By Milton S. Terry
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- INTRODUCTION TO BIBLICAL APOCALYPTICS
2. APOCALYPTIC ELEMENTS IN HEBREW SONG
3. APOCALYPSE OF CREATION
4. EDENIC APOCALYPSE OF SIN AND JUDGMENT
5. APOCALYPSE OF THE ANTEDILUVIAN WORLD
6. APOCALYPSE OF NOAH AND THE FLOOD
7. APOCALYPSE OF THE DISPERSION OF NATIONS
8. APOCALYPSE OF ABRAHAM
9. APOCALYPTIC DREAMS
10. APOCALYPSE OF THE EXODUS
11. APOCALYPTIC SYMBOLISM OF THE TABERNACLE
12. APOCALYPTIC PASSAGES IN THE HISTORICAL BOOKS
13. APOCALYPSES IN THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
14. APOCAYLPSE OF EZEKIEL
15. APOCALYPSES IN ZECHARIAH
16. APOCALYPSE OF JOEL
17. APOCALYPSE OF DANIEL
18. APOCALYPSE OF THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS
19. THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN
APPENDIX-THE APOCRYPHAL APOCALYPSES
ANALYSIS OF THE APOCALYPSE
Revelation of the Lamb, 1 – 11
- Title and superscription 1:1-3
- Salutation 1:4-6
- Apocalyptic announcement 4:1, 8
- THE EPISTLES TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES 1:9 – 3:22
- Introductory Christophany 1:9-20
- The seven epistles:
- To the Church in Ephesus 2:1-7
- To the Church in Smyrna 2:8-11
- To the Church in Pergamum 2:12-17
- To the Church in Thyatira 2:18-29
- To the Church in Sardis 3:1-6
- To the Church in Philadelphia 3:7-13
- To the Church in Laodicea 3:14-22
- THE OPENING OF THE SEVEN SEALS 4 – 7
- The heavenly theophany 4:1-11
- The book with seven seals 5:1-4
- The Lamb at the throne 5:6-7
- The worship of God and the Lamb 5:8-14
- The opening of the seals:
- First seal opened (white horse) 6:1, 2
- Second seal opened (red horse) 6:3, 4
- Third seal opened (black horse) 6:5, 6
- Fourth seal opened (pale horse) 6:7, 8
- Fifth seal opened (souls under altar) 6:9-11
- Sixth seal opened (shaking of earth and heavens) 6:12-11
[First interlude 7
(1) The sealing of elect Israel 7:1-8
(2) The innumerable multitude washed in the blood of the Lamb 7:9-11]
- Seventh seal opened 8:1
- III. THE SOUNDING OF THE SEVEN TRUMPETS 8 – 11
- The seven angels 8:2
- The angel with the cense 8:3-6
- The trumpets sounded:
- First trumpet sounded (earth smitten) 8:7
- Second trumpet sounded (sea smitten) 8:8, 9
- Third trumpet sounded (rivers and fountains) 8:10, 11
- Fourth trumpet sounded (sun smitten) 8:12 [Eagle makes first announcement of woe 8:13]
- Fifth trumpet sounded (locust plague) 9:1-11 [Second announcement of woe 9:12]
- Sixth trumpet sounded (Euphrates armies) 9:13-21
[Second interlude 10:1-11:13
(1) Mighty angel from heaven 10:1-7
(2) Eating of the little book 10:8-11
(3) Measuring of the temple 11:1, 2
(4) The two witnesses 11:3-13]
[Announcement of third woe 11:14]
- Seventh trumpet sounded (the end) 11:15-19
(1) The kingdom becomes Christ’s 11:15
(2) The song of triumph 11:16-18
(3) God’s temple in heaven opened 11:19
Revelation of the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb, 12 – 22
- I. THE WOMAN AND THE DRAGON 12
- The woman in travail 12:1, 2
- The great red dragon 12:3, 4
- The child caught up to God and the woman nourished in the wilderness 12:5, 6
- War in heaven 12:7, 8
- The dragon and his angels cast out 12:9
- Consequent joy in heaven 12:10-12
- Persecution of the woman and the rest of her seed 12:13-17
- II. THE TWO BEASTS 13
- The beast out of the sea 13:1-10
- The beast out of the land 13:11-18
- A SEVENFOLD REVELATION OF TRIUMPH AND JUDGMENT 14
- The Lamb and his thousands on Mount Zion 14:1-6
- The eternal gospel 14:6, 7
- Fallen Babylon 14:8
- The solemn admonition 14:9-12
- The blessed dead 14:13
- The harvest of the earth 14:14-16
- The vintage of judgment 14:17-20
- THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES 15, 16
- The seven angels 15:1
- Song by the glassy sea 152-4
- The procession of the angels 15:5-8
- Pouring out of the bowls of wrath 16
- First plague (grievous sore) 16:2
- Second plague (sea turned to blood) 16:3
- Third plague (rivers and fountains turned to blood) 16:4-7
- Fourth plague (sun smitten) 16:8, 9
- Fifth plague (throne of beast smitten) 16:10, 11
- Sixth plague (Euphrates armies) 16:12-16
- Seventh plague (Babylon doomed) 16:17-21
- BABYLON, THE GREAT HARLOT 17 – 19:10
- MILLENNIAL CONFLICT AND TRIUMPH 19:11 – 21:8
- The heavenly conqueror 19:11-16
- The great supper of sacrifice 19:11, 18
- Beast and false prophet destroyed 19:19-21
- Satan chained and in prison 20:1-3
- Millennial reign and final overthrow of Satan 20:4-10
- The final judgment 20:11-15
- New Heaven, new Earth, and new Jerusalem 21:1-8
- JERUSALEM, THE GLORIOUS BRIDE 21:9 – 22:5
- Vision of new Jerusalem 21:9-14
- Measure of city and walls 21:15-17
- Materials of its structure 21:18-21
- Its temple and its light 21:22, 23
- Character of its inhabitants 21:24-27
- River and trees of life 22:1, 2
- Eternal reign in glory 22:3-5
- Angel’s testimony 22:6, 7
- John and the angel 22:8, 9
- Solemn admonition 22:10-16
- Jesus’ personal testimony 22:16
- Great invitation 22:17
- Prophetic testimony of warning 22:18-20
- Benediction 22:21
THAT God has at many times and in many ways revealed himself to men is a doctrine fundamental to the Christian faith, and the canonical writings of the Old and New Testaments are believed to be a truthful presentation of such divine revelations. These scriptures comprise a great variety of literature. In them we find ancient ballads, national songs, sacred lyrics, family records, theocratic history, lively narrative, charming romance, poetical dramas, visions and dreams of signal import, impassioned oracles of prophecy, and epistles and memoirs of the early Christian Church. Nearly every form of literary composition known to men is represented in the unique volume. Fables, riddles, enigmas, allegories, parables, types, symbols, and idealistic pictures worthy of the most transcendent genius appear in great number and variety. It would seem that infinite Wisdom intended to appropriate every form and class of human writing in order to make each in some way contribute its portion to the preparation of an authoritative textbook for instruction in righteousness.
