Tag Archives: David W. Hester

Second Realized Eschatology Debate Recap — David W. Hester

Editor’s Note:  The October, 2016 issue of the Carolina Messenger featured an article written by Dr. Hester in which he shared his thoughts and perspectives about a debate he had participated in with Don Preston in Ardmore, Oklahoma concerning the doctrine of realized eschatology.  Since then, Dr. Hester and Mr. Preston have conducted a second debate over this erroneous doctrine and Dr. Hester has agreed to share his thoughts on this debate with us again.  This misguided doctrine, also known as the “AD 70 Doctrine” or “AD 70 Theory” among other designations, has slowly gained a degree of prevalence in the brotherhood in recent years and needs to be scripturally refuted.  We appreciate the efforts of Dr. Hester and others to show from the entirety of God’s Word the numerous errors and contradictions found within this theory.

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The second debate between myself and Don K. Preston took place June 15-16, 2017 at the Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL. This was the fulfillment of a pledge I made in the original agreement I signed with Preston in 2016. The propositions for this debate were the same as the first: “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, is yet future, and will occur at the end of time.” Affirm: David Hester; Deny: Don K. Preston. “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.” Affirm: Don K. Preston; Deny: David Hester. Kyle Massengale, of Madison, AL served as my moderator, with Mike Kiser of Sylacauga, AL assisting; Preston brought with him William Bell of Memphis, TN as his moderator. Steve Wages, Director of the Cloverdale Center for Family Strengths at Faulkner University, served as the independent moderator and timekeeper.

Since I was to be in the affirmative the first night, it was my intent to “set the table,” so to speak, and to control the agenda. At the beginning—and before I defined the proposition—I brought up one of the assertions I made in the Ardmore debate. For Preston’s doctrine to be true, one has to redefine words, phrases, and passages of Scripture. The approach he and his cohorts take is very much like that described in the book Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. In it, Alice meets with Humpty Dumpty, who is sitting on the wall. They engage in conversation, which quickly goes nowhere; Humpty Dumpty is using words very differently from Alice. After she challenges him, he gruffly says, “When I choose a word, it means what I choose it to mean; nothing more or less.” That is the approach taken by AD 70 advocates—the “Humpty Dumpty Hermeneutic.”

I then made 10 affirmative arguments—a mix of formal logical syllogisms and arguments from specific biblical passages. They are as follows:

  1. A nine point argument, in proper logical form, concerning the resurrection of the dead and the second coming of Christ—which proves my proposition to be true. It had as its foundation the fact that when Christ comes again, he will do so “literally, visibly, and personally” as he went into heaven in Acts 1:9-11.
  2. An argument which focuses on the fact that Jesus will come upon the wicked unawares—in contrast to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, which was certainly not unaware to the wicked Jews!
  3. Christ will convict the wicked at his second coming (Jude 14-15). Who was convicted by the Roman general Titus at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70?
  4. The Lord’s Supper stands as a rebuke to Don and his disciples; if the Lord has already come, then why take the Supper now (1 Cor. 11:26)?
  5. The Greek structure of Revelation 1:7 indicates that “every eye will see him,” indicating actual sight, “all the tribes of the earth” will wail because of him, indicating the nations of the earth (compare the LXX text in Gen. 12:3 and 28:14), and “those who pierced him” utilizes the word translated “pierced” that is only used one other time in the NT—John 19:37. This involves the very people who crucified Christ! Where were they in AD 70?
  6. The “Day” in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 is certainly not the destruction of Jerusalem, and the “fire” contemplated in the text is not the fires of Jerusalem burning. Whose works were revealed by the conflagration Titus imposed?
  7. The “end” described in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 is at the end of time, when Jesus will deliver the kingdom back up to God.
  8. In Luke 20:34-36, Don and his disciples stand rebuked—for Christ declares that “in that world” (heaven) they neither marry nor are given in marriage, and cannot die any more.
  9. In Matthew 13:47-50, when Jesus describes that his holy angels will separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into a fiery furnace, did anything akin to that happen at the destruction of Jerusalem? Could the godless armies of Titus be likened unto the angels of heaven? And, where was the fiery furnace located in Judea where such could have taken place?
  10. A seven point argument from Hebrews 9:26 was employed, focusing on the phrase “the end of the ages,” and the fact that Jesus only made one sacrifice of himself for sin. I followed that with a quotation from a debate Don had in 2006, where he said that “the process (and ground) of taking away of sin undoubtedly began at the Cross, as Hebrews 9:26 affirms. It was not perfected and completed there, however.”

