April 21, 2010
The complete fifth edition of E. B. Elliott’s Horae Apocalypticae is now available in PDF format on the Harvest Herald site.
Be warned, this is a large file (189 meg) and may take a while to download.
This PDF edition was created from high quality scans made available at archive.org. It contains extensive bookmarking, and a pdf pagination scheme which corresponds with the original page numbers making it easy to quickly jump to any page throughout the four volumes. Also included are all of the original ‘plate’ illustrations, plus the apocalyptic chart. Extensive hyperlinking of the comprehensive index is underway but is not complete at this time.
Horae Apocalypticae is an eschatological study written by Edward Bishop Elliott. The book is, as its long-title sets out, “A commentary on the apocalypse, critical and historical; including also an examination of the chief prophecies of Daniel illustrated by an apocalyptic chart, and engravings from medals and other extant monuments of antiquity with appendices, containing, besides other matter, a sketch of the history of apocalyptic interpretation, the chief apocalyptic counter-schemes and indices.”
“Horae Apocalypticae (Hours with the Apocalypse) is doubtless the most elaborate work ever produced on the Apocalypse. Without an equal in exhaustive research in its field, it was occasioned by the futurist attack on the Historical School of interpretation. Begun in 1837, its 2,500 pages are buttressed by some 10,000 invaluable references to ancient and modern works. It ran through five editions (1844, 1846, 1847, 1851 and 1862).”
For those who may not be familiar with this work, Eliott’s Horae Apocalypticae is the greatest, most detailed, and most scholarly exposition on the Book of Revelation ever written from the historicist perspective of interpretation. Sadly, it was also to be the last of its kind. Beginning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the historicist approach to the Apocalypse was increasingly abandoned as the futurist school of interpretation gained popularity.
While I do not agree with all of Elliott’s conclusions, it’s hard for me to believe that some of the interpretations brought to light in this work could have ever fallen out of favor.
His masterful exposition of the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments (Revelation 9), representing the invasions of Western Christendom by the Saracens and the Turks respectively, is absolutely jaw-dropping. I remember vividly the first time I read it. Why had I never heard this information before? Why in all my years as a Christian had I never been shown this interpretation by those who professed to be Bible teachers? If this could not convince a skeptic of the divine inspiration of the Apocalypse then nothing could. Here, it seemed, was proof, absolute proof that God had revealed history beforehand. How could something so profound and so obviously true have been lost in favor of the wild speculations and sensationalist fantasies that pass for ‘prophetic teaching’ in our day?
Most Christians have never even heard of this work, much less read it. It’s nearly impossible to find anywhere except in the libraries of theological seminaries. I present it here as a link to the past and a reminder of the height from which we have fallen.
April 20, 2010
Among the first questions they attempt to answer is: ‘What happens to people who never hear the Gospel?’ That’s a great question. When I click the link I get an article entitled ‘What happens to those who’ve never heard of Jesus?’. That’s an even better question because it’s more specific; after all the gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ.
The problem is that the article never answers the question! Instead we get this:
In order to be saved, a person must have faith in God. How can someone who’s never heard of God believe in him? The answer is that God has planned things so that everyone has access to some knowledge of him, through nature and conscience as well as other means. (emphasis mine)
This is simply sleight of hand. ‘How can someone who’s never heard of GOD believe in him?’, is an entirely different question than asking ‘What about those who’ve never heard of JESUS?’ or even ‘What about those who’ve never heard the GOSPEL?’
Ask the average Christian if anyone can be saved apart from the Gospel and faith in Jesus . If they are scriptural they will answer in the negative. The Bible is clear:
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. ” (John 14:6)
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. ” (Acts 4:12)
No one will ever be saved apart from the gospel and faith in Jesus Christ, so asking ‘What happens to those who’ve never heard of Jesus?’ is a perfectly legitimate and appropriate question. But the article never answers that question. Instead it immediately substitutes an entirely different question; ‘What about those who’ve never heard of GOD?’, and answers:
‘The answer is that God has planned things so that everyone has access to some knowledge of him, through nature and conscience as well as other means.’
But how does this answer the real question; ‘What about those who’ve never heard of JESUS?’ Does the writer of this article believe that the person who by ‘nature, conscience, or some other means’ comes to believe in GOD can actually be saved by such belief? If not then the question is irrelevant and the answer of no value in answering the real question: ‘What about those who’ve never heard of JESUS?’
Jesus himself said:
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. ” (John 17:3)
One may believe that everyone is given enough light via conscience or nature to believe in God, but that’s not the issue. Instead we have to ask, Does God give to everyone enough light to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, the only name given whereby they can be saved?
It’s easy to see why many Christians avoid this question, and why it’s so often raised as an objection to the faith. Billions of people have lived and died on this planet without having ever heard of Jesus, much less having come to a saving faith in him. It makes no difference whatsoever whether or not these people believed in GOD. What about those who’ve never heard of JESUS? One cannot hope to satisfy the skeptics who ask this question by providing the answer to a completely different and wholly irrelevant question.
Does christianity have any meaningful way of answering this question without obscuring the main issue? Well, if by ‘christianity’ we mean that which passes for ‘orthodoxy’, whether Catholic or Protestant, then probably not. But the Bible does provide a direct and unambiguous answer.
What about those who’ve never heard of Jesus? THEY WILL HEAR.
To be continued…
April 18, 2010
We all know what the Bible teaches about hell. Or Do we?
Most Christians believe that hell is the place where the unsaved will be tormented in flames for all eternity. They firmly believe that this teaching comes straight from the Bible and that the greatest teacher on this subject is Jesus himself. After all, it was Jesus who said:
“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. ” (Matthew 5:22, KJV)
But what exactly is this ‘hell’ Jesus spoke of? Are you sure you know?
The Greek word which has here been translated ‘hell’ is gehenna. But when I study this Greek word, this is what I find:
1) The word literally means ‘The Valley of the Sons of Hinnom“. This is a literal place in Jerusalem referenced many times in the Old Testament – you can go visit it today if you’d like.
A red flag immediately goes up. How did the name of a valley in Jerusalem which exists to this day get translated into an English word which stands for a fiery place of eternal punishment in some other place or dimension. I don’t get it, so I keep studying and find out that:
2) According to the Old Testament evil Jewish Kings made this valley a place for idolatry and sacrificed children there to false gods. Later, king Josiah abolished these practices and made the place into the city garbage dump. Fires continually burned there to consume the refuse. This still doesn’t tell me how gehenna turned into ‘hell’ in our English Bibles. So, I keep going…
3) The prophet Jeremiah pronounced curses over the valley and prophesied that because the Jewish nation had abandoned God, he would make the whole nation as the Valley of Hinnom (a burning trash heap). There would be a great slaughter and they would bury their corpses there until there would be no place left to bury (See Jeremiah 19). Surely a somber warning of a horrible judgment which would befall the Jewish nation, but still no information on how this relates to ‘hell’ as we know it. I search in vain through the Old Testament for any information on this place which connects it with a future place of eternal torment.
Now, every student of the Bible should stop right here and consider the significance of this. Jesus never spoke the word ‘hell’. No, he spoke of ‘Gehenna’. Gehenna was a physical place in Jerusalem; a place to which he could point – the audience to which he spoke was familiar with this place. The history of this valley was well known from the Hebrew scriptures. But NONE of that had anything to do with the concept of ‘hell’ as a place of future punishment as we know it.
Consider then that for ‘Gehenna’ your English Bible has inserted an INTERPRETATION, not a TRANSLATION. A proper translation of gehenna would be ‘Valley of Hinnom‘, but certainly not ‘hell’. Knowing this information, what conclusions would you draw about ‘Gehenna’ by using the Bible alone? Think about it. What if the translators of the Bible had inserted ‘valley of hinnom’ (a literal translation) every time this word appears. Could you find a place of eternal torment connected to this place? No, you would be forced to conclude that Jesus was pronouncing upon those who rejected him and his message the well-known curses and judgments associated with this place as described in the Old Testament prophets. What other conclusion could you possibly come to? Scripturally, nothing in the Old Testament concerning the ‘valley of the sons of Hinnom’ has anything to do with hell as we’ve been taught to understand it. Why then do our Bible translations feel justified in inserting this interpretation into our Bibles?
The answer (which should be called the ‘dirty little secret’) is unsettling because it raises questions that most Christians simply do not want to deal with. Most want to continue to preach ‘hell’ from their Bibles while remaining ignorant of the gymnastics and machinations which turned a Greek word meaning ‘Valley of Hinnom’ into a fiery place of torment in the afterlife.
The fact is, translators of the Bible really do believe that Jesus had more in mind when he spoke of ‘Gehenna’ than the literal Valley of Hinnom in Jerusalem and the curses and judgments associated with the place as found in the Old Testament prophets. But why? Aren’t we told time and again that we must base our interpretations on the scriptures alone? The answer is disturbing.
Here’s the story which the average Christian is never told.
Scholars know that the Old Testament verses concerning the ‘Valley of Hinnom’ have nothing to do with ‘hell’ as we understand it. What they also know is that after the Old Testament was completed, in the 400 years between the writings of the Old and New Testaments, that the Jews began to be seriously influenced by Greek culture and philosophy, and that these GREEK ideas began to be assimilated into Jewish interpretations of the scriptures. The idea of the immortality of the soul (a concept foreign to the Hebrew scriptures) gave rise to different thoughts about reward and punishment in the afterlife. In the minds of some Jews, the idea of ‘Gehenna’ began to be associated with a place of future punishment, and these ideas found their way into various ‘apocryphal’ (uninspired) writings in that period. 1
What the average Christian is never told is that scholars have assumed that Jesus understood the word ‘Gehenna’ in this way – a way that they KNOW is foreign to the Old Testament, and one which they KNOW only developed under the influence of Greek thought in the period between the close of the Old Testament and the writing of the New.
If this is true then it gives rise to some very disturbing thoughts, namely:
1) This would mean that the Old Testament understanding of gehenna is incomplete, and you CANNOT come to a proper understanding of this place by using the scriptures alone.
2) That the Jews did not have a proper understanding of gehenna until they came under the influence of pagan Greek thought and philosophy.
3) That the apocryphal writings which are considered to be uninspired, contain a more correct understanding of gehenna than is found in the inspired Hebrew scriptures.
4) But most disturbing, that Jesus’ understanding of gehenna represents, not the view of the Hebrew Scriptures, but that of hellenized (Greek influenced) Jewish thought.
The situation becomes even more troubling when we consider that even among the Greek-inspired Jews, ideas about gehenna were so varied and conflicted that we would be hopeless to try and figure out exactly WHICH of these conceptions of gehenna Jesus had in mind, if in fact this was the case. Simply translating ‘gehenna’ into ‘hell’ with the justification that some Jews may have understood the word to mean a place of future punishment in the afterlife is a gross oversimplification.
The bottom line is this: When an English translation uses the word ‘hell’ for ‘gehenna’ they are assuming that Jesus is using the word in a way that is foreign to the Hebrew Scriptures. If that doesn’t disturb you, then it should.
Scholars know that you cannot turn the ‘Valley of Hinnom’ into ‘hell’ without knowing what they know. But they also know that their justification for doing this raises a lot of serious questions. Did the Jews need Greek philosophy in order to properly interpret their scriptures? Did Jesus? So, instead of giving you a translation of gehenna (‘Valley of Hinnom’), they’ve hidden from you the whole process and instead have inserted their interpretation (‘hell’).
So how did a valley in Jerusalem get turned into Hell? Only with a lot of help from Greek philosophy, and scholars who assumed that Jesus understood gehenna in a way that was completely foreign to the Old Testament scriptures.
May God help us from making the same assumption!
1 B. Intertestamental Period
One product of the development of a concept of the afterlife during the Hellenistic Period was the notion of a fiery judgment (1 En. 10:13; 48:8–10; 100:7–9; 108:4–7; Jdt 16:17; 2 Bar. 85:13), a judgment usually in a fiery lake or abyss (1 En. 18:9–16; 90:24–27; 103:7–8; 2 En. 40:12; 2 Bar. 59:5–12; 1QH 3). The Valley of Hinnom, often referred to simply as “the accursed valley” or “abyss,” then came to represent the place of eschatological judgment of the wicked Jews by fire (1 En. 26–27; 54:1–6; 56:1–4; 90:24–27).
Freedman, D. N. (1996). The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday.
April 18, 2010
THE ‘CRUX INTERPRETUM’
(Torment of the Interpreters)
“Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand. And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.”
Within the past year I have concluded a study of what I believe to be the proper interpretation of the 1290 and 1335 days (to be reckoned as years) mentioned in the passage above – a passage that has caused tremendous difficulties for Biblical scholars for centuries. It is my conviction that the proper interpretation of this passage has profound implications for the times in which we live and should be of the greatest interest to all students of the Bible and of prophecy.
Those who are not familiar with the study of prophecy may not fully appreciate the significance of what it means to come to a satisfactory interpretation of this passage. E. B. Elliott in his Horae Apocalypticae – his classic commentary on the chief prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, spoke of the ‘difficulty felt by all expositors of prophecy’ when they encountered this passage. The Pulpit Commentary calls it a ‘Veritable crux interpretum’ ; that is ‘the interpreters cross’ or ‘the torment of the interpreters’. I challenge anyone who doubts this to study the voluminous amounts of commentary and wild speculations which have been written in order to come to a satisfactory understanding of the passage.
Before examining the passage, it might be helpful to examine the interpretations which have been offered. These generally fall into one of the five following categories.
1) The removal of the daily sacrifice, the setting up of the abomination of desolation, and the time periods referenced in the passage were fulfilled in the history of the Jewish nation during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC. The Jews, being severely persecuted during this period of Syrian rule witnessed the desecration of their religion and temple under the reign of this tyrant.
Many scholars believe that the time periods of 1,290 and 1,335 days have reference to the deliverance of the Jews from this oppression during the Maccabean revolt in 165 BC.
The interpretation is problematic because scholars have been unable to apply the time periods in question to any specific events in the history of the Maccabean Revolt or in the final downfall of Antiochus Epiphanes. Scholars generally admit that the prophesied overthrow of the tyrant in Daniel chapters 11 and 12 does not match at all match the known facts about the final years of Antiochus’s reign and his death.
2) The removal of the daily sacrifice and the setting up of the abomination of desolation refer in some way to Jesus’ earthy ministry or possibly the crucifixion. While a novel approach, the 1,290 and 1,335 prophesied days have never been successfully applied to specific events in the ministry, life, death, and resurrection of our Savior.
3) The removal of the daily sacrifice and the setting up of the abomination of desolation refers to the rise and reign of the papacy. This interpretation is usually offered by those of the historicist school of interpretation and fails for two main reasons: First, it is difficult to see how the rise of the papacy could in fact be the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ when both Jesus and Daniel (Dan 11:31) connect it directly to the desolation of the Jewish nation and the removal of their daily sacrifice. Second, once again the time periods cannot be applied in any meaningful way in either literal days, or prophetic years from the rise of the papacy.
4) The daily sacrifice and the setting up of the abomination of desolation refer to the desolation of a future rebuilt Jewish temple by an antichrist still to come. This interpretation is impossible. Jesus connected the ‘abomination of desolation’ with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple that was standing in the first century. The entire discourse of Matthew 24 was given in answer to the disciple’s question about when the temple would be destroyed.
5) The removal of the daily sacrifice and the setting up of the abomination of desolation refers to the desolation of the Jews in the first century. It is beyond question that Jesus did in fact connect the ‘Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet’ with the desolation of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans. But once again these time periods have never been satisfactorily applied to that period of the first century. Some have tried to connect the 1290 and 1335 days to either the start of the Jewish war (66 AD) or the end of it (70 AD) but have failed to find any meaningful application. Attempts to apply the 1290 and 1335 days as prophetic years dating from that period have also failed.
The Pulpit Commentary sums up this difficulty:
“As we have already said, if we take the profanation of the temple, 25th Casleu, 145 Seleucid era, as our starting-point, it is impossible to fix any great deliverance or any event of importance which happened some three years and seven months after. Antiochus may have died seven months after the news arrived of the reconsecration of the temple; but we have no data. As above stated, the death of Antiochus wrought but little alteration in the condition of the Jews. If we regard the days as literal days, there is one period that nearly coincides with the twelve hundred and ninety days—our Lord’s ministry upon the earth. It is difficult to understand how our Lord’s commencing his ministry was the removing of the daily sacrifice. Yet in the “heavenlies” it might be so. Further, we sometimes reckon “from” a period to come, as we can say, “We are yet—weeks from harvest, midsummer, or Christmas.” So the Crucifixion as the fulfilment of all the sacrifices of the Law may be regarded as their removal. Certainly in his crucifixion was the real abomination which maketh desolate set up. It suits the next verse. From our Lord’s crucifixion to his ascension there would be exactly forty-five days if, as is commonly believed, his ascension, as his resurrection, took place on a Sunday. This, however, is merely a thought thrown out. If we take the date indcated by our Lord, the war against the Jews, dating from Vespasian’s march to Ptolemais in the beginning of A.D. 67 to the capture of the temple and the cessation of the daily sacrifice (Josephus, ‘Bell. Jud.,’ vi. 2. 1), is not far off twelve hundred and ninety days. From this to the final capture of the city is close upon forty-five days. If we, however, take a day for a year, then another series of possible solutions are before us, all more or less faulty. One has the merit of postponing the solution to a date still future. The capture of Jerusalem by the Arabs in A.D. 637 is made the starting-point; if we add to that twelve hundred and ninety years, we have A.D. 1927. The Mohammedan power may have fallen by that time; anything may have happened then. All these various solutions, all more or less unsatisfactory, prove that no solution is possible.”
This is not an imaginary problem and should concern any serious student of the Bible. The ‘rationalist’ school of interpretation which began to rise in the 19th century and exists today in many universities and seminaries teaches that the book of Daniel is in fact a forgery written by a second century BC Jew living during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. They believe that the author of Daniel ‘guessed’ at the fate of Antiochus and ‘got it wrong’! Thus, to them, these time periods of 1290 and 1335 days are nothing more than the failed speculations of a prophetic pretender.
Now, there are those who will contend that the solution which I am about to offer is nothing more than my own ‘opinion’, ‘private interpretation’, or just one more wild speculation. I will let the reader judge. I cannot change anyone’s mind, but in light of the attempts at interpretation mentioned above, I ask that you open your hearts and minds and prayerfully consider what follows.
I believe the solution to 1290 and 1335 days of Daniel 12:11-12 to be as follows:
1) Jesus has the final say on what the ‘abomination of desolation’ is. This abomination is mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24, and Mark 13, and by cross reference is defined in Luke 21.
The surrounding of Jerusalem by armies in the first century and its subsequent desolation at the hands of the Romans is referred to by Jesus as ‘the abomination of desolation’. This is as solid a scriptural fact as can be determined and should be beyond dispute. Since the 1290 and 1335 days of Daniel 12:11-12 commence in some way from this epoch, then any proper interpretation must deal honestly with this fact.
Comparing Matthew 24 with Luke 21:
Mat 24:15-16 “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) (16) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains”
Luk 21:20-21 “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains”
2) ALL passages which refer to the ‘abomination of desolation’ concern the Jewish nation and NOT the Christian Church. The prophecies in Daniel and the gospels clearly refer to the ‘taking away of the daily sacrifice’, the destruction of the Jewish temple, and the desolation of Jerusalem.
Since the 1290 and 1335 ‘days’ of Daniel 12 are connected with these events, then these also concern the Jewish nation, and not the Christian church. Any attempt to properly interpret these periods must deal with this fact.
3) We must then look for specific and not vague fulfillments of these time periods in the history of the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem.
4) We will reckon the 1290 and 1335 ‘days’ of Daniel 12 as so many years based on the precedent of the ‘seventy weeks’ prophecy of Daniel 9, in which 70 weeks were equal to 70 ‘weeks’ of years, or 490 years, as is the nearly unanimous opinion of most interpreters.
5) Logically then, the time periods reckoned as 1290 and 1335 years, cover centuries of history and in some way mark events in the desolation of Jerusalem and the fate of the Jewish people, the beginning of which is connected with the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans as prophesied by Jesus. Read the rest of this entry »