PMW 2020-098 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
One of my readers who thought I was not busy enough sent me a copy of Don Preston’s book Were the Disciples Confused? (At least I think that is the title. The front cover of the book is itself very confusing in this regard. The largest typefont on the cover reads: “Watching for the Parousia.” The spine even has: “Watching for the Parousia: Were Jesus’ Apostles Confused?” It is not until you get to the title page that you find what perhaps is the official title: Were the Disciples Confused?)
As I read through the book I thought that Preston must have left the Church of Christ and joined the Disciples of Christ denomination. For while claiming to be a disciple, he himself is confused. Now having read the book, I too am confused!
Perhaps some day — if I ever finish my several current contractual obligations! — I may find time to engage Preston’s arguments presented in this book. Despite Preston’s insistence that I spend more of my time dealing with him, for now I want simply to show how that in especially one particular chapter (ch. 3) Preston thinks he has accomplished something that he has not. In fact, as he challenges me, he misses my point. Entirely. His third chapter is titled “Jesus’ Earlier Predictions of The Destruction of Jerusalem.” (Besides my many time-dominating obligations, this is another reason I do not set aside my life and deal with him: it is too frustrating to clean up after a bull in a china shop.)
In this chapter Preston is largely (but not solely) responding to an argument I present on this blogsite (e.g., see his pages 5, 7, 8, 40, 59–62, 135). And of course I am most interested in his argument against my statements on this site. I argued that the disciples were surprised when Christ prophesied the destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:2). Preston even admits their surprise, for in another book he writes: “Jesus’ response shocked the disciples” (Preston, We Shall Meet Him in The Air, 2). I noted that their surprise at his prophecy led to their confusion in their questions (24:3). That is, in their confusion they wrongly linked the temple’s destruction historically to the second coming (parousia) and the end of history (sunteleias tou ainos, “the end of the age“).
(Please note: the page references in the comments in this and my next blog articles refer to pages in Preston’s Were Jesus’ Apostles Confused? unless otherwise noted.)
In the first two of my four-article presentation, however, I must express my frustration with Preston’s attitude. This attitudinal problem almost invariably annoys anyone who is not a Hyper-preterist (and there are 7.2 billion of those people). In the third and fourth articles I will highlight some problems I have with his actual argument. I have long realized that discussing eschatology with a Hyper-preterist is like trying to saddle a wild moose: it is a whole lot of trouble and not worth it. So by way of introduction, I will just briefly mention a few of my particular frustrations arising from his attitude exhibited in this book.
This book presents a strong, contemporary case in support of the early dating of Revelation. He builds on Before Jerusalem Fell and brings additional arguments to bear.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
A new theology complete with arrogance
Like Joseph Smith, founder of the “Latter-day Saints” cult, Hyper-preterists have created a whole new theology. That is, they are not just differing from evangelical Christianity on a few eschatological issues. Their innovative approach to Scripture has generated a full-blown, radically new theology, which is set over against historic Christian orthodoxy.  In fact, Hyper-preterism borders on being cultic — partly due to the rabid, argumentative nature of its adherents. Apparently, they also are developing their own ritual holy weeks, for Preston even mentions a gathering called the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend” (pp. 49, 65). This must be like the pilgrim festivals in Scripture. I expect that one day, one of them will attempt to write A New Systematic Theology of the Preterist Faith. Or even publish a Preterist Study Bible with penciled-in corrections.
In 2012 I spoke in Dallas at the Criswell College conference on “Perspectives on the Millennium.”  Also presenting papers were Dr. H. Wayne House, Dr. Craig Blaising, Dr. G. K. Beale, Dr. Craig Blomberg, and Don Preston. Don had one of the most confusing and unenlightening presentations I have ever heard. Afterwards several of the presenters gathered in private and mused: “What in the world was he talking about?” This confusion was not due solely to the alien theology flowing from Preston’s Hyper-preterism. Rather, it focused on his rambling, connect-the-dots presentation on an issue that did not even seem related to his assigned topic. Apparently, Hyper-preterists follow Nancy Pelosi’s practice: they believe you have to adopt the Hyper-preterist system in order to understand it. At that conference only the “initiated” understood Preston. But only Preston was initiated. And I am not entirely sure that he knew what he was talking about. But that may have been just me and everyone else there.
