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which have yet been alleged against Bengel's system are here collected together by Pfeiffer, we shall state them as a sufficient specimen of all others.
Bengel's system,” says Pfeiffer, "rests chiefly on the following suppositions : 1. That by the number of the Beast are signified 666 natural years, the duration of the Beast's existence. 2. That the forty and two months of the Beast are a mystical (or prophetic) period, likewise amounting to 666 natural years exactly. 3. That this interpretation of the number of the Beast, especially as viewed relatively to the happy millennium, is the key to all the other periods occurring in the body of the Apocalypse. 4. That all the apocalyptical periods admit of being arranged in a series of regularly increasing proportions, which series has a dominant respect to the number seven. 5. That the mean length of a year is 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds.
“ Now all these suppositions are unfounded, and contradictory to the text, to history, and to experience. For, 1. What Bengel premises at setting out-namely, that the number 666 must originally have been expressed in words, rather than in ciphers, and that those words must have been in the neutral form-is uncertain ; as numerical quantities were frequently expressed in ancient times by ciphers. 2. He believes, without any authority from the text, that by this number is signified the duration of the Beast ; whereas it is merely said, that in the name of the Beast, a name appointed to distinguish him (according to a mode of designation not uncommon in ancient times), the number 666 might be counted, by them that are wise; that hereby they might be aware of him. 3. If, as might easily have been supposed, by this Beast were signified the papal power in its condition as it was first consummated by Pope Hildebrand, still its number here specified could not mean 666 natural years; for, as Hildebrand lived about A.D. 1073, the Beast's number must have run out, and his non-existence have commenced in 1739-40: whereas, in fact, the papal power, though diminished, continues to this day. Neither has the False Prophet yet appeared; the two last heads of the Beast are still wanting; the hardest and vintage have not arrived; nor do we see any thing new or extraordinary at Jerusalem, &c.; all which events, however, precede the Beast's non-existence. That Bengel had felt this difficulty; and, to remove it, had constructed various hypotheses, as that the number 666 might be made to commence in times
somewhat later; yet he allowed, at last, that its commencement could not be exactly determined till its end should have transpired. But surely it was inconsistent now to make the point of this period's commencement so uncertain, when in fact he had previously assumed it as so certain, that in comparison with it every other date was to be regarded as of only secondary importance. 4. The text shows nothing of the forty and two months being equivalent to 666 years, the assumed period of the Beast's continuance; on the contrary, it is to be suspected, that those forty and two months denote the period of his greatest predominance. But supposing they are to be understood as a long mystical period, still, if it be uncertain, as we have shown it is, what the number 666 denotes, it is impossible to compute by these two quantities, however we may suppose the forty and two months to be equivalent to the 666: neither can we set out with such an equation as 666y = 42x, both of these being unknown quantities. Certainly, if the 666 really denominate years, there is no difficulty in computing the years of the Beast; for then we have only to reckon from them the length of a prophetic month, as Bengel has done, (making it 154 years.) 5. We search the Apocalypse in vain for data to justify any other such periods as those defined by Bengel. The textual words which he considers as expressing several of them, it is far more probable, were not intended to denote any definite period at all; (for instance the word xpóvoc, which he calls a period ;) and it was quite an assumption of his own to set down the thousand years, as one proportion relative to the number 666. Indeed could any such relation be made out between the two numbers, it would stand not as Bengel states it, namely, 6663: 1000::2:3, but as follows, 666: 1000::2:3367; yet the former of these statements was all that Bengel had to allege for his regular scale of periods, however much that scale might have been admired. 6. The text nowhere shows any regular proportions of the kind as existing between the several apocalyptical periods ; neither is the scale which Bengel has made choice of the only or the more probable one that might have been devised; nor does it comprise all the periods found in the Apocalypse. As for the number seven being dominant in them, this was an assumption partly from the numbers found in the text, 42, 3), 1250 days (=42 months); and partly, 7. From the premised length of the tropical year, which is assumed in contradiction to the latest astronomical discoveries; but were it otherwise it makes nothing for the truth
of his system. Should it be argued, that the accordance of that system with the structure of the Apocalypse, as well as with history, is strong evidence of its correctness, still it must be granted, 1. That it is the plan of the Apocalypse to foreshow a continued series of events relating to the kingdom of Christ all along, down to the period of its consummation; and that those events, with the exception of some great intermediate blank periods expressly noted in the text, were to begin happening immediately and in quick succession. Between them, however, are inserted by Bengel so many and such important periods, that things which were certainly to take place in quick succession, are made by him to appear of secondary moment, in comparison of what he thus inserts. 2. Some periods which his system gives out, accord very well with history, but the rest are very far from doing so; indeed it may be shown, that there is no occasion for any such assumption of mystical years, months, or days, as Bengel has made, could we be content to remain ignorant beforehand of the duration of the chronus, the non-chronus, and the 37 times of the woman; for durations they doubtless are, though known at present only to God. Moreover, the 3} times will admit of computation, after a portion of them shall have expired.”
The former of these two objections, namely, that Bengel's computation of the so called prophetic periods, does not throughout accord with history, Pfeiffer maintained as follows: “1. Bengel computes the chronus of the fifth seal to be 1111 years, from A. D. 98 to A. D. 1209; whereas, according to the text, it is to last unto the judgment upon Rome; for the martyrs are not here desiring to know when they shall have the company of their other brethren who shall be killed, but when the Lord shall appear for the avenging of their own blood and for their relief. Thus the continuance of this chronus must be to a period at present unknown; but its commencement may be more fitly dated from the age of Constantine, in the middle of the fourth century, when Christians might easily have thought, that as their religion had now gained the ascendant in the Roman empire, all tribulation was henceforth to cease, and that the millennial kingdom was about to commence.* 2. The short time,' in Bengel's reckoninig, amounts to 888ş years: but this number is much too great, compared with the duration of the other periods; and too little, as compared with history. For it is not to be expected that all which Bengel reckons upon happening before A. D. 1836, will actually do so. Moreover, his hundred years' respite between the second and third woe is not agreeable to the text, which says, it . cometh quickly.' 3. His seventy-nine years of the first woe are not fairly deducible from history, but are thrust into it. Neither, in strictness, will the text bear application to a comparatively unimportant persecution carried on against the Jews; for events in the history of the church, which are much more important than this, must, if we adhere to Bengel's exposition, be regarded as omitted in the Apocalypse. 4. The 213 years of the Turks are fixed gratuitously; a much longer or shorter period might have been chosen with equal propriety. 5. The non-chronus of 1036 years is far too long, compared with the other periods. 6. The 1260 days of the nourishment of the Woman, or Bengel's 677 natural years, are a period the commencement of which he has fixed quite arbitrarily. 7. The 31 times, or Bengel's 7771 years, are too short a period in respect of his short time' of 8889 years, and coincide with no period of sufficient note in church history, but seem to have been chosen to fit in with A. D. 1836. 8. It appears from the text, (namely, from the dissimilar designations of the periods,) that of the two millennia which it announces, the one does not come entirely after the other, but that the greater part of their duration will be contemporaneous; so that even with his hypothesis of the New-Testament dispensation continuing a less time than that of the Old, it is possible for the millennial reign not to begin till considerably after the year 1836."*
* To the objection, that the first martyrs being informed of having to wait for their companions during a period of 111lş years, is not confirmed by subsequent history; for that neither history nor the text warrants the supposition of two periods, the one complete, and the other incomplete ;-whereas Bengel's dating his chronus (of the fifth seal) froni A. D. 98, implies as much; for, from the expiration of this chronus in A. D. 1209, to the year 1836, a very considerable INCOMPLETE period will have elapsed;-to this objection Bengel replied,—that the avenging of the blood of the martyrs, and the time of its taking place, have two degrees of announcement. The first is, that after the lapse of a chronus of 1111g years, another band of martyrs should be added to the former. In the second degree of announcement, the addition of the new band is a sure and joyful sign of the promised vengeance; and the particular time of this vengeance is afterwards fixed by those periods which commence with the tenth and twelfth chapters of the Apocalypse.
“Much, however,” continues Pfeiffer,“ as may be thus objected against Bengel's exposition of the apocalyptical periods, it possesses merit of the highest importance to the elucidation of the Apocalypse. The peculiar and progressive harmony of the whole prophecy, its connected and orderly structure, has, generally speaking, never been set forth so admirably as it has been done by Bengel. He has triumphantly refuted those who imagine that the whole of the prophecy was fulfilled in the first christian age; those who would extort seven periods of prophetic history out of the epistles to the seven churches ; and those who presume they have found the key to the mystical periods, by taking each day for a year. He has refuted also the older popular systems, which make these days to be uniformly but common natural days. He has clearly evinced that the Apocalypse both foreshowed what came to pass in the first centuries, and most especially foreshows what shall come to pass in the latter years before the full accomplishment of the kingdom of God. He has rightly maintained, that the announcement to the souls under the altar in the fifth seal, is one, not of a little time of waiting, but of a chronus, a period for long protraction of the Divine vengeance. That the angelic announcement sworn by Him that liveth for ever and ever, that there should be time no longer, (ch. x.) follows as a contrast to that previous long protraction ; and that by virtue of this sworn announcement, the tribulation must shortly and finally discontinue. That the blissful state thereupon ensuing will not be deferred to any thing like a too distant period. That this shorter period begins before the short time' assigned to the Devil, but expires with it; and that the Devil's short time' commences earlier than the 31 times of the Woman, but ends with them. That these 3 times must be mystical; and that they commence before the rise of the Beast out of the sea. That they coincide with the forty and two months, and extend through the duration of the Beast, and on to the taking of the Dragon. That the 1260 days of the Woman are a period quite distinct from the 34 times; and that the forty and two months of the Beast are quite distinct from, and prior to, the brief continuance of his seventh head. Likewise it must be conceded to Bengel, that by the Beast out of the sea, is to be understood a secular power making spiritual pretensions, and existing in such intimate connexion with the city of Rome, that all the abominations which have been practised in her, and by her means, from the time of the persecutions of the primitive church by the Roman emperors, down to our own days, will be visited in the Divine visitation upon that power. Only it cannot be granted that the papacy, in its condition as consummated by Hildebrand, is the peculiar kingdom of the Beast; rather it is the
What Bengel would have said in reply to all this, may partly be conjectured from his literary correspondence in ch. xvii., where he answers many similar objections. We shall therefore reserve our own opinion for the conclusion of that chapter.