The Abomination of Desolation

The great difficulty of the ordinary student of the Bible in dealing with prophecy, lies in the misconception which commonly exists as to what prophecy strictly means. The word prophecy has been as barbarously used as the word miracle. For just as miracle is derived from a Latin word which ordinarily meant demonstration, so prophecy is derived from a Greek word which meant explanation. When, therefore, the word miracle appears in the New Testament it means a demonstration of the power of Truth; and when prophecy is met with it signifies the ability of the individual to explain the metaphysical meaning of the Scriptures. Thus Paul, writing to the Corinthians, "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part," simply intended to imply that a partial knowledge could only be accompanied by a partial explanation; and, a little later, he makes this perfectly clear in saying: "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." This, of course, is merely another way of saying that it is no good speaking to the man in the street in the absolute language of the oracles of God, since the listener would be compelled to have sufficient metaphysical understanding to grasp the meaning, but if these oracles were reduced to prophecy or explanation, then the understanding of those that heard would be complete.

Probably as good an example as could be given of what this means occurs in the references in the gospels to Daniel's oracular statements were entirely over of "the abomination of desolation." Daniel's statements were entirely over the head of the man in the streets of Babylon, and, indeed, they seemed to have been a little puzzling to the evangelists themselves. Thus the explanation of Matthew has commonly been held to refer to the desecration of the temple, in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, when an altar to Jupiter was erected on the altar of burnt sacrifice. This, however, though it would agree with the statement by Mark, by no means agrees with the statement of Luke, where the historical reference seems clearly to be to the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. It is in a maze such as this that the effort to trace prophecy historically nearly always ends. But when the effort is simply to explain the spiritual meaning of the oracle, no difficulty follows. And it must be remebered that the Greek prophet did not invent the oracle, but merely explained its meaning to the worshipers.

Extensive Gratitude
January 8, 1921

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