I reserved time at the end of my speech to address some of the responses to written questions I asked Don prior to the debate. His replies were stunning, to say the least.

For example, Question 2: “Is it your conviction that the literal global flood of Genesis is the type of the localized destruction of Jerusalem, seeing that it was used by Peter in a universal call to baptism (1 Peter 3:21)?” Don’s response: “Yes, the flood was definitely a type of AD 70.”

Also, Question 4: “Was Jesus, the Son of God, spiritually separated from God when he died?” Don’s response: “Yes.”

Question 5: “Were the dietary laws of the Law of Moses still binding upon the Jews after Acts 10?” Don’s response: “Yes.”

To say that I was champing at the bit to address these responses is the understatement of the year. Preston asserts three outrageous things: first, the flood was not global, but local; second, Jesus was spiritually out of fellowship with God at the time that he died on the cross; and finally, the Law of Moses was not completely done away with after the cross—even after Cornelius and his household had obeyed the Gospel.

In preparing to answer Don’s assertions, I came across a book he endorsed: Beyond Creation Science, by Timothy P. Martin and Jeffrey L. Vaughn. In his endorsement, Don called belief in a global flood a “sacred cow.” He further called the book “scriptural.” Yet, the authors claim that Genesis 1-2 actually picture the establishment of the Jewish economy, with Adam and Eve being poetic symbols in a “temple motif.” In other words, Genesis is a myth; an allegory. During our debate, Don took particular umbrage to that particular suggestion; yet, what other conclusion can be drawn?

After the first night, I received a private message from a preterist. In part, it read: “Thank you for reading the message and replying. I confess I hold to a fulfilled eschatology view. However, I disagree with the Beyond Creation Science view strongly. I thank you for pressing Don on this subject because he has in the past refused to talk about it to any extent. Don replied to my post of what I sent you as ‘I have not taken a firm stand in the local flood issue, versus universal. Still open to studying that concept.’” This same individual said the following about the authors of the book: “Covenant Creation holders, while nice guys on other topics and in real life, seem to be the Climate Change holders of the fulfilled eschatology world. They tend to act like, ‘How dare you question this view. It is established fact and indisputable.’ Sounds like Climate Change holders.”

During my first speech, I used the phrase “Don and his disciples” over and over again. “Don and his disciples teach;” “Don and his disciples affirm;” etc. That was calculated to get under Don’s skin. However, I wasn’t counting on it raising the ire of William Bell. During the first break after my speech, Bell came over to our table on my side, leaned over with both of his hands on the table, glared at me with fire in his eyes, and said that I was violating the rules of the debate by attributing beliefs to the men at Don’s table that they did not hold. I immediately stood up from my seat (which put my eyes at Bell’s chest when he stood up), and said, “If Don has a problem with it, let him address it when he gets up there. Otherwise, what I said stands.” He subsequently left and went to sit down at his table. This exchange was revealing. Apparently, Bell thinks of himself as a disciple of Don! Also, Don never mentioned it during his speeches as an issue. Interesting.

I also thought it was revealing that during the second night Don said that I misrepresented his position when I pointed out his redefinition of “the end of the age” by inserting “the Jewish age” in every NT passage where it occurs, thus pointing out the absurdity of it. He had a big issue with that…but, wait! If he does not believe that the phrase refers to the Jewish age, then down goes his belief system. If it does not refer to the end of the world, though, then what DOES it refer to? Something else that Don and his disciples are working on?

Of all the ten affirmative arguments I made the first night, Don responded to none of them. He apparently thought he was in the affirmative. At least he defined the proposition, though, on the second night. Don kept wanting to rehash the first debate throughout his speeches. This was indicative of the fact that he had nothing new to offer, and no replies to anything I said. We, on the other hand, responded to every one of his arguments the second night. Don cast disparaging comments about my teaching ability (thus sounding more like a disgruntled student who receives a failing grade than a mature, dignified speaker), and said that my first negative speech was the “worst he’d ever heard” in all his years in debate. Well, of course he would say that, because I answered his assertions! He himself called his doctrine “strange” in his first negative speech—and strange it is, indeed. It is “strange” because it is false doctrine.

It is my hunch that the debates we have had will go a long way towards diminishing the influence of Preston among our brethren. I know for a fact that some preterists who have been privately grumbling about Preston are now becoming emboldened to step forward and challenge him. It will be interesting, indeed, to see this play out over the next few months.

The debate will be made available very soon on DVD via Eastern Meadows Church of Christ. The Gospel Broadcasting Network, which recorded the debate, provided us with high quality video and audio (Parts 1 and 2 can be accessed on their YouTube channel) and are making us master copies to use for the DVDs we will distribute.  Debates are very helpful, when conducted properly. It is my hope and prayer that more of them will take place concerning a wide variety of subjects. It is in this format that the Truth of God shines.

dhester@faulkner.edu

David is on the faculty of the F. Furman Kearley School of Theology at Faulkner University, where he also is Director of the annual Bible Lectures.  David is also Education Director at Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL.

 

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Realized Eschatology Debate Recap — David W. Hester

Of all the false doctrines that have troubled brethren in the last 50 years, perhaps the weirdest of them all is that known as “Realized Eschatology,” or “Covenant Eschatology,” or “Max Kingism.” In short, it avers that the Second Coming of Christ, the final resurrection of the just and the unjust, and the Final Judgment all took place in in the year A. D. 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem. Although this concept was first introduced in modern times in the denominational world in 1787 by James S. Russell, it was introduced to the Lord’s church in 1971, when C. D. Beagle presented this view to a number of preachers in Ohio. Beagle’s son-in-law, Max King, also accepted this teaching and began promoting it. He popularized the movement with the writing of two books: The Spirit of Prophecy (1971) and The Cross and the Parousia of Christ (1987).  Because of this, the teaching is sometimes referred to as “Max Kingism.”

In more recent years, Don Preston has assumed leadership among the adherents of this doctrine. Based out of Ardmore, Oklahoma, Preston has pushed this doctrine through his website, books and printed material, and an annual event he calls the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend” in Ardmore. While ostensibly still affiliated with churches of Christ, Preston no longer preaches regularly but devotes almost all of his time and efforts in more ecumenical directions in promoting his doctrine.

In March 2016, I was contacted by a preacher inquiring whether I would be interested in debating Preston in Ardmore in concerning this doctrine. I initially agreed; contact was made with Preston through a close friend of mine and brother in Christ, Shawn Mathis. Shawn is a former preacher and experienced businessman; he negotiated the terms of the debate for me with Preston. Shawn did an outstanding job in finalizing the agreement that was signed, and nailing down the propositions to be debated. Thus it was that Preston and I agreed to a two night debate on July 14-15, 2016, in connection with the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend.” The propositions were: “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.” Affirm: Don K. Preston; Deny: David Hester, and, “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, is yet future, and will occur at the end of time.” Affirm: David Hester; Deny: Don K. Preston.

In preparation for the debate, I was fortunate to have a number of fellow gospel preachers to give me assistance. Several who had debated the subject in the past allowed me access to their notes. Additionally, I obtained three sources of information (which I cannot disclose at this time) from a preacher friend which proved to be crucial in putting together the line of argumentation I would use. Phil Sanders agreed to serve as my moderator and sit at my table; he proved to be invaluable with his advice, encouragement, and quick thinking. Kyle Massengale, who had sat at my table in 2011 when I debated Catholic theologian Robert Sungenis, helped from a distance with his strong suggestions and counsel. As the time for the debate drew closer, I felt more and more comfortable.

During the preparation period, an item of interest caught my attention. On his website, Preston posts a series of videos he calls “Morning Musings.” In them, he promotes and pushes his doctrine. The topic that interested me was on the Lord’s Supper. The advocates of the AD 70 doctrine have an insurmountable problem—if the Second Coming took place at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, then one is hard pressed to explain 1 Cor. 11:26: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Either the AD 70 advocates take the Supper, and thus contradict their own teaching, not take it altogether and violate Paul’s clear command, or else change the Law of Christ. Preston chose the last option.

In his video series on the subject, he claimed that we cannot know how often the early church ate the Supper; he also said that while it is “appropriate” to take the Supper, we do not have to take it today. While Preston once believed and taught that the Supper must be taken every first day of the week, he does not believe that now. He then claimed that the mention of the Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 was not intended to be understood as advocating a universal practice, but only for Corinth. I knew that all of this would provide a major point of emphasis during the debate. Contrary to Don, we can know how often the Supper was taken—from the book of           1 Corinthians itself! Paul wrote, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup…” (1 Co. 11:26). When did the Corinthian brethren come together? “On the first day of every week” (1 Co. 16:2); the same day they met in Troas in Acts 20:7. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:2, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” So, contrary to Don, we can know not only when the Supper was taken, and how often, but also to whom it applies—everyone living today. The fact remains, “till he come” in 1 Corinthians 11:26 is a death blow to his AD 70 theory. The Lord is yet to come, and we are still to take the Supper.

During the time I was in Ardmore for the debate, I was struck by how ecumenical the gathering was. Many of those who participated in the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend” were not members of the church, but rather members of various denominational groups. Nevertheless, Phil Sanders and I were treated with respect and courtesy, which we returned in kind. We were shown hospitality on a personal level throughout the proceedings. Also, Cougan Collins gave us much needed logistical support and personal encouragement. He opened the building of the Lone Grove Church of Christ, where he preaches, for us to use in studying and preparing. Cougan is a very sharp and solid young preacher, and is doing a great job with the Lone Grove congregation.

Two things were immediately apparent as the debate progressed. First, Preston did not define his proposition. The first rule of formal debate (which we both signed) is that “the terms in which the question in debate is expressed, and the precise point at issue, should be so clearly defined, that there could be no misunderstanding respecting them.” Beginning with his first affirmative speech, Don did not follow that rule. I made sure in my responses that this would not go unnoticed. He later said that he did not want to “bore” the audience with defining the proposition; yet, he himself had defined his propositions in many other debates in which he had participated. As I said to Phil Sanders at one point (and said publicly during the debate), “If this had been a collegiate style debate with judges, Don would have been disqualified.”

Second, almost from the start Don claimed that the Law of Moses was in place—with God’s approval—alongside the Law of Christ for 40 years (until AD 70). This was an amazing assertion. Romans 7:1-6 blows that out of the water. A fundamental assertion in Don’s doctrine is that the Law of Moses was in force during Christ’s reign from Acts 2 until AD 70. However, Paul says that Christians—long before AD 70—were joined to Christ and not to the law. Don’s doctrine teaches that spiritual adultery was scriptural from Pentecost until AD 70! To be joined to a husband and to marry another involved one in adultery. If one is discharged from the law of the husband, one is free to marry again and this marriage does not involve adultery. To be joined to the old covenant, the old law, and to be joined to the new covenant (joined to Christ), involves one in spiritual adultery. Before one can be joined to Christ, one must be discharged from the law (Ro. 7:2, 6). Christians were already “discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held” (Ro. 7:6). They were “made dead to the law through the body of Christ” (Ro. 7:4). The death of Christ was involved in the removal of the law (Ep. 2:13-17).

For Preston’s doctrine to be true, one has to redefine words, phrases, and passages of Scripture. The approach he and his cohorts take is very much like that described in the book Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. In it, Alice meets with Humpty Dumpty, who is sitting on the wall. They engage in conversation, which quickly goes nowhere; Humpty Dumpty is using words very differently from Alice. After she challenges him, he gruffly says, “When I choose a word, it means what I choose it to mean; nothing more or less.” That is the approach taken by AD 70 advocates—the “Humpty Dumpty Hermeneutic.”

During my affirmative arguments, I presented 23 arguments for Don to answer. He did not seriously attempt to do so, claiming he did not have enough time. The audience—both online and in person—knows that he did not respond to them. A few times during the debate, he tried to use passages from Hebrews to bolster his doctrine concerning the Law of Moses. His efforts were easily demonstrated to be false. I chided him a couple of times by saying, “You’d better stay out of Hebrews; it’ll kill you.” He finally responded to that in frustration by saying, “I’ll slather all over Hebrews.” What’s interesting is that the word “slather” means “to use or spend in a wasteful or lavish manner.” Needless to say, after each night’s session, I felt very good about how things went. I believe that in the long term, this debate will do much good.

There is a link to the recordings of the debate, where you can watch it online. The password is PPWLIVESTREAM. Part of the agreement that was signed committed me to make a good faith effort to schedule another debate between me and Don in Montgomery, AL. At the time of the publication of this article, we have just agreed to have a second debate in Montgomery in 2017.

dhester@faulkner.edu

David is on the faculty of the F. Furman Kearley School of Theology at Faulkner University, where he also is Director of the annual Bible Lectures.  David is also Education Director at Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL.

 

Among The Scholars, Once Again – David W. Hester

The 2015 Christian Scholars Conference was held on the campus of Abilene Christian University on June 3-5. As many readers know, I have attended two of these events in the past; I wrote a book, Among The Scholars, in 1994 in part about my experience when I participated. Following the second time in 1996, I thought that it would be my last. So it was a surprise for me when I received an invitation to present a paper in the 2015 conference.

