Is It a Duck?
On the Error of "Hymenaenism"

By Dee Dee Warren


I have been often accused of being "a big ole meanie" because of the strong stand that I take against the view called variously by its adherents "full preterism," "consistent preterism," and "realized eschatology." I have personally come to the conclusion that this heresy is more appropriately known as Hymenaeanism in "honor" of its ancient forebear and that it is in fact a potentially damnable heresy. That is the position that I intend to defend and explain in this article. However, I am not going to chase down all of the speckled rabbits offered by the Hymenaeans in their desperate attempts to avoid this obvious conclusion. This article will be relatively simple compared to their convolutions.


PRESUPPOSITION "H" (for Hymenaean)

Everyone comes to every issue with some starting presuppositions. It is unavoidable. Of course "full preterists" do not believe that their mythology would correctly fall under the rubric of "Hymenaeanism'. If they did, they would not be "full preterists." The question for consideration here is whether or not it is correct for me to utilize the label of "Hymenaeanism" for their doctrine and identifying it as a potentially damnable heresy. In order to make that determination, it is necessary to look at the issue from the point of view of my presuppositions not the presuppositions of the "full preterists." This is where most discussions of this topic go way off base and basically amount to tautological nonsense that goes something like this:

THE HYMENAEAN: "You can't say that I am wrong based upon Paul's condemnation of Hymenaeus about the timing of the resurrection since Hymenaeus taught that it happened before 70AD. Since I am saying that it happened in 70AD, and it did, which is after Paul's condemnation, I am nothing like Hymenaeus. All Christians believe that there will come a day when the resurrection will be a past event. Will you all be Hymenaeans then??"

It is necessary to dissect this common argument.

It basically says this… "You cannot say that I am wrong if I am right, and I am telling you now that I am right, so you cannot say I am wrong." That is their argument boiled down to its nonsensical nutshell. It does not take into account that the person using the term "Hymenaean" does not accept the idea that the resurrection happened in AD70 but rather holds it to still be future to us. In order to determine then if this terminology and determination is valid/consistent/fair for us who hold to the orthodox and historic position of the catholic (with a small "c") Church with regards to the resurrection, these issues must be examined from that starting presupposition.


NOT BEING PRE-TERBED (Or, Let the Language Not Distract You)

Words are meaningless by themselves. It is the meanings that we pour into individual words (known as a language convention) that give them life and usefulness. In order to prove this point, I am going to use an example that most Hymenaeans would agree with, and that is the necessity of the belief in the deity of Christ. I once encountered a sincerely deceived and friendly Unitarian who insisted to me that he was saved because he could meet the requirements of Romans 10:9-10, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." He claimed that he absolutely confessed Jesus as Lord and believed that God had raised him from the dead, while just as absolutely denying the deity of our Lord. Following is a brief excerpt of our lengthy (and informal) exchange:

Words by themselves mean nothing. The only reason this sentence means something to you is because that we, as a people, have agreed that in English, certain letters form certain words which then have certain meanings. If I were to make a statement such as the following:

"The moon is made up entirely of carbonite rock."

I would mean something very definite about the composition of the moon. But let's just say that you read that, and although you read the same words, and agreed with me, "Yes, the moon is made up entirely of carbonite rock," but you poured the meaning "green cheese" into "carbonite rock" we would not be speaking of the same thing. In fact the "moon" that I believe exists would not be the same "moon" that you believe exists. My moon is really made up entirely of carbonite rock. Your moon is made entirely of green cheese, because to you, carbonite rock means green cheese. By no stretch of the imagination can our positions be reconciled, and although we apparently "agree" since we use the same "words," it is actually the meaning that we pour into the words, not the words themselves which are determinative. You cannot possibly disagree with this.

It is no different with the Bible, and when we come to Romans 10:9-10.

