He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands…

By Dr. Samuel M. Frost

We are often told that oikoumene, the Greek word for “inhabited land” (land where people live), means in the New Testament, “the Roman world.”  Indeed.  The word itself has the form of a participle, but functions as a noun.  It’s an old word, going back to Herodotus (6th century BCE).  As a reference to culture, ‘it is secondary.’[1] However, ‘the term embraces the Roman Empire’(op. cit.).  That is, in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, in the years of Nero, and later Marcus Aurelius, there came to be a formulaic way, or ‘imperial style’ in which oikoumene was used.  It is explicitly in reference of the Roman Empire by Roman authorities writing about the Roman Empire.  The term, by itself, does not mean, ‘Roman Empire.’

                Allow me to explain.  If I was talking about America, or the USA, and spoke of ‘our great land and dwelling’ – if I were using Greek, I would use the word, oikoumene.  I would not be speaking about Viet-Nam, or Brazil, even though they, too, are oikoumenai.  I am speaking exclusively of America.  This is the way we see the term used in the imperial sense for Romans.  However, we find the term in the Greek Septuagint (translation of the Hebrew Bible from 3rd century to 1st century BCE), and it doesn’t mean “Roman Empire.”  We find it in Philo, who was living during the Roman rule, and he clearly used it ‘in a general rather than a political sense, i.e., inhabited land as distinct from uninhabited, and even for the universe’ (op. cit.).  Otto Michel, who I am quoting, sites a reference to Philo (first century CE), and being the nerd that I am, I checked it out.  Indeed, listen to this first century Jewish philosopher’s use of the word: ‘And you will find these actions not to be the making of long and unusual journeys, nor the passing over unnavigable seas, or wandering without stopping to take breath to the furthest boundaries of earth and sea: for good actions do not dwell at a distance and have not been banished beyond the confines of the habitable world, but, as Moses says, good is situated near you, and is planted along with you, being united to you in three necessary parts, in the heart, in the mouth, and in the hands: that is to say, in the mind, in the speech, and in the actions; since it is necessary to think and to say, and to do good things, which are made perfect by a union of good design, good execution, and good language’ (Philo, ‘On Dreams,’ 2.180).  Clearly, Philo is not limiting the term to the Roman World.

                Michel also sites Josephus, writing, too, in the first century, where ‘the political style’ is referred, ‘Rome is a witness to my filial affection, and so is Caesar, the ruler of the habitable earth, who oftentimes called me Philopater.’[2]  Here again we note the context or imperial setting.  The term itself simply means ‘inhabited world’ or ‘land.’  Michel goes on to quote Matthew 24.14 and Mark 13.10, noting that the phrase, ‘the whole inhabited earth’ derives ‘from current Hellenistic usage.’  Then the noted scholar writes, ‘It is certainly not to be linked here with the political imperial style.  The message is simply to the glad message which is for all nations and the whole earth’ (op. cit.).

                When we consult the Greek standard, Liddell and Scott, we find a wide range of usage for the term, again cementing that the word, in and of itself, does not ‘mean’ the Roman Empire.  It can mean that, given an imperial style or context (where the context is clearly meant to convey the Roman occupied lands).  However, Luke, in Acts 2.5-ff, mentions Parthians and Medes, and Arabia, lands in which the Romans did not occupy.

                Now, in reference to another landmark work on the Romans, what are we to do with Roman expansion?  Rome grew as an Empire in the first century, notably in Europe (France, Germany, Scotland, Britain).[3]  Are we to suppose that the ‘inhabited land’ grew with it?  That’s a point of absurdity.  When imperial Rome (which used Latin and Greek as an official language) used terms like, ‘empire,’ they did so under the fact of lands occupied by Romans.  However, from all of the writings of the first century we have, they were fully well aware of regions, peoples and lands outside of their jurisdiction; and so was the NT authors.  Second, the expansion of Rome would not yield the idea that the ‘gospel’ was to be preached in some sort of ‘fixed boundaries’ of imperial Rome, to which there was some imaginary ‘line’ that could not be crossed with the gospel.  In the sixties CE, Roman expansion in Scotland does not mean that the Christians by this time had made it to Scotland.  My point is, there is no limitation to the NT usage of phrases like, ‘ends of the earth,’ ‘uttermost parts of the earth,’ the ‘whole inhabited earth,’ and there is no indication that the NT authors did so.  The gospel ‘to the nations,’ or ‘peoples,’ or ‘lands’ is to be preached where ever they are found.  Literally narrowing these terms to the Roman ‘world,’ or supposed, ‘Jewish world’ is untenable, and specious.[4]


[1] Otto Michel, ‘οικοuμενη,’ Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. V, Eds., G. Kittel, G. Friedrich, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing), 157-159.

[2] Michel uses the Greek text chapter and listing (War of the Jews, 1.633), which in Whiston (Foreword by La Sor) is Ch. XXXII. 3. 

[3] Colin Wells, The Roman Empire, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1984).  In my own work, one finds Aelius Aristides (120-189 CE), Orations, ‘To Rome,’ (14.207) wherein he greatly uses oikoumene for the Roman Empire, but it is made quite clear that his usage is of the imperial style and context.  In this context, Paul might have the imperial use in mind in Romans 1.8, using, ‘in the whole world (kosmos).’  The spread of Christianity, however, in terms of actual numbers, has brought some to consider Paul’s (and the NT authors) use of language as greatly exaggerated, or ‘hyperbole.’  Christian ‘growth’ is not truly marked until the fourth-seventh centuries; see, Ramsey McMullen, Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 3-ff. We have no real information as to ‘growth’ in terms of numbers in the first century. Primarily, Christianity ‘grew’ among Jews and Gentile proselytes, but was met with a greater hostility (overwhelming majority) among the pagans. The growth and spread of the Gospel has been a long, hard road.

[4] It is quite true that the biblical authors in general use phrases like this in terms of the ‘world as they knew it.’  Our question is, what world did they know?  What was in their minds when they used such phrases?  We  must be very careful not to impose on them some sort of ‘fixed boundary’ or conception of the world we construct in the modern knowledge of the ‘globe.’  Equally, it is quite plausible to consider that Isaiah, or Paul did not know of the distant continents of the ‘globe’ and the ‘peoples’ there.  It appears that the first century writers, whoever they are, viewed the spherical ‘orb’ of the ‘earth’ as a mass of land and islands surrounded by ‘the seas.’  They knew the lands and peoples extended far beyond Roman control, but how far is another matter.  It appears best, then, to consider these phrases as literary terms of the known world, yet not limited to the known world, thus being ever aware of the growing expansion of the knowledge of the world as the centuries moved on.  Thus, while Paul may have had in mind ‘the whole world’ in his imagination as it were, there is no reason that he would have limited his imagination upon discovery of yet more lands and peoples.  Thus, we run into the issue of imposing our conception of ‘earth,’ and theirs (ancient authors), but, at the same time, not limiting their conception of earth so that our conception can be included, unless otherwise clearly noted in the context.  Thus, when we read, that the waters rose ‘greatly on the earth, and all the high hills under the entire heavens were covered’ (Genesis 7.19), we can certainly understand that Moses (the author) did not have in mind a Neil Armstrong perspective.  Yet, logically, we cannot infer from this that the Neil Armstrong perspective is entirely impossible.  Moses is expressing universal terms as best as he knew them, which can be inclusive of ours.  Likewise, who would limit the psalmist’s cry that the ’heavens declare the glory of God’ which goes ‘into all the earth’ (Psalm 19) to his own conception of ‘earth’ and ‘heavens’?  Was the glory of God only proclaimed in the Jewish earth, and not in the Persian earth?  Here we find that the author is being as universal as he can conceive, and that we can infer our universalism, too, without any damage to the ‘original author’s intent’ or ‘conception.’

Author: Samuel M. Frost, Th.D.

Samuel M. Frost has gained the recognition of his family, peers, colleagues, church members, and local community as a teacher and leader.  Samuel was raised in the Foursquare Gospel tradition and continued in the rising Charismatic Movement of the early 1980’s.  While serving in local congregations he was admitted to Liberty Christian College in Pensacola, Florida where he lived on campus for four years earning his Bachelor’s of Theology degree.  It was there under the tutelage of Dr. Dow Robinson (Summer Institutes of Linguistics), and Dr. Frank Longino (Dallas Theological Seminary) that he was motivated to pursue a career in Theology.  Dr. Robinson wrote two books on Linguistics, Workbook on Phonological Analysis (SIL, 1970) and Manuel for Bilingual Dictionaries: Textbook (SIL, 1969).  It was under these teachers’ guidance that Frost entered into his Master’s studies, being granted a scholarship for Greek I and II at Pentecostal Theological Seminary, accredited, in Cleveland, Tennessee (adjunct of Lee University).  Frost completed his study under Dr. French Arrington (The Ministry of Reconciliation, Baker Books, 1980), who used the text of J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners. Frost studied Hebrew for two years under Dr. Mark Futato (author, Beginning Biblical Hebrew, Eisenbrauns, 2003) and Dr. Bruce K. Waltke (author, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Eisenbrauns, 1990) at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida. With combined credits from PTS and RTS, Samuel completed his Master of Arts in Christian Studies and Master of Arts in Religion from Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida under the direct tutelage of Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, co-author of the well reviewed work, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism (Whitefield Media, 2005) with Dr. Gary Crampton (and Foreword by the late, Dr. D. James Kennedy).  Dr. Talbot also oversaw Samuel’s Dissertation, From the First Adam to the Second and Last Adam (2012) earning him the Magister Theologiae (Th.M.) degree.  He also helped put together A Student’s Hebrew Primer for WTS, designed and graded exams for their Hebrew Languages course. Samuel’s studies lead him into an issue in the field of Eschatology where his scholarship and unique approach in Hermeneutics garnered him recognition.  Because of the controversial nature of some of his conclusions, scholars were sharp in their disagreement with him.  Frost’s initial work, Misplaced Hope: The Origins of First and Second Century Eschatology (2002, Second Edition, 2006 Bi-Millennial Publishing), sold over four thousand units.  While arguing for the Reformation understanding of sola Scriptura as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith, Frost’s book launched a heavily footnoted argument for a total reassessment of the doctrine known as the Second Coming of Christ.  The conclusion was that the events of the war of the Jewish nation against their Roman overlords in 66-70 C.E. formed the New Testament authors’ eschatological outlook, and went no further than their own first century generation; a view otherwise known as “full” or "hyper" Preterism.  Internationally recognized Evangelical author and speaker, Steve Wohlberg remarked, ‘On the “preterist” side today…we have such influential leaders as Gary DeMar, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., David Chilton, R.C. Sproul, Max King, James Stuart Russell, Samuel M. Frost, and John Noe.  To these scholars…the beast is not on the horizon, he’s dead” (Italics, his)” (End Time Delusions, Destiny Image Publishers, 2004, page 133).  It should be noted that only Noe, King and Frost supported the “full” Preterist position. Thomas Ice and co-author of the best selling Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye, quote Frost’s work, Misplaced Hope, as well in their book, The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming under Attack (Harvest House Publishers, 2003, page 40).  Dr. Jay E. Adams, who single handedly launched “a revolution” in Christian Counseling with his work, Competent to Counsel: An Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling, (1970, Zondervan), also wrote an analysis of Frost’s work in Preterism: Orthodox or Unorthodox? (Ministry Monographs for Modern Times, INS Publishing, 2004).  Adams wrote of Misplaced Hope as a "useful, scholarly work" (p.6 - though he disagreed with the overall thesis).  Dr. Charles E. Hill, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, wrote of Misplaced Hope that Frost, “attacks the problem of the early church in a much more thoroughgoing way than I have seen” (When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper Preterism, Ed. Keith Mathison, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2003, ‘Eschatology in the Wake of Jerusalem’s Fall’ p. 110-ff.).  There were several other works as well that took the scholarship of Frost seriously, like Ergun Caner in The Return of Christ: A Premillennial Perspective, Eds., Steve W. Lemke and David L. Allen (B&H Publishing, 2011). Because of the controversial nature of Frost’s conclusions on these matters, it was difficult to find a denomination within the Church-at-Large to work in terms of pastoral ministry.  That situation changed when Samuel was called by a Bible study group in Saint Petersburg, Florida to found a congregation.  Christ Covenant Church was established in 2002 operating under the principles outlined by Presbyterian historian James Bannerman’s work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, original, 1869).  By-Laws and a Constitution were drawn up in the strictest manner for what was considered an “Independent” establishment of a Presbyterian Church, granted that a “call” was received and recognized by Presiding Elders duly ordained from existing and recognized denominations.  Two Elders, one ordained in the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Mike Delores), and another ordained in the Presbyterian Church of America (Dr. Kelly N. Birks, now deceased) tested and reviewed the call, ordaining Samuel on October 20th, 2002, the Twenty Second Sunday after Trinity.  Proper forms were submitted to Tallahassee, Florida with the stamp of a Notary Public Witness.  Christ Covenant Church (CCC) functioned as a local church for five years with a congregation as large as 30 members.  Frost was gaining recognition after Misplaced Hope had been published in January of that year, and conferences were hosted that included debates with another prominent "full" Preterist educator, Don K. Preston.  CCC hosted best-selling authors, Thomas Ice, and Mark Hitchcock from Dallas Theological Seminary; and Dr. James B. Jordan (Westminster Theological Seminary), well-known author/pastor in Reformed theological circles.  Frost was invited for the next several years to speak at over 25 conferences nation-wide, was featured in articles and an appearance on local news in Tampa for one of CCC’s conferences.  The Evangelical Theological Society also invited Samuel to speak at the Philadelphia conference (Frost is currently a Member of ETS as well as Society of Biblical Literature). During this time Samuel had submitted one more book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead (TruthVoice, 2008; repr. JaDon Publishing, 2010); and co-wrote, House Divided: A Reformed Response to When Shall These Things Be? (Vision International, 2010).  Frost also wrote several Forewords for up and coming authors who were influenced by his teaching materials, as well as cited many times in books, lectures and academic papers.  However, because of certain aspects of Hermeneutics and Frost’s undaunted commitment to scholarship (with always a strong emphasis on the personal nature of devotional living to Christ), several challenges to the "hyper" Preterist view he espoused finally gave way, largely due to the unwavering commitment to Samuel by the Dean of Whitefield Theological Seminary, Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, who continually challenged him.  In what shocked the "hyper" Preterist world, Samuel announced after the Summer of 2010 that he was in serious error, and departed the movement as a whole, along with Jason Bradfield, now Assistant Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida .  Christ Covenant Church had dissolved after 2007 while Samuel continued as a public speaker and writer, largely due to reasons that would unravel Frost’s commitment to "hyper" Preterism as a whole. The documentation of Frost’s departure was published by American Vision’s Founder, Gary DeMar, with a Foreword by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry.  Why I Left Full Preterism (AV Publishing, 2012) quickly ran through its first run.  The book was later republished under the arm of Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry and is sold today (GoodBirth Ministries Publishing, 2019; though still available in Kindle form from American Vision).  Dr. Gentry also gave mention to Frost in his book, Have We Missed the Second Coming: A Critique of Hyper Preterism (Victorious Hope Publishing, 2016), noting him as "one of the most prominent" teachers within Full Preterism (135).  Dr. Keith Mathison, Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida, endorsed the book as well.  Samuel has gone on to write, Daniel: Unplugged (McGahan Publishing House, 2021); The Parousia of the Son of Man (Lulu Publishing, 2019); God: As Bill Wilson Understood Him, A Theological Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous (Lulu Publishing, 2017).  He is also active as a certified Chaplain with the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana, and enrolled with ICAADA (Indiana Counselor’s Association on Alcohol and Drug Abuse), and worked directly under Dr. Dennis Greene, Founder of Christian Counseling and Addictions Services, Inc., for a year.  Frost’s passion is in the education of the local church on various issues and occasionally works with Pastor Alan McCraine with the First Presbyterian Church in Lewisville, Indiana, and Bethel Presbyterian Church, Knightstown, Indiana, where he periodically is called upon to give the sermon. Samuel, with his wife, Kimberly, helped to establish Heaven’s Bread Basket food pantry that donates food items to local families in need once a month – a ministry of the Session of First Presbyterian Church, Lewisville, Indiana. Samuel also works part time at Ace Hardware in New Castle, Indiana for several years.  He has a solid, family reputation in the community, and has performed local marriages and funerals.  He also sits on the Board of the Historical Preservation Committee in New Castle. Recently, he has completed his two year quest for a Th.D from Christian Life School of Theology Global, Georgia.

6 thoughts on “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands…”

  1. Hi brother Sam! What do you think are the strongest biblical arguments against full preterism to be debunked?Others use preterism as a hammer to explain all biblical texts to support their theory. Thanks you! All respect to you?

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  2. Great article, Sam. I agree that FP limits these words in a highly illogical (and may I say, unbiblical?) way. Incidentally, L said you might be interested in doing a podcast with us. If you want, you can contact me direct—or thru him. He’s got my phone number that he can give you.

    Brian

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