As I have argued in several blog articles previously (see: PMW 2020-056; PMW 2020-026; PMW 2020-018; PMW 2019-002; PMW 2020-020), when Jesus pronounces the coming destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:2), the disciples are surprised. Their surprise leads to their confused questions which in their minds link the temple’s destruction with the end of history (Matt. 24:3). Preston, with his innovative Hyper-preterist theological construct governing his every word, thought and deed, challenges the charge that the disciples are confused here. As he does so, he admits that he has set himself against “a consensus among the commentators” (p. 33), “most commentators” (p. 34), “most commentators” (p. 35), a “widespread agreement among commentators” (p. 47), “the great consensus of very learned men through the ages” (p. 93), and the “commentators [who] commonly ascribe” (p. 105). Of course, in itself this is not deadly. But Preston does not merely note a difference of interpretive opinion with “most commentators.”Rather, he dramatically overstates his case in opposition to a longstanding and widespread scholarly consensus. Consider the following.
All of this means that in spite of the great consensus of very learned men through the ages, who have affirmed that the apostles were so lamentably ignorant, or confused, we can confidently say that it was not Jesus’ apostles that were confused, or ignorant. It is the commentators who say they were, that are in fact the ones who are confused or ignorant. (p. 93)
So according to Preston, the “great consensus” of “very learned men” have “through the ages” been ignorant? Apparently, he thinks of himself as God’s gift to the church, who must stop God’s people from being blown about by every wind of doctrine (cf. Eph. 4:8–14).
He even goes further! He complains that “the modern commentators . . . forcibly impose the concept of ignorance or confusion onto the apostles” (p. 103). So the commentators “forcibly impose” their views on the apostles? That is a rather absurd, bold, and vacuous charge!
This bold, proud thinking leads him to state of the commentators’ arguments on the issue before us that the interpretation of “most commentators” is “arrogantly” ascribed to the apostles (p. i)! “Arrogantly”? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary “arrogant” means “exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one’s own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner.” Thus, for Preston “most commentators” are not simply mistaken in their views, but overbearingly proud and pompous in asserting them to be the views of the apostles! This is an absolutely incredible charge!
Later he asks: “Does it not border on theological arrogance to claim — as Gentry and others do — that the disciples were so horribly confused when in fact they affirmed their understanding?” (p. 92). So I and the commentators are caught up in “theological arrogance”? This is not only incredible in itself, but is itself an arrogant charge.
In addition, in Preston’s view I am not only “ignorant” and “arrogant,” but actually a fraud and a huckster. For he is concerned that I engage in intentional deception: “the text proves that Gentry is either ignorant, perhaps confused himself, or perhaps even willfully hiding important text evidence from his readers” (p. 98). So I am “willfully hiding” information? Thus, he charges that “Gentry tries to avoid” certain issues (p. 61).
False charges based on erroneous understanding
Regarding the disciples’ confused question at Matthew 24:3, Preston misconstrues my point (which is not surprising). He claims I argue that “the apostles were sinful men [which] proves they did not know what they were asking about!” (p. 6). This is incredible. I actually claimed that they suffered from a “sinful dullness” on several occasions. I was not writing them off as “sinful men.” I never say their problem is that they were “sinful men.” For they remain sinful men even though they are used by God to write Scripture (e.g., Rom. 7:8–11; cf. Gal. 2:11–14). Divine inspiration does not depend on human sinlessness, as we can see in that sinful Solomon wrote several books of Scripture. Otherwise, we would not have any Scripture.
And is not my understanding of their frequent dullness clearly the case? Before Jesus died and was resurrected, the disciples did not believe he would be resurrected (Mark 16:7–13; John 20:8–9). And this is despite the fact that he taught it several times well in advance (Matt. 16:21; 20:17–18; 28:6a; Mark 16:10–11). For instance, in Mark 9:9–10 we read that they did not even understand what he meant when he said he would rise from dead:
“And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean.”
This is no small error. For his death, burial, and resurrection are the very reasons for his taking on a human body and coming into the world in the first place (Heb. 2:9, 16–17; 10:5; 1 Pet. 2:24). I would say this is surely an issue showing “dullness.” After all, not only did he teach them this over his three and a half years of ministry, but his death, burial, and resurrection were even “according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3, 4), for “it is written of Him” (Matt. 26:64) and was spoken of him by “the prophets” (Luke 24:25–27). This is significant in that Preston frequently and forcefully argues that they would definitely know of his parousia and the resurrection coming in AD 70 because it was taught in the prophets (e.g., pp. 16, 26, 28, 29, 136, 163).