...that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

You claim that since both Unitarians and Trinitarians confess "Jesus" that both are saved. That is simply and sheerly illogical and just like the green cheese example above. A Jesus that is fully man and fully Deity is completely different from a Jesus that is solely man. The two cannot be reconciled, and cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered the same Being. Sure we both use the word "Jesus," but the word itself has no magic, it is the meaning that we pour into that Word, and the meaning that Paul intended us to pour into that Word. You (and me) just cannot arbitrarily confess "Jesus" and expect to be saved, if your Jesus (or my Jesus) is not the Jesus of the Bible.

For example, what if I confessed "Jesus" as being lord, but the "Jesus" that I was referring to was my lawn maintenance man Jesus Gonzalez? Yep, his name is Jesus, but if he is who I believed God raised from the dead, and who I placed my religious faith in, I am lost. You may feel the example is ridiculous. It is actually very appropriate because the distance between Deity and "just a man" is infinite..... and if you can see the denigration by reducing an only human Jesus to a lawn maintenance man, then maybe you can possibly imagine the denigration of reducing the God who made you into being just solely a man.

This holds true for the other doctrines mentioned in Romans 10:9-10 as well. The word "God" is mentioned there as well, but if you pour a different meaning into that word, such as the pagan god Zeus, you also have no salvation. You are an idolater even if you believe that your idols really did raise Jesus from the dead.

The same point that was made in my exchange with this Unitarian holds true here. The heart of the issue is not the words themselves but what we intend to communicate by the words we choose. Interpreting the Bible is no different. The Author intended to communicate specific truths. Utilizing the same words, but communicating entirely concepts, is not being faithful to the Scriptures.



Now here is where we get down to brass tacks. In proving my point, I am only going to focus in on one portion of the entire "hyper-preterist" heresy, and that is the reworking/redefinition of the resurrection described in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 to be an event that happened in the events surrounding AD70. Though grave errors in themselves, the denial of the future physical return of Christ and future final judgment are not the ones that earn the title "Hymenaean" or the designation of being a potentially damnable heresy. It should also be noted that since this is such a difficult doctrine to deny, there are almost as many redefinitions of the resurrection as there are Hymenaeans. Some deny any physicality, while others affirm a certain physicality that has no organic relation to the body that dies. All of them deny that the resurrection will involve empty tombs.

1 Timothy 1:18-20 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
2 Timothy 2:15-19 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

These verses are surely speaking of the same "Hymenaeus" who receives one of the strongest condemnations from the Apostle Paul found in Scripture. Paul explicitly identifies his doctrinal error as "saying that the resurrection is already past." The prima facie similarity is evident. This ancient heretic claimed that the resurrection was past; modern-day Hymenaeans say that the resurrection is past.

What else does Paul say about this man?

These are not descriptions of a believer but of a condemned heretic. The only specific doctrinal error that is given is that he was teaching that the resurrection had already taken place. Now it is often asked by modern-day Hymenaeans how this teaching could have taken root if the Apostles had so clearly taught an "empty graves" type of resurrection? The argument is that Paul could have simply run to the nearest graveyard to prove Hymenaeus wrong, but he did not. The assumption is then made that Hymenaeus did teach a type of non-physical resurrection, but that Paul did not correct his understanding of the nature of the resurrection, merely the timing of it.

There is much wrong with that reasoning. On its most simple level it assumes that if something had been clearly taught by the Apostles, and by implication the Bible, then it would have been impossible for blatantly false teachings to arise. This is obviously incorrect in several easily demonstrable ways. First, all one has to do is to look around at the plethora of psuedo-Christian cults and false belief systems such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, and Mormons to see that clear teaching is no certain remedy against blatantly false teaching for "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:10). Second, the Hymenaean is gored upon the horns of his own argument since the earliest testimony of the Church consistently affirmed a yet- future (to them) return of Christ and physical resurrection. Using the self-same Hymenaean argument, how could the early Church have fallen into such apostasy immediately after the writing of the NT Scriptures and within the lifetimes of some of the Apostles if they so clearly taught that the resurrection was an event concurrent with the destruction of Jerusalem??

