Does the ‘Greek’ Support Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theology and the Left Behind Series?

My background is in Dispensational-Pre-Tribulational-Rapture-Premillennial theology. My alma mater (Multnomah Bible College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary) find their heritage squarely ensconced within this orbit; indeed, so much so, that Multnomah has at points been called ‘mini-Dallas’ (Theological Seminary)—in fact Multnomah’s origins are inimically tied into Dallas, by way of its founder[s], and its faculty (which is largely changing nowadays!). Anyway, I thought I would post something that is related to the kind of theology that both Multnomah and Dallas have helped to promulgate over the years through their sending of pastors, missionaries, teachers, evangelists etc.; and in particular what I am going to broach is the fine (and even idiosyncratic–for some) point that has to do with the theory of the Pre-Tribulational rapture. If you are unfamiliar with it, then just think of the story told in the popular Left Behind  series; except in the rendition I will share here, we will experience the more academic side of what stands behind ‘Left Behind’ rapture theology.

parousia

Daniel B. Wallace has written one of the standard New Testament Greek Grammars, and it served as the basis of much of my advanced Greek education in both Bible College and Seminary. At the end of his chapter on Articles, he provides an example of how a proper understanding of the Greek grammar can actually support the Pre-Tribulational rapture theory—which foists an idea that there is a distinction between the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (which happens Post-Tribulation). Here is what Wallace writes:

2 Thess 2:1 ‘Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ὑπὲρ τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἡμῶν ἐπισυναγωγῆς ἐπ’ αὐτόν,

Now we ask you, brothers, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together with him

This text impacts the discussion in some American evangelical circles over the time of the rapture. Many postribulationalists/non-dispensationalists have considered the two to have the same referent precisely because of their misunderstanding of Sharp’s rule and its specific requirements.

Since the TSKS construction involves impersonal substantives, the highest degree of doubt is cast upon the probability of the terms referring to the same event. This is especially the case since the terms look to concrete temporal referents (the parousia and the gathering of the saints), for the identical category is unattested for concrete impersonals in the NT.

This is not to say that one could not see a postribulational rapture in the text, for even if the words do not have an identical referent, they could have simultaneous ones. Our only point is that because of the misuse of syntax by some scholars, certain approaches to the theology of the NT have often been jettisoned without a fair hearing. [Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament With Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes, 290.]

So even if you fully repudiate Pre-Tribulational rapture theology (as I now do—I am Post-Tribulational, and some days Covenantal/Historic-Premil and other days Amillennial 😉 ), at least you will realize that so called rather disparagingly Left Behind rapture theology actually has some Greek and academic rigor behind it. That said, even as Wallace notes, in the end, the referent of ‘the coming’ and ‘gathering together’ could be synonymous. The only way we can really conclude which way to go with this is not the Greek Grammar (even though it helps lay out the critical options), but by situating the grammar within its larger theological-canonical place in regard to understanding the overall movement of God as given reference in the first coming of Jesus Christ.

I am out of time for this edition, there is always more to be written, but never enough time to write it!

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Galatians 2.20, Vicarious Humanity and Faith, and Interpretive Tradition in Evangelical Exegesis

I have been itching to write a post on the vicarious humanity of Christ, and I shall. Until then, here is a repost from my Evangelical Calvinist blog that I think is quite substantial (for a blog post) in presenting an exegetical case for the centrality of the vicarious humanity of Christ as a foundational plank for a theory of salvation.

It’s always nice, when we check out a dogmatician, to find that what they are saying actually correlates to scripture. I’ve been doing a little checking on T.F. Torrance, and his vicarious view of faith in Galatians 2:20 (in my past life I actually received a couple of degrees that involved an in-depth focus in NT Greek). Here is a summary of how Torrance read Galatians 2:20, and the “faith of Christ:”

iv) faith involves living by the faith of Christ — Torrance points out the significance of the Greek wording of Galatians 2:20, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ We have been brought to know God. Our old way of living in which we did not know God has been put to death with Christ. We now live, we have faith, we interpret the scriptures and do theology, and yet it is not us but Christ who lives in us. The real believer is Christ and we live by and out of the human faith of Christ. (Robert T. Walker, ed., Thomas Torrance, “Incarnation,” xlv)

Torrance was simply following the King James’ rendering of this passage which says:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” ~Galatians 2:20

And the KJV translated the “genetive” under question as a Subjective Genetive, which simply makes the “faith” the possession of the Son of God. “More modern translations” have opted for the Objective Genetive which translates this passage accordingly:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” ~Galatians 2:20 (New American Standard)

So you see the difference, one has the “faith” as the possession of the Son, the other has “faith” as the possession of us. The question, then, is which is the best reading? I checked the standard Greek Grammar for our day, Dan Wallace’s “Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics,” and he implies that he (and in fact many Grammarians of our day are actually in favor of the KJV’s rendering — which is atypical [which also means the textual evidence here is not variant or under scrutiny]) favors Torrance’s reading; or the KJV’s, here’s what he says on this structure in the Greek New Testament:

Older commentaries (probably as a Lutheran reflex) see Christou as an objective gen., thus, “faith in Christ.” However, more and more scholars are embracing these texts as involving a subjective gen. (thus, either “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness”). Without attempting to decide the issue, we simply wish to interact with a couple of grammatical arguement, one used for each position.

1) On behalf of the objective gen. view, it is argued that pistis in the NT takes an objective gen. when both nouns are anarthrous; it takes a subjective gen. when both are articular. In response, the data need to be skewed in order for this to have any weight: most of the examples have a possessive pronoun for the gen., which almost always requires the head noun to have an article. Further, all of the pistis Christou texts are in prepositional phrases (where the object of the preposition, in this case pistis, is typically anarthrous). Prepositional phrases tend to omit the article, even when the object of the preposition is definite. The grammatical arguement for the objective gen., then, has little to commend it.

2) On behalf of the subjective gen. view, it is argued that “Pistis followed by the personal genetive is quite rare; but when it does appear it is almost always followed by the non-objective genetive. . . .” This has much more going for it, but still involves some weaknesses. These are two or three clear instances of pistis + objective personal gen. in the NT (Mark 11:22; Jas 2:1; Rev 2:13), as well as two clear instance involving an impersonal gen. noun (Col 2:12; 2 Thess 2:13). Nevertheless, the predominant usage in the NT is with a subjective gen. Practically speaking, if the subjective gen. view is correct, these texts (whether pistis is translated “faith” or “faithfulness”) argue against “an implicitly docetic Christology.” Further, the faith/faithfulness of Christ is not a denial of faith in Christ as a Pauline concept (for idea is expressed in many of the same contexts, only with the verb pisteuw rather than the noun), but implies that the object of faith is a worthy object, for he himself is faithful. Although the issue is not to be solved via grammar, on balance grammatical considerations seem to be in favor of the subjective gen. view. (Daniel B. Wallace, “Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics,” 115-16)

This should illustrate, at least, a couple of things:

1) Translation of the biblical languages involves “interpretive decisions;” and those decisions are informed by a prior commitment to a theological grid (which has hopefully taken shape by a spiraling process of inductivly studying both Christ’s life and scripture).

2) Again, to reiterate, even at the level of translation (let alone exposition and commentary), we are all involved in theological exegesis; this is probably the most gapping whole in “Evangelical scholarship,” and one that needs to be corrected.

Summary
 
It is nice to know that TFT checks out, that his theology has substance; and the vicarious faith of Christ for us is something that we find weaved throughout the New Testament (and even OT) text — Galatians 2:20 just happens to be one of the most explicit passages. Even if we settle for “just the grammar,” the vicarious faith of Christ for us is an exciting prospect. It grounds ‘our’ faith in His, as He serves, truly, as our mediator and High Priest! Hope you have found this encouraging . . . I have!