14 March 2009

Book Review: The Promise of His Coming (Peter Leithart)

I recently finished reading Peter Leithart's short (only 105 pages), but power packed overview/commentary on 2 Peter and found it to be packing a lot more than I had anticipated considering it's size.

Not only does it do an excellent job at explaining the first century context and fulfillment of the book, but he even spends some time doing a good job at defending the authenticity and authorship of the book; an added bonus I was not expecting in this short treatise.

He writes this overview from a purely Preterist interpretation, seeking to prove the events discussed were indeed relevant and came to pass during the lifetime of the first century audience it was written to. The book could be divided into five main discussion, which he refers to as his "Knock Down Arguments" and are as follows:
Knock Down Argument #1:
Peter wrote his second letter on the theme of the coming of Jesus, which he says was also a theme of his first letter, which is 1 Peter. Since 1 Peter's teaching about the "coming" of Jesus highlights its imminence, 2 Peter must be dealing with the same looming event.
Knock Down Argument #2:
Peter defends the reliability of the promised coming of Jesus by reference to the Transfiguration. In each of the Synoptics, this event is connected immediately with a prophecy of Jesus' "coming" within the lifetime of some of His disciples, a prophecy filled out in the Olivet Discourse. Peter's argument from the Transfiguration makes best sense if he is using it to support this prophecy. Thus the "coming" that Peter insists will happen is an event that Jesus said would take place in the first century.

Knock Down Argument #3:
Peter says explicitly that the destruction of false teachers is coming "soon." Their destruction is the same event as the destruction of the present heavens and earth, the "day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (3:7). If the destruction of false teachers was near when Peter wrote, so also was the destruction of the heavens and earth and the coming of a new heavens and earth.

Knock Down Argument #4
Peter responds to mockers who doubt the promise of Jesus' coming because time has passed without any sign of the Parousia. If there were no time limit on the original prophecy, then the mockers would have no grounds for their mockery and no way to attract converts to their skeptical views. Therefore, the original prophecy must have included a time limit, a terminus ad quem, and that time limit must have been the lifetime of the apostles.

Knock Down Argument #5:
For the mockers, the passing of the "fathers," the apostles and their associates, casts doubt on the truth of Jesus' promise to come in power. This objection has weight only if Jesus had in fact promised to come before the "fathers" passed from the scene. Thus the prophecy in dispute in 2 Peter 3 promised a "coming" within the apostolic generation. The prophecy Peter says will be fulfilled is a prophecy about Jesus' coming within the generation.
One by one, he pounds and punches holes in the futurist position, until finally, the futurist argument has no leg to stand on.
The only small section which I found was weak, was his dealing with the angels of 2 Peter 2:4, where he takes the lineage of Seth view over the actual historically understood angelic presence view. This should be understandable considering the lengthy discussion I already had on this issue in prior blog posts (see postings starting HERE). Even with that disagreement aside, this has got to be one of the best looks at 2 Peter I have seen, especially considering the size of the work as mentioned.
The only other slightly odd comment I found relating to this book, was the description on the back cover, which states:
In this study, Peter Leithart offers a preterist reading of the epistle, arguing that it describes first-century events rather than the end of history. At the same time, he maintains orthodoxy, avoiding hyper-preterism and affirming both the real future return of Christ...
Maybe I missed it the first time around, or maybe I misunderstand what a hyper-preterist view would be on 2 Peter, but aside from his simply denying a hyper-preterist position in the early chapter, the book itself never seems to address how his view on this epistle would in anyway differ from the "hyper" position's view on it. Leithart's plain words at the open of chapter three seem to be exactly what the "hyper" view would hold on this topic:
By this point, I hope I have made a plausible case that Peter's entire letter is about a set of prophecies that Peter expected to be fulfilled during the readers' lifetimes.
So aside from just drawing a distinction in his overall eschatological view from the other view, I do not see how this statement has any plausible relation to the discussions or conclusions in this book itself. Not a big point, but the back cover led me to believe the book might contain some kind of attention given as to how his conclusions would differ from the "hyper" position on this epistle, which it did not.

This book is readily available in both paperback and audio book format through the Apologia Book Shoppe (unless you feel the need to support the large monster stores like Amazon.com...lol).