Christians Talking Past Each Other: An Eisegesis Versus Exegesis of 2 Timothy 2:17

Talking Past

A Critical Examination of the Battleground of

the Interpretive and Linguistic Discord Behind

the Antithetical Message of Hymenaeus and Philetus

by Mark Mountjoy

Introductory Remarks

Keen minds naturally recall the Apostle Paul's warning and strict injunction against the teachings of Hymenaeus and Philetus when he wrote,

“But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.  And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;  Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:16-18).

And so it makes sense that if anyone stands up and proclaims to us that ‘Jesus came back and the resurrection of the dead already happened in Jewish antiquity,’ one can be sure that alarm bells began to ring in the minds of those who consider themselves to be both Scripturally literate and biblically astute. 

And, no wonder!  At first glance, it sounds like the one claim basically amounts to the other and both ideas should be rejected, right away, without a further moment’s notice!

But we want to demonstrate in this essay that there is a STRONG case that Christians who use the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:17 as an injunction and a dire warning against a past fulfillment, but a green light and an O.K. for futurism, are making a mistake just as serious as Hymenaeus and Philetus, but in an opposite historical direction.

Can a warning, framed in the utmost dire language possible, explain, address and condemn the entire issue of an eschatology that claims the Lord’s Second Coming, the judgment and the resurrection of the dead really happened, once and for all, ONLY in the context of the last seventy years of the Second Jewish Commonwealth be made?

On a number of important talking points, we believe we can demonstrate that taken at apparent face value, the simplistic and most popular interpretation of 2 Timothy 2:17 is itself utterly and completely false.  We base this bold claim on the following six considerations:

First, the imperatives of the Tanakh; second, the prophecies of our Lord; third, the teachings of the Apostle Peter; fourth, teachings of the other Apostles; fifth, Greek terms; and sixth, anomalous and coincidental prodigies in historic Jewish antiquity inveigh against the straw-man argument that 2 Timothy 2 makes a blanket statement about a past fulfillment or is a green light for all futurity.  Closely examining the text, we want to look and think about the exact implications of Hymenaus and Philetus’ claims and see what they amount to and how they were misleading believers at that time and how the text is being used today to suggest that anything other than futurism is misleading Christians today.

What Does the Tanakh Teach and What Does It Demand?

Daniel chapter 7 and Daniel chapter 12 put pressures, imperatives, and limits on the resurrection and judgment that no contrary theory, philosophy, or dogma can escape or evade.

Two conditions in the Danielic prophecies of the end will not allow developments to be separated or omitted (and some will want to separate the events, to deny the overall design and logic of the events, whilst others, through forgetfulness due to the extreme passage of time, fail to recognize the original basis of the Bible prophecy timeline).

Whatever the case, the fourth beast's tenure is marked by three specific steps it believed it must take to secure the kingdom of God and these are:

First, a war of words against God, attempts to stomp the saints of God out of existence, and

Second, it introduces innovations (possibly occult) into the Jewish religion. 

Three, it appears in Daniel 7 that it denounces the coming of the Son of man because (perhaps) it believes itself to be the Son of man and by that, it had the rights and entitlement to the everlasting kingdom of God! 

If the little horn thought itself the Son of man, such was its grave error!

In Daniel 12 a different set of issues emerge. There the time of the resurrection of the dead is situated adjacent to Judæa’s unparalleled time of trouble (vs.2).  Note that the Olivet Discourse implies, at the very least, the resurrection of the righteous dead (Matthew 24:31 cf. Mark 13:27; Revelation 12:5).  Now, this is a resurrection in which the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, the Apocalypse of John declare is positioned close to the abomination of desolation of the Second Jewish Temple1 

It must not be forgotten that this edifice only existed in Jewish antiquity from the days of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah in 514 B.C. to the time of John of Gischala, Simon Bar Giora, and Eleazar Ben Yair in A.D.70.

The Book of Revelation itself introduces further complications (or nuances, if you like): the resurrection of the dead is not conceived as a single event, but a split event where one instance happened before Satan was bound,2 and a larger instance happened only after he was released.3 

In fact, the full story presents the spectacle of not one, but two abominations of desolation dotting the landscape of the ancient Jewish eschaton.  What could this mean and how would it have been possible?

It may certainly mean the desecration of the existing Second Temple, in the first place, but a second instance of that is NOT at all possible when the building no longer existed. 

The only possible solution would be the erection of an unauthorized building (perhaps a tabernacle) in a segment of Jewish history at the extreme zenith and this would be under a Jewish government sprung into existence right at the doors of the countrys war, destruction, and oblivion or A.D.132-136.4

What Circumstances Comport

With the Prophecies of Our Lord?

In the popular imagination, there is a wide range of possible times and probable scenarios for the end of the world; each generation feels its challenges fulfill stipulations and circumstantial requirements that lead to the fulfillment of last days prophecies. 

This was true in the tenth century, and this was also true in the sixteenth century as well as the late nineteenth century and throughout the entirety of the twentieth century and into our present times. 

But according to Christ the exact circumstances involve the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple, which stood in the center of ancient Jerusalem from 514 B.C. to autumn of A.D.70.  According to our Lord, the sound of the trumpet and the gathering of the elect would happen within the framework of the destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem.  Three versions of his Olivet Discourse can be found in the New Testament: Matthew 24-25 and Mark 13 and Luke 21.

We Call the Apostle Peter Our ‘Star Witness’

The recollection of the tenure of the Lord, transmitted by the Apostle Peter in the written traditions of the Gospel According to Mark establish, in chapter 13 exactly what we maintain to be true, but that is not all:  Peter’s sermons in Acts chapters 2 and 3 and in 1 Peter 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 2 Peter1 and 2 and 3 make it patently obvious that the change of ages was understood to be upon them all and that, not only the fallen angels, but wicked individuals in the Jewish world were on the brink of meeting their Creator in the most difficult, undesirable, or unpleasant of circumstances and in very little time!5

The Apocalyptic Emphasis of the

Teachings of the Other Apostles

The fait accompli we speak of has its moorings in a specific rather than generalized sense—and this is borne out by what the other Apostles have to say about the issues that concerned them most.  The writings of the Apostle Paul, James and Jude, and the Apostle John form a parameter around this subject that cannot without effort and complete and utter disregard, be breached.

For example, a. James 5:1-9, b. Jude 3-14, c. 1 John 2:19 and Revelation 6:17-20:1-15 manifest an unmistakable congruity that can be no mere coincidence.  In Johns apocalypse episodes, or rather, instances of resurrection happen within the extended narrative, not just once, but over the course of a finite context already decreed and established in Daniel 2 and 7, and 12.

Furthermore, the Apostle John sees consummate evil borne in the guise of the Fourth Philosophic Movement of which Judas of Galilee was the founder (Revelation 13:1ff).  This beast has the combined traits of the first three kingdoms the Jews went through beginning from Babylon down to the kingdoms of the Greeks—exhibiting more of the traits of the most recent than of the other two.  But this disastrous combination only produced a fatal pyrrhic victory, rather than lasting success.6

The Greek Speaks to Us in the Strongest Possible Terms

An investigation into the original Koine Greek language the New Testament was composed in throws a powerful light on a subject that, in English, may give the impression of a great deal more ambivalence rather than certainty.  

On the philological and linguistic side of this issue, the following expressions must have a bearing and contribute to a clarification of what is at stake: 

Eleven expressions, Apokalupsis and enggoosepiphaneia and episkopéeutheós and melló, parousia and prosdokaó, andspeudó, and telos and tacheós speak forcefully and persuasively about the earliest Christians’ attitude, outlook, and expectations.  They saw the Second Coming, judgment, and end LANGUAGE 1of the world meaningfully near and expected, without any doubt, that these things would be fulfilled in their own lifetime.  And so, taken together, these things cannot now be successfully challenged or denied without casting doubt and insinuating a reason to disbelieve, denounce and defame the New Testament itself. 7  8  9  10  11

Anomalous Prodigies in Historic Jewish Antiquity

A star that shaped like a sword stood over Jerusalem, heavenly battalions, voices of an invisible multitude in the Temple were heard speaking, a light that made Jerusalem like bright day time at three in the morning shone to the surprise of onlookers.

Additionally, the doors of the Temple were observed to open on their own, and the freedom fighters under the leadership of Simon Bar Giora received a wound on their right hand to show their commitment to his cause.12

As the Romans closed in on the Holy City, they had one hundred pound stones thrown against the walls by powerful catapults.

Meanwhile, inside the holiest sanctum of the Second Jewish Temple sacrilege, on an epic scale, was unfolding, pools of blood on the Temple floor, Temple turned in a military citadel, thousands of pilgrims were trapped and killed in the Second Temple because of promises given by a false prophet; Qumran sect leaves the Dead Sea region and comes to Jerusalem to fight a ‘holy war’ Jews assemble on the Temple esplanade and formed a government consisting of seven regions and ten heads of these vectors, that government will be executed and replaced by a hardline Jewish government as the end closes in.  Spirits of the saints caught up into the clouds at the same time as Michael and Satan fought.  Church flees to the Roman-protected region of Pella. 

Coincidentally, Babylon of the Book of Revelation has ALL the traits of Jerusalem in the Synoptics and John and Acts and the Pauline corpus!  Jerusalem also coincidently falls because of the actions of the Zealots and Sicarii, and then these two groups get slaughtered in the aftermath.

The Implications of the Claims of Hymenaeus and Philetus

Now, if Hymenaeus and Philetus were correct then the fall of Jerusalem was completely irrelevant to end-time prophecy.

For them, the fall of Jerusalem had nothing to do with anything and, as far as the Holy City was concerned, the resurrection of the dead would leave Jerusalem carrying on with "business as usual."

For these two men, the resurrection could happen and the entire apparatus of the Levitical priesthood would be untouched in any way, shape, or form.  If Hymenaeus and Philetus were correct, Jesus, the Twelve and the Apostle Paul's teachings about the dissolution and disappearance of the types and shadows would be entirely false.13  

Furthermore, the adversaries claims for the kingdom of God would require, not the destruction of Jerusalem, but the fall of the Roman Empire, contrary to the Book of Revelation’s vivid depiction of the end of the Second Jewish Commonwealth which corresponds and parallels the teachings of Jesus, Peter, and Paul, point by point.

Where Hymenaeus and Philetus posited a resurrection before the fall of Jerusalem, Jesus and the Apostles envisioned the same at the fall of Jerusalem and Futurists imagine it to be after the end of the city.  Before or during or after is a formula one must remember when trying to understand and decide what the position of the Word of God supports and how Rabbinic realized eschatology and today’s futurism disagree and differ from it.

Conclusion

Futurists are reading into 2 Timothy 2:17 implications and imperatives shaped by their own misunderstandings, prejudices, and fears.  They see in it things that are not there, things it does not support.  Nothing in the text supports a single Fourth View because the situation and the circumstance are as different as apples and oranges and there is no correlation that can be sustained.  All in all the Jewish nation, Temple and city, and divine vengeance against such as that was, are the topics being scandalized by Hymenaeus and Philetus.

Now, either John the Baptist, Jesus our Lord, Peter, Paul, the Hebrew Writer, Jude, and John believed the end of history, as we now know it, was then quickly coming to an end in the first century (as Futurists insist),

OR

John the Baptist, Jesus our Lord, Peter, Paul, the Hebrews Writer, Jude, and Apostle John saw the end of the Jewish sacerdotal era coming into focus swiftly as the eve of the Destruction of Jerusalem, under the curse and misfortune of the Zealots and Sicarii were fomenting, bringing the Old Testament age to is foretold and preordained extinction.

