Monday, October 7, 2013

musings on prophecy and hermeneutics

Okay, I am going to explain some points of how to think on this.
I say how to think not "how I think" though that would be true
also, but this is in accord with Biblical interpretation or
hermeneutics throughout Church history.

Some history.

In the first several centuries AD two major schools of thought
developed, Alexandria, Egypt and Antioch, Syria. Antioch was
where we were first called "Christians" and since Christos is
Greek for Messiah, both mean "Anointed One," a Christian is
a Messianist.

Alexandria's first bishop or episkopos, overseer, was St. Mark,
the son (whether literal or spiritual is unclear) of St. Peter. But
the school there came heavily under the influence of Origen, who
initially was a well educated genius who supported The Trinity
against deniers and converted many and was in general okay,
but he was too smart for his own good. Influenced by platonism
(neoplatonism being an AD pagan philosophy development out
of platonism) and gnostics and so forth, he got too far into wild
speculation and over applied allegory in hermeneutics.

This led him into notions like pre existence of the soul, not standard
multi life reincarnation but that some judgement for pre incarnation
sin and some decisions were made and the soul was then put in
an embryo; the dense physicality of the sun and stars and planets
being because they fell from contemplating God to contemplating
themselves or creation in general; that various spirits or angels
fell in varying degrees, some becoming demons others becoming
human and others became other creatures.

These and other speculations including the notion of the apokatastasis
(I think I spelled that right), a misinterpretation of "restoration of all
things" to mean that gehenna would be temporary and ultimately all
would be saved (now called universalism), got him condemned and
anathematized post mortem at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus.

However, Origen during his life had great influence including on
important men and women who, due to their defense of The Faith
against heretics and pagans, were themselves glorified as saints
after their deaths.

Therefore you find that St. Gregory of Nyssa incl. precisely the
condemned elements of Origen's teaching in his Philokalia of
Origen, and a trend of thought crept into Orthodoxy to be found
sometimes today, partly due to the refocus by Blessed Seraphim
Rose on The Fathers such as St. John Chrysostom who, thanks to
Origenist influence, upheld the following notion.

That "the coats of skins" given to Adam and Eve after The Fall
was our dense physical flesh, and that though physical, humans
before The Fall were less densely physical.

This notion was not listed at Ephesus probably because Origen
hadn't gotten around to developing it yet. But it is the exact
analog to the same idea about the stars and sun and planets
mentioned above, and if false about them it is false about us.

Alexandria became known for focussing more on allegorization to
extract material supportive of doctrine or otherwise useful ideas, from
verses of no apparent relevance (I am not denying the doctrines just
questioning the applicability in all cases of allegorized verses to
serve them). Heretics of course did the same thing to support some
of their doctrines. St. Paul does some allegorizing, but nothing as
extensive or extreme as Origen and his heirs and assigns, which,
effectively, Alexandrian theology and hermeneutics became.

In Antioch, we have a city whose first bishop was St. Peter himself.
(There is no reason to deny he ended his life in Rome, one detractor
in detailing the timing on his life and travels, trying to argue he could
not have been in Rome at all, nonetheless left two years unaccounted
for, during which he could have been at Rome. There is however
some dispute as to whether he was actually Rome's first bishop. One
version of events has him appointing Linus as Rome's first bishop.
Linus appears therefore either first in the Roman list, or second after
Peter if Peter is calculated as first bishop. St. Paul addressed them
as needing some spiritual gift or blessing to establish them, which he
hoped to get to visit them and do this for them, so apparently they
had no bishop, but were a ragtag group of expatriates from elsewhere
and converts in need of shepherding.Clearly Paul didn't found that
church either, neither did Peter, but rather converts went there and
met and converted others and at least one Apostle caught up with
them later.)

In Antioch, the pattern of hermeneutic or Bible interpretation was
more sensible and literal. Sure, symbolism exists in The Bible and
is usually explained in The Bible after it is presented. But the focus
was less on extracting hidden meanings that understanding and applying
the plain text. Some allegories are analogic extrapolation statements,
comparisons to something you already know about to give you a
general idea of what you don't know about.

Both schools produced heretics, of course, Nestorius from the Antiochian
tradition, though at odds with it, because he drew a distinction between
Jesus as God and Jesus as man, too much so, and confused nature with
person enough that you end up with two persons. (Nestorius denied this,
but didn't come to face charges either, and his students certainly seemed
to hold to this notion. A key to most Christological heresies is confusion
of person and nature.

For instance, I am an individual aka person, my nature is human. My cat
is an individual, her nature is cat. Jesus is both God and Man so He
from eternity is of the nature "God" and is the Person God The Son.
When He took on human flesh, He added to His pre-existing divine
nature, a human nature. This was done without blurring or hybridizing
or mixing the two natures, without altering either of them, and it is a
permanent union in His Person of the two natures. Nature is not person.
Sometimes it is used to refer to personality, character, but that is not
correct in this context. Jesus is the Person Who being originally only
divine, added to His divinity humanity.

Now, once you confuse person and nature, two things can happen.
1. you can divide the two natures after the Incarnation too much and
make like two persons existed, or
2. you can blur them too much together.

the latter was the heresy of Alexandria (also opposed by Orthodox
Alexandrians) which came from an overly mystical orientation in
teaching. Eutychus argued that the human nature was so swallowed up
in the divine as to be virtually nonexistent. It is presumably his tractate
that was rejected by the relics of St. Euphemia at the Council of Chalcedon.
Eutyches was also rejected soon after the monophysite schism, as being
too extreme.

But the confusions of person and nature continued with monophysite
Coptic Pope Shenouda III arguing for such a mixing of sorts being necessary
or God didn't suffer on the Cross and our sins aren't paid for.

Jesus being divine, could not suffer or die UNLESS He became human (at
which point He had the name Jesus), BUT IT IS THIS PERSON, THIS
BACK TO LIFE. This PERSON was able to do this only because He
acquired human flesh. A second nature. So THIS PERSON being God
indeed God suffered and died for us and came back to life, BUT THE
DIVINE NATURE WAS UNAFFECTED, only the human flesh could
NATURES and WHO IS INDEED GOD it follows that you don't need
to argue for a blurring of natures for The Atonement to be legitimate.

So the monophysite heresy now calling itself miaphysite at this point claims
to have been misunderstood, but what they say at the Chambesy Conference
and what Pope Shenouda III said in a booklet on all this, are two different
things. (They also say, that there are two natures in appearance but not in
reality, but have it backwards. In reality there are two natures, but as you
look at Jesus since He is ONE Person, there appears to be only one
nature, but the two are always there, now one more obvious than the other,
now the other more obvious as at The Transfiguration.

The Oriental Orthodox are called Orthodox because they accept The Trinity,
which was the doctrine that first got us the name Orthodox as opposed to
Arian, which refers to the followers of a priest named Arius who argued that
God The Son was not coeternal with God The Father, and not equally divine
with Him, but that "there was a time when He was not" and though Arius may
not have relegated Jesus to being a mere creature of the created ex nihilo, out
of nothing, category like everything else, but he denied His full equal
divinity with The Father, and his successors went even farther, until today you
have Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, who are retreads of several ancient
heresies, who deny Jesus' divinity altogether. (The latter deny God The Father's
absolute divinity as well, claiming he is an evolved man, but that is another matter.)

Meanwhile, St. Cyril of Alexandria in fighting Nestorius used the formula
"One divine nature incarnate" which he though was from St. Athanasius but was
actually from Appollonius ancestor to Eutychianism. This phrase has been
used by monophysites to claim loyalty to Cyrilian Christology, but the phrase
itself puts the lie to this one, because one divine nature having become incarnate
now by definition is two natures, one person who is of divine nature now has
two natures, the divine and the physical. The divine remains divine but it is ONE
person, one individual, the physical remains physical but it is ONE person, one
individual who has BOTH natures.

If I with a human nature, were to somehow acquire also the nature of a cat, lets
say someone dumped a ton of cat DNA into me  I would now have two natures,
human and cat, but I would still be one person. And I were then exposed to a 
species specific poison for cats, I the person with human and cat natures, 
would experience illness and death because of the cat nature though my
human nature would not be affected. 

Does that help you understand at all?

Hermeneutical errors

From the foregoing, it can be seen, that two errors are to overapply literalism
on all points, in other words, to demand that EVERYTHING be easily
understandable by limited human reason (which is wrongly assumed to be
unfallen uncorrupted and somehow infinite, the implicit error of the scholastics
in the West)


to overspiritualize things, turning The Bible into a subjectivist playpen. The
latter makes every heresy and pagan infiltration and even some blasphemous
notions such as among the Manifest Sons of God crew possible.

The problem with a lot of prophecy interpretation especially since the Protestant
Reformation but also throughout history, has been to over spiritualize some
things in The Bible. Just because referring to God's hand or Him sheltering us
under His wings like a chicken her chicks does not mean that He literally is
a big chicken with human hands and chicken wings, does not mean that other
things shouldn't be taken at face value.

Now, especially with The Book of Revelation you get a bunch of stuff that
has been treated as symbolic of political upheavals, or the rise of the Reformation,
or whatever, always of course something to do with Europe, ignoring that The

Also in the Old Testament Prophets, it is sometimes hard to tell if God is using
hyperbole or speaking exactly.

For decades, the communism obsessed Christian prophecy experts focussed on
Ezekiel chapter 38 invasion of Israel as being a Soviet Union thing. But only after
the collapse of the Soviet Union was the scenario even possible, because the
peoples listed as attackers included peoples that were only political entities after
the USSR breakup. (It could be argued that these ethnic groups would be part of
the Soviet military forces, but one gets the impression they tended to use Russians
for most of the military.) Yet during the decades of the Soviet Union, this invasion
was being predicted as likely to happen any year or at least in a few years or 
any decade soon by these writers.

Also ignored in all this is the lack of the Arab peoples as attackers, conspicuous
by their almost total absence in this scenario, which means that whenever this happens,
Israel will be at peace with most of her Arab neighbors.

Which effectively ruled out this happening in any time in the mid to end 20th 
century or even now.

Did any of these self appointed experts on prophecy and current events take
any notice of those verses?

Of course not.

Why? well, one possibility is this rule of hermeneutics which is more likely to
be recognized and described by detractors than admitted by its user, and it
is of course NOT a rule of hermeneutics but exactly how NOT to do

If it agrees with your preconceived notions, then you interpret it literally. If
it doesn't, then you spiritualize it away or ignore it altogether.

I confess I was taken in also, it wasn't till later events made things clearer,
because when you hear something pronounced often enough you tend
to believe it. Of course since one prophecy expert begets another so to
speak, this is part of the reason these verses were ignored, skimming over
or just taking your teacher's word for it and blathering on from there.

(Regarding that Ezekiel 38 thing, it is possible that it refers at least in part
to Crusader times, and the Ottoman empire, which included peoples from
most of the locations listed. Or not. And even if it
did, there is a peculiar tendency in The Bible for DOUBLE FULFILLMENT
OF PROPHECY, that something happens more than once. A classic
example is Abraham  and Sarah, aged sterile and have a son, who then in
his old age also becomes a father, though not as old as Abraham was.

The AD 1244 devastation of Jerusalem by Khwarazmian mercenaries, a
Persian people, under the leadership of a Turkic ruler who had Kipchak
slave warriors acquired after the Mongol invasion of the Kipchak-Cuman
coalition, which spanned all Scythia and would have included those peoples,
might fit the bill for this. But like I said, this wouldn't rule out it happening

But I think the main reason for this hermeneutical failure, and application
of the bad hermeneutics principle I just outlined, was money and popularity,
exploiting fears of Communism and the Soviet Union (while partnering with
expatriate Nazis such as the old crew at Radio Free America).

Ironically, atheist commies were seen as the worst evil ever, but in fact
Nazism is worse, because instead of being an atheist void, that leaves
people hungry for something better and they sooner or later start looking,
some into the occult some into Christianity, Nazism provides several
options of worship, pagan, occultic, ethnic and a twisted form of Christianity
ultimately moving to flat out heresy. It is easier to convert someone from
nothing to something, than from something to something. The former will
be out there looking, the latter will take a lot longer to do so. Also, though
Nazism is famous for killing Jews, it intended to start on the Christians
once it was done with the Jews, it would just take more time to work out.
The ultimate goal was elimination of all non Aryan faiths, especially of
semitic based faiths, though Hitler did have some admiration for the
warrior orientation of jihadi type islam. Another problem, is that Nazism
targetted people for extermination based on things they could not change
or hide easily, i.e., ancestry and disability and inferior even if pure Aryan
ergo to be culled genetics, while communism targetted people for
extermination based on behavior and politics, far easier to negotiate or
disguise, and even these were open to change without violating communist
theory, while the exterminationist standards in Nazism were inherent to it.)

Various efforts to identify the antichrist in the past always focussed on
European figures. Another error in hermeneutics - writing your personal
concerns and/or preferred homeland familiar geography into The Bible,
and of course the later notion of America as redeemer nation, chosen 
of God, New Jerusalem, etc. didn't help much.

Replacement theology also plays a role. Replacement theology, held by EO
and RC and some protestants, is that The Church totally replaced Israel
so all promises relating to Israel now shift to The Church no exceptions.

Replacement theology DOES have a solid Scriptural foundation, BUT ONLY
PARTLY. St. Paul warns in Romans that God has NOT cast off His people
and they are beloved for the fathers' sakes, though enemies for The Gospel's
sake. But they are the root that bears us not vice versa, we are a wild olive
branch grafted in among the domesticated olive branches, and we should
not boast against them.

So it is not either replacement theology or not, but both/and, so to speak.
And the accusation that this gives two rival standards of salvation one
relying correctly on Jesus and one not, is false, because the issue of the
Jews in Israel now is not an issue of salvation and being in The Kingdom
of Heaven, but an issue of title to real estate and a role to play out in

(One can also argue that the righteous among Jews would meet and
instinctively recognize and accept Jesus when the Jew dies, which leaves
Jesus STILL The Way The Truth and The Life, and The Only Way To
The Father, even if this plays out post mortem.)

This is all I can put together now. I will probably get to this again later.

Justina (Christine Erikson)

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