Hermeneutical Rules pertaining to Revelation

6. Since the entire Apocalypse is formed by figures, if in these we be strangers, in vain do we strive to search out the sense of it.  Now, concerning figures, there are these Canons:  1.  A figure is not able to be a figure of a figure, for a figure, inasmuch as it is relative, demands a correlative.  2.  Figures are obtained from things well-known.  3.  Figures have that extent which God prescribed for them, neither are they to be stretched beyond the intention of God.  4.  That one is to be taken as a figure that is attested by the books of the Scriptures (Cotterius’ Exposition of the Apocalypse “Protheoria concerning Types”).  5.  To the figures here and in the Scriptures a change happens, and that complex; inasmuch as, either, 1.  the signification of a figure is changed, as when the moon is a figure both of the Political state, and of the Church; or, 2.  the signification of the figure is somewhat modified by that.  It is rare that the same thing comes twice by the same figure:  which, not observed by Interpreters, caused that they everywhere transformed the entire sense of the Apocalypse:  or, 3.  a figure is changed, and that in the same passage, to signify the same thing, as in Revelation 14:19, 20, where a grape-harvest is changed into a battle; and in Revelation 17:9, where the Angel, about to reveal the figure of the City, names the bridegroom by a figurative locution, which contains the figure.  Thus Christ comes in the form of the Son of man, Revelation 1, in the form of an Angel, Revelation 8; 10 (Cotterius’ Exposition of the Apocalypse “Prolegomena” 27, 28).  7.  The foundations and rules for interpreting the Apocalypse are of this sort:  1.  In those things which have already been fulfilled, since many and various are those things unto which the prophecy of John is able to be adjusted, those things appear especially to be foresignified by it that, 1.  were common either to the whole Church, or to the greatest part of it; and, 2.  were especially eminent either with respect to prosperity, or with respect to adversity; and, 3.  were such things to which the sentences and words of John are able more agreeably to be applied.  2.  All things here are not to be cut to the quick, neither is each and every smallest thing to be scrutinized, nor is one to be fixed on individual words too morosely and anxiously, or by accommodation of all things to that which we intend:  it will be sufficient to indicate the scope of the vision and its principal parts (Pererius).  3.  As in the Prophets, so also in the Apocalypse (Lapide), the Prophetic visions are written, not in an unbroken and direct series, nor according to the order of times and of events conducted; but they are often interrupted, and, with matters quite diverse interjected, there is a return unto the same.  Therefore, in this book there are frequent anticipations, recapitulations, inversions also, and regressions, repetitions, in addition to hasty transitions (Pererius, similarly Lapide).  4.  The same event is prefigured by several and diverse visions and figures, and that partly for the confirmation of the matter and certitude, as in Genesis 41:32, partly so that the diverse conditions of those, or properties and circumstances, which are not equaled by one image, might be signified by diverse images and visions (Lapide out of Pererius).  5.  The whole Apocalypse is filled with allusions to the places, histories, and figures of the Old Testament, particularly to the Temple, the Ark, the Altar, the Sacrifices, and other Mosaic rites (Lapide); but especially to the visions of Ezekiel and Daniel (Lapide, similarly Pererius), of Isaiah and Zechariah also, with which John agrees not only in the visions, but also in words, phrases, and sentences (Pererius).  Wherefore, that interpretation, which most strictly observes the approved examples and known analogy of Prophetic style, is to be preferred to those that are formed according to the private judgment of each (More’s Works 1:9:618).  There ought to be mistrust here for whatever is strange or paradoxical, either taken from one’s private sense, or spoken rashly and freely, or not at all agreeing with those things that are certain and approved by a great many.  6.  As a good many things are here related obscurely and without interpretation, so also there are a few things of which an explication is set near; and that is done, partly so that thence we might seek an understanding of the rest, namely, by a certain analogy, either by reason of similitude, or even of opposition; partly so that we might understand that what thing are related in this book are to be taken, not literally, but figuratively and mystically (Pererius).  Now, the Apocalypse, as it expresses, is to be taken literally, as much as it is able to be done, unless what is said by it would be absurd, taken plainly and simply, or would be repugnant to sound faith and morals (Lapide).  7.  That interpretation is suspect which would vary the signification of the same words in the same vision without any solid reason, and which reiterates the course forwards and backwards; for example, if someone wishes the imagery of the Beast to signify, now a Kingdom or Empire, now a certain singular Person of the empire, but then a certain enormous vice of the Empire:  such deformed patches and equivocations show that the Interpreter imported a meaning into the Text out of a sense of some worldly benefit (More’s Works 619).  8.  Mystical words, plain from the very innermost parts of the Prophecy, like Lamb, Heaven, Fountains and Rivers, Mountains, etc., are to be taken here, not with the usual or common signification, but with an exceptional, mystical and prophetic, signification (Cluverus).  It will be here most useful to have a fixed and determined signification of the Symbols, Imagery, and Similitudes, under which the things themselves are represented.  Now, this is to be sought, 1.  from the use of Scripture:  2.  from Reason, which contemplates the fitness of those for signifying or representing things:  3.  from a comparison of those that have written on the interpretation of dreams, whether mostly from proper reason and observation, as Artemidorus[1] professes; or (which is more suited to the matter) they made a collection of the most ancient Writers of this sort.  Now, the collection of Achmet[2] satisfies above the rest, because he preserves the Oneirocritica of those three most celebrated Interpreters of the Kings of India, Persia, and Egypt; and hence since they are thus ancient and thus Eastern, so it is more likely that those things are going to have a greater affinity with the Prophetic Figures of Sacred Scripture.  The use of which Interpretations was approved by Expositors that otherwise in total method differ and disagree among themselves; I understand Grotius, and Joseph Mede, and to Mede the honor is owed of being the first to open the way in this matter (More’s Works 1:5:595).  [Now, at this point the author exhibits to us the Prophetic Alphabet of images mentioned, which he explains with uncommon erudition, concerning which it is to be related to us, as use requires, in the proper places of each.  However, the reader is able to consult him, just as also what things of this sort Cluverus has in his Apocalyptic Dawn “Prolegomena” 2:5:52, etc., has.  This is the eighth rule of interpretation.]  9.  Various figures and canons are to be noted here:  Of which sort are, 1.  Progress.  This canon is most noteworthy, which obtains both in the whole, and in the parts.  In the whole, for the Apocalypse always goes forward.  In the parts, the Earth and the Sea are injured, Revelation 20:11, and flee, Revelation 21:1.  2.  Φάος/light, when what is spoken more obscurely, elsewhere is made clearer.  A canon of great worth:  Revelation 4 and 5, the Elders and Living Creatures:  Revelation 11, the Two witnesses:  Revelation 14:12, the Words of God, that is, the Law, and the Faith of Jesus.  3.  Ἀνάληψις/repetition, as in Revelation 11 and 12, where, being about to speak concerning a later matter, he begins from earlier things, and finally he descends to that.  4.  Πρόληψις/ prolepsis, which over against those things anticipates what things were to be related later.  5.  Τροπὴ λέξεως, turning of a phrase, when a word changes unto another signification:  thus the testimony of Jesus is taken differently in Revelation 1:2 and Revelation 1:9.  6.  Δύο and δίς, two and twice.  Hardly anything here is singular, but all things doubled, or the same matter set down twice, like the descent of Christ and Jerusalem, Gog and Magog, etc.  7.  Συζυγία, joining together, when two things, agreeing in external form, are brought near to each other as if they were the same in substance, as in Revelation 20:4, 5 and 20:6, 7, in which place see what things are to be said.  8.  Κατάβασις/descent, by which not only is a matter explained more clearly, but also there is a descent, as it were, from the whole unto the parts, as you will see on Revelation 13:11, 12.  Thus in Revelation 15:1, Angels were equipped with vials:  in verse 7, they receive the vials; and in verse 8, they are supposed to pour them out:  in Revelation 16, they are commanded to pour them out, and they pour them out.  9.  Νόημα/thought, when one thing is mentioned, but another is understood; for example, under the piercing of enemies the salvation of the elect is understood, Revelation 6:2.  10.  Παρέμμιξις/mixing, when anything of a foreign nature is inserted, as in Revelation 21:24, 26.  11.  Enallage, either of number, Revelation 1:3, or of tense, Revelation 4:10,[3] or of person, Revelation 5:9, 10.[4]  12.  Συμπλοκὴ/ interweaving, when concerning many things many things are distinctly predicted, which are to be accommodated to those another way by the Law of distribution, as in Revelation 2:22, 23 (Cotterius’ Exposition of the Apocalypse “Prolegomena” 29, etc.).

[1] Artemidorus Daldianus, or Ephesius, was a second century professional diviner, interpreter of dreams, and compiler of divination methods.

[2] Achmet was an eighth century AD Muslim interpreter of dreams.

[3] Revelation 4:10:  “The four and twenty elders fall down (πεσοῦνται, future tense) before him that sat on the throne, and worship (προσκυνοῦσι, present tense in the Textus Receptus; προσκυνήσουσιν, future tense in almost all others) him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast (βάλλουσι, present tense in the Textus Receptus; βαλοῦσιν, future tense in almost all others) their crowns before the throne, saying…”

[4] Revelation 5:9, 10:  “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us (αὐτοὺς/them, in the great majority of Byzantine manuscripts in in Codices Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus) unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”

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