It is this latter scenario, given by the Holy Spirit of the God of Israel, that proved entirely true or else Paul was guilty of invalidating the signature teachings, not only of himself but also of his colleagues.  We do not believe 2 Timothy 2:17 was intended by Paul to refute everything he taught and stood for, nor does it support the claims of Futurism or any one of the so-called Four Views.

In the final analysis, the context and fate of the Second Jewish Commonwealth are in total agreement with what was expected, not only in the Tanakh but also the teachings of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the other Apostles.

Futurist proponents err like Hymenaeus and Philetus, but in a different direction: They want to explain New Testament eschatology as a ‘crisis of delay’ wherein the Destruction of Jerusalem, the passing of that guilty generation, and the disappearance of the Jewish world was NEVER the point, to begin with, the end of time and the physical universe, supposedly, WAS the point. 

Careful reflection will show that this thinking is not entirely dissimilar from the blasphemy of Hymenaeus and Philetus; for neither view recognized the centrality of the people, the holy city, and the Temple in the realization of the Bible’s ancientest hopes and promises.

What this means, in practical terms, is that the Church itself believes it knows more about the circumstances and timing of the apocalypse and the end-times than even Jesus and the Apostles and the early Christians did.  And it means, ultimately, that the majority of Christians in the world today, do not merely talk past us on these issues, but talk past the Word of God, not being on the same page, nor seeing eye to eye, but construing the issues and what is at stake in a variety of fundamentally different and foreign ways and contexts.

Endnotes

1 Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and Revelation 11:1-17.

2 Revelation 11.

3 Revelation 20:5 and 15.

4 Even convinced Premillennnialists like Dr. Thomas Ice and Randall Price admit there is a strong possibility that Simon Bar Kokhba was able to erect a Third Jewish Temple on the eve of Hadrian's obliteration of the Jewish nation in the third decade of the second century (and we agree!)  If Bar Kokhba was able to build a Temple (and his letters indicate one was operational) that act, in and of itself, would be an “abomination of desolation” because a Jewish Temple built after the Jewish age was already completed and removed is an act of impiety and idolatry in light of the Cross and Passion of our Lord Jesus.

Ice and Price write, “The [Bar Kokhba] revolt repulsed the Roman garrisons, and the Jewish rebels held Jerusalem for almost three years.  During this time an independent government was established, and Bar Kokhba proclaimed himself the Messiah.  So convinced was he that his conquest of Jerusalem had begun the messianic era that he began a new calendar system, counting the years from the date of his victory.  Of greater significance is the probability that he began rebuilding the Temple and resumed the Temple ritual, perhaps including the reinstitution of sacrifice.  Rabbi Gamaliel, who lived during the Bar Kokhba revolt, is said to have offered his Passover sacrifice in the new Bar Kokhba Temple.

The principal evidence for a Bar Kokhba Temple stems from coins minted by Bar Kokhba that bear a picture of the facade of the Temple and the name of Eleazar, a high priest appointed by Bar Kokhba.  Based on this evidence, Rabbi Leibel Reznick believes that Bar Kokhba actually completed the Temple.  He argues that without a functioning Temple, Bar Kokhba would not have appointed a high priest or issued coins bearing the image of the structure.  In addition, Reznick notes that any person claiming to be Messiah would attempt to rebuild the Temple (Ezekiel 40-47).”  Ice, Thomas, Price, Randall, Ready to Rebuild, pp. 77-78, Harvest House Publishers, 1992.

5 Reference in the Epistles of the Apostle Peter to fallen angels, the Antediluvians, and the wicked Seditious of the apostle’s own first century times.

6 Its stunning and unexpected victory at the Beit Horon Pass, far from guaranteeing the success of its war against the Romans, insured, in the short run, an overwhelming Roman counteraction that doomed the revolt to ultimate failure.

7 Apokalupsis and enggoos 

8 Epiphaneia and episkopé

9 Eutheós and melló eutheós and melló

10Parousia and prosdokaó and speudó

11 Telos and tacheós

12 See and compare Acts 6:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4; 2 Peter 3:10-12 and Revelation 18:21.

13 See The Wars of the Jew 3.8.3:383.