Monday, August 29, 2016

Dispensationalism Before Darby

A few years ago Grant Jeffrey came across an old document written by a certain gent called Pseudo Ephraem. Jeffrey claimed that it contained a pre-Darby concept of a pre-conflagration rapture. It caused a stink among incensed non-pretribs. They needed Darby to be the origin so that they could continue to push the well-worn line: Darby to the Scofield Bible to (insert your favorite pretrib "false teachers" here) all the way to the dreaded Left Behind novels.

So Robert Gundry jumped in and bloggers got busy blogging and explaining why PE didn't really mean what the pretribs thought it did. I read a lot of that stuff. Much of it reminded me of the sorts of arguments supersessionists adopt towards biblical texts guaranteeing a future for Israel.

I've previously blogged on PE HERE. One persistent poster informed me that:
the problem is that you also have to take the text by pesudo ephraem in context, and by the lingo that is used in his day so a plain reading would not do...
Yes, I've noticed that the "plain reading" never works (on any day) when it doesn't say what you want it to. Shame that. For the record, here's a sample of PE's "lingo":
Woe to those who desire to see the day of the Lord! For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins… ~ Pseudo-Ephraem (c. 374-627)
Sounds pretty straight forward to me but... Anyhow, Jeffrey got called a "false prophet" and the usual stuff. The Didache was dutifully rolled out, along with the obligatory Early Church Fathers. They had to quash PE so the customary line could continue to be spun: Darby, Scofield, Lindsey....whatever.

Then along came William C. Watson's Dispensationalism Before Darby: Seventeenth-Century and Eighteenth-Century English Apocalypticism.

One may conveniently dismiss Pseudo-Ephraem. But Watson's book provides plenty of other pre-conflagration accounts - enough to keep pretrib skeptics busy for years inventing excuses as to why all those people didn't mean what they actually wrote.

I reviewed the book HERE

Of course, the book won't stop anti-pretrib polemicists from continuing to spin the same Darby-origin lines. It's one of those things critics just can't help doing.


William Watson said...

Thanks, Alf. Robert Gundry was one of the first people with whom I shared my research. He was very gracious and admitted that what I found was overwhelming proof that the pre-trib position predates Darby, however he added that his faith in post-trib belief was based on scripture, not 16th-18th century sources.

William Watson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alf Cengia said...

Thanks for dropping by, Dr Watson.

As you likely know, Robert Gundry has tried to move the Sheep-Goat judgment to a postmil position (Pretrib Research Center article). Scripture appears clear that it is premil. He has also attracted some concern for his views on Matthew and Peter.

So perhaps he has an iron in the fire? ;-)

May God bless your efforts!

stanislav setsurinvich said...

Are they pre conflagration or pre trib there is a difference

stanislav setsurinvich said...

Huh and you are a calvinist too... a rolling together of the most disturbing and sensationalistic beliefs nice!

Alf Cengia said...


Pre-conflagration isn't necessarily pretrib from a 7 year viewpoint. But it certainly can mean that. Many of these early pioneer pre-C examples included the "Antichrist tribulation." The book lays to rest the idea that Darby was the first to conceive the idea that church would raptured before Christ's return.

Have you read the book? Do you have a specific issue to raise.

BTW, I prefer to consider myself as Calvinistic. Is this a problem for you?

stanislav setsurinvich said...

No at the end of the day I don't care that much. It's that I found your work closely associated with the rapture ready website. A very anti calvinist place! Also I only read one of watson papers but it's hard to tell which one of those English theologians actually taught a pre-trib rapture.

Alf Cengia said...

Re Calvinism: I appreciate the Calvinist positions even while disagreeing with doctrines such as double predestination, regeneration preceding faith, particular atonement etc. There is much to agree with, such as God's sovereignty and grace etc. I do note, however, that Calvinists disagree among themselves over several issues.

I don't generally read the RR articles nor participate in the forums. While I consider pretribulationism the best answer, I'm not dogmatic about it. All rapture timing views are arrived at deductively.

I know a couple of posttrib bloggers have attacked Dr Watson, yet haven't bothered reading his book. Everyone wants an explicit 7 year pretrib statement which predates Darby. Fact is that the Reformation Church was primarily amillennial, with postmil arriving later. Amillennialism is posttrib by nature. So when someone says that the church has always been posttib, understand that it was also amil.

By the way they also believed in an imminent coming of Christ because they saw Revelation from a historicist view. They also took the view that the church replaced Israel. Therefore the OT prophecies were usually reinterpreted to apply to the church. Most of the Puritans didn't have a formalized view of eschatology.

Those who were premil were in the minority and considered more or less aberrant in their eschatology. Their premil views were rudimentary. These include Ryle and Horatius Bonar. It was in the 19th century that more scholars began to regard premillennialism as correct, as well as acknowledging a seven year tribulation and that the church did not replace Israel. Many of them came to similar conclusions regarding the rapture as did Darby (e.g., Lutheran scholar George Peters) but they did so independently of him.

wakawakwaka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alf Cengia said...

You sure have an interesting name (s?).

Don't read at RR. Can't remember last time I was there. They likely have some of my articles because someone submitted them.

Do me a favor...when you refer to my "sensationalistic" beliefs, please clarify your points for me. Also give me a run-down of your own beliefs.

Alf Cengia said...

The comment below was deleted by waka. Don't know why. But it seems that waka is Stanislav.

I include it here to give context to my response:

wakawakwaka has left a new comment on the post "Dispensationalism Before Darby":

Heh you sure are an interesting character . I mentioned RR because I found some of your articles there

William Watson said...

Pre-conflag is raptured briefly for just enough time for earth to be destroyed and remade. Pre-trib is for 3 1/2 or 7 years enough time for rebuilt temple, antichrist, armageddon, etc.

William Watson said...

Good response to stanislav, Alf. Calvin was correct on alot of things, but no eschatology. I call myself Calvinist because I agree with him on 90% of stuff. While true that most pre-tribbers today are anti-Calvinist, it wasn't always so. Most of the 19th and early 20th century pre-tribbers were Calvinist. I don't follow men, be they Calvin or Darby, I just go were the Bible leads me to the best of my ability to understand.

William Watson said...

Stan, I have found 4-5 preconfl and 18-20 pretrib in the 17th & 18th c.

William Watson said...

Frank Gumerlock has found 10-12 preconfl and 6-8 pretrib in the 3rd to 14th centuries. About 1/2 of them he has published, the rest he is presenting this November at ETS.

William Watson said...

I am a historian, not a theologian. I love digging through archives and finding historical sources on eschatology. Sometimes I find pretrib, other times preconfl or amil. I post them all, and let the theologians wrangle over them.

Alf Cengia said...

Well said. Thanks for the input. Looking forward to seeing the data.

stanislav setsurinvich said...

Well it seems that you guys continue to chat when I lost interest! At anyrate I have actually talked to Frank Gumerlock before and he says that he doesn't assume a position for any of the end time texts he finds, he just posts them and lets people who care do argue about it.

Also Alf incase you were wondering I was using another computer and a person forgot to log out of their account which posted my message.