The theme for the event at ACU was “One World.” Knowing from past experience the tilt of the Conference to the extreme Left, I decided that the best approach would be to present fundamental truths in a kind but unapologetic way. Yet, the title and abstract of the presentation would need to be chosen carefully. Thus it was that I submitted the title, “And All Who Believed Were Together (Acts 2:44): A Global Strategic Plan For The Academy.” The presentation would propose a plan to promote diversity and acceptance within the university setting, while at the same time upholding and promoting biblical truth. The model of the Jerusalem church in Acts 2 was the template; yet, the entire presentation would be teaching the truth on salvation, the church, worship, and godly living. Knowing the hostility that many of the participants had in the past towards such, I was not expecting a positive reception.

One bright spot for me was the fact that my wife Brenda and oldest son Will were able to come with me (our youngest son Jonathan was still in school at Auburn and could not make the trip). Having them with me was a boost to my confidence level. A preacher friend of mine, Robert Lukenbill III, was also able to come for part of the conference. Having familiar faces always helps in any situation. Here it would be crucial. Never having visited ACU, I did not know what to expect; yet, having now been there I can frankly say that the ACU campus is very attractive. The building which houses the College of Biblical Studies is quite impressive. It is unfortunate that it is being used by Leftists to promote their agenda.

Drawing from my experiences, I was able to make some comparisons between the 2015 conference and those I attended in the 1990s. One thing that was apparent was the difference in professionalism. In the 1990s, the conference had a feel of insurrection. This was seen not only in the informal dress of many of the participants and attendees, but also in the informal atmosphere. In 2015, the dress of the participants and attendees was far more formal. There were more suits worn. This may seem like a trivial point, but the contrast was striking to me. There was more money invested in the Conference, which was seen in the slickly produced schedule made available to all, as well as the greatly expanded number of participants. Additionally, many brotherhood college and university presidents were present (save those from Freed-Hardeman and Faulkner). Overall, it seemed as if the CSC had adopted a “we’ve arrived” attitude, as if their approach to biblical matters was now the norm.

I also saw a hardened resolve for the Leftist view on everything from the role of women to ecumenism to hostility towards the “traditional” views of brethren in the church. In fact, there were a number of women who were active participants/presenters in the conference (thus violating 1 Timothy 2). There were also a number of denominational participants who were treated as brethren. In some of the sessions, there was a palpable hostility displayed against past perceived grievances by brethren in the 1950s-1970s, particularly those in “positions of power.” By way of example, this particular point was played out in one of the sessions—“Biblical Scholars in Churches of Christ and Questions of Social Justice.” Among the participants were Richard Hughes, Harold Straughn, Victor Hunter, and Robert Randolph. Younger readers may only recognize the first name; many of those over the age of 40 will immediately know the rest. Straughn, Hunter, and Randolph were actively involved in the effort to change the church in the 1960s-1970s. In fact, Hunter was an editor of Mission Journal, which promoted extreme Leftist positions on doctrine. Straughn and Randolph are now active in the Christian Church. During the session, the focus was upon both racial and gender issues. Straughn and Hunter were outspoken in declaring their belief that churches of Christ should always have had a wide role for women in the church, including preaching. They lamented the state of affairs (as they saw it) in the 1950s-1960s. They blamed prominent preachers and editors for the “traditional” positions that were taken.

Yet, it was a presentation of another participant that was shocking. Alisha R. Winn addressed “A Walking Message: Jesus, Social Justice, and Scholarship.” Robert Lukenbill III heard her presentation, and provides the following report: “In the course of her message, she contended that biblical scripture was story telling. She stated to this effect that the one who tells the story determines how the story is told. Winn used Nehemiah and Ezra as examples. She stated that the people of the land (who had inhabited Canaan/Israel while Israel was in captivity) were not the bad guys, but were victims of the Jews attempting to kick them out of their homes. Another thought Winn had was that at the end of Ezra, God never told them to leave their Gentile families in order to be in a right relationship with God; that was something the Jews came up with on their own. Most tellingly, Winn contended that both Ezra and Nehemiah are not inspired, but were mere stories told from the Jewish perspective. As such, the Jews got to pick and choose which details to leave in and take out to push their agenda.” To say that this is stunning would be an understatement. If the Old Testament scriptures are not all fully inspired, then how could one trust the words of Jesus to be true?

By way of comparison, the session I participated in was tame. The participants who were in my session actually had some very good material; the presentations—on “American Slavery” and “Psychology Practice”—were insightful and not at all unbiblical. I was emboldened to present my paper even more directly. At the end of my presentation, the other two participants (as well as the convener from ACU) were highly complementary. Indeed, the presenter on slavery said that my presentation took him back to his childhood days in Georgia, listening to preachers during Gospel Meetings. I took that as high praise.

Overall, the 2015 Christian Scholars Conference was not surprising. It was weighted heavily towards the Left, with few exceptions. That said, it is my conviction that more sound brethren need to be involved in order to try and affect positive change, or at the very least to facilitate true dialogue. In 1992, Jimmy Jividen presented a lecture series at what was then International Bible College on the New Hermeneutic. He happened to mention the Christian Scholars Conference during the series, and emphasized that this was where a lot of strange doctrines were originating. When I asked him how one could present the Truth at the CSC, he replied, “Get on their mailing list.” That simple suggestion changed the course of my life. The quickest way to get involved is to access the website for the Christian Scholars Conference, get on their mailing list, and submit proposals for papers when the time comes to do so. When brethren are willing to stand up and be counted, that is when the Truth shines.

dhester@faulkner.edu

Mark 16:9-20 And New Testament Canonicity – David W. Hester

Editor’s Note: Dr. Hester is a lecturer at Faulkner University and co-director of the university’s annual Bible Lectureship. This article is a summation of brother Hester’s dissertation, “Does Mark 16:9-20 Belong In The New Testament?”, published later this year.

Mark 16:9-20 is a passage that has been debated over for many decades. In the larger religious world, most theologians and commentators reject it as being from the hand of Mark, while still including it within the Gospel. This is based in part on the passage’s absence from two of the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament—Vaticanus and Sinaiticus—as well as testimony from a fourth century Christian, Eusebius, who wrote that the passage was missing from some manuscripts. The passage is also missing from various manuscripts from all four textual “families” of the Greek New Testament. Several ancient versions of the New Testament, dating to the third century, also do not include the passage.

Additionally, internal evidence from the passage itself seems to indicate that the passage was written by a different hand than that of John Mark. Various Greek words are used only in 16:9-20. Some grammatical and verb structures in the passage are not employed elsewhere in Mark. Yet, the passage itself surfaced early—at least in the second century. Many scholars accept 16: 9-20 as “canonical,” but not from John Mark; yet, as the late Paul Harvey said, we need to see “the rest of the story.”

Mark 16:9-20 also has ancient attestation. One of the three oldest manuscripts—Alexandrinus—contains the passage. It is present in all four textual “families” of the Greek New Testament. Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, two second century Christians, quoted from the passage and attributed it to Mark. A second century document, “The Epistle of the Apostles,” quotes directly from the passage.

Tatian, who wrote a mid-second century harmony of the Gospels called the “Diatesseron,” quoted from Mark 16:9-20. Several third century witnesses also either quote directly or allude to the passage. Mark 16:9-20 is present in 99% of the surviving copies of the Greek New Testament. Numbers of manuscripts do not prove that a passage belongs; yet, Mark 16:9-20 at the very least has ancient witnesses testifying to its authenticity.

On December 30, 1965, the Society of Biblical Literature held its annual meeting at Vanderbilt University. Kenneth W. Clark delivered the Presidential Address. While not arguing for the acceptance of Mark 16:9–20 as genuine, Clark said: “On the other hand, the restoration of the traditional ending of Mark is a wholesome challenge to our habitual assumption that the original Mark is preserved no further than 16:8…Witnesses both for and against the restoration as genuine are early and impressive, and we should consider the question still open and perhaps ‘insoluble at present.’” (Clark, 9-10) Over the next 47 years, much work would be done in the scholarly world revisiting the passage.

Bruce Metzger did much work during those decades in clarifying external evidence that had been cited against the passage. In 1964, Metzger’s position concerning the passage was not significantly different from the near-universal scholarly view. It was during this time—while he was on leave from Princeton Theological Seminary—that he began preparation on what would become A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament.

In the midst of his work on the project, he encountered “every so often…some question—whether great or small,” which had to be resolved. As it happened, 16:9–20 was one of those problems. Metzger’s comments concerning some of the research done up to that point of time in the Ethiopic manuscripts are revealing: “Previously published statements by generally careful and reliable scholars were inadequate, confused, and contradictory. The same manuscripts were cited as containing or as not containing these verses, with or without a shorter ending standing between verses 8 and 9” (Metzger, 167).

Commenting on the Greek text of the passage in 1971, Metzger stated concerning NT Greek Manuscript 2386: “Although the last page of Mark closes with έφοβοΰντο γάρ, the next leaf of the manuscript is missing, and following 16.8 is the sign indicating the close of an ecclesiastical lection, a clear implication that the manuscript originally continued with additional material from Mark” (Metzger, 122f1). Metzger had thus affected the evidence that supported omission, taking away one piece that had up until his time been cited frequently.

In 1972, Metzger announced a discovery he made concerning the aforementioned Ethiopic manuscripts: “The present writer, having examined the ending of Mark in sixty-five Ethiopic manuscripts, discovered that none, contrary to the statements made by previous investigators, close the Gospel at xvi.8, but that most (forty-seven manuscripts) present the so-called shorter ending directly after vs.8, followed immediately by the longer ending (verses 9–20)” (Metzger, “The Ending”). This also affected the evidence for omission in that it clarified one of the sources often cited against the validity of the passage. While Metzger still did not accept it as being from Mark, he accepted the passage as being “canonical.”

When all the external evidence is considered, several things are clear. First, there was an issue with the Greek text at the ending of Mark, possibly as early as the second century. This is borne out by the number of references to manuscripts ending at verse 8, damage to several other manuscripts at the end of Mark, the two oldest manuscripts not containing 16:9–20, and the patristic witnesses who call attention to copies of Mark ending at verse 8.

Second, Mark 16:9–20 was in circulation; this is seen by its acceptance of some patristic witnesses as part of Mark and written by Mark, and accepted by the early church in the second century. Third, the evidence both for and against inclusion of the passage is represented by all Greek text-types. Thus, external evidence by itself cannot definitively solve the problem of whether or not to include Mark 16:9–20—though the external evidence for inclusion is stronger than has been presented by some scholars in the past.

Concerning the internal evidence, one must first consider whether Mark could have ended at verse 8. No ancient book ends with γάρ (“for”); and, no paragraph in the Gospel of Mark ends with γάρ. Since the arguments in favor of such an ending have a distinctly twentieth―twenty-first century flavor, one is compelled to reject them. How would first century readers of the Gospel have reacted to an account of the life of Jesus—written by a close companion of Peter—without an account of the resurrection from the tomb? Such an approach to the book virtually ignores not only the evidence from the text, but also the first century setting of the Gospel. There must have been more to the text of Mark 16. Additionally, Mark 14:26 points to a post-resurrection meeting of Jesus and the apostles at Galilee. Without Mark 16:9–20, such a meeting is not included.

What of the words and phrases used in the passage that are not employed in the rest of the Gospel? Given that NT authors had the intellect and ability to write in different styles, it is not difficult to consider 16:9–20 utilizing different words and phrases—especially if the passage was not the intended finished product, but a preliminary draft. Instead of a copyist in the early second century constructing Mark 16:9–20, an alternative theory is feasible for the similarities between Mark 16:9–20 and the other accounts of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances.

The author’s familiarity with the same events which the other authors independently recorded could account for the parallels. Also, there are similarities between Mark 16:9–20 and the rest of the Gospel. If one allows an author the ability to write in different ways (as is the case with John—in his Gospel and in Revelation), or in summary fashion, then it is feasible that Mark wrote 16:9–20.

Since Mark was a companion of Peter, and his Gospel parallels Peter’s sermons in the book of Acts, it is reasonable to assume that Mark took notes of Peter’s own words of his eyewitness accounts—all under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Mark would then use those notes to construct his finished Gospel. Mark 16:9–20, seen in this light, is thus a summary of what Peter preached and taught concerning the last days of Jesus on the earth.

A point that must be stressed is the reception of changes to a text accepted as apostolic. Most scholars agree that Mark 16:9–20 was very early in origin, and that the abrupt ending was also early. If it was known that the Gospel—ending at verse 8—was in circulation prior to Mark’s death, then how could the second century church have allowed an ending to be added by an anonymous author (or authors) which was not clearly apostolic (as many scholars claim), and how could it have gained such wide acceptance in subsequent years?

Those who claim that the ending is independent of Mark and not apostolic in origin have the burden of answering those questions. It is inconceivable that such an important event as the alteration of a biblical text—much less a Gospel—would have been kept secret in the early church (especially in light of biblical admonitions not to alter the Scriptures in any way). If, as some claim, the passage was crafted by an anonymous author who was not connected with the apostles, then how does one reconcile the acceptance of 16:9–20 with the subsequent rejection of pseudonymous second and third century documents which had no connection to the apostles?

This is further complicated by the fact that second and third century writers cited 16:9–20, and attributed it to Mark. If it was known that this ending had been supplied by another hand (or hands) separate from Mark, such would have been significant. Some maintain that the passage is an early attempt to harmonize the Gospels. Yet there is no evidence in the Greek manuscripts elsewhere of any type of harmonization of the Gospels in one document. It seems reasonable to assume that 16:9–20 was at the very least connected with Mark—if not written by Mark himself.

