John H. Roberts replies

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Date: Summer 2011
Publisher: University of California Press
Document Type: Essay
Length: 1,513 words
Lexile Measure: 1870L

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Lawyers are in the business of arguing cases for clients and scoring points off the other side. Historians, I like to think, aim at truth, not the whole truth of course, we gave that up a long time ago, but at least, as far as we know, nothing but the truth. There are many things in Michael Marissen's Communication, his reported lecturing on "anti-Judaism and Messiah'" before he read Tassilo Erhardt's dissertation, for instance, or his distaste for the Christian triumphalism he frequently finds in the audiences he addresses, that I gladly pass over since they have no apparent bearing on the issue at hand: what Jennens and Handel thought they were doing in this oratorio. But I must set the record straight on some of his more relevant objections--relevant, that is, if they are not examined very closely.

One tactic favored by Marissen in this Communication is to attribute to me statements I didn't make and then show why I shouldn't have made them. Most significant and most misleading arc his remarks about preterism. In discussing contemporary commentaries on the book of Revelation, from which the text of the "Hallelujah" chorus comes, I pointed out that Marissen's star witness, Henry Hammond, had adopted a preterist interpretation of that colorful but exceedingly obscure book. Recognizing that the author of Revelation had expected his apocalyptic visions to come true in the near future, Hammond followed the Dutch theologian Hugo Grotius in concluding that this must for the most part have happened during the first few centuries of Christianity. This put him at odds with the overwhelming majority of 'his Anglican contemporaries, who adhered to the traditional anti-Catholic historicist view which saw the events predicted in Revelation as spanning human history down to and including the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment. Marissen, however, foists on me a very different definition of preterism prevalent among present-day evangelicals, claiming I said that Hammond applied a preterist approach to the entire Bible, "holding that all or most prophecies (particularly in the Book of Revelation) were already fulfilled within the first two centuries CE." Using this definition enables him to counter that there is no conflict between preterism and historicism in the interpretation of Psalm 2. But I never mentioned preterism...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A265373638