Second, the argument also assumes what Paul should have done to prove Hymenaeus wrong about the nature of the resurrection (i.e. run to nearest graveyard). Says who?? Hymenaeus obviously already rejected the authority and teachings of Paul. Such a demonstration would only be meaningful to those who already agreed with Paul to whom Paul had nothing to prove. Also, notice that Paul never ran to Jesus' empty tomb either to prove His resurrection either.

Third, it is an argument from silence which is not supported by the facts and context. Further, it is just assumed that I must defend the position Hymenaeus had an improper understanding of the nature of the resurrection. While I do agree with that assumption, especially considering the wealth of anti-Gnostic polemic authored by Paul and the Gnostic's aversion of things material, that is not the only possible option. It is also quite possible that Hymenaeus was referring to the resurrection of the "many" saints described in Matthew 27:52 and was teaching that they were all that were to be resurrected. In such a case, his understanding of the nature of the resurrection may have been quite correct.

So we have the outright condemnation of an ancient heretic who certainly denied the proper timing of the resurrection and may have also denied the proper nature of the resurrection as well. This is exactly what is going on with modern-day Hymenaeanism only they are certainly committing both errors while Hymenaeus may have been thoroughly condemned just making one of them! Thus, taking my presuppositions as true to determine if I am properly utilizing terms within my own framework, it is readily apparent that if I am right, then the term "Hymenaean" is more than accurate and the designation of such teaching as a "potentially damnable" heresy is downright generous.

I have once heard it claimed that there is a possibility that there is a translation error in 1 Timothy 1:18-20 and that Hymenaeus was not claiming that the resurrection was past, but that the resurrection would never happen at all. I don't find this even remotely convincing and neither does any majority of modern New Testament scholarship. In fact, I checked the gamut of translations including the KJV, NKJV, NRSV, Young's Literal, NIV, NLT, NCV, 1901 Darby, 1901 ASV, NAS, and the NAB and found remarkable unanimity about the translation of this passage. It is unquestionably correct. However, as I will show later, it would make little difference in the final outcome as we have another Biblical witness to consider.




1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up-if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.


Paul clearly states here that a denial of the "resurrection of the dead" is in fact a salvational issue. Though Paul goes on to explain why this denial is so grievous (which is another point fatal to Hymenaeanism) that is not relevant to the goal of this article. The simple germane fact was that such a denial rendered one's faith empty and futile, and such a one would still be in their sins. This is very serious stuff.

Now the Hymenaeans will say that this condemnation is not applicable since their system does not deny the resurrection. Now here is where the groundwork that I laid on the philosophy of language comes into serious play. The word "resurrection" is not magical, it is the meaning that is poured into the word that is paramount. If we orthodox Christians are correct about the nature of the resurrection, then a denial of that "kind" of resurrection is in fact a denial of the doctrine of the resurrection despite the fact that similar terminology is used.



I have demonstrated that coming from my perspective, I am being perfectly consistent in my condemnations of this heresy and my labeling of it as Hymenaeanism. There is an additional point that needs to be made here, and that is why I state that this mythology is a "potentially" damnable heresy and not a definitely damnable heresy. I do this because I am not God and do not know a person's heart. I do not know if they have some kind of mental defect or how wholeheartedly they really embrace this mythology. A dear friend pointed out to me that there is a difference between someone who believes a heresy and a condemned heretic, and such a distinction requires discernment. If a person in full command of their faculties has been presented with the truth and willfully and repeatedly disregards and rejects it in this matter, such a person is a heretic. Others may simply just be deceived and need guidance and correction. It is a fine line to tread, but tread it we must as there are eternal consequences at stake, and the wolves are amongst the sheep.

Mallards and Pekings: Some of the more sophisticated Hymenaeans try to point out likely differences between their teachings and the ancient error of Hymenaeus, which of course implicitly recognizes that there are significant similarities. The point is attempted that since there are differences and the two mythologies don't match up on "all fours," then it is improper to use the label of Hymenaeanism for the modern version.

