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Peake's Commentary on the Bible Peake's Commentary
by Arthur Peake
BY PROFESSOR H. T. ANDREWS
The Traditional View maintains that the Book of Daniel was written by Daniel himself, and is therefore a contemporary record of the events which it records. This view, though it was challenged by Porphyry the Neo-Platonist (died A.D. 303), practically held the field till the end of the eighteenth century, when Corrodi boldly advanced the modern theory which has won the support of such distinguished scholars as Eichhorn, Gesenius, Bleek, Ewald, Wellhausen, Cheyne, Driver, Charles, G. A. Smith, to mention but a few. In fact, it may be said that no OT scholar of any repute now maintains that the Book was written by Daniel.
The Reasons for the Abandonment of the Traditional View.— The grounds upon which modern scholarship abandons the view that the Book was the work of Daniel may be stated as follows: (1) The Book never claims to be the work of Daniel. It is true that the first person, “ I Daniel,” frequently occurs, but this need not imply that Daniel composed the Book. The same phenomenon is found in Ecclesiastes, where the writer speaks in the character of Solomon, “ I the preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.” Nobody to-day seriously maintains that Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon. The use of the first person is a common literary device employed to give vividness to the narrative. (2) The Book is never quoted or alluded to in Jewish literature before the second century B.C. The silence of Ecclesiasticus ( c. 190 B.C.), which mentions in its list of worthies Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve Minor Prophets, but says nothing about Daniel, is very significant. Its author could scarcely have missed the opportunity of recording the heroic deeds of Daniel if they had been known to him, nor would he have been likely to say, “ Neither was there a man born like unto Joseph” ( Sir_49:15 ), since the life of Daniel presents many parallels to the career of Joseph. The earliest references to the Book of Daniel are found in the Sibylline Oracles ( c. 140 B.C.), the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (109– 107 B.C.), and the First Book of Maccabees ( c. 100 B.C.). It seems to have been quite unknown, therefore, before the latter half of the second century B.C. (3) The place which the Book occupies in the Canon of the OT is equally decisive. The Jewish Canon is composed of three divisions: ( a) The Law or Pentateuch, ( b) the Prophets (including the earlier historical books), ( c) the Hagiographa, e.g. the Psalms, Wisdom Literature, etc. Now if Daniel had been a contemporary record, it must have held a place in the second division of the Canon, which was not completed till the second century B.C. The fact that it belongs to the third division proves conclusively that it was of later origin than the date at which Daniel is presumed to have lived. (4) The writer’ s knowledge of the period in which Daniel lived is full of inaccuracies, whereas his prophetic sketch of the history of the third and second centuries B.C. is remarkably correct. If the traditional view were right, we should certainly find the reverse. The writer would have been accurate in recording the history of his own time, but his knowledge of the succeeding centuries was bound to have been hazy and indefinite. Among the most flagrant historical mistakes many be mentioned— ( a) The description of Belshazzar as the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar ( Daniel 5:1. Daniel 7:1, Daniel 8:1). As a matter of fact Belshazzar was neither king of Babylon nor son of Nebuchadnezzar ( Daniel 5:1 *). ( b) Darius the Mede is described as “ receiving the kingdom” after the conquest of Babylon (531, 91). As Driver says (CB, p. 53), “ There seems, however, to be no room for such a ruler: for according to all other authorities, Cyrus is the immediate successor of Nabuna’ id, and the ruler of the entire Persian Empire” (see also Daniel 5:31 *). ( c) The assumption that the court language at Babylon was Aramaic ( Daniel 2:4). ( d) The statement that Jehoiakim was transported in the third year of his reign ( Daniel 1:2 *). For further inaccuracies, see Cent.B, p. 36, CB, pp. 47– 56. (5) The language of the Book points to a late date. It is not easy to make this point clear to those who are unacquainted with the original languages in which the Book was written. Briefly stated, the facts are these: ( a) A number of Persian words are used (fifteen at least). That these words “ should be used as a matter of course by Daniel under the Babylonian supremacy or in the description of Babylonian institutions before the conquest of Cyrus, is in the last degree improbable” (Driver, p. 57). ( b) Three Greek words are used, and it is not at all likely that these words were known in Babylon as early as 550 B.C. ( c) A large section of the Book is written in Aramaic (p. 36), and the particular type of Aramaic used betrays signs of a later date. [See in reply to R. D. Wilson’ s strictures Driver’ s addenda to his IOT 9 , pp. xxxiv– xxxviii.— A. S. P.] ( d) The Hebrew, in which the remaining portions of the Book is composed, is also characterised by later forms and constructions. The whole argument from style is well worked out by Driver, CB, pp. 56– 63.
The Real Date of the Book.— The grounds upon which modern scholars maintain that the Book was written during the Maccabean period may be stated thus: (1) It reaches its climax in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, whose attack upon the Jewish religion in 168 B.C. produced the Maccabean revolt. Antiochus is the “ little horn” of Daniel 8:9 “ which waxed exceeding great toward the south and toward the east,” and the “ king of fierce countenance understanding dark sentences,” of Daniel 8:23. (2) The survey of history in Daniel 11 concludes with a long description of the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes. The earlier periods are dismissed in single sentences, but the description of Antiochus is full and vivid and extends over twenty-four verses, showing that the writer’ s main interest is in the great persecution initiated by him. (3) The general teaching of the Book seems to have as its object the encouragement of the Jewish people to remain loyal and faithful in a time of stress and trial. The stories of Daniel and “ the three young men” are obviously intended to convey a message of hope to men who are placed in a similar situation. Directly we place the Book in the Maccabean period it becomes luminous and clear. If we date it in the Babylonian period, its meaning is dark and unintelligible. It is incredible that Daniel should have taken so little interest in the doings of his contemporaries, and that the whole point of the Book should have been directed towards events which happened 400 years after his time. (4) The traditional view is out of harmony with the general spirit of Hebrew prophecy. The prophets spoke of their own age. When they uttered predictions about the future, those predictions were, as a rule, couched in vague language. Their message to their own age was definite and specific. Their message to the future was far more hazy and indistinct. To date the Book of Daniel in the Babylonian period is therefore to make the prophet unique and an exception to the general rule. To place it in the Maccabean age is to bring it into line with the rest of prophecy. (5) The modern view is the only theory which accounts for the point at which the Book stops. The writer is most exact in his details of the persecutions, but he makes a serious mistake in Daniel 8:14 in estimating the length of time which would elapse before the re-dedication of the Temple, and he describes only the beginning of the Maccabean campaign. He foretells the death of Antiochus, but he is quite wrong about the place and circumstances Daniel 11:45). Now supposing the Book to belong to the Babylonian period, it is impossible to explain why his statements should be absolutely exact up to a certain point, and after that point has been reached should contain errors. Supernatural foresight which enabled the prophet to foresee the future clearly as far as 167 B.C. ought also to have been able to carry him to 164 B.C. Why does his forecast lose its accuracy in the final years? The traditional theory has no answer to that question, but the modern view has an explanation which exactly fits the facts. The Book of Daniel, according to its hypothesis, was written between the years 167– 165 B.C. In the main, therefore, it is describing events that had happened and were happening before the writer’ s eyes (see p. 48).
The Historical Situation (see p. 607)— The Book of Daniel was written, as we have seen, to encourage the Jews to be loyal to their faith in the face of the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus was king of Syria from 175– 164 B.C., and Palestine, which had been subjected by his predecessor Antiochus III in 202 B.C., was part of his dominion. The policy of Antiochus Epiphanes was to conquer and hellenise as much of the world as possible. Palestine, and especially Judæ a under the High Priest Onias III, had hitherto stubbornly resisted all attempts to introduce Greek ideas and customs. One of the first steps which Antiochus took was to depose Onias and appoint Jason (p. 581), who was much more amenable to his wishes, as his successor. Under the leadership of Jason, a Greek gymnasium was set up in Jerusalem, and the priests encouraged the people to take part in the games. In 171 Menelaus offered Antiochus a huge sum of money for the office of High Priest, and Jason was accordingly deposed in his favour. The money was obtained by plundering the Temple treasury. Onias III protested against this act of sacrilege, and suffered martyrdom in consequence. In the following year, a rumour reached Jerusalem that Antiochus had fallen in his campaign against Egypt, and on the strength of it the Jews attempted to reverse his policy. The rumour, however, turned out to be false, and Antiochus took swift vengeance. There was a massacre in Jerusalem in which vast numbers lost their lives. But this was only the beginning of the tragedy. In 169 B.C., Antiochus, foiled by the opposition of the Roman Empire in his attempt to conquer Egypt, determined to complete the subjugation and hellenisation of Palestine. He surprised Jerusalem by a sudden attack, and established his forces within the Temple precincts. The most cherished principles of the Jewish religion, e.g. the observance of the Sabbath and the rite of circumcision, were pronounced illegal. The Jewish worship and sacrifices were abolished, and the sacred books destroyed. And as the crowning profanation on Dec. 15th, 168, a heathen altar was set up in the Temple itself in honour of a pagan god, “ the Abomination of Desolation” as it was called, and as if this were not a sufficient horror a few days later swine were sacrificed upon it. It is no wonder that the Jews were stung to rebellion. An insurrection broke out, headed by Mattathias and his five heroic sons, and they, after a long struggle, eventually regained for the Jewish people their freedom of worship. It was just at this crisis, and immediately after the outbreak of the rebellion against Antiochus, that the Book of Daniel was written. It sprang, as Ewald says, “ from the deepest necessities and the noblest impulses of the age.” It is the appeal of a true patriot to his people to remain firm and unmoved in the faith in spite of suffering and even martyrdom. The comfort and inspiration which it brought to the Jews in their hour of trial secured it an imperishable place in their literature, and it was handed over to Christianity as a priceless legacy.
The Historical Survey in the Book.— Though the Book of Daniel deals specifically with the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, yet as the scene is laid in Babylon about 550 B.C., it has to traverse the intervening centuries before its objective is reached. Ch. 11, for instance, gives a brief outline of the history of nearly four hundred years, 550– 167 B.C. The same period is also pictorially represented in the vision of the “ Colossal Statue” (Daniel 2), the vision of the four beasts (Daniel 7), and the vision of “ the ram and the he-goat” (Daniel 8). Daniel 9, with its explanation of Jeremiah’ s “ seventy years,” covers the same stretch of history. To understand the allusions in the Book, therefore, the reader must be familiar with the general trend of history during the centuries which it covers. It is divided into the following periods, and the most significant dates may be tabulated thus:
I. The Babylonian Period
605 B.C. Battle of Carchemish, in which Nebuchadnezzar overthrew the Egyptian power.
604 B.C. Commencement of Nebuchadnezzar’ s reign.
561 B.C. Death of Nebuchadnezzar.
561– 559 B.C. Reign of Amel Marduk (Evil-Merodach).
559– 556 B.C. Reign of Nergal-Sharezer (Neriglissar).
555– 538 B.C. Reign of Nabuna’ id, the last of the Babylonian kings.
II. The Persian Period
538 B.C. Conquest of Babylon by Cyrus.
538– 529 B.C. Reign of Cyrus.
529– 522 B.C. Reign of Cambyses.
522– 485 B.C. Reign of Darius (Hystaspis).
485– 465 B.C. Reign of Xerxes (called Ahasuerus to the OT).
465– 425 B.C. Reign of Artaxerxes.
425– 331 B.C. Various comparatively unimportant kings.
331. The Conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great.
323. The death of Alexander, followed by the division of the empire.
301. The struggle between Syria and Egypt for the possession of Palestine, and the victory of the latter, with the result that Palestine becomes a province of Egypt till 202.
202. Conquest of Palestine by Antiochus III.
176. Antiochus Epiphanes becomes King of Syria. Deposition of the High Priest, Onias III.
171. Attempted revolt of the Jews. Antiochus plunders the Temple and instigates a massacre of the Jews.
169. Antiochus, foiled in the attempt to conquer Egypt by the opposition of the Roman Empire, wreaks vengeance upon Jerusalem and attempts to suppress the Jewish religion. A heathen altar is set up in the Temple.
167. Revolt of the Jews.
165. Recovery of Jerusalem. The cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple.
The list of kings of the two empires during the Greek period is as follows:
A. Syria: The Seieucidæ
Seleucus I. 312– 280.
Antiochus I, Soter. 279– 261.
Antiochus II, Theos. 261– 246.
Seleucus II, Callinicus. 246– 226.
Seleucus III, Ceraunos. 226– 223.
Antiochus III, The Great. 223– 187.
Seleucus IV, Philopator. 186– 176.
Antiochus IV, Epiphanes. 175– 164.
B. Egypt: The Ptolemies
Ptolemy I, Soter. 322– 285.
Ptolemy II, Philadelphus. 285– 247.
Ptolemy III, Euergetes. 247– 222.
Ptolemy IV, Philopator. 222– 205.
Ptolemy V, Epiphanes. 205– 182.
Ptolemy VI, Philometor. 182– 164.
Ptolemy VII, Euergetes II, joint ruler with Philometor. 170– 164.
Ptolemy VII, Euergetes II, sole king. 164– 146.
Literature; Commentaries: ( a) Driver (CB), Charles (Cent.B); ( b) Bevan, Prince, Wright, Daniel and his Critics (conservative); ( c) Hitzig (KEH), Meinhold (KHS), Behrmann (HK), Marti (KHC); ( d) Farrar (Ex.B). Other Literature: Pusey, Daniel the Prophet; Wright, Daniel and his Prophecies; Deane, Daniel (Men of the Bible).
THE PROPHETIC LITERATURE
BY THE EDITOR
THIS article is restricted to the literary criticism of the prophetic books. On the nature of prophecy see pp. 426– 430, on its literary character see pp. 24f., on its history and the teaching of the prophets see pp. 69– 78, 85– 93, and the commentaries on the individual prophets.
The earliest of our canonical prophets is Amos. We do not know whether any of the earlier prophets wrote down their oracles. If so, with the doubtful exception of Isaiah 15 f. probably none of these survive, Joel, which used to be regarded as the oldest, being now regarded as one of the latest. From the finished style of his book and its mastery of form and vocabulary we may assume that a long development lay behind Amos, but this may have been oral. Certainly we have no hint that his great predecessors, Elijah and Elisha, committed any of their prophecies to writing. We do not know why the canonical prophets supplemented oral by written utterances. Amos was silenced by the priest at Bethel, who accused him of treason and bade him begone back to Judah. He may have resorted to writing because speech was forbidden him. His example might then be followed without his reasons. Isaiah seems to have committed some of his prophecies to writing owing to the failure of his preaching and the incredulity of the people. The written word entrusted to his disciples will be vindicated by history, and the genuineness of his inspiration can then be attested by appeal to the documents.
Hebrew prophecy is poetical in form. The parallelism (p. 23) which is the most characteristic feature of Heb. poetry is a frequent though not invariable feature in it, and rhythm can often be traced in it even if we hesitate to speak of metre. In the later period prophecy became less the written precipitate of the spoken word and more of a literary composition. It was designed for the reader rather than for the hearer. Behind not a little of it there was probably no spoken word at all.
Daniel being apocalypse rather than prophecy, the canonical prophets would seem to be fifteen— three major and twelve minor. Really the writers were much more numerous. Several of the books are composite. They contain the work of two or more writers. Prophecies originally anonymous were attached to the oracles of well-known writers, all the more easily if they immediately followed the work of another writer without any indication that a new work was beginning. Community of subject may be responsible for enlarging the works of a prophet by kindred oracles from unknown authors. The Book of Isaiah is the most conspicuous example. The popular expression, “ two Isaiahs,” is a caricature of the critical view. It implies that Isaiah 1-39 was the work of one prophet, Isaiah 40-66 of another. Even when the last twenty-seven chapters were regarded as a unity there was little justification for the phrase. True, we have the work of two great prophets— Isaiah, and the great unknown prophet of the Exile, called for convenience the Second Isaiah— but it was clear that in Isaiah 1-39 there were certain sections which were non-Isaianic, and that these could not all be assigned to the Second Isaiah. These obviously non-Isaianic sections were Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 14:23, Isaiah 21:1-10, Isaiah 24-27. Isaiah 34 f. To these would now be added, by fairly common consent, Isaiah 11:10-16, Isaiah 12, 33 the historical chapters 36– 39 being generally regarded as also a good deal later than Isaiah’ s time. But considerable additions would now be made by several scholars to this list. Similarly with the Book of Jeremiah. This contains extensive biographical sections, probably from Baruch the secretary, in addition to the prophet’ s authentic oracles; but the latter have been extensively glossed by later supplementers, and some entirely non-Jeremianic sections have been inserted in it. In this case the text for long remained in a fluid state, as is clear from the notable variations between the MT and the LXX. It is probable that the Book of Habakkuk includes an older oracle from the close of the seventh century, together with a prophecy from the middle of the Exile and a post-exilic Psalm. Zechariah 9-14 is from another author or authors and another period than Zechariah 1-8. It is held by some scholars that Joel is the work of two writers, and probably not all of the Book of Micah belongs to Isaiah’ s contemporary.
We touch a related point when we ask how far pre-exilic prophecies have been systematically revised to meet the needs and satisfy the aspirations of the post-exilic community. The crucial difference between prophecy before and prophecy after the destruction of Jerusalem is that the former was in the main, though by no means exclusively, prophecy of judgment, the latter in the main prophecy of comfort and restoration. We must not press this to an extreme, but it has an important bearing upon criticism. The sceptical inference has been drawn that well-nigh all prophecies of the happy future belong to the post-exilic period. It must, of course, be recognised that prophecies of the return from exile were never out of date, because such return as took place was very partial, and the conditions of the community in Judah were very wretched. It was only natural that earlier writings of judgment should have their severity ameliorated to cheer a people sorely tried and desperately in need of encouragement. Glowing descriptions of the latter-day glory might naturally be appended at the close of individual prophecies or of whole books. It is a grave fault in method to reject on principle the pre-exilic origin of such passages. That is not criticism but prejudice. Material grounds must be present, such as stylistic differences, discontinuity with the context, inconsistency with the standpoint of the writer, or some similar cause. If, for example, the closing verses of Amos are regarded as a post-exilic insertion, this is justified by their incompatibility with the tenor of the prophet’ s teaching. The case is entirely different with the last chapter of Hosea, whose fundamental doctrine of Yahweh’ s love makes such a message of comfort entirely fitting as a close of his book. And similarly other cases must be settled on their merits, not by preconceptions as to what a pre-exilic prophet can or cannot have said. Another feature of more recent criticism has been the tendency to relegate large sections of the prophetic literature not simply to the post-exilic period in general, but to a very late date in that period. Duhm’ s Commentary on Isaiah, published in 1892, led the way. The generally-accepted opinion had been that the Canon of the Prophets was closed about 200 B.C. Duhm, however, assigned not a little to the Maccabean period. Marti developed this position in a still more thorough-going fashion, and more recently Kennett, who also holds most of Isaiah 40-66 to be Maccabean. The history of the Canon is not so clear that a Maccabean date should be regarded as impossible, however cogent the internal evidence. The present writer is not convinced, however, that a case has been made out for the origin of any part of Isaiah in the Maccabean period. Nor yet does he believe that there is any need to descend so late for any section of Jeremiah. If any part of the Prophetic Canon is of Maccabean origin, Zechariah 9-14 might most plausibly be assigned to that period. At present, however, there is a reaction represented especially by Gunkel, Gressmann, and Sellin not only against excessively late dating, but against the denial to their reputed authors of so large a proportion of the writings which pass under their names.
Literature (for this and the following article).— In addition to commentaries, articles in Dictionaries (esp. Prophecy and Prophets in HDB), works on OTI and OTT and the History of Israel, the following: W. R. Smith, The Prophets of Israel; A. B. Davidson, OT Prophecy; Kuenen, The Prophets and Prophecy in Israel; Duhm, Die Theologie der Propheten; Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets; Batten. The Hebrew Prophet; Cornill, The Prophets of Israel; Giesebrecht, Die Berufsbegabung der alttest, Propheten; Hö lscher, Die Profeten; Sellin, Der alttest. Prophetismus; Findlay, The Books of the Prophets; Buttenwieser, The Prophets of Israel; Knudson, The Beacon Lights of Prophecy; Joyce, The Inspiration of Prophecy; Edghill, An Enquiry into the Evidential Value of Prophecy; Jordan, Prophetic Ideas and Ideals; Gordon, The Prophets of the OT.
OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY
BY DR. G. C. JOYCE
IN Biblical study, as in all living sciences, there must be continuous progress. New problems arise, the investigation of which requires the use of new instruments of research. Amongst recent modes of study the “ comparative method” has of late acquired a considerable measure of popularity. It claims to mark an advance upon the preceding “ historical method.” To the latter belongs the merit of basing its conclusions upon definite data, for which historical evidence could be produced. But on behalf of the former it is urged that the general laws determining the development of religion come into view only when a broad survey is taken over a wide field embracing many nations at many different levels of civilisation. To make this survey is the task allotted to “ Comparative Religion.”
The problem of OT prophecy invites study along both these lines of approach. It is intimately connected with questions of great historical interest. There are documents to be investigated, arranged in chronological order, and interpreted in accordance with the spirit of the time when they were written. At the same time, the most diligent and ingenious historical study will of necessity leave many questions unsolved and even untouched. A comparison must needs be instituted between prophecy as we know it in Israel and parallel phenomena (if any such exist) presented by other religions. In this way it may prove possible to unravel more of that mysterious secret of prophecy which has rendered it so great a force in furthering the religious progress of the world. The two methods, the historical and the comparative, will need to be kept in close alliance. A mutual dependence binds them together, the one advancing securely only when supported by the other.
The material for the study of prophecy, lying ready to hand in the OT, is of high value. It is contemporary; it is various; it is, in a sense, abundant. Whatever doubts may be raised about particular passages, there can be no reasonable question that the bulk of the prophetic writings preserved in the Jewish Canon are genuine products of the prophetic age, and were composed between the eighth and the fifth centuries B.C. The words bear the stamp of originality. They throb with the live emotions of hope and fear, of elation and despondency, excited by the sudden changes and chances to which, during that eventful period, the national life was exposed. In them we find no carefully consistent political or historical theory, elaborated from reflection upon the records of the past, but a vivid and continually changing response of the heart of the prophet to events transacted before his eyes or reported in his hearing. The reader of these writings is brought into immediate touch with definite personalities exhibiting marked and distinctive traits of character. In being all alike vehicles of a Divine revelation to God’ s people, the prophets form a class by themselves. But there was no common mould or pattern obliterating their idiosyncrasies. Amos and Hosea, Isaiah and Micah, speak out each his own message in terms peculiar to himself. Individual character manifests itself unmistakably, not-withstanding the similar tenor of the warnings uttered and the hopes encouraged. Undoubtedly the prophetic books of the OT, as they exist to-day, represent no more than a small surviving remnant of a far larger literature. Much has gone beyond recall. And yet how remarkable a providence it is that has preserved for the use of the world the writings of a distant past, composed in a corner of Western Asia by the subjects of a petty kingdom overshadowed by far more powerful and far more highly civilised neighbours! That in the course of centuries these writings should suffer a certain measure of dislocation and corruption was inevitable. There are not a few passages where the critic must needs exercise his ingenuity in attempting to solve the riddle of a text obviously damaged in transcription. But when all necessary deductions have been made, it remains true that the features of OT prophecy stand out with surprising clearness and definiteness. They arrest attention and challenge explanation.
The beginning of the age of the literary prophets falls in the eighth century B.C. Yet the institution of the prophetic order (if it may be so called) dates from an earlier period. It was a twin birth with the monarchy. And even further back, in the dim period of the wanderings through the desert, and in the troubled times of the judges, the national history was controlled by great personalities to whom the name prophet is not inappropriate. This, at least, was the view favoured by the later prophets themselves ( Jeremiah 7:25). But it is in the striking figure of Samuel that we find the immediate ancestor of the true prophetic line. Of his influence in launching the new monarchy tradition speaks with unmistakable clearness. Though the matter is differently presented in the older and later documents combined in 1 S., both narratives bear testimony to his responsibility for a political development big with possibilities for the future. His successor, Nathan, was a worthy follower in his footsteps, not flinching from the duty of administering rebuke, and ready to brave the consequences of the royal displeasure. Henceforward and repeatedly prophecy intervened to determine the channel in which the national history should run. A prophet instigated the disruption of the two kingdoms. Elijah, the most impressive figure in all the OT, thundered against the policy of assimilating the religion of Israel to that of Phœ nicia. The revolution which placed the dynasty of Jehu on the throne owed its original impulse to Elisha’ s suggestion. The prophet gained his end. The house of Ahab was deposed. The popular inclination towards the worship of Baal was checked. But the close alliance thus initiated between Elisha’ s disciples and the royal house seems to have exerted an injurious influence on the prophetic order. It is significant that not long afterwards Amos, the first of the prophets whose writings are extant, is careful to dissociate himself from the professional caste ( Amos 7:14). While they prophesied smooth things, he predicted the appalling national disaster, which, in fact, was not long delayed.
In the southern kingdom prophecy achieved its moment of triumphant popularity when Isaiah’ s policy of resistance to the Assyrian was brilliantly vindicated by the city’ s escape at the last moment from apparently inevitable destruction. But it was a short-lived triumph. The violent reaction under Manasseh showed how little real hold the principles of the prophetic religion had gained on the mind of the people at large. A little later the earnest effort of the Deuteronomic Reformation, supported enthusiastically by king and prophet, had not sufficient vitality to survive the disaster at Megiddo. Jeremiah knew the anguish of speaking to deaf ears, and of vainly endeavouring to restrain a headstrong people from treading the way to ruin. Thus the successive crises of history serve to exhibit the figure of the prophet in a conspicuous light. But instructively as these dramatic moments reveal the principles of prophetic action, yet it is equally important to remember how, during long, uneventful years, the prophets were quietly and inconspicuously at work contributing their share to the shaping of the national religion. It was a religion with several aspects. Some students of the OT go so far as to say that there were practically three religions existing side by side. In the first place, there was the religion of the peasantry, a faith simple and naï ve, but grievously unstable, and all too easily inclined towards nature-worship, with the attendant evils of a debased idolatry and moral degradation. In the second place, the organised religion of the priests gave strength and solidity to tradition, and in a measure not otherwise attainable secured the transmission of truth from generation to generation. Religious knowledge, once gained, was enshrined in appropriate formulae, and gradually became common property. Thirdly, the religion of the prophets possessed a quality of its own. It protested not only against the impure corruptions of the peasant religion, but also against the stiffness and formalism of the priests. The prophet was, in the true sense of the word, an innovator. He was the man of spiritual vision to whom came revelations of new truth, and of the obligation to apply old principles in novel ways. In the writings of the prophets, chronologically arranged, it is possible to trace a progress of thought, a deepening conviction of the Divine holiness and majesty, a more comprehensive outlook over the world and its problems. To imagine, as some writers have done, a radical and essential opposition between the priest as an obscurantist and the prophet as light-bringer is to misread history. Priest and prophet were alike necessary factors, discharging complementary functions, the one preserving, the other initiating. That the initiator should have repeatedly incurred opposition and even persecution at the hands of the preserver is sufficiently intelligible. New truth is usually frowned upon. The prophet must needs pay for the privilege of being before his time. In all the history of religion there are few more interesting chapters than that which traces the growth of man’ s knowledge of God, together with the gradual elevation of the moral ideal, as the heavenly flame was passed from hand to hand in the order of the prophets.
Careful historical study of the OT was in itself sufficient to show that the old definition of prophecy as history written before the event was misleading and inaccurate. The prophet was, in the first instance, a messenger to his own generation, a preacher of righteousness, a missionary of repentance, an advocate of reform. All this is admittedly true; and yet there is need of caution lest a reaction against the crude conception of prophecy as prediction should obscure the truth that the prophet did, as a matter of fact, add force to his exhortations by pointing to the future. He was neither a mere foreteller of isolated events nor a mere moral preacher; he was inspired with a vision of the coming Kingdom of God. The form assumed by that vision in the heart of the prophet was necessarily determined by the idiosyncrasy of his own genius, by the circumstances of the time at which he wrote, and by the spiritual intelligence of his hearers. When the Davidic monarchy was newly established and the twelve tribes were for a time united and prosperous, the hope of a Divinely ordered kingdom seemed close at hand. It was conceived as an earthly kingdom, and closely associated with the house of the founder of the dynasty ( 2 Samuel 7:8 ff.). But these bright expectations were disappointed. The disruption of the two kingdoms, the increasing social disorder within, and the obvious imminence of invasion from without, were circumstances that could not be ignored by the prophets. Under the enlightenment of the Spirit of God they were aware of the sinfulness of their nation, and recognised the inevitable necessity of a discipline of punishment. Nothing could be more significant than the contrast between the unqualified brightness of the outlook of Nathan and the heavy gloom of the predictions of Amos. This pioneer of prophecy in its new and severer form strove his hardest to open the eyes of his people to the nature of the coming catastrophe. “ Wherefore would ye have the day of the Lord? It is darkness and not light” ( Amos 5:18). How could a deliverance be expected by those who had been unfaithful to their God? Hosea, the prophetic successor of Amos, though speaking of judgment and condemnation, yet dwelt on the invincible strength of the love of God for His people. Isaiah saw in the miraculous preservation of the city a confirmation of his faith that God would not bring the sinful nation utterly to an end. A remnant should be left, and be the recipients of the Divine bounty in the future. National distresses interpreted by the Divinely inspired insight of the prophets led on continuously to new conceptions of the Kingdom of God. To Jeremiah came the revelation, at once desolating and reassuring, that even the destruction of the beloved city and its Temple could not permanently thwart the accomplishment of the Divine plan. A new covenant should replace the old, and a new kingdom arise, of which the inspiring principle should be the knowledge of God. Still wider and more glorious became the outlook of the unknown prophet of the Exile (Isaiah 40 ff.). The God of Israel shall be recognised as God of all the earth, and everywhere shall His name be honoured. This is the prophet’ s hope; this is his vision of the future.
The interpretation of prophecy has thus passed through various stages. It was for long regarded by Christian apologists as a convenient collection of proofs. It was next explained by students of Biblical history as essentially a protest of moral indignation against national vices. It has now come to be recognised as intelligible only when referred to a vision of coming disaster and coming deliverance. But as to the source of that vision there is much difference of opinion. It is at the present moment one of the most keenly debated questions connected with the OT Until recently it was assumed that the outlook of the prophets, their prevision of gloom and glory, and of a predestined ruler, was peculiar to Israel. Their unquestioning belief in the personal power of God, their conviction of His choice of Israel for His people, their profound sense of the national unrighteousness, were supposed to provide an adequate explanation of their reading of the future. What else (so it seemed) could a prophet expect but that God would judge His people, punishing the wicked, and after purification granting to the remnant peace and prosperity under a ruler appointed by Himself? That there is truth in this psychological account of the matter is evident. But is it the whole truth? The suggestion has been made that there were other factors at work, and that these ideas about the future may have been less exclusively the monopoly of the prophets of Israel than has been hitherto supposed. It is a suggestion to be considered in the light of the contribution which Comparative Religion can make to the study of prophecy.
Biblical archaeology is a comparatively recent science, yet it has already amassed a surprising amount of information as to the character of the civilisation of the ancient East. No scholar in the early nineteenth century would have deemed it credible that detailed knowledge of life in Babylonia and Egypt contemporary with and even anterior to the days of the OT should ever be placed at the disposal of the student. Yet this has actually come about. The spade of the archaeologist, together with the ingenious decipherment of ancient scripts, has succeeded in unlocking many of the secrets of the past. The OT is no longer an isolated document, a sole authority, a unique record. Not only are there contemporary inscriptions from Nineveh, Babylon, and Egypt by which its historical statements can be checked, but— what is of even greater importance— its pictures of life and manners and modes of thought in Israel can be set side by side with our knowledge of similar matters throughout the ancient East.
No sooner was the comparison instituted than the close resemblance between the religion of ancient Israel and the general type of contemporary religion in the East became vividly apparent. In all external matters the points of likeness are numerous and important. Sacred places, sacred wells, sacred trees, sacred stones are a common feature of Eastern religions, the religion of Israel included. It was certainly so in patriarchal times. Nor did the Mosaic revelation obliterate these resemblances. Externally and to a superficial observer it may well have seemed that, even in the times of the monarchy, the religion of Israel was distinguishable only in certain minor points from the religions of the neighbouring tribes. The OT books themselves bear witness to the readiness with which foreign rites were introduced and welcomed. No doubt the outward similarities rendered the process easy of accomplishment.
Granted that the same kinds of holy objects were venerated by Israel and by the neighbouring nations, an important question remains to be asked. Were there in the adjoining countries “ holy men” similar to the “ holy men” of Israel, the “ men of God” ? Till lately it was generally assumed that the prophets of Israel stood apart, and that none like them were to be found elsewhere. Recently, however, an opposite opinion has been put forward, and a certain amount of evidence produced in its support. It is certain that other Semitic tribes had seers whom they believed to be God’ s messengers. Thus the following sentence appears in an inscription of a king of Hamath, dating from c. 800 B.C., the very age when the prophets of Israel were beginning to write: The Lord of Heaven sent to me an oracle through the seers. And the Lord of Heaven said to me, Fear not, for I have made thee king.” In Israel the seer had been the spiritual progenitor of the prophet. The truth is brought out with great clearness in one section of the composite narrative of 1 S. To Samuel the seer men go for help in practical matters, such as the discovery of lost property, and are prepared to pay a fee for his services ( 1 Samuel 9:6 ff.). It is exactly the kind of figure which presents itself over and over again in ethnic religions. It is the man whose abnormal or supernormal psychic powers, notably the power of clairvoyance, give him an immense ascendancy over his fellows. In Israel the seer was transformed into the prophet. Samuel the clairvoyant becomes Samuel the upholder of the religion of Yahweh, the champion of national righteousness, the vehicle for the revelation of the Divine will. Can it be shown that any similar transformation took place outside Israel?
More than fifty years ago a monograph was written comparing the Greek seer with the Hebrew prophet. And certainly the Greek seer is in nearly every respect identical with the seer of the ancient East. But that nothing in the least resembling Hebrew prophecy arose from Greek divination and Greek oracles is historically certain. Among the Greeks the development of the seer was in the downward direction. Instead of rising in response to his opportunities, he yielded unreservedly to the temptations incident to his profession. He prostituted his powers in order to acquire wealth and influence. Degradation was the inevitable result. The seer who in the Homeric poems holds at least a dignified position becomes in process of time a sorry figure, little better than a detected cheat and charlatan, able to impose only on the least educated and most credulous ranks of society. Far more creditable on the whole was the record of the oracle of Delphi. It is only fair to recognise that the famous centre of Greek religion helped in many respects to maintain a standard of public righteousness. It did something more than issue riddling forecasts of a doubtful future. It used its religious influence to point out a line of right conduct, which it declared to be the will of heaven. But though this much can be said in favour of Delphi, it never succeeded in giving birth to anything like prophecy, and finally sank into decay and dishonour.
But whereas fifty years ago the only field of comparison open to scholars was provided by Greek and Latin literature, the case is now entirely altered. To-day it is possible not only to wonder aimlessly but to expect an answer to the question whether any figure like that of the Hebrew prophet ever appeared in Mesopotamia or Egypt. In spite of the declaration of some scholars, who seem to regard all Israelitish religion and culture as a plagiarism from the greater states, it still remains true that no satisfactory evidence is forthcoming to prove the point. An obscure reference in an Assyrian text to a man who offers intercession for an Assyrian king, and claims reward accordingly, affords little reason for supposing him to have been like one of the Hebrew prophets. In some measure both Egypt and Babylon recognise the moral law to be the will of their gods. Assyrian kings claimed to be the protector of the widow and the orphan. But though facts such as these reveal the essential bond between religion and ethics, they in no wise prove the existence of an order of men whose vocation it was to be spokesmen for the God of the weak and the oppressed, and in His name to denounce oppression even in defiance of the king’ s majesty.
But while the prophets, so far as the evidence goes, are seen to belong to Israel and to Israel only, it is nevertheless true that in their pictures of the future they appear to be making use of materials widely diffused throughout the East. Great interest, for example, attaches to the interpretation of an Egyptian papyrus, supposed to date from the period of the Hyksos (pp. 52, 54) or even earlier. In this writing some scholars have thought that they discovered an expectation of the future resembling the Messianic hope of Israel. It is said that the seer predicts a time of misery to be followed by an era of salvation under the government of a Divinely appointed ruler. The intricacy of the problem may be illustrated from the fact that the very papyrus on which such important inferences were based has recently been subjected to a further investigation, and in consequence has been retranslated in such a way as to remove most of the supposed parallelisms with Hebrew prophecy [ cf. A. H. Gardiner, The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage (Leipzig, 1909)]. However, though this particular piece of evidence may have proved untrustworthy, yet there remains sufficient reason for recognising the existence of a general expectation of some great world catastrophe to be followed by some great restoration. Thus, though it is impossible as yet to speak with certainty, it is probable that the Hebrew prophets were not the originators of an eschatology of doom, but availed themselves of a conception already current and gave it a deep ethical significance. If this be the true account of the matter, the inspiration under which they uttered their warnings and their encouragements will be accounted no less worthy of honour. Precisely as the revelation to the patriarchs and to Moses lay in the transformation and purification of ideas already prevalent in the ancient Semitic religion rather than in the origination of a completely new faith, so it may have been with the prophets and their visions of the future. Moreover, the hopes to which Hebrew prophecy gave currency were fulfilled. The promised Ruler and Saviour came, as they foretold, out of the house of David. And it was no matter of chance that the expectation of the Messiah had thus been fostered; its existence in Palestine when Christ came provided material upon which He worked. In the activity of the prophets the operation of the Spirit of God makes itself manifest, preparing long beforehand the conditions requisite for the revelation that should come in the fullness of time.
Nor is it only the silence of the ancient records which leads to the conclusion that in Israel alone were prophets to be found speaking in the name of a God of righteousness. In the matter of divination there is a significant difference between the religious atmosphere of Israel and of Babylon. In every early religion divination plays a large part. To members of the tribe it is of essential importance that at critical moments the will of their God should be declared. So it was in early Israel. There, as in other nations, specific means were used for discovering the will of Yahweh. For example, the Urim and Thummim (pp. 100f.) were evidently some form of sacred lot, by which fateful decisions could be reached. In Israel, however, there was a gradual, if often interrupted, advance to higher levels of religious belief. The employment of such crude and mechanical means of discovering the Divine purpose fell more and more into the background. The prophet rendered them unnecessary. He came forward claiming to possess the power of entering into the meaning of the Divine intention. As prophecy rose from height to height of religious insight, even the dream and the ecstatic vision played a less essential part. Man in the fullness of his self-conscious powers was admitted to intercourse with his Maker. In Babylon, on the contrary, religion followed a different line of development. There divination gained a complete ascendency. The interpretation of omens came to be regarded as a fine art. Every possible form of magic was practised. Chaldæ an soothsayers were famous throughout the Eastern world. The contrast with Israel is patent. Prophecy can develop only where personality counts for much. In Babylon, so far as the evidence enables a judgment to be formed, it counted for nothing. That which found favour there was not the rugged, outstanding character of the man of God, but the smooth and supple skill of the professional reader of omens. The exaggerated prevalence of divination implies the presence of conditions that must have stifled prophecy. The truth is that prophecy is the flower of a faith in the living God. Where such faith is absent, it is idle to look for a prophet. If, therefore, it be asked why, notwithstanding her highly-developed civilisation, her complex life, and her elaborate learning, Babylon failed where Israel succeeded, the answer is not difficult to find. It was because the idea of God at Babylon was fundamentally different from that which obtained in Israel. There is no doubt that monotheistic conceptions gained some hold at Babylon. Marduk was placed in a position of isolated superiority above his divine competitors. But the most high God of Babylon was essentially other than the Most Highest of Israel. Babylon’ s God was a personification of natural phenomena. He was identified with the light in which he manifested himself. The conception of his nature in the mind of his worshippers was loose and fluid, easily amalgamating itself with that of other gods in their pantheon. It was far otherwise with Yahweh, as conceived by the prophets. He manifested Himself in the thunderstorm (Psalms 18), but He was not the storm. He sat in royalty above it. Neither could He be identified with other gods. Although in the early days of the monarchy the title Baal (Lord) was without scruple accorded to the God of Israel, yet Elijah had learnt that between the God of Israel and the god of Phœ nicia there was an irreconcilable opposition. Yahweh was before all things the personal God, who made Himself known in great historical acts, as when with a mighty hand and stretched-out arm He had delivered His people from their bondage in Egypt. And of this personal Divine Being the characteristic quality was holiness. Not that the use of the words “ Holy God” was peculiar to Israel. It was almost a technical expression of Semitic religion. The Phœ nicians used it constantly. But in Israel we can trace the transformation of the meaning of the term under the influence of prophetic teaching. What at first signified little more than a supernatural aloofness, involving danger to the worshipper who, like Uzzah. ( 2 Samuel 6:7), pressed too close, came to connote the highest ethical qualities— purity, truth, and mercy. The God in whose nature these virtues found their perfect expression demanded them also from His worshippers. “ Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” ( Leviticus 19:2). Metaphysical terms are conspicuously absent from the vocabulary of Israel. The prophets did not discuss the Divine transcendence and the Divine holiness in the language of abstract philosophy. Nevertheless they were thrilled with the consciousness of them. Their whole religion was governed by the conception of the Holy One who was raised to an infinite height above the world, and would yet condescend to make known His designs to His servants the prophets.
This conception of the Divine nature was the root from which all prophecy derived its life. How, then, had it come into the heart of the prophet? In that question lies the ultimate problem not of the OT only, but of all revealed religion. What the prophets themselves thought about the matter is made clear in their writings. To them their belief in God was neither a product of their own reflections nor an inference drawn from a study of the phenomena of the world. Again and again they asserted their conviction that the voice of God had spoken to them. He had shown them His glory. They knew Him because He had revealed Himself to them. Of the overpowering strength of this confidence in the reality of their own inspiration there can be no question. It nerved them for the struggle of their lives. It held them to their task. It made them ready to face obloquy, persecution, and death in discharge of their duty. To doubt their sincerity would be absurd. But the inquiry must be pushed further back. What is the justification for thinking that they were right? What reason is there for believing that they had indeed been in touch with the living God, and were the ministers of His revelation?
The claim to speak as God’ s messengers was originally made by the prophets on the strength of experiences similar to those of seer and soothsayer. In all early societies the abnormal mental states of vision and ecstasy are as profoundly impressive to the onlookers as they are to the man who experiences them. Both he and they are convinced that these mysteries are conclusive evidence of intercourse with the spiritual world. In the opinion of his hearers no less than in his own the ecstatic is no longer himself; he has become the agent of a spiritual power, and even the mouthpiece of his God. Comparative religion has produced plentiful evidence showing how universally prevalent has been this interpretation of the mental phenomena in question. Nor is there any reason for demurring to the statement that psychologically Hebrew prophecy sprang from this origin. Even to the last prophecy was organically connected with the psychic capacity to see and hear things for which no material cause could be assigned. It was a peculiarity to which the prophet in the first instance owed his influence. But now the general attitude towards these attendant circumstances of early inspiration has been completely reversed. The unstable psychic temperament, with its tendency to fall into trances, instead of arousing respect as of old, is the object of suspicion. The fact that any claimant to inspiration was subject to trances and other mental disturbances would in many quarters to-day raise doubts as to his sanity, and would certainly weaken the force of his testimony. Possibly, however, the present strong aversion to anything but the normal process of everyday thought may be less justifiable than it assumes itself to be. The study of the abnormal psychology of genius is still in its initial stages. But even so it seems to indicate that something similar to ecstasy or trance has played no small part in the achievements of the supreme writers and artists of the world. It is the fashion to refer anything of the kind to the supposed action of the subliminal consciousness. Great truths and great conceptions, having been elaborated in the lower and hidden strata of the mental life, suddenly emerge into consciousness. The process is certainly abnormal. Considering its results, it would be ridiculous to call it morbid. And the distinction between the abnormal and the morbid needs to be kept steadily in view when the psychology of prophetic inspiration is being investigated. Undoubtedly the prophets were abnormal. They were men of genius. They were visionaries. Each of the greater prophets is careful to recount a vivid psychical experience through which he felt himself called to play the part of God’ s messenger. That these were the only occasions on which such experiences befell them is in itself unlikely; and the testimony of their writings, though not free from ambiguity, suggests at least some recurrences of the prophetic trance.
The evidence for the truth of prophetic revelation is to be looked for not in any particular circumstance, such as trance or vision, which attended its original reception by the prophet, but in its subsequent verification through the spiritual experience of mankind. The theology of Isaiah is guaranteed not by the fact that he fell into a trance in the Temple, but by the mighty influence which his teaching about God has exercised over the hearts of succeeding generations, and by the response which it continues to elicit. Moreover, it is evident that in the gradual development of the religion of Israel the prophets themselves came to attach less importance to vision. From their own spiritual experience they learned how Divine truth is recognised in daily intercourse with the Spirit of God. It may well be that on certain occasions new truths were flashed into minds rapt in trance or ecstasy, but it was neither the only nor necessarily the highest method whereby God revealed Himself to His prophets.
Whether the inspiration came suddenly or came gradually, it certainly did not extinguish the individual personality of the prophet. It did not reduce him to a mere passive instrument like the lyre in the hands of the player. A later age of Judaism, when the current of spiritual life was running low, set up this crude mechanical theory of inspiration. It was an a priori fabrication, representing what its authors imagined ought to have been God’ s way of speaking to mankind. It cannot be supported by evidence from the prophetic writings themselves. Nothing can be truer than that the prophets felt themselves to be the transmitters of messages which they had received. At the same time, nothing can be clearer than that these same prophets were endowed with an intensely individual life beyond the ordinary measure. Their inspiration accentuated their individuality. It produced a fullness of personal life. The same prophetic inspiration served also to promote a fullness of corporate life. It invigorated and defined the life of the people of God. Frequently the prophet was forced by the inspiration within him to place himself in direct opposition to the majority of his fellow-countrymen. By his own generation he was accounted an alien and even a traitor. Yet it was he who realised the true unity and continuity of the national life, and the magnificence of the task with which Israel was entrusted. He felt that he was helping to work out a great Divine plan. And he was not mistaken. The significance of OT prophecy will be altogether missed, unless it be recognised that the various prophets were all contributors to one work. Prophecy is a unity. A great connecting purpose runs through it, binding it all together. It is also part of a still greater and more august unity. It is an essential element in the Divine scheme of the redemption of the world through Christ. His work rested upon theirs. His revelation of the Father was the consummation and the vindication of their revelation of the God of Israel. “ God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” ( Hebrews 1:1).
( See also Supplement)
BY PROFESSOR H. T. ANDREWS
SOME of the greatest discoveries of modern biblical criticism have been made in the field of what is known as Apocalyptic. No one can read the NT without being impressed by the unique character of the Book of Revelation. It seems to stand alone. There is nothing else which bears any resemblance to it at all, not only in the NT, but in the literature of the world. The nearest approach to it is the Book of Daniel in the OT. We know now, however, that Jewish literature in the two centuries before and the century after Christ affords us many parallels to the Book of Revelation. Other Apocalypses have been discovered of a similar type, and it is now proved beyond all question that the Book of Revelation is the climax of a very important literary and theological movement in Judaism. We shall try to show (1) the character and significance of the movement, (2) the origin of the movement, (3) its literary and theological development, (4) its influence upon Christianity.
The Meaning of the Term.— The term Apocalypse means an “ unveiling or” disclosure, and a book that bears the name claims to reveal and make plain things which are ordinarily hidden from human eyes. An Apocalypse, therefore, displays very little interest in the present world— it is essentially an unveiling of the future, and it strives to open a window through which it is possible to look into the realities of the unseen world. The nearest approach to Apocalyptic in other literature is to be found in the vision of the realm of the Dead in Homer’ s Iliad and Virgil’ s Æ neid, and in the visions of Purgatory and Heaven in the poems of Dante.
The Relation between Apocalyptic and Prophecy.— Prophecy was the forerunner of Apocalyptic. The Apocalyptists were the successors of the prophets. There is much in common between the two. Both prophet and Apocalyptist claim to be inspired by God and to be the vehicle of His revelation to man. Both attempt to make known to the people the Divine will and purpose in history. But there are remarkable differences between them. In the first place the prophet was primarily a preacher. He spoke to men directly. It is often a mere accident that his words have been preserved in a book. There were prophets in Israel whose messages have been entirely lost. The Apocalyptist, on the other hand, was primarily a writer. He spoke to the world through his book. His own personality is quite irrelevant. We know nothing about the man behind the writing. The prophet flung himself into the thick of the fray: he intervened in the crises of his nation’ s history, and tried to shape his country’ s destiny in accordance with what he conceived to be the will of God. The Apocalyptist sat apart, veiling his identity under a pseudonym, dreaming his dreams and seeing his visions in solitude. Then, again, the prophet’ s message was concerned with the plane of this world. He spoke to his own age. When he promised deliverance to his people, he looked for that deliverance to happen in his own time. The Apocalyptist despairs altogether of the present age and the present world. His eyes are directed to the end of things, to the final Divine intervention which is to bring down the curtain on the drama of history and usher in the “ New Jerusalem which cometh down from heaven. “ The prophet rarely looks beyond the horizon of his own generation. He is engrossed in the social and religious problems that confront his contemporaries. The Apocalyptist has no patience with the futile schemes and plans of his own time. To his mind there is no hope for the world along the usual lines. God must break into history afresh and set up His kingdom with His own hand. Nothing but a supernatural intervention— a catastrophic “ day of the Lord”— can save the world.
Moreover, the historical horizon of the Apocalyptist was far wider than that of the prophet. The prophet was concerned with the position of Israel among the nations of the world in his own time. Egypt, Babylon, Moab, Ammon, and the other powers which happened to dominate the situation in his day, form the subject of his utterances, and the ultimate triumph of Israel is always the shining hope which he holds before the eyes of his people. A period of five hundred years elapsed between the age of the great prophets and the age of the Apocalyptists. In the interval much had happened. Israel had fallen under the sway of Babylon, Persia, Syria, Egypt, and Rome in rapid succession. New factors had arisen, which made the hopes of the prophets vain, and induced the spirit of pessimism and despair. The Apocalyptist, therefore, had far more historical experience behind him than the prophet, and, unfortunately, the greater the experience the more dismal appeared the prospect of Israel from a political and worldly point of view.
The Problem of Apocalyptic.— Palestine, it must be remembered, was the Belgium of the ancient world, and formed the buffer-state between the empires which were contending for the mastery of the world. In the conflicts between Babylon and Egypt in earlier times, and Syria and Egypt in later times, Palestine always suffered devastation and ruin. Time after time its lands were ravaged, its cities destroyed, and its people slain or deported. The problem which the statesmen of Israel had to face was: “ How can the country be kept free from foreign foes?” “ How can Israel avoid being embroiled in these struggles of empires for supremacy? Sometimes a policy of neutrality was adopted; sometimes Israel sought safety by making an alliance with what seemed to be the strongest power. But neither the policy of neutrality nor the policy of alliances served to keep the soil of Israel sacrosanct. Statesmanship had to confess itself bankrupt. It seemed as if the “ little nation” of Israel were destined to be the prey of every great empire that emerged upon the field of history. But the problem not only baffled statesmanship, it was a challenge also to faith. The earlier prophets adopted a confident tone. They maintained that Yahweh would prove the saviour of His people and deliver the nation from its adversaries, and sometimes their promises were marvellously fulfilled. The respite, however, was always brief, and it was never long before a new international crisis arose. Gradually the splendid optimism of the earlier prophets changed to pessimism, but it took centuries before despair really settled upon the spirit of the nation. Apocalyptic is the literature of this despair. The Apocalyptist recognises that there is no hope for Israel along the ordinary lines of history. Palestine can never become a world-empire and the centre of universal dominion— at least, not by political methods. Five hundred years of failure have made that lesson obvious. But how could the failure of Israel be reconciled with faith in God? Were the promises of the prophets futile and abortive? That was the main problem which faced the religious leaders of Israel in the later centuries. The answer which they found to it was not the abandonment of faith but its intensification. What could not be realised by the ordinary methods of national development would be achieved by a miraculous intervention. God would break into history. There would be a final cataclysm, followed by the destruction of Israel’ s enemies and the establishment of God’ s kingdom upon earth.
The Origin and Development of Apocalyptic.— Apocalyptic proper begins with the Book of Enoch and the Book of Daniel, but neither the method nor the idea was altogether new. Germs of both are to be found in the prophets themselves. Most of the prophets spoke of “ a day of the Lord.” “ Behold the day of the Lord cometh with wrath and fierce anger to lay the land desolate,” says the unknown writer of Isaiah 13. The second chapter of Joel is a splendid illustration of Apocalyptic. It foretells the advent of “ the day,” and describes it as “ a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.” “ I will show wonders in the heaven and in the earth, blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The earth shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.” The same conception forms the main theme of the prophecy of Zephaniah: “ Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations . . . to pour upon them mine indignation . . . for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.” Then, too, we have in Isaiah 65 the vision of the new heavens and the new earth which God is to create in place of the old. But though the idea of “ the day of the Lord” is found commonly in the prophets, it is often a “ day of the Lord” against Israel’ s foes or the unrighteous in Israel itself; and, moreover, the agent in the infliction of the punishment is generally some human force— e.g. “ the northern army” of Joel. In prophecy, as a rule, God acts indirectly through human agencies; in Apocalyptic He acts directly by a personal intervention.
We may say, therefore, that Apocalyptic arose out of prophecy by developing and universalising the con, ception of the day of the Lord. Its chief interest lay in the questions and problems connected with this idea. The prophets had left the picture vague and indefinite; the Apocalyptists attempted to fill in the details and give concrete form and body to the vision. What would happen when the “ great day” came? What would be its antecedents? What would be the character of “ the judgment” and the punishment meted out to the guilty? What would be the nature of the new kingdom that was to be set up? Would it be composed of Israelites only, or would Gentiles be admitted to it? Would it be permanent or only temporary, and, if the latter, what would be its duration? Would the pious dead have any lot in it, and, if so, what would be the nature of their resurrection? Would the wicked also be raised for punishment? What was the nature of the unseen world and heaven and hell? These and many other difficult questions naturally arose, and it was the task of Apocalyptic to attempt to find the answers. The main interest of Apocalyptic, therefore, was always in the problems of eschatology. It looked beyond the narrow horizon of history into the “ great beyond.” It attempted to explore the “ dim hinterland” of existence and find some token of its nature and character. It abandoned the present world as hopeless, but it found its comfort and consolation in a vision— such as no Israelite had ever had before— of a new heaven and a new earth.
Some Characteristics of Apocalyptic.— The first important characteristic of Apocalyptic is the fact that the writings are always pseudonymous. The authors never write in their own names, but always adopt the name of one of Israel’ s heroes in the past— e.g. Enoch, Daniel, the Patriarchs, Baruch, Moses, Isaiah, etc. Many motives have been suggested for this pseudonymity. Some have found the reason in the fact that the Apocalyptists were devoid of literary ambition, and thought only of the message which they were anxious to convey to the people. Others have argued that they concealed their identity in order to avoid the risk of martyrdom. The real motive, however, is probably that which has recently been suggested by Dr. Charles. At the time when Apocalyptic flourished, the Law had been established in Israel as a complete embodiment of the Divine revelation. “ Thus theoretically and practically no room was left for new light, or any fresh disclosure of God’ s will.” From the third century B.C. onward (that is, after the formation of the Canon of the OT in its earliest forms) writers were compelled by “ the tyranny of the Law and the petrified orthodoxies of the time” to resort to pseudonymity. Their only chance of securing a hearing for their teaching was to attribute it to some consecrated name in the pre-legal period. New hymns were therefore ascribed to David, and books like Canticles and Ecclesiastes to Solomon. Pseudonymity was a literary device to obtain an audience— an act of homage paid by the present to the past.
Another well-marked characteristic is the use of symbol and figure. Apocalyptic created a style and a vocabulary of its own. Its writers gave full play to their imagination. Jewish poetry is for the most part simple and restrained. Jewish Apocalyptic revels in phantasies and allows the imagination to run riot. One of the earliest illustrations of this method is to be found in the elaborate vision of the wheels in the first chapter of Ezekiel. Daniel’ s visions of the great image with head of gold and feet of iron and clay (Daniel 2), and of the four beasts (Daniel 7), and of the ram and the he-goat (Daniel 8), are further examples of this mode of writing. We may be quite sure that allusions which are obscure to us to-day owing to our ignorance of the details of the situation were clear as crystal when the books were first written. There gradually grew up an apocalyptic tradition. The method became stereotyped. The same figures and symbols reappear in writer after writer. The Book of Revelation in the NT cannot be understood at all apart from the other literature of Apocalyptic. Nearly every picture which the writer draws has a history behind it, and we need to know the history before we can appreciate the picture. To take an illustration. In the Book of Revelation the duration of the rule of Antichrist is described as “ forty and two months” ( Revelation 11:2; Revelation 13:5), or 1260 days ( Daniel 11:3). How did the writer get this figure? We have only to turn to the Book of Daniel to find the answer to this question. The 42 months or 1260 days of Revelation represent the three and a half years of the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes (from the spring of 168 B.C. to the autumn of 165 B.C.). The actual duration of the persecution under Antiochus became the traditional duration of the reign of Antichrist. Thus we see that the facts and events of the Maccabean struggle became the type and prophecy of the final conflict with Antichrist at the end of time. The figure of Antichrist is very largely the figure of Antiochus “ writ large” and thrown upon the screen of the future. The scenery and panorama of the apocalyptic dream were slowly evolved. There is a history behind every figure and nearly every phrase. The same ideas constantly recur, modified, of course, to suit the needs of the time. The originality of the Book of Revelation lies not so much in the symbols and the imagery (which are mostly old), but in the adaptation of apocalyptic tradition to the circumstances of the Christian Church of the first century.
Apocalyptic Literature.— Apocalyptic literature begins with the Book of Daniel, which was written shortly after the sacrilege of Antiochus Epiphanes upon the Jewish Temple (about 165 B.C.). Judaism was stirred to its very depths by the ruthless attempt of Antiochus to thrust Greek customs and usages and worship upon the people of God (p. 607). The Book of Daniel was composed to comfort the nation in the hour of its distress, and to urge upon it the duty of resistance even to death. It holds out the promise of Divine intervention. God will set up His throne of judgment; the enemies of Israel will be overthrown; a kingdom of saints will be established, to which all nations shall be in subjection; sin will be abolished and a reign of everlasting righteousness inaugurated; the righteous dead of Israel will rise to an eternal life of glory; the wicked will be punished with contumely and shame. Next in importance to Daniel is the Book of Enoch, the earliest parts of which probably date from the same period. As it has come down to us, the book is a composite document— a library rather than a volume— and contains at any rate five different Apocalypses, ranging in date from about 170 B.C. to 64 B.C. It deals with such problems as the origin of sin, the judgment of the wicked, and the ultimate lot of the righteous, which is depicted as a long, untroubled life in an ideal Paradise on earth. The part known as “ the Similitudes” is famous for its conception of the Messiah, whom it portrays as the “ Son of Man” sitting beside the “ Head of Days” (the Almighty) on “ the throne of glory” for the judgment of the world. A third Apocalypse, known as the Book of the Secrets of Enoch, which is quite distinct from the other book ascribed to Enoch, is chiefly remarkable for its description of the “ seven heavens.” Each of these heavens has its particular class of occupants. The second heaven, for instance, is the abode of the fallen angels; the third is the seat of Paradise; the seventh contains the throne of God. The book belongs to the first half of the first century of the Christian era.
The overthrow of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 raised a terrible problem for the Jewish mind: How could God have permitted such a frightful disaster to fall upon His people? This problem was discussed in two well-known Apocalypses— the Apocalypse of Baruch and the Fourth Book of Ezra. The former lays stress on the certainty of Divine retribution upon sin. “ Behold the days come, and the books will be opened in which are written the sins of all who have sinned and the treasuries in which the righteousness of all those who have been righteous is gathered.” A belief in a bodily resurrection is strongly affirmed. “ The earth will assuredly restore the dead . . . making no change in their form, but as it has received, so will it restore them.” It is in this Apocalypse that the current conception of original sin is challenged and the statement made that “ every man is the Adam of his own soul.” The Fourth Book of Ezra is a Jewish Apocalypse in a Christian frame, since the opening and closing chapters are Christian additions— a fact which shows that the book was highly valued in early Christian circles. It contains seven visions, all of which are intended to throw light upon the problem. It cannot be said, however, that the book discovers a real solution of the difficulty, though it does suggest some lines of thought in which comfort can be found. (1) We must remember our human limitations, and that it is impossible for us to understand the dealings of an inscrutable Providence. (2) We must trust the boundless love of God. “ Lovest thou the people better than He that made them?” (3) This world is not the end of things. The future life will redress the balance. (4) The day of redemption is drawing near when the Messiah will come and restore the kingdom.
Among the other writings which belong to this class of literature may be mentioned ( a) The Assumption of Moses, written in the reign of Herod the Great, which gives a rapid sketch of Jewish history up to the time of writing, and foretells the advent of perilous times, and the rise of a new Antiochus, from whose persecutions, however, the people will be delivered. ( b) The Book of Jubilees, or “ little Genesis,” which rewrites the narrative of Genesis from the point of view of late Judaism, leaving out stories which offended the religious sense of the time, and inserting allusions to later Jewish laws and festivals. The book is generally dated between 135 and 115 B.C. ( c) The Ascension of Isaiah, in which there is a large admixture of Christian elements, contains an account of the ascension of Isaiah through the seven heavens, and the descent of the Messiah to the world by means of a Virgin Birth. The book is composite, but the three sections into which it is divided seem to belong to the first century A.D. ( d) The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs contains twelve ethical tracts, purporting to give the last utterances of the twelve sons of Jacob. This book too has been worked over by a Christian hand; in fact, some scholars have assumed that it was a Christian production. According to Dr. Charles the bulk of the book dates from 109– 107 B.C. The Testaments are a very valuable storehouse of information with regard to the ethical teaching of the time.
Among Christian Apocalypses the chief place must be assigned to the Book of Revelation, which marks the climax of the apocalyptic movement. It was written to comfort and inspire the Christian Church in a time of persecution which threatened to reproduce all the horrors of the ré gime of Antiochus Epiphanes. The writer has undoubtedly incorporated in his book much old apocalyptic material, but the outlook and the teaching are his own. His originality consists in the fact that he has infused the Christian spirit and the Christian doctrine into the apocalyptic hope. Many of the old ideas are reproduced, but they are transformed and glorified by the radiance of the Christian faith. Another Apocalypse which had great vogue in early Christian circles is the Apocalypse of Peter, some pages of which have recently been discovered. The fragment is made up of two visions: ( a) the vision of the saints in Paradise, ( b) the vision of Inferno. Paradise is described as a land “ blooming with unfading flowers, and full of spices and fair flowering plants.” The picture of Inferno is very lurid. It depicts the various forms of punishment meted out to different classes of offenders. The Apocalypse of Peter seems to have exerted a great influence on mediæ val theology, and was undoubtedly the indirect source from which Dante’ s picture of Inferno was derived.
The Place of Apocalyptic in Jewish Thought.— It is often argued, especially by Jewish scholars, that the modern world tends to overestimate the influence of apocalyptic literature on Jewish thought. “ Apocalyptic,” it maintains, “ represents a backwater and not the main stream of Jewish thought. It emanated from certain narrow circles, was altogether esoteric, and made no permanent mark on the Jewish faith.” It is quite true, of course, that Judaism never absorbed the apocalyptic ideals, and perhaps the chief explanation of this is the fact that with the exception of the Book of Daniel, the Jewish Apocalypses were written too late to secure a place in the OT Canon; and when the Canon, especially the Law, was established as the form of Jewish orthodoxy, Judaism became more or less stereotyped and impervious to the newer forms of theology. There is one fact, however, which proves conclusively that, whatever the later attitude of Judaism to Apocalyptic may have been, in the centuries immediately preceding and following the birth of Christ it exercised an overwhelming influence— viz. the vast circulation which these different Apocalypses must have had throughout the length and breadth of Judaism, as witnessed by the large number of versions or translations into different languages which were made in very early times. The Apocalypse of Baruch, for instance, seems to have existed in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Syriac; the Book of Enoch in Aramaic, Ethiopic, Latin; the Book of Jubilees in Hebrew, Greek, Ethiopic, Latin, and Syriac; the Testaments of the Patriarchs in Hebrew, Greek, Armenian, and Slavonic. These translations would not have been made unless the books had obtained a very wide vogue. If translation into different languages is any gauge of the popularity of a book, the Jewish Apocalypses must have been among the most popular books of the time.
The Contribution of Apocalyptic to Theology.— As we have already seen, the circumstances which created Apocalyptic naturally coloured its theological outlook, The contributions which it made to the thought of the time are in the main eschatological, though the eschatology in its turn reacted on the more fundamental conceptions of religion— e.g. the doctrine of God. We may summarise the chief theological influences of these writings as follows:
(1) Apocalyptic accentuated dualism in religious thought. The general impression which we gain from studying the literature is well summed up in the words of one of the writers: “ The Lord God made not one world but two.” There are two opposed universes— the universe of righteousness under the rule of God, the universe of sin under the lordship of Satan.
(2) It tended to widen the gulf between God and the world. As C. A. Scott says: “ The tendency from the time of Isaiah onwards had been towards a conception of God as removed and ever further removed from contact with the things of earth and from immediate intercourse with men. This becomes very marked in Apocalyptic literature, and one of its indications is the development in this period of a doctrine of angels, an order of created but superhuman beings who were regarded as mediators of intercourse between God and man.” The frequent allusion, for instance, to hierarchies of angels in the NT is very largely due to the influence of Apocalyptic.
(3) It developed the doctrine of the future life. The germ of the belief in immortality is found in the OT, but the development of the doctrine into a definite article of faith was the work of Apocalyptic. The first unmistakable reference is found in the Book of Daniel: “ And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” ( Daniel 12:2). There are varying and divergent conceptions of the future life in the different Apocalypses. Sometimes the resurrection takes place on the plane of earth in a kind of millennial Paradise, sometimes on the plane of heaven. Sometimes a bodily resurrection is assumed, sometimes a spiritual. In some writings the resurrection is universal, and includes the wicked as well as the righteous; in others there is only a resurrection of the good.
(4) It gave definite shape and form to the belief in heaven and hell. In the OT the picture of the unseen world is dim and shadowy. Apocalyptic filled in the details and made it a real place with special localities for different classes of spirits. The description of the “ seven heavens” in the Book of the Secrets of Enoch and the Ascension of Isaiah, and of the “ three heavens” in the Testaments of the Patriarchs, coloured the thought of the NT, and passed from the NT into the poetry of Dante and Milton.
(5) It attempted to find a solution for the problem of the origin of evil. The introduction of sin into the world is generally attributed to the fall of Adam. “ The first Adam transgressed,” says the author of 4 Ezra, “ and was overcome, and so be all they that are born of him.” There can be little doubt that the doctrine of original sin, which is not found in the OT, was really the creation of the Apocalyptists. There were some protests, of course. The Apocalypse of Baruch, as we have seen, challenged the doctrine, and maintained that “ every man is the Adam of his own soul.” There was an alternative suggestion, too, which is found in several Apocalypses, that sin was introduced into the world through the angels, who transgressed with the daughters of men. The basis of this theory is the narrative in Genesis 6:1-4 *.
(6) Apocalyptic developed the belief in the advent of a Messiah. The wonderful description of the “ Son of Man” in the Book of Enoch has already been mentioned. We have seen, too, how the Ascension of Isaiah, probably under Christian influences, describes the descent of “ the Beloved” (a technical title for the Messiah) from the seventh heaven. The Apocalypse of Baruch foretells the destruction of the Roman Empire through the advent of the Messiah. The Psalms of Solomon portray the advent of the “ Son of David” and the “ Lord Christ” to save his people from the tyranny of the Roman Empire, and 4 Ezra speaks of the coming of a Messiah who will reign for four hundred years and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth. The conception, however, is not uniform. Sometimes, as in the Book of Enoch, the Messiah is a transcendent Divine being; in other writings— the Psalms of Solomon, for instance— he is merely an earthly ruler of supreme dignity and power.
(7) The conception of “ the kingdom of God,” which in the teaching of the prophets was mainly political and ethical, became in the hands of the Apocalyptists entirely eschatological. “ The kingdom” is to be set up by Divine intervention at the end of time, and its advent is always closely connected with the Day of Judgment.
(8) Apocalyptic created the conception of the final judgment. As Prof. Burkitt has recently said: “ The doctrine of a future general assize held no place in the Græ co-Roman world apart from the belief of Jews and Christians. Possibly the belief may have been fostered by the influence of Zoroastrianism, but it is difficult in that case to explain why the doctrine is not found in Mithraism, which came far more under the spell of Zoroastrianism than did Judaism.” “ The doctrine of the last judgment required a very special set of circumstances for its development,” and those circumstances are found in the history of Judaism in the centuries before and after the commencement of the Christian era.
The Permanent Value of Apocalyptic.— We may commence by quoting the excellent statement of Prof. Burkitt. The Jewish Apocalypses “ are the most characteristic survival of what I will venture to call, with all its narrowness and incoherence, the heroic age of Jewish history, the age in which the nation attempted to realise in action the part of the peculiar people of God. It ended in catastrophe, but the nation left two successors, the Christian Church and the rabbinical schools, each of which carried on some of the old national aims. And of the two it was the Christian Church that was most faithful to the ideas enshrined in the Apocalypses.” The exterior forms and the weird figures and symbols of Apocalyptic were abandoned, of course, except in the Book of Revelation, but the spiritual substance of apocalyptic faith was incorporated in the doctrine of Christianity. Let us briefly note what are the elements of abiding value in Apocalyptic.
(1) The first and fundamental article in the faith of the Apocalyptists is that history is teleological. There is a great Divine purpose being worked out in the world-movements of the time. Things do not happen by accident, and history will not end in chaos. There is always the “ great far-off divine event towards which the whole creation moves”— the final dé nouement of the drama.
(2) But there are two ways of writing a Utopia. There is the Greek way, which is also the English way, that sees Utopia realised in the slow and steady improvement of human society; and there is the Jewish way, which says that Utopia can only be realised by a great act of Divine intervention. Both views are right and both are wrong. The Greek way is wrong because it ignores the action of God; the Jewish way is wrong because it thinks that God can work only through a cataclysm. The true view lies in the union of the Greek and Jewish conceptions. Utopia is the realisation of the perfect will of God worked out in history.
(3) Apocalyptic lifted man’ s vision from the world that is seen to the world that is unseen. “ It called into being a new world to redress the balance of the old.” Pushed to extremes, of course, Apocalyptic issues in the form of “ other-worldliness,” which was so strongly and so justly reprobated by George Eliot. But, stated sanely, the doctrine of the Apocalyptists seems essential to a vital faith. The conception of the “ seven heavens” may have been a fantastic dream, but a dream is sometimes better than nothing at all. In the stern times in which the Apocalypses were written, the faith of men could not have been kept alive by a vague and dim phantom-heaven. The Apocalyptists created, largely out of their imagination of course, a heaven that seemed real to them, and the picture of that heaven made men heroes in the fight for faith.
Such are some of the ideas— and they were undoubtedly created and developed by Apocalyptic— which possess abiding value for Christianity.
Literature.— The Oxford Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (1913), edited by Dr. Charles, contains a translation of all the Jewish documents with introductions and notes. This book has now superseded the German collection which was edited by Kautzsch. Separate editions of most of the Apocalypses— e.g. the Book of Enoch, the Assumption of Moses, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Book of Jubilees, and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (with fuller and more detailed introductions and notes)— have been published by Charles. Other sources of information are the articles in the Bible dictionaries, especially HDB and EBi; H. T. Andrews, The Apocryphal Books (Cent. B. Handbooks); Porter, The Messages of the Apocalyptic Writers; Charles, A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life; Burkitt, Jewish and Christian Apocalypses; Ryle and James, The Psalms of Solomon; Box, The Fourth Book of Ezra; Oesterley, Introduction to the Apocrypha.