How to Read the New Testament



“…preterism is not merely a way of interpreting New Testament prophecy but also provides a framework for understanding New Testament theology as a whole.”


The Bible was written for us, not to us. This includes the New Testament. We have evangelicals who take both Old and New Testament prophecies concerning Israel and mistakenly apply them to modern Jews (dispensationalism). But then we also have evangelicals who think that the imminent predictions of judgment throughout the New Testament are still somehow “imminent.” This includes most conservative Christian theologians (even smart guys like D. A. Carson), who treat the epistles as though they were written to us. They make the same error as the dispensationalists, albeit on a smaller scale. This misreads the New Testament. It replaces interpretation with application, and unwittingly makes many verses unnecessarily mysterious to modern Christians. Some quotes from Peter Leithart:

“…preterism is not merely a way of interpreting New Testament prophecy but also provides a framework for understanding New Testament theology as a whole. In part, this is nothing more than an effort to understand the New Testament in its historical context. The issues and debates that dominated the New Testament era were largely about the relation of Jews and Gentiles, and derived directly from the gospel’s announcement of a new people of God, within which circumcision and uncircumcision are equally meaningless. Preterist interpretation means trying to understand the New Testament in light of this struggle without retrojecting post-Reformation debates into the text. Further, an important goal of preterist interpretation is to reckon with the influence that the threat and promise of Jesus’ imminent coming, which affects nearly every book of the New Testament, had on the shape of New Testament theology. For example, a preterist framework generates such questions as “Is it possible that the typology of the church in the wilderness (in Hebrews, for instance) had specific reference to the first-century situation?” and “What is unique about the organization, worship, and life of the church in the period between A.D. 30-70?” and “What unique role did the first-century church play in redemptive history, and how is this related to the fall of Jerusalem?” (The Promise of His Appearing, pp. 1-3, emphasis added.)“Paul’s discussion of the future of Israel assumes Jesus’ predictions about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. This is what he’s talking about when he talks about “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” and when he quotes from Hosea and Isaiah in 9:25-29. In 9:27, the “remnant” does not refer to the Jews who have responded in faith to the gospel, but to the Jews who have survived God’s judgment. Unless the Lord showed mercy, the Jews would have been as utterly destroyed as Sodom and Gomorrah (9:29). But they are not destroyed; God preserves a remnant of Israel through the judgment, who will be delivered from the catastrophe that awaits Jerusalem. These, perhaps, are the “all Israel” that shall be saved, just as the restoration community after the exile was “all Israel” preserved through exile and delivered from captivity.” Romans and AD70

So, a couple of major tips on reading the New Testament, that in my experience make a world of difference:





  1. The “coming of Christ” refers to the end of the Old Covenant. Note that it does not refer to the final judgment and resurrection but it does prefigure it.[1] The references to the “revelation of the sons of God”, and James’ call to the rich to “weep and howl” refer to first century events and people. We can draw applications from them, of course, but when do you ever hear Christians speak this way?
  2. When you read the New Testament, every time you see the word “earth” (the Greek word ge) replace it with “Land.” All the tribes of the Land would mourn. Much of the New Testament is about the end of the Old, including Revelation 1-19.

Give it a try! I dare you. You will find that many puzzling verses suddenly fall into place.

Peter Leithart again:

(On II Peter 3 and AD70)
“A significant shift in orientation and context is, I believe, necessary to make sense both of 2 Peter and of New Testament eschatology generally. The sort of shift I hope for can be easily stated: I offer a preterist reading of 2 Peter and hope that this book will contribute to making the preterist framework of interpretation a more reputable player in New Testament studies. Preterism is the view that prophecies about an imminent “day of judgment” scattered throughout the New Testament were fulfilled in the apostolic age by the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the event that brought a final end to the structures and orders of the Old Creation or Old Covenant. Within this framework, Peter is dealing with issues facing the churches of the first century as the day approaches when the old world will be destroyed. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Mt. 16:28), and I argue that Peter wrote this second letter to remind the readers of that specific prophecy of Jesus and to encourage them to cling to that promise of His appearing. ” (
The Promise of His Appearing:, preface)

His book is available online in its entirety, here. Any questions, please feel free to contact me.

WARNING: These views are very unpopular amongst mainstream evangelicals, who will give you strange looks unless they have read some N. T. Wright.

[1] I have a number of articles on this site concerning the “hyperpreterist” view that
all of Bible prophecy was fulfilled in AD70 under the category “Against Hyperpreterism“.


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2 Responses to “How to Read the New Testament”

  • Chris W Says:

    Hi Mike,

    I’m a little confused. I thought that ‘Jews’ and ‘Gentiles’ ceased to exist after AD 70. That being the case, how can a remnant, “all Israel”, be preserved through the judgement? Surely all the Jews who survived were not Jews in the biblical sense?

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Good question. Since Paul wrote before the war, he was speaking of actual Jewish believers, that is, Christians, a new kind of Israel. But his ministry was to knit Jews and Gentiles together into a new body. That’s what came out of the fire.