PMW 2023-009 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Hyperpreterism is a new theological paradigm that stands against universal historic Christian orthodoxy. It holds that the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment occurred in AD 70 with the destruction of the Jewish temple. Consequently, it also holds that earth history will never end (resulting in God’s tolerating a rebellious universe for ever and ever and ever). One method hyperpreterism uses to seek to topple the 2000 year old eschatology of Scripture is to focus on the Greek word mello.
In two previous articles (PMW 2022-014 and 015) I focused on Acts 24:15, which speaks of the resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. The word mello appears in this text and is interpreted by hyperpreterists to mean: “there is about to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”
In those articles I noted that a study of mello showed that it has several meanings, and does not simply mean “about to,” per the hyperpreterist approach. In fact, Greek scholar Daniel B. Wallace has written an important Greek grammar titled, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (1996). On p. 536 of this work he speaks of “the ambiguity of the lexical nuance of mello (which usually means either ‘I am about to’ [immediacy] or ‘I will inevitably’ [certainty]).” An ambiguous term is not sufficient to overthrow the historic Christian faith.
I then cited several leading Greek authorities, showing that because of this ambiguity, mello can mean, as per the Baur-Arndt-Gingrichi-Danker Lexicon: “1. to take place in a future point of time and so to be subsequent to another event, be about to… 2. to be inevitable, be destined, inevitable.” Others agreeing with this assessment include the Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains and the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament.
But how do the leading Bible versions translate this verse? And how should someone who does not know Greek evaluate this matter? I will provide a lengthy list of Bible versions and commentaries that avoid translating mello as “about to,” while preferring that it speaks only of futurity. Lone gunners who go against the near-universal consensus of Bible translation committees and world-class commentators should be suspect, especially when claiming that historic Christianity has missed this important issue for 2000 years. And I would not buy any ocean-front property in Arizona from them.
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Acts 17:31 in the standard translations
NASB: because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
ASV: Inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
Amplified Bible: because He has set a day when He will judge the inhabited world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed and destined for that task, and He has provided credible proof to everyone by raising Him from the dead.
Christian Standard Bible: because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.
Contemporary English Version: He has set a day when he will judge the world’s people with fairness. And he has chosen the man Jesus to do the judging for him. God has given proof of this to all of us by raising Jesus from death.
English Standard Version: because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead
Good News Transaltion: For he has fixed a day in which he will judge the whole world with justice by means of a man he has chosen. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising that man from death!
Holman Christian Standard Bible: because He has set a day when He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead
International Standard Version: Because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world with justice through a man whom he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead
KJV: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead
Lexham English Bible: because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man who he has appointed, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.
Modern English Version: For He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed, having given assurance of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.
New Century Version: God has set a day that he will judge all the world with fairness, by the man he chose long ago. And God has proved this to everyone by raising that man from the dead!
New English Translation: because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.
New International Version: For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.
NKJV: because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead
NRSV: Because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.
RSV: because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.
Wycliffe Bible: for that he hath ordained a day, in which he shall deem the world in equity, in a man in which he ordained, and gave faith to all men, and raised him from death [raising him from dead].
With this many Greek scholars and translation committees agreeing on the use of mello in Acts 17:31, we would be rather reckless to accept that this ambiguous term as sufficient to undermining historic Christianity. But there is more.
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Acts 17:31 in Commentaries
A search of the leading evangelical commentaries on Acts shows that scholars do not adopt the interpretation that Paul was warning that the judgment was “about to” occur in history. Rather, they point out that his argument — which was presented to the Athenians far away from Jerusalem and unattached to Judaism — was that they should repent because the day of judgment coming upon them was sure and inevitable. This was not to be soon, and virtually unnoticeable and with no consequence for the folks in Athens.
For instance, universally-heralded Greek scholar A. T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures in the New Testament (3:291) writes: “Will judge (mellei krinein). Rather, is going to judge, mello and the present active infinitive of krino.”
Consider these the Acts commentaries in these commentary series, as well. Not one if them is even tempted to adopt the nearness interpretation:
Alford, Greek Text Commentary, 199.
Bock in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 570.
Bruce in the New International Commentary on the New Testament, pp. 340–41.
Fernando in the NIV Application Commentary, p. 476.
Hendriksen in the New Testament Commentary, p. 639.
Lenski in the The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles, pp. 737–38.
Larkin in the IVP New Testament Commentary, p. 200.
Peterson in the Pillar New Testament Commentary, p. 502.
Meyer in the Critical and exegetical Handbook, p. 338.
Polhill in the New American Commentary, p. 376.
Marshall in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary, p. 290.
Schnabel in the Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 740
Witherington in the Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, pp. 331–32.
With this many scholarly commentaries agreeing on the use of mello in Acts 17:31, we would be rather reckless to accept this ambiguous term as sufficient to undermining historic Christianity. This should be of special interest to orthodox preterists. This is because one helpful argument for preterism in Revelation is the virtually universal translation of Revelation 1:1, 3 as referring to soon coming events.
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Technical studies on key issues in Revelation, including the seven-sealed scroll, the cast out temple, Jewish persecution of Christianity, the Babylonian Harlot, and more.
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It is enough when you add all the other evidence to it, such as the fact that you know darn well that sometimes literal speech is used and sometimes figurative speech is used. I would say there is far more figurative speech than anybody ever realized, but it is not absolute and therefore, neither is your orthodoxy just because you will not admit that certain phrases like “spiritual body” CAN ACTUALLY MEAN A NON PHYSICAL ONE! All you have to do in order to clear up the argument is PROVE that it cannot mean a “non physical body” but you cannot. All you really have is Christ’s body as evidence which I would argue is not at all a physical body anyway, but a supernatural body. The point being made to Thomas and company was “WHO” and not “what” the body was.
Hello Mr. Gentry,
In my estimation, the mood of mello in Acts 24:15 is the present active infinitive while Revelation 1:19 uses is the present active indicative. I am no Greek expert but doesn’t the infinitive allow for more (or sometimes an undetermined amount time to transpire) while the indicative seems to indicate something about to occur. I could be misunderstanding this entirely and was wondering if you can comment or correct me if I am in error.
According to virtually all Greek scholars and Acts commentators this is not the case. And I believe they should know.
1 Cor 15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. First fruits of a harvest are like the following harvest. Therefore Christ’s resurrected body is like the full harvest of the resurrection. And we read of Christ’s resurrected body: Luke 24:39: “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
I believe in your point about the harvest. We, like Christ, will have a supernatural body just like his, but not a physical body, and I don’t believe the remnants of the old will leave the grave like his did. First, it cannot be a physical body if it doesn’t obey the laws of physics, and second, his body did not decompose, but ours does. The empty tomb is a physical representation that he is no longer dead, and not a representation that he is physical. The bible constantly uses a physical representation for something that is supernatural, such as healing the physical effects of sin and equating it with BEING FORGIVEN! All I am asking for is an interpretation that makes sense and I care not WHO has proven it out. If the orthodoxy actually made sense then I would believe it but I am not buying that the first resurrection was only a change of status, but rather both a change of status and a full realization of it’s benefits, and the entire context of the second resurrection is around those who did not realize the first and those who are convicted. If the two are both separated by a “thousand years”, and on the SAME DAY (Daniel and John) ,then THAT DAY IS THE 1000 YEARS. It’s all very simple unless you have too much investment in something that makes less sense.
Dr. Gentry, thanks for the comment on mello. I have read more than one of your excellent books, and have recommended them to others. But I think you gave “mello” a short shrift here. Just a few comments in rebuttal.
The Greek word MELLO is most often defined “to be about to do something. . . the certainty of what is about to take place” (Vine) and “to be about to do anything; on the point [or the verge] of” (Thayer). Strong’s G3195 says “to be about, to be on the point of doing or suffering something, to intend, have in mind, think to.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia reads, “mello, referring to what is about to be, i.e. on the point of occurring or immediately impending.” Machen’s New Testament Greek for Beginners says, “mello means ‘about to.'” Wigram’s The Analytical Greek Lexicon of the New Testament said that mello means “to be about to, be on the point of.” That’s just a sampling as others could be cited.
While translators are not consistent, as you point out, the McReynolds’ Interlinear translates MELLO as “about to” all 109 times in the New Testament! Wescott/Hort also translates the word “about to” every time it appears.