Mark 16:9–20 was part of the notes Mark had written, intending to finish the Gospel at a later point. If an associate of his placed the passage at the end of the Gospel following Mark’s death, this would explain the apostolic connection—it was widely known that Mark was a constant companion of Peter. The notes Mark had taken, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, accurately summarized the conclusion of the sermons Mark had heard Peter preach concerning Jesus Christ. He had already circulated the Gospel which ended at verse 8.

For some unknown reason, Mark was prevented from utilizing his notes to complete it. Mark’s associates published the Gospel ending at 16:8 after his death or imprisonment. His companions subsequently placed 16:9–20 at the end of Mark, thus producing a second edition. The two ancient textual traditions are a result of two editions. The first was circulated by Mark’s associates around the time of his death or imprisonment, while the second edition was circulated after his passing with Mark’s appended notes.

The time interval between the two editions was very short. This accounts for the two equally attested external traditions as well as the stylistic differences and similarities with Mark 1:1–16:8. Second to fourth century attestation of Mark 16:9–20 testifies to its acceptance by the early church. Thus, modern day readers of the Gospel of Mark should use the verses as part of Scripture.

dhester@faulkner.edu

Total Hereditary Depravity – David W. Hester

The doctrine of total hereditary depravity is a foundational tenet of Calvinism. John Calvin believed that all babies are born in sin and that their nature had to be changed. In his Institutes, he wrote that babies “bear with them an inborn corruption from their mother’s womb” (Institutes II, 1340). “Indeed, their whole nature is a seed of sin; hence it can only be hateful and abhorrent to God” (Institutes I, 251). Calvin stated that “they must be cleansed of it before they can be admitted into God’s kingdom, for nothing polluted or defiled may enter there” (Institutes II, 1340). He contended, “original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature” (Institutes I, 251).

Certain New Testament passages are used to justify this doctrine—which is held to by many mainline denominations. Romans 5:12 states, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” While Paul says that “death passed upon all men,” he does not affirm that guilt and corruption did so. To affirm that all people are guilty of Adam’s sin or because he sinned is to affirm something that Paul does not teach.

Ephesians 2:3 is another “sugar stick” passage used by Calvinists. “And were by nature the children of wrath” is used to affirm that we are born with corruption. Yet Paul does not state that we are born “children of wrath.” The word “nature” indicates practice. Paul affirms in verse 1 that we are “dead in trespasses and sins.” We are not born in that state.

In light of what Calvin affirmed, he also said “when man has been taught that no good thing remains in his power, and that he is hedged about on all sides by most miserable necessity, in spite of this he should nevertheless be instructed to aspire to a good of which he is empty, to a freedom of which he has been deprived” (Institutes I, 255). One can see the problem with this—in light of his teaching on depravity. Since the “good of which he is empty” and the “freedom of which he is deprived” are both good, then it is good for man to “aspire” to it. Yet, if he is depraved, then how can he “aspire” to it?

Total hereditary depravity is false doctrine. It is clear from Scripture that children are born innocent and remain in that state during childhood. Jesus said, “of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). He also said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3-4).

While it is certain that all people received the penalty of death because of Adam’s transgression, according to Romans 5:12-21, it is equally certain that all people are included in the redemptive act of Jesus Christ—and that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20).

Certain Old Testament passages affirm the innocence of babies and children. “Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto demons, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood” (Ps. 106:37-38). “Moreover your little ones, that ye said should be a prey, and your children, that this day have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it” (Deut. 1:39). “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till unrighteousness was found in thee” (Eze. 28:15). “And should not I have regard for Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:11). “Before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land whose two kings thou abhorrest shall be forsaken” (Isa. 7:16).

Add to this what the New Testament affirms. “And I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom. 7:9). “For the children being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad” (Rom. 9:11). It is abundantly clear that the Bible affirms the innocence of babies and children.

Scripture also clearly states that sin is not passed on from generation to generation. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Eze. 18:20). “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deut. 24:16).

The New Testament plainly teaches how sin develops. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren” (Jas. 1:14-16). “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 Jno. 3:4).

Calvinism is an insidious system that has subverted the souls of multiplied millions of people. The doctrine of total hereditary depravity is particularly abhorrent. When the Truth of God’s Word is utilized properly, it will always prevail. May God help all of us to clearly understand.

DHester@faulkner.edu