In fact, the disciples did not simply misunderstand this supremely important issue regarding Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection until it actually happened, John 2:21–22; 20:8–9). But they even “were afraid to ask Him” about it: “He was teaching His disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.’ But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him” (Mark 9:31–32).
Indeed, on another occasion after Jesus presents a parable, Peter asks him to explain it to them (Matt. 15:15). Jesus responds: “Are you still dull?” (NIV, Matt. 15:16). The word translated “dull” is asunetos, which is a word Paul applies to the “foolish heart” of unbelievers (Rom. 1:21). And on another occasion, when Peter resists Jesus’ teaching that he must die, the Lord even rebukes him by calling him “Satan” (Matt. 16:23). I would say that certainly represents a serious level of “sinful dullness.”
Blessed Is He Who Reads: A Primer on the Book of Revelation
By Larry E. Ball
A basic survey of Revelation from an orthodox, evangelical, and Reformed preterist perspective. Ball understands John to be focusing on the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. Insightful. Easy to read.
For more Christian studies see: www.KennethGentry.com
Then Preston continues — thinking he is scoring big:
Gentry is essentially saying that he is not a man of ‘sinful dullness’ while Jesus’ own chosen apostles, instructed by him and later inspired by the Spirit, were indeed dim witted, ignorant and confused. (p. 6)
I absolutely say nothing of the kind — either about myself (and the many other commentators who hold the same view as I do) or the disciples. And what in the world does the apostles being “later inspired by the Spirit” have to do with their current confusion? For as Preston notes, “the Spirit had not yet been poured out, as he was in Acts 2” (p. 117).
Preston continually fails in engaging in the logical fallacy of “emotive appeal.” This fallacy substitutes emotional appeal for facts. And the emotive appeal fallacy is constantly engaged by Preston’s use of terms that are commonly associated with the fallacy. Scholars note that such words as Preston uses in responding to critics betray this fallacy. For instance, Preston presents his views as “indisputable” (p 97), “undeniable” (pp. 91, 105), “irrefutably true” (133), and so forth.
For instance, Preston summarizes his argument on the disciples’ question in Matthew 24:3. Then he states regarding the commentators who disagree with him: “are we to attribute such utter, abject ignorance to Jesus’ apostles? To do so stretches credulity far beyond it limits” (p. 29). “The commentators” do not speak of the “utter, abject ignorance” of the apostles! Nor are they guilty of stretching “credulity far beyond its limits.” This emotional statement sounds rather “arrogant” of Preston.
Preston even claims that commentators who believe the disciples were confused in Matthew 24:3, believe that the disciples were “completely ignorant,” “totally ignorant” (p. 28, ¶3, 4, 5), suffering from “abject ignorance” (p. 29 ¶3), were “so ignorant” (p. 25 ¶2), “horribly confused” (p. 92, 117), “lamentably ignorant” (p. 93), “amazingly dumb” (p. 34), “dense” (p. 81), “abysmally ignorant” (p. 119), had “thick skulls” (p. 103), were “dimwitted” (p. 103), and “blithely ignorant” (p. 163). This is ridiculous! In fact, it is downright childish. And only those who follow Preston blindly could avoid wincing at such charges. Being confused on a point is not evidence of “abject ignorance” or evidence someone is “abysmally ignorant.” Preston’s attitude (which generates such wild charges) is why few reputable scholars dialogue with Hyper-preterists.
On pp. 32–33 Preston goes to Matthew 13, which highlights the “end of the age” (vv. 39, 40, 49). At the conclusion of his Kingdom Parables Discourse, Jesus explains the parables in private to his disciples (vv. 36ff). Then he asks: “‘Have you understood all these things?’” to which “they said to Him, ‘Yes’” (v. 51). Here Preston states: “unless the disciples lied — per Gentry — about understanding Jesus’ discourse about the end of the age in Matthew 13….” “Lied”?! Did I say they lied to Jesus? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary: to “lie” is “to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.”
And Preston repeatedly brings up this charge of my (and others!) claiming the disciples lied to Jesus (pp. 29, 32, 79, 80, 81, 83, 91, 139). I absolutely did not make such a ridiculous charge.  Besides, Preston himself recognizes the disciples were often confused. For instance, he states: “Make no mistake. The disciples were often confused about Jesus’ teaching” (pp. 86; emph. his; cp. p. 87). Preston even notes that on one occasion “his own disciples were … shocked at such an abhorrent idea as eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood” (p. 88). That certainly involved confusion. Consequently, by thinking that they had understood Jesus, the disciples could well have been confused about what they thought they knew. But it is absurd to claim they were lying to him.
