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Dr. John Leonard Hug
§ 186. PAGES 665-666
Interpreters have been less fortunate in regard to the Apocalypse than in regard to any other book of the New Testament; a proof that soon after the downfall of the Jewish state, familiar acquaintance with the cast of thought and peculiar views of this nation was lost, and even Asiatics no longer understood Jewish diction and Palestinian imagery. We may imagine, then, what has been the case in later days. At one time Antichrist and the end of the world were seen in it; at another the history of the church represented in visions. Then it comprised the history of the world, of the Saracens, Huns, Turks, &c Then the Pope had his turn, the corruption of the clergy, next the Romish church and the Reformation, and many other things not a whit better chosen.
Among modern writers, Bossuet trod a more judicious path. The Apocalypse appeared to him to refer to the conquest of Rome and the dismemberment of the empire, events which occurred through the agency of Alaric, king of the Goths. The contents of the book extend to this period, he thinks, and show the judgments of God upon the idolatrous state which had so often oppressed Christianity. The latter is now avenged and triumphs over all persecution. Other preceding circumstances, which are included and treated at still greater length, are, the fortunes of Christianity under the Caesars, their persecutions of it, particularly that of Diocletian, the momentary quiet which it enjoyed under Constantine, and then the oppressions of Julian, by which the divine chastisement was hastened.
Such, in Bossuet's opinion, are the contents of the Revelation ; and he was afterwards followed by Calmet. Wetstein thought differently, and imagined that it related, in particular, to the destruction of Jerusalem, the fate of Judaism connected therewith, and the ascendancy of Christianity. He was followed by Herder, who is very happy in some of his details.
Long before, however, Hugo Grotius, a man of extremely nice discernment, had penetrated further into its purport than any of the writers who have been mentioned. In the introduction to the fourth chapter of his exposition of this book, he says: "Pertinent autem base visa ad res Judieorum usque ad finem capitis undecimi: inde ad res Romanoruin usque ad finem capitis vicesimi: dcinde ad statum florentissimum ecclesiae Christians ad finem usque."
A still more thorough insight into the mysteries of this book was obtained by John Simon Herrenschneider, Professor at Strasburg ; and he has exhibited it in a small but comprehensive treatise. He shows that the two cities Rome and Jerusalem, the fortunes of which constitute the greater portion of the Apocalypse, are only symbols of two religions, the downfall of which is predicted; and that the third, which appears at the close, (he heavenly Jerusalem, denotes the reign of the blessed. Commencing at these starting points, a celebrated scholar has discussed the Apocalypse very thoroughly, and his work is at present the principal one on this subject.
In this book three cities are mentioned, in reference to which alt these terrible occurrences above and below, and all the commotions of terrestrial and celestial powers, take place. One of them is Sodom, called likewise Egypt; another is Babylon; and the third is a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven.
The whole scene in regard to the seven angels with the seven trumpets (8:—12:), relates ostensibly to Sodom. But we speedily see that this long-destroyed city only furnishes a name by which to designate another. For in this Sodom our Lord was crucified, (11:8). In this Sodom is the temple, the outer court of which is given up to the Gentiles. Indeed, it is the Holy City itself, of which foreign nations are to take possession (ll:lseq ). When two martyrs have perished in it, its destruction is determined (—12: 1). Josephus, the Jew, likewise, compared Jerusalem at the same period to Sodom (Bell. Jud. V. 10).
After a long episode, in which a woman appears in the pangs of child-birth, persecuted by a dragon; and after the description of two other monsters, who vex this woman's kindred, (12: 13: 14:), the destruction of Babylon is decreed in heaven (14:8).
The seven angels with the seven vials of wrath execute the decree (—16: 17, 19), although Babylon had been a waste place for centuries, and scarce any relics of its glory were discoverable. But this Babylon is built upon seven hills: onov opt) tiaiv inxu (17: 9—18). It was an urbs septicollis, a famous mark of distinction, which makes it easy for us to understand what city is really intended. But the other characteristic, that it has the imperium orbis terrarum, puaiXttu im raJy (laaiXtatp itji yrjg affords us complete assurance (17: 18), that this Babylon on the Euphrates is Rome on the Tiber.
Thus Jerusalem and Rome are the two cities whose destruction was here seen in the Spirit. These cities, however, do not stand merely as such in this poetical production; they are figures of other ideas." (p 666)
The Praeterist Scheme of Hernnschneider and Eichhorn, as sketched by Prof. Hug.
"There are three cities in this book, on account of which all the terrible preparations above, and here below, and all the commotions of the earthly and heavenly powers, take place. One of them is Sodom, called also Egypt; the other is Babylon; and the third is the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven.
"The whole affair of the seven Angels with the seven Trumpets, viii.—xii., refers to Sodom. But we soon see that this city, long since destroyed, only lends its name to denote another. For in this Sodom our Lord was crucified; xi. 8. In this Sodom is the Temple; the outer court of which is said to be abandoned to the Gentiles. Thus it is the Holy City itself, no\n &yta, of which foreign nations will take possession; xi. 1. As two martyrs have perished in it, its destruction is decided; xii. 1. (Josephus the Jew likewise compared Jerusalem to Sodom at the same epoch. Bell. Jud. v. 10.)
"After a long episode, in which a matron appears in the pains of child-birth, persecuted by a monster, and after the description of two more monsters, which torment the adherents of this distinguished woman, Apoc. xii., xiii., xiv., the destruction of Babylon also is decided in heaven, xiv. 8.
"The seven Angels with the seven Vials of wrath are appointed to
execute the decision, xvi. 17—19; although indeed Babylon had stood for centuries before desert, and amidst but half-distinguishable remains of its magnificence. But this Babylon is built upon seven hills; bxou opt) eiaiv ivra- xvii. 9—18. It is an urbs septicollis; a mark of distinction renowned throughout the world, which renders it easy for us to guess the city which is peculiarly intended. But the other criterion that it possesses, perfectly assures us, xvii. 18, that this Babylon on the Euphrates is Home on the Tiber.
"Consequently Jerusalem and Rome are the two cities whose destruction is here seen in the Spirit. These cities, however, do not exist in reality as cities, in the poetical composition; but they are images of other ideas. Borne, or Babylon in particular, is by the author conceived to be opposed to the everlasting gospel, xiv. 6—8. In this opposition to Christianity it could hardly signify anything but Heathenism; to represent which the capital of the heathen world is most eminently and peculiarly qualified. Hence John further also describes it with such phrases as were used by the Prophets to denote false gods and their worship. It is the habitation of dmmons; the seducer to infidelity from the true God, i. e. iropveia: from the cup of whose fornication all nations and kings of the earth drink; xviii. 2, 3; xvii. 1, 2, 5.
"If the capital of the heathen world symbolizes the religion of the heathens, we shall easily ascertain what the capital of the Jews represented. What else but the Jewish religion? Therefore Heathenism and Judaism, the two prevailing religions of the ancient world, were destined to perish.
"And what should now succeed to them? A New Jerusalem, the kingdom of the blessed, after this life (xxi. xxii. 6.) ?—The New Jerusalem is certainly so described: and such is usually considered to be its meaning. But if these cities be religions, and Borne and Jerusalem represent Heathenism and Judaism, the new Sion can only be Christianity; which has an endless dominion, and blesses mankind. This the unity of the whole demands; nor would it be consistent, if the idea of it was compounded of such an unequal representation of its parts, as Heathenism, Judaism, and Eternal Blessedness.
"For what purpose should this kingdom of the blessed afterwards forsake that long-beloved abode in the higher spheres, and in heaven; and descend among men, unless it were an earthly institution? (xxi. 23.) It could only descend upon earth as a religion; for the sake of supplying the place of the two former religions.
"The previous openings of the graves^ and the return of the dead, is here only one of those awfully terrible images, which the prophets sometimes used to represent a total change of things; the revival of the national state, and of the religious constitution of the Jews. (Ezek. xxxvii.; Isa. xxvi. 19.)
"And, if a last judgment also be connected with it, we well know that such also is figuratively convoked by the prophets, for the purpose of executing the punishment of those who have oppressed and ill-treated the people of Q-od; or for the purpose of expressing Jehovah's designs of introducing a new epoch of glory for his religion and his people. (Joel iii. 2; Zeph. iii. 8.) This being admitted, the whole passage of the seven Seals is only an introduction to the three principal descriptions:—to the dissolution of Judaism, to the abolition of Heathenism, and the occupation of the dominion of the world by the doctrines of Jesus, (v.—vii. 2.) For a prophecy, according to the ancient prophetical language, is a sealed book (Isa. xxix. 11): of which the mysteries can only be developed by the Lamb, who is on the throne of God; the co-Eegent with Jehovah, in whose hands the events are. Terrible plagues, famine, pestilence, war, and an entire revolution of states are impending; from which those however are exempted who belong to the chosen of the Lamb.
"But the Epistles, which are preludes to the whole as far as chap, iv., are Dedications or Addresses to those communities which were particularly connected with the author in the district of his ministry.
"Then the Episode (xii., xiii.), which follows the judicial punishment of Jerusalem, the Episode relating to that noble Woman who struggles in the agonies of labour, and who is persecuted by the Dragon, (Isaiah's ancient metaphor of idolatry,) exhibits to us Judaism, which is still in the act of bringing forth Christianity: so as all the circumstances, and the individual traits in the description, prove. But the other monsters which ascend from land and sea, and which are in the service of the Dragon, signify, according to very recognizable criteria, the Boman land and sea forces which protect the dominion of Paganism (xiii. 1—xiv. 6).
"Opposed to this, after the punishment is executed on Rome (xvii. 1—xviii.), another "Woman appears on a scarlet Beast. The former Woman, after her new-born child had been taken up to the throne of God, henceforth repaired to the deserts and pathless regions; which is an excellent metaphor of wandering Judaism. But the fate of the latter Woman is not so mild. Her destruction is soon after celebrated in jubilees and triumphant songs. That this typifies idolatry, as the former the Jewish religion, is evident from the representation."
J. Murray (1863)
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