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been raised on the basis of a view represented by the foregoing questions. The former of them, that of Grotius, Ewald, Eichhorn, and others, proceeds consistently enough in denying all prophecy, and explaining figuratively, with regard to then present expectations, right or wrong, all the things contained in the book. The latter, that of Lücke, De Wette, Bleek, Düsterdieck, and others, while it professes to recognize a certain kind of inspiration in the Writer, yet believes his view to have been entirely bounded by his own subjectivity and circumstances, denying that the book contains any thing specially revealed to John and by him declared to us; and regarding its whole contents as only instructive, in so far as they represent to us the aspirations of a fervid and inspired man, full of the Spirit of God, and his insight into forms of conflict and evil which are ever recurring in the history of the world and the Church.
6. I own it seems to me that we cannot in consistency or in honesty accept this compromise. For let us ask ourselves, how does it agree with the phænomena ? It conveniently saves the credit of the Writer, and rescues the book from being an imposture, by conceding that he saw all which he says he saw: but at the same time maintains, that all which he saw was purely subjective, having no external objective existence; and that those things which seem to be prophecies of the distant future, are in fact no such prophecies, but have and exhaust their significance within the horizon of the writer's own experience and hopes.
7. But then, if this be so, I do not see, after all, how the credit of the Writer is so entirely saved. He distinctly lays claim to be speaking of long periods of time. To say nothing of the time involved in the other visions, he speaks of a thousand years, and of things which must happen at the end of that period. So that we must say, on the theory in question, that all his declarations of this kind are pure mistakes : and, in exegesis, our view must be entirely limited to the enquiry, not what is for us and for all the meaning of this or that prophecy, but what was the Writer's meaning when he set it down. Whether subsequent events justified his guess, or falsified it, is for us a pure matter of archæological and psychological interest, and no more.
8. If this be so, I submit that the book at once becomes that which is known as apocryphal, as distinguished from canonical : it is of no more value to us than the Shepherd of Hermas, or the Ascension of Isaiah : and is mere matter for criticism and independent judgment.
9. It will be no surprise to the readers of this work to be told, that we are not prepared thus to deal with a book which we accept as canonical, and have all reason to believe to have been written by an Apostle. While we are no believers in what has been (we cannot help thinking foolishly) called verbal inspiration, we are not prepared to set aside the 345
whole substance of the testimony of the writer of a book which we accept as canonical, nor to deny that visions, which he purports to have received from God to shew to the church things which must shortly come to pass, were so received by him, and for such a purpose.
10. Maintaining this ground, and taking into account the tone of the book itself, and the periods embraced in its prophecies, we cannot consent to believe the vision of the Writer to have been bounded by the horizon of his own experience and personal hopes. We receive the book as being what it professes to be, a revelation from God, designed to shew to his servants things which must shortly come to pass. And so far from this word offending us, we find in it, as compared with the contents of the book, a measure by which, not our judgment of those contents, but our estimate of worldly events and their duration, should be corrected. The space denoted by shortly confessedly contains, among other periods, a period of a thousand years. On what principle are we to affirm that it does not embrace a period vastly greater than this in its whole contents ?
11. We hold therefore that the book, judged by its own testimony, and with regard to the place which it holds among the canonical books of Scripture, is written with the object of conveying to the Church revelations from God respecting certain portions of her course even up to the time of the end. Whether such revelations disclose to her a continuous prophetic history, or are to be taken as presenting varying views and relations of her conflict with evil, and God's judgment on her enemies, will be hereafter discussed. But the general object is independent of these differences in interpretation.
12. The contents of the book have been variously arranged. It seems better to follow the plain indication of the book itself, than to distribute it so as to suit any theory of interpretation. We find in so doing, that we have,
I. A general introduction to the whole book, ch. i. 1-3:
i. 4-ii. 22, itself consisting of
6 Düsterdieck has stigmatized this view as that of magical inspiration, as distinguished from his own, which he designates as that of ethical inspiration. It is difficult to assign any meaning to these epithets at all corresponding to the nature of the case. Why that inspiration should be called magical, which makes the prophet the organ of communicating the divine counsels in symbolical language to the Church, it is difficult to say: and surely not less difficult to explain, how that inspiration can be called ethical, which makes him pretend to have received visions from God, which he has only imagined in his own mind.
III. The prophetical portion, iv. 1–xxii. 5; and herein
a. The heavenly scene of vision, iv. 1-11.
seals, v. 1-14.
two episodes, between the sixth and seventh seals. a. the sealing of the elect, vii. 1-8.
b. the multitude of the redeemed, vii. 9-17. c. The seven trumpets of vengeance, introduced indeed before
the conclusion of the former portion, viii. 2, but properly
extending from viii. 6-xi. 19.
b. the two witnesses, xi, 1–14.
c. the second beast, or false prophet, xiii. 11–18.
xiv. 1-20. And herein
1. the warning of judgments, xiv. 6, 7.
of the earth.
a. the church's song of praise, xix. 1–10.
of the earth, xix. 17-21. d. the binding of the dragon, and the millennial reign,
xx. 1-6. e. the unbinding, and final overthrow, of Satan, xx. 7-10.
f. the general judgment, xx. 11–15.
g. the new heavens and earth, and glories of the heavenly
Jerusalem, xxi. 1-xxii. 5. IV. The conclusion, xxii. 6–21. See on all this the table at p. 363,
in which the contents are arranged with a view to prophetic interpretation.
SYSTEMS OF INTERPRETATION.
1. It would be as much beyond the limits as it is beside the purpose of this Introduction, to give a detailed history of apocalyptic interpretation. And it would be, after all, spending much labour over that which has been well and sufficiently done already. For English readers, the large portion of Mr. Elliott's fourth volume of his Horæ Apocalypticæ which is devoted to the subject contains an ample account of apocalyptic expositors from the first times to the present: and for those who can read German, Lücke's Einleitung will furnish more critical though shorter notices of many among them'. To these works, and to others like them', I must refer my readers for any thing like a detailed history of interpretations : contenting myself with giving a brief classification of the different great divisions of opinion, and with stating the grounds and character of the interpretation adopted in the following Commentary.
2. The schools of apocalyptic interpretation naturally divide themselves into three principal branches : a. The Præterists, or those who hold that the whole or by far the
greater part of the prophecy has been fulfilled : b. The Historical Interpreters, or those who hold that the prophecy
embraces the whole history of the church and its foes from the
time of its writing to the end of the world: The Futurists, or those who maintain that the prophecy relates
entirely to events which are to take place at or near to the
coming of the Lord. I shall make a few remarks on each of these schools.
3. a. The Præterist view found no favour, and was hardly so much as
7 It is to be regretted that Lücke should have performed this portion of his work 80 much in the spirit of a partisan, and not have contented himself with giving a résumé ab extra in the spirit of fairness, as Mr. Elliott has done. But his notices and remarks are very able and valuable.
e. g. Dr. Todd on the Apocalypse, pp. 269 ff. : Mr. Charles Maitland's Apostolic School of Prophetic Interpretation, &c. Mr. Elliott has continued his notices down nearly to the present time in the appendix to his Warburtonian Lectures, pp. 510–566.
thought of, in the times of primitive Christianity. Those who lived near the date of the book itself had no idea that its groups of prophetic imagery were intended merely to describe things then passing, and to be in a few years completed'. The view is said to have been first promulgated in any thing like completeness by the Jesuit Alcasar, in his “Investigation of the secret sense in the Apocalypse," published in 1614. He regarded the prophecy as descriptive of the victory of the church first over the synagogue, in chapters v.-xi., and then over heathen Rome, in chapters xii.- xix.: on which follows the triumph, and rest, and glorious close, chapters xx.—xxii. Very nearly the same plan was adopted by Grotius in his Annotations, published in 1644 : and by our own Hammond in his Commentary, published in 1653 : whom Le Clerc, his Latin interpreter, followed. The next name among this school of interpreters is that of Bossuet, the great antagonist of Protestantism. His Commentary was published in 1690. In the main, he agrees with the schemes of Alcasar and Grotius
4. The præterist school of interpretation has however of late been revived in Germany, and is that to which some of the most eminent expositors of that nation belong?: limiting the view of the Seer to matters within his own horizon, and believing the whole denunciations of the book to regard nothing further than the destruction of Pagan and persecuting Rome.
5. This view has also found exponents in our own language. It is that of the very ample and laborious Commentary of Moses Stuart in America, and of Dr. Davidson and Mr. Desprez in England.
6. b. The continuous historical interpretation belongs almost of necessity to these later days. In early times, the historic material since the apostolic period was not copious enough to tempt men to fit it on to the symbols of the prophetic visions. The first approach to it seems to have been made by Berengaud, not far from the beginning of the twelfth century : who however carried the historic range of the Apocalypse back to the creation of the world'. The historic view is found in the fragmentary exposition of the Seals by Anselm of Havelsburg (1145): in the important exposition by the Abbot Joachim (about 1200)
7. From Joachim's time we may date the rise of the continuous historic school of interpretation. From this time men's minds, even within
9 Compare Methodius : “ John speaks not of past events, but of those which were then going on, or which were hereafter to happen.”
See Elliott, vol. iv. p. 480, and a very good description in Lücke, p. 540.
e. g. Ewald, Lücke, De Wette, Düsterdieck. * See Elliott, vol. iv. pp. 362 ff.
* Elliott, vol. iv. pp. 376_410: where see also a tabular view of Joachim's apocalyptic scheme.