Did Preston lie from the pulpit through the early years of his ministry when he was a futurist? In his We Shall Meet Him in The Air (p. 81) he writes: “I personally taught for years, that the time of the resurrection is associated with the end of time, the destruction of material creation.” Or does he now view his earlier view as mistaken, as misunderstanding what he thought he understood well enough? I suspect the latter. Later in We Shall Meet Him in The Air (p. 144) he writes: “My personal journey has caused me to jettison many of the theological beliefs handed to me by my forefathers.” Using what he calls “logic,” we could say that when he taught these views in the past, he was lying.
Later in Were Jesus’ Apostles Confused?, Preston returns to this incredible charge of lying, applying it to other “desperate [i.e., non-Hyper-preterist] commentators.” There he writes: “do you realize how desperate commentators such as Kenneth Gentry (and others of course) have to be to deny that the apostles did understand, in spite of their affirmation? They said they understood, but Gentry says they really didn’t — they must have lied” (p. 80) I never said “they must have lied”! I never even implied it. And I do not believe it. They were not lying; they simply did not understand as much as they thought they did.
On p. 83 he once again writes: “consider how desperate a measure it is to actually accuse Jesus’ apostles of lying to him, after he had told them he was giving the parables so that they would understand.”
And I know of no reputable commentator who even suggests the disciples were lying! For instance, Grant Osborne’s commentary on Matthew 13:51 states: “This does not mean they understood fully; in fact, in 15:16 they are reproved for being so dull. But they are beginning to perceive the reality of what Jesus has been teaching them” (Osborne, Matthew [ZECNT], 543). Leon Morris agrees: “This may perhaps be a trifle glib, for there is evidence in the remainder of the Gospel that their understanding was somewhat imperfect” (Morris, Matthew [PNTC], 256).
This is a quite common human failure. Have you, my reader, ever confidently held to a particular understanding of a Scripture passage and taught it to others, only to eventually realize your understanding was mistaken? Did you go around to those whom you taught and confess to them that when you said you understood that passage you were lying? Preston is making a ridiculous charge.
And the disciples struggled with fully understanding Jesus on several occasions. Often they only gradually came to a fuller realization of what he was teaching. For instance, in Matthew 15:10–11 we read: “After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, ‘Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.'” He was explaining to the crowds and his disciples what his parable meant. But just a little while later we read this interchange between Peter and Jesus about that which he had just explained: “Peter said to Him, ‘Explain the parable to us.’ Jesus said, ‘Are you still lacking in understanding also?'”
The disciples’ gradual understanding of what Jesus is teaching occurs often. Notice also John 12:16: “These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.”
And notice Matthew 16:6, then compare it with vv. 7–12. Or Luke 18:31–33, compared to v. 34. This is why Jesus can say on one instructional occasion without rebuking them: “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (John 13:7).
Then again later in his book, Preston charges: “Stunningly, the fact is that Kenneth Gentry all but accuses the apostles of lying” (p. 80). Then on the next page (p. 81) he writes: “it takes an amazing amount of arrogance to say they were lying” (p. 81). This is preposterous. It takes an amazing amount of arrogance for Preston to charge that I accuse the apostles of lying. And such balderdash is why I normally do not read Preston.
Consider this: did not Peter promise Jesus that he would never forsake him? But then he did! This was also true of the other disciples, for we read: “Peter said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.’ All the disciples said the same thing too” (Matt. 26:33–35). But then in Matthew 26:56 we read: “all the disciples left him and fled.” Peter and the other disciples were not lying in verses 33–35. And Jesus does not call them liars.
Preston’s charge is absurd. The disciples were not lying; they were over-confident, spiritually weak, and naively unaware of the enormous difficulties they would have to face during Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. I never said or even implied that the disciples lied.  Preston is committing the Fallacy of Bifurcation: He believes there are only two options for understanding their response: the disciples are either (1) intending to tell the truth or (2) intending to tell a lie. But there are other options: they could well have believed they understood, only to find out later that they did not fully understand or properly understand. This is not lying. This bifurcation problem is much like asking the question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” It wrongly assumes only two possibilities.
If you go through the torture of reading Preston, be careful about his quotations. He stumbles there as well. For instance, on p. 83 we read:
With these things before us, we are ready now to address the objection — Gentry’s key argument (and others agree with him) — that says, “Jesus’ disciples were constantly confused or ignorant and simply dull. That is true on many occasions. It is therefore entirely possible — if not probable — that they were confused when they asked their questions in Matthew 24:3.”
