Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Apostles' School of Prophetic Interpretation - By Charles Maitland

The Apostles' School of Prophetic Interpretation: With Its History Down to the Present Time - by Charles Maitland is a very fascinating book on prophecy.  Maitland bases his premise on the fact that the Apostles taught Christians verbally and not merely through letters, and that those letters do not contain everything they taught the early Christians.   He cites 2 Thes. 2:15, "So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours. "(2Th 2:15 ASV)  And also uses another verse closely connected with the above to prove his point, speaking of 2 Thess. Ii 5-6.  "…on this point St. Paul and the Thessalonians understood each other:  'Ye know what withholdeth.' And how had they learnt it?  'When I was yet with you I told you these things.'  They knew something not directly expressed in Scripture:  and this knowledge they were told to hand down together with the epistle." Paul told the Thessalonians to hold fast to, and by implication to pass down, what they had been taught, by letter and by the Apostles' verbal teaching.  So Maitland thinks that one of the best ways to study prophecy is to see what many of the Christians of the early church believed in regard to prophecy as they may have learned from the Apostles, or those taught by the Apostles, about certain prophetic interpretations.  This is what the author does in this book, going down through church history to see what the earliest Christians believed and observing and critiquing the deviations from those interpretations that ended up occurring along the way

The conclusion of the book is that the correct scheme of prophetic interpretation is a Premillennial one: The ultimate Antichrist has yet to come, Babylon the Great has yet to be destroyed, there will be a literal thousand year reign of Christ upon this earth…etc. One of his biggest conclusions is that the Roman Catholic Church is 'Rome' or Babylon, the Great Harlot spoken of in prophecy…I'm still a bit 'iffy' on that but he did make some very interesting arguments on that score. There were differing views amongst the early Saints about whom the woman clothed with the sun represents, some early church Saints believed it was the Church, others that it was the 'Jewish Church'.  At times, I must admit, I was bothered by the author's inconclusiveness about the Jewish people…though if I remember correctly, I think he did believe (he lived in the 1800s) that they would be brought to Christ at the end, though not necessarily taking a prominent or significant place in the 1000 year reign.  That was rather disappointing to me, but I really liked the book overall. 

Maitland gives many very fascinating thoughts, a couple of which I'll quote here: Speaking of the incredible deceiving power the Antichrist will have, so powerful that if it were possible even the elect would be deceived, the author speaks of the, as it were, reverse truths Christians will bank on to hold to the true Christ and reject the Antichrist: "Compared with the history of our Savior's life, faith and unbelief will seem, in that day, to have changed sides.  What it was blasphemy to say of the first, it will be soul-saving truth to think of the second:  he truly 'hath a devil, and is mad;' he lives and reigns 'by the operation of Satan,' for it is the Dragon that gives him that power, and seat and great authority. ..The same Scriptures that foretold good things of Christ have declared bad things of Antichrist.  Seen by this light, his very miracles will resolve themselves into a fulfillment of prophecy:  to style himself God, will stamp him 'Man of Sin:' for, if he did no miracles, he would not be the Antichrist of prophecy…"  and speaking of the Jews' rejection of Christ as Messiah in spite of the prophecies supporting him: "For Christ Himself, instead of uttering new prophecies about Antichrist, refers to that which was before spoken by Daniel the prophet:  it being His purpose not to bear witness to Himself, but to support His own mission by the witness of His Father's prophets.  The rejection of that witness, according to the primitive belief, will increase the condemnation of the Jews, and in the end bring Antichrist upon them:  God will send them strong delusion, that, as they rejected Christ in spite of their own Daniel, so they may receive Antichrist in spite of Daniel also." I had never thought of it that way before, the Jews rejection of Christ, and their ultimate acceptance of Antichrist, both actions were/are/will be in spite of the prophecies of Scripture!

The book is filled with little witty, sarcastic, and profound statements about erroneous prophetic views, for instance, in the introductory essay (which I strongly advise you to read as well) the author is defending the literal interpretation of scripture and makes comments like, "When history has falsified any part of a prognostication professing to be derived from Scripture, the mistake will be found, not in the over-literalness of the interpretation, but in its not being literal enough."  and speaking of allegorical interpretations and giving an amusing demonstration of how the Jews could have allegorically interpreted the prophecies of Christ, "Thus the methods now employed to evade the natural meaning of the prophecies about Antichrist, would have enabled the Jews to evade all that was predicted about the first coming of Christ." And many pages later, in the main part of the book after comparing in a chart (yes, this book has charts too!) differing views of early Christians for and against the Millennium he writes, "But on which side shall we range St. John?  Were he uninspired, nothing could be more decisive than his statement:  - 'They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.'  Have we at length come to this, that because we reckon him inspired the plain sense is to go for n nothing?" In other words, is John TOO inspired to be taken literally?  Maitland was very good at using sarcasm to make his point. 

Oh, and another interesting note, I have heard several times over the past few years an interesting account of a discovery of a variant of the number of the beast that says 616 and not 666.  It wouldn't be quite worth remarking on except that a second manuscript was found rather recently that has the same variant, so it seemed to give it a little more credence and cast doubt upon the number of the beast.  The account made me wonder about it as well.  This book helped me draw a conclusion on it, simply through the author's recounting of prophetic history:  Speaking of Irenaeus (a probable disciple of the Apostle John), the author writes:  "Through Irenaeus we discover that……Some had changed the Beast's number to 616; a mistake which he supposes to have begun with the copyists, and to have been kept up by 'vainglorious' attempts to support some names that agreed with 616." " Against those who had altered the number of the Beast's name, he could bring this conclusive argument:  'They that have seen John face to face say otherwise.'"  Well, that settled me on 666! 

I suppose I should end this now…there were SO many points made in the book, and I took SO many notes/wrote down quotations, the above are just a sampling of them.  I strongly recommend getting this book, it gives a very interesting look at the study of prophecy down through the ages, and is VERY thought provoking. 


Many, many thanks to Wipf and Stock Publishers for sending me a free review copy of this book!  My review did not have to be favorable.  

Besides Wipf and Stock Publishers, one of the places this book may be purchased from is Amazon.com