BOOKS: BIBLICAL STUDIES (1500BC-AD70) / EARLY CHRISTIAN PRETERISM (AD50-1000) / FREE ONLINE BOOKS (AD1000-2008)
Vicar of Alvedistone, Lecturer of the Collegiate Church Wolverhampton, & for many years Chaplain to the Laycock Union // Contemporary and admirer of Dr. Samuel Lee
Richard Acland Armstrong: "No one ever elaborated the (preteristic) theory so fully or carried it so unreservedly to its extreme logical implications as he himself did."
Charles Dickens (1854) "And finally, the Rev. Mr. Desprez has replied to Dr. Cummings Apocalyptic Sketches in a volume called the Apocalypse Fulfilled, remarkable for the moderation and modesty of suggestion with which the subject is treated" (Narrative of Literature and Art, p. 215)
"We seem to be painfully conscious of the existence of a serious discrepancy between the latter-day anticipations of the New Testament and what might be considered their due and legitimate fulfilment: a conviction arising not from a superficial or deceitful handling of the sacred text, but from a reverent and careful examination, extended over many years, of this particular question" (Daniel) // Early Identification of "Hyper Preterism": Quarterly Journal of Prophecy (1856) "The author (P.S. Desprez) maintains that the key to the Apocalypse is, that the destruction of Jerusalem was the second coming of Christ, and that there is no other advent of Christ to be expected (Lecture xvi.) He is an ultra-preterist. Those who believe in a literal coming of the Lord to judgment, yet to take place, he condemns in language sufficiently strong. Any system (millenarian or not) that takes for granted a future advent of Christ, is founded on " strained interpretations"— " patchings of the Word of God"—" positions plainly untenable." Whereas, his own doctrine (that there is no advent) is written as with a sunbeam, and the whole body of the Scriptures coincides with it (p. 431). " (vol. 22, p. 98)
"To the first of these theories it has been objected that the second advent of Christ was not so much the destruction of Jerusalem, as an event connected with that destruction ; and that the sublime description of his coming with all the holy angels with him in power and great glory scarcely finds an adequate fulfilment in the scenes, terrible as they were, which accompanied the overthrow of the Jewish state and polity.
It must be conceded that the objection is not without weight; and that after making due allowance for Oriental phraseology and rhetorical figure, something more was intended by the coming itself and the unearthly scenes with which it is said to be accompanied, than the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent establishment of Christianity. However momentous the ruin of their city might have been to the Jews, it could not have materially affected the Gentile converts to whom the warnings relating to the advent were principally addressed ; and it is evident that S. Barnabas, in the epistle ascribed to him, and such of the apostolical fathers as wrote after the event, did not see in the destruction of Jerusalem the coming of Christ in his kingdom."
An argument for the accomplishment of the eschatological prophecies recorded in the gospels at the period of the destruction of Jerusalem, may be seen in the author's " Apocalypse fulfilled in the Consummation of the Mosaic Economy and the Coming of the Son of Man." On the supposition that our Lord's predictions, as delivered to us, can be adequately explained of the phenomena with which that event was accompanied, a harmony may be maintained between them and the facts themselves. On the contrary hypothesis, that the historical events of that time do not answer to the scope and magnificence of the terms employed, the expectations of our Lord and his disciples must be considered to have been tinged by the Messianic ideas of their contemporaries."
"No reasonable ground appears to us for doubt, in the face of such testimonies, that there was an original Daniel, whose remarkable life and superlative wisdom laid the foundation of the present narrative. But an acceptance of the reality of Daniel's personal existence does not involve any conclusion as to the authorship and age of the book in which, for the most part, his history is recorded. Evidence of a powerful, and as we think, unanswerable kind, points to a later period than that of the Babylonian Captivity as the time of authorship, and brings down the date of the book in its present state to an age subsequent to the events therein described. This, while it does not invalidate the general history, is likely to have some influence upon the way in which its particulars may be interpreted. It transforms the book from a declaration by anticipation of things yet future into an historical relation of past occurrences.1 It excludes the predictive element altogether. It assigns limits for its interpretation beyond which criticism dares not pass, and demands that its meaning shall be sought in the past, and not in the future. As a preliminary, then, of the utmost importance towards a correct interpretation, it will be necessary to state the arguments on which we build the theory of a late authorship for the book of Daniel. If these shall be found trustworthy we may reject schemes of interpretation which have repeatedly been found fallacious, for those pointed out by criticism and the necessities of the case. And in so doing we shall be guilty neither of rashness nor of a want of due regard to the Sacred Record. " To suppose that we can serve God's cause by shutting our eyes to the light; much more to suppose that we can serve it by asserting that we see what we do not see, because we wish to see it, is simply intellectual atheism." (pp. 3,4)
"It has been usual to interpret this celebrated passage of the death of Christ, and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. The prophecy, however, refuses to be coerced into the desired shape. It neither sanctions the anachronous introduction of the catastrophe inflicted by the Romans into visions which are descriptive of the Syrian desolations, nor does it permit the clause Ve-ayn-lo—and there it not to him—to be twisted into an idea of vicarious substitution foreign to its meaning. The absence, moreover, of any allusion in the New Testament to so remarkable a passage as " Messiah cut off but not for himself," is inexplicable on the supposition that the words had reference to our Lord's vicarious sacrifice; and this silence is more unaccountable because the clause is found in a context put by St. Matthew into the mouth of Christ (Math. xxiv. 1.1). Added to this, insurmountable exegetical difficulties impede. if they do not entirely subvert, the traditional theory. On the supposition that our Lord is " Messiah cut off" (Isaiah liii. 8, uses a different word), who, it may be asked, rebuilds the street and wall at the close of the threescore and two weeks (the Machiach who is cut off being identical with the Hashiach who rebuilds) ; or did the sacrifice and oblation taken away by Titus cease only for three and a-half years ? What divine punishment came upon him who was called "Deliciae humani generis," for the destruction of the city and the sanctuary ; and how could it be said of him that his end should be in the flood, and that decreed destruction should be poured out on the desolator, (margin.) Even on the supposition that the united term of the sixty-nine weeks, dated from the insignificant commission of Ezra, B.C. -157, could be accommodated to the epoch of the cutting off of Messiah, a longer space than the seventieth week is required for the interval between the sacrifice of Christ and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem. The application therefore of Messianic exegesis to this passage appears at once isolated and anachronous. The preceding and subsequent visions are concerned with events anterior to the reign, and ending with the destruction of Antiochus; the elimination therefore of the intermediate vision from the chronological horizon occupied by the rest, disturbs the unity of the piece, and carries the prophecy beyond the limits whereby the preceding and following visions are circumscribed. " We object (says Davidson) to the Messianic interpretation that it does not harmonize well with the connection in which the passage stands. The tenth and eleventh chapters maybe regarded as a further development of the contents of the eighth : for they give a brief history of the Persian and Macedonian dynasties, till the death of Antiochus Epiphanes In consequence of this parallelism between the eighth chapter on the one hand, and the tenth with the eleventh on the other, it is probable that the ninth should bear the same relation to the eighth as the twelfth does to the tenth and eleventh But if ix. 25-27 be explained of the time and death of Jesus Christ, the piece stands in an isolated position ; it differs in that case both from what precedes and follows. " (p. 169)
"A satisfactory proof, that a Judaic kingdom, as of the Asmonean princes, however magnified in presentiment, was more intended by the writer than such a spiritual and eternal kingdom as God set up by Christ in the hearts of faithful men, may be found in chap. ii. 44, " the kingdom shall not be left to another people." This is the stumbling-block of national Messianism, which Christ destroyed by inverting it, and by disappointing the expectation of which He in part, if not principally, shocked the feelings of his nation (Luke iv. 28 ; Luke iii. 8; Acts xxii. 22)."
"We are not ashamed to confess our inability to reconcile the proximity under which these phenomena are announced with the actual course of events. We seem to be painfully conscious of the existence of a serious discrepancy between the latter-day anticipations of the New Testament and what might be considered their due and legitimate fulfillment: a conviction arising not from a superficial or deceitful handling of the sacred text, but from a reverent and careful examination, extended over many years, of this particular question ; and we think it the part of exegetical consistency to endeavour to grapple with it, before we stereotype with too great confidence traditional opinions which appear unable to stand the test of searching and out-spoken criticism. " (p. 288)
"The non-fulfillment, however, of these Messianic expectations within the time appointed for their accomplishment need not detract from the perfection of that inimitable teaching whose "remedial, and reconciling, and sanctifying, and self-sacrificing, and sorrow-assuaging, and heaven-aspiring words were addressed to the universal human heart;" neither should it be suffered to weaken the obligation, or impair the authority, of a single moral precept which commends itself by its intrinsic worth as the perfect law of love and liberty to mankind." (p. 295)
“To us individually, as to the Church in all subsequent ages, the coming of the Lord is an event yet future. To us individually he has not yet come; His coming will be to us “the hour of death and the day of judgment.” We then, equally with the disciples, may use the prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” for we may pray for the full and glorious consummation of that kingdom, the first advent of which was the object of their supplications. We, too, may pray “that at His second coming to judge the world, we may be found an acceptable people in His sight,” for we, equally with them, must meet a Savior Judge, before whose bar a strict account must be rendered. This divine book, like the rest of Scripture, contains “manna for all hearts and for all times,” and its lessons of warning and encouragement are not only applicable to those who were pronounced blessed if they should hear and read the words of this prophecy, but to hearers and readers of all lands and of all ages.
“But while, in common with all inspired truth, the promises and admonitions are suitable to the Church in every age, it is not criticism, neither is it piety, to invert the order of interpretation, to explain the secondary sense as if it were the primary sense, and to make the coming of our Lord, which He said should then take place, refer principally to a second and spiritual coming. [...] I need not say that this is the inversion of prophecy, this is the “husteron proteron,”– the secondary sense placed in an undue position above the primary sense, and the uncertain and distant future preferred above the sure and tangible present. In their first obvious and specific meaning these prophecies relate to the coming of our Lord at the period when He abundantly declared He would so come. In their second general and universally applicable exposition they relate to a coming of Christ which every man shall experience in his own person, and which shall be to him either the judgment of the great whore, or the marriage of the Lamb; the first resurrection, or the second death.”
Written while he was still a Full Preterist
"For my own part I feel heartily ashamed of the way in which I have often interpreted many of these passages in my public teaching ; in whatever sense they may be regarded as referring to an advent yet to come, there can be no reasonable doubt but that they refer in their primary sense to the advent which then took place. " (p. 93)
"But, though he distinctly denies the resurrection of our present vile bodies, he does not lead us to suppose that the resurrection is merely that of viewless spirits ; for he says, "God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and the every seed his own body," i.e. as barley does not spring from wheat, or wheat from barley, so the living germ will be raised in the likeness of the body sown. In 2 Cor. 5. the same apostle tells us that this new and heavenly body awaits the spirit at the period of its dissolution. "We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, -- if the frail tenement of our spirits perish, -- we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." He represents the Christian as "groaning" in this earthly body, and "earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with the house which is from heaven;" and that he considered this change as immediate upon death may be gathered from the words - "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord." (p. 260)
"Oh that we had faith to trust implicitly to its declarations respecting the time of Christ's second advent, believing that whatever darkness exists must be in us and not in God! Oh, that we had faith to see in the last dispersion of Israel an imperishable memorial of the coming of the Lord, chronicled for 2000 years in the history of mankind, testifying to men of ever age and clime, -- the Lord has come, -- has effected the object for which he came, - has cast down the city, temple, and nation of his choice, - has erected a new and universal kingdom upon the ashes of Judaism, and has made his once favoured people the undying witnesses, from generation to generation, that "THE END" HAS ARRIVED, AND THAT "ALL THESE THINGS" HAVE BEEN LONG AGO FULFILLED" (p. 402)
"The consideration that the passover was "fulfilled in the kingdom of God," need not in any way detract from our observance of the Christian sacrament." (p. 420)
"We proved by scriptural argument, which it is as hopeless to overthrow as to evade, that our Lord came, as he said, to destroy Jerusalem, and to close the Jewish dispensation." (p. 434)
"It is more natural, and completely in unison with Scripture to believe, that as men die so are they judged - that Christ is judging now, for "the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" - that no purgatory, Papal or Protestant, intervenes between the hour of death and the day of judgment."
"To us individually, as to the church in all subsequent ages, the coming of the Lord is an event yet future. To us individually he has not yet come; his coming will be to us "the hour of death and the day of judgment." We then, equally with the disciples, may use prayer, "Thy kingdom come," for we may pray for the full and glorious consummation of that kingdom, the first advent of which was the object of their supplications. We too may pray "that at his second coming to judge the world, we may be found an acceptable people in his sight," for we, equally with them, must meet a Savior Judge, before whose bar a strict account must be rendered. This divine book, like the rest of Scriptures, contains "manna for all hears and for all times," and its lessons of warning and encouragement are not only applicable to those who were pronounced blessed if they should hear and read the words of this prophecy, but to hearers and readers of all lands and of all ages." (p. 477)
"In their first obvious and
specific meaning these prophecies relate to the coming of our Lord at the
period when he abundantly declared he would so come. In their second general
and universally applicable exposition they relate to a coming of Christ
which every man shall experience in his own person, and which shall be to
him either the judgment of the great whore, or the marriage of the Lamb; the
first resurrection, or the second death." (p. 478)
"But whatever be the blest condition of the new and heavenly city, we may be sure that it is of no earthly kind. Images, indeed, borrowed from the earth are used to depict its glory and its greatness, yet still its celestial character shines through all, and makes it evident that the Spirit of God spake of heavenly things with a human tongue. But whilst we look for deeper joys and higher blessedness that can be known on earth, let us beware of straining the symbols of the Apocalypse and of giving a literal meaning to every word of this sublime, yet allegorical description. We need not suppose that this city actually came down from God out of heaven; it will be quite in keeping with the rest of the allegory to believe that it was as the Lord says, "The city of my God . . which cometh down from heaven from my God;" that is was the "Jerusalem which is above," as contrasted as with the Jerusalem on earth, and therefore fitly represents as "that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God." (P. 492)
"Shall the blessedness of those who shall be raised hereafter exceed that of those "who first trusted in Christ?" Shall the promise, "blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection," be reversed to mean that the glory of the latter dead shall outshine the former?" (p. 497)
"I am the door, by me if any man enter in he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture." "I am the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (p. 499)
"NO scriptural statement is capable of more decided proof than that the coming of Christ is the destruction of Jerusalem, and the close of the Jewish dispensation." (The Apocalypse Fulfilled,p.9)
(On Revelation 1:8)
The Apocalypse Fulfilled,' by P. S. Desprez (1854), shows that all the principal events predicted in the seals, trumpets, and vials, took place in the wars of the Romans with the Jews, and at the destruction of Jerusalem, contending that the Book of Revelations was written in the reign of Nero, and before the conquest by Titus, and was a prediction of that event.." (Interpretation; rules and principles, p. 191)
Charles Dickens (1854)
Kitto's Journal of Sacred Literature (1863)
Quarterly Journal of Prophecy (1856)
WE noticed the first edition of this work ; we now notice the second. The author maintains that the key to the Apocalypse is, that the destruction of Jerusalem was the second coming of Christ, and that there is no other advent of Christ to be expected (Lecture xvi.) He is an ultra-preterist. Those who believe in a literal coming of the Lord to judgment, yet to take place, he condemns in language sufficiently strong. Any system (millenarian or not) that takes for granted a future advent of Christ, is founded on " strained interpretations"— "patchings of the Word of God"—" positions plainly untenable." Whereas, his own doctrine (that there is no advent) is written as with a sunbeam, and the whole body of the Scriptures coincides with it (p. 431). The dogmatism with which he asserts his own system, and the anger which he manifests in assailing others, are not at all in keeping with the liberty which he claims so needlessly of judging for himself. We do not dispute this privilege—let him exercise it to the full; but let it be understood that he is not the only one that is to be allowed to use it. To believe in a coming Judge, and in a coming judgment, is surely not so outrageous a violation of Scripture as to need the hard words with which the volume is strewn. Mr Desprez is a minister of the Church of England, and has, we suppose, signed its articles and its liturgy. Is he not then committed to a belief in that very advent which he here so angrily denounces as a fable ? The formularies of that Church most certainly point to a future advent and kingdom. Does Mr D. believe his own formularies ? Or does he claim for himself the liberty of interpreting them as vaguely as he has done the simple words of Scripture ? The author's theory is that the terminus of the Apocalyptic visions is the destruction of Jerusalem. To this, everything—criticism, theology, symbol, history, chronology—is sacrificed with a remorselessness at which a scholar may wonder, and a Christian stand aghast. As this theory is incompatible with the Domitianic date of the Apocalypse, the Neronic is at once declared to be the true one. Sarcasm and declamation are the author's chief weapons against all opposers, and assertion his substitute for argument in setting up the various parts of his system. We do not enter into detail. The above remarks will give our readers an insight into the volume. The following passage is a fair specimen of the author's style:— " Had there been no Beast in the book of Revelation, no Scarlet Lady, all decked with gold and precious stones, no popes and cardinals flaming in scarlet-coloured vestments, he and they would have been starving long ago. Their very means of existence have depended upon the supposed recognition of the subject of ' Papal persecution ' in the Apocalypse, and the shibboleth of their party ought to be, ' Waldenses and Albigenses.' It makes one fairly sick to think of their ingratitude. It is this ' Papal persecution,' this odium theologicum, this intense abomination of Rorne and the Roman Catholic religion, founded upon the unscriptural and absurd belief that Rome Papal occupies a place in the Book of God, which has raised them into (on this account) an undeserved reputation, and which continues to exalt them in the scale of popular favour. I desire to denounce this rank injustice against an erring, yet still a cognate Church, with all the energies of my being, and I shall not consider my life wasted if I can loosen the bands of this insensate clamour; not that I have the slightest sympathy with what I consider the manifold errors of the Church of Rome; the only sympathy I have is one which is dear to all English hearts,—sympathy with the oppressed against the oppressor, with Papal dignified patience against Protestant undignified persecution. Papal persecution ! ! ! Why, they know, or they ought to know, that there is not one single word from Genesis to Revelation, which by any reasonable man can be tortured into the remotest recognition of a system which then had not even its existence. I repeat it, they know, or they ought to know, that Papal Rome and Roman Catholics are not even hinted at in the Scriptures, and that every tirade fulminated against them from arguments drawn from the Apocalypse, is as harmless as ' sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.' And what if this statement should be true .' What if the sacred writers never contemplated the remotest allusion to popes and synods '! What if Great Babylon should turn out to be Jerusalem after all (as I believe it will), and a closer and more critical examination of the sacred text should roll back the mass of deep-seated prejudice, and blind aggression ? What if ' Papal persecution' should be found a theme wholly foreign to the time, age, habits of thought, and circumstances of those for whose warning the Apocalypse was written 1 Then what becomes of that theological bugbear which has been evoked to gratify popular antipathies, and to fan the flame of popular indignation ? What becomes of the undignified clamour of Exeter Hall, and the anathemas of its distinguished ornaments? And what also becomes of the immortal interests of those whose ears have been ' turned away from the truth unto fables,' who have been taught to believe that their everlasting salvation is bound up with an irreconcilable hatred of the Church of Rome ? Papal persecution ! ! ! But I have done with it—as have not the parties alluded to, as if only to shew that enlightened Protestantism of the 19th century shall not be much behind the intolerance of a past age."—Pp. 80-82.
It is not often that we meet with such frantic imbecility as the above. It was but fair to himself, as a preliminary to such ebullitions of childish frenzy, and there are many snch in the book, to declare in his preface—" I am neither a Tractarian nor a Jesuit in disguise" (p. xi.) We believe him. It is Rationalism, not Traclarianism, that is the body, soul, and spirit of the volume. " (Quarterly Journal of Prophecy, p. 100)
What do YOU think ?