Well first of all, using a famous or infamous name with an "ism" attached does not have to mean that the teachings of all such individuals are exact. The modern Hymenaeans cannot even agree amongst themselves about how exactly to redefine the resurrection, but we can all see that they are of the same ilk. It is quite commonplace to refer to Christadelphians and Jehovah's Witnesses as subscribers to "Arianism." However, there are differences between what Arius' teaching and that of his modern day spawn. But, the nexus between them is the primary crux and is what earns them the title. No one who calls a Jehovah's Witness an Arian is making the claim that any particular Jehovah's Witness believes the exact same things that Arius did, just that they share the major pillar in his mythology, i.e. the denial of the deity of Christ. It is the same thing with the modern Hymenaeans. I have no problem stating that there may certainly be differences between the historical Hymenaeus and the neo-Hymenaeans, but what they share in common is a pillar of the mythology.


ADDENDUM: The publication of this article has drawn the attention of the Neo-Hymenaeans, and one of the more outspoken advocates of this mythology decided to briefly respond to which I offer the following counter:


(as demonstrated by Don Preston)

I don't have the time to spend on the entire article. However, this individual is guilt [sic] of the worst sore [sic] of "special pleading" and logical fallacy.

Don apparently didn't have the time to spend on this brief response either so he chose to start off with an exercise in chest-pounding to score cheap debating points. So let's see .... I am guilty of "special pleading" (of the worst sort no less) AND logical fallacy?? Can anyone say redundant?

I am not sure if she is responding directly to my little book "How Is This Possible?" but she seems to address some of the specific issues that I raise there.

I was not, but this is a good place to firmly state what I was doing which is not at all complicated though every single Neo-Hymenaean that I have dealt with has managed to miss it entirely. The above article is a defense of my use of the term "Neo-Hymenaean" for modern self-styled "full preterists" and the condemnation of such teaching as a potentially damnable heresy within the framework of MY starting presuppositions. In other words, for the sake of evaluating my consistency/justification in doing such, I have asked the reader to take my beliefs as true simply for the sake of argument to determine if I am then behaving correctly within that paradigm. I make no claim whatsoever in that article to provide a proof for my starting presuppositions so any squawking that I failed to do so is simply whistling Dixie. I make explicit the limitations of my purpose/goal for this article in this opening statement:

"The question for consideration here is whether or not it is correct for me to utilize the label of "Hymenaeanism" for their doctrine and identifying it as a potentially damnable heresy. In order to make that determination, it is necessary to look at the issue from the point of view of my presuppositions not the presuppositions of the "full preterists.""

And here:

"In order to determine then if this terminology is valid/consistent/fair for us who hold to the orthodox and historic position of the catholic (with a small "c") Church with regards to the resurrection, these issues must be examined from that starting point.

And in this closing statement:

"I have demonstrated that coming from my perspective, I am being perfectly consistent in my condemnations of this heresy and my labeling of it as Hymenaeanism."

Now that we have gotten that straight let's move on.....

One of those is that Paul did not correct the concept of Hymenaeus, but his timing. This is a given, irrefutable fact.

That is not exactly accurate. The given, irrefutable fact is the Bible records Paul as mentioning only one specific doctrinal error of Hymenaeus, that being the claim that the resurrection was past. Notice, however, that Paul did not "correct" that belief with any additional clarification whatsoever, but rather classified it as a faith-wrecking cancer and moved on. Why? The answer is obvious. Paul was writing to Timothy, not to Hymenaeus or his followers, and thus certainly did not have to lay down again the foundational principles of the faith. Timothy already agreed with Paul, thus Paul's purpose is not to provide a detailed inventory of all of the specifics of the error, but rather to reinforce his condemnation of it and to warn Timothy to guard his flock.

