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NEW SERIES-No. 20.
March and April, 1822.
AN ACCOUNT OF EICHHORN'S ILLUSTRATION OF THE APOCALYPSE.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN DISCIPLE.
SEND you an abstract, which I had occasion to make some time ago, of Eichhorn's theory of the Apocalypse, presuming it may be interesting to some of your readers, who have not access to the original work. This theory has obtained more admirers in Germany, than any which has been proposed in modern times. Some parts of it seem to me to be liable to strong, and perhaps decisive, objections. But as every scheme with which I am acquainted, is attended with as great or greater difficulties, the faults of this seem to afford no reason why it should not have its share of attention, as well as others which have been defended with much less learning and ingenuity.
In the opinion of Eichhorn, it was not the design of the author of the Apocalypse to communicate any new predictions, but only to clothe in new and impressive language the prophecies already uttered by our Saviour,* and repeated by his Apostles,† respecting the establishment and successful propagation of the Christian Religion. To effect this purpose, Eichhorn supposes the author needed and possessed no other inspiration than that of a poetical imagination.
It seems to have been a prevalent opinion amongst the learn ed Jews, that no events occurred in this lower world, which were
* Matthew, viii. 31, 32. Mark, iv. 31, 32. Luke, xiii. 19. John, xii. 31. +1 Cor. xv. 22-26 and 51-54.
not first proposed for deliberation, and exhibited as in a theatre before the inhabitants of Heaven.* The Apocalypse is supposed by Eichhorn to have been planned and composed in conformity to this Jewish notion. It is accordingly pronounced by him to be a drama, or rather, a spectator's description of a dramatic exhibition. It is expressed, for the most part, by visible symbols and emblems, but is diversified and embellished by the introduction of prayers, hymns of praise, and occasional explanations of the scenes which are exhibited. In this drama, the animating predictions of our Saviour respecting the future flourishing state of his Religion, which are repeated in several parts of the New Testament, are represented as being actually accomplished, and are exhibited, by means of certain enigmatical shapes and emblems, on the theatre of Heaven.
Christianity, when first offered to the acceptance of men, met with powerful opposition. The principal obstacles in the way of its successful progress might, however, be referred to two sources-Judaism, and Polytheism or Paganism. Nor could the Christian Religion be said to have a secure and permanent footing in the world, so long as the greater part of the Jews and of the Gentiles continued to be hostile to it. A decisive victory, a complete triumph over Judaism and over Paganism must be achieved, before Christianity could be said to be firmly established, and to reign in security and independence.
The subject of the drama is, accordingly, stated to be the triumph of the Christian Religion over Judaism and Paganism; or, in other words, the abolition of the Jewish and Pagan religions, the secure establishment of Christianity in this world, and the future reign of the Messiah in Heaven.
Of these events it was the design of the author of the Apocalypse to give a scenical representation-an actual exhibition to the eye of a spectator. Now the establishment, or the decline, of a Religion, being events of an abstract and, complex nature, not falling under the cognizance of the senses, they could not be represented in the manner proposed, in any other way than by means of sensible objects or symbols, which would naturally suggest them to the mind.
Such symbols it was not difficult to discover. For, as the Christian Religion is styled, throughout the New Testament, the kingdom of Jesus Christ, it was natural and convenient that Judaism and the Pagan superstition should be represented as two
*The passages adduced by Eichhora to prove the existence of this opinion may be seen in Wetstein's note upon Rev. iv. 1.
other kingdoms, which were to contend with the kingdom of Jesus Christ for the superiority. The idea of an empire, or kingdom, could scarcely be expressed by a more significant symbol than the capital city of an empire-the seat of dominion. Judaism, therefore, is symbolically represented in this poem by the city of Jerusalem, and Paganism by the city of Rome; and the decline and abolition of these Religions is exhibited, as in a theatre, by the destruction of the cities of Jerusalem and Rome. This being accomplished, the Christian Religion might reign without opposition in this world, until the heavenly kingdom of Jesus Christ, should commence at his return, at the end of the world; that is, until a new seat of empire, the Heavenly Jerusalem, should be manifested.
The drama is accordingly divided into three Acts.
In the first act, the destruction of Jerusalem, emblematic of the abolition of Judaism, is represented. In the second, Rome, the symbol of Idolatry or Paganism, is overthrown. In the third, the Heavenly Jerusalem, the seat of the Messiah's kingdom, and the symbol of the happiness of a future life, is exhibited.*
The drama is not supposed to commence at the beginning of the Apocalypse. A vision is prefixed for the purpose of supplying an occasion for describing the drama; in which vision the author is commanded by Jesus Christ to send an account of what he should see to the churches of Asia. This vision occupies the place of a prologue.
* Eichborn undertakes to give the reasons why the drama was not divided into four Acts, as the subject seemed to require; or why the kingdom of Jesus Christ in this world was not represented in a separate Act, as well as his kingdom in Heaven. There was no fourth city, in addition to the cities Jerusalem, Rome, and the New Jerusalem, which was suitable for a symbol. Consequently the author of the Apocalypse must either omit to represent the earthly kingdom of Christ, that is, the flourishing state of Christianity in this world, in a separate Act, or reject the use of cities as symbols; which he did not feel at liberty to do, because the use of the city of Jerusalem as an emblem of Judaism, and of the New or Heavenly Jerusalem, as a symbol of the happiness of a future life, was so common amongst the Jews, that nothing could serve better to guide the Jewish converts through the mysteries of his drama, than such a use of these cities. Eichhorn also observes, that if the reign of Christianity on earth, after the abolition of Paganism, had been represented in a separate Act, the laws of the drama would have required the author to represent the corresponding weak and feeble condition of Christianity after the abolition of Judaism, in a separate Act; and then five cities would have been necessary; which were more than he could easily find. It was therefore necessary for the author to determine upon three Acts, and to manage his subject so as to give a concise description of the condition of Christianity, at the close of the first and second.
The prologue, comprehending the three first chapters, contains the author's salutation to the seven churches of Asia, (chapter i. 4--8.) an account of the time and place in which he was ordered to commit to writing the visions which he saw, (chapter i. 8-20) and seven letters, written to the seven churches of Asia, exciting them to the duties of piety and virtue, and to firmness and perseverance in the profession of their religion. (Chapter ii. 1. to iii. 22.)
With the fourth chaper the drama itself commences. Here the scene opens. The Almighty is represented as seated on a splendid throne, in a court decorated in the style of Asiatic, and especially of Persian magnificence, holding in his hand a book sealed with seven seals, the volume of the divine decrees. No one in heaven, earth or under the earth, is found capable of opening the book, until Christ, in the form of a Lamb, approaches the throne, takes the book from the right hand of God, and proceeds to unloose the seals. (chapter iv. 1.-v.14.)
When the first four seals are opened, four emblems denoting a Conqueror, followed by War, Famine and Pestilence, appear on the stage. (Chapter vi. 1-8.) No particular conqueror, war, famine, or pestilence, are supposed to be designated. The design of the four emblems, is merely to suggest to the mind of the spectator a lively idea of great national calamity, as being the subject of the volume.
When the fifth seal is opened, the voice of martyred Christians is heard calling aloud for vengeance on their persecutors and murderers; by which it is made to appear, that the contents of the fatal volume relate to the enemies of Christianity. (ch. vi. 9-11.)
On the opening of the sixth seal, still more striking and dread, ful emblems are exhibited of the calamities and ruin which were to fall upon the enemies of the Christian name. (vi. 12-17.) An exode follows, in which it is declared that the faithful followers of Christ, whether Jewish or Gentile converts, have no reason to be alarmed on account of the calamities threatened by the preceding omens. (ch. vii.) The first eight verses of this chapter are supposed to relate to Jewish, the remainder to Gentile,
On the opening of the seventh seal, a sudden and silent horror pervades the inhabitants of Heaven. The cause immediately appears. Seven angels standing before God, receive seven trumpets, so as to become the heralds of war and desolation; and prepare to execute their commission, (ch. viii. 1, 2.)
An exode follows, in which the prayers of christians are presented to God by an angel, who also fills a censer with fire from the altar in heaven and flings it upon the earth; the design of which actions is to intimate that the miseries of christians will soon be at an end; and that vengeance will very soon overtake their enemies, (ch. viii. 3—5.)
That portion of the drama which has been described, extending from the beginning of the fourth to the fifth verse of the eighth chapter, is called the prolusion.
The first act in the drama then begins, and extends from the fifth verse of the eighth chapter, to the end of the twelfth. In this act, the calamities which have been shadowed out in the prolusion, are represented as relating to the Jewish nation. Jerusalem is destroyed, or, Judaism is overcome by Christianity.
The angels, who have just received the seven trumpets, begin to fulfil their office; viz. to announce the calamities about to be inflicted upon Jerusalem. At the sound of the first four trumpets, evils of every description are represented by appropriate symbols as descending upon the land. (ch. viii. 6-12.) No particular evils are supposed to be intended by the various emblems exhibited, which are, for the most part, plagues similar to those, which once laid waste the land of Egypt; but all of them combined are designed to present a vivid image of great national calamity. The particular kind of evils to be inflicted, or in other words, the means by which this general national calamity was to be effected, it was the office of the three last of the seven angels to declare.
The exhibition of these symbols of general national calamity is followed by an exode, in which an angel is represented, flying through the midst of heaven, proclaiming woe! woe! woe! to the inhabitants of the land, by reason of the three remaining trumpets which were to sound. (ch. viii. 13.)
When the fifth angel sounds his trumpet, a band of horrid locusts is seen rising out of the earth, emblematical of the plundering and seditious armies of the Jews themselves, by which, as is well known, Jerusalem was not less distressed than by external enemies, (ch. ix. 1-12.) The sixth trumpet summons to the view an immense army of warriors, representing the Romans, rushing into Judea, and taking possession of the country. (ix. 13—21.)
After this scene an exode is introduced, in which it is declared, that the promises of deliverance made by God to the faithful shall be immediately fulfilled. A mighty angel, having