Philip Schaff


Swiss-American historian | Lutheran Theologian | Biggest Figure of the 19th Century | Addressed the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 on “The Reunion of Christendom.”

“This being so, then the words relating to a personal return of Jesus are to be taken as pointing to the Destruction of Jerusalem (Mat. x.23; xvi.28).” (Second Advent)

History of the Christian Church (1877) | Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia | The Day of the Lord | Antichrist was Nero to Early Church | Christ’s Parousia His Resurrection | The Teaching of Christ is not Millenniarian | Pre and Post-Millenarianism | Return of Jesus Points to Destruction of Jerusalem | Masada | Milton Spencer Terry | History of the Christian Church

Christian HistoryDidache: Teaching of the Twelve
(PDF File with Schaff commentary now available.)

“The Didache aptly closes with an exhortation to watchfulness and readiness for the coming of the Lord, as the goal of the Christian’s hope. The sixteenth chapter is an echo of the eschatological discourses in the Synoptical Gospels, especially the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, with the exception of those features which especially refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.”

“The Synoptical Gospels were written before AD70, and hence contain no hint at the fulfilment, which could hardly have been avoided had they been written later.”

“With the fulfillment of prophecy by the destruction of the Temple and the dispersion of the Jews, everything pertaining to the law was sloughed from its ripened stalk; and the Psalter blossomed with the consummate flowers and fruitage which were its deeper intent, and which had waited so long to be disclosed. The true David had come, and little thought of the typical David was to be entertained: the true Israel was to be seen everywhere, and the dead images of legal rites and symbols were to be interpreted only by the Gospel.” (Preface to Augustin)

(On Matthew 24:15, the Abomination of Desolation)
“Titus (according to Josephus) intended at first to save that magnificent work of architecture, as a trophy of victory, and perhaps from some superstitious fear; and when the flames threatened to reach the Holy of Holies he forced his way through flame and smoke, over the dead and dying, to arrest the fire. But the destruction was determined by a higher decree. His own soldiers, roused to madness by the stubborn resistance, and greedy of the golden treasures, could not be restrained from the work of destruction. At first the halls around the temple were set on fire..”

The Romans planted their eagles on the shapeless ruins, over against the eastern gate, offered their sacrifices to them, and proclaimed Titus Imperator with the greatest acclamations of joy. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy concerning the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place.(Daniel, 9:27; Matt. 24:15; comp. Luke 21:20)” (p. 397-398)

(On Matt. 24:1,2; Mark 13:1; Luke 19:43,33; 21:6.)
The forbearance of God with his covenant people, who had crucified their own Saviour, reached it last its limit. As many as could be saved in the usual way, were rescued. The mass of the people had obstinately set themselves against all improvement. James the Just, the man who was fitted, if any could be, to reconcile the Jews to the Christian religion, had been stoned by his hardened brethren, for whom he daily interceded in the temple; and with him the Christian community in Jerusalem had lost its importance for that city. The hour of the “great tribulation” and fearful judgment drew near. The prophecy of the Lord approached its literal fulfilment: Jerusalem was razed to the ground, the temple burned, and not one stone was left upon another. (p. 397-398)

(On Luke 21:24 ; Early Date of Revelation ; Significance of A.D.70)
The destruction of Jerusalem would be a worthy theme for the genius of a Christian Homer. It has been called “the most soul-stirring of all ancient history.” But there was no Jeremiah to sing the funeral dirge of the city of David and  Solomon. The Apocalypse was already written, and had predicted that the heathen “shall tread the holy city under foot forty and two months.” (p. 397-398)

(On the Early Date of Revelation)
“On two points I have changed my opinion — the second Roman captivity of Paul (which I am disposed to admit in the interest of the Pastoral Epistles), and the date of the Apocalypse (which I now assign, with the majority of modern critics, to the year 68 or 69 instead of 95, as before).” (Vol. I, Preface to the Revised Edition, 1882 The History of the Christian Church, volume 1)

“The early date [of Revelation] is now accepted by perhaps the majority of scholars.” (Enyclopedia 3:2036.)

“The Apocalypse already implies that he stood at the head of the churches of Asia Minor. Rev. 1: 4, 9, 11, 20. Chs. 2 and 3. This is confirmed by the unanimous testimony of antiquity. The most probable view is that he was exiled to Patmos under Nero, wrote the Apocalypse soon after Nero’s death, 68 or 69 a.d., returned to Ephesus and died there after 98 a.d (Schaff, Ch. Hist. I. p. 424, 429.”

“Laodicea, the old city of Diospolis… a few miles distant from Colosse and Hierapolis… When in the middle of the first century of our era, an earthquake destroyed Colosse, Hierapolis, and Laodicea, the latter was rebuilt by its own inhabitants.” (Dictionary of the Bible, under LAODICEA)

(This is an answer to the counter argument that the Early Date of Revelation is untenable because there were more than seven churches in Asia, most notably Colosse and Hierapolis.  This is an answer to Preterism’s defense of the Early Date of Revelation through the fact that there were only seven churches in Asia prior to the fall of Jerusalem, but many more thereafter.   This response by Schaff shows that Colosse and Hierapolis were destroyed in an earthquake prior to the writing of Revelation, and only Laodicea was rebuilt.)

(On the timing of John’s banishment)
“Tertullian’s legend of the Roman oil-martyrdom of John seems to point to Nero rather than to any other emperor, and was so understood by Jerome (Adv. Jovin. 1.26) (History 1:428.)

(On Revelation Commentaries)
“The literature of the Apocalypse, especially in English, is immense, but mostly impository rather than expository, and hence worthless or even mischievous, because con-founding and misleading.” (1:826)

(On the Significance of A.D.70)
“A few years afterwards followed the destruction of Jerusalem, which must have made an overpowering impression and broken the last ties which bound Jewish Christianity to the old theocracy. . . .

“The awfiul catastrophe of the destruction of the Jewish theocracy must have produced the profoundest sensation among the Christians. . . . It was the greatest calamity of Judaism and a great benefit to Christianity; a refutation of the one, a vindication . . . of the other. It separated them forever. . . . Henceforth the heathen could no longer look upon Christianity as a mere sect of Judaism, but must regard and treat it as a new, peculiar religion. The destruction of Jerusalem, therefore, marks that momentous crisis at which the Christian church as a whole burst forth forever from the chrysalis of Judaism, awoke to a sense of maturity, and in government and worship at once took its independent stand before the world. (1:196,403-4.)

(On Nero, the Beast)
“the Neronian persecution [was] the most cruel that ever occurred” (History of the Christian Church, 8 vols. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, (1910) 1950] 1 :386).

(On Origen’s Scholarship)
“[Origen was] the greatest scholar of his age, and the most gifted, most industrious, and most cultivated of all the ante-Nicene fathers.” (History of the Christian Church, vol. II, 790.)

(On Chiliasm / Millenarianism)
“The most striking point in the eschatology of the ancient church is the widely current and very prominent chiliasm, or the doctrine of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years. The Jewish hope of a Messianic kingdom, which rested on carnal misapprehension of the prophetic figures, was transplanted to the soil of Christianity, but here spiritualized, and fixed on the second coming of Christ instead of the first ; and this earthly sabbath of the church was no longer regarded as the goal of her course, but only as a prelude to the endless blessedness of heaven.3

The Christian chiliasm, if we leave out of sight the sensuous and fanatical extravagance, into which it has frequently run, both in ancient and in modern times, is based on the unfulfilled promises of .the Lord,4 and particularly on the apocalyptic figure of his thousand years’ reign upon earth after the first resurrection ;6 in connexion with the numerous passages respecting his glorious return, which declare it to be near, and yet uncertain and unascertainable as to its day and hour, that believers may be always ready for it.1 This precious hope, through the whole age of persecution, was a copious fountain of encouragement and comfort under the pains of that martyrdom which sowed in blood the seed of a glorious harvest for the church.

Hence we find chiliasm not only among the heretical Jewish- Christians and the Montanists, with whom it was a fundamental article of faith ; but also, in a purified form, in a number of orthodox church teachers. Barnabas considers the Mosaic history of the creation a type of six ages of labor for the world, with a thousand years’ sabbath of blessed rest ; since with God ” one day is as a thousand years.”3 Papias of Hierapolis appealed, in support of his somewhat quaint notions of the happiness of the millennial reign, to apostolic traditions ; but the other apostolic fathers make no express mention of the subject. Justin Martyr regarded the expectation of the earthly perfection of the church as the keystone of pure doctrine, but knew orthodox Christians who did not share it ; as, indeed, the other apologists are at least silent respecting it. Irenaeus, on the strength of tradition from St. John and his disciples, taught that after the destruction of the Roman empire, and the brief raging of antichrist, Christ will visibly appear, will bind Satan, will reign at the rebuilt city of Jerusalem with the little band of faithful confessors and the host of risen martyrs over the nations of the earth, and will celebrate the millennial sabbath of preparation for the eternal glory of heaven ; then, after a temporary liberation of Satan, follows the final victory, the general resurrection, the judgment of the world, and the consummation in the new heavens and the new earth. Tertullian, in behalf of his chiliastic ideas, pointed not only to the Apocalypse, but also to the predictions of the Montanist prophets.

But Millenarianism became frequently, especially with the Montanists in Asia Minor, so colored in the grossly sensuous style of Judaism, that it provoked opposition, first in the Roman church and then in the Alexandrian school. The presbyter Caius, towards the end of the second century, in controversywith the Montanist Proclus, referred chiliasm, and perhaps even the Apocalypse of John, to the hated heretic Cerinthus ; and Origen spiritualized the symbolical language of the Revelation. Yet even in Egypt chiliasm had many friends. In the West it maintained itself still longer, and found advocates in Commodian towards the close of the third century, and Lactan- tius and Victorinus in the beginning of the fourth.

In the age of Constantine, however, a radical change took place in this belief. After Christianity, contrary to all expectation, triumphed in the Roman empire, and was embraced by the Caesars themselves, the millennial reign, instead of being anxiously waited and prayed for, began to be dated either from the first appearance of Christ, or from the conversion of Constantine, and to be regarded as realized in the glory of the dominant imperial state-church. From that time chiliasm, not indeed in its essence, as the hope of a golden age of the church on earth, and of a great sabbath of the world after the hard labor of the world’s history, but in its distorted Ebionistic form, took its place among the heresies, and was rejected subsequently even by the Protestant reformers as a Jewish dream.” (Schaff’s History, pg. 299-301)

(On The Authority of the Creeds)
“In the Protestant system, the authority of (creeds), as of all human compositions, is relative and limited.   It is not coordinate with, but always subordinate to, the Bible, as the only infallible rule of the Christian Faith and practice. The value of creeds depends upon the measure of their agreement with the Scriptures. In the best case, a human creed is only an approximate and relatively correct exposition of revealed truth, and may be improved by the progressive knowledge of the Church, while the Bible remains perfect and infallible. The Bible is of God; the Confession is man’s answer to God’s Word. The Bible has, therefore, a divine and absolute (authority), the Confession only an ecclesiastical and relative authority. Any higher view of the authority of (creeds) is unprotestant and essentially Romanizing. (Creedolatry) is a species of idolatry, and substitutes the tyranny of a printed book for that of a living Pope.   It is apt to produce the opposite extreme of a rejection of all creeds, and to promote rationalism and infidelity.”(unquote) -Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, published by Baker Book House

(Other Misc. Quotes)
“In our country we ask no toleration for religion and its free exercise, but we claim it as an inalienable right.” (Church and State in the United States, 1888, from Albert J. Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom)

“The United States furnishes the first example in history of a government deliberately depriving itself of all legislative control of religion.” (Church and State in the United States, 1888, from Albert J. Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom)

“The relationship of church and state in the United States secures full liberty of religious thought, speech, and action, within the limits of the public peace and order. It makes persecution impossible.
Religion and liberty are inseparable. Religion is voluntary, and cannot, and ought not to be forced. This is a fundamental article of the American creed, without distinction of sect or party. Liberty, both civil and religious, is an American instinct.
Such liberty is impossible on the basis of a union of church and state, where the one of necessity restricts or controls the other. It requires a friendly separation, where each power is entirely independent in its own sphere.” (Church and State in the United States, 1888, from Albert J. Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom)

” Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mahomet, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and schools combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke words of life such as never were spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of any orator or poet; without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art and sweet songs of praise, than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. Born in a manger, and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world, and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe. There never was in this world a life so unpretending, modest, and lowly in its outward form and condition, and yet producing such extraordinary effects upon all ages, nations, and classes of men. The annals of history produce no other example of such complete and astonishing success in spite of the absence of those material, social, literary, and artistic powers and influences which are indispensable to success for a mere man.”

Cyril of Jerusalem “The next incident recorded in the life of S. Cyril is his alleged prediction of the failure of Julian’s attempt to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem.  “The vain and ambitious mind of Julian,” says Gibbon, “might aspire to restore the ancient glory of the Temple of Jerusalem.  As the Christians were firmly persuaded that a sentence of everlasting destruction had been pronounced against the whole fabric of the Mosaic law, the Imperial sophist would have converted the success of his undertaking into a specious argument against the faith of prophecy and the truth of revelation.”  Again he writes:  “The Christians entertained a natural and pious expectation, that in this memorable contest, the honour of religion would be vindicated by some signal miracle58.”  That such an expectation may have been shared by Cyril is not impossible:  but there is no satisfactory evidence that he ventured to foretell any miraculous interposition.  According to the account of Rufinus59, “lime and cement had been brought, and all was ready for destroying the old foundations and laying new on the next day.  But Cyril remained undismayed, and after careful consideration either of what he had read in Daniel’s prophecy concerning the ‘times,’ or of our Lord’s predictions in the Gospels, persisted that it was impossible that one stone should ever there be laid upon another by the Jews.”  This account of Cyril’s expectation, though probable enough in itself, seems to be little more than a conjecture founded on his statement (Cat. xv. 15), that “Antichrist will come at the time when there shall not be left one stone upon another in the Temple of the Jews.”  That doom was not completed in Cyril’s time, nor did he expect it to be fulfilled until the coming of the Jewish Antichrist, who was to restore the Temple shortly before the end of the world.  It was impossible for Cyril to see in Julian such an Antichrist as he has described; and therefore, without any gift or pretence of prophecy, he might very well express a firm conviction that the attempted restoration at that time must fail.  Though Gibbon is even more cynical and contemptuous than usual in his examination of the alleged miracles, he does not attempt to deny the main facts of the story60:  with their miraculous character we are not here concerned, but only with Cyril’s conduct on so remarkable an occasion.”

What do YOU think ?

Submit Your Comments For Posting Here

Date:30 Oct 2003Time:20:02:08


Do you know what Schaff’s role in the 1893 World Parliament of Religions conference was, and what he spoke on? I would very much like to find out. Also, what were the other speakers and subjects at that meeting?

Try this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *