FIRST CENTURY CHURCH HISTORY
by Philip Schaff (1800s)
General Character of the Apocalypse
"The Revelation" of John, or rather of "Jesus-Christ" through John, appropriately closes the New Testament. It is the one and only prophetic book, but based upon the discourses of our Lord on the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, and his second advent (Matt. ch.24) It has one face turned back to the prophecies of old,, the other gazing into the future. It combines, the beginning and the end in Him who is the "Alpha and the Omega." It reminds one of the mysterious sphinx keeping ceaseless watch, with staring eyes, at the base of the Great Pyramid. "As many words, as many mysteries," says Jerome; "Nobody knows, what is".ia itj&iadds 'Luther. No book has been more misunderstood and abused; none calls for greater modesty and reserve in interpretation.
The opening and closing chapters are as clear and dazzling as sunlight, and furnish spiritual nourishment and encouragement to the plainest Christian; but the intervening visions are, to most readers, as dark as midnight, yet with many stars and the full, moon illuminating the darkness. The Epistles to the Seven Churches, the description of the heavenly Jerusalem, and the anthems and doxologies which are interspersed through the mysterious visions, and glister like brilliant jewels on a canopy of richest black, are among the most beautiful, sublime, edifying, and inspiring portions of the Bible, and they ought to guard us against a hasty judgment of those chapters which we may be unable to understand. The Old Testament prophets were not clearly understood until the fulfilment cast its light upon them, and yet they served a most useful purpose as books of warning, comfort, and hope for the coming Messiah. The Revelation will be fully revealed when the new heavens and the new earth appear—not before.
(VERY INCORRECT.....JESUS SAYS RIGHT UP FRONT THIS IS GIVEN SO HIS SERVANTS CAN KNOWN WHAT IS TO COME. THE BOOK OF REVELATION CAN BE UNDERSTOOD - Keith Hunt)
"A prophet" (says the sceptical De-Wette in his Commentary on Revelation, which, was his last work) "is essentially an inspired man, an interpreter of God, who announces the "Word of God to men in accordance with, and within the limits of, the divine truth already revealed through Moses in the Old Testament, through. Christ in the New....Prophecy rests on faith in a continuous providence of God ruling over the whole world, and with peculiar efficacy over Israel and the congregation of Christ, according to the moral laws revealed through Moses and Christ, especially the laws of retribution. According to the secular view, all changes in human affairs proceed partly, from man's power and prudence, partly from accident and the hidden stubbornness of fate; but according to the prophetic, view, everything happens through the agency of God and in harmony with his counsels of eternal and unchangeable' justice, and man is the maker of his own fortunes by obeying or resisting the will of God." The prophecy of the Bible meets the natural desire to know the future, and this desire is most intense in great critical periods that are pregnant with fears and hopes. But it widely differs from the oracles of the heathen, and the conjectures of far seeing men. It rests on revelation, not on human sagacity and guesses; it gives certainty, not mere probability; is general, not specific; it does not gratify curiosity, but is intended to edify and improve. The prophets are not merely revealers of secrets, but also preachers of repentance, revivalists, comforters: rebuking sin, strengthening faith, encouraging hope. The Apocalypse is in the New Testament, what the Book of Daniel is in the Old, and differs from it as the New Testament differs from the Old. Both are prophetic utterances of the will of God concerning the future of his kingdom on earth. Both are books of the church militant, and engage heaven and earth, divine, humane and Satanic powers, in a conflict for life and death. They march on as a terrible army with banners. They, reverberate with thunderings and reflect the lightning flashes from the throne. But while DanieL looks ito the first advent of the Messiah as the heir of the preceding world-monarchies, John looks to the second advent of Christ and the new heavens and the new earth. He gathers, up all the former prophecies and sends them enriched to the future. He assures us of, the final fulfillment of the prophecy of the serpent-bruiser, which was given to the first parents immediately after the fall as a guiding star, of hope in the dark night of sin. He blends the glories of creation and redemption, the finale of the new Jerusalem from heaven.
The Apocalypse, as to its style of composition, is
written in prose, like: Daniel, but belongs to prophetic poetry, which is peculiar to the Bible and takes there the place of the epic poetry of the Greeks; God himself being the hero, as it were, who rules over the destinies of man. It is an inspired work of art, and requires for its understanding a poetic imagination, which is seldom found among commentators and critics; but the imagination must be under the restraint of sober judgment, or it is apt to run into fantastic comments which themselves need a commentary. The apocalyptic vision is the last and most complete form of the prophetic poetry of the Bible. The strong resemblance between the Revelation and Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah is admitted, and without, them it cannot be understood.
But we may compare it also, as to its poetic form and arrangement, with the book of Job. Both present; a conflict on earth, controlled by invisible powers in heaven. In Job it is the struggle of an individual servant of Grod with Satan, the arch-slanderer and persecutor, of man, who, with the permission of God, uses temporal losses, bodily sufferings, mental anguish, liarassing doubt, domestic affliction, false and unfeeling friends to secure his ruin. In the Apocalypse it is the conflict of Christ and his church with the anti-Christian world. In both the scene begins in heaven; in both the war, ends in victory; but in Job long life and. temporal prosperity of the. individual sufferer is the price, in the Apocalypse redeemed humanity in the new heavens and the new earth.Both are arranged in three parts: a prologue, the battle with successive encounters, and an epilogue. In both the invisible power presiding, over the action is the divine counsel of wisdom and mercy, in the place of the dark impersonal fate of the Greek drama.
A comparison between the Apocalypse and the pseudo-apocalyptic Jewish and Christian literature—the Fourth Book of Esdras, the Book of Enoch, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Apocalypse of Baruch, the Sibylline Oracles, etc.—opens a wide field on which we cannot enter without passing far beyond the limits of this work. We may only say that the relation is the "same as that between the canonical Gospels and the apocryphal pseudo-Gospels, between real history and the dreamland of fable, between the truth of God and the fiction of man.
The theme of the Apocalypse is: "I come quickly," and the proper attitude of the church toward it is the holy longing of a bride for her spouse, as expressed in the response (22 : 20):
"Amen: come, Lord Jesus." It gives us the assurance that Christ is coming in every great event, and rules and overrules all things for the ultimate triumph of his kingdom; that the state of the church on earth is one of continual conflict with hostile powers, but that she is continually gaining victories and will at last completely and finally triumph over all her foes and enjoy unspeakable bliss in communion with her Lord.
From the concluding chapters Christian poetry has drawn rich inspiration, and the choicest hymns on the heavenly home of the saints are echoes of John's description of the new Jerusalem. The whole atmosphere of the book is bracing, and makes one feel fearless and hopeful, in the face of the devil and the beasts from the abyss. The Gospels lay the foundation in faith, the Acts and Epistles build upon it a holy life; the Apocalypse is the book of hope to the struggling Christian and the militant church, and insures final victory and rest. This has been its mission; this will be its- mission till the Lord come in his own good time.
Analysis or Contents
The Apocalypse consists of a Prologue, the Revelation proper; and an Epilogue. We may compare this arrangement to that of the Fourth Gospel where ch. 1:1-18 forms the Prologue, ch. 21 the Epilogue, and the intervening chapters contain the evangelical history from the gathering of the disciples to the Resurrection.
I. The Prologue and the Epistles to the Seven Churches, chs. 1-3. The introductory notice; John's salutation and dedication to the Seven Churches in Asia; the vision of Christ in his glory, and the Seven Churches; the Seven Epistles addressed to them and through them to the whole church; in its various states.
II. The Revelation proper or the Prophetic Vision of the Church of the Future, 4:1 to 22: 5. It consists chiefly of Seven Visions, which are again subdivided according to a symmetrical plan in which the numbers seven, three, four, and twelve are used with symbolic significance. There are intervening scenes of rest and triumph. Sometimes the vision goes back to the beginning and takes a new departure.
(1) The Prelude in heaven, chs. 4 and 5. (a) The appearance of the throne of God (ch. 4). (b) The appearance'of the Lamb who takes and opens the sealed book (ch. 5).
(2) The vision of the seven seals, with two episodes between the sixth and seventh seals, 6 :1 to 8 :1.
• (3) The vision of the seven trumpets of vengeance, 8:2 to 11:19.
(4) The vision of the woman (the church) and her three enemies, 12:1 to 13 :18. The three enemies are the dragon (12 : 3-17), the beast from the sea (12:18 to 13:10), and the beast from the earth,,or the false prophet(13:11-18).(5) The group of visions, in ch. 14: (a) the vision of the Lamb on Mount Zion (vers. 1-5); (b) of the three angels of judgment (vers. 6-11), followed by an episode, (12, 13); (c) the vision of the harvest and the vintage of the earth (vers. 14-20).
(6) The vision of the seven vials of wrath, 15:1 to 16:21.
(7) The vision of the final triumph, 17:1 to 22 : 5: (a) the fall of Babylon (17:1 to 19:10); (b) the overthrow of Satan (19:11 to 20:10), with the millennial reign intervening (20:1-6); (c) the universal judgment (20:11-15); (d) the new heavens and the new earth, and the glories of the heavenly Jerusalem (21:1 to 22 5).
III. The Epilogue, 22: 6-21. The divine attestation, threats, and promises.
Authorship and Canonicity
The question of authorship has already been discussed in connection with John's Gospel. The Apocalypse professes to be the work of John,, who assumes a commanding, position over the churches of Asia. History knows only one such character, the Apostle and Evangelist, and to him it is ascribed by the earliest and most trustworthy witnesses, going back to the lifetime of many friends and pupils of the author. It is one of the best authenticated books of the New Testiment.
And yet,, owing to its enigmatical obscurity, it is the most disputed of the seven Antilegomena; and this internal difficulty has suggested the hypothesis of the authorship of "Presbyter John" whose very existenee is doubtful (being based on a somewhat obscure passage of Papias), and who at all events could not occupy a rival position of superintendency over the churches in Asia during the lifetime, of the great John. The Apocalypse was a stumbling-block to the spiritualism of the Alexandrian fathers, and to the realism of the Reformers (at least Luther and Zwingli), and to not a few of eminent modern divines; and yet it has attracted again and again the most intense curiosity and engaged the most patient study of devout scholars, while humble Christians, of every age are cheered by its heroic tone and magnificent close in their pilgrimage; to the heavenly Jerusalem. Rejected by many as un-apostolic and uncanonical, and assigned to a mythical Presbyter John, it is now recognized by the severest school of critics as an undoubted production of the historical Apostle John.
If so, it challenges for this reason alone our profound reverence. For who was better fitted to be the historian of the past and the seer of the future than the bosom-friend of our Lord and Saviour? Able scholars, rationalistic, as well as orthodox, have by thorough and patient investigation discovered or fully confirmed its poetic beauty and grandeur, the Consummate art in its plan and execution. They have indeed not been able to clear up all the mysteries of this book, but have strengthened rather than weakened its claim to the position, which it has ever occupied in the canon of the New Testament.
It is true, the sceptical critics who so confidently vindicate the apostolic origin of the Apocalypse, derive from this very fact their strongest weapon against the apostolic origin of the fourth Gospel. But the differences of language and spirit which have been urged are by no means irreconcilable, and are overruled by stronger resemblances in the theology and christology and even in the style of the two books. A proper estimate of John's character enables us to see that he was not only able, but eminently fitted to write both; especially if we take into consideration the intervening distance of twenty or thirty years, the difference of the subject (prospective prophecy in one, and retrospective history in the other), and the difference of the state-of mind, now borne along in ecstacy from vision to vision and recording what the Spirit dictated, now calmly collecting his reminiscences in full, clear self-consciousness.
The Time of Composition
The traditional date of composition: at the end of Domitian's reign (95 or 96) rests on the clear and weighty testimony of Irenseus, is confirmed by Eusebius and Jerome, and has still its learned defenders, but the internal evidence strongly favors an earlier date between the death of Nero (June 9, 68) and the destruction of Jerusalem (August 10, 70). This helps us at the same time more easily to explain the difference between the fiery energy of the Apocalypse and the calm repose of the fourth Gospel, which was composed in extreme old age. The Apocalypse forms the natural transition from the Synoptic Gospels to the fourth Gospel. The condition of the Seven Churches was indeed different from that which existed a few years before when Paul wrote to the Ephesians; but the movement in the apostolic age was very rapid. Six or seven years intervened to account for the changes. The Epistle to the Hebrews implies a similar spiritual decline among its readers in 63 Or 64. Great revivals of religion are very apt to be quickly followed by a reaction of worldliness or indifference.
The arguments for the early date are the following:
1. Jerusalem was still standing, and the seer was directed to measure the Temple and the altar (11:1), but the destruction is predicted as approaching.
(ALBERT BARNES IN HIS COMMENTARY GIVES THE ANSWER TO THIS ARGUMENT - Keith Hunt)
The Gentiles "shall tread the holy city under foot forty and two months," (11: 2; comp. Luke 21:24), and the "dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified " (ver. 8). The existence of the twelve tribes seems also to be assumed in ch. 7: 4-8.
(THE 12 TRIBES DO EXIST TODAY, AND SO DOES JERUSALEM - ARGUMENT NOT UPHELD - Keith Hunt)
The advocates of the traditional date understand these passages in a figurative sense. But the allusion,, to the crucifixion compels us to think of
the historical Jerusalem.
(NO PROBLEM, THE LITERAL CITY OF JERUSALEM
IS MEANT - ARGUMENT NOT UPHELD - Keith Hunt)
2. The hook was written not long after the death of the fifth Roman emperor, that is Nero, when the empire had received a deadly wound (comp. 13:3, 12,14). This is the natural interpretation of ch. 17: 10, where it is stated that the seven heads of the scarlet-colored beast, i.e., heathen Rome, "are seven kings; the five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come, and when he cometh, he must continue a little while." The first five emperors were Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, with whom the gens Julia, ingloriously perished. Next came Galba, a mere usurper (seventy-three years old), who ruled but a short time, from June, 68, to January, 69, and was followed by two other usurpers, Otho and Vitellius, till Vespasian, in 70, restored the empire after an interregnum of two years, and left the completion of the conquest of the Jews' and the destruction of Jerusalem to his son Titus. Vespasian may therefore be regarded as the sixth head; the three rebels not being counted; and thus the composition of the Apocalypse would fall in the spring (perhaps Easter) of the year 70. This is confirmed by 13:3,12,14, where the deadly wound of the beast is represented as being already healed. But if the usurpers are counted, Gralba is the sixth head, and the Revelation was written in 68. In either case Julius Caesar must be excluded from the series of emperors (contrary to Josephus).
(AGAIN NOT SO. THE INTERPRETATION ABOVE IS ALL INCORRECT. SEE MY STUDY CALLED "THE BEASTS OF DANIEL AND REVELATION" - HENCE THE ARGUMENT DOES NOT HOLD - Keith Hunt)
Several critics refer the seventh head to Nero, and ascribe to the seer the silly expectation of the return of Nero as Antichrist. In this way they understand the passage 17:11: "The beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth and is of the seven." But John makes a clear distinction between the heads of the beast, of whom Nero was one, and the beast itself, which is the Roman empire. I consider it simply impossible that John could have shared in the heathen delusion of Hero redivivus, which would deprive him of all credit as an inspired prophet. He may have regarded Nero as a fit type and forerunner of Antichrist, but only in the figurative sense in which Babylon of old was the type of heathen Rome.
(AGAIN NONE OF THIS IS CORRECT AS OF NERO BEING IN THIS PROPHECY AT ALL. THE BOOK OF REVELATION IS FOR THE LAST 42 MONTHS OF THIS AGE BEFORE JESUS RETURNS TO EARTH - Keith Hunt)
3. The early date is best suited for the nature and object of the Apocalypse, and facilitates its historical understanding. Christ pointed in his eschatologieal discourses to the destruction of Jerusalem and the preceding tribulation as the great crisis in the history of the theocracy and the type of the judgment of the world. And there never was a more alarming state of society. The horrors of the French. Revolution were confined to one country, but the tribulation of the six years preceding the destruction of Jerusalem extended over the whole Roman empire and embraced wars and rebellions, frequent and unusual conflagrations, earthquakes and famines and plagues, and all sorts of public calamities and miseries untold. It seemed, indeed, that the world, shaken to its very centre, was coming to a close, and every Christian must have felt that the prophecies of Christ were being fulfilled before his eyes. It was at this unique juncture in the history of mankind that St. John, with the consuming fire in Rome and the infernal spectacle of the Neronian persecution behind him, the terrors of the Jewish war and the Roman interregnum around him, and the catastrophe of Jerusalem and the Jewish theocracy beforerhim, received those wonderful visions of the impending conflicts and final triumphs of the Christian church. His was truly a book of the times and for the times, and administered to the peseeuted brethren the one but allsufncienfr consolation.
(NOT AT ALL SO! JUST ABOUT EVERY SCHOLAR TODAY AGREES THE BOOK OF REVELATION WAS WRITTEN NOT AROUND 70 A.D. BUT IN THE LAST YEARS OF JOHN'S
LIFE --- ABOUT 95 A.D. IT IS A BOOK FOR THE LAST 42
MONTHS OF THIS AGE, AND ESPECIALLY FOR THE "DAY
OF THE LORD" - THE LAST YEAR OF THIS AGE, AND THE
RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST TO RULE THE WORLD - Keith Hunt)
The different interpretations are reduced by English writers to three systems according as the fulfilment of the prophecy is found in the past, present, or future.
1. The Preterist system applies the Revelation, to the destruction of Jerusalem and heathen Rome. So among Roman Catholics: Alcasar (1614), Bossuet (1690). Among Protestants: Hugo Grotius (1644), Hammond (1653), Clericus (1698), Wetstein (1752), Abauzit, Herder, Eiehhorn, Ewald, Lucke, Bleek, DeWette, Reuss, Renan, F. D. Maurice, Samuel Davidson, Moses Stuart, Cowles, Desprez, etc. Some refer it chiefly to the overthrow of the Jewish theocracy others chiefly to the conflict with the Roman empire, still others to both.
But there is a radical difference between those Preterists who acknowledge a real prophecy and
permanent truth in the book and the rationalistic Preterists who regard it as a dream of a
visionary which was falsified by events, inasmuch as Jerusalem,
instead of becoming the habitation of saints, remained a heap of
ruins, while Rome, after the overthrow of heathenism, became the metropolis of Latin Christendom. This view rests on a literal misunderstanding of Jerusalem.
2. The Continuous (or Historical) system: The Apocalypse is a prophetic compend of church history and covers all Christian centuries to the final consummation. It speaks of things past, present, and future; some of its prophecies are fulfilled, some are now being fulfilled, and others await fulfilment in the yet unknown future. Here belong the great majority of orthodox Protestant commentators and polemics who apply the beast and the mystic Babylon and the mother of harlots drunken with the blood of saints to the church of Rome, either exclusively or chiefly. But they differ widely among themselves in chronology and the application of details. Luther, Bullinger, Col-lado, Pareus, Brightman, Mede, Robert Fleming, Winston, Vitringa, Bengel, Isaac Newton, Bishop Newton, Faber, "Woodhouse, Elliott, Birks, Gaussen, Auberlen, Hengstenberg, Alford, Wordsworth, Lee.
3. The Futurist system: The events of the Apocalypse from ch. 4 to the close lie beyond the second advent of Christ. This scheme usually adopts a literal interpretation of Israel, the Temple, and the numbers (the 3 and 1/2 times, 42 months, 1260 days, 3 and 1/2 years). So Pibera (a Jesuit, 1592), Laeunza (another Jesuit, who wrote under the name of Ben-Ezra "On the coming of Messiah in glory and majesty," and taught the premillennial advent, the literal restoration of the ancient Zion, and the future apostasy of the clergy of the Poman church to the camp of Antichrist), S. E. Maitland, De Burgh, Todd, Isaac Williams, W. Kelly.
Another important division of historical interpreters is into Post-Millenkaeians and Pbe-Millenttakiasts, according as the millennium predicted in ch. 20 is regarded as past or future.
(THIS IS THE CORRECT WAY TO UNDERSTAND REVELATION. IT IS INDEED TO DO WITH THE LAST 42 MONTHS OF THIS AGE. THE RISE OF THE LAST HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE. THE TIME WHEN NO FLESH WOULD BE SAVED ALIVE, UNLESS JESUS RETURNS TO STOP THE NATIONS DESTROYING THE EARTH. IT IS MAINLY TO DO WITH THE "DAY OF GOD'S WRATH" OR "DAY OF THE LORD" - THE LAST YEAR OR SO OF THIS AGE, AND THE RETURN OF CHRIST TO RULE FOR 1,000 YEARS - Keith Hunt)
Another important division of historical interpretation is into Post-millenniumism and Pre-millenniumism, according as the millennium predicted in ch. 20 is regarded as past or future. Augristin committed the radical error of dating the millennium from the time of the Apocalypse or the beginning of the
Christian era (although the seer mentioned it near the end of
his book), and his view had great influence; hence the wide expectation of the end of the world at the close of the first millennium of the Christian church. Other post-millennarian interpreters date the millennium from the triumph of Christianity over paganism in Rome at the accession of Constantine
the Great (311); still others (as Hengstenberg) from the conversion of the Germanic nations or the age of Charlemagne. All these calculations are refuted by events. The millennium of the Apocalypse must lie in the future, and is still an article of hope.
(INDEED THE WONDERFUL MILLENNIUM AGE IS YET TO COME - Keith Hunt)
The grammatical and historical interpretation of the Apocalypse, as well as of any other book, is the only safe foundation for all legitimate spiritual and practical application. Much has been done in this direction by the learned commentators of recent times. We must explain it from the standpoint of the author and in view of his surroundings. He wrote out of his time and for his time of "things which must shortly come to pass (1:1,3; 22:20), and he wished to be read and understood. by his contemporaries (1:3). Otherwise he would have written in vain, and the solemn warning at the close (22:18,19) would be unintelligible. In some respects they could understand him better than we; for they were fellow-sufferers of the fiery perseeutions and witnesses of the fearful judgments described. Undoubtedly he had in view primarily the overthrow of Jemsalem and heathen Rome, the two great foes of Christianity at that time. He could not possibly ignore that great conflict.
(WRONG AGAIN. FOR IN THE BOOK, EVEN AT THE END, JESUS SAYS HE IS COMING SHORTLY, COMING QUICKLY - CHAPTER 22:20. OBVIOUSLY JESUS DID NOT COME IN THE TIME OF JOHN'S WRITING, NOT EVEN SHORTLY AFTER. SO THE BOOK IS AN EVER LIVING BOOK, MEANT FOR THOSE WHO WILL BE LIVING WHEN ALL THE PROPHECIES IN THE BOOK COME TO PASS. GOD DOES NOT VIEW TIME AS WE DO. A THOUSAND YEARS TO HIM IS LESS THAN THE MILLIONTH OF THE BLINKING OF THE EYE - Keith Hunt)
But his vision, was not confined to these momentous events. It extends even to the remotest future when death and Hades shall, b. no more, and a new heaven and a new earth shall appear. And although the fulfilment is predicted as being near at hand, he puts a millennium and a short intervening conflict before the final overthrow of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet. We have an analogy in the prophecy of the Old Testament and the eschatalogieal discourses of our Lord, which furnish the key for the understanding of the Apocalypse. He describes the destruction of Jerusalem and the genera judgment in close proximity, as if they were one continuous event. He sees the end from the beginning. The first catastrophe is painted with colors borrowed from the last, and the last appears as a repetition of the first on a grand and universal scale. It is the manner of prophetic vision to bring distant events into close proximity, as in a panorama. To God a thousand years are as one day. Every true prophecy, moreover, admits of an expanding fulfilment. History ever repeats itself, though never in the same way. There is nothing old under the sun, and, in another sense, there is nothing new under the sun. In the historical interpretation of details we must guard against arbitrary and fanciful schemes, and mathematical calculations, which minister to idle curiosity, belittle the book, and create distrust in sober minds. The Apocalypse is not a prophetical manual of church, history and chronology in the sense of a prediction of particular persons, dates, and events. This would have made it useless to the first readers, and would make it useless now to the great mass of Christians.
It gives under symbolic figures and for popular edification an outline of the general principles of divine government and the leading forces in the conflict between Christ's kingdom and his foes, which is still going on under ever-varying forms. In this way it teaches, like all the prophetic utterances of the Gospels and Epistles, lessons of warning and encouragement to every age. We. must distinguish between the spiritual coming, of Christ and his personal arrival or parousia. The former is progressive, the latter instantaneous. The coming, began with his ascension to heaven (comp. Matt..26: 64: "Henceforthye" shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven") and goes on in unbroken succession of judgments and blessings (for the history of the world is a judgment of the-world"); hence the alternation of action and repose, of scenes of terror and scenes of joy, of battles and victories. The arrival of the Bridegroom is still in the unknown future, and may be accelerated or delayed by the free action of the church, but it is as certain as the first advent of Christ The hope of the church will not he disappointed, for it rests on the promise of Him who is called "the Amen, the faithful and true witness " (3 :14).
(I GUESS A WAY OF SAYING THE BOOK OF REVELATION IS INDEED STILL FOR TODAY, AND STILL TO COME TO PASS, WHICH I'VE ALREADY STATED IT IS. I'VE EXPOUNDED THIS BOOK IN DETAIL ON MY WEBSITE, UNDER "THE NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE STORY" - Keith Hunt)
The Numbeb 666.
The historical understanding of the Apocalypse turns, according to its own statement, chiefly on the solution of the numerical riddle in the thirteenth chapter, which has tried the wits of commentators from the time of Irenieus in the second century to the present day, and is still under dispute. The history of its solution is a history of the interpretation of the whole book. Hence I present here a summary of the most important views. First some preliminary remarks.
1. The text, Apoc. 13 : 18 : "Here is wisdom: he that hath under standing, let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man, and the number is six hundred and sixty-six".
This is the correct reading in the Greek text (supported by-Codd. & A, B (2), P (2), Origen, Primasius, and Versions), and is adopted by the best editors. Irenseus [Adv. Hcer. v. 30, quoted also in full by Tischendorf in his edition VIII. critica major] found it "in all the most approved and ancient copies and "attested by those who had themselves seen John face to face." There was, however, in his day, a very remarkable variation, sustained by Cod. C, and "some" copies, known to, but not approved by, Irenseus, namely. In the Anglo-American revision this reading is noted in the margin.
2. "The number of a man" may mean-either the number of an individual, or of a corporate person, or a human number [Mensahenzahl), i.e., a number according to ordinary human reckoning (so Bleek, who compares "the measure of a man," 21:17, and Isa. 8:1). Just because the number may be counted in the customary way, the writer could expect the reader to find it out. He made the solution difficult indeed, but not impossible. Dr. Lee (p. 687) deems it not inconsistent with a proper view of inspiration that John himself did not know the meaning of the number. But how could he then ask his less knowing readers to count the number ?
3. The mystic use of numbers (the rabbinical Ghematria,) was familiar to the Jews in Babylon, and passed from them to the Greeks in Asia. It occurs in the Cabbala, in the Sibylline Books .(I. 324-331), in the Epistle of Barnabas, and was very common also among the Gnostic sects [eg., the Abrasax or Abraxas, which, signified the unbegotten Father, and the three hundred and sixty-five heavens, corresponding to the number of days in the year). It arose from the employment of the letters of the Hebrew and, Greek alphabets for the designation of numbers. The Hebrew Aleph counts 1, Beth 2, etc., Yodh 10 ; but Kaph (the eleventh letter) counts 20, Resh (the twentieth letter) 200, etc. The Greek letters, with the addition of an acute accent (as a, (B), have the same numerical value in their order down to Sigma, which counts 200; except that (st) is used for 6,. and Q for 90. The Hebrew alphabet ends with Tan = 400, the Greek with Omega = 800. To- express thousands an. accent is put beneath the
letter, as. ,a, = 1,000 ; ,B, = 2,000; ,i,= 10,000.
4. On this fact most interpretations of the Apocalyptic puzzle are based. It is urged by Bleek, DeWette, Wieseler, and others, that the number 666 must be deciphered.from the Greelc alphabet, since the book was-written in Greek and for Greek readers, and uses the Greek letters Alpha and Omega repeatedly as a designation of Christ, the Beginning and the End (1:8; .21:6; 22:13). On the other hand, Ewald and Benan, and all who favor the Nero-hypothesis, appeal against this argument to the strongly Hebraistic spirit and coloring of the Apocalypse and the familiarity of its Jewish Christian readers with the Hebrew alphabet. The writer, moreover, may have preferred this for the purpose of partial concealment; just as he substituted Babylon for Rome (comp. 1 Pet. 5:13). But after all, the former view is much more natural. John wrote to churches of Asia Minor, chiefly gathered from Gentile converts who knew no Hebrew. Had he addressed Christians in Palestine, the case might be different.
5. The number 666 (three sixes) must, in itself, be a significant number, if we keep in view the symbolism of numbers which., runs through the whole Apocalypse. It is remarkable that the numerical value of the name Jesus - is 888 (three eights), and exceeds the trinity of the sacred number (777) as much as the number of the beast
falls below it. ;
6. The "beast" coming out of the sea and having seven heads and ten horns (ch. 13:1-10) is the anti-Christian world-power at war with the church of Christ. It is, as in Daniel, an apt image of the brutal nature of the pagan state. It is, when in conflict with the church, the secular or political Antichrist; while "the false prophet," who works signs and deceives, the worshippers of the beast. (16:13; 19:20.; 20:10), is the intellectual and spiritual Antichrist, in close alliance with the former, his high-priest and minister of cultus, so to say, and represents the idolatrous religion which animates and supports the secular imperialism. In wider application, the false prophet may be taken as the personification of all false doctrine and heresy by which the world is led astray. "For as there are "many Antichrists," so there are also many false prophets. The name " "Antichrist," however, never occurs in the Apocalypse, but only in the Epistles of John (five times), and there in the plural in the sense of "false prophets" or heretical teachers, who deny that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (1 John 4: 1-3). Paul designates the Antichrist as "the man of sin," "the son of perdition who opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God " (2 Thess. 2:3, -4). But he seems to look upon the Roman empire as a restraining power which, for a time at least, prevented the full outbreak of the "mystery of lawlessness," then already at work (ver. 6-8). He thus wrote a year or two before the accession of Nero, and sixteen years or more before the composition of the Apocalypse.
(THE RESTRAINING POWER WAS ACTUALLY GOD, HOLDING BACK UNTIL IT ALL SHOULD BE FULFILLED - Keith Hunt)
The beast must refer to heathen Rome and the seven heads to seven emperors. This is evident from the allusion to the "seven mountains," that is, the seven-hilled city on which the woman sits, 17:9. But not a few commentators give it a wider meaning, and understand by the heads as many world-monarchies, including those of Daniel, before Christ, and extending to the last times. So Auberlen, Gaussen, Hengstenberg, Yon Hofmann, Godet, and many English divines.
(IT IS REALLY ABOUT 7 RESURRECTIONS OF THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE, DOWN TO THE LAST ONE AT THE END OF THIS AGE. SEE MY STUDY "THE BEASTS OF DANIEL AND REVELATION" ON MY WEBSITE - Keith Hunt)
7. The numerous interpretations of the mystic number of the beast may be reduced to three classes :
(a) The figures 666 represent the letters composing the name, of a historical power, or of a single man, in conflict with Christ and his church. Here belong the explanations: Latinus, Cassar-Augustus, Nero, and other Roman emperors down to Diocletian. Even such names as Julian the Apostate, Genseric, Mohammed (Maometis), Luther [Martinus Lauterus), Joannes Calvinus, Beza Antitheos, Louis XTV., Napoleon Bonaparte, the Duke of Reichstadt (called " King of Rome "), Napoleon III, have been discovered in the three sixes by a strange kind of imposition.
(b) The number is chronological, and designates the duration of the life of the beast, whether it be heathenism, or Mohammedanism, or popery.
(c) The number is symbolical of Antichrist and the anti-Christian power.
We now proceed to the principal interpretations.
Latinus or the Roman Empire
Lateqtos i.e., the Latin or Roman .....total 666. The Greek form ..... is no valid objection; for ei often represents the Latin long i,..... "the Latin empire," likewise gives the number 666.
This interpretation is the oldest we know of, and is already mentioned by Irenseus, the first among the Fathers who investigated the problem, and who, as a pupil of Polycarp in Smyrna (d. 155), the personal friend of John, deserves special consideration as a witness of traditions from the school of the beloved disciple. He mentions three interpretations, all based on the Greek alphabet, namely .... (which is of no account), .... (which he deems possible), and Teirav, i.e., Titus (which he, upon the whole, prefers), but he abstains from a positive decision, for the reason that the Holy Scripture does not clearly proclaim the name of the beast or Antichrist.
The interpretation Latinus is the only sensible one among the three, and adopted by Hippolytus, Bellarmin, Eichhorn, Bleek, DeWette, Ebrard, Dusterdieck, Alford, Wordsworth, Lee, and others.
Latinus was the name of a king of Latium, but not of any Roman emperor. Hence it must here be taken in a generic sense, and applied to the whole heathen Roman empire.
Here the Roman Catholic divines stop. But many Protestant commentators apply it also, in a secondary sense, to the Latin or papal church as far as it repeated in its persecuting spirit the sins of heathen Rome. The secoad beast which is described, ch. 13:11-17, as coming out of the earth, and having two horns like unto a lamb, and speaking as a dragon, and exercisiag all the authority of the first beast in his sight, is referred to the papacy. The false prophet receives a similar application. So Luther, Vitringa, Bengel, Auberlen, Hengstenberg, Ebrard, and maay English divines.
. Dean Alford advocates this double application in his Commentary. "This name," he says, "describes the common character of the rulers of the former Pagan Eoman Empire — 'Latini sunt qui nunc regnant,' Iren: and, which Irenaeus could not foresee, unites under itself the character of the later Papal Roman Empire also, as revived and kept up by the agency of its false prophet, the priesthood. The Latin Empire, the Latin Church, Latin Christiaaity, have ever been its commonly current appellations: its language, civil and ecclesiastical, has ever been Latin: its public.services, in defiance of the most obvious requisite for public worship, have ever been throughout the world conducted in Latin; there is no one word which could so completely describe its character, and at the same time unite the ancient and modern attributes of the two beasts, as this. Short of saying absolutely that this was the word in St. John's mind I have the strongest persuasion that no other can be found approaching so near to a complete solution."; Bishop Wordsworth gives the same anti-papal interpretation to the beast.....
(SCHAFF GOES ON TO GIVE MORE INTERPRETATIONS OF THE NUMBER 666. BUT TO LIST THEM IS NOT IMPORTANT, FOR THE TRUTH HAS JUST BEEN GIVEN. 666 IS FULLY TIED TO THE ROMAN EMPIRE AND THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. IT WILL BE THE LAST RESURRECTED HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE IN EUROPE THAT WILL RULE THE WESTERN WORLD AT THE END TIME. TO OBEY AND SERVE IT YOU WILL HAVE THE 666 NUMBER. YOU WILL EITHER SERVE THE BABYLON/BEAST POWER OR SERVE GOD'S TRUTH.
ALL FULLY EXPLAINED IN MANY STUDIES ON MY WEBSITE - Keith Hunt)
There is no necessary conflict between faith and criticism any more than between revelation and reason or between faith and philosophy. God is the author of both, and he cannot contradict himself. There is an uncritical faith and a faithless criticism, as there is a genuine philosophy and a philosophy falsely so called; but this is no argument either against faith or criticism; for the best gifts are liable to abuse and perversion; and the noblest works of art may be caricatured. The apostle of faith directs us to "prove all things," and to "hold fast that which is good." We believe in order to understand, and true faith is the mother of knowledge. A rational faith in Christianity, as the best and final religion which God gave to mankind, owes it to itself to examine the foundation on which it rests; and it is urged by an irresistible impulse to vindicate the truth against every form of error. Christianity needs no apology. Conscious of its supernatural strength, it can boldly meet every foe and convert him into an ally. Looking back upon the history of the apostolic age, it appears to us as a vast battle-field of opposite tendencies and schools. Every inch of ground is disputed and has to be reconquered; every fact, as well as every doctrine of revelation, is called in question; every hypothesis is tried; all the resources of learning, acumen, and ingenuity are arrayed against the citadel of the Christian faith. The citadel is impregnable, and victory is certain, but not to those who ignorantly or superciliously underrate the strength of the besieging army. In the sixteenth century the contest was between Roman-Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism; in the nineteenth century the question is Christianity or infidelity. Then both parties believed in the inspiration of the New Testament and the. extent of the canon, differing only in the interpretation; now inspiration is denied, and the apostolicity of all but four or five books is assailed. Then the Word of God, with or without tradition, was the final arbiter of religious controversies; now human reason is the ultimate tribunal.
"We live in an age of discovery, invention, research, and doubt. Scepticism is well nigh omnipresent in the thinking world. It impregnates the atmosphere. We can no more ignore it than the ancient Fathers could ignore the Gnostic speculations of their day. Nothing is taken for granted; nothing believed on mere authority; everything must be supported by adequate proof, everything explained in its natural growth from the seed to the fruit. Roman Catholics believe in an infallible oracle in the Vatican; but whatever the oracle may decree, the earth moves and will continue to move around the sun. Protestants, having safely crossed the Red Sea, cannot go back to the flesh-pots of the land of bondage, but must look forward to the land of promise. In the night, says a proverb, all cattle are black, but the daylight reveals the different colors.
Why did Christ not write the New Testament, as Mohammed wrote the Koran? Writing was not beneath his dignity; he did write once, in the sand, though we know not what. God himself wrote the Ten Commandments on two tables of stone. But Moses broke them to pieces when he saw that the people of Israel worshipped the golden calf before the thunders from Sinai had ceased to reverberate in their ears. They might have turned, those tables into idols. God buried the great law-giver out of sight and out of the reach of idolatry. The gospel was still less intended to be a dumb idol than the law. It is not a killing letter but a lifegiving spirit. It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words of Christ "are spirit and are life." A book written by his own unerring hand, unless protected by a perpetual miracle, would have been subject to .the. same changes and corruptions in the hand of fallible transcribers and printers as the books of his disciples, and the original autograph would have perished with the brittle papyrus. Nor would it have escaped, the unmerciful assaults of sceptical and infidel critics, and misinterpretations, of commentators and preachers. He himself was crucified by the. hierarchy of his own.people, whom he came to save. What better fate could have awaited his book?
Of course it would have risen from the dead, in spite of the doubts and conjectures and falsehoods of unbelieving men; but the same is true of the writings of the apostles, though thousands of copies have been burned by heathens and false Christians. Thomas, might put his hand into the wound-prints of his risen lord; but "Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed."
We must believe in the Holy Spirit - who lives and moves in the Church and is the invisible power behind the written and printed word.
The form in which the authentic records of Christianity have come down to us, with their variations, and difficulties, is a constant stimulus to study and research, and calls into exercise all the intellectual and moral faculties of men. Every one must strive after the best understanding of the truth with a faithful use of his opportunities and privileges, which are multiplying with every generation.
The New Testament is a revelation of spiritual and eternal truth to faith, and faith is the work of the Holy Spirit, though rooted in the deepest wants and aspirations of man. It has to fight its way through an unbelieving world, and the conflict waxes hotter and hotter as the victory comes nearer! For the last half century the apostolic writings have been passing through the purgatory of the most scorching criticism to which a book can be subjected. The opposition is itself a powerful testimony to their vitality and importance.
There are two-kinds of scepticism:
one represented by m Thomas, honest, earnest, seeking and at last finding the truth; the other represented by Sadducees and Pontius Pilate, superficial, worldly, frivolous, indifferent to truth and ending in despair. With the latter "even the gods reason in vain." When it takes the trouble to assail the Bible, it deals in sneers and ridicule which admit of no serious answer. The roots of infidelity lie in the heart and will rather than in the reason and intellect, and wilful opposition to the truth is deaf to any argument. But honest, truth-loving scepticism always deserves regard and sympathy and demands a patient investigation of the real or imaginary difficulties which are involved in the problem of the origin of Christianity. It may be more useful to the church than an unthinking and unreasoning orthodoxy. One of the ablest and purest sceptical critics of the century (DeWette) made the sad, but honorable confession:
. " I lived in times of doubt and strife, .
When childlike faith was forced to yield; I straggled to the end of life, Alas ! I did not gain the field."
But he did gain the field, after all, at last; for a few months before his death he wrote and published this significant sentence: "I know that in no other name can salvation be found, than in the name of Jesus Christ the Crucified, and there is nothing higher for mankind than the divine humanity realized in him, and the kingdom of God planted by him." Blessed are those that seek the truth, for they shall find it.
The critical and historical rationalism which was born and matured in this century in the land of Luther, and has spread in Switzerland, France, Holland, England, Scotland, and America, surpasses in depth and breadth of learning, as well as in earnestness of spirit, all older forms of infidelity and heresy. It is not superficial and frivolous, as the rationalism of the eighteenth century; it is not indifferent to truth, but intensely interested in ascertaining the real facts, and tracing the origin and development of Christianity, as a great historical phenomenon. But it arrogantly claims to be the criticism par excellence, as the Gnosticism of the ancient church pretended to have the monopoly, of knowledge. There is a historical, conservative, and constructive criticism, as well as an unhistorical, radical, and destructive criticism; and the former must win the fight as sure as God's truth will outlast all error. So there is a believing and Christian Gnosticism as well as an unbelieving and anti-(or pseudo-) Christian Gnosticism.
The negative criticism of the present generation has concentrated its forces upon the life of Christ and the apostolic age, and spent an astonishing amount of patient research upon the minutest details, of its history. And its labors have not been in vain; on the contrary it has done a vast amount of good, as well as evil. Its strength lies in the investigation of the human and literary aspect of the Bible; its weakness in the ignoring of its divine and spiritual character. It forms thus the very antipode of the older orthodoxy, which so overstrained the theory of inspiration as to reduce the human agency to the mechanism of the pen. We must look at both aspects. The Bible is the Word of God and the word of holy men of old. It is a revelation of man, as well as of God. It reveals man in all his phases of development—innocence, fall, redemption—in all the varieties, of character, from heavenly purity to satanic wickedness, with all his virtues and vices, in all his states of experience, and is an ever-flowing spring of inspiration to the poet, the artist, the historian, and divine. It reflects and perpetuates the mystery of the incarnation. It is the word of him who proclaimed himself the Son of Man, as well as the Son of God. "Men spake from God, being moved, by the Holy Spirit." Here all is divine and all-is human.
No doubt the New Testament is the result of a gradual growth and conflict, of different forces, which were included in the original idea of Christianity and, were drawn out as it passed from
Christ to his,disciples, from the Jews to the Gentiles, from Jerusalem to Antioeh and Rome, and as it matured in the mind of the leading apostles. No doubt, the Gospels and Epistles were written by certain men, at a certain time, in a certain place, under certain surroundings, and for definite ends; and all these questions are legitimate objects of inquiry and eminently deserving of ever-renewed investigation. Many obscure points have been cleared up, thanks, in part, to these very critics, who intended to destroy, and helped to build up,
The literary history of the apostolic age, like its missionary progress, was guided by a special providence. Christ only finished a part of his work while on earth. He pointed his disciples to greater works, which they would accomplish in his name and by his power, after his resurrection. He promised them his unbroken presence, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, who, as the other Advocate, should lead them into the whole truth and open to them the understanding of all his words. The Acts of the Apostles are a history of the Holy Spirit, or of the post-resurrection work of Christ in establishing his kingdom on earth. Filled with that Spirit, the apostles and evangelists went forth into a hostile world and converted it to Christ by their living word, and they continue their conquering march by their written word.
Unbelieving criticism sees only the outside surface of the greatest movement in history, and is blind to the spiritual forces working from within or refuses to acknowledge them as truly divine. In like manner, the materialistic and atheistic scientists of the age conceive of nature's laws without a lawgiver; of a creature without a creator; and stop with the effect, without rising to the cause, which alone affords a rational explanation of the effect.
And here we touch upon the deepest spring of all forms of rationalism, and upon the gulf which inseparably divides it from supernaturalism. It is the opposition to the supernatural and the miraculous. It denies God in nature and God in history, and in its ultimate consequences, it denies the very existence of God. Deism and atheism have no place for a miracle; but belief in the existence of an Almighty Maker of all things visible and invisible, as the ultimate and all-sufficient cause of all phenomena in nature and in history, implies the possibility of miracle at any time; not, indeed, as a violation of his own laws, but as a manifestation of his lawgiving and creative power over and above (not against) the regular order of events. The reality of the miracle, in any particular case, then, becomes a matter of historical investigation. It cannot be disposed of by a simple denial from a priori, philosophical prejudice; but must be fairly examined, and, if sufficiently corroborated by external and internal evidence, it must be admitted.
Now, the miracles of Christ cannot be separated from his person and his teachings. His words are as marvellous as his deeds; both form a harmonious whole, and they stand or fall together. His person is the great miracle, and his miracles are simply his natural works. He is as much elevated above other men as his words and deeds are above ordinary words and deeds. He is separated from all mortals by his absolute freedom from sin. He, himself, claims superhuman origin and supernatural powers; and to deny them is to make him a liar and impostor. It is impossible to maintain his human perfection, which all respectable rationalists admit and even emphasize, and yet to refuse his testimony concerning himself. The Christ of Strauss and of Renan is the most contradictory of all characters; the most incredible of all enigmas. There is no possible scientific mediation between a purely humanitarian conception of Christ, no matter how high he may-be raised in the scale of beings, and the faith in Christ, as the Son of God, whom Christendom has adored from the beginning and still adores as the Lord and Saviour of the world.
Nor can we eliminate the supernatural element from the Apostolic Church without destroying its very life and resolving it into a gigantic illusion. What becomes of Paul if we deny his conversion, and how shall we account for his conversion without the Resurrection and Ascension? The greatest of modern sceptics paused at the problem, and felt almost forced to admit an actual miracle, as the only rational solution of that conversion. The Holy Spirit was the inspiring and propelling power of the apostolic age, and made the fishers of Gralilee fishers of men.
A Christian, who has experienced the power of the gospel in his hearty can have no difficulty with the supernatural. He is as sure of the regenerating and converting agency of the Spirit of God and the saving efficacy of Christ as he is of his own natural existence. He has tasted the medicine and has been healed. He may say with the man who was born blind and made to see: "One thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." This is a short creed; but stronger than any argument. The fortress of personal experience is impregnable; the logic of stubborn facts is more cogent than the logic of reason. Every genuine conversion from sin to holiness is a psychological miracle, as much so as the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.
The secret or open hostility to the supernatural is the moving spring of infidel criticism: We may freely adimt that certain difficulties about the time and place of composition and other minor details of the Gospels and Epistles are not and perhaps never can be, satisfactorily solved; but it is, nevertheless, true that they are far better authenticated by internal and external evidence than any books of the great Greek and Roman clas-sics, or of Philo and Josephus, which are accepted by scholars without a doubt. As early as the middle of the second century, that is, fifty years after the death of the Apostle John, when yet many of his personal pupils and friends must have been living, the four Canonical Gospels, more and no less, were recognized and read in public worship as sacred books. In the churches of Syria, Asia Minor, Egypt, Italy, and Gaul; and such universal acceptance and authority; in the face of Jewish and heathen hostility and heretical perversion can only be explained on the ground that they were known and used long before. Some of them - Matthew and John, were quoted and used in the first quarter of the second century by Orthodox and Gnostic-Writers. Every new discovery, as the last book of the pseudo-"Clementine Homilies," the "Philosophumena" of Hippolytus, the ""Diatessaron" of Tatian, and every deeper investigation of the "Gospel Memoirs" of Justin Martyr, and the "Gospel" of Marcion in its relation to Luke, have strengthened the cause of historical and conservative criticism and inflicted bleeding wounds on destructive criticism. If quotations from the end of the first and the beginning of the second century are very rare, we must remember that we have, only a handful of literary documents from that period, and that the second generation of Christians was not a race of scholars and scribes and critics, but of humble, illiterate confessors and martyrs, who still breathed the bracing air of the living teaching, and personal reminiscences of the apostles and evangelists.
But the Synoptical Gospels bear the strongest internal marks of having been composed before the destruction of Jerusalem (a.d. 70), which is therein prophesied by Christ as a future event and as the sign of the fast approaching judgment of the world, in a manner that is consistent only with such early composition. The Epistle to the Hebrews, likewise, was written when the Temple was still standing, and sacrifices were offered from day to day. Yet, as this early date is not conceded by all, we will leave the Epistle out of view. The Apocalypse of John is very confidently assigned to the year 68 or 69 by Baur, Renan, and others, who would put the Gospels down to a much later date.
(THE TRUTH IS ADMITTED BY NEARLY ALL TODAY TO BE WRITTEN ABOUT 95 A.D. - Keith Hunt)
They also concede the Pauline authorship of the great anti-Judaic Epistles to the Galatians, Romans, and Corinthians, and make them the very basis of their assaults upon the minor Pauline Epistles and the Acts of the Apostles, on the ground of exaggerated or purely imaginary differences. Those Epistles of Paul were written twelve or fourteen years before the destruction of Jerusalem. This brings us within less than thirty years of the resurrection of Christ and the birthday of the church. Now, if we confine ourselves to these five books, which the most exacting, and rigorous criticism admits to be apostolic— the four Pauline Epistles and the Apocalypse—they alone are sufficient to establish the foundation of historical faith; for they confirm by direct statement or allusion every important fact and doctrine in the gospel history, without referring to the written Gospels. The memory and personal experience of the writers—Paul and John—goes back to the vision of Damascus, to the scenes of the Resurrection and Crucifixion, and the first call of the disciples on the banks of the Jordan and the- shores of the Lake of Galilee. Criticism must first reason Paul and John out of history, or deny that they ever wrote a line, before it can expect sensible men to surrender a single chapter of the Gospels.
Strong as the external evidence is, the internal evidence of the truth and credibility of the apostolic writings is still stronger, and may be felt to this day by the unlearned as well as the scholar. They widely differ in style and spirit from all post-apostolic productions, and occupy a conspicuous isolation even among the best of books. This position they have occupied for eighteen centuries among the most civilized nations of the globe; and from this position they are not likely to be deposed.
We must interpret persons and events not only by themsleves but also in the light of subsequent history. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Christianity can stand this test better than any other religion, and better than any system of philosophy.
Taking our position at the close of the apostolic age, and looking back to its fountain-head and forward to succeeding generations, we cannot but be amazed at the magnitude of the effects produced by the brief public ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, which sends its blessings through centuries as an unbroken and ever-expanding river of life. There is absolutely nothing like it in the annals of the race. The Roman empire embraced, at the birth of Christ, over one hundred millions of men, conquered by force, and, after having persecuted his religion, for three hundred years, it died away, without the possibility of a resurrection. The Christian church now numbers four hundred millions, conquered by the love of Christ, and is constantly increasing.
(WELLLL.....NOT TRUE CHRISTIANITY. JESUS SAID HIS TRUE FOLLOWERS WOULD BE THE "VERY LITTLE FLOCK" AND THE SALT OF THE EARTH.....IT'S THE FALSE CHRISTIANITY, THE CHURCH OF ROME AND HER MANY DAUGHTERS, THAT HAS BECOME THE ONE AND A HALF BILLION ON EARTH TODAY - Keith Hunt)
The first century is the life and light of history and the turning point of the ages. If ever God revealed himself to man, if ever heaven appeared on earth, it was in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. He is, beyond any shadow of doubt, and by the reluctant consent of sceptics and infidels, the wisest of the wise, the purest of the pure, and the mightiest of the mighty. His Cross has become the tree of life to all nations; his teaching is still the highest standard of religious truth; his example the unsurpassed ideal of holiness; the Gospels and Epistles of his Galilean disciples are still the book of books, more powerful than all the classics of human wisdom and genius. No book has attracted so much attention, provoked so much opposition, outlived so many persecutions, called forth so much reverence and gratitude, inspired so many noble thoughts and deeds, administered so much comfort and peace from the cradle to the grave to all classes and conditions of men. It is more than a book; it is an institution, an all-pervading omnipresent force, a converting, sanctifying, transforming agency; it rules from the pulpit and the chair; it presides at the family altar; it is the sacred ark of every household, the written conscience of every Christian man, the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of light by night in the pilgrimage of life. Mankind is bad enough, and human life dark enough with it; but how much worse and how much darker would they be without it?
Christianity might live without the letter of the New Testament, but not without the facts and truths which it records and teaches. Were it possible to banish them from the world, the sun of our civilization would be extinguished, and mankind left to midnight darkness, with the dreary prospect of a dreamless and endless Nirvana.
But no power on earth or in hell can extinguish that sun. There it shines on the horizon, the king of day, obscured at times by clouds great or small, but breaking through again and again, and shedding light and life from east to west, until the darkest corners of the globe shall be illuminated. The past is secure; God will take care of the future.
TO ALL [EXCEPT WHERE I COMMENTED] I WILL SAY AMEN TO WHAT PHILIP SCHAFF HAS JUST SAID.
THERE IS A GOD; HE DOES HAVE HIS WORD PRESERVED FOR US. AND THE SON OF GOD, CHRIST JESUS SAID, "MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD OF GOD."
ARE YOU WANTING TO LIVE LIKE THAT? DO YOU LOVE THE LORD GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, MIND, AND LIFE, THAT YOU DESIRE TO LIVE BY HIS EVERY WORD - FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION? I PRAY YOU DO.
AND YOU MAY THEN HAVE A QUESTION: "HOW DO I LIVE BY EVERY WORD OF GOD?"
ON MY WEBSITE YOU WILL FIND A LARGE STUDY TO HELP YOU. IT IS CALLED "LIVING BY EVERY WORD OF GOD - HOW?"