Friday, May 27, 2016

The Shepherd of Hermas and Swedenborg: Fictional Parable or Vision?


Glory to God, by Tom DuBois

The Shepherd of Hermas is an early Christian work of the 1st and 2nd centuries, containing a series of visions and parables that a former Roman slave receives in dialogues with angels. It was quoted as scripture by the early church father Irenaeus, and it found its way into one of the earliest complete Bibles in existence, the Codex Sinaiticus.  The church father Eusebius stated it was still read in the churches in the fourth century.  The work has puzzled scholars: how could such a simplistic fictional parable find its way into the Bible and get quoted as scripture?

The work caught my attention because one of the visions describes a Christology that is unlike the typical trinitarian doctrine of the post-Nicene era, and is similar to the doctrine of the Divine Human of the New Church.  I covered this in detail in The Ancient Christology of the Shepherd of Hermas.  In parable it describes the Divine itself, the pre-existent Divine Human in heaven, and then Jesus as a man whose human form gets transformed to become one with the Divine.  The work was sent to Pope Clement of the Roman church, and from there it spread across to the Christian churches within the Roman Empire.  Would a work of fiction be treated in such a manner?

While modern readers would prefer to treat this work as a religious fiction, comparing it to Pilgrim's Progress, such a view is problematic.  This is summed up in an article by Henry Wace from A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography:
Are we to suppose that Hermas in relating his visions intended no more than to present edifying lessons in an allegorical form, and that it was merely as an instructive fiction that the book was regarded when it was introduced into public reading in the church? Donaldson says: "If the book be not inspired, then either the writer fancied he had seen these visions, or tried to make other people fancy this, or he clothed the work in a fictitious form designedly and undisguisedly. If he did the first, he must have been silly. If he did the second he must have been an impostor." But as he believes the author to have been "an honest upright, and thoughtful man," he concludes that he did the third, "as multitudes of others have done after him, with John Bunyan at their head." ...But we ourselves feel bound to reject this as altogether mistaken criticism, and as an application to the 2nd cent. of the standards of today. To us it seems plain that, whatever the author intended, the first readers of Hermas did not receive the book as mere allegorical fiction.
So let's take a deeper dive into this work.  For those who wish to read it, there is a critical text located here: Hermas Critical Text.  There are some older translations here: Early Christian Writings.

THE LATER FORGERY OF THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS

As I was reviewing the Shepherd of Hermas, to determine if its teachings were valid or not, I began to note several problems in the work.  The books is divided into 5 visions, 12 commandments, and 10 parables.  As I saw the problems I was about to toss out the work as one of fiction, but then I saw a pattern: all the internal problems with the Shepherd of Hermas are found only in the last 3 parables at the end of the work.

It then became apparent to me: the last 3 sections of the Shepherd of Hermas were added later by a clever forger.  So I decided to dig further - did any scholars on the Shepherd of Hermas reach the same conclusion?  The date and authorship is disputed among them, and the matter is by no means settled.  One scholar, Hilgenfeld, expressed the opinion that the last 3 parables were by a later author, who was the final editor of the work.  The original work was probably finished in the late 1st century A.D. under Pope Clement, and the last 3 parables were added by another author in the middle of the 2nd century A.D.  This is why there are conflicting opinions on the date of authorship.

The ninth parable is an obvious repeat of the original vision of the tower of the third vision.  In the ninth parable Hermas is strangely transported from Rome into Arcadia of Greece.  One scholar who analyzed it determined that the descriptions were probably borrowed from the Greek author Pausanius (see Hermas in Arcadia and Other Essays, 1896).  But there are deeper problems.  In the eighth parable, the archangel Michael is elevated so that it is this angel who inspires the "law into the hearts of them that believe" - and this is something that should be attributed to the Divine, not an angel.  From the visions of Swedenborg it is known one characteristic of angels is that they never claim anything as their own, but attribute everything to the Divine, and they themselves are but recipients.  The ninth describes twelve virgin angels, and then states that the Son of God "bears the name of the virgins."  This is false. It is the other way around: angels are recipients of the Divine, the Divine is not a recipient of properties of angels.  

In the original Shepherd of Hermas, Hermas is married with children, and in the very first vision is told to guard his thoughts against sexual immorality and adultery.  The warning is very strict.  And what happens in the ninth parable?  Hermas is now running around and frolicking with these 12 virgin angels, who kiss him on the cheek.  Moreover these 12 virgin angels are described as "holy spirits." 

So, what was the motive of the later forgery to the Shepherd of Hermas?  In the first four visions Hermas encounters a female angel, whom he mistakes for the oracle of the Sibyl.  It is explained that this female angel represents the church.  In the ninth parable, it is explained that the female angel really was not a woman, but rather the Son of God.  This is an obvious gloss.  Whoever added this forged section, had a problem with female teachers in the church.  This actually was an issue of the second century church, and it was suppressed by the male majority.

There was one other other motive of the forgery which is more subtle: it is to suppress the original Christology of the Shepherd of Hermas.  Whereas the original Hermas is not theologically minded, the forger has some theological ideas and wants to "correct" some of the things that Hermas wrote.  One thing that is obvious is that there is a preponderance of the phrase "Son of God" in this forged section which is absent in the earlier Hermas.  There is one statement that looks late, where it says that the Son of God was ""born before all His creation" which sounds like a post-Nicene statement (see The Nicene Creed: a distorted version of the Apostle's Creed and The False Belief of a Trinity of three beings: TRITHEISM).  The forger thus saw the original Christology of Hermas as problematic.  Hermas by this time had become popular in the Christian churches - they could not withdraw it, they could not change it, so the best option they thought of was to add this later section.

So those scholars who hold that Hermas was written as a fiction are partly correct.  More correctly, the latter portion was forged in order to suppress the early Christological teachings of Hermas.

THE NATURE OF THE VISIONS OF HERMAS

Unlike other apocryphal works, there is nothing "fantastic" that occurs in the visions of Hermas.  Instead, they are down to earth and give practical advice on how to live as a Christian, with an emphasis on reforming one's life and repentance.  The nature of the visions of Hermas, how they take place, vary.  In the first vision, as well as the second, Hermas is led to wander to a particular spot while under a trance:
"I fell into a trance as I walked. And an unseen-force seized me and carried me through a pathless region where no man could make his way, because it was very steep and eroded into ridges by the running waters."
This thus takes place while Hermas is fully awake.  Swedenborg experienced this mental state only once, and says it was often experienced by the ancient prophets:
"There are two kinds of visions that are not of the ordinary kind, into which I have been let only that I might know their nature, and what is meant by its being said in the Word that men were withdrawn from the body, and that they were carried by the spirit into another place.
"...As regards the other kind — being carried away by the spirit into another place — it has been shown me by living experience what it is, and how it is done, but this only two or three times. It may be well to present a single experience. Walking through the streets of a city and through the country, and being at the same time also in conversation with spirits, I did not know but that I was wide awake and saw as at other times; and so I walked on without mistake, and all the while I was in vision, seeing groves, rivers, palaces, houses, men, and many things besides. But after I had thus walked for hours, suddenly I was in the sight of the body, and became aware that I was in another place. Greatly amazed at this, I perceived that I had been in such a state as they were in, of whom it is said that they were led away by the spirit into another place; for while it lasts there is no reflection concerning the way, even if it be many miles; nor is there reflection on the time, even if it be many hours or days; nor is there perception of any fatigue. Then, too, one is led through ways of which he has no knowledge, even to the appointed place. This took place that I might know that a man can be led by the Lord without his knowing whence and whither." (Swedenborg, Heavenly Arcana, n. 1882, 1884)
In other cases, Hermas says the angel appeared to him in vision.  In others, he stated that it occurred while he slept through a dream.  Throughout he prays and fasts, and at one time is commanded to fast in order to receive further visions:
"Now in a night-vision, I beheld the old woman speaking to me, “Every question requires humility of spirit. Therefore, fast, and you will receive from the Lord what you ask.”"
This reminds me of the visions of Sarah Binayamo Boyanga, who was also commanded to fast in order to receive visions of heaven and hell (see A Divine Revelation from Africa, concerning Heaven and Hell).

In another instance Hermas hears a voice, or interior locution:
"As I was praising and giving thanks to him, an echo, as it were, of my voice answered me, “Do not be double-minded, Hermas.”"
This experience is well known among mystics of the Catholic Church.  Swedenborg states that in many cases the early prophets wrote down portions of the Bible from hearing a voice, called the "word of the Lord."

In the visions of Hermas, he has extended dialogues with angels, who present things to his vision in order to present a point.  To the modern mind which does not believe in visions, this in itself is "proof" enough that this is fictional and it is the safer view to take if one has a scholarly reputation to protect.  Although most would dismiss such an experience as impossible, there is a modern parallel in the waking visions of Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century.  Most of his works are purely theological, but his last work Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love.  It is part of a larger work containing the published works of Swedenborg, The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem.


In it is revealed that monogamous marriage is the ultimate expression of the highest spirituality here on earth.  The opposite, which is adultery, is the ultimate expression of hell on earth.   But instead of theological explanations, the entire work is through a series of extended waking visions in dialogues with angels.  It is very similar to the Shepherd of Hermas - both warn of the spiritual consequences of sexual immorality.  Swedenborg introduces his work as follows:
"I foresee that many who read the following Relations and those after the chapters will believe they are fictions of the imagination; but I declare in truth that they are not fictions, but things actually done and seen. Nor were they seen in any somnolent state of mind, but in a state of full wakefulness. For it has pleased the Lord to manifest himself to me, and to send me to teach the things that will be for the New Church which is meant by the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse. To this end He has opened the interiors of my mind and spirit, whereby He has given me to be in the spiritual world with angels and at the same time in the natural world with men—and this now for five and twenty years." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 1)
THE VISION OF THE SEVEN FEMALE ANGELS


The Shepherd of Hermas and Angelic Wisdom of Marriage Love are two similar works, so similar they will prompt a similar reaction to a modern audience.  Are they works of fiction or not?  Independent of that question, one should simply read them and examine if the statements are according to truth.  However I want to show here something rather strange, and this concerns the third vision of Hermas, which describes a tower being built which represents the church.  Around the tower, Hermas sees seven women:

When I ceased asking questions about all these matters, she said to me, “Do you wish to see something else?”
As I was eager to see more, I was overjoyed at the prospect of seeing visions.
She looked at me with a smile and said, “Do you see seven women around the tower?”
“Yes, lady,” I said.
“This tower is being supported by them in accordance with the Lord’s command. Now let me tell you their functions. The first of them, who is clasping her hands together, is called Faith. God’s elect are saved through her. The second, who has her garment tucked up and acts with vigor, is called Continence. She is the daughter of Faith. Whoever follows her will be happy in his life, because he will abstain from all evil deeds in the assurance that, by abstaining from all evil desire, he will inherit eternal life.”
“But, the others, who are they, lady?”
“They are the daughters one of the other. Their names are: Simplicity, Knowledge, Innocence, Reverence, and Love. When you perform all the acts of their mother then you are able to live.”
“Lady,” I said, “I would like to know what power each of them possesses.”
“You shall be told what kinds of powers they have,” she said. “Their powers are regulated by each other, and they follow one another in the order in which they are born. Continence is the daughter of Faith, Simplicity of Continence, Innocence of Simplicity, Reverence of Innocence, Knowledge of Reverence, Love of Knowledge. Their acts then, are pure, reverent and divine. Whoever serves them and embraces their acts will have a dwelling in the tower along with God’s holy ones.”

The names of these seven female angels, representing seven virtues, caught my attention.  However we have somewhat of a translation problem.  I checked the other translations and the original Greek, the names of the seven female angels should be as follows (Strong's number can be used to find instances of the word in the New Testament):

1. Faith (Greek Πίστεως, Strong's #4102)
2. Temperance/Self-control (Greek Ἐγκρατείας Strong's #1466)
3. Simplicity (Greek Ἁπλότης Strong's #572)
4. Guilelessness (Greek Ἀκακία - acacia)
5. Reverence / Respect (Greek Σεμνότης Strong's #4587)
6. Intelligence (Greek Ἐπιστήμη - episteme - means "justified true belief" in Plato) 
7. Love (Greek Ἀγάπη, Strong's #26)

The only question on translation is that of the Greek word episteme, from which we get epistemology.  The meaning of the word means different things to different Greek others, and for a convuluted analysis see Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Episteme and Techne.  In Stoic philosophy, it means what is true and certain obtained through reason - see Stoicism - Epistemology.  In Hermas, it seems to be something different.  One might simply translate it as "knowledge." Roberts and Donaldson (1886) translated it as "intelligence" which I believe is correct from the context, as I will explain below.  Another mistranslation is corrected, "innocence" is more accurately rendered as "guilelessness" or "without guile."

THE SEVEN SPIRITUAL STAGES OF THE SEVEN DAYS OF CREATION


In Heavenly Arcana, Swedenborg from his waking visions describes how the seven days of creation are symbolic of seven stages of spiritual development.  It does not concern the creation of the world, as Creationists believe, but rather describes universal stages of spiritual development to create a new spiritual person (see Seven Stages of Spiritual Development for a brief overview).  In the Shepherd of Hermas - the seven virtues of the seven female angels closely correspond to the spiritual symbolism of the seven days of creation in the book of Genesis.  Not only do they correspond, but the sequence of virtues, where one virtues precedes the following, is very similar to the seven stages of spiritual development in which prior states must proceed the following.  How do they correspond?  One challenge we have here is the Shepherd of Hermas uses very simplistic terminology that Hermas could understand, as opposed to Swedenborg who was very exact in his language.  I will try to briefly summarize.

DAY 1: LET THERE BE LIGHT = FAITH FROM KNOWLEDGE

The first stage of spiritual development is knowledge of faith.  One cannot begin a spiritual process without first knowing about it.  Spiritual truth is symbolized by light, and as Jesus is the Divine truth incarnate He said "I am the light."  Spiritual truth first enters our mind through knowledge.  Knowledge is the first step.  In Shepherd of Hermas, this is described as the virtue of FAITH.  But I want to be clear here, there are two kinds of faith: a faith from knowledge in the memory, and a living faith where one lives by the truth.  What we are talking here is faith of knowledge of the memory:
"The progress of faith with those who are created anew is of this kind: at first they have no life, for there is no life in evil and falsity, but in good and truth; afterward they receive life from the Lord through faith — first through a faith of the memory, which is a faith of knowledge: then through faith in the understanding, which is an intellectual faith; after that through faith in the heart, which is a faith of love, or saving faith. Faith from knowledge and intellectual faith are represented, in verses 3 to 13, by things inanimate" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 30.2)
The first stage of development corresponds with the first virtue of Hermas, FAITH.  As knowledge is the first step, more specifically faith of knowledge, this is why I think the Greek word episteme used to describe the sixth state is a higher level concept.

DAY 2 - SEPARATION OF WATERS - TEMPTATION

In Heavenly Arcana, Swedenborg was shown how the second day of creation, as well as the flood of Noah, correspond with a state of temptation.  Once one receives and accepts faith from knowledge, one then should advance to the second stage, which is that of temptation.  What happens is that once one accepts the truth, there will be areas of one's life that do not correspond to the truth.  There will be sins and evils within us that need to be purged.  They can only be purged by going through a process of temptation.  The evils and falsities that flood the mind are literally compared to a flood of waters.

Compare this second state to the second virtue of Hermas: TEMPERANCE, SELF-CONTROL, CONTINENCE.  The parallel is unmistakable.  It is through temptation that one practices self control and restraint.

DAY 3 - DRY LAND, TREES - WORKS OF SELF EFFORT

In the third stage, one starts to practice the spiritual things one has learned.  But it is first done through self effort.  This closely corresponds, albeit with different language, to the third virtue of SIMPLICITY.  The virtue of simplicity I found hard to understand as to its original meaning, but it seems to have been well known among ancient Catholic theologians.  For this I consulted the article The Virtue of Simplicity in The Shepherd of Hermas by John Gibson, who states the following:
“In The Shepherd of Hermas the virtue of simplicity is emphasized as one of the most important virtues in the Christian life, and as we will see, simplicity for Hermas is the foundation of spirituality. Repeatedly, the book describes him something like this, “…Hermas the self-controlled, who abstains from every evil desire and is full of all simplicity and great innocence.” (Vision 1:2:4) No less than 17 times the Greek word ¡ploàj (haplous) for “simplicity” or some form of it appears in the book. The significant majority of the time it referred to simplicity in a moral sense. The few exceptions are when it refers to a way of giving to those in need and is usually translated “generously.”
Thus although the terminology is different, one can argue that the virtue of simplicity is indeed the same as works of charity through self effort.  Protestants, by the way, will have a hard time with this due to their false theology due to misunderstanding that Paul was talking about the "works" of the Jewish rituals (see A New Perspective on Paul and the New Church Perspective on Paul).

DAY 4 - SUN, MOON, STARS - SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT

In the fourth stage of spiritual development, one receives internal spiritual enlightenment.  Once one clears oneself of evil and falsity, one then makes room for the Divine influx of the Holy Spirit to flow in.  It first comes in as spiritual enlightenment.  One actually begins to enjoy living the Christian life, as one experiences an inner happiness and peace.

In the Shepherd of Hermas, instead of talking about an internal influx of spiritual enlightenment, the corresponding virtue is mentioned - GUILELESSNESS.  In other words, there are no lies or deceptions in one's words and deeds, one is completely honest.  Here we see a complex spiritual concept is described in simple terms for a former Roman slave to understand.

DAY 5 - FISH OF THE SEA, BIRDS OF THE AIR - LIVING FAITH

According to the revelations Swedenborg received on the spiritual sense of scripture, the fifth day of creation corresponds to a state where one lives by faith.  Faith is no longer merely knowledge, it is rather living by the truth.  And here we see there is a correspondence with the fifth virtue of Hermas, which is REVERENCE.  Reverence, respect or gravity has to do with fear of the Lord, where one reveres or fears the Lord in doing His will.  On the virtue of reverence, Hermas is later told the following:
"Clothe yourself with reverence in which there is no evil, which gives no stumbling-block, but in which is all smoothness and cheerfulness. Do good, and from the fruit of your labors which God gives you, give to all those in need"
In the Shepherd of Hermas it is a bit hard to distinguish between the virtue of simplicity and one of reverence, as this is the only passage where there is additional explanation given as to the meaning of the virtue.

DAY 6 - THE CREATION OF MAN AND WOMAN - LIVING LOVE FROM TRUTH

The sixth state is rarely reached, but represent the height of spiritual development, where one is wise and intelligence from the truth.  Here is Swedenborg's description of it:
"The sixth state is when man speaks truths and does good works from faith and thence from love. The things that he now produces are called the living soul, and the beast. And as he now begins to act at once both from faith and from love, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image. His spiritual life is delighted and sustained by the things that are of knowledges of faith, and that are of works of charity, which are called his food, and his natural life is delighted and sustained by those that belong to the body and the senses; from which a conflict arises, until love reigns and he becomes a celestial man." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 12)
Here I need to explain some terminology: a spiritual man is one who does good from truth, but a celestial man is one who does good from affection from love, and already knows truth from perception.  The spiritual man is in conflict with falsity and loves to debate about the truth, but a celestial person has no interest in this as they are in affections for love.  It is in the sixth stage that the spiritual person has reached the height of intellectual faith, described earlier.  In the spiritual person, the understanding is dominant:
"All things are called spiritual which are of the knowledges of faith; and all are called celestial which are of love to the Lord and the neighbor. The former pertain to man's understanding, the latter to his will." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 61) 
Thus the sixth virtue of Hermas corresponds to this state, which is here labelled as INTELLIGENCE.  We are not talking about mental intelligence here, but rather doing good according to one's spiritual understanding.  In another passage, Swedenborg in fact describes this state as the "good of intelligence":
"Good of a threefold kind is signified by remains, the good of infancy, the good of ignorance, and the good of intelligence. The good of infancy is that which is communicated to man from his very birth up to the age in which he is beginning to be instructed and to know something. The good of ignorance is what is communicated when he is being instructed and is beginning to know something. The good of intelligence is what is communicated when he can reflect upon what is good and what is true." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2282)
Thus we see there is an exact correspondence between the sixth virtue in the vision of Hermas, and the sixth state of spiritual development as described from the visions of Swedenborg.

DAY 7 - THE DAY OF REST - LOVE

In the first six stages of spiritual development, one is in constant combat against evils and falsities, at difference levels.  These six stages are of the understanding.  In the seventh state, love of the will becomes dominant over the truth of the understanding.  One cares more about love and its affections, about doing more so than understanding.  This Swedenborg calls the celestial state, which markedly differs from the former state, and is described in detail in the story of the Garden of Eden.  Here the parallel is obvious, for the seventh virtue of Hermas is LOVE.

PROOF OF A VISIONARY EXPERIENCE?

Is this a coincidence?  I do not think so.  Those who do not know the spiritual sense of scripture or the revelations received by Swedenborg would pass over the seven virtues described by the seven female angels in the Shepherd of Hermas as a mere "laundry list" of "nice things."  But there is an explicit pattern in them, according to a hidden spiritual law of order.  Compare it to the forged section of Hermas, where there are 12 virgin angels and the explanation of their virtues make no sense whatsoever.  Did Swedenborg simply borrow from the Shepherd of Hermas?  I do not think so.  He would have pointed it out.  In his day the work was all but forgotten.  According to Catholic Encyclopedia: Hermas the text of Hermas was made available to the public on the following dates:
"The "Shepherd" was first printed in Latin by Faber Stapulensis (Lefèvre d'Etaples) in "Liber trium virorum et trium spiritualium virginum" (Paris, 1513); better edition by Fell (Oxford, 1685), and especially by Hilgenfeld (Leipzig, 1873), and von Gebhardt (Leipzig, 1877)."
So, there is a possibility Swedenborg could have read the Shepherd of Hermas if he frequented the proper library.  But still it was an obscure work, and he was told in his waking visions to avoid theological works so that the spiritual information could come through uninfluenced.  Different terminology is used.  I consider this unlikely, as his work does contain evidence he was obtaining information from a spiritual source - such as he knew the contents of the book of Jasher, and he knew that Genesis chapters 1-11 was composed from earlier sources.  This he had from angels, which was later confirmed by archaeologists of the 19th century, long after Swedenborg had died.  Moreover, his clairvoyant experiences were well known and documented by his contemporaries.

Thus, we see we have an element of "proof" that both Swedenborg author of the Shepherd of Hermas received visions.  But again, it is important to examine and read the works themselves, and ask oneself do they describe the truth or not?  That is the ultimate test.

THE SEVEN FEMALE ANGELS OF THE FOUNTAIN


I want to point out one last parallel between the Shepherd of Hermas and Swedenborg's last work Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love.  We covered in detail the seven virtues of the seven women of the tower in the third vision of Hermas.  Both warn against sexual immorality.  Here, I thought was something funny - Swedenborg, in one of his waking visions, encountered seven female angels by a fountain in heaven, to discuss the merits of marriage love.
"I was once looking through a window toward the east and saw seven wives sitting on a bank of roses by a certain fountain, drinking of the water. I looked intently to see what they were doing, and the intentness of my gaze affected them. Whereupon one of them by nod invited me, and I left the house and speedily went to them. When I arrived I asked politely from whence they came.
They said:—"We are wives, and are having a conversation here about the delights of marriage love; and from much confirmation we conclude that those delights are also delights of wisdom."" (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 293)
An interesting coincidence, we have seven female angels in the Shepherd of Hermas by a tower built on water, and in Swedenborg's vision seven female angels by a fountain.  And there they explain why the delights of marriage love between one man and one woman are the delights of wisdom.  In this discussion, the union between the male and female in heaven is at a higher level between love and truth, and is not one of the physical.  Similar to the admonition given to Hermas to keep his thought above lust, they likewise warn Swedenborg:
"Be careful that by the delights we have spoken of you do not understand the ultimate delights of the love. Of these we never speak, but of our bosom delights, the perpetual correspondence of which is with the state of wisdom of our husbands." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 293)
A little boy then comes and delivers a message to Swedenborg, which he commanded him to read to the seven "virgins of the fountain":
"And I read these words:—"Tell the inhabitants of the earth with whom you dwell that there is a true marriage love, the delights of which are myriads—scarcely any of which does the world yet know, but it will know when the church espouses herself to her Lord and marries."
And then I asked:—"Why did the boy call you Virgins of the Fountain?" They replied:—"We are called virgins when we are sitting at this fountain because we are affections for the truths of our husbands' wisdom, and an affection for truth is called a virgin. A fountain also signifies truth of wisdom, and the bank of roses whereon we are sitting signifies its delights."
Then one of the seven twined a wreath of roses and sprinkled it with water of the fountain, and placed it on the boy's cap around his little head, and said:—"Receive the delights of intelligence. Know that a cap signifies intelligence, and a wreath of roses, the delights of it." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 293)
And we thus come full circle back to the seven female angels of the vision of Hermas, the sixth of which is intelligence, and the seventh of which represents love.  It is thus fitting that the final work of Swedenborg neatly finishes off the vision of of Hermas at the beginning of the Christian era.  Perhaps not a coincidence at all.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Prophecy of Babylon and the Writing on the Wall


The Writing on the Wall, Rembrandt

In scripture Babylon plays a prominent role, first in the story of the tower of Babel, and later again when the Babylonian Empire conquered Judea, destroyed the temple, and took the Jews into exile.  All of these historical events which happened to the Jews are symbolic of future events which would happen to the Christian church.  In the book of Revelation, it is known that a spiritual Babylon would rise again (see Rev. 17-18), which is called "MYSTERY BABYLON."  So what does Babylon signify?  In the spiritual sense, Babylon signifies those who use religion to favour the love of self or their own selfish ego.  In Heavenly Arcana Swedenborg shows that this is the case by analyzing the spiritual sense of the Tower of Babel, which refers to an ancient priesthood of Babylon that used religion to gain control over the people.  Such a religion appears holy to those people who belong to it, but if the love of self is at the center it is internally profane.  Here are a couple of quotes that sums up Swedenborg's conclusion on the meaning of Babylon:
"...by Babylon are signified those who have turned aside all worship of the Lord to the worship of self, and who are thus in a profane internal while they are in a holy external" (Heavenly Arcana, 4748.5)
Here is another quote:
"There are in the world two religious systems which are from self-intelligence, — one in which the love of self and of the world is everything, which religion is that which is called in the Word Babel; it is inwardly profane from the love of self and of the world, and outwardly holy from the Word which has been applied to confirm. The other system of religion is that in which the light of nature is everything; they who are in it acknowledge nothing for truth which they do not apprehend." (Heavenly Arcana, 8941.3)
Thus one should be wary of religion that makes a human priesthood the center of all authority.  In Apocalypse Revealed and Apocalypse Explained, it was revealed to Swedenborg in vision that MYSTERY BABYLON is the false doctrines of the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church.  Anyone who looks at history can see that the Catholic Church made use of religion in order to obtain political control.  Even now, they put the authority of the church and priesthood above that of scripture.  This does not of course apply to all Catholics, as scripture urges God's people to come out of her:
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Rev. 18:4-5)

Within the Catholic Church there are many truths of Christianity that are true.  But there are many falsehoods and invented traditions of man.  The Papacy is said to be the Vicar of Christ, priests are said to forgive sins, and prayer is directed to Mary and the saints instead of Jesus Christ.  The theology surrounding the virgin Mary also obscures the atoning work of Jesus Christ.  Thus truth is mixed with falsehood, and as most Catholics don't read the Bible they don't know any better.  The profaning of truth by falsifying is represented in scripture as blood.  This profanation of the truth is mentioned in the following verse:
And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth. (Rev. 18:24)
Prophets are those who teach the truth, saints are those who have sanctified their lives by the truth.  When truth is profaned or falsified, it loses its effect to reform one's life.  Truth, when profaned, leads to spiritual death and religion becomes one of external worship only.  It become a fake facade.

So to repeat, Mystery Babylon in the book of Revelation is a profaned Christian religion, and refers to the false doctrines and traditions of the Catholic Church, and to any teaching which elevates the priesthood above that of the Lord or scripture.  Early Protestant reformers recognized this, and the visions of Swedenborg confirm it.  Even within the Catholic Church they have been given private Marian revelations, when the angel has told Catholics that Satan has entered the Vatican.  In the spiritual sense, Satan simply means falsehood.  Mystery Babylon does not refer to a political kingdom in the Middle East.  Mystery Babylon does not refer to an economic financial system.  These are falsehoods that I have seen come up in other interpretations of prophecies.

THE SEVENTY YEARS OF BABYLON ARE PROPHETIC

The Babylonian Empire ruled for about 70 years, from the fall of Assyria in 609 B.C. to the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.  During this time period, the kingdom of Judah was destroyed and the Jews were taken into captivity.  As with all historical events that happened to the Jews, this event is prophetic.  The number seven and its multiples signify a complete time period, the Jews are symbolic of the Christian Church, to be taken into captivity is to become overcome and captivated by falsehoods, and the seventy year period of exile is prophetic of the time period in which Christianity would be dominated by the doctrines of the Catholic Church over a period of several centuries.  Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem and taking the treasures of the Jewish temple into Babylon (see Dan. 1:1-2) is symbolic of how the knowledges of good and truth within scripture would be subverted by Rome, and made use to elevate their political control over others.

SWEDENBORG'S VISION OF THE LAST JUDGMENT UPON SPIRITUAL BABYLON


For a time, the Catholic Church held dominion over the doctrines and truths of Christianity.  Many were externally religious but internally in love of their own self and power. Swedenborg was given a grand vision in which he saw many who died over the centuries began to occupy a spiritual region between heaven and hell.  These began to dominate and influence people's thoughts, to not think spiritually about Christianity but depend on religious authority.  In 1757, Swedenborg then saw a last judgment take place in the spiritual world, where all were judged and either taken to heaven or cast down to hell.  Many of those in this middle region were externally religious, but internally were not so.  Last judgments do not take place in the physical world, but rather in the spiritual world where everyone's thoughts can be explored.  Many who have died and went through a Near Death Experience have experienced this in terms of a "life review" which last for an instant, in which one can see the impact of one's actions and thoughts on others.  Although after death many immediately are judged and to heaven or hell, there are also many who remain in a spiritual world in between awaiting judgment.  This occurs especially among those who externally acted one way, but internally thought differently.

Swedenborg detailed the vision of what he saw took place in 1757 in two works, The Final Judgment and The Final Judgment Continued.  He gives a very rational explanation of how this fulfilled many prophecies concerning the last judgment in scripture.  Those who were externally religious, but internally were evil, were judged first.  Judgment first began on the Protestants, and outwardly from there then on the Catholics, and lastly on Muslims.  Here I want to focus on one item: the Divine judgment that occurred upon the Catholics.  Swedenborg saw this as a judgment that occurred upon spiritual Babylon in the spiritual world:
"...here now follows how it was effected on the Papists, who are those meant by Babylon, so much treated of in the Apocalypse, and its destruction in particular in the eighteenth chapter, which is thus described: An angel cried with a mighty voice . . . Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and is become a habitation of devils, and a hold of every unclean spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird (ver. 2). But before it is told how this destruction was effected, I shall premise:
I. What is meant by Babylon, and what is its quality.
II. What they are in the other life who are of Babylon.
III. Where their dwellings have hitherto been [in the spiritual world].
IV. Why they were tolerated there until the day of the final judgment." (The Final Judgment, n. 53)
Swedenborg again describes the spiritual nature of those who belong to Babylon:
"By Babylon are meant all who wish to rule by means of religion. To rule by religion is to rule over men's souls, thus over their very spiritual life, and to use the Divine things of religion as the means. All those who have dominion for an end, and religion as the means, are in general Babylon. They are called Babylon, because such dominion commenced in ancient times, but it was destroyed in its beginning. Its commencement is described by the city, and by the tower, whose head was to be in heaven; and its destruction by the confusion of lips; whence its name Babel (Gen. xi. 1-9). What is meant by all these particulars in the internal or spiritual sense of the Word, may be seen unfolded in the "Heavenly Arcana" (n. 1283-1328)." (The Final Judgment, n. 54.1)
For more information on the final judgment that occurred in the spiritual world in 1757, both works The Final Judgment and The Final Judgment Continued can be found in The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem.  Or go here, to read it online for free: Sacred Texts: Emanuel Swedenborg.

THE 2300 YEAR PROPHECY 

In the previous blog post The New Church Prophecy of the 2300 Days, or the Cleansing of the Sanctuary, I discussed the 2300 day prophecy of Daniel 8, and showed evidence that it began in 539 B.C. with the fall of the literal kingdom of Babylon, and ended in the year 1762 A.D.  This is because the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. is a symbolic representation of the fall of spiritual Babylon in the last judgment of 1757 A.D.  Historically, we see that the Catholic Church began to lose its power in the 18th century, beginning with the disbanding of the Jesuits in 1759, followed by the French Revolution.  For skeptics, it should be noted that Swedenborg published his vision in 1758 before these events had occurred.

In 539 B.C., the night Babylon fell, Belshazzar the king of Babylon profaned the articles of the Jewish temple by using them in a religious ceremony to praise Babylonian gods.  Swedenborg states this also represents the religious dominion of the Catholic Church:
"Moreover that: such dominion commenced and was instituted in Babel, is evident in Daniel, where it is said of Nebuchadnezzar, that he set up an image which all were to adore (chap. iii.); and is also meant by Belshazzar and his princes drinking out of the gold and silver vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from the temple of Jerusalem, and by his worshipping at the same time gods of gold, silver, copper, and iron, wherefore it was written on the wall, He hath numbered, He hath weighed, He hath divided; and the same night the king himself was slain (chap. v.). By the vessels of gold and of silver of the temple of Jerusalem, are signified the goods and truths of the church; by drinking from them, and at the same time worshipping the gods of gold, silver, copper, and iron, is signified profanation; by the writing on the wall, and by the death of the king, is signified visitation and destruction, denounced against those who have used Divine goods and truths as means.(The Final Judgment, n. 54.2)
Here is another passage, in which Swedenborg explains the spiritual significance of the writing on the wall at Belshazzar's feast:
"The gold and silver vessels belonging to the temple at Jerusalem," signify the good and truth of heaven and the church, "gold" meaning good, and "silver" truth; and "praising the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone," signifies idolatrous worship of every kind, thus external worship without any internal, such as is with those who are meant by Babylon. That there is no church at all with such, because there is nothing of the good and nothing of the truth of the church in them, is signified by the writing from heaven; for "numbered, numbered," signifies exploration in respect to good and in respect to truth; "weighed in the balance," signifies estimation in accordance with their quality, and judgment; "divided," signifies dispersion and expulsion from the good and truth of the church and separation therefrom; and "kingdom" signifies the church; from which it is clear that "weighed in the scale or balance," signifies estimation in accordance with their quality." (Apocalypse Explained, n. 373.3)
The 70 years of Babylon which ended in 539 B.C. is thus representative of the longer period in which the Papacy and the Catholic Church dominated the Christian church.  This spiritual domination ended with the last judgment of 1757 A.D., and was immediately followed by historical events in which the nations of Europe turned against the authority of the Papacy.

THE PROPHECY OF THE WRITING ON THE WALL

The Divine judgment that took place in the year 1757 A.D. is described in a symbolic manner by the writing on the wall at Belshazzar's feast in 539 B.C.  For the prophecy of the 2300 days in Daniel 8 (see The New Church Prophecy of the 2300 Days, or the Cleansing of the Sanctuary - read first before reading the rest of this post) I gave other reasons as to why the year 539 B.C. should be used as a start date for a 2300 year period.  This was when Babylon fell, but I want to here point out another item of interest - the writing on the wall that appeared at Belshazzar's feast.  The prophet Daniel is called in, who then gives the following interpretation:
And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God has numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.TEKEL; You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting.PERES; Your kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.And Darius the Median took the kingdom (Dan. 5:25-31)
The words MENE, MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN is given in Aramaic, but these are actually specific words that refer to weights.  MENE is a mina, TEKEL is a shekel, and UPHARSIN or PERES means "half."  Several interpreters have suggested that the value of these weights have a specific meaning, that when added up refer to a prophetic period beginning in 539 B.C.  This caught my attention - could there be something in the value of these weights that specifies a prophetic number of years?  Various suggestions have been made, but unfortunately many of these did not have the proper value for the weights and thus came out with the wrong answer.


The weight of a mina was known in both ancient Babylonia and Phoenicia, it generally had a weight of 60 shekels.  Some have suggested 50 shekels, but Ezek. 45:12 confirms that during the Babylonian period a mina had a value of 60 shekels:
The shekel shall be twenty gerahs; twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels shall be your mina. (Eze. 45:12)
Here a shekel is given a value of 20 gerahs.  That a Hebrew shekel had a value of 20 gerahs is confirmed in several other passages of scripture (see Ex. 30:13, Lev. 27:25, Num 3:47, 18:16).

It should be noted that in the Jewish Talmud, a mina was given a value of 50 shekels (see Weights, Measures & Coins of the Biblical & Talmudic Periods).  There seem to have been 2 different weight systems: Babylon had a shekel of 24 gerahs, while the Jews had a shekel of 20 gerahs.  But in both Babylon and in Eze. 45:12 a mina has a value of 60 shekels.  For an interesting discussion by Jehovah's Witnesses on the matter, see Daniel 5:25 NWT-Cross Reference Why Half Shekel? Not half mene?  Here we are restricting ourselves to the weights as given in scripture.

So in the literal sense, the writing on the wall at the feast of Belshazzar literally says this:

MINA, MINA, SHEKEL, HALF.

In Hebrew it would look like this:


But probably cuneiform was used.

We know the value of the mina and shekel.  Half means half of something, but what?  Some have suggested it means half a mina.   It depends on context, the word can also mean half a zuz, an even smaller unit than the gerah (see Weights, Measures & Coins of the Biblical & Talmudic Periods).  Another Biblical scholar Otto Eissfeldt proposed that it is not a half mina, but half a shekel.  This would make sense as the weights are given from big units to small units.  However there is another reason why half a shekel is probably correct, and this comes from another passage on the importance of half a shekel in numbering the people of Israel:
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, When you take the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when you number them; that there be no plague among them, when you number them.  This they shall give, every one that passes among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) a half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.  Every one that passes among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. (Ex. 30:11-14)
In the writing on the wall Daniel declares that God has "numbered" the kingdom of Babylon; likewise when the children of Israel were numbered in a census they were to each give a half shekel in order to not suffer from a plague.  Which is a very odd ritual which no one can explain unless one knows the spiritual symbolism of it (Swedenborg explains it in detail in Heavenly Arcana).  But half probably means a half shekel, it is given to the Medes and Persians, who thus do not suffer judgment.  This half shekel was an offering to the sanctuary, and Belshazzar had just profaned the articles of the sanctuary by praising idols.

In the ritual of the census, a shekel of 20 gerahs is associated with all men who have reached an age of 20 years (in the spiritual sense half a number signifies the same as a whole).  This implies that one gerah is equivalent to one year.  So let us convert each weight to its value in gerahs:

Mina = 60 shekels = 1200 gerahs
Mina = 60 shekels = 1200 gerahs
Shekel = 20 gerahs
Half shekel = 10 gerahs

Now, lets go through the handwriting on the wall, line by line:

MENE; God has numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. (Dan. 5:26)

There are two minas, this adds up to 2400 gerahs.  The number 24 was common in the Babylonian sexadecimal system Note that Jesus had said the 12 apostles would judge the 12 tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28) and there were 24 elders on 24 thrones in John's vision of heaven (Rev. 4:4).  The numbers 12 and 24 signify all things of the Lord's kingdom; here the number 2400 signifies something similar for Babylon.

TEKEL; You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting. (Dan. 5:27)

This is a shekel of 20 gerahs.  Most then add this value.  But one should not add, one should subtract, as Babylon was found wanting.  The shekel of 20 gerahs represents Belshazzar, who used wrong judgment in profaning the articles of the Jewish temple (20 is the age of judgment).  It should also be noted here that Belshazzar probably had a reign of 20 years.  The math we have now is this:  2400 gerahs - 20 gerahs = 2380 gerahs.

PERES; Your kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (Dan. 5:28)

Peres means "half" and means half a shekel.  Half a shekel is thus taken away from Babylon and offered to the Medes and Persians, meaning they would escape the judgment being pronounced on Babylon.  Note that the shekel represents Belshazzar, who literally gets "divided" when his head gets cut off that night.  Half a shekel is 10 gerahs.  Again we subtract:  2380 gerahs - 10 gerahs = 2370 gerahs.

A gerah represents a year.  2370 gerahs is thus 2370 years.  This represents the kingdom of Babylon, which began in 609 B.C. with the fall of Assyria.  2370 years is equal to 70 + 2300 years.  Thus we have the following:

609 - 539 B.C. = 70 years of Babylonian rule (Jer. 25:11-12, Dan. 9:2)
539 B.C. - 1762 A.D. = 2300 years (see Dan. 8:13-14)

The number 2300 in Dan. 8:13-14 has puzzled many, but I think it is now explained.  Not only that, but the starting date to the 2300 years was there all along.  The writing was on the wall.  The year 1762 A.D. was when it was revealed that Jesus is Jehovah in human form, which was explained in the little book of Rev. 10, The Doctrine of the Lord. (see The Mystery of the Book of Seven Thunders Explained)

Perhaps in a future post, God willing, I will explain that the 70 years of Babylonian rule represents a future longer period of 1260 years, also described as a "time, times and half a time" (Dan. 7:25, 12:7).  Note that a 70 year period is equivalent to 70 gerahs, which of course is three and a half shekels.  This time period is also represented by the three and a half days of the 2 witnesses (Rev. 11:9-11).



As always, comments welcome:




Sunday, May 15, 2016

The New Church Prophecy of the 2300 Days, or the Cleansing of the Sanctuary



The prophecies of the books of Daniel concern the final corruption of the Christian Church, and the establishment of a New Church after a final judgment.  The book of Daniel is unique in that it contains prophetic time periods spanning long periods of time.  The one that is most well known and documented historically is the prophecy of Daniel 9, which spans a period of 490 years from 457 B.C. to 34 A.D.

Here, I want to focus on the prophecy of the 2300 days in the book of Daniel.  This prophecy happens to be a central one for the Seventh Day Adventist Church (for which I have respect due to their view on the 10 commandments).  The focus of much discussion is on two verses:
Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. (Dan 8:13-14, KJV)
There are two main interpretations of this prophecy of Daniel 8.  The "safe" interpretation is literal, treating it as a literal period of 2300 days.  Then there is another interpretation that more historical in nature, spanning a period of 2300 years, but the full meaning is still debated.  What I will do is briefly summarize the literal interpretation, then summarize and analyze the historical interpretation.  After that I will make the case for what I think is the true interpretation of the prophecy.

THE LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF THE PROPHECY OF DANIEL 8


The first interpretation is obvious: it is literal, the prophecy means what it says, and nothing more.  In the first part of the visions, a ram who two horns rises up, which the angel explains is the Medo-Persian Empire (539 - 332 B.C.) which arose after the fall of the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.  The ram is then attacked by a he-goat with a single horn which represents the Grecian Empire under Alexander the Great, which defeated the Medo-Persian Empire.  Afterwards the horn of the he-goat is broken, and in its place four horns rise up.  This represents the break up of the Grecian Empire into four dominions under the four generals of Alexander: the Seleucid kingdom, the Ptolemaic kingdom, the kingdom of Lysimachus, and the kingdom of Cassander:


Following this, a "little horn" rises up, which attacks the host of heaven and the prince of the host, and brings down the stars of heaven.  It then removes the daily sacrifice and casts down the sanctuary.  According to the literal interpretation, this refers to the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes who reigned over the kingdom from 175 to 164 B.C.  He executed a war against the Jews, abolished their sacrifices, and established an idol in their own temple.  This is described in detail in the book of the Maccabees.  Eventually the temple was restored and rededicated, after which the Jews established the Feast Day of Hannukah.

So what about the 2300 days?  This would be about 6 years and 3 months.  The best explanation I have seen is it refers to a period from the corruption of the high priest to the rededication of the Jewish temple in 165 B.C.  From THE 2300 DAY PROPHECY OF DANIEL 8:
In the 142nd year of the kingdom of the Greeks (Seleucidae) Antiochus corrupted Menelaus, a usurper, who had murdered the previous high priest and had installed himself in that office. In time, Menelaus gave himself to converting Jews to Greek Culture, building a gymnasium and entering athletic events in the Greek fashion (naked). He and other Jews developed a false method of appearing uncircumcised, so far did he go in getting some to abandon their God, culture, and religion.
Two and a half years later Antiochus did indeed stop the daily sacrifice and set up an idol in the temple and an altar upon which swine were sacrificed. The temple fell into disuse, weeds and brush grew up in its courtyards. This was the root cause of the rebellion of the Maccabean family, who after three years of fighting, defeated the Greek forces, cleansed the temple, and reinstituted the daily sacrifice. Antiochus, upon hearing of this and other setbacks, took to his bed and in a fever died shortly thereafter.  
And here is the explanation of the 2300 days, accepted by several commentators:
From the time of the corruption of Menelaus until the death of Antiochus in the 149th year of the Greeks was about six years and three months or approximately 2,300 literal days. Many take the position that this fulfills the prophecy. These note that the prophecy includes the attack on the land and "the prince of the host," or high priest. Keil, Pulpit Commentary, Jamison, Faucett and Brown, Matthew Henry, and other commentators take this position.
There certainly is a close coincidence in the time, but there is no way to pinpoint the exact number of days because there is no exact date recorded either for the defection of Menelaus nor the death of Antiochus.
This is the literal interpretation.  It is so accurate, that Bible critics assume that the book of Daniel must have been written in the late second century B.C. To maintain their scholarly reputation, they of course ignore the prophecy of Daniel 9 which predicted the year of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

THE HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION OF THE PROPHECY OF DANIEL 8

In the historical interpretation, the war between the Jews and Antiochus IV Epiphanes is understood as a type of things to come.  This view is correct, as