out of context than we do to take a New Testament text out of context.” (when arguing that Hosea 6:2 is quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:4)

How Scripture answers "Must a New Testament writer always quote in context?"

A New Testament writer does not1,2,4,5 always quote in the context of the original Old Testament text (which is not to say it’s out of context for the Bible – God’s word – as a whole). There are many other examples of this, including Jesus with the lawyer6, but when “always” is the standard we need not go further to disprove it. The clear and poignant cases with Matthew1,2, Peter4, and Paul5 do not preserve the original context of the prophet’s statement(a) and give an entirely new meaning(b). The very two things respectively that the preterist says must “always”(a) and “never”(b) happen.

Furthermore, there are some issues with the preterits’s fundamental approach to the prophets. Based on what Peter affirms3 about the prophets:

  1. These statements originally made by the prophets1,2,4,5 are not simply something that the “prophet has in mind”(c). The prophets were literal spokesmen for God, speaking God’s mind…not their own.
  2. While their words, or rather God’s, would be pertinent to their time, they would not (and apparently could not) understand their ultimate meaning unless and until it was revealed in the “good news” of an inspired writer(c). Holger Neubauer says that “They [NT writers] never make up new meanings; they fulfill the meaning of what the OT prophet had in mind.” But God says3 the OT prophet did not know the meaning even though “they searched and inquired.”3

The preterist would do well to heed the precedent set forth in scripture when it comes to interpreting prophecy!

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