Went from teaching that all of Revelation was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, to teaching that the fall of Jerusalem was a picture of the work of Christ in all hearts in all ages
“Rome was not in the circle of the prophet’s vision, nor is Rome in coincidence with the symbols and metaphors; but the resemblance to Jerusalem is as perfect as the case can be supposed to furnish” (Commentary on the Book of Revelation, p. 153).
“The seven heads of the Beast are said to be seven mountains; assuming the woman to be a city founded upon seven mountains. Such was the situation of Jerusalem.” (Comm., Herder, p. 156)
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
“He views the book as a work of the apostle John, but refers the whole contents, as Abauzit among others did, to the destruction of Jerusalem, which he also understands by Babylon, and to the disturbances and wars in Palestine preceding that catastrophe. In his letters on the Study of Theology (1780), Part ii. Br. 21, he expresses himself to the effect that he viewed the entire destruction of Jerusalem only as a sign, pledge, type of the final and greater end of things, and that the proper object of prophecy is to develop this end in such sign and pledge. Yet this point of view does not appear definitely in the interpretation itself. But he gives prominence to the practical particulars whereby the Apocalypse is a book for all hearts and for all times.” (Lectures on the Apocalypse, p. 59)
As early then as Bengel’s time, the celebrated Genevese writer, Firmin Abauzit,2 their precursor and harbinger, had published a work entitled Discours Historique sur VApocalypse, written to show that the canonical authority of the Apocalypse was doubtful. On reading Dr. Twells’ reply to it,3 however, he was satisfied; and honourably wrote (though in vain) to stop the reprinting of his work in Holland. But soon after the middle of the century the sceptical spirit broke out more freely. A work by Oeder, which Semler published after Oeder’s death, about the year 1765, entitled ” A Free Investigation into the so-called Revelation by John,” denied not only its apostolicity, but even its literary beauty; charged it with all the extravagances of its wildest expositors, and maintained that its real author was the heretic Cerinthus. So began what has been called the Semlerian controversy. Semler was replied to, and opposed, by Reuss of Tubingen, A.D. 1767, 1772, Schmidt of Wittenberg, in his “Vindicate Canonis,” A.D. 1775, and Knittel of Wolfenbuttel, A.D. 1773; to which works he and his friends made vigorous answer. The controversy lasted to the year 1785.’ The celebrated Michaelis was so far influenced by what had been written by Abauzit and Semler’s partizans on the canonical question, that he concluded with Eusebius on reckoning the Apocalypse not among the undisputed canonical books, but among the avrikzyofitva. The work of Herder, published 1779, vindicated with great earnestness and ability the literary merits and beauty of the Apocalypse; indeed, with such ability and enthusiasm as to act strongly on the literary German mind; yet vindicated it only as Herder might have vindicated a neglected beautiful Poem of classic origin; not as a work of divine inspiration.’-‘ In 1786 Hemnschncider published his Comment on the Apocalypse; explaining it as a Poem describing the three things following;—viz. the overthrow of Judaism, the overthrow of Heathenism, and the final universal triumph of the Christian Church. This was the model, in respect of general plan, of the more celebrated work of Eichhom, published shortly after, viz. A.D. 1791; a work of which Professor M. Stuart, to whom I am indebted for this rapid sketch of the German Apocalyptic Expositors of the last half of the last century, thus reports ;—that although not equal to Herder’s in respect of the perception or the development of aesthetic beauties, it is yet, in regard’of philology, and real explanation of words and phrases, far Herder’s superior: adding, moreover, that it is substantially correct in its exegesis, i. e. in its view of the general tenor and meaning of the Apocalyptic Book; a statement meaning that it is substantially in agreement with Professor Stuart’s own views. As this scheme had not only then preponderance in Germany, but is one of the grand rival schemes that still claim acceptance, I think I cannot better conclude the present Section of my Sketch of Apocalyptic interpretation, than by placing it before the reader’s eye, as drawn up by Professor Hug, professedly from Hernnschneider and Eichhom: its characteristic view being this, that the two cities, Rome and Jerusalem, whose fate (as they would have it) constitutes the most considerable part of the Apocalypse, are only symbols of two religions whose fall is foretold; and that the third, which appears at the end, viz. the heavenly Jerusalem, signifies Christ’s religion and kingdom.”
“Armed with a Preterist perspective of life and history, Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) was able to ward off the charge of atheism, and imbued Spinoza’s “mechanistic” monism with the dynamic sense of organic process. Subjectivity and objectivity were seen as interpenetrating aspects of the whole, with the idea of becoming the prime category under which nature, reality, reason, and history were to be understood in this new age. Instead of living in a highly determined (pre-AD. 70) spiritual reality, we are now part of a reality in God far more open as a system and far more sensitive to our input or lack of it; an Age in which good has twice the power than it had before in moral effect. ” (Preterist Eschatology)
Johann Peter Lange
“VII. Historico-Critical and Rationalistic Period. Fundamental Tone or Key-note: Predominant Volatilizing of Apocalyptic Eschatology ; especially the Prophecy of the Millennial Kingdom ; amid a constantly gaining confounding of such Prophecy with Chiliasm.
The motive or inciting cause of the period which we are at present examining—a motive whose sketching by Lucke is not distinguished for clearness—was, negatively, that system of criticism which maintained that the Apocalypse consisted of purely supernatural predictions of Church History and church-historical numbers ; and which applied such exegesis to the support of chiliastic extravagances. Positively, it was the felt need of a firm historical and psychological basis for the prophetic glimpses of futurity. The errors of this new critical bent were the issue, in part, of the delight which was occasioned by the novel historical stand-point— historical, it was believed, for the first time in a true sense. For the rest, these errors proceeded from doubt as to the Spirit of Prophecy, as to the authenticity of the Apocalypse, as to the demonic forms of the kingdom of darkness, and as to the reality of Biblical Eschatology.
According to Lucke, Abauzit of Geneva inaugurated this tendency in his Essai sur l’ Apocalypse. “The Revelation, written probably under Nero, is nothing—according to its own profession—but une extension de la prophetic du Sauveur sur la ruine de l’ Etat Judaique.” The German Wetstein was guilty of a curtailing and stinting of the Apocalypse, similar to that attempted by the French Swiss. According to Wetstein, Gog and Magog made their appearance in the rebellion instigated by Barcochba. Harenberg took sides with Abauzit, submitting, however, that the last four chapters of the Apocalypse are eschatological. He believed the Book to have been originally written in Hebrew. Semler thought that the true original spirit of the Apocalypse was Jewish chiliastic fanaticism.
On the common basis of a one-sided criticism, Herder formed an antithesis to Semler in this question as in other and more general respects. The contrast is exhibited in his work entitled: Maran-atha, das Such von der Zukunft des Herrn, des Neuen Testaments Siegel. [Maran-atha; the Book of the Coming of the Lord: the Seal of the New Testament.] The historical perspective of this book is, like that of Abauzit, barren and contracted in the extreme: it consists of Jerusalem and the Jewish war. The formal treatment of the Apocalyptic theme, on the contrary, is enthusiastic, full of idealization, and appreciation of the figurative language of the Orient (see Lucke’s commendation). Herder called the Apocalypse : “A picture-book, setting forth the rise, the visible existence, and the future of Christ’s Kingdom in figures and similitudes of His first Coming, to terrify and to console.” Hartwig, though the disciple of Herder, abandoned the Oriental view for the Greek, holding, with Paraeus, that the Apocalypse was a drama. This dramatical view was subsequently fully carried out by Eichhorn. Others, taking a more general, poetical view of the Apocalypse, made metrical versions of it; of these the chief were those of Schreiber and Munter, and one by a follower of Bengel, Ludwig von Pfeil.
The interpretation already advanced by many, according to which the Apocalypse depicted the downfall of Judaism and heathenism, and the tranquility and glory of the Kingdom of Christ, re-appeared in the writings of Herrenschneider (Tentamen Apocalypseos). Johannsen, in his Offenbarung Johannes, set forth a similar view. Thoroughly novel and original, at variance both with the ancient Church-historical and the modern synchrono-historical view, is the book which appeared under the title of Briefe uber die Offenbarung Johannis. Ein Buch fur die Starken, die schwach heissen, Leipzig, 1784. [Letters on the Revelation of John. A Book for the Strong, who are called Weak]. “The [anonymous] author interprets all specials as generals, relative to the laws, arrangements and developments of nature and of the human life in general; amid, and according to, which laws, arrangements, and developments, God’s Kingdom on earth shall one day be perfected.” Kleuker maintained once more the eschatological signification of the Revelation (Ueber Ursprung und Zweck, etc. [On the Origin and Design, etc.]). On the other hand, Lucke mentions as followers of the bent of Herder and Eichhorn, Lange, Von Hagen, Lindemann Matthai, Von Heinrichs (p. 1055).” (A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures pp. 68-69)
“Herder refers everything, in the body of the (Apocalypse), to the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem.”
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