Young’s Literal Translation (Acts 24:15)― “there is about to be a rising of the dead, both of the righteous an unrighteous”
David Bentley Hart Translation (Acts 24:15)― “a resurrection of both the just and the unjust is about to occur”
Julia C. Smith Literal Translation from the Original Tongues (Acts 24:15)―”a rising from the dead about to be, both of the just and unjust”
Literal Standard Version― “there is about to be a resurrection of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous”
The most important Old Testament text about the resurrection of the dead is, of course, Daniel 12:2. The time of fulfillment of this passage could hardly be more clear as it would come “when the power of the holy people comes to an end” (12:7) and when “the regular burnt offering is taken away” (12:11) and when “the abomination that makes desolate is set up” (12:11) which Jesus told his followers in the first century they would witness (Matthew 14:15, 34). That was unambiguously AD 70.
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NASB: “because He has fixed a day in which He will cjudge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
— judge the world
I did an exhaustive study of “mello” as it occurs in Greek Literature, Early Christian Literature (second century AD); LXX, and NT. As Wallace pointed out (per your quote), the term means “about to” as used in the English; when something is “on the verge” of happening: “I am about to leave for work” (I got keys in hand, I have showered, and I am pouring my last cup of coffee”). Even here, the “base meaning” of “mello” is: “certain to be,” i.e., “I am about to leave for work” because the ACTION depicts the certainty of my comment. Thus, the verb, in and of itself, does not mean “about to,” but something that will “most certainly” take place in the future (either the very near, on the point of happening, or in the indefinite future). “Context,” then, decides on how we, in ENGLISH, would translate it: “Paul was about to speak…” “The soldier was about to draw his sword…” “The ship was about to break apart….” All of these actions are “on the verge” of happening “right then and there.”
offgridblogger: Thanks for reading. And thanks for your note.
But do you not find it remarkable that ALL standard translations of the Bible by a wide-ranging host of scholarly committees do NOT follow these off-beat or innovative translations? Especially since some of them are liberal (David Bentley Hart) and seek to expose the error of Paul and early Christianity? And do you believe Julia Evelina Smith’s competence in the original languages was superior to the various evangelical, peer-reviewed, committee-produced translations?
The “Literal Standard Version” is simply an updating of “Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible,” which is helpful in many respects but certainly not infallible. And it gained little traction in the world of Bible translations, being more of an oddity than anything.
Just to cite one leading Greek authority, the Baur-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker “Lexicon” (p. 627), we note regarding “mello”: “W[ith] the fut[ure] inf[initive] m[ello] denotes certainty that an event will occur in the future, … will certainly take place or be Ac[ts] 11:28; 24:15; 27:10.”
And to cite one other authority, Balz and Schneider’s “Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament” (2:404): “Mello is often used periphrastically for the simple fut[ure]…. In Acts mello contains no suggestion of a near future.”
And interestingly (and tragically), the primary contemporary interest in mello is due to an attempt to overthrow 2000 years of Christian orthodoxy by a new theological paradigm. And this orthodoxy issue regards a doctrine of such foundational significance that it is included in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, and other ecumenical creeds. These creeds recognize the remarkable worldview balance of creation leading to consummation after a final judgment on sin.
This is all the more remarkable since you start out your question by recognizing what I presented in my article: that “mello” can mean either “certainty” or “about to.”
The very point of the “first fruits” is that the latter fruits are of the same kind: barley produces barley, wheat produces wheat — in the first fruits as in the final harvest. Thus, our resurrected bodies will be like his resurrected body since his is the first fruits of ours. His occurred at the tomb, just as ours will (whether or not we are actually entombed, being left deceased elsewhere); see John 5:28.
Your first point is not relevant. We live in a God cursed world under the decline produced by the second law of thermodynamics. This will not be the case in eternity, since the curse will be fully lifted. And by mentioning that our bodies decompose as evidence of your innovative viewpoint, you are falling into the Sadducean error in opposing the physical resurrection that Jesus rebutted as we read in Matt. 22:29: “But Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.’”
You state that the empty tomb was merely “a physical representation that he is no longer dead, and not a representation that he is physical.” But the Scriptures actually have Jesus speaking to his disciples after his resurrection: “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).
The resurrection involves a body that is “resurrected.” It is not a body that is created anew.
Excellent. It is amazing that HPs look for the smallest crowbars to dislodge Christianity from believers’ hearts.