Edward Bishop (E.B.) Elliott
Hours With the Apocalypse
“Six Seal Preterist” | Premillenialist / Historicist
“Now with regard to the Præterist Scheme, on the review of which we are first to enter, it may be remembered that I stated it to have had its origin with the Jesuit Alcasar: and that it was subsequently, and after Grotius and Hammonds prior adoption of it, adopted and improved by Bossuet, the great Papal champion, under one form and modification; then afterwards, under another modification, by Hernnschneider, Eichhorn, and others of the German critical and generally infidel school of the last half-century; followed in our own æra by Heinrichs, and by Moses Stuart of the United States of America.”
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CRITICAL EXAMINATION AND REFUTATION OF THE CHIEF COUNTER-SCHEMES OF BOUSSET, GROTIUS
APOCALYPTIC INTERPRETATION; AND ALSO OF DR. ARNOLDS GENERAL PROPHETIC COUNTER-THEORY
IT was stated at the conclusion of my Sketch of the History of Apocalyptic Interpretation, that there are at present too, and but two, grand general counter-Schemes to what may be called the historic Protestant view of the Apocalypse: that view which regards the prophecy as a prefiguration of the great events that were to happen in the Church, and world connected with it, from St. Johns time to the consummation; including specially the establishment of the Popedom, and reign of Papal Rome, as in some way or other the fulfillment of the types of the Apocalyptic Beast and Babylon. The first of these two counter-Schemes is the Præterists, which would have the prophecy stop altogether short of the Popedom, explaining it of the catastrophes, one or both, of the Jewish Nation and Pagan Rome; and of which there are two sufficiently distinct varieties: the second the Futurists; which in its original form would have it all shoot over the head of the Popedom into times yet future; and refer simply to the events that are immediately to precede, or to accompany, Christs second Advent; or, in its various modified forms, have them for its chief subject. I shall in this second Part of my Appendix proceed successively to examine these two, or rather four, anti-Protestant counter-Schemes; and show, if I mistake not, the palpable untenableness alike of one and all. Which done,1 It may perhaps be well, from respect to his venerated name, to add an examination of the late Dr. Arnolds general prophetic counter-theory. This, together with a notice of certain recent counter-views on the Millennium, will complete our review of counter-prophetic Schemes.
Now with regard to the Præterist Scheme, on the review of which we are first to enter, it may be remembered that I stated it to have had its origin with the Jesuit Alcasar:2 and that it was subsequently, and after Grotius and Hammonds prior adoption of it, adopted and improved by Bossuet, the great Papal champion, under one form and modification;3 then afterwards, under another modification, by Hernnschneider, Eichhorn, and others of the German critical and generally infidel school of the last half-century;4 followed in our own æra by Heinrichs, and by Moses Stuart of the United States of America.5 The two modifications appear to have arisen mainly out of the differences of date assigned to the Apocalypse; whether about the end of Neros reign or Domitians6 I shall, I think, pretty well exhaust whatever can be thought to call for examination in the system, by considering separately, first the Neronic, or favorite German form and modification of the Præterist Scheme, as propounded by Eichhorn, Hug, Heinrichs, and Moses Stuart; secondly Bossuets Domitianic form, the one most generally approved, I believe, by Roman Catholics.
§ 1. EXAMINATION AND REFUTATION OF THE GERMAN NERONIC PRÆTERIST APOCALYPTIC COUNTER-SCHEME.
The reader has already been made acquainted with the main common features of this German form of the Præterist Apocalyptic Scheme.7 Differing on points of detail, yet (with the exception that Hartwig and Herder pretty much confine themselves to the Jewish catastrophe, and Ewald, Bleek, and De Wette to that of heathen Rome8 it may generally be described as embracing both catastrophes: the fall of Judaism being signified under that of Jerusalem, the fall of Heathenism under that of Rome; the one as drawn out in symbol from Apoc. vi. to xi. inclusive, the other from Apoc. xii. to xix.: whereupon comes thirdly, in Apoc. xx., a figuration of the triumph of Christianity. So, with certain differences, Hernnschneider, Eichhorn, Hug, Heinrichs, &c., in Germany;9 M. Stuart in America; and, in England, Dr. Davidson.10 In my review of the Scheme each of these two historic catastrophes, as supposed Apocalyptically figured, will of course furnish matter for critical examination; not without reference to the Apocalyptic date also, as in fact essentially mixed up with the historic question. – But, before entering on them, I think it may be well to promise a notice,
Ist, on THE GENERALLY VAGUE LOOSE PRINCIPLE OF PROPHETIC INTERPRETATION professedly followed by the Præterists
Considering the self-sufficient dogmatism which pre-eminently characterizes the School in question, even as if, à priori to examination; all other schemes were to be deemed totally wrong, and the Præterist Scheme alone conformable to the discoveries and requirements of modern exegesis,11 (a dogmatism the more remarkable, when exhibited by a man of calm temperament and unimpassioned style, like Professor Stuart,12 and which to certain weaker minds may seem imposing,) the question is sure to arise, What the grounds of this strange presumptuousness of tone? What the new and overpowering evidence in favor of the modern Præterists? What the discovery of such unthought of coincidence between the prophecy on the one hand, and certain facts of their chosen Neronic æra on the other, as to settle the Apocalyptic controversy in their favor, at once and for ever? And then the surprise is increased by finding that not only has no such discovery been made, not only no such discovery been even pretended to, but that in fact they put it forward, as the very boast of the Præterist system, that coincidences exact and particular are not to be sought or thought of: that the three main ideas about the three cities, or three antagonist religions represented by them, so as above mentioned; are pretty much all that there is of fact to be unfolded; and that, with certain exceptions, (of which exceptions more in a later part of this review,) all else is to be regarded as but the poetic drapery and ornament.13 Now in mere rationalists of the School, like Eichhorn and many others, men professedly disbelieving the inspiration of the Apocalypse, all this is quite natural and consistent: seeing that its author wrote, they take for granted, as a mere dramatist and poet; and, as to details, what the limit every assigned to a poets fancy, except as his own taste or critical judgment might impose one? But that Christian expositors, like Professor Stuart and Dr. Davidson, men professing to believe in St. Johns inspiration as a prophet, (and to these I here chiefly refer,) should deliberately so pronounce on the matter, so resolve even what seems most specific into generalizations,14 and what seems stated as fact into mere poetic drapery, will appear probably to my readers, as to myself, most astonishing.
It is of course due to these writers to mark by what process of thought they arrive at this conclusion; and on what principle, or by what reasons, they have justified it to themselves. And, passing by the negative argument from the discrepancy and unsatisfactoriness of the historic detailed interpretations given by expositors who seek in the Apocalypse a prophetic epitome of the civil and ecclesiastical history of Christendom, (as to which, wherever justly objected to, the remark was obvious that further research might very possibly supply what was wanting, and rectify what was unsatisfactory, so as I hope has been done on various points in the present Commentary,15 ) passing this, I say, the intended use and object of the Apocalypse, at the presumed time of its writing, will be found to have been that which mainly guided the learned American Professor to the true principle of exegesis, (as he designates it,) whereby to interpret the Book.16 For, argues he, during a persecution like Neros (this being his supposed date of the Apocalypse,) when the Church was bleeding at every pore,17 how could it take interest in information as to what was to happen in distant ages, (excepting of course the final triumph of Christianity,) or indeed as to anything but what concerned their own immediate age and pressure, whether in Judea or at Rome? Hence then to this the subject-matter of the Apocalypse must be regarded as confined.18 And whereas, on this exegetic hypothesis, scarce anything appears in the actual historic facts of the particular period or catastrophe in question, which can be considered as answering to the prophetic figurations in detail, therefore all idea of any such detailed and particular intent and meaning in these prophetic figurations must be set aside; and they must be regarded as the mere drapery and ornament of a poetic Epopce, albeit by one inspired. As a Scriptural precedent and justification for this generalizing view of the Apocalyptic imagery, Psalm xviii, which was Davids song after his deliverance from Saul, and Isaiah xiii., xiv., on the fall of Babylon, (the former more especially,) are referred to, and insisted on, by the learned Professor.19
But (reserving the subject of the Apocalyptic date for a remark or two presently under the next head of argument) let me beg here to ask, with reference to the very limited use and object so assigned to the Apocalyptic prophecy, – as if only or chiefly meant for the Christians then living, by them to be understood, and by them applied in the way of encouragement and comfort, as announcing the issue of the trials in which they were then personally engaged, what right has Professor Stuart thus to limit it? Was it not accordant with the character of Gods revelations, as communicated previously in Scripture, (especially in Daniels prophecies, which are of all others the most nearly parallel with the Apocalypse,) to foreshow the future in its continuity from the time when the prophecy was given, even to the consummation: and this, not with the mere present object of comforting his servants then living, but for a perpetual witness to his truth; to be understood only partially, it might be, for generations, but fully in Gods own appointed time? So, for example, in the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christs first advent; prophecies which not only the Old Testament Jews, but even the disciples of Christ, understood most imperfectly, till Christ himself, after he had actually come, explained them: and so again in Daniels prophecies extending to the time of the end; which, until that time of the end, were expressly ordered to be sealed up.20 And then, next, what historic evidence have we of Christians of Neros time having so understood the Apocalypse, as the American Professor would have it that they must have done?21 Not a vestige of testimony exists to the fact of such an understanding; albeit quite general, according to him, among the more intelligent in the Christian body. On the contrary, the early testimony of Irenæus, disciple of Polycarp, who was himself disciple to St. John, indicates a then totally different view of the Apocalyptic Beast from Professor Stuarts, as if the only one ever known to have been received: a view referring it, not to any previous persecution by Nero and the Roman Empire under him, but to an Antichrist even then future; one that was to arise and persecute the Church not till the breaking up, and reconstruction in another form, of the old Empire. – Moreover the whole that our Professor would have to be shown by the Apocalypse, viz. the assured triumph of Christianity over both Judaism and Paganism, I say this, instead of being any new revelation specially suited to cheer the Christians of the time, had been communicated in part by Daniel, in part by Christ himself, much more fully and particularly long before.22 As to the Professors grand precedent of Psalm xviii., urged again and again in justification of the Apocalypse, as if mere poetic drapery and ornament, is the parallel a real one, or the argument from it valid? Says the Professor;23 See, though the subject of the Psalm be at the heading declared to be Davids deliverance from Saul, yet under what varied imagery this is set forth: how, in depicting them, David makes the earth to shake and tremble, and the smoke to go forth from Gods nostrils, and his thunderings to be heard in the heaven, and his lightnings shot forth to discomfort the enemy: all mere poetical ornament; not particular circumstantial fact; much less fact in chronological order and development. But, let me ask, does the Psalmist profess, as his very object, to tell the facts that had occurred in the period of Davids suffering from Saul, so as the Apocalyptic revealing Angel does to tell the things of the coming future?24 Or with any such orderly division, and arrangement for chronological development of facts, as in the singularly artificial Apocalyptic division into its three septenaries of Seals, Trumpets, and Vials, (each of the latter subordinate evidently to the former,) and the various chronological periods so carefully interwoven? Again, as to the symbolizations in the Psalm, is Professor Stuart quite sure that they refer only to David and Saul; and that David is not carried forward in the Spirit, beyond his own times and his own experience, to picture forth the future triumphs of the greater David over a greater Saul; triumphs not to be accomplished in fine without very awful elemental convulsions, and the visible and glorious interposition of the Almighty? Surely what is said in verse 43, of his (the chief intended Davids) being made the head of the heathen, tells with sufficient clearness that such is indeed the true exegesis of the Psalm: and so most expositors of repute, I believe, explain it. – If the testing is to be by a real parallel, let Daniels orderly prophecies of the quadripartite image and the four Beasts be resorted to, to settle the question of exegesis. Is all there figured relative only to Daniels own time; and all else mere poetic ornament and drapery?
So much on the general exegetic principles of the German Præterist School. Let me now proceed,
IIndly, to consider these Præterists HISTORICAL SOLUTION, including especially the two grand catastrophes laid down by them, as the two main particulars unfolded in the Apocalypse; and show, as I trust, both in respect of the one, and the other, the many and indubitable marks of error stamped upon it.
Of course, the Neronic date is an essential preliminary to this Scheme, in the minds of all Præterist expositors who, like M. Stuart and Dr. Davidson, admit the apostolicity and inspiration of the Book. And, as I venture to think that I have in my 1st Volume completely proved that the true date is Domitianic, agreeably with Irenæus testimony, not Neronic or Galbaic,25 that single fact may in such case be of itself deemed conclusive against the theory. Nor, let me add, in case of non-infidel Præterists only. For the very strong opinion as to the sublimity and surpassing æsthetic beauty of the Apocalypse admitted by the German Neologians, Eichhorn inclusive, as the result of the Semlerian controversy, compared with the utter inferiority of all Church writers of the nearest later date, does even on rationalistic principles almost involve the inference of St. Johns authorship; especially as coupled with the fact of the Apocalyptic writers assumption of authority over the Asiatic Bishops he addressed, and the air of truth, holiness, and honesty that all through mark his character. Which admitted, and also, as by Eichhorn, the Domitianic as the true date, even a rationalist like him must, I think, be prepared to admit the high improbability of such a writer making pretence to prophesy a certain catastrophe about Nero and Rome, and another certain catastrophe about Jerusalem, as if things then future, when in fact the one had happened 30, the other 25 years before. Whence the baselessness, even on rationalistic principles, of the whole Neronic Præterist Scheme. – But we will now proceed more in detail to the examination of the two catastrophes separately.
1. And, 1st, as to the catastrophe of Judaism and Jerusalem, depicted in the figuration from Apoc. vi. to xi. inclusive.
Argues Professor Stuart, as abstracted in brief, thus:26 – It is for some considerable time not unfolded who the enemy is against whom the rider of the white horse in the first Seal has gone forth conquering, followed by his agencies of war, famine,27 and pestilence; him against whom the cry is raised of the Christian martyrs slain under the 5th Seal, and the revolution of whose political state is evidently the subject of Seal the sixth. But in Apoc. vii. the enemy meant is intimated. For when it is stated that 144,000 are sealed, by way of protection, out of all the tribes of Israel, meaning evidently those that have been converted from among the Jews to Christianity, it follows clearly that it is the unsealed ones of those tribes, or unconverted Jews, forming the great body of Israel, that are the destined objects of destruction. A view this quite confirmed in Apoc. xi.; where the inner temp is measured, as that which is not to be ejected: this meaning, that whatever was spiritual in the Jewish religion was to be preserved in Christianity;28 while the rest, or mere external parts of the system, as well as the Holy City Jerusalem itself, was to be abandoned and trodden down. So substantially Professor Stuart: and so too his prototype Eichhorn, and his English follower Dr. Davidson. This is the strength of their first Part; the details of Seals and Trumpets being of course little more in this system than intimations of something awful attending or impending, altogether general; or indeed, perhaps, mere poetic drapery and costume. Let us then try its strength where it professes to be strongest.
The enemy to be destroyed, it is said, was shown to be the Jews: because it was the Jewish tribes (all but the sealed few from out of them) that were to have the tempests of the four winds let loose on them; and because it was the Jewish temple (all but the inner and measured part of it) that was to be abandoned to the Gentiles. Let us test this conclusion by the threefold test of what is shown, first, as to the intent of the Jewish symbolic scenery elsewhere in the Apocalypse; secondly, as to the religious profession of the people actually destroyed in the Trumpet-judgments; thirdly, as to the intended peoples previous murder of Christs two Witnesses, in their thereupon doomed city.
As to the first, already in the opening vision a chamber as of the Jewish temple had been revealed; with seven candlesticks like those in the old Jewish temple,29 and one in the High Priests robing that walked among them. Was its signification then Jewish or Christian; of Judaism or Christianity? We are not left to conjecture. The High Priest was distinctively the Christian High Priest, Christ Jesus; the seven candlesticks the seven Christian Churches. This explanation at the outset is most important to mark; being the fittest key surely to the intent of all that occurs on the scene afterwards of similar imagery. Further, in Seal 5 a temple like the Jewish, at least the temple-court with its great brazen altar, is again noted as figured on the scene. Now we might anticipate pretty confidently, from the previously given key just alluded to, that the temple was here too symbolic of the Christian worship and religion, not the Jewish. But there is, over and above this, independent internal evidence to affix to it the same meaning. For the souls under the altar, who confessedly depict Christian martyrs, appear there of course as sacrifices offered on that altar; their places being where the ashes of the Jewish altar-sacrifices were gathered. Which being so, could the altar mean that of the literal Judaism; and the vision signify that the Jews, zealous for their law, and thinking to do God service, had there slain the Christian martyrs, as if heretics? Certainly not; because on their altar the Jews never offered human sacrifices, and would indeed have esteemed it a pollution. Therefore we have independent internal evidence that the Jewish temple and altar, figured on the Apocalyptic scene, had here too a Christian significance; depicting (as both St. Paul, and Polycarp after him, so beautifully applied the figure) the Christians willing sacrifice of himself and his life for Christ.30 Further in Apoc. viii. the temple is again spoken of as apparent; with its brazen sacrificial altar in the altar-court, its golden incense-altar within the temple proper, and one too, habited as a Priest, who received and offered incense, according to the ceremony of the Jewish ritual. Was this meant literally of Jewish incense and Jewish worship? Assuredly not. For the incense of the offering priest is declared to be the prayers of all the saints; i.e. as all admit,31 of Christians distinctively from literal Jews. – Again, with reference even to the temple figuration in Apoc. xi. 2, which furnishes his chief Jewish proof-text, our Professor himself admits, nay argues, that the inner and most characteristic part of it (the same that was measured by St. John) signified that spiritual part of Judaism which was to be preserved in Christianity, as contrasted with the mere externals of Jewish ritualism:32 thus construing it, not literally, with reference to that of the Christian Israel:33 although with no little mixture of what is erroneous and consequently confused and inconsistent in his reasoning.34 – All which being so, what, I ask, must by the plainest requirements of consistency and common sense follow, but that as the offerers of Jewish worship in the Jewish temple, depicted on the Apocalyptic scene, meant in fact Christians, so they that are called Jews or Israelites in the Apocalyptic context must mean Christians also, at least by profession? A conclusion clenched by the fact which I have elsewhere urged, that the twelve tribes of Gods Israel in the New Jerusalem of Apoc. xxi. are on all hands admitted to designate Christians, mainly Gentile Christians; and so surely, in all fair reasoning, the twelve tribes of Israel mentioned in Apoc. vii. also.
Next, as to the religious profession or character of those that were to suffer through the plagues of the first great act of the Drama, (or rather Epopee, as Stuart would prefer to call it)35 their character is most distinctly laid down on Apoc. ix. 20, as actual idolaters. For it is there said, that the rest of the men, which were not killed by these plagues, yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship dæmons, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and wood: – description so diametrically opposed to the character of the Jews in Neros time, and even afterwards, that one would have thought with Bossuet,36 and indeed Ewald too,37 that it settled the point, if anything could settle it, that Jews were not the parties meant. And how then do the German Præterists, that take the Judaic view, overcome the difficulty? Few and brief are the words of Eichhorns paraphrase: It means that they persevered in that same obstinate mind, which once showed itself in the worship of idols!38 says M. Stuart:39 In the Old Testament Jews that acted in a heathenish way were called heathens: and moreover in the New Testament covetousness is called idolatry: and moreover in the time of Herod theatres, and other such like heathen customs, had become common in Judea.40 But surely such observations, when put forward in explanation of the descriptive clause that spoke of men worshipping idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and wood, must be felt to be rather an appeal ad miscricordiam in the Expositors difficulty, than an argument for the fitness of the descriptive clause, to suit the Jews of the times of Nero and Vespasian: especially when coming from one who is led elsewhere in his comment to state (and state most truly) that the Jews were ready, one and all, rather to submit their necks to the Roman soldiers swords, then to admit an image that was to be worshipped within their city.41 Indeed it is notorious that they regarded images altogether as abominations; and that the Roman attempts at erecting them more than once nearly caused desperate rebellions. – As for Dr. Davidson, he here exhibits more at least of discretion than the American Professor. He passes over the difficulty, as if re desperatâ, in dead silence.
Try we, thirdly, the Judaic theory of our German Præterists by the test of the Witness-slaying prophecy, including the place, time, and author of their slaughter. – This is put forth as one of the strongest points in the Judaic part of their view: it being stated to occur in the city where the Lord was crucified; i.e., say the Præterists, in Jerusalem. But first, we ask, what witnesses? The Jewish chief priests Ananus and Jesus, answer Herder and Eichhorn; mercilessly massacred, as Josephus tells us, by the Zealots.42 ut how so? Must they not rather be Christs witnesses, exclaims Stuart;43 (since it is said, I will give power to my witnesses;) and therefore Christians? Of course they must. Which being so, the next question is, Who then the notable Christians that Stuart considers to have been slain in Jerusalem, in the witness character, at this epoch; i.e. during the Romans invasion of Judea? Does he not himself repeat to us the well-known story on record, that the Christians without delay fled to Pella, agreeably with their Lords warning and direction, so soon as they saw the Romans approach to beleaguer Jerusalem? (Luke 21:20: And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21: Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.) But, say he in reply, can we imagine that all would be able to make their escape? Would there not be sick and aged and paupers to delay the flight; and faithful teachers too of Christianity, that would choose to remain, to preach repentance and faith to their countrymen? These I regard as symbolized by the two Witnesses:44 and these therefore as answering in their history at this crisis to St. Johns extraordinary and circumstantial prediction about the Witnesses testimony, miracles, death, resurrection, ascension. But what the historic testimony to support his view? Alas! none! absolutely none! In apology for this total and most unfortunate silence of history he exclaims: The Jew Josephus is not the historian of Christians; and early ecclesiastical historians have perished: adding however, as if sufficient to justify his hypothesis; But Christ intimates, in his prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, that there would be persecution of Christians at the period in question. A statement quite unjustified (if he means persecution in death in Jerusalem, and at the time of the siege) by the passages he refers to.45 Does not Christ say, Not a hair of your heads shall perish? At last he condescends to this: At all events it is clear that the Zealots, and other Jews, did not lose their disposition to persecute at this period!!46 Such is the impotent conclusion of Professor Moses Stuart; such the best explanation he can devise, on his hypothesis, of the wonderful Apocalyptic prophecy respecting the Witnesses. – Nor is his need supplied by Dr. Davidson. Notwithstanding Gods long-suffering mercy, says this latter, the Jews continue to persecute the faithful witnesses. This, I can assure the Reader, is the sum total of his observations on the point before us.47 – Nor is it here only that the Judaic part of the Præterist Scheme, applied to the Witnesses-story in the Apocalypse, breaks down. For, further, the city where the Witnesses corpses were to be exposed is declared to be the city the great one;48 that which is the emphatic title of the seven-hilled Babylon or Rome, in the Apocalypse; never of Jerusalem.49 (How it might be Rome, and yet the city where the Lord Jesus had been crucified, the Reader has long since seen!50 – Nor this alone. For the Beast that was to slay them was to qhrion to anabainon ek thv abussou, the Beast that was to rise from the abyss;51 a Beast which (especially with the distinctive article prefixed so as here to it) cannot but mean one and the same with that which is mentioned under precisely the same designation in Apoc. xvii. 8;52 and there, as all the Præterists themselves allow, designates a power associated some way with Rome. And what Stuarts explanation? Why, that it means in Apoc. xi. simply Satan!53 Indeed alike the declared fact of the witness-slaying, and of the great city as the place of their slaughter, and of the Beast from the abyss as their slayer, (as also, let me add, the period of the 1260 days, assigned alike to the Witnesses sackcloth-prophesying first, and to the Beasts reign afterwards,) do so interweave the first half of the Apocalyptic prophecy, from Apoc. vi to xi., with the part subsequent, that, as to any such total separation, in respect to subject, of the one from the other, as the Præterists urge, on their hypothesis of a double catastrophe, it is, I am well persuaded, and will be so found by one and all who attempt to work it out, an absolute impossibility.54
I might add yet a word as to the ill agreeing times of the supposed Jewish catastrophe and the Romans; the former being in the Præterists Scheme first set forth, and the Roman figured afterwards: whereas the chronological order of the two events was in fact just the reverse; the Roman persecution of Christians, and quickly consequent fall of Nero, preceding the fall of Jerusalem. But the argument (which indeed might be spared ex abundanti) will occur again, and somewhat more strikingly, under our next Head. – To this let us then now pass onwards; and consider, as proposed,
2ndly, the German Præterists second grand division of the Apocalypse, and second grand catastrophe; viz. that affecting Pagan Rome.
And here, as before, I shall not stop at minor points; but hasten rapidly to that which is considered by the Præterists as their strongest ground. It is to be understood that they generally make Apoc. xii. retrogressive in its chronology to Christs birth, and the Devils primary attempts to destroy both him, and his religion, and his early Church in Judea; though in vain. The, after note of the Dragons dejection from his former eminence, and the song, Now is come salvation, &c., we arrive at the Womans flight into the wilderness, meaning they say the Churchs flight to Pella, on the Romans advancing to besiege Jerusalem: some outbreak of Jewish persecution at the time (the same under which the Witnesses were to fall within Jerusalem) answering probably55 to the floods from the Dragons mouth; and 3 1/2 years, said of the Womans time in the wilderness, answering also sufficiently well to the length, not indeed of the siege, but of the Jewish war. (Mark, in passing, how the symbolic Woman, first made to be the Theocratic Church in its Jewish form, travailing with, and bringing forth Christ,56 as now become, not the Church Catholic, which in Neros time had indeed spread over the Roman world, but the little Section of it which remained stationary in Judea!) – Then the Dragon, being enraged at the Woman, went away to make war the remainder of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and hold fast the testimony of Jesus. That is, enraged that the Jews, his original instrument of persecution, should be destroyed and fail him, he leaves the Jewish scene of his former operations, and goes elsewhere, to stir up a new persecutor against Christians in Nero. – But did not Neros persecution occur before the Jews destruction? No doubt! The anachronism is honestly admitted by Professor Stuart.57 An anachronism the more remarkable, because he makes the vision of the 144,000 in Apoc. xiv. to be a vision of encouragement to Christians, suffering under Neros persecution; depicting as it did, according to him, the Christian Jews occupying Jerusalem as a now Christian city:58 an event this which could not have happened till Jerusalem destruction, about four years after the commencement of Neros persecution; and did not in fact take place till some years later.59 But in an Epopee, like the Apocalypse, says Stuart, we are surely not bound to rigid rules of a book of Annals!60
Thus then we come to consider Apoc. xiii., the Chapter on the Beast; and, connectedly with it, (for it does not need to dwell on the intervening Chapters,)61 the further explanatory symbolizations about the Beast in Apoc. xvii.
Behold us then now before the very citadel of the German Præterists! And see, they say, how impregnable it is! For not only is the Woman that rides the Beast expressly stated to be the seven-hilled imperial city Rome, so that the Beast ridden must be the persecuting Roman Empire; but the time intended is also fixed. For it is said that the Beasts seven heads, besides figuring seven hills, figured also seven kings, or rather eight: of whom five had fallen at the time of the vision; which must mean the five first emperors, Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius; and one, the sixth, was; which of course must be the next after Claudius, i.e. Nero. Nay, to make the thing clearer, the Beasts name and number 666 are specified; or, as some copies read, 616. And so it is that in Hebrew, Neron Cæsar, has the value in numbers of 666, which is one frequent Rabbinical way of writing Neros name; or if the Hebrew be that of Nero Cæsar, without the final n, then it gives the number 616.62
No doubt the numeral coincidence is worthy of note, and the whole case, so put, quite plausible enough to call for examination. It is indeed obvious to say, as to the name and numeral, that a Greek solution would be preferable to one in Hebrew; and a single name to a double one: principles these recognized, as we have seen, by Irenæus, and all the other early Fathers that commented on the topic.63 But in this there is of course nothing decisive. A graver objection seems to me however to lie against the suggested numeral solution, in that a part of the name being official, – I mean the word Cæsar,- this agnomen, though fitly applicable to Nero while the reigning emperor, would hardly be applicable to him when resuscitated after his death-wound, and so become the Beast of Apoc. xiii. of whom the name was predicated. But his involves inquiry into the Beasts heads; to which inquiry, as the decisive one, let us now therefore at once pass on.
The heads then, as they assert, mean certain individual kings. This is not surely according to the precedent of Daniel vii. 6, where the third Beasts four heads would seem from (Dan. viii. 8, Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.) – to have signified the monarchical successions that governed the four kingdoms into which Alexanders empire was divided at his death. – But, not to stop at this, the decisive question next recurs, What the eighth head of the Beast, on this hypothesis of the Præterists: Nero being the sixth; and, as they generally say, Galba, who reigned but a short time, the seventh? It is admitted (and common sense itself forces the admission) that this eighth head is the same which is said in Apoc. xiii. 3, 12, 14 — And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast., and vs. 12, And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed., and vs. 14, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. – to have had a wound with a sword and to have revived: and it is this revived head, or Beast under it, (let my Readers well mark this,64 that is the subject of all the prophecy concerning the first Beast in Apoc. xiii., and all concerning the Beast ridden by the Woman in Apoc. xvii. What then, we ask, this eighth head of the Beast? And, in reply, first Eichhorn, and then his copyists Heinrichs, Stuart, Davidson, all four refer us to a rumor prevalent in Neros time, and believed by many, that after suffering some reverse he would return again to power: a rumor which after his death took the form that he would revive again, and reappear, and retake the empire.65 Such is their explanation. The eighth head of the Beast is the imaginary revived Nero. – But do they not explain the Beast (the revived Beast) in Apoc. xiii., and his blasphemies, and persecution of the saints, and predicated continuance 42 months, of the real original Nero, and his blasphemies and his three or four years persecution of the Christians, begun November, 64, A.D. and ended with Neros death, June 9, A.D. 68? Such indeed is the case; and by this palpable self-contradiction, (one which however they cannot do without,) they give to their own solution its death-wound: as much its death-wound, I may say, as that given to the Beast itself to which the solution relates.
So that really, as regards the truth of the solution concerned, it is needless to go further. Nor shall I stop to expose sundry other absurdities that might easily be shown to attach to it: e.g. the supposed figuration of the fall of the Pagan Roman empire in the fall of the individual emperor Nero, albeit succeeded by Pagan emperors like himself.66 – But I cannot feel it right to conclude my critical examination of the system without a remark as to something on this head far graver, and more to be reprobated, than any mere expository error, however gross or obvious. The reader will have observed that as well Prof. Stuart and Dr. Davidson, as the German Eichhorn, explain the repeated direct statements, The Beast had a wound with the sword, and lived, The Beast that thou sawest is not, and shall be, and is to ascend from the abyss, &c. &c., to be simply allusions to a rumor current in Neros time, but which in fact was an altogether false rumor. That is, they make St. John tell a direct lie: and tell it, with all the most flagrant aggravation that fancy itself can suppose to attach to a lie; viz. under the form of a solemn prophecy received from heaven! Now of Eichhorn, and others of the same German rationalistic school of theology, we must admit that they are here at least open and consistent. Their declared view of the Apocalypse is as of a mere uninspired poem by an uninspired poet. So it was but a recognized poetical license in St. John to tell the falsehood. But that men professing belief in the Christian faith, and in the divine inspiration as well as apostolic origin of this Book, should so represent the matter, is surely as surprising as lamentable. It is but in fact the topstone-crowning to that explaining away of the prophetic symbols and statements, as mere epopee, of which I spoke before,67 as characteristic of the system. And how does it show the danger of Christian men indulging in long and friendly familiarity with infidel writings! For not only are the Scriptural expository principles and views of Christian men and Neologists so essentially different, that it is impossible for their new wine to be put into our old bottles, without the bottles bursting; but the receiver himself is led too often heedlessly to sip of the poison, and bethinks him not that death is in the cup.68
1 It would then be my next duty to consider the chief Protestant Apocalyptic Scheme, that runs counter in its grand outline of arrangement to the one given in the Horæ; (viz. that which, instead of regarding the seven Trumpets in a natural way as the development of the 7th Seal, just as the seven Vials also of the 7th Trumpet, in continuous evolution of the future, would regard the Seals and Trumpets as chronological parallel lines of prophecy, each reaching to the consummation;) but that, as my review of it refers almost wholly to the Seals, I have thought it well on that point to anticipate, and to place my critical notice of it in the Appendix to the 1st. Volume.
6 I say mainly; because Eichhorn, as will be noted presently, adopts the Neronic interpretation retrospectively, with the Domitianic date. Also I say, about the end of Neros reign, because some of the Germans prefer to date it a year or two after Neros death. See Note .p. 272.
9 Eichhorn makes his Judaic division of the Apocalypse to extend into Apoc. xi.; and the Roman division only to begin with the Dragons going to persecute the remnant of the womans children, (Apoc. xii. 17, And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ..) And so too Henrichs. [Editor: I believe there is a misprint here which I have corrected. My copy reads Apoc. xii. 18, while I believe it should read as I have entered (Apoc. xii. 17.)
10 i.e. until the publication of Hengstenbergs Apocalyptic Commentary in 1851, insisting on Domitianic date: my readers must bear in mind when reading my notices of Dr. Davidson in this paper. What the evidence of common sense and clear historic testimony, as fully set forth by me, could not effect, the fact of a German Professors advocating the Domitianic date sufficed, as by magical effect, to accomplish in Dr. Davidson.
12 i.e. in the body of his Work. His Preface is in the un-dogmatic style that one might expect from such a man as Professor Stuart. Elsewhere, however, not only does he dogmatically pass sentence of condemnation upon expositions on the usual Protestant exegetic principle, (e.g. i. 161,) It is time, high time, for principle to take the place of fancy, for exegetical proof to thrust out assumption, but even warms into such a burst of the following: – In the name of all that is pertinent and congruous in prophecy, what have these (viz. a history of civil commotions, and descriptions of literal famines, pestilences, &c.) to do with the object John had before him? Are we . . to regard him as in a state of hallucination when he wrote the Apocalypse? . . . Away with all such surmises: and away too with all the expositions that are built upon them! i. 208, 209.
In Dr. Davidson, with whom of English expounders of the system I am best acquainted, the same characteristic is prominent. So when he speaks of Protestant Expositors generally, in the Eclectic Review for Dec. 1844, p. 649: That the Revelation exhibits a prophetic view of the Church from the close of the Apostolic age to the end of time, is a position that can never be rendered probable. All who have attempted to expound it on this principle have totally failed. And, again, of myself and the Horæ, ibid. p. 644; As an exposition of the Apocalypse it is a total failure; it is essentially and fundamentally erroneous: yet without the slightest attempt at encountering the evidence and arguments in the Horæ. All which is repeated at the close of his article on the Revelation, p. 623, &c., in Kittos Cyclopædia. – On the other hand, on his own German Præterist view he says, ibid. 644; The recent German works on the Apocalypse have served to point out the true path of interpretation: and p. 648; For the right interpretation of the mystical number 666, or 616, see Ewalds Commentary. And so too in the Article in Kitto this German Præterist Scheme is given in considerable detail; not as a suggested interpretation, but authoritatively, and ex cathedrà, as beyond a doubt the true interpretation.
13 So Stuart, i. 179: – Substantial facts lie at the basis of the Apocalypse. . . But what constitutes the drapery or costume? . . . All symbol is of course drapery. It is the thing signified which is person; but the way and manner of signifying it. . is merely the fashion of the costume. Then at p. 200 he proceeds to state, with reference to the Apocalypse as a book of poetry, that Oriental Poetry, especially the Hebrew, follows out the detail of symbol and allegory, for the sake of verisimilitude, and to give vivacity to the representation, much what we are accustomed to do in the Western world: and, at p. 203, reprobates those interpreters who seek for historical events and facts, in remote ages, as the fulfillment of these so-called predictions. For what defense can be made for converting episode into the main body of the work; or mere symbols of strong assurance that the Beast will be overcome into pictures of veritable historical events?
Similarly Dr. Davidson in Kitto, p. 627, adopts Hugs remark; The particular traits and images in the Apocalypse are by no means all significant: many being introduced only to enliven the representation, and for the purpose of ornament.
14 Scarcely inferior in importance. . is the plain and obvious principle that generic and not specific and individual, representations are to be sought for in the Apocalypse. So Professor S. at p. 203, after the extract given in my Note preceding. – As a striking example of the extent to which this is carried by him, I may refer to his, Vol. ii. p. 146: where, after setting forth the destruction of Jerusalem and Judaism as the first grand theme of the Apocalypse, from Apoc. vi. to xi. he says; If no history by Josephus was in existence, the arch of Titus at Rome would tell the story that Apoc. vi. – xi. had been fulfilled. Nay! Equally would it have been fulfilled . . . had the Jewish persecuting power been crushed in any other way, or by any other means. So too in his Vol. i. p. 205.
At Vol. i. p. 204, after mention of the Gothic invasions of the empire, &c., as subjects supposed to be figured by the Protestant interpreters, he adds: The misfortune is that what applies to this particular battle, &c., would apply equally well to every battle that has been fought. If this Edition of the Horæ fall into his hands, and the Professor lost my explanations, he will, if I mistake not, soon find how little the above statement can apply to them. I think I may say, with regard to all the chief and detailed interpretations, that they are shown to be applicable to nothing else whatsoever, with at all the same exactitude, as to that which they are applied to by me.
16 So in the Preface p. 4; I take it for granted that the writer had a present and immediate object in view when he wrote the book: and so must regard him as having spoken intelligibly to those whom he addressed. And so again and again, i. 126, 159, 163, 197, 208; ii. 310, 472, &c.
17 A favorite expression of the American Professor. So i. 159, 207, 209, &c. – But how does this idea square with what is intimated of the then state of the Laodicean Church; Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, &c? See my Vol. i. p. 44. Note 3.
18 Dr. D. ap. Kitto, p. 623, cannot apparently quite agree with this. At least he expresses the just observation; The Apocalypse was designed to promote the instruction of Gods people in all ages. It does not belong to the class of ephemeral writings. Its object was not merely a local or partial one. Adding however; This general characteristic is perfectly consistent with the fact that it arose out of specific circumstances, and was primarily meant to subserve a definite end.
20 Dan. xii. 9, And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.. The sealing was evidently with reference to that part of the prophecy which concerned the distant future.
21 See the extract from his Preface, Note 2220, p. 27-. So again i. 126; John wrote in order to be read and understood; and therefore intelligent persons of his day might understand him also ii. 326, &c.
22 The only new point communicated, I believe, according to Stuart and Davidson, is the enigma about Nero, as a head of the Roman Beast, answering to a certain mystic number: and this indeed no discovery of the future about him, but only a riddle for the time then present.
27 Let me not omit to remind the reader, in passing, of the proof given under my 3rd Seal (Vol. i. pp. 165-167,) that the symbols of that Seal cannot have been meant to figure famine. Indeed what is said about the wine and oil makes Prof. Stuart himself half admit it. The almost yet more conclusive notice to the same effect about the price of barley he has, like all other expositors, quite overlooked.
29 So Stuart allows, ii. 46: saying that the writer had doubtless in his mind the passage in (Zech. iv. 2, And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:) where the prophet sees a candelabra of gold, with seven lamps thereon; with reference to the light of the (Jewish) temple, its ritual, and services.
32 The design seems plainly this, viz. to prefigure the preservation of all that was fundamental and essential in the ancient religion, notwithstanding the destruction of all that was external, in respect to the temple, the city, and the ancient people of God. . . Is not the preservation of the sanctum of the temple an appropriate and significant emblem of this? Stuart ii. 214. Christians, he adds, p. 218, are kings and priests unto God; and to them the inmost recesses of the temple are opened. So too i. 184.
33 Professor S. seems inclined to view the altar here spoken of as the incest altar: yet he includes the priests court in the part measured; which court was the one that had the great brazen altar in it. And I believe that the altar, when thus simply designated, means always in the New Testament the brazen altar of sacrifice. See my Paper on the subject in the Appendix to Vol. ii. – I believe, too, there were never said to be worshippers, proskunountev, at the incense altar. Compare Luke i. 10, 11; where the people are spoken of as praying, while the priest at the incense altar offered incense: also (2 Kings xviii. 22, But if ye say unto me, We trust in the LORD our God: is not that he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?) See too my Vol. ii. pp. 183-185.
34 For he makes the Jewish temple proper, to figure Christianity, simply as being the inner part; at the same time that its outer count, as the outer, figured Judaism. That is, he makes the connected part of the same temple to symbolize two professedly different and opposed religions: and additionally, makes that part of it which contained all that was visibly and by use ritualistic, (the sacrificial altar, the laver, the incense-altar, the shew-bread, the candlesticks, &c.,) to symbolize the un-ritualistic religion of the two; while the other part, which had none of the ritualistic material, was to symbolize the religion of ritualism!
Surely St. Paul might have taught the Professor a very different and more consistent mode of interpreting the symbol. According to this apostolic teaching the Jewish temple on the Apocalyptic scene figured the Christian visible worshipping Church and its worship, on the principle of construing the old Jewish types to mean their answering spiritual antitypes. Which being so, the Gentile outer court figured naturally the professing proselytes of the same Christian worship and religion: whether proselytes consistent in life and doctrine, and who thus worshipped in the altar-worship; or proselytes false at heart, and false to the altar, and so to be at length cast out as apostates and hypocrites. I must again refer the reader to my Paper on the Apocalyptic altar.
Dr. Davidson is as brief here, and shuns the difficulty as much, as in the case of the witness-slaying; of which more under the next head. He only says: After this the interior of the temple is measured by the prophet; while the outer court is excepted, and given over 42 months to the Gentiles. – I suppose however that he means this in Stuarts sense; as I can divine no other.
35 See Stuart i. 151-155, controverting Eichhorns view of it as a Drama. He dwells on it himself, i. 190, &c., as an Epopee. It really seems to me a controversy on matter of little worth, on their theory. In either case there would be the resource of drapery.
36 Cela fait voir que le Prophete a passé des Juifs aux idolatres: ear on ne peut assez remarquer, que comme ics afflictions des Ch. vii. et viii. regardaient les Juifs, il n´y est point parlé d´idolatrie. Bossuet ad loc.
41 When Pontius Pilate undertook to hoist the standard of Tiberius in the city of Jerusalem, the Jews, knowing the obligation that would follow to pay homage to it, one and all remonstrated; and offered their necks to the swords of his soldiers, rather than submit to its erection. Stuart ii. 275, from Josephus.
49 Five or six times is the phrase used in the Apocalypse, and always with reference to the great Babylon. See Apoc. xiv. 8, xvi. 19, xvii. 18, xviii, 10, 16, 18, 19, 21. So Jerome of old; remarking moreover that Jerusalem is never called Egypt. And so too Bossuet. See pp. 156, 157, 240, 241 supra.
Dr. Davidson, on (Apoc. xi. 13, And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.), explains the city of which the tenth part fell, as the holy city: whereas it is evidently the same great city (the one last before mentioned, (viz. in verse 8, And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.) as that where the Witnesses had fallen.
55 But what facts to justify this probably? The answer is; It is not improbable (so Stuart, ii. 263,) that St. John had in his mind some extraordinary machinations of the persecuting Jews, about the time when the Witnesses were given their testimony!! An hypothesis upon an hypothesis! – Further he makes the invading Romans answer to the earth helping the Woman, and swallowing up the flood. Ibid. But could the earth, or Romans, swallow up the flood of Jewish persecution, in so far as the Witnesses were concerned, within Jerusalem? while they were without besieging it.
57 Nero began the persecution of Christians A.D. 66. An attack was made on Jerusalem at the same period: but the Jewish war did not really commence until early in the spring of 67. And Jerusalem was taken and destroyed in August A.D. 70. Stuart ii. 250.
58 Ibid. ii. 290, i. 186. At p. 187, after observing that before John wrote the Apocalypse the great body Christians had probably fled in safety to Pella, he adds; That he presents them here on Mount Zion [the earthly Mount Zion] belongs to the tact of the writer.
61 The figurations between Apoc. xiii. and xvii. are thus in brief explained by Stuart. In Apoc. xiv. the visions of the 144,000 on Mount Zion, of the three flying Angels, and of the Harvest and Vintage, are mere general anticipative intimations, or pledges and tokens, (ii. 304 ?) by way of encouragement, of results of triumph to the Church, that would be directed more fully afterwards. Also in the Vials outpouring, Apoc. xvi., where one might surely have expected to find specific prophecy of fact, all is still mere generalization: notwithstanding the Professors singular preliminary remark, that St. John does here not only by the variety in his composition, satisfy the demand of æsthetics, (p. 309,) but, what is better, communicate also a sketch [qu. historic sketch?] corresponding with a good degree of exactness to the state of facts. Save indeed that the seventh vial (that under which the air is affected, and a third part of the great city seen to fall) is construed to signify that the power of the Beast is paralyzed; i.e. that persecution is arrested when Nero dies. (ibid.)
64 For it is said in xvii. 8, the Beast thou sawest (i.e. ridden by the Woman) was, and is not, and is to rise from the abyss: and in verse 11, The Beast which was, and is not, he is the eighth, and is of the seven. Professor Stuart in his Excursus iii. (Vol. ii. p. 434) admits the identity of the 8th head in Apoc. xvii., and revived head of the Beast in Apoc. xiii. – See my Paper on this in the Appendix to Vol. iii.
65 Eichhorn, ii. pp. 209-2121; Stuart ii. Excurses 3; Davidson, ap. Kitto, p. 621. 66 Stuart says that John, in Apoc. xvii., xviii., insensibly pauses from the specific to the generic, i.e. from Nero to the Roman Pagan persecuting power; which after Neros death rose up again from the abyss, and renewed the contest till Constantine. i. 309. 351.
As regards the second Beast, with the lamb-skin covering, made by these expositors as well Stuart, ii. 283, and Davidson in Kitto, p. 624, as Eichhorn) to be the heathen idolatrous priesthood, the unscriptural ness of the interpretation is noted at p. 592 infrà, in my review of Bossuet.
68 Let me beg the reader to observe that I have in my examination of the German Præterist Scheme, here concluded, tested it simply by Apocalyptic evidence, and shown how little it will bear that testing. The proof is only the stronger against it, if we add the additional tests of the cognate prophecy in Daniel. For the identity of the little horn of the fourth of Daniels four Beasts, with the last head of the Apocalyptic Beast, is a point clear and irrefragable. And it is on its destruction that Messiahs universal and everlasting kingdom is declared to be established; and that the kingdoms and dominion and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven is given to the people of the saints of the Most High, even for ever and ever. A prophetic declaration this which is indeed repeated in the Apocalyptic figurations: but which on their own mode of reasoning, the Præterists must, I think, find it more difficult to escape from, than even from those to the same effect in the Apocalypse.
I have not spoken in this Section of the day-day principle of explaining the Apocalyptic chronological periods; a principle of course espoused by, and essential to, this class of interpreters. In my Chapter on the year-day (Vol. iii. Part iv. Chap. ix.) I have, I hope, sufficiently vindicated that principle. An additional remark or two with reference to certain later assailants of it, may be given in a Section following.
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