Ms. Warren says that this is irrelevant and that Paul would not have necessarily run to a grave yard to disprove Hymenaeus. Well, why not? Paul was a man that always went for the jugular. He addressed the fundamental issues at stake. When addressing those at Corinth who denied the resurrection of some, Paul went for the heart of the matter did he not? To suggest that Paul did not need to address the nature of the resurrection, when in fact and truth the nature of the resurrection would have settled the timing issue had Paul held to the physical nature, is to ignore the very clear and undeniable nature of the controversy.

First of all Don has blatantly misrepresented my article as I never said that the explicit condemnation of only the timing issue was irrelevant. He is either being very sloppy here (most likely) or not being particularly honest. Specifically, here is what I actually said:

"Paul explicitly identifies this doctrinal error as 'saying that the resurrection is already past.' The prima facie similarity is evident. This ancient heretic claimed that the resurrection is past; modern-day Hymenaeans say that the resurrection is past."


"So we have the outright condemnation of an ancient heretic who certainly denied the proper timing of the resurrection and may have also denied the proper nature of the resurrection as well."

I hardly hold this point to be "irrelevant" as Don has claimed. In fact any proof that Hymenaeus was also in error about the nature of the resurrection would simply be icing on the cake.

Further, the fact is that we have absolutely no idea what Paul did to disprove or confront Hymenaeus besides delivering him over to satan so that he may learn not to blaspheme. Additionally, I also point out in my article (despite Don's overly confident crowing about the undeniable nature of the controversy) that Hymenaeus may very well have been right about the nature of the resurrection by claiming that the many saints of Matthew 27:53 were all that were to be raised. Also, if Hymenaeus did in fact deny the proper nature of the resurrection as well, the condemnation of the timing issue would carry with it the implicit recognition of the gross error in his understanding of the nature of the resurrection. For example, when I am speaking of the modern day spawn of this heresy, I summarize their gross error as the belief that the resurrection happened in AD70. That one comment speaks volumes about the extent of the error to anyone that also holds to the orthodox view of the resurrection. In other words, by claiming that the resurrection is past, it is obvious to a like-minded listener that a serious redefinition of the nature and/or scope is also necessarily in view. Timothy was already well aware of the error, he did not need to be spoon-fed each and every detail in this epistle but rather a few words mentioned would bring to his mind the entire enchilada. This would be typical in the "high context" societal framework of the first century (see here).

It was also not a smart move for Don to bring up the letter to Corinth to support his contentions for in that letter (unlike the ones to Timothy) Paul was directly talking to those in error, and Paul's recorded actions there actually further prove my point. Specifically, Paul dealt with the ramifications of denying the resurrection of the dead, i.e. that Christ would then not be raised (which is the ramification of Neo-Hymenaeanism as well, but that will be reserved for another day), and he certainly did not go running to Jesus' empty tomb to prove the bankruptcy of their views either. But on another note, this letter to the Corinthians does give us some indirect insight into the extent of the controversy with Hymenaeus. Paul here specifically makes one's belief about the nature of the resurrection a matter of eternal consequence, and the connection he makes between Christ's physical resurrection and our own is so tight that it takes maneuvers worthy of Fred Astaire to avoid it. It is precisely because of this tight connection that a denial of this doctrine is tantamount to denying the faith, thus, Paul's very strong stand is understandable. If one removes this connection to a core principle of the faith in the case of Hymenaeus and states that he was merely "off" in the timing of such an event by a few years, a condemnation to eternal hell for such an error is simply ludicrous. In saying that the resurrection was past, Hymenaeus was making the same exact error as some in the Corinthian church as he would be denying that there is a resurrection like unto Christ's that was to be expected for all believers, thus not only the nature of this event is in view, but also the extent. The fact remains that in the Neo-Hymenaean redefinitions of the resurrection, what we allegedly can expect is so dissimilar to what allegedly happened to the first century Christians that it cannot be called a resurrection (even in their gross distortions) at all. I do not think that the Neo-Hymenaeans are willing to claim that Paul agreed with Hymenaeus about the limited extent of the resurrection simply because he did not specifically mention it, though that is the argument they advance for their contention that Paul and Hymenaeus agreed on the nature of the event. And why not? Apparently when it suits them, they will concede that a disagreement over the extent of the resurrection is certainly implied in the text, but in a case of special pleading (though not of the worst sort) they will vehemently deny that any disagreement over the nature of this event can be reasonably inferred therein. Phooey.

Further, it is so glaringly obvious that Ms. Warren is seeking to distract attention away from the timing issue. Her entire thesis falls to the ground if indeed Paul taught by inspiration that the resurrection was to occur in the first century. Did anyone notice that Ms. Warren had not one substantive word to say about this issue?

The only thing that is glaringly obvious is that Don has completely missed the point and proceeds then to show off how completely he has done so. Did anyone notice that it was never my point or goal to prove my presuppositions that Paul did not teach that the resurrection was to occur in the first century? Did anyone notice that I also did not have one substantive word to say about the history of Delaware?

Finally, Warren objects to the preterist contention that it is improper to label as Hymenaeans those who say "Hymenaeus was too early, because the resurrection was still future i.e. A.D. 70. However, we live "post eventu" thus, we are correct." Now, she objects to this claiming that it is circular reasoning. In fact, it would be circular reasoning if, and this is a huge IF that she has ignored, the preterist is unable to demonstrate that the resurrection is indeed associated with the fall of the Old Covenant, "the ministration of death written and engraven in stones." She simply waves her hand at this, for all practical purposes ignoring the issue, saying that our logic is flawed. Again, if there was no evidence for the timing of the resurrection, then her argument would be validated. However, since she ignores the overwhelming fact of the timing issue, then it is her argument that is invalidated. Her argument seems to be: "I know that the preterists are wrong because the resurrection is still future. Since the resurrection is still future, preterists are Hymenaeans." Very poor logic indeed.

Again, I really do not want to be overly harsh but the only poor thing demonstrated is Don's ability to grasp my point. So here is it again in the simplest terms possible.... IF the resurrection is future, then the self-styled "full preterists" are guilty of the Hymenaean heresy. This is not rocket science here folks. Obviously if they are right, then they wouldn't be guilty. My charge of tautological nonsense was directed to those Neo-Hymenaeans who object to being labeled as such by those who thoroughly believe that they are wrong by simply declaring that they are right. They seem unable to concede that if they are indeed grievously wrong, then we who are opposing their mythology are perfectly justified in using this terminology and have express Biblical warrant for condemning their views as potentially damnable heresy that should not be tolerated in our midst.

This scenario is no different than when a strict Unitarian labels me as an idolater because I unashamedly worship the Lord Jesus Christ. While I certainly don't believe that I am an idolater because I am thoroughly convinced of the truth of the Trinity, I readily concede that if I am indeed wrong, then I am certainly guilty of gross idolatry, and within the framework of the presuppositions of Unitarianism (not the denomination), I would in fact be correctly labeled as such by them. The proof of our respective truth claims is an entirely different issue altogether. The motivation for my article, which is basically proving the obvious, was the emotional tactics of the Neo-Hymenaeans who bellyache about being called "names" by those who thoroughly disagree with them. I have disarmed this argument by proving that such "name-calling" is Biblical and consistent for those who have already come to the conclusion that their distortion of the resurrection is absolutely incorrect. In fact, we who have done so really have no other Biblical choice.

Lots of special pleading, lots of logical fallicies, lots of Petitio principii in her article.

Lots of needless Latin, lots of ducking the point, lots of silence for any facts to support the charges of logical fallacy within the framework of the article's intended point - though the straw man bonfire was entertaining if not particularly illuminating.


Dee Dee Warren is one of the co-founders of TheologyWeb.Com, an online forum for discussing Christian Theology. On this forum, which I participate in (and thoroughly enjoy), she is well respected for her sharp and incisive theological mind. - R.E.