This week, the Welton Academy Team is teaching and training at the Seattle Bootcamp. So I will be keeping my blog posts shorter in the next couple of weeks. These will be excerpts from my recent book report for my Doctoral course.
Here is the first excerpt:
I have just spent the last four months reading nothing but The Days of Vengeance by David Chilton. This 720-page book is a beast to lug around for a third of a year as a traveling minister. At this point, my copy has been in Switzerland, France and 6 different states. Not only do I love the contents of its pages, but as a travel companion, this book is like an old friend. It is with much joy that I will be able to take it out of my backpack and retire it to the bookshelf, but the contents I shall carry with me forever.
The Days of Vengeance is a verse-by-verse commentary on the entire Book of Revelation. The feat of writing such a book is incredible, yet Chilton shot even higher than most commentators. It seems that his goal was not simply to comment, but to show, prove, and convince the reader of his particular presuppositions.
- That the Book of Revelation was written before 70AD
- That the contents of Revelation were regarding the 70AD destruction of Jerusalem.
- That the time-texts of Revelation should be taken literally, that Revelation 1-22 was written regarding things that were shortly to come to pass.
- That Jerusalem and the Jewish religious system had become apostate and was seen by God as an adulterous whore, as Babylon, as the old creation, which was about to pass away.
- That Rome, the Roman Empire and Nero Caesar were represented prophetically as a beast, which controlled commerce and all other aspects of life.
These are just five of the main presuppositions, which make up Chilton’s foundation from which he interprets John’s prophecy. I was convinced of all five of these positions before I began to read his book. I am now even more thoroughly convinced.
The five presuppositions I have just mentioned were gathered from my own observations. If a reader walks away from Chilton’s work in agreement with these five, then they have acquired the main points of his work. To disagree with any one of these points is to fundamentally disagree with his thesis.
David Chilton begins The Days of Vengeance by stating his five presuppositions in his own words as follows:
- Revelation is the most “Biblical” book in the Bible
- Revelation has a system of symbolism
- Revelation is a prophecy about imminent events
- Revelation is a worship service
- Revelation is a book about dominion
Although the author states these as his presuppositions, it seems to me, the reader, that these are very broad and vague principles of interpretation.
The four major interpretations of the Book of Revelation (Preterist, Idealist, Historicist, & Futurist) would generally agree with the principles of interpretation stated by Chilton, whereas the five presuppositions, which I have observed would only fit well with Preterism.
The Days of Vengeance was written from the Preterist standpoint, yet Chilton’s principles are claimed by the other major interpretations of Revelation as well. For example:
- Revelation is the most “Biblical” book in the Bible. The Futurist, Idealist, nor the Historicist would fundamentally object to this point.
- Revelation has a system of symbolism. The Futurist, Idealist, nor the Historicist would fundamentally object to this point.
- Revelation is a prophecy about imminent events. The Futurist would reinterpret the meaning of imminent to mean about to happen at any point. The Idealist would see the symbolism as representative of any age of history with continual imminent application. The Historicist would see part of Revelation as imminent and then as a continual unfolding.
- Revelation is a worship service. This point would not be emphasized by any of the four major interpretations, neither would it be dogmatically debated. This point is a strong personal position of the author, but not so much of a strongly Preterist position per se.
- Revelation is a book about dominion. To the Historicist, the book of Revelation has been unfolding and releasing the dominion of God over the last 2000 years. To the Futurist, someday in the future, God will set up His dominion on the earth, but we are simply waiting for that future event. To the Idealist, the imagery of Revelation is symbolic of the ongoing battle between good and evil and that ultimately God has dominion. Chilton represents the view of the typical Preterist; that Jesus came in judgment upon the Old Covenant and those that clung to it rather than to the New Covenant, went down with their sinking ship. To the Preterist, Jesus established His dominion in the first century and it has been growing for 2000 years.
Considering that the principles of interpretation can be claimed and used by such divergent groups, I will focus my attention on the five presuppositions I observed in Chilton’s writing, which are unique to the Preteristic view.
The Book of Revelation was written before 70AD
Chilton as with all Preterist’s argues for an early date of authorship for the book of Revelation (65-70AD). This is in contrast to the common belief that it was written under Domitian’s reign in 96AD. Chilton makes the point that Irenaeus is the only source that points to a 96AD authorship. When modern authors claim that the early church unanimously believed that John wrote Revelation in 96AD; the truth is that Irenaeus is simply being quoted many times over by others. Even what Irenaeus wrote is subject to a certain amount of interpretive difficultly.
As Chilton writes: “Although some scholars have uncritically accepted the statement of St. Irenaeus that the prophecy appeared “toward the end of Domitian’s reign (i.e., around A.D. 96), there is considerable room for doubt about his precise meaning (he may have meant that the Apostle John himself “was seen” by others). The language of St. Irenaeus is somewhat ambiguous; and, regardless of what he was talking about, he could have been mistaken. (Page 3)
Chilton goes on to show that the persecution under Domitian was not catastrophic enough to fit well with the imminent destructions of the book of Revelation. He quotes from another author, J. A. T. Robinson: “When this limited and selective purge, in which no Christian was for certain put to death, is compared with the massacre of Christians under Nero in what two early and entirely independent witnesses speak of as ‘immense multitudes,’ it is astonishing that commentators should have been lead by Irenaeus, who himself does not even mention a persecution, to prefer a Domitianic context for the book of Revelation.” (Page 4)
As a bias reader, I must admit that I was convinced of the early date for authorship before I read this book. Objectively speaking, I don’t believe that Chilton spent enough time in this section convincing the reader that his presupposition was correct. The early date of authorship is the bedrock of the Preterist’s argument and it would have been wise for Chilton to spill more ink in explaining, defending and expounding his position. In my personal study I have found that the early-date authorship is convincing and defendable. I wish Chilton had gone to greater lengths on this topic.