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 in 2020 by one affirming this position. The following quotes are from Holger Neubauer arguing that “the Scriptures teach…Jesus of Nazareth returned for 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 These statements originally made by the prophets1,2,4,5 are not simply something that the “prophet has in mind”(c).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!

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).
She [Mary] will give birth to a son and name him Jesus, and he will save his people from their sins.  All of this happened in order to fulfill what God had spoken through the prophet [Isaiah], “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” which means, God with us.
Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus begins with the Hebrew-emphasized genealogy (1:1) and continues with an angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph, Mary’s husband, in a dream. He tells him about Mary’s conception “from the Holy Spirit” (vss 18-20).

The quotation is from the prophet Isaiah 7:14.

Scripture-block application to this question

Matthew, a New Testament writer, recounts an angel of God quoting Isaiah’s prophecy and applies it to the birth of Jesus.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Isaiah’s prophecy, in its original context, is about the birth of boy that would be a sign for Ahaz, king of Judah, that God will not allow Ephraim (e.g. Israel), who is in league with Syria, come against Judah.

And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, Out of Egypt I called my son.

And he [Joseph] gathered his family and fled to Egypt and stayed there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what God through the prophet [Hosea] said, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

The apostle Matthew’s account of the life of Christ. The birth of Jesus took place in Bethlehem during the days of Herod the king (vs 1) who was threatened by this new “king” (vs 2). As a result, the angel told Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt with the newborn (vs 13).

The quotation here, “out of Egypt I called my son.” is from the prophet Hosea 11:1.

Scripture-block application to this question

Matthew, a New Testament writer, takes a mid-sentence statement from Hosea’s commentary about Israel and applies it to Jesus.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Hosea’s prophecy, in its original context of the entire chapter 11, is very clearly about physical Israel. In fact, the surrounding statements in no way are contemplating Jesus, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.”

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

The Holy Spirit (e.g. “the Spirit of Christ in them”) predicted Christ’s suffering and subsequent glories through the prophets who, when they prophesied about salvation (or, “grace that was to be yours”), wondered and inquired about it themselves. However, they were told they weren’t serving themselves but you [Christians then and now] with the things that have now been fulfilled (“announced”) in the revelation of the gospel by the Holy Spirit.

Peter’s letter(s) of encouragement to the saints who were facing great persecution and longing for their reward in Christ Jesus — revealed to them in the “last time” (vs 3). He goes on to tell them to be prepared for Jesus’ revealing (vs 13).

Scripture-block application to this question

Prophets prophesied about “the grace” (e.g. Jesus Christ) without knowing they were prophesying about it.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

They “searched and inquired carefully”…apparently without answer, since the preceding verses make it clear it wasn’t until the “last time” (e.g. Peter’s audience in the first century and us today) that it was revealed (e.g. answered).

(Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) For it is written in the Book of Psalms, ‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it;’ and ‘Let another take his office.’

(Now [Judas] used his ill-gotten gains to purchase a field, upon which he fell headlong and his body burst open so that his bowels came out. So the field became famous in Jerusalem as ‘Akeldama’, or ‘Field of Blood’.) Just as it is written in the Psalms, ‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it;’ and also ‘Let another take his office.’

Jesus has just ascended and the disciples are gathered to replace the apostle Judas. Psalms 69:25 and 109:8 are quoted, both Psalms of David as testified by Peter (vs 16).

Scripture-block application to this question

The apostles connect two statements from David in the Psalms with events surrounding the death of Judas and his replacement.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Peter (vs 16) identifies two statements originally made by David. In their original context, David is writing about his enemies in both Psalms 69 and 109. The “his” in David’s context are his personal enemy(ies), while in Peter’s context it’s Judas.

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’
Each one of us was given the same gift of grace through Christ. As such, the Psalmist says that when He ascended on high, He led a host of captives and gave gifts to men.

Paul is turning to urge the brethren to be unified and to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling”  to which they were called (vs 1).  He is encouraging them to do so humbly and in love (vs 2), proving his point by quoting from Psalms 68:18.

Paul goes on to explain in vss 9-10, “In saying, He ascended, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.”

In the Psalm, David actually writes, “The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary. You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.” (vss 17-18)

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul quotes a psalm of David and applies it to Christ.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

In the original context of Psalm 68, David is speaking of God the Father and actually says that God was “…receiving gifts of men.” Paul not only applies this to Christ, but in so doing, changes it to, “he gave gifts to men.”

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it? And he answered, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. And he said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.

A lawyer stood to test Jesus and asked him what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus in turn responded by asking him what was written and how he interpreted it. The lawyer answered by quoting two verses from the Law. The first was from Deuteronomy and said that one should love God with all his heart. The second was from Leviticus and said that one should love his neighbor as himself. Jesus said he answered correctly and that if he practiced them he would live.

Jesus is in the midst of His public ministry, teaching the people while gaining notoriety. The lawyer quoted two passages in the Law (from
Deuteronomy 6:5
Leviticus 19:18
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus affirms the lawyer’s application of two verses from the Mosaic Law to addressing the question of how one inherits eternal life.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Neither of the quotations the lawyer uses to answer the question of inheriting eternal life come from original contexts having anything to do with inheriting enteral life.

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