Despite his quotation marks, I never made that statement. 
On p. 33 he writes:
I shared earlier a quote from Craig Blomberg:
“The disciples conflated (Blomberg) all of this (end of the age and the parousia, DKP) into what Jesus announced….”
But this (and the full citation that he gives) is not a quote from Blomberg. This is a quote from Sam Frost, which Preston gave earlier in his book on p. 4. There he noted in introducing the quotation: “In a 2019 FaceBook exchange with Sam Frost, former preterist, he made the following statement…..” Then follows the quotation given verbatim on p. 33. I even noticed several places where he had an opening quotation mark, but no closing mark. This makes it difficult to determine how much of a statement was quoted.
So, it is not just the confusing cover of the book that you have to consider. But the confused attributions of quotations that Preston gives.
When reading Preston be aware that you will constantly bump into two words: “logic” and “desperate.” When Preston faces a disagreement on interpretation, he paints his view as demonstrating “logic” and his opponent’s view as defying logic (e.g., pp. 6, 8, 9, 29, 62, 86, 89). And simultaneously, when anyone states a point of disagreement with him, Preston will introduce and conclude his response by claiming his opponent has adopted a “desperate” measure (e.g., pp. 28, 50, 59, 80, 83). Apparently, Preston believes that those who disagree with him live in a world of intense angst.
Preston’s charges of being “desperate” are simply his way of discounting his opposition. That which he calls “desperate” is simply an alternative interpretation to his own. I wonder what he thinks of books like Gleason Archer’s, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties or Walter Kaiser’s Hard Sayings of the Bible?These books take Bible verses that present apparent contractions, seeming historical errors, and so forth and explain them in a way that maintains the integrity of Scripture. For instance, Matthew appears to present Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree as occurring after his driving the moneychangers from the temple (Matt. 21:12–17). But Mark appears to present him doing this before he drove them out (Mark 11:11–19). Are Archer and Kaiser “desperate” in attempting to explain the apparent contradiction?
Would Preston be “desperate” if he explained that Jesus’ statement “you are gods” does not mean that those people were actually gods, such as God is? Would he be “desperate” in defending the full deity of Christ over against the seeming contradiction of this in John 14:28, where Jesus says “the Father is greater than I”? Would he be “desperate” by explaining away the alleged contradiction between Matt. 21:2 and Mark 11:2, wherein Matthew mentions a donkey and a colt tied up, though Mark mentions only “a colt”? Would he be “desperate” in explaining why John 1:18 can state “no one has seen God at any time,” whereas Exo. 24:9-10 states that “Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.” I suspect that he would attempt to “explain away” these difficulties. And rightly so. But he would not be “desperate.”
Preston’s arguments are too frequently superficial and depend on a Hyper-preterist blinders to guide him down his own “straight and narrow way.” But Jesus warns that when the blind lead the blind, they will both fall into a pit (Matt. 15:14).
I will complete my response on Preston’s Hyper-preterist attitude in my next article. Then after that, I will focus on his argument against me and evangelical commentators.
November 23, 2020 addendum
Thanks to Josh Stevens for reminding me of the Mark 9:9–10 reference to the disciples’ confusion about Jesus’ teaching that he would resurrected. I have now inserted that text in my article.
1. For some samples of their innovations in theology, see: Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Have We Missed the Second Coming?:A Critique of the Hyper-Preterist Error (Chesnee, S.C.: Victorious Hope, 2016), 33–37 (see also 87–139).”
2. A summary of my presentation was published in the Criswell Theological Review, and is available at my website. It is titled “A Postmillennial Vision.”
3. Preston argues that we cannot say that the disciples were confused unless the text explicitly says so. On p. 91 he writes: “We have the undeniable fact that on all other occasions when the disciples did not understand what Jesus said, the Gospel writers record their misunderstanding, or Jesus himself speaks of their misunderstanding. In fact, the only way that we know the disciples were ever confused is because the Biblical text unabashedly tells us so!” But earlier, on p. 8 he wrote: “I have demonstrated that in virtually all other occasions, the only way that we know the disciples were mistaken is because the Gospel writers tell us so — very clearly.” Well, which is it? Does Scripture tell us so “on all other occasions” or does it tell us so in “virtually all other occasions”? “Virtually” means “nearly.”
4. Apparently Preston is committing his own “illegitimate, artificial hermeneutic of ‘Missing Words / Missing Elements” when analyzing what I say, or rather, don’t say.
Click on the following images for more information on these studies: