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No. LXXV.-JANUARY 1847.
Art. 1.—Horae Apocalypticae ; or, a Commentary on the Apo
calypse, Critical and Historical, including also an Examination of the chief Prophecies of Daniel. By the Rev. E. B. ELLIOTT, A.M., late Vicar of Tuxford, and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Second Edition, carefully revised, corrected, and improved. 4 vols. London: Seeleys. 1846. 2.-A Commentary on the Apocalypse. By Moses STUART, Pro
fessor of Sacred Literature in the Theological Seminary at Andover, Mass. 2 vols. London: Wiley & Putnam. 1845.
The rapid disappearance of the whole of the first edition, and, as we understand, of the second also, of a work which, in its latest form, consists of four goodly octavo volumes, is in itself a proof both of the general interest which has been awakened upon the subject of prophecy, fulfilled and unfulfilled, and of the estimate which has been formed of Mr Elliott's labours in that department. We are far from thinking the estimate an unjust one. Mr Elliott has done much for Apocalyptic interpretation. He has brought to bear upon the subject a vast amount of valuable research, which has enabled him to elucidate some points which had hitherto baffled every commentator; and while he has availed himself of the labours of his numerous predecessors, he has at the same time winnowed the heap, and disposed of a great deal of chaff. We do not indeed believe that he has altogether completed this process. Many of his own conclusions are, we think, inconsistent with the principles he has laid down: nor are we disposed to admit that even these principles are in every instance sound. And while, therefore, we predict that no future commentary on the Apocalypse will be written without large acknowledgments to Mr Elliott, we expect also that his system will
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be very materially departed from by succeeding interpreters of prophecy.
The other work, the title of which we have placed at the head of this article, is of a very different character. The name of the author is a sufficient guarantee for extended critical research; and accordingly we find in his pages every thing which pertains to the apparatus necessary for the study of the Apocalypse, and all that we could wish for elucidating the grammatical meaning of the original; but the principles of interpretation which he has adopted are, we conceive, fundamentally erroneous, and of a kind which necessarily involve low and defective views of the inspiration of the word of God. These points we shall bring out more fully in the sequel.
Three great schemes have been proposed for the interpretation of the Apocalypse. The first is that of the Praeterists, (to adopt Mr Elliott's designation,) which supposes the entire prophecy to refer to the catastrophes of the Jewish nation and of Pagan Rome. The second is that of the Futurists, which refers the whole prophetical part of the Apocalypse to the events of the consummation and the second advent. The third is the scheme generally adopted by Protestant writers, according to which the prophecy prefigures the leading events which were to occur from the time of the Apostle down to the consummation of all things. Among the writers who adopt these three schemes there are minor differences, to some of which we shall by and by allude; but we shall first dispose of the second or Futurists' scheme very shortly, not because it does not deserve a more elaborate refutation, but because our limits will not permit us to devote much space to it.
At the first blush, then, it appears passing strange that, after a lapse of seventeen centuries, not one word of this prophecy should be yet accomplished ! Nay, it is not only strange, but directly contrary to the analogy of all other Scripture prophecy. Let its advocates produce one single example of a similar preterition of all intermediate events, and we shall be disposed to listen to them. But the cases they quote are not at all in point, being either instances where the inspired seer, passing lightly over the events which were more near, enlarges on those which were more remote; or where one event, as for example the first advent of our Lord, being regarded as a type of another more distant, gives occasion for dwelling on the details of the latter without entering on that portion of history which lies between them. And then again this hypothesis seems to run counter to the very words with which this prophecy is introduced. For after the apostle had been instructed in the terms of the epistles which he was to address to the seven churches of Asia, he heard a voice saying, “ Come up hither, and I will show thee things which shall be after these things (ETC Taura),” language which would naturally lead us to suppose that the predictions which followed were not to wait for many centuries for even the commencement of their being fulfilled. The advocates of this theory attempt to meet the objection now stated, by asserting that the seven epistles are addressed, not to the seven churches then in Asia, but to churches which are to be existing some two thousand years after the prophecy was delivered; and by translating the words, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day” thus, “I was rapt by the Spirit into the great day of the Lord :"-suppositions so utterly at variance with the plain and obvious meaning of the passages themselves, that we may safely leave them, without farther remark, to the judgment of our readers.
Of the two remaining hypotheses we have an elaborate exposition in the works before us. Professor Stuart adopts the scheme which finds the fall of Judaism and of Heathenism both predicted in the Apocalypse; the one from chap. vi. to xi. inclusive, the other from chap. xii. to xix., and refers the remainder of the prophecy to the consequent triumph of Christianity. *
Mr Elliott, on the other hand, supposes the fulfilment of the prophecy to commence after Jerusalem had fallen, and that it faithfully narrates the fall of Paganism, and the subsequent struggle between Popery and Protestantism, down to the consummation of all things. It is obvious that, in estimating the comparative value of these two systems of interpretation, the date of the communication of the vision to the apostle becomes a most important element; for, if the revelation was not made till after the overthrow of Jerusalem, that event cannot possibly be the subject of any part of the prophecy. Accordingly, Professor Stuart contends strongly that it was during the persecution under Nero that John was banished to Patmos; while Mr Elliott advocates the opinion that this event took place under the reign of Domitian. The discussion of this important point has not a little interested us. Our transatlantic brethren have been in the habit of looking with not a little contempt upon British scholarship, and it is therefore with no small satisfaction that we have observed how complete Mr Elliott's victory is on this question of pure criticism.
We shall, however, on a matter which has so important a bearing upon Apocalyptic interpretation, give our readers an
* There is another praeterist scheme adopted by Bossuet and other Romanists, differing in some points of detail from that now before us. We do not think it necessary to encumber our pages with any farther allusion to it. Our readers will find it fully discussed in Mr Elliott's work.