Saturday, January 30, 2016

Millennial Eschatology

Millennium: Historical & Exegetical Debate

Dr. Martin Erdmann has just released a newly published edition of his book originally titled The Millennial Controversy in the Early Church. The updated book, titled Millennium: Historical & Exegetical Debate, is now available on HERE. This book is very current and relevant to the ongoing debates about eschatology in the church. It is important to understand early church history on these topics. 

Dr. Erdmann summarized the thesis of this book in an "Afterword" to a June 10, 2011 Herescope post, "DOOMSDAY DATESETTERS 2012," where he stated, in part:
The error of using extra-Biblical texts to elucidate Biblical prophecy
In the ante-Nicene age the belief in a literal millennium was one of the most important aspects of Christian eschatology.It was a viewpoint widely held among many early Church Fathers in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), such as Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Barnabas, and Tertullian.

One of the most monumental developments in theology occurred when the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hippo, Augustine, published his book De Civitate Dei (The City of God) in the early 5th century AD, addressing diverse topics such as theology proper, Christian philosophy, martyrdom and eschatology. According to a well-established consensus among church historians, Augustine was the most influential of all Church Fathers in the West. More than any of his other books, The City of God set the tone of theological discourse in the Western Church for many centuries to follow, and is even today known for its advocacy of Amillennialism which became the undisputed view of the Roman Catholic Church from then on, justifying its pretensions to supreme earthly power, usually realized and upheld by the edge of the sword. Not even the main Reformators of the 16th century, such as Martin Luther and Johannes Calvin, thought it necessary to challenge the Amillennialism of their ecclesiastical opponents, while simultaneously rejecting the concomitant view that the Kingdom of God was coextensive with the Roman Catholic Church giving the “Mother Church” the exclusive right to dispense forgiveness of sins (absolution; indulgence) and eternal salvation.

Interestingly enough, however, the young Augustine, immediately following his conversion, espoused Premillennialism in accordance with the millennial view of the early Greek Church Fathers. What made him change his opinion on this theological issue in later years was his disgust about the fanciful embellishments in the descriptions of millennial conditions on earth which he found in the writings of the Greek Church Fathers. The problematic aspect in Augustine’s mind was not so much the literal interpretation of Revelation 20:1-10, but the perversion of Christian eschatology by these early Church Fathers. Without exception they referred primarily to extra-biblical sources, mostly to select works of the Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (e.g., The First and Second Book of Enoch, The Secrets of Enoch, 4 Ezra, The Second Book of Baruch and the The Book of Jubilees), in elaborating their millennial views.

The Greek Church Fathers committed the hermeneutical error of claiming that the passages they cited, for example, from I Enoch describing the abundant fruitfulness of mankind (10:17) and of the vegetation (10:18f), and II Baruch 29:5-8 were descriptive of what the Apostle John had in mind when he committed his prophetic vision of the thousand year reign of Christ on earth to writing. It was a classic case of eisegesis, not exegesis; meaning, instead of limiting one’s interpretation of what the canonical text actually says (i.e., exegesis), the commentator refers to extra-biblical sources, in order to arrive at a more elaborate, often twisted, meaning of the text (i.e., eisegesis). This unfortunate hermeneutical procedure had tremendous negative repercussions, as briefly noted above.

In our time some influential Bible expositors are using the same fallacious procedure of referring to the Book of Enoch and other questionable, often esoteric, sources in a vain attempt to elucidate biblical prophecy. The curious apocalyptic vistas they conjure up are so incredibly contrived and bizarre that it seems impossible that any Christian would fall for them.[footnotes deleted. Read the "Afterword" in its entirety HERE]

We have also written about Dr. Erdmann's book while describing some of the newer manifestations of millenarian eschatologies arising and causing controversy in our modern-day era. We quoted excerpts from the book in the March 7, 2013 post titled: "The Rise of Apocalyptic Paganism in the Church: Bible Prophecy in Crisis." 

For further reading, and for a good example of the relevance of Dr. Erdmann's book to current church eschatology issues, see also Dr. Erdmann's Feb. 28, 2013 post, "The Emerging Galactic Religion: Science Fiction and the Rise of Technocratic Posthumanism."

To obtain a copy of Millennium: Historical & Exegetical Debate, visit HERE.
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To order Dr. Erdmann's Discernment Conference talks, visit: