Saturday, September 12, 2015

Less than it seems, Part Deux

Leavest thou me out of this.
So last week I promised that we would return to Sir Isaac Newton whom, it is alleged in the prior video, named the present month/year as a date of some prophetic importance.  However, unlike Adam Clark, Newton did not specifically note 2015. Instead, Newton separated the "seven and sixty two weeks" of Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy into first and second comings, and from there we infer 2015.  Kind of.

I just happen to have a copy of Newton's commentary on Daniel and Revelation*. In Chapter 10, Newton writes the following concerning the 70 Weeks:
Know also and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to cause to return and to build Jerusalem, shall be seven weeks.  The former part of the prophecy related to the first coming of Christ, being dated to his coming as a prophet; this being dated to his coming to be prince or king, seems to relate to his second coming.
Newton then goes on to explain that some prophecies apply to both the first and second coming, and notes that this may very well be one of them. So Newton seems to relate the period of "seven weeks" to Christ's second coming.  So how do we get from that rather vague aside to 2015?

To get there, we must jump over to a book called Petrus Romanus by Thomas Horn and Chris Putnam, from which C.Ervana read in a prior video, and which I also happen to have in my library.  We read on p.287 of a fellow named T.W. Tramm, who did a bit of fancy math in still another book. Tramm concluded that:
If one counts exactly forty-nine (360 day) prophetic years (17,640 days) from the June 7, 1967 date of Jerusalem's recapture, we arrive at September 23rd, 2015, -- the Day of Atonement. Coincidence?
I'll leave the reader to decide whether something is a coincidence.  But I would like to lay out the assumptions necessary to conclude that Sept 23rd is a date of prophetic importance according to Newton:
  1. Newton was correct that the "seven weeks" of Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy applied to the Second Coming, and not just the first as most scholars take it.**
  2. The "seven weeks" count began the day Israel re-captured Old Jerusalem in the Six Day War of 1967.
  3. The "seven weeks" are "seven weeks of years," i.e. 49 years.
  4. These years are not "calendar" years, but lunar years of 360 days.
So if those assumptions all hold true and correct, then September 23rd could be a heck of a day.  But as with Clarke's naming of 2015 for the expiration date of Daniel's "little horn," if one link in the chain fails, then it's likely to be just another day.

My primary problem with the claim lies in assumption number 2, kicking off the 7 weeks in 1967. Newton himself noted that, "Here, by putting a week for seven years, are reckoned from the time that the dispersed Jews should be re-incorporated into a people and a holy city, until the death and resurrection of Christ..."  In other words, Newton began the clock on the date the Jews were "reincorporated into a people". The best modern parallel to that is 1948, the establishment of the state of Israel. One can argue that the recapture of old Jerusalem in 1967 is just as meaningful (i.e. put the emphasis on "and a holy city"). But I am unconvinced that it's more significant than re-establishment of a Jewish state after 1800+ years of diaspora. It just looks like someone was playing with numbers to find a coincidence.

But I have another problem related to the first: the parlor trick of switching to 360-day years halfway through the prophecy. Newton used, as far as I can tell, calendar years. So does everyone else, and Horn and Putnam note that if you use calendar years here, the seven weeks end in 2016. Calling a shortened year a "prophetic" year does not really help the prophetic case other than finding a coincidence between two dates. If one were to apply a 360-day year consistently, it would throw off the first coming / resurrection prophecy by 7 whole years, or an entire "week."  Obviously, that's weak sauce.

So the short version is that Newton never "called" 2015, nor specifically September 23rd, as any sort of meaningful prophetic date. Tying his reputation to this date does the man an injustice. And it would probably piss him off as well.  In fact, Newton wrote (as I mentioned before):
"This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."
So either something really awesome will happen in 11 days, or it won't.  Here's to hoping it does.  If you're really convinced it will and it doesn't, just remember that God is a better mathematician than you are, especially as you're double-checking his numbers through a glass darkly.

Oh, and stop setting dates. You're making God look bad. And Newton as well.

* It's actually a reprint of Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of Newton. Jefferson was not so disinterested in things biblical as is generally imagined.
** "Most" here includes Newton, who uses it in his 490 year calculation from the Captivity to Christ's first coming.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Less than it seems

I'm something of a fan of C.Ervana, being a subscriber to both of his* YouTube channels, though for a number of reasons, I'm not convinced that the End Times begin in earnest a mere 17 days from today.  But I appreciate talent, and if I needed a videographer after September 23rd and C.Ervana was available**, I would definitely hire him.  I just hope that when September 23rd comes and goes, without an asteroid or a rapture or an alien in sight, he will take advantage of the teachable moment that eventually comes to everyone who ignores the plain meaning of Jesus' admonition that no man knoweth the day or the hour.***

That said, this post is not about September 23rd, which I suspect will pass with little of real eternal interest occurring, but addresses the oft-used appeal to authority that falls upon "Bible Experts" rather than upon the scriptures themselves.

Now, if you watch the video - and you should - one thing you'll note is the lack of explanation of why this legion of bible teachers****, most of whom lived about the same time, all came to the conclusion that strange things are afoot at the Circle K coming in 2015.  And the reason is not that each of them independently studied many scriptures and reasoned their way to 2015, but that each of them subscribed to a particular interpretation of particular passages in Daniel and Revelation that was popular during their lives.

When you understand this, it becomes obvious that the 2015 date relies less on 'expertise' than on the strength of that particular interpretation, so let's take a look at it.

Now, it might come as a surprise that Adam Clarke, a Methodist minister and author of a series of commentaries I admire quite a bit, did name 2015 as a meaningful year.  And he did so in his commentary on Daniel 7:8:
If the Papal power as a horn, or temporal power, be intended here, which is most likely; (and we know that that power was given in 755, to Pope Stephen II, by Pepin, king of France;) counting one thousand two hundred and sixty years from that, we are brought to A. D. 2015, about one hundred and ninety years from the present A. D. 1825.—But I neither lay stress, nor draw conclusions, from these dates.
Ignoring that fact that Clarke specifically denies that he is setting dates here, the facts remain that:

a) He really did name the year 2015 in 1825.
b) Lots of others followed.

Point b) is most easily explained by the fact that Clark was a big fish who knew whereof he spoke when it came to biblical exposition.  One could not go much wrong taking him at his word, though he doubtless suffered from a handicap common to all men who study prophecy from the wrong end: now we see through a glass darkly, etc.

Still, Clarke did not pick 2015 out of the blue: it was the mathematical result of an interpretation that posited:

a) The Papacy is the "Little Horn" of Daniel 7:8
b)  The 1260 days or 3 1/2 years or 42 months or time, times, and half a time of Daniel and Revelation apply to the Little Horn.
c) The 1260 days really mean 1260 years.
d) The end of the Little Horn means the destruction of its entire system.
e) The count began in 755 AD.

Now, if all those things are true then it's hard to argue that 2015 will fail to hold some biblically-important events.  If a single link in the chain fails, then 2015 should similarly fail. I'm not convinced by Clarke's interpretation. That doesn't mean it's wrong, but we'll know in a couple of weeks, or maybe a couple of months.

I said all that to say this: the 2015 date of the destruction of the Papacy and the coming of all sorts of trumpets and bowls and aliens, despite the claims of the video, does not rely on dozens of Bible experts, or at least not those experts coming to independent conclusions.  With the exception of Newton and those who relied on him, the 2015 date is based on a specific interpretation of the intersection of biblical prophecy with historical events that was posited by a briefly-popular school but has since been all but forgotten.  It may be correct, or it may not.  But when you realize that's exactly how 2015 is named in Biblical prophecy by experts from centuries ago, I think it's less compelling than the headlines might state.

* I think C is a "his," though plenty of others comment by calling him "sister." I simply cannot tell from the voice, and so fall back on actual, as opposed to SJW, English, in which the masculine gender encompasses the feminine.
** I suspect he will be.
*** Having been a Christian for three decades, and holding interests in both history and prophecy that whole time, I'm amazed that I'm still amazed at the lengths to which prophecy experts will go to explain why that phrase does not mean what it says.  Still, each of them has been proved wrong thus far.
**** Newton is different and to be fair both to him and my remaining reader, we shall handle him in a separate post.