This great variety of composition and modes of thought among the sacred writers has been too often overlooked. The Bible as a whole has been extolled for its supernatural contents to such an extent that not a few seem to have concluded there can be nothing really human about it. Such presumptions of absolute perfection in a book act as barriers against a thorough scientific investigation of its contents and are prejudicial to the interests of truth. All ideas of a normal progress in the revelation are excluded, and apologists, assuming that the morality of the patriarchs and judges of Israel must needs be consistent with Christian ethics, have become entangled in inextricable difficulties. The result has been a one-sided and misleading trend of thought, which has furnished occasion for all manner of vagaries in biblical interpretation. The opening chapters of Genesis have been supposed to be an infallibly correct deliverance of the Creator himself on cosmology, geology, astronomy, and natural science, and many have taken in hand to reconcile the record and the facts. In a similar way it has been presumed that the Book of Revelation contains detailed predictions of the Roman papacy, the wars of modern Europe, and the fortunes of Napoleon.
Criticism, on the other hand, has too often gone to the extreme of ignoring the divine element in the Scriptures, and has in recent years so persistently looked after the original sources whence the biblical writers derived their material that the higher purpose of the sacred penman has been lost from sight. Gunkel, for example, in his Schöpfung und Chaos (Göttingen, 1895), takes great pains to show that the first chapter of Genesis is inconsistent with the lofty concept of all creation by one God which appears in Isa. 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:7, 12. He finds there, on the contrary, numerous ideas and expressions which he considers so many echoes of most ancient times and fragments of cosmogonic myths. The chaos of darkness and the brooding of the Spirit over the waters are a reminiscence of the world-egg among the Indians, Egyptians, and Plicenicians. He concludes that Gen. 1 is mainly of Babylonian origin, and Gen. 2 a fragment of old Canaanitish thought. In the various Old Testament allusions to the monsters of the waters, leviathan, Rahab, and the serpent, he finds traces of primeval myths which the biblical writers have worked into their compositions. Also in the symbols of Rev. xii he seems concerned only to, prove a mythical origin for the ideas of the woman, the man child, the red dragon, the war in heaven, the great eagle, and the flight into the wilderness. That the analogies are often striking is apparent to every observer, and such investigation into the origin and subsequent history of mythical ideas is of much archeological interest. How far the biblical writers, first and last, appropriated material from mythical and legendary sources is simply a question of fact and presents a legitimate field of scientific inquiry. But the real meaning and purpose of the Scriptures may be quite independent of that question. It matters not whence the material of Gen. 1 and 2 has been derived as to its possible primitive sources, nor how much the authors of Job and Isaiah knew about the myths of Rahab and the dragon in the sea; nor whether John, in Rev. 12, associated with the great red dragon and the war in heaven any well-defined ideas of the mythology of the ancient world. The one paramount question with the true interpreter of these Scriptures is, What ideas did the biblical writer intend to impart to his readers? It is not necessary to know all about a particular metaphor or the history of a familiar emblem in order to understand the purpose for which an author may employ it. All human speech is to a great extent a dictionary of forgotten figures of thought. There is a traditional element in a thousand familiar concepts which have passed from age to age, from race to race, and even from one religion to another. When, therefore, biblical criticism busies itself almost solely with questions of the origin of documents, and the more or less probable sources of particular figures of thought and of speech, it is apt to become one-sided and to miss the real object of the sacred writers.
Our continuous inquiry in the present volume is not, Whence did the biblical writers derive their literary material? nor, How far did they modify older compositions to suit their plan? nor, What ancient myths and legends have they embodied in their books? but rather, What use have they made of their material, such as it is, for the higher purposes of divine revelation and instruction? We shall have no controversy with the methods or results of scientific criticism. We gratefully accept the facts and side-lights which archeological research has brought forth to the help of biblical study; but our work is constructive rather than analytical. Our chief aim is to show that the great religious lessons of these Scriptures do not depend for their value on questions of sources, and authorship, and dates of composition. The imperishable treasure of the Word remains, and may even be enhanced in its manifold capabilities by being thus enshrined in vessels noticeably human. Thus indeed may one see that “the highest human is divine.”
In accordance with this general view I have chosen for exposition those portions of the Holy Scriptures which are remarkable for symbolical presentations of the works and ways of God. Happily it is no longer claimed among intelligent divines that all portions of the Bible are of equal value. A considerable number of the books are of a composite character, and some parts of single books as well as some entire books are better adapted than others to inculcate religious doctrine and morals. The relative importance of the different parts may be differently estimated, but it will scarcely be disputed that those scriptures which purport to contain particular revelations of the works and purposes of God are entitled to special consideration. The apocalyptic element in the Old Testament occupies a larger place than is commonly supposed. The Pentateuch and the Psalms, as well as the Prophets, contain a large amount of pictorial symbolism, and the Book of Genesis exhibits a symmetry of structure comparable to that of the Apocalypse of John. These apocalyptic portions of the Old Testament are essential to a proper understanding of the contents and structure of the New Testament Book of Revelation.
A careful study of these scriptures as a distinctive class of writings will show that the New Testament Apocalypse is the normal conclusion of a series of biblical revelations, which from beginning to end make known, reiterate, and emphasize the fundamental truth that God is the Creator and Ruler of the heavens and the earth. He is the first and the last, and his holy purposes contemplate all the ages and conditions of the world. Clouds and darkness are round about him, his ways are in many places past finding out, but truth and righteousness are the basis of his throne, and he will surely punish the wicked and glorify the pure and good.
The exposition of John’s Apocalypse naturally occupies the largest as well as the concluding portion of the present volume. A rational interpretation of this remarkable production of inspired genius is one of the great needs of our time. The vagaries of literalist and “world-historical” expositors on the one hand have been offset by the conflicting theories of analytical criticism on the other, and the general confusion has thereby become worse confounded. Our work will naturally be looked upon with disfavor by both these classes of writers. One will be scandalized by the fact that our exegesis finds nowhere in the prophecies of this book a prediction of Turkish armies, or papal bulls, or the German Reformation of the sixteenth century. The other class will find fault with the relatively small space given to the discussion of recent critical hypotheses of the composite structure of the book. In respect to all these criticisms we must let our interpretation speak for itself. If it is in the main sound and tenable all conflicting theories are thereby seen to be at fault, and it would be a bootless task to fill our pages with polemics which could be of no practical use to the common reader. If we are fairly successful in showing that the Apocalypse of John is a fitting conclusion to the biblical apocalypses and dependent mainly for its imagery on what is clearly traceable in the Hebrew Scriptures, and that it is in substance and scope only a symbolico-propbetic amplification of our Lord’s eschatological discourse as preserved in the synoptic gospels, we are thereby sufficiently vindicated against the charge of not paying detailed attention to other expositions.
The Old Testament apocalypses are a necessary introduction to the interpretation of Jesus’ eschatological sermon on the Mount of Olives and to that of the Apocalypse of John. If the reader will take pains to examine our references he will find ample proof that the principal sources of the New Testament prophetic language and imagery are the Hebrew Scriptures. Little help for valid exposition is to be found in the apocryphal apocalypses.(1) They are all at best but weak imitations, and move in a lower realm of thought. There is no evidence that the biblical revelations were in any considerable degree dependent upon that class of literature. Much less are we to search in heathen mythology for an immediate source of the imagery employed in the revelations of Daniel and John. That the war of nature’s elements, and the concepts of dragons and monsters of the abyss have their varying mythological analogies in the traditions of ancient peoples, is simple matter of fact; but it is quite a different proposition to affirm that a New Testament writer appropriated such myths as a direct source of his symbolism. Whatever may have been their remote origin in the prehistoric times, and however the Israelitish people first or gradually came into contact with them, generations of Hebrew psalmists and prophets had so far consecrated them to the uses of a lofty theistic conception of the world that in the time of our Lord they had lost, for the devout Jew, their polytheistic connotation. John’s Revelation is no loose compilation of documents, no incongruous structure of fragments. The author was a sublime genius, easily comparable with Dante and Milton, who found the suggestions of his imagery in the Hebrew Scriptures, but had the native ability and the divine inspiration to adapt his material to the scope and plan of his apocalypse. His originality is seen, not in the invention of all his symbols, but in the unique structure and the sublimity of his completed work.
It is not the purpose of the present volume to furnish a textual commentary on the portions of Scripture here brought into discussion. The nearest approach to a full exposition is made in the treatment of the Apocalypse of John. No other method seemed so suitable for presenting in detail the import of that most notable revelation of “things about to come to pass.” Being the consummation and crown of all the biblical apocalypses, it properly called for fuller treatment, and for the convenience of the reader the text (in the main that of the Anglo-American Revised Version) has been inserted in immediate connection with the exegesis. It was part of my original plan to incorporate a new translation, accompanied with critical and exegetical footnotes, of all the Old Testament apocalypses, but this was soon found to be impracticable within the limits of a single volume. My purpose is rather to write a comprehensive and readable book, adapted to serve as a suggestive help toward the proper understanding of those scriptures which are regarded as peculiarly obscure. In carrying out this purpose I have also kept in view the hope of showing every candid and thoughtful reader that the divine purpose and the abiding lessons of these holy writings are not endamaged by the results of scientific criticism.
For the sake of any who may feel regret that I concede so much to the findings of modern higher criticism I take this opportunity to say that I have in some instances allowed the claims of a radical criticism, which I am personally far from accepting as established, for the very purpose of showing that the great religious lessons of the scripture in question are not affected by critical opinions of the possible “sources,” and date, and authorship, and redaction. To me and to many it is a pitiable spectacle to behold devout and learned men wasting their energy in the maintenance of a traditional theory of the origin of such books as Genesis and Isaiah and Daniel, as if the divine purpose and sole value of these scriptures must needs rest upon a questionable hypothesis of their human authorship. We cannot believe that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has any respect for a tradition of the elders that cannot commend itself by open, manly, convincing argument, but presumes rather to hold its ground by dogmatic assertion and ecclesiastical oppression. For the Church’s sake, for the sake of an untrammeled Gospel, for Christ’s sake, let devout and conscientious criticism be at liberty to perform its legitimate work. God will smite that whited wall of a Protestantism which boasts its encouragement of a free and fearless searching of the Scriptures, and yet dishonors its throne of judgment by imposing stripes on the truth-loving disciple of Jesus, who studies with all diligence to present himself approved unto God and to handle aright the word of truth.
It has long been my purpose to write three volumes on biblical interpretation and doctrine. The first of these, entitled Biblical Hermeneutics, appeared fourteen years ago (1883), and forms one of the volumes of the “Library of Biblical and Theological Literature,” edited by Crooks and Hurst. The present treatise is the second in my plan, and, in nature and scope, is supplementary to the Hermeneutics, being an extended application and illustration of the principles of interpretation set forth therein. The remaining volume, on Biblical Dogmatics, will be an essay toward a luminous, simple, and systematic statement of the principal doctrines of the Old and New Testaments.
A brief account of apocryphal apocalypses is given in the Appendix to this volume. However valuable for other purposes, none of them are capable of shedding any considerable light on the canonical Scriptures. Their secondary and inferior character serves rather by its obvious contrast to enhance the real dignity and originality of the biblical apocalypses.
INTRODUCTION TO BIBLICAL APOCALYPTICS
- IDEA AND SCOPE OF APOCALYPTICS.
The Greek word Apocalypse means an uncovering, or laying open to view; a disclosure. This idea has been, through Latin ecclesiastical literature, transferred into our language by the word Revelation. Both these words have become common in theological literature, but in English usage the term revelation has acquired a wider meaning, and is employed to denote the entire body of religious truth as set forth in the Holy Scriptures, while the word Apocalypse is confined more particularly to the last book of the New Testament canon, and to a number of pseudepigraphical works of a similar literary character. In the language of the New Testament, however, the word apocalypse denotes a divine revelation of something that was before unknown to men. The salvation introduced by the coming of Jesus Christ is spoken of as a light destined to serve as an apocalypse to the nations of the earth (Luke 2:32). The Gospel itself is said (in Rom. 16:25, 26) to be an apocalypse of the mystery of redemption through Christ, which was kept in silence from eternity until preached by Jesus and his apostles. Paul declared that he received his gospel, not from man, but through an apocalypse of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:12); and many years later, acting in conformity with an apocalypse, he went up to Jerusalem and laid before the brethren a statement of the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:2). He claimed also to have been favored with visions and a superabundance of apocalypses (2nd Cor. 12:1, 7). But in a manner to be more particularly observed is the heavenly manifestation of Jesus Christ himself, in his execution of judgment on the wicked and awarding glory to the righteous, called “the apocalypse of the Lord Jesus” (1st Cor. 1:7; 2nd Thess. 1:7; 1st Peter 1:7, 13; 4:13). It is called in Rom. 2:5, an “apocalypse of the righteous judgment of God.” In special harmony with this idea the one prophetic book of the New Testament is entitled the “Apocalypse of Jesus Christ.”
An apocalypse is in its nature associated with prophecy; for no genuine prophet of God goes forth with an authoritative word except he first receive some manner of heavenly apocalypse. But we must distinguish between apocalypse and prophecy. Paul recognizes this distinction in 1st Cor. 14:6. Apocalypse is to be understood especially of the heavenly disclosure, in the reception of which the man is comparatively passive; prophecy denotes rather the inspired human activity, the uttering forth of the truth revealed within. He who receives an apocalypse sees, hears, feels, realizes in some way that the “hand of God” is upon him, making known within his soul what was not thus known before; but he who prophesies proclaims the word of revelation, and may accompany it with exhortation, warning, and rebuke. The apocalypse is generally concerned with impending or future events; the prophesying may deal alike with things past, present, or future. Where the subject-matter of a prophetical book consists mainly of instruction, expostulation, threatening, or rebuke, we call it prophecy, and think especially of the personal human activity that gives utterance to the word; when, however, it consists mainly of visions of the unseen world, symbolical descriptions, and a forecasting of future judgments and mercies, we call it apocalypse, and think of extra human and supernatural disclosures.
The biblical apocalypses, therefore, are those sacred books and portions of books which contain revelations or disclosures of God’s view of things. They unfold a concept of the world and of man which may be thought of as the superior gift of one who has been exalted above the world, and has looked upon the movements of “many peoples and nations and languages and kings” as they appear before the throne of God. Such revelations magnify the idea of God’s interposition in all the affairs of men and nations. They emphasize with mighty assurance the doctrine that the wickedness of the wicked must sooner or later meet righteous retribution, and that the obedient children of God shall be crowned with glory. They accordingly admonish us that the world had a beginning, has its cycles and ages and dispensations, and moves steadily onward to a divinely foreseen goal. Many of the questions of biblical eschatology fall properly within the domain of apocalyptics, and should be studied in the light of the fully developed organism of the biblical revelations.
Biblical apocalyptics has for its province that entire body of canonical literature which represents the idea of special divine revelation as above defined. Its scope is therefore very extensive. It aims by means of pictorial communications to disclose what is important for man to know about the creation and government of the world by the ever-living God. The most ancient traditions of Israel embody truths which appear, in some cases, to be cast in apocalyptic form, but the more notable apocalypses are devoted to the disclosure of God’s purposes of judgment and salvation. Especially do they reveal the kingdom of God in its age-enduring conflict with the powers of evil. Many of these revelations were given in times of trouble and discouragement, when the people of God were suffering bitter wrongs. The inspired seer was enabled to look beyond the evils of his own times and behold the great day of the Lord approaching. Beyond the great and terrible day of divine judgment on the evildoers he saw a blessed golden age in which all wrongs were to be recompensed, and eternal dominion and power and glory were to become the portion of the true servants of God.
- IDEA AND METHODS OF REVELATION.
The first clear perception of any truth as it dawns upon the human understanding may be properly called a revelation. It may come in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, or it may come gradually, and after long and laborious search. It is as truly a revelation in the one case as in the other. It may come as an intuition of the soul; it may be suggested by the word or action of another; it may be given in a dream, and so vividly as to impress one with an ideal never to be forgotten. It may be communicated by the direct and formal impartation of a thought from one intelligent person to another. But whenever a new idea gets possession of a man, no matter when, where, or in what manner he acquires it, it is of the nature of an apocalypse. How many have said, upon perceiving some new truth, “That was a revelation to me!”
God revealed himself to the Hebrew prophets in many separate communications and in many different modes (Heb. 1:1). As modes of revelation visions and dreams are mentioned in Num. 12:6. When Abraham was about to receive a momentous disclosure of the woes and triumphs of his posterity it is said that a deep sleep and a horror of great darkness fell upon him (Gen. 15:12). Probably all men have at some period of their lives been deeply impressed by images conveyed to them in dreams. When the eyes are closed in sleep, and the conscious operations of sense are suspended, there often come upon the soul vivid reminiscences of recent cares, or pictures of impending trouble, and sometimes startling premonitions of events to come. These may or may not be revelations, but it is easy to see that they may be the method by which a revelation can be conveyed to the mind. Jacob’s dream at Bethel was a real apocalypse of the great future of his posterity in the history of redemption. The dreams of Joseph and of Pharaoh were symbolic revelations of things that were to come. In Judg. 7:13, 14, we read of the presageful dream of a Midianite, which inspired one party with dismay and another with triumphant hope. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s night vision (Dan. 2 and 7) are conspicuous elements of the most formally apocalyptic book of the Old Testament. Such premonitory dreams are wont to leave a spell of trouble on the soul (comp. Dan. 2:1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 15, 28; Gen. 41:8), and the impression may remain for years.
The vision of an apocalyptist is spoken of as if it were of the nature of a dream (comp. Dan. 2:19; 7:1; Acts 16:9; 18:9). Nathan’s revelation touching David’s house and kingdom was given in a vision of the night (2nd Sam. 7:4, 17). The psychological condition adapted to the reception of an apocalypse may be regarded as a part of God’s own preparation of the prophet for his word. Peter’s symbolic vision on the housetop was seen at the hour of midday. It is called an ecstasy (Acts 10:10), and by its uplifting power his inner sense became possessed of a new and to him startling revelation. The ecstasy, however, may have been part of a dream which came to him during a moment of sleep. At such an hour and place it would have been very natural for him to have fallen into a sleep. Balaam is represented in Num. 24:3, 4, as the man whose eye was closed, while yet by means of an unveiled inner sense he beheld the vision of the Almighty. In all such experiences the soul becomes a mirror which reflects the images cast, upon it by the supernatural Revealer.
The passage in Num. 12:6-8, which speaks of visions and dreams as modes of prophetic revelation, informs us further that Jehovah was pleased to communicate with Moses in a more intimate way: “With my servant Moses will I speak mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in riddles; and the form of Jehovah shall he behold.” Whatever be the precise meaning of this, the tradition prevailed in Israel that no prophet had been honored like Moses, “whom. Jehovah knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10). It may not now be said, however, that no prophet has since arisen who knew God as intimately as Moses, but it would be profitless for us to speculate upon the possibilities of the higher forms of communion between God and man. We can only make appeal to such facts as have manifest relation to this general subject. Paul speaks of having visions and revelations of God while in such a state of ecstasy that he knew not whether he were in the body or apart from the body (2nd Cor. 12:1-4). He was “caught up even to the third heaven,” “caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter;” but his own statements show that the revelations and the manner of receiving them were not of a nature to be capable of outward demonstration. They were matters of inward consciousness, not of objective reality. The vision, however, had for him a reality as certain as his vision of Christ when on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:3-7), or that of the man of Macedonia at Troas (Acts 16:9).
