In Church history I found it interesting to trace the beginning of the various denominations in an endeavour to discover the common roots of interpretation. This was done through following the family tree of the denominations and their beliefs. It is interesting to see whether the views are really endorsed by Scripture or whether they are holding on to the opinions of men in some area of tradition or bias.
There are two main schools of Scripture reading and interpretation today:
- Those who accept the natural sense of Scripture yet recognize the various literary forms such as poetry, parable, metaphor etc.
- Those who hold that because the Scriptures deal with spiritual matters, certain texts do not have to be taken literally – therefore these are taken to be figurative or metaphorical and meant only to give spiritual or mystical insight.
In tracing these two main interpretative approaches we find a failure to align completely with the original understanding of the Early Church. Due to the suppression of some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers writings, certain views were promoted and others hidden from public view by the Roman Catholic Church. At the time of the Reformation in the 1500s the dominant view of interpretation was still based on the Christo-platonistic A-millennial viewpoint being enforced, along with anything considered Jewish being outlawed as carnal and un-spiritual. The history of the syncretised beliefs of Greek philosophies, namely Gnosticism married to the Scriptures is explained in the earlier chapters of the book ‘Many will be deceived’.
Those who held to the millennium reign of Christ on the earth and a belief in a literal 6 days of creation during the early 1500s to the late 1800s, still did not have the full and complete understanding of Chiliasm (millennialism) that was believed by the Ante-Nicene Fathers and Early Church. In fact they still held to residual beliefs that were associated with Augustine’s framework of spiritualising Scriptures that suited his particular agenda. Since Augustine was revered so highly, none of the Protestant Reformers had their reference point for Bible interpretation going back beyond him. It is, therefore, inevitable that a false foundation was built that prevented any of the Reformers from obtaining a true perspective on the original Church’s understanding of Scripture. It wasn’t till 1885-1890 when the ability to produce large quantities of printed matter opened the market for ever-expanding evangelical theological studies. This was predominantly in English-speaking countries where there was strong interest for these writings to be translated into English and to be readily available to the public.
Unfortunately, many of the new eschatology’s and supporters of Darwinism prior to the mid-1800s were already entrenched into a frame of reference taught originally by Augustine, whether they were A-millennial, Pre-millennial or Pre-tribulationist; because their resources of available information were governed almost entirely by the authority of Augustine’s teaching, and not by the purer understanding of Scripture taught by direct followers of the disciples of Christ. The question that needed to be asked is: How does a person in the year 400-500 AD know more than a person from the 1st and 2nd century who would have heard first-hand from the disciples on what was true doctrine and what was not? It is ironic that Augustine would re-invent the Christian faith despite having no understanding of the Hebrew language, literature or understanding of the cultural traditions that are grounded within the Scriptures itself; this is where Gentile Christians need to understand that we are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, within the Scriptures it is prophesied that Christ Jesus will return again to reign over the whole earth from Jerusalem and will be seated on the throne of David as stated in Luke 1:32 and Acts 1:6.
Most Christians, who attack Genesis on the basis of interpretation, also generally tend to adhere to a Christo-platonistic A-millennialism view of eschatology, because they have been taught that you cannot trust the natural sense of Scripture. The origin of this way of “progressive” thinking can be traced back to the Alexandrian early Church Fathers Clement, Origen and their Jewish contemporary Philo who sought a deeper meaning than the plain text. Though they still placed full weight on the plain meaning of Scripture, Greek philosophy dominated in the region of Alexandria, and this became a festering cancer in the Church that changed the original Hebrew concept of God’s salvation plan. The Greek influence on Clement and Origen caused them to use a foreign interpretation method in reading Scripture, leading others into justifying a misreading and questioning of the Genesis account of creation. This form of interpretation was common amongst the Greeks and Romans, which line of thinking had the bias nationalistic pride to elevate themselves spiritually above other beliefs. This line of thinking became the Christo-platonistic method of interpreting Scripture, which would permeate throughout the whole of Church history, having been set in concrete by the works of Augustine in his ‘City of God’ Ch.20 actually saying that Scripture does not mean what it plainly says in The Revelation, and seeking to interpret what it might mean, he also re-inspired the creation in Genesis inspired by a gnostic spiritual influence. This is full blown syncretism! Augustine has blatantly rejected the natural sense of reading Scripture as the Ante-Nicene Fathers understood it from the Apostles. These were first-hand witnesses to the truth of what the first apostles of Christ believed, and we now have Augustine enforcing his form of gnostic teaching of A-millennialism by spiritualizing the information given in the Revelation, though he did surprisingly accept the 3½ years of tribulation as literal. In fact there had been no challenge to the doctrine of the literal millennial kingdom until the time of Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria from 200-247/8, who mentioned how some rejected the Apocalypse itself; he himself rejected the idea of an earthly kingdom as unspiritual, as was anything physical to many Greeks, including marriage. This idea was then later championed by Augustine, whose interpretation was also tainted by a distorted re-interpretation of Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho regarding the Church and Israel, (now called replacement theology) which had, by then, been accepted into the main stream of Christian belief. It must be noted and understood that Justin Martyr emphatically did not endorse or support any idea of replacement theology, as he was strongly supportive of the plain understanding of the Hebrew-centric Scriptures and the acknowledgement of the literal reign of Christ on the earth for a thousand years. Anti-Semitic rhetoric was promoted heavily by Hellenistic churches all the way until Augustine who outlawed anything Jewish as being carnal. The use of the Septuagint translation, rather than the original Hebrew Scriptures, further complicated Augustine’s understanding of dates and having studied under Bishop Ambrose of Milan, he in turn adopted a very anti-Jewish stance, though he recognized that one day they would be converted – except that his idea of conversion was not in line with God’s plan. It is interesting to note that these questioning attacks have generally focused on the first and last books of the Bible – the foundation and the capstone. It is through the influence of Greek philosophy that the Alexandrian Christians first perverted the understanding of Scripture. Heretical teaching was founded on Greek pagan thinking, not the original orthodox Jewish understanding of Scripture. The wild Olive branch had grown its own roots (see Romans 11:18). It is with arrogance that Gentiles have ‘taken over’ the kingdom, that which is not rightfully theirs. Observe the warning in verse 21, which cautions against such arrogance. “Take heed of God’s goodness towards you as a gentile believer, as God’s love for Israel is as the natural Olive”. Gentiles are privileged to be grafted in, but it is those who bear the fruits that God seeks that will enter God’s kingdom of the Sabbath rest.
For continued reading, please go to Many will be deceived