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Heidegger's Bible Handbook: Revelation: Clarity of the Book

7. Its dignity and clarity, especially at this time, is asserted. Light is alleged for the same by our modern Interpreters: but darkness is foully spread over it by the Papists, who, with its prophecies read, were obliged to shudder to their very core.

Heinrich Bullinger

But, although we do not agree with the fanatics, asserting with Weigel,[1] that the Apocalypse is the primary book of all Scripture, and its beginning, middle, and end, in the Celebrated Crocius’ Antiweigelio, pages 71, etc.; with good reason Saint Jerome already of old stamped this book as beyond all praise: he would have commended it as worthy of even greater, indeed, the greatest, praise, if he had come unto our times, in which the most illustrious fulfillments daily lend incredible light to it. Which praise of the book is not at all darkened by its obscurity, advanced as a pretext by those that do not regard it to be the glory of God to conceal a matter, and the glory of Kings to search out a matter (Proverbs 25:2), and set no value upon composing the mind for the understanding of it. For, even if this book’s frequent, enigmatic symbols (now, all Prophecy, before it is fulfilled, is an enigma, as Irenæus says) appear to cover the sense completely, and one in vain makes up his mind to untie the knots of all the enigmas, and to go through all the minutiae with a fine-toothed comb: nevertheless, some things, scattered through the whole text, are said with the utmost clarity; some things are met with out of the ancient Prophets, with whom the Jewish people had been especially familiar; some things by repetition, a great many by their fulfillments, the most certain interpreters of all Prophecies, are understandable. Which build a road to some sort of understanding, at least a general and indefinite one, of things more abstruse and hitherto concealed; in such a way that it could satisfy a candid, but not contentious, reader. A blessing is certainly promised to readers, Revelation 1:3; frequent exhortations to ponder the book occur, Revelation 13:9, 18; 17:9; etc.: and Christ commanded that it not be hidden from mortals, but published and revealed, Revelation 1:5, 11; 10:11, and forbad it to be sealed, Revelation 22:10. And John received from an Angel the little book, no longer sealed, but having already been opened by the Lam, Revelation 5:5, 9; 10:2, 8. Finally, it was the goal of the divine counsel δεῖξαι τοῖς δούλοις αὐτοῦ ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι, to show to His servants the things which must be done, Revelation 1:19; 22:6, 16. But God never fails of His end. Our great Bullinger in his Præfatione in Apocalypsin thus speaks, I suppose that this book is altogether simple and perspicuous to believers, reading attentively and with piety. I acknowledge that the ancient interpreters of this book not rarely hesitated in the explication of it, and were not always able to explain it. But at the same time it is evident that they more than once said that this book is hardly to be understood before it is fulfilled, but then it is to be most readily understood without difficulty by almost anyone. And indeed, to those Fathers of old the vision of Daniel was altogether obscure. But, when those things that he had veiled under figures were fulfilled, not wanting were men that would write that he wrote a history of matters conducted, not a prophecy of matters to be conducted. But also our Lord Himself in the Gospel of Matthew says: When ye will have seen the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by the Prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand), etc. Indeed, if with diligence we read this book, and compare those things that it says under a cover, with those to which the facts of history bear witness: we also shall say that it narrates nothing but histories. Moreover, a readier understanding is helped not a little, both by the hermeneutical rules, or foundations of interpretation, which have been related at length by most learned Men, especially Cluverus, Cotterius,[2] More,[3] and others; and also by the lighthouse of Ecclesiastical history, and Interpreters of the Apocalypse, who both in the preceding and also present age have illustrated it with most pious and learned commentaries and meditations. I understand Evangelical Interpreters. For, the Papists, especially Cornelius à Lapide, Ribera, Alcasar,[4] and others of similar note, who by their commentaries distort these sacred oracles either to a fictitious Antichrist (they are very hares, but they are seeking game), or to the war of the Church with the Synagogue and Gentile world after the Apostolic age, and so deprave rather then explain them: they ought to have shuddered to their very core at the mention of the Beast; of the False Prophet seducing the inhabitants of the earth; of the Harlot fornicating with the Kings of the earth; of the great, seven-hilled City reigning over the Kings of the earth; of the Locusts proceeding from the smoke of the Abyss and clothed with Monkish habit; of the Babylonian merchandise, or fictitious piety put on by the Clergy for profit, and other emblems of this sort of the Antichristian Kingdom; than to have applied their minds to the explication of the book.

[1] Valentin Weigel (1533-1588) was a German theologian and mystic. He served as a Lutheran pastor at Zschopau, and wrote voluminously. He kept his more radical ideas to himself, and lived peacefully. Contrary to the dogmatic tendency of the age, Weigel believed that internal illumination is superior to all external means of spiritual knowledge. [2] Matthieu Cottière (c. 1580-c. 1650) was a French Huguenot minister at Tours. He wrote Apocalypseos Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, Expositio Perpetua atque Apodeictica. [3] Henry More (1614-1687) was a Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge. He was a learned divine and a Platonic philosopher. His Theological Works includes An Enquiry into the Mystery of Iniquity. He wrote several other works dealing with eschatology and the interpretation of the Apocalypse: An Exposition on the Apocalypse; A Plain and Continued Exposition of the Several Prophecies or Divine Visions of the Prophet Daniel: Which Have or May Concern the People of God, whether Jew or Christian; An Answer to Several Remarks upon His Expositions of the Apocalypse and Daniel; as also upon His Apology; Several Supplements and Defences of His Exposition of the Prophet Daniel; Paralipomena Prophetica; or Supplements and Defences of His Expositions on Daniel and the Apocalpyse; Notes upon Daniel and the Apocalypse, Framed out of the Expositions; Exposition of the Seven Epistles Sent to the Seven Churches in Asia; with a Discourse of Idolatry, with Application to the Church of Rome. [4] Luis de Alcasar (1554-1613) is said to be the forerunner of modern preterism. He spent forty years writing Vestigatio Arcani Sensus in Apocalypsi, a massive, nine hundred page commentary on Revelation.

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