It is an error, too prevalent in modern times, to say that “visions and revelations of God” are things of the past. The apocalypses of the Scriptures have, indeed, such originality and comprehensiveness that we may safely affirm that nothing of the kind has since been given to any man which contains additional revelation of an important character. But, according to Jesus, John the Baptist was not surpassed by any before his day, and yet “the one who is an inferior in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11). We disparage the abiding presence and operation of the Holy Spirit when we imply that God no longer reveals himself to man. It is as true today as when it was first written that “there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all, and to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for that which is profitable” (1st Cor. 12:6, 7). This “manifestation of the Spirit” must first be revealed within before it can be made known without. If it be true that there have come no new or additional revelations of God since the apostolic age, such fact magnifies the completeness of “the revelation of Jesus Christ,” but does not signify that the same eternal truths have not been revealed by the same Spirit to thousands of thousands since that day. The revelations have come in dreams and visions, in the reading of the Scriptures, in the songs of the Church, in the testimonies of devout hearts, in the facts of Christian history, and in secret meditation and prayer. It is no less a divine revelation because it comes to us in other forms than visions and dreams. Perhaps the superior character of Moses’ intimacy with God was due to the fact of his long life of study, meditation, and service no less than to occasional visions of a burning bush or a smoking mountain. Elijah learned by his apocalypse in Mount Horeb that “a voice of gentle stillness” is of greater spiritual significance than miraculous wind and earthquake and fire (1st Kings 19:12). The revelation that comes to the Christian believer now, after long struggles, doubts, and fears, may be even more trustworthy than the one he receives in a dream or a vision of the night. We do not take away from the greatness and excellency of the ancient revelations by magnifying the modern gifts and works of the Spirit. The ancient apocalypses were given, time and again, that we, “upon whom the ends of the ages are come” (1st Cor. 10:11), might be bless with the superior light and admonitions of accumulated revelations.
- FORMS OF APOCALYPTIC COMPOSITION.
When one has received within his soul a revelation, or a series of revelations, and proceeds to embody them in the form of a writing, his composition, like all other books produced by human brains and hands, may be supposed to bear the characteristics of his human personality. We have no ground for the assumption that the sacred writers were mechanical or passive instruments in the band of God. They were men of like passions with us, and the literary productions they have left us bear all the marks of variety of genius and individuality. The differences between Genesis and Job and Jeremiah and John’s Apocalypse are notably conspicuous. We should not, therefore, assume that the tropes and parables and allegories and symbols of the biblical writers were supernaturally supplied by the Spirit of God. Nor should the apocalyptic narratives be supposed to be matters of actual history. We do not make such a claim for the narrative of Nathan’s parable in 2nd Sam. 12:1-4; why should we make it for the symbolic apocalypse of Micaiah in 1st Kings 22:19-23? When Zechariah records his visions of angelic horsemen among the myrtle trees (Zech. 1:8), or Joshua standing before the angel of Jehovah confronted with Satan as his accuser (3:1), or the flying roll and the ephah (5:1, 6), we are not to suppose that his records are in every case a prosaic statement of real objective facts actually witnessed by himself. They are rather symbolic pictures, designed to convey an impressive object lesson to all who read the book of his prophecy. In like manner we hold that the symbols employed in the visions of Daniel the prophet are evidences of the genius and art of the author of that book, as well as profound revelations of the mystery of God in the history of the world. We need not ignore or deny the human elements in order to magnify the value of the revelation. So, too, Isaiah’s vision of the throne of God (Isa. 6:1-4), and Ezekiel’s portraiture of the cherubim and the wonderful wheels (Ezek. 1:1-18), and John’s description of the New Jerusalem, are the creative elaboration’s of human genius as truly as they are heavenly revelations. The visional symbols of the prophets, like the parables and allegories of our Lord, were employed as choice vehicles for instruction in the things of God, and, like the metaphors and similes of all literature, are to be regarded as creations of human thought. A metaphor or a symbol is no more supernatural because found in Isaiah than if found in the books of Zoroaster or the Vedic songs.
It seems best, on the whole, to regard also a number of the most ancient biblical traditions as embodied in the form of symbolism. We shrink from the hazardous presumption of making their value, as a part of the biblical revelation, dependent on the belief that they are actual history. The pictures of the creation, the expulsion from the garden of Eden, and the earliest migrations and inventions of men are explained in the following pages as having more the nature of apocalyptic symbolism than of literal history. Such prophetic songs as those of Jacob (Gen. 49) and of Moses (Deut. 32 and 33) may also be the product of a much later time than the assumed occasion which they represent. We narrow the scope and possibilities of divine inspiration when we dogmatically assume that, among all the divers portions and modes of God’s speaking in and through the prophets, we are not to believe that he ever moved a Hebrew writer to compose a poem adapted in its ideal to enhance the thoughts of the divine purpose in the past history of the tribes of Israel.
We recognize in the biblical apocalypses a series of divine revelations touching the kingdom, the power, and the glory of God. A revelation of world-wide importance may be designedly given in ideal form. It ought not to shake our confidence in God’s word to discover that he has given it so largely in imaginary pictures, in magnificent framework of embellished traditions, ravishing poetry, delightful allegory, suggestive parables, memorable dreams, and symbols of imperishable significance. The fullness and completeness, as well as the transcendent excellence, of the revelations contained in this long series of divine communications are a convincing witness that the holy men of old wrote as they were moved by the Spirit of God.
- APOCALYPTIC SYMBOLISM.
Inasmuch as one of the more conspicuous features of apocalyptics is the use of symbols we should give some special attention to the facts and principles which affect the interpretation of these peculiar signs. A revelation given in dreams and visions may most naturally appropriate a visional image for its embodiment. The figure employed is, in every such case, a sign of something apart from itself. The rainbow, for example, is not a symbol of itself, or of another rainbow, but of a gracious covenant between God and the earth. The significance of the sign must be inferred from some well-known fact associated with its use, or some quality which it naturally suggests.
Apocalyptic symbols are many and various, and may be classified as figures, acts, names, numbers, and colors. A symbolical act is one which conveys to the beholder a lesson of peculiar significance. A symbolical name is significant because of some well-known historic facts with which it is associated. When Isaiah calls the chiefs of Jerusalem “rulers of Sodom” (Isa. 1:10) he employs the word Sodom in a metaphorical sense, as containing a symbol in a name. Sometimes names, acts, and colors are mentioned merely as attributes of symbols otherwise significant, and in many cases the apocalyptic symbol is a composite picture in which a number of formal elements are combined. In every kind and class of symbols, however, it will be seen that the sign is only an emblem or formal representation of the thing signified.
(1) Symbolical Figures.
The great beasts which appear in Daniel’s visions are explained as symbols of great kingdoms. The heads, horns, wings, teeth, and feet are described as all together making up the figure of a monstrous animal, and all these parts were doubtless intended to have some measure of significance. The great sea, lashed by the winds of heaven (Dan. 7:2), was itself suggestive, and, like the waters on which John saw the accursed harlot, was an appropriate symbol of multitudinous peoples (Rev. 17:15), out of whose commotions and revolutions great empires have arisen. The horn of an animal is taken to represent a king and is an obvious symbol of organized military power. The invasion of a mighty army is portrayed as the overflowing of a tremendous stream, which breaks over its banks and inundates an entire land (Isa. 8:7, 8). Horses of different colors appear in the visions of Zechariah and of John, and denote dispensations and modes of executing divine judgment. The Levitical tabernacle, or tent of meeting, is conceived and constructed after a divinely revealed pattern, and serves the purpose of a composite symbol in pointing out the holy and blessed ideal of Jehovah dwelling with his people. It is virtually an anticipation of John’s picture of the heavenly Jerusalem conceived as the tabernacle of God with men.
(2) Symbolical Acts.
Many of the figures mentioned above are represented as at times in motion, and the movements are not without significance. The going forth of the horses and chariots in Zech. 6:1, is no less suggestive than the standing still of the horses and their riders in the vision of Zech. 1:8. The measuring of Jerusalem and the temple (Zech. 2:2; Rev. 11:1), the flying of an eagle or an angel in mid-heaven (Rev. 8:13; 14:6), the waving of a sharp sword, or its issuing from one’s mouth and going forth to smite nations (Gen. 3:24; Rev. 1:16; 19:15)—these and all similar images are of symbolic import. The lifting up of the brazen serpent by Moses was a symbolico‑typical act (John 3:14), as were also Isaiah’s walking naked and barefoot for three years (Isa. 20:2-4), Jeremiah’s hiding his girdle by the Euphrates (Jer. 13:1-11), his breaking the potter’s bottle in the valley of Hinnom (19:1), his putting a yoke on his neck, and hiding stones in the brick kiln (27:1-14; 43:8-13), Ezekiel’s portraiture of the siege of Jerusalem upon a brick, and his lying on his side for many days (Ezek. 4), his cutting off his hair and destroying it in different parcels (5). To the same class belong also Hosea’s marrying an adulterous woman, and Zechariah’s making crowns for the head of Joshua (Zech. 6:9-15). Ezekiel’s vision of the resurrection of dry bones (Ezek. 37:1-14) is a composite picture, and is represented as passing before the prophet’s eye in a series of successive scenes. Such a picture must be studied as a whole rather than in its separate details, and so, in general, we may say of all symbolical acts.
(3) Symbolical Names.
A great many proper names are employed in the Scriptures as typical or representative of characters conspicuously associated with them in history. Thus the names Balaam, Jezebel, Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon are used in the Apocalypse of John. The name David is a synonym for a king of Davidic character in such texts as Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23; 37:24; Hosea 3:5. Elijah the prophet is a symbolical name in Mal. 4:5. Similarly, in Isaiah 19:23, Egypt and Assyria are named as synonymous with any and all great nations that shall in the Messianic age unite with God’s people in the worship of Jehovah. On the other hand, Edom, Moab, and Ammon are symbols of ancient and hereditary enemies (Isaiah 11:14; Dan. 11:41). In other instances names of suggestive significance are invented for a symbolic purpose, as Lo-ruhamah, and Lo‑ammi, in Hosea 1:6, 9; Aholah and Aholibah, in Ezek. 23:4; Nicolaitans, Antipas, Abaddon, and Apollyon, in the New Testament Apocalypse.
(4) Symbolical Numbers.
That certain numbers are symbolically used in the prophetical books is conceded by all interpreters. Three, four, seven, ten, twelve, forty, and seventy appear to have special significance, but that significance can be ascertained only by a careful study of the usage of the sacred writers. The number three is employed in such relations as to suggest that, so far as it may ever convey any mystical meaning, it is the number of God, expressive of divine fullness in unity. The thrice repeated benediction of Num. 6:24-26; the trisagion of Isa. 6:3, and Rev. 4:8; and the threefold name in Matt. 28:19; 2nd Cor. 13:14, seem to favor this idea. The number four, on the other hand, is noticeably associated with the agencies of divine judgment upon the world and upon man. Thus we observe the four successive plagues of locusts in Joel 1:4; the four riders on as many different colored horses, and the four horns, the four smiths, and the four chariots in Zech. 1:8, 18, 20; 6:1-8; the four horses in Rev. 6:1-8; and the wars, “famines, pestilences, and earthquakes” in Matt. 24:7, and Luke 21:10, 11. It appears to be a constant habit of apocalyptics to represent punitive judgments in a fourfold manner. In like manner “the four winds of heaven” and “the four corners of the earth” comprehend, in Hebrew thought, the compass of the living world of man.
The number seven is of more frequent occurrence, and, being the sum of three and four, suggests the idea of some mystical relation between God and man, the number of a sacred covenant. In some places it seems to have a kind of proverbial significance (Matt. 18:22; Luke 17:4). Ten is commonly regarded as suggestive of completeness, so that ten horns may not specifically denote ten kings so much as a full dynasty or succession of kings. Twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel and of the disciples of Jesus, and its double in Rev. 4:4, appears to have some allusion to this fact. Multiplied by itself a thousand times it stands for the number of the elect Israel of God (Rev. 7:4; 14:1). The numbers forty and seventy are associated with periods of judgment, calamity, and exile (Gen. 7:4; Num. 14:34; Ezek. 29:11, 19; Jer. 25:11, 12).
There are other numbers of symbolical import, as the “time, times, and half a time,” the forty-two months, and the thousand years of the books of Daniel and the Revelation of John. These can be treated properly only in connection with the whole prophecy in which they occur. No formal or mechanical laws are available in the interpretation of such symbolic numbers, or in determining the import of prophetic designations of time. The passages in Num. 14:33, 34, and Ezek. 4:5, 6, are specific, and can be legitimately applied only to the cases there referred to. They are no sufficient warrant for the absurd conclusion that in other passages the word day stands also for a year. So, too, the “seventy weeks” of Dan. 9:24, are elements of an exceptional prophecy, and furnish no general law or rule for the interpretation of other prophecies.
(5) Symbolical Colors.
After the rainbow had become the symbol of a blessed covenant of God with man its more prominent colors would naturally become associated with ideas of heavenly grace and beauty. The blending of blue, purple, and scarlet in the construction of the tabernacle (Exod. 25:4) served both for beautiful ornamentation and for suggestions of divine excellence and glory. White garments became symbolic of the righteous acts and holy character of the saints of God. But red and black are suggestive of bloodshed and pestilence (Rev. 6:4-6). Colors are mentioned in the biblical apocalypses as symbolic attributes of the figures on which they appear, not as independent symbols.
- APOCALYPTIC REPETITION.
The habit of repeating the same matter under different symbols, and so of presenting it from different points of view, is a very noticeable formality of biblical apocalypties, and yet it has been strangely ignored by many expositors. A most conspicuous illustration is given in the prophetic dreams of Joseph and Pharaoh. The first dream of Joseph was of sheaves in the harvest field, his second of the sun and moon and eleven stars (Gen. 37:5-11); but they were both symbolic of the same thing, not of two different events. They both alike indicated his subsequent elevation and honor. The two dreams of Pharaoh, one with the picture of the kine and the other of ears of corn, were explained as one, and it is written that the dream was repeated unto Pharaoh twice “because the thing is established of God, and God will shortly bring it to pass” (Gen. 41:25, 32). The dream of Nebuchadnezzar was interpreted as an apocalypse of four great kingdoms which were destined to be destroyed and superseded by a kingdom not of this world. The same great truth was afterward revealed to Daniel in a dream and visions of the night (Dan. 2:19, 31-44), under an entirely different set of symbols. The king of Babylon might naturally think and dream of worldly empire under the figure of a colossal image, of which he himself was the head of gold; but the Jewish prophet’s vision discerned the grasping, ravenous, cruel, and beastly character of the oriental despotisms, and depicted them accordingly. To the mind of the heathen despot the kingdom of heaven was a rude stone, strangely cleft from the mountain; but to the prophet’s mind it was truly a heavenly dominion, possessed by holy myriads both human and divine. The third and fourth beasts appeared to the prophet very dreadful and powerful, especially the fourth; and so in a further vision (chap. 8) he beholds another picture of the same two world-powers under the figures of a ram and a he-goat. The fourth beast, which is described in 7:7, as a nameless monster, appears again in the revelation of chap. 11, where the ten kings appear as the kings of the south and of the north, by whose continual wars the land of Israel was trodden down, and the contemptible and blasphemous king described in 11:21-45, is a fuller revelation of the “little horn” of previous visions. So, too, in Zechariah, the four chariots drawn by different colored horses (chap. 6) are an obvious counterpart of the horses and riders seen among the myrtles in chap. 1:8. The seven bowls of plagues in Rev. 16 are an impressive repetition of the woes symbolized by the seven trumpets in chaps. 8-11. All such apocalyptic repetitions serve the twofold purpose of intensifying the divine revelation and showing that “the thing is established by God, and that he will shortly bring it to pass.”
- OTHER PECULIARITIES OF APOCALYPTICS.
Among the noticeable features of apocalyptic writing is the double picture of judgment and salvation. One persistent and fundamental doctrine of all the biblical revelations is that penal retribution shall surely overtake the wicked, but the righteous shall inherit riches of grace and glory. These ideas are set in signal form in the two symbols which were placed at the east of the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24). The sword of flame suggests the thought of divine justice which demands the punishment of sin; while the cherubim, symbols of endless Edenic life, convey to fallen man the blessed hope of a restored paradise, to be secured through the redeeming righteousness of God. All the other apocalypses repeat in some corresponding outline this double lesson of the Edenic symbols. Abraham has “a horror of great darkness,” and the judgment of nations impressed upon him in connection with the promise of a glorious future for his posterity. Balaam sees that Israel’s final triumphs will not be attained without conflict with foes and the overthrow of Jehovah’s enemies. In the great apocalyptic books we find full delineations of the fury to be poured out upon the hostile nations, and the glory that will come to the faithful people of God. The first part of Ezekiel’s prophecies (chaps. 1-32) consists mainly of announcements of judgment upon rebellious Israel and the nations; while the second part (chaps. 33-48) is correspondingly full of consolation for the obedient people of God. The first part of John’s Apocalypse (chaps. 1-11) portrays the terrible vengeance of the Lamb upon his enemies, offset in every judgment stroke by some bright vision of heavenly glory for such as are redeemed by his blood; and the second part (chaps. 12-22) shows how the struggling Church, the wife of the Lamb, must needs pass through most bitter persecutions before the seed of the woman shall bruise the old serpent’s head. But the old serpent, the devil, and all his hosts, are ultimately cast into the lake of fire, while the people of God appear in heavenly glory “as a bride adorned for her husband.”
In view of such continuous presentation of both judgment and mercy it is not strange that the apocalyptic scriptures also abound with incidental rebukes, warnings, and counsels for those to whom the writing was first addressed. Thus Joel’s vivid portraiture of the day of Jehovah is accompanied with impassioned commands and exhortations. Zechariah’s vision of the restoration of Jerusalem (chap. 2:1-5) is immediately followed by a call to the people of Zion, who yet dwell in Babylon, to escape from the land of exile.
It should be noticed also that the later apocalyptists appropriate very freely both the symbols and language of their predecessors, and modify them to suit their own particular purpose. Ezekiel makes use of the vision of Isaiah. Zechariah and Daniel have much in common; and there is scarcely a symbol or figure of note in the Apocalypse of John which has not been appropriated, from the writers of the Old Testament.
As one who remembers an impressive dream and hastens to write it down, so the writers of divine revelations sought to commit their God-given thoughts to writing (Dan. 7:1), and John says he was commanded to write in a book the things which he saw (Rev. 1:11). Compositions thus prompted may be expected to have peculiarities, nor need we be surprised to find that they often take on the spirit and forms of poetry. Besides the visions and symbols employed for conveying the divine revelation, these writings naturally make use of bold metaphors, sudden exclamations of emotion, and various similes and other figures of speech which are characteristic of impassioned writing. So important is it for us to study these facts that we devote a separate chapter to the apocalyptic elements conspicuous in the best Hebrew poetry.
In The Expositor of January, 1889, p. 11, Farrar makes the following statements, which some would do well to ponder: “God knows no orthodoxy but the truth; and the attempt to identify orthodoxy, without examination, with preconceived and purely traditional opinions, is rooted in cowardice, and has been prolific of casuistry and disaster.”
In his somewhat elaborate Essay on the Characteristics and Laws of Prophetic Symbols (2nd ed., New York, 1854, pp. 16‑19), Winthrop seems at times to overlook this important principle, and makes God and Christ and angels symbols of themselves.
APOCALYPSE OF CREATION.
The Book of Genesis, as we now possess it, is a composition without real parallel or counterpart in the literature of the world. And it is, moreover, noteworthy that, in the canonical arrangement of the books of the Old and New Testaments, the first and last books of our Bible treat respectively of what was first and what shall be last. The early chapters of Genesis and the entire Book of Revelation have been most variously interpreted, and there is little probability of general, much less of universal, agreement for generations to come. A peculiar haze of uncertainty has accordingly settled over the first and last books of the Bible, suggestive of the impenetrable mystery which, to finite minds, must ever hang over the beginning and the end of all things.
Criticism has very thoroughly established the composite character of the Book of Genesis. And even the ordinary reader can hardly fail to observe that ancient poems, genealogical tables, primeval traditions, and various religious ideas have been appropriated by the writer and incorporated in one continuous narrative. This composite character of the book is not to be considered a disparagement of its value. In fact, the real value of such an ancient production may be in several ways enhanced by reason of its use of the testimony of various witnesses. Scientific criticism may legitimately busy itself with minute study of the constituent documents, and determine if possible their probable origin and date.1 It may discover in the original sources matters of great archaeological importance quite independent of the purpose for which the compiler of Genesis put the book in its present form. How far he appropriated poems or genealogies without abridgment or change, and to what extent subsequent editorial revision may have modified
1 In current critical analysis it is common to designate the three principal literary sources of Genesis by the letters J, E, and P. J is believed to be a prophetic writer who generally employs the name Jehovah (or Tahweh) when speaking of God; E as uniformly employs the name Elohim ; but these documents became early united, and the combined work is often designated by J E. P represents a later (priestly) narrative, distinguished by various peculiarities of thought and style. The combination of all these into one readable narrative was the subsequent work of the author of our Pentateuch (or, rather, the Hexateuch). There is substantial agreement among the critics that Gen. i, 1-ii, 8, belongs to P, and ii, 4-iv, 26, to J.
the composition as a whole, are open questions which may never be finally settled. Our present contention is that the religious value of the Book of Genesis, as an inspired scripture, is independent of all such questions of scientific research. Whatever the authorship and purpose of its original constituent elements, the book as it now lies before us exhibits a well-defined plan and purpose. It opens with a sublime sevenfold picture of creation by the word of God (chaps. i, 1-ii, 3), and thence proceeds with a more or less detailed series of “generations,” descriptive of the beginnings of nations and of ” the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Any satisfactory interpretation of Genesis must be preceded by a
DETERMINATION OF THE CLASS OF LITERATURE TO WHICH IT BELONGS.
It has been quite generally assumed that the book is a plain prosaic narrative, and that it should be read and understood as any other historical record of facts. The lives of the great patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are described in a manner so simple and lifelike, and touch incidentally so many facts related to well-known cities and nations of antiquity, that there appears at first sight no reason to question their genuine historical character. But when we examine the earlier chapters of the book (i-xi) we observe a number of things which at once suggest doubts as to the real character of the composition. The story of the serpent conversing with the woman ; the cherubim and flaming sword at the east of the garden of Eden; the punishment of Cain and his marriage and city building ; the astonishing longevity of the descendants of Seth, and the carnal intercourse of the sons of God with the daughters of men, are not of a character that naturally commands confidence in their historicalness. In no other literature of the world would such compositions as these be accepted to-day as genuine history. We may and do hold our entire Bible to be unique in comparison with all other books—and the Book of Genesis is exceptionally unique among the various portions of the Bible ; but do these facts justify the conclusion that all the contents must be historical ?
If, however, the Book of Genesis is a compilation of various documents, it is very presumable that some of the documents may and others may not have historical value. Sound sense and scientific criticism may unite in saying that each part or distinguishable section of such a book is entitled to be judged by its own peculiar nature and style. The dogmatic assertion, sometimes made, that if one part is historical all is historical, and if one part is unhistorical all is unhistorical, cannot possibly determine a matter of this kind. Who would allow such a principle of judgment to control him in the study of the Book of Ezekiel or one of the historical dramas of Shakespeare ?
It has from ancient times been felt by the most devout and thoughtful interpreters that much in the earlier chapters of Genesis must be understood in some other than a literal sense. St. Augustine spoke of the ” ineffable days ” of creation, and all the common readers since his time have wondered that light should have been separately created three days before the sun. But the discoveries of science have effectually exploded the old notion of the creation of earth and heavens in six ordinary days, and for more than a hundred years expositors have been striving to adjust the statements of the first chapter of Genesis to the well-ascertained facts of geology and astronomy.
But while men were striving to ” reconcile Genesis and geology ” a great side-light was thrown upon the whole subject of the biblical cosmogony by the discoveries of Assyriology. The creation tablets procured from the ruins of Nineveh give us the Assyrian account of the beginning of all things, and we are impressed with what seems a very remarkable correspondence, in general outline, with the sevenfold picture of the first of Genesis. The first tablet opens thus:
At that time the heaven above had not yet announced,
Or the earth beneath recorded a name;
The unopened deep was their generator,
Mummu-Tiamat was the mother of them all.
Their waters were embosomed as one, and
The cornfield was unharvested, the pasture was ungrown.1
The second tablet has not been found, but from some fragments it appears to have described some preparations for insuring the triumph of light over darkness. The third and fourth tablets describe the victory of light, and the formation of the heavens and the sea out of the Chaos Tiamat. The fifth tells of the establishing of the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens to determine the measure of the days, months, and years. No portion of the sixth tablet has yet been found, but a mutilated part of the seventh speaks of the creation of living creatures, such as the cattle of the field and creeping things.
In addition to this Assyrian record there has also been discovered a Cuthaean or Babylonian legend. It appears on the fragments of two tablets from Cutha in Babylonia, and differs from the Assyrian account as much as the second chapter of Genesis differs from the first. It names Tiamat as the great mother, and speaks of seven kings who were brothers, and appeared as begetters, and their
‘See “The Assyrian Story of the Creation,” translated and annotated by A. H. Sayce, in Record* of the Post, new series, vol. i, pp. 122-146.
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Date: 27 Apr 2007
The seven churches in Asia Minor are referenced in the apocalyptic book of Revelation. Chapters………….refer to……………Chapter………….
Also wan was Domitian? Reigned in A.D. 81-96, was he the 7th or 8th emperor>
Date: 11 Sep 2007
Domitian was neither the 7th nor the 8th emperor. He was the 12th, unless you wish to discount the man who is responsible for starting the empire…Julius Caesar. The emperors were: Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian.