Object of the Seer and His Methods -- Vision and Reflection.

§ 1. The object of the Seer is to proclaim the coming of God's kingdom on earth, and to assure the Christian Church of the final triumph of goodness, not only in the individual or within its own borders, not only throughout the kingdoms of the world and in their relations one to another, but also throughout the whole universe. Thus its gospel was from the beginning at once individualistic and corporate, national and international and cosmic. While the Seven Churches represent entire Christendom, Rome represents the power of this world. With is claims to absolute obedience, Rome stands in complete antagonism to Christ. Between these two powers there can be no truce or compromise. The strife between t hem must go on inexorably without let or hindrance, till the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ. This triumph is to be realized on earth. There is to be no legislation, no government, no statecraft which is not finally to be brought into subjection to the will of Christ. Jap is thus the Divine Statute Book of International Law, as well as a manual for the guidance of the individual Christian. In this spirit of splendid optimism the Seer confronts the world-wide power of Rome with its blasphemous claims to supremacy over the spirit of man. He is as ready as the most thoroughgoing pessimist to recognize the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy, but he does not, like the pessimist, fold his hands in helpless apathy, or weaken the courage of his brethren by idle jeremiads and tears. Gifted with an insight that the pessimist wholly lacks, we can recognize the full horror of the evils that are threatening to engulf the world, and yet he never yields to one despairing thought of the ultimate victory of God's cause on earth. He greets each fresh conquest achieved by triumphant wrong, with a fresh trumpet call to greater faithfulness, even when that faithfulness is called to make the supreme self-sacrifice. The faithful are to follow withersoever the Lamb that was slain leads, and for such, whether they live or die, there can be no defeat, and so with song and thanksgiving he  marks each stage of the world strife which is carried on ceaselessly and inexorably till, as in {civ.} 1 Cor 1524-27, every evil power in heaven, or earth, or under the earth is overthrown and destroyed for ever.

§ 2. Methods of the Seers generally -- psychical experiences and reflection or reason. -- Prophecy and apocalyptic for the most part use the same methods for learning and teaching the will of God. The knowledge of the prophets as of the Seer came through dreams, visions, trances, and through spiritual, and yet not unconscious, communion with God -- wherein every natural faculty of man was quickened to its highest power. When we wish to distinguish the prophet and the seer, we say that the prophet hears and announces the word of God, whereas the seer sees and recounts his vision. But this definition only carries us but a little way, for these phenomena are common to both. Hence we must proceed further, and deal with the means which the seer uses in order to set forth his message. These are psychical experiences, and reflection or rather reason embracing the powers of insight, imagination, and judgment.

Physicical experiences. -- These consist of (a) dreams; (b) dreams combined with translation of the spirit; and (c) visions.

(a) Dreams. -- Dreams conveying a revelation. -- Dreams play a great role in Jewish apocalypses. They are found in Dan 21 45 71; in 1 Enoch 83-90, 2 Enoch 12 etc.; Test. Naph. 51 61 71; 4 Ezra 111 123 131. 13. Such dreams are assigned to a divine source and are regarded as conveying revelations of God. Now such dreams are in many of these passages called visions: cf. Dan 45 71 81sqq.; 1 Enoch 83-90, where the two dreams 851 are called two visions in 832; Test. Levi, where the vision of 81 is called a dream in 818; Test. Naph., where what is called dreams in 71 is called visions in 51; 4 Ezra, where what is called dreams in 111 131 is called visions in 1210 1321. 25 1417. In 2 Bar. the Seer seems to have waking visions, except in 361 531.

Now in these apocalypses dreams and visions are equally authoritative sources of divine knowledge as well as in the O.T. Cf. 1 Sam 286. 15, Deut 131-3, Jer 2325-32 279 298, Joel 228. But it is remarkable that dreams fall into the background in the 1st cent. A.D. in Christian literature.(1) Thus the Hebrew Test. Naph. (date  uncertain) 21 41 71. 5 speaks only of visions, and in 313 treats a dream as no true source of divine knowledge. See my edition of the Test. XII Patriarchs, pp. 221-223. In the N.T. dreams are not divine means of revelation unless in Matt. 120 212-13. 19. 22 2719. Hence it is only visions that are recounted {cv.} in the Apocalypse. It is not even said that the Seer fell asleep and saw a vision. It is simply said, "I saw." In 4 Ezra, on the other hand, sleep precedes the visions of 111 131 and 2 Bar 361 531, though in other sections this element of the dream is wholly wanting.

(b) Dreams combined with a translation of the spirit of the Seer. -- Test. Levi 25-9 51. 7. This combination reappears in Hermas, Vis. i. 1. 3, avfu,pnwsa kai. pneu/ma me e;laben kai. avph,negke,n me diV avnodi,aj tinoj)

(c) Visions. -- In these the ordinary consciousness seems to be suspended, and sensible symbols appear to be literally seen with another faculty. These visions fall into three classes.

(a) Visions in sleep. -- All the dreams mentioned in i. (a) above while are called
          visions by the writers could be brought under this head. Cf. Tes. Lev 81. 18.
(b) Visions in a trance. -- Cf. Ezek 11, Test. Jos 191, 2 Bar 221 551-3 761, Acts 
          1010, Apoc 110sqq. (evgeno,mhn evn mneu,mati) and passim where kai. ei=don
          is used. Yet the latter may be otherwise explained, as we shall see.
(g) Visions in which the spirit is translated. -- Ezek 312. 14 83, Dan 81-2, 1 Enoch
           711. 5, 2 Enoch 31, 2 Bar 63 sqq., Asc. Is 6-11, Apoc. 41 173 2110. St. Paul
           (2 Cor 123) does not know whether in his vision he has experienced an actual
           translation of the spirit or not.(2)
(d) Waking visions. -- Daniel seems to experience a trance when awake in 105,
           Stephen in Acts 755, Zacharias in Luke 111-20. The fundamental ideas 
           underlying some of the shorter or even of the more elaborate visions in our
           author may belong to this category, such as 110-20 41-8 79-17 83-5 1414. 18-20
           152-4 2011-15 215a. 4d. 5b. 1-4abc 223-5.

§ 3. Value of such psychical experiences depends not on their being actual experiences, but on their source, their moral environment, and their influence on character.(3) -- Of the reality of such psychical experiences no modern psychologist entertains a doubt. The value, however, of such experiences is not determined by their reality, but by facts of a wholly different nature. Real psychical experiences were not confined to Israel. They were familiar at the oracular shrines of the ethnic religions. The most {cvi.} celebrated of these was the ancient world Oracle of Delphi. This ORacle exerted generally a good influence on Hellenic life. But the hope of continuous progress of such agencies among the Greeks was foredoomed from the outset owing to two causes -- the first being their association with polytheism and other corrupt forms of religion, and the second being the failure of Hellas to respond to the moral claims as it had done to those of the intellect. But it was otherwise in Israel, where seers such as Samuel prepared the way for the prophet, and moral and religious claims received a progressive and ever deepening response. Now prophet and seer alike had dreams, visions, and trances, and these psychical experiences in Israel were distinguished from those of the heathen seers not only by their greater reality, for they were in the main equally real in both cases, but by quite a different standard, i.e. by the source from which they sprang, the environment in which they were produced, and the influence they exercised on the will and character. In all these respects prophecy and apocalyptic were duly authenticated in the O.T. as they are in the N.T.

§ 4. Literal descriptions of such experiences hardly ever possible. The language of the seer is symbolic. -- In regard, therefore, to the visions recounted by our author and other O.T. and N.T. visionaries, the main question is the character of the religious faith they express and the religious and moral duties they enforce. Whether they are literal descriptions of actual experiences is a wholly secondary question. A literal description would only be possible in the case of the simplest visions, in which the things seen were already more or less within the range of actual human experience, as, for instance, in Amos 81-2 "Thus the Lord God showed me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit." Cf. Jer 111 sq. 13 sqq.. But in our author the visions are of an elaborate and complicated nature, and the more exalted and intense the experience, the more incapable it becomes of literal description. Moreover, if we believe, as the present writer does, that behind these visions there is an actual substratum of reality belonging to the higher spiritual world, then the seer could grasp the things seen and heard in such visions, only in so far as he was equipped for the task by his psychical powers and the spiritual development behind him. In other words, he could at the best only partially apprehend the significnace of the heavenly vision vouchsafed him. To the things seen he perforce attached the symbols more or less transformed that these naturally evoked in his mind, symbols that he owed to his own waking experience or the tradition of the past; and the sounds he heard naturally clothed {cvii.} themselves in the literary forms with which his memory was stored. Thus the seer laboured under a twofold disability. His psychical powers were enerally unequal to the task of apprehending the full meaning of the heavenly vision, and his powers of expression were frequently unable to set forth the things he had apprehended.

In the attempt to describe to his readers what was wholly beyond the range of their knowledge and experience, the seer had thus constant recourse to the use of symbols. Hence in his literary presentment of what he has seen and heard in the moments of transcendent rapture, the images he uses are symbolic and not literal or pictorial. In fact, symbolism in regard to such subects is the only language that seer and layman alike can employ. The appeal of such symbolism is made to the religious imagination. In this way it best discloses the permanent truth of which it is the vehicle and vesture.

§ 5. Highest forms of spiritual experience. -- There is a higher form of spiritual experience than either that of the prophetic audition or the prophetic vision. In this higher experience the divine insight is won in a state of intense spiritual exaltation, in which the self loses immediate self-consciousness without becoming unconscious, and the best faculties of the mind are quickened to their highest power. Therein the soul comes into direct touch with truth or God Himself. The light, that in such high experience visits the wrestling spirit, comes as a grace, an insight into reality, which the soul could never have achieved by its own unaided powers, and yet can come only to the soul that has fitted itself for its reception. In such experience the eye of the seer may see no vision, the ear of the seer hear no voice, and yet therein is spiritual experience at its highest. Such experiences must ever be beyond the range of literal description. They can only be suggested by symbols. They cannot be adequately expressed by any human combination of words or sounds or colours. At the same time such spiritual experiences of the seer have their analogies in those of the musician, poet, painter, and scholar.

§ 6. Reason embracing the powers of insight, imagination, and judgment. -- In the manifold experiences enumerated in § 2, 4-5, the use of the reason is always presupposed, but as the secondary and not the primary agent in action, save perhaps in § 5. Under this heading, however, we deal rather with the normal use of the reason, while the seer makes (a) an arrangementof the materials so as to construct a divine theodicee or philosophy of religion; (b) in his creation of allegories; (c) in the adaptation of traditional materials to his own purpose and their reinterpretation; (d) in the conventional use of the phrase "I saw."

(a) Arrangement of materials. -- Now, whereas the collected {cviii.} works of a prophet do not necessarily and in point of fact never show strict structural unity and steady development of thought, it is otherwise with the seer, and above all other seers with the work of our author, which exhibits these characteristics in an unparalleled degree. The reader has only to consult the Plan of the Book (pp. xxiii-xxviii) to be assured of this fact. The work of the artist and thinker is seen not only in the perfectness of the form in which many of the visions are recorded, but also in the skill with which the individual visions are woven together in order to represent the orderly and inevitable character of the divine drama. For not a single vision, save the three that are proleptic, can be removed from the text without inflicting irreparable damage on the whole work. This philosophical and dramatic character of Jap is due to the Seer as a religious thinker. On the other hand, the individual visions, where these are not freely constructed or borrowed from sources, are due to his visionary experiences. Apocalyptic, and not prophecy, was the first to grasp the great idea that all history, alike human, cosmological, and spiritual, is a unity.

(b) Allegories freely constructed. -- The seers make use not infrequently of allegory. Allegories are generally freely constructed and figurative descriptions of real events and persons. With this form of literature we might compare Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Their object is to lay bare the eternal issues that are at stake in the actual conflicts of the day. Dan 11, 1 Enoch 85-90, 2 Bar liii-lxxiv, 4 Ezra 11-12, are undoubtedly freely invented allegories.

The work of the seer is not affected injuriously by his adoption of this literary form in order to publish his message to the world. The question of importance is not the form in which it is conveyed, but the nature of the religious conviction which has therein found expression. The Seven Seals and the Seven Bowls may in part be ranked under this division and in part under the next.

(c) Adaptation of traditional material. -- Our Seer had many sources at his dispoal, and he has freely laid them under contribution, re-editing and adapting them to their new contexts. If we admit his right to construct allegories freely to convey his message to the Church, he had the same right to use traditional material for the same purpose. In fact, all the Jewish writers of apocalypses did so. The sealing of the 144,000, 74-8, and of the Heavenly Jerusalem, 219-222. 14-15. 17, are constructed and rewritten largely out of pre-existing material, but their meaning is in the main transformed. In not a few cases the sources have not been wholly adapted to the contexts into which they have been introduced by the Seer. See p. lxii sqq.

     {cix.}(d) Conventional use of the phrase "I saw." -- Just as the prophet came to use the words "thus saith the Lord," even when there was no actual psychical experience in which he heard a voice, so he came to use the words "I saw" when there was no actual vision. The same conventional use of both these phrases belongs to apocalyptic as well as to prophecy. They serve simply to express the divine message with which the prophet or the seer is entrusted. How far this use prevails in Jap would be difficult to determine. We might, however, place The Letters to the Seven Churches under this category. These letters, if the present writer's hypothesis is correct, were written by our author during the reign of Vespasian. They are assigned to Christ in our text in the words to. pneu/ma le,gei (27. 11. 17 etc.). This is quite in keeping with the usage of the N.T. For the words of the prophets practically claim a divine authority. Cf. Acts 51 sqq., 1 Cor 54. 5, 1 Tim 120. Such words are not merely men's words; cf. ta,de le,gei to. pneu/ma, Acts 2111, as Agabus declares, also 756. In 1 Tim 41 the words to. pneu/ma r`htw/j le,gei are equivalent to "a certain prophet has said." In these expressions the person of the prophet is ignored. Now our author claims to belong to the fellowship of the prophets, and he can rightly use the phrase to. pneu/ma le,gei to express his convictions as a prophet.

1. This is not the case in the Talmud. Belief in dreams was the rule, and disbelief the exception. Cf. Berakhoth 55-58, Sanh. 30a, Ber 28a, Hor 13b. Sirach, on the other hand, declares that dreams are vanity, 31 (34)1-8. See Jewish Encyc. iv. 654 sqq.
2. For similar psychical experiences in heathenism, cf. Reitzenstein, Poimandres, 5, 9 sq. etc.; Dieterich, Eine Mithras-Liturgie.
3. See on the whole question of this chapter, Joyce, The Inspiration of Prophecy, 1910; Gunkel, Die Wirkungen des heiligen Geistes, 1899; Weinel, Die Wirkungen des Geistes und der Geister, 1899.


Scanned and edited by Brad Johnson