On David Chilton’s Preterist-Postmillennial Commentary on the Book of Revelation, Days of Vengeance

Preterists commonly accuse (mock) futurist commentaries on the book of Revelation for sensational interpretations. Admittedly, there are more than a few popular pretrib commentaries on Revelation that rightly are “way out there.”

However, David Chilton’s postmillennial and preterist commentary on Revelation rivals the most kooky and far-fetched interpretations on the book of Revelation: The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Ft. Worth: Dominion Press, 1987). 

So much so, that the noted theonomist and postmill-preterist scholar Greg Bahnsen was compelled to distance himself from his book writing a devastating review-critique of Chilton’s commentary.

If you can, find some time to read this review from Bahnsen. Here are a couple of snippets:

Nevertheless, the hermeneutical excesses and errors of the commentary will prove far more detrimental to postmillennialism than any of its isolated virtues can redeem. Consider three fatal flaws…

David’s IM moves from the arbitrary to the outrageous when, in explaining the “seal” placed upon the foreheads of the 144,000 (Rev. 7:3-4), he alludes to the protective marking of Ezekiel 9:4 and claims that it symbolized “the sign of the cross”! Error is laid upon error to reach this height of imagination. (1) the philological error (exposed by Fairbairn: Ezek. 9:4 speaks of an indefinite “mark,” not the Hebrew letter tav. (2) the orthographic error: if the ancient tav was different from what we recognize today, it was shaped more like an x, not an upright t(cross). (3) the historical error: Jews of Ezekiel’s day would have in mind a form or shape associated with Roman crucifixions of a later age. (4) the hermeneutical error: there is no legitimate category of “quasi-prophecy”; this is simply Tertullian’s reading something back into the text. (5) the liturgical error: the Bible does not condone the “sign of the cross” as having religious (superstitious) significance for Christians anyway…

Here is another example of an amazing chain of dubious reasoning (pp. 20-24). Revelation follows Ezekiel “step by step” [as well as Lev. 26 and Matt. 24?].   Such “level pegging” is a feature of lectionary use. Both Ezekiel and Revelation can be divided into “about fifty units” [fifty? Previously it was five, then four]—which is also about the number of Sabbaths in the years. Therefore, Revelation was intended for lectionary use as a series of liturgical readings in the church through the year, accompanying the reading of Ezekiel! Even if we forgive the mathematical inaccuracies (52 sabbaths per year) and arbitrariness (why 50 units instead of 40 or 55?), how does it follow from the rough numerical correspondence of literary units to weeks in a year that Revelation is a liturgical lectionary? This may be suggested by the interpreter’s personal interests and life-setting, but it is not suggested by the text of Revelation itself! There is quite a logical leap from saying Revelation was read aloud in church (Rev. 1:3, like Colossians, cf. 4:16 to saying it was read as a liturgical lectionary!

Bahnsen concludes, “So then, I cannot recommend my friend David’s commentary on Revelation. (1) It embodies an unsound, imaginative hermeneutic. (2) It is confused about the book’s structure and meaning. (3) It is guilty of considerable errors in history and interpretation.

Chilton’s commentary on Revelation is an illustration of how not to interpret Revelation. It is a clear biased commentary where he approaches the book already with preconceived notions.

Preterists can be just as guilty as the Tim Lahaye-type commentaries.

 

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