The word preterist
comes from the Latin praeteritus
meaning “gone by”. As such this view
holds firmly that John’s Book of Revelation was fulfilled at the time of it
being written or shortly thereafter. If this
method of interpretation is true, then Revelation had enormous meaning to the
first century Christians were facing or would face intense persecution. John’s message was to “hold firm” and
remember that God vindicates his faithful people.
This view was introduced by a Jesuit priest, Louis de Alcazar
who wrote in response to the Protestant Reformation. This view challenged
scholars to interpret events and images in the Book to coincide with events
affecting the early Christians. So the
great conflict in the text between good and evil is a conflict between Christians
and Rome and Jerusalem, i.e. Christians and the Empire and Christians and the
Jews. When viewed symbolically in its Hebrew
form, the “mark of the Beast”, 666, is viewed as a representation of Emperor
Nero. The 42 months of the beasts reign
in Revelation 13:5 coincides with the length of the Roman siege of Jerusalem, which
began in 66 A.D.
Using historical-critical methods of research scholars
deconstruct the text to uncover the many symbolic references to determine
meaning. Consequently, Revelation would
have little to no theological meaning to us today. Sadly, scholars would only examine the book
for his historical implications for the Church in Asia Minor at the turn of the
first century. This view requires that a reader immerse him or herself in the
life of the early Church and draw meaning from a first century perspective. One
could argue why the Church Fathers included it in the Cannon and why it was officially
adopted as a book in the Bible, which is God’s Word for His people (past,
present, and future).
That being said, we cannot completely ignore this
method. Recall from the first post that apocalyptic
literature has meaning within in the lifetime of the author and to future
generations. A preteritic interpretation
and critical examination will shed insight into the life belief of the early
Church. Understanding God’ role in the
past, reveals His role in our present and the future.
Cory, Catherine A. New Collegeville Bible Commentary: The Book of Revelation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2006.
Hahn, Scott, Ph. D. "The Book of Revelation: The End." Sycamore, Illinois: St. Joseph Communications, 2003.