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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 13

 

 

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Verse 1

1. The proposed name should be a true proper name, and not a mere descriptive phrase, or word, or title. Lateinos meets this condition, being a true proper name, whether as adjective or substantive. America, for instance, is a proper name of a whole country or territory. American is an adjective proper name, applicable to the country, the people, or the individual. So Latin is the proper name of the Roman State, or ruler, or citizen. Such words, on the contrary, as αποστατης, apostate, κακος οδηγος, wicked guide, etc., are to be rejected as descriptive phrases, and not proper names. So Ewald’s Hebrew terms for Cesar of Rome are hardly one name, but two, or else a title and a name. And so Ferdinand Benary’s solution, in Hebrew, Nero Cesar, is a name and title, and is excluded. This excludes such descriptive phrases as The Latin Kingdom, Italic Church, etc.


Verse 2

2. The orthography of the name should be the orthography of good authority and use. If the name be made out by mutilations, by giving false letters, or abstracting true ones, almost any name can be made to fit. Lateinos, all scholars allow to be unexceptionable in this respect. But the name of Mohammed, in the Greek form, as Moametis, given by some commentators, has no authority, and, after a thorough investigation by scholars, is shown to be spurious.


Verse 3

3. The proposed name must be not in the Saxon, Latin, or Hebrew language, but in the Greek. Says E.B. Elliott, (vol. iii, p. 205,) “There is the highest probability of the language and number of the word being Greek, and not Hebrew, because the apocalypse was intended for the use of the Gentiles, to whom Hebrew was scarcely known; because the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet are expressly selected by Christ in the apocalypse, and not those of the Hebrew, to express his eternity. ‘I am α and ω, saith the Lord,’ (Revelation 1:8,) because the numerals in which the enigma is expressed are Greek numerals, and because Irenaeus directly asserts, and all the other early fathers imply, by making their solutions in Greek, that that was understood by them to be the language intended by the Divine Spirit.” This again excludes Prof. Benary’s Hebrew Nero Cesar, the Hebrew, רמענושׂ, Romanus; and such names as Luther, Calvin, and others, adduced, as retort, by the papists.

These principles, if valid, effectually exclude all the plausibly proposed names except the one furnished by Irenaeus, namely, Lateinos. And the distinctive name of the Romish communion is THE LATIN CHURCH. Says Dr. Henry Moore: “They Latinize every thing. Mass, prayers, hymns, litanies, canons, decretals, bulls, are conceived in Latin. The papal councils speak in Latin. Women themselves pray in Latin. The Scriptures are read in no other language than the Latin. In short all things are Latin.”

The most formidable rival, however, in spite of the several points of exclusion, is the Hebrew name, Nero Cesar. This name seems to have dawned upon the minds of four eminent scholars almost simultaneously, in 1836; namely, Fritzsche, in Rostock; Hitzig, in Zurich; Benary, in Berlin; and Reuss, in Strasburg. With a certain class of thinkers it seemed to carry all before it.

An almost conclusive proof of this name being the true solution, arose from a very peculiar coincidence. Irenaeus tells us that there were in the then extant manuscripts two different readings of the numbers; the older and more accurate was 666, but a later 616. Now there were also two forms of the name Nero, both used in Hebrew; one, after the Greek, was Neron, the other, after the Latin, was Nero, and the former of these made the 666, and the latter exactly 616! Should not that settle the question?

To this one might reply that Irenaeus tells us that the 616 was found only in later manuscripts, and so they could not have come from John. And how could copyists have adjusted their codices to Nero’s name, and Irenaeus never have heard of that name as a candidate? Indeed, Irenaeus’s omission of that name in discussing the candidates is a powerful argument against its claims.

But the French Professor Godet (in his Studies of the New Testament) denies that 666 is the true number of the Hebrew name Nero Cesar. Its true number is really 676, according to the spelling in St. John’s day. The number 666 is spelled with the three Hebrew consonants, K, S, R the needed E of the first syllable being supplied by a vowel point; whereas the true orthography of the word Cesar, as identified by contemporary record, has four letters; requiring the E to be, not a vowel point, but a full letter, thereby increasing the number by a ten, making 676. This would entirely destroy the identification of the number with Nero. It is, indeed, given up by such rationalistic scholars as De Wette, Lucke, Bunsen, and Dusterdieck. We consider the Neronian solution of this name, like the Neronian date of the apocalypse, a very plausible, yet entirely preposterous, fable.

But there are some points of peculiar significance, both in the figures 666 and in the combination of the Greek letters that form the number, as they present themselves to the eye.

First, as to the significance of the 666. As seven is the perfect number, 7, 7, 7, thus trinally taken, would be the symbol of divine perfection, the Trinity. Three half sevens would be the reverse of perfection, the directly bad. Three sixes are an attempt to attain or display the divine perfection, but are a failure, a falling short, and that, perhaps, by a divinely-imposed limitation. And thus in this 666 is numerically figured the would-be Christ—the antichrist.

And as to the combination of Greek letters that form the number 666, they are in John’s Greek text, χξς, that is, chi, xi, and st. But, striking out the middle letter, the remaining two, χς, are the customary abbreviation in the manuscripts of the name Christ. Now let the serpentine ξ crawl in between these two letters, and what have we in χξς? A central serpent wearing the externals of Christ; a serpent-Christ; an anti-Christ! Nor, says Godet, must this be promptly dismissed as a puerility. The Orientals were thus accustomed to express conceptions in figured forms to the eye, as even in our modern west we have the coat of arms, and in our America the “stars and stripes.” An ingenious, reflective people, before books are printed, are inclined to shape a momentous thought into an impressive mnemonic form. Thereby we get coin stamps, monograms, signet rings, abraxases, symbols pregnant with impressive import.

There is certainly presented here a curious combination of agreements.

They are a numerical name, Lateinos, that points to Rome; a trinal number, 666, that suggests the pseudo-divine; and a monogrammic triplet of letters, χξς, that imports a Satanic Christ. It has taken centuries of thought to develop this combination, indicating that νους has, indeed, been exerted here in large amount. We leave the reader to decide whether the combination was really planned by the νους of John.


Verse 4

4. Worshipped the dragon—In retaining many of the forms and practices of old paganism. As the dragon is the impersonation of the pagan empire, so the beast is the impersonation of the nominally Christianized empire, and personal attributes and acts are ascribed to both alike. But the latter is made to individualize itself through the second beast and the image, as a sort of triunity, a three yet one. So that the official acts of the representative “image” are spoken of as the acts of the beast, the antichristic empire and vice versa.

Who is like—Claim unique authority for the spiritual empire.


Verse 5

5. Speaking great things—Words from Daniel 7:8, spoken of the fourth, or Roman beast, here claiming to be the sole Church of God on earth, out of which is no salvation; and in the person of its spokesman and pontiff claiming to be God on earth.

Forty and two months—Or 1260 days. See note on Revelation 12:14. Elliott measures this beast-period from the year A.D. 529, when the Emperor Justinian conferred the title and power of universal bishop on the pope. This starting-point will bring the close of the period at 1789. That year was the birth-year of the French Revolution, by which the despoliation of the power of the pope was inaugurated. The Church properties in France were confiscated, the monasteries were suppressed, and the clergy were compelled to a solemn abjuration of their allegiance to the pope. The other countries of Europe followed the French example. When Bonaparte came into power he deprived Pope Pius VII. of his territories, and imprisoned him. The pope continued stripped of his powers until the restoration of the old regimen on the downfall of Bonaparte. Popery never recovered its ancient persecuting supremacy. Since that day the decline of the politico-ecclesiastical power of the papacy has been constant, under the growth of the primitive principles of Christian toleration. The Protestant States have increased in intelligence and power, and the Romanistic have waned. The battle of Sadowa humbled the power of Austria, and the battle of Sedan prostrated France. The creation of the kingdom of Italy deprived the pope of his temporal kingdom, and Protestant missions are defying the pontiff in sight of the Vatican.


Verse 6

6. Blasphemy against God—By assuming the divine attribute of infallibility; by appropriating the title of God; and by the worship of Mary and the wafer.

The idolatrous aspect of popery is remarkably visible in the inauguration of the pope, that of Pius IX. included. He is first arrayed in his pontifical apparel, five articles of which are scarlet; with a single vestment covered with pearls; and with his mitre adorned with gold and precious stones. He is led to the altar, before which he kneels and prays, as before the seat of God. He then rises, wearing his mitre, and is lifted up by the cardinals and seated on the very same altar. A bishop, kneeling, commences the Te Deum. The cardinals meantime kiss his feet and hands. This ceremony is regularly styled, both in conversation and authoritative writings, “the Adoration of the Pope.” “At Rome,” says Heideggar, (quoted by Wordsworth,) “this phrase, to adore the pope, is in daily use.” Says a French “History of the Clergy,” dedicated to Pope Clement XI., Amst., 1716, “When the election is finished the pope is conducted to the chapel, where he receives the adoration of the cardinals. Then he is carried, seated in the pontifical seat, to the Church of St. Peter, and placed upon the altar… where he receives again, publicly, the adoration.” “Various books,” says Wordsworth, “have been written by Romish divines, such as Mazaroni, Stevanus, and Diana, concerning the adoration of the pope.”

A specimen of this adoration, performed by Cardinal Colonna on his knees to Pope Innocent X., A.D. 1644, is authentically given by Wordsworth in the following words: “Most holy and blessed father, head of the Church, ruler of the world… to whom are committed the keys of the kingdom of heaven, whom angels in heaven revere, whom the gates of hell fear, and all the world adores, thee we solely venerate, worship, and adore, and we submit all things that are ours to thy paternal and more than divine disposition and care.”

His tabernacle—By creating a pantheon of saints to be adored.

Continue—Rather, to practice or perform, referring not to duration of existence but of successful action. This seems to cover the period of something more than a thousand years of nearly undisputed papal supremacy.


Verse 7

7. Make war with the saints—By bloody wars, inquisitions, and burnings at the stake of all who would reform.

Overcome them—Subjecting them, by blood and terror, to her despotic authority, denying all “right of private judgment.”

All kindreds—The Roman beast styles herself solely catholic, that is, universal. She claims that every human being is bound to obey her. “You all belong to me,” said Pope Pius IX. to the Emperor William. She claims every American as her rightful subject, and the only reason at this hour that she does not force the claim by the same war and bloodshed, is want of power.


Verse 8

8. All… shall worship him—Millions on the earth are now paying that homage.

Names… not written—Who are not justified by faith in Christ.


Verse 9

9. Have an ear—John here repeats the solemn injunction usual with our Lord when some momentous point was uttered. This predominance and cruelty of antichrist was of immense moment. Its importance is immense to us at this hour, for even now the beast is practising and purposing and hoping for a full verification of his claim to universal subjection.


Verse 10

10. He that leadeth—This verse is very incorrectly translated. It should be: He that is (destined) into captivity goeth into captivity; he that is (destined) to be slain by the sword must be slain by the sword. For the despot is relentless, and the martyr must suffer. And so it is well added, Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

The second (earth-born) or two-horned beast=The hierarchy of the spiritual empire=Clergy, 11-14.


Verse 11

11. Two horns like a lamb—As the lamb is contrasted with the beast, antichrist, so is this two-horned, as a corrupt ministry, contrasted with the elders, the true ministry. And as this beast is called “false prophet,” so it is clear that he is an ecclesiastical symbol. And his two horns very well represent the double power, ecclesiastical and secular, wielded by the Roman clerical hierarchy.

Spake as a dragon—As if he were a second dragon. He mimics the lamb in appearance, but he equals the dragon in speech. That is, he pretends to be as Christ while he talks like Satan. This emblem suits nothing in history but a corrupt clergy.


Verse 12

12. Exerciseth all the power of the first beast—As the spiritual empire inherited all the power of the secular empire, so the clergy exerciseth all the power of the spiritual empire.

To worship—To bow before in religious reverence.

Whose deadly wound was healed—That is, the clergy require this homage to be paid, not to the empire preceding the spiritual empire, but to the spiritual empire itself; which was the restored empire after the deadly wounding.


Verse 13

13. Doeth great wonders—The Romanists to-day teach us that one of the marks of a true Church is miracles; and they claim a continual train of miracles as existing in their own Church. Chief among these is the act of transubstantiation, by which every priest is able to “create the Son of God.” But as this miracle is an invisible process, it is of no use in converting those who do not already believe. Romish books are full of transcendental marvels, narrating miraculous performances, sometimes ludicrous, often monstrous, and not seldom altogether surpassing those of Christ and his apostles in their prodigious character. The Bollandist volumes, more than sixty in number, approved by the pope, are full of tales written with a free inventive fancy, producing great wonders by the mere flourish of an unrestrained pen.

In modern times the “Holy Coat of Treves” was pronounced by Pope Gregory, predecessor of Pius IX., to be the true coat of Christ on which the soldiers cast lots, and for a time hundreds of thousands of pilgrims paid their visit to it.

Another specimen miracle is the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius, which is exhibited thrice a year at Naples. A red mass is first shown in a vial, and then this gradually melts, and the process is considered miraculous! Probably it is a red substance liquefied by the warmth of the priest’s hands. The classic Addison saw it and said, “So far from thinking it a miracle, I look upon it as one of the most bungling tricks I ever saw.”

The mechanical miracles of the moving eyes of the saints’ images could be easily repeated by the manufacturers of our Christmas toys, but they were once powerful aids to Romish superstition. True miracles may, indeed, be the marks of a true Church; but false miracles are the marks of a false Church, especially as fulfilling predictions like this verse.

Fire come down from heaven—Said Pope Pius IX., “I cannot, like St. Peter, launch certain thunders which reduce bodies to ashes; but I can, nevertheless, launch the thunders which reduce souls to ashes.” Lightnings and thunderbolts are the terms under which excommunication is conceived. Gregory VII. pronounced the Emperor Henry IV. to be “struck with lightning,” afflatum fulmine, by his excommunication. Says Ducange, “To fulminate an excommunication is the established phrase of the present day.” So also we are told, in a work on the “Glories of Mary,” that she once descended with torches in her hands and consumed a church building, at which she was offended, with fifteen hundred guilty occupants. See “Medieval Miracles,” p. 138.


Verse 14

Living image of the first beastthe Popedom, Revelation 13:14-18.

14. Deceiveth—All these miracles were deceptions.

Power to do—Either by aid of Satan or by ample means of combination and juggling machinery.

In the sight of the beast—For his benefit and great approval.

Saying— The clergy are the counsellors of submission to the spiritual empire.

They should make—The pope is elected, indeed, by the clergy; but the popedom, and so every pope, is created by the popular superstition under the teachings of the clergy. That it is by the two-horned lamb, the clergy, that this is effected, is notorious. Says Mosheim, on the second century, “The monks, who from their supposed sanctity had the greatest influence with the multitude, held up the pope to their [the people’s] veneration, even as a god.” And of a later date he says, “The Jesuits have turned the Roman pontiff into a terrestrial deity, and put him almost on a footing with the divine Saviour.” He adds, “It may be easily proved that the Jesuits did no more in this than to propagate the doctrines as they found them to have been before the Reformation.” Down to our own hour Pius IX. claimed all the two-horned beast conferred on the image. To a Belgian delegation, who presented him a tiara, That pope said, “You offer me gifts—a tiara, a symbol of my threefold royal dignity in heaven, upon earth, and in purgatory.” He denounced the Old Catholics as heretics, “for they refuse to recognise the divine prerogatives of the vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and to obey his supreme jurisdiction.” To another set of visitors he said, “The voice which now sounds in your ears is the voice of Him whom I represent on earth.”

All the power which the pope once possessed of dethroning monarchs and disposing of kingdoms arose from the fact that the popular mind, under the clerical influence, firmly supported the pope as above emperor or king, being the representative of God and entitled to be called God.

An image—A concentrated representative of, and likeness to, the spiritual empire. He was to be its living executive miniature. At the same time he was to be an idol to be worshipped. The symbol of an image is supposed to be based upon the custom of the Roman emperors to place their statues in a temple or other public place requiring divine honors to be paid to them. But here, 1. It is the spiritual empire itself that is to be imaged, and no individual person. 2. Powers and actions of a great living agent are attributed to it. 3. The images of the emperor were multitudinous, and set up in all parts of the empire; this is a single image. If the seer had intended the countless images, for instance, of Nero, he would naturally have used the plural, and expatiated on their great number.

An image to the beast, which… did live—As an image, all the qualities and powers of the pontifical empire are gathered and impersonated in him. He is symbol and representative executive; and so ruler; not as hereditary sovereigns are, by natural inheritance, for he is made, not born, an image. And so most of the predicates made applicable to the beast are also applicable to the pope, and vice versa. The pope is one of the clergy, and so goes to make up the two-horned lamb. He is part of the papal empire, and so is one with the beast. The name, whether Latinus, Latin, or otherwise, belongs to beast and image—that is to pope or papal Church alike. The image fitted to the beast after he did live from his deadly wound, and his persecutions and exploits, are after his living from his death. If the beast therefore be, as some think, Nero, then most of Nero’s persecutions were after his imaginary resurrection. But the resurrection never took place, and so the persecutions could never take place. The persecutions, though predicted, were as imaginary as the resurrection. If the beast was the supreme Roman power, then it was after its death in the Emperor and revival in the Pope that the persecutions took place. That is, the persecutions were papal, not pagan. The persecutor was not the emperor but the pope.


Verse 15

15. Life unto the image—He was not to be a dead statue, like an image of an emperor; he should speak; and he, the image, should cause the refusers of worship to be killed.

Worship the image—To the pope the attributes of the Deity are ascribed, the name God is given, and the worship, due to God, is offered the papal theocracy. See note on 2 Thessalonians 2:7. The Canon also declared, “It is certain that the pope was styled God by Constantine, and it is manifest that God cannot be judged by men.” And so Pope Urban II. maintained that he was judge of all men, but that he could be judged by no man, and he was acquitted of an accusation on that ground. And, under Pope Symmachus, at the beginning of the sixth century, it was declared that the pope was judge in the place of God, and could himself be judged by none. He was above all human jurisdiction. And, at the fifth Lateran Council, the orator announced, with all acceptance, “Thou art finally a second God on earth.” See our notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:4-10.

Killed—No domination ever existed on earth so bloody and so cruel, in every form of infliction, as the popedom, from its first establishment to the present hour. Religious wars waged by its instigation, massacres and exterminations, inquisitions and dragonades, tortures by rack and by burning, form the staple of the history. The Spanish inquisition, the massacre of St. Bartholomew, the Smithfield fagots, are exploits of this infernal image. Every country in western Europe is stained by this antichrist with blood. It has ruined South America. In our Protestant North America its devotees are numerous and menacing, but impotent as yet.


Verse 16

16. And he—That is, the living and supreme image.

Causeth—On this word, here and in the previous verse, we may note, 1. The entire body of Romish clergy find their own supremacy over the people to be identified with the absoluteness of the pope over themselves. And hence a common self-interest makes them a unit. An intense rivalry thence arises, to raise the pope to the highest point of supremacy. Thereby the pope becomes the primal causative spring of all persecutions to maintain the papal power. 2. But when charged with these persecutions, the papist replies that it is not the spiritual power, but the temporal magistracy, that really executes the punishment. The priest condemns, and the magistrate inflicts. The pope, therefore, does not execute; he causeth others to execute the heretic.

A mark—Slaves, soldiers, and sailors were often marked by masters and sovereigns in token of ownership. Note on Galatians 6:17. Ptolemy Philopater (3 Maccabees 2:29) enrolled the Jews of Alexandria as soldiers, and had them branded with the ivy of Bacchus with hot iron. And Philo says that some idolaters had their bodies branded with hot iron as an indelible mark which could not be obscured by time. The mark was branded, says Augustine, sometimes on forehead to denote profession, sometimes on the hand to denote activity of service.


Verse 17

17. No man might buy—Says E.B. Elliott: “A canon of the Lateran Council, under Pope Alexander III., commanded that no man should entertain or cherish them in his house or land, or exercise traffic with them. The Synod of Tours, (just when the Waldenses and Albigenses had begun to excite attention,) under the same Pope Alexander, passed the law that no man should presume to receive or assist the heretics, no, not so much as to exercise commerce with them in selling or buying. And so, too, as expressed in Pope Martin’s Bull, the Constance Council. How the mass of the clergy urged its execution in other days throughout the popedom is notorious.”—Vol, iii, p. 217. We may add that to-day, in revising these notes, we find in a New York daily paper the report of a trial, in these United States, of a Roman priest for prohibiting his people from continuing their custom to an excommunicated parishioner, the damages being laid at ten thousand dollars, the jury’s verdict being over three thousand. Such is this persecuting power to this day.


Verse 18

18. Here is wisdom… understanding—The here means, in the true solution of this problem. The man who tries must bring his intellect to it; and the man who succeeds has brought here a true wisdom; a wisdom which not only involves a good many questions of history and literature, but is pregnant with very important conclusions.

Number of the beast— That is, of his name. To understand this, we must know that the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans used not our now numerical Arabic figures in arithmetic, but the letters of their alphabets. The first ten letters in Hebrew and Greek stood for our figures from 1 to 10. Then the next ten designated the tens, repeated to a hundred; the rest designated thousands. By a little ingenuity both a number and a name might then be found in a certain arrangement of letters. This not only furnished room for play of fancy among Christians, but among cabalists a pretence of deep meanings. Thus the Greek Jesus, Jesous: J=10, e=8, s=200, o=70, u=400, s=200=888; quite an antithesis to 666.

Number of a man—A number which a man would use, and therefore calculable by a man. See note on Revelation 21:17.

Six hundred threescore and six—When a problem of this kind is proposed and recorded for centuries, it might be expected that a great number of names would, in the course of centuries, be produced as the solution. We might at first imagine, too, that a plenty of fitting names would be furnished, and so the problem be really swamped. Numerous names have indeed been furnished, but scarce one meeting the obvious conditions. Puerile as a problem based on the position of letters and numerals may at first seem, the present problem includes elements and conditions tasking the most vigorous wisdom. The only name that seems to meet all the conditions, is one of the oldest, adduced by Irenaeus, the grand-pupil of St.

John himself, Lateinos, Latinus, Latin. Some conditions of the problem may be as follows:

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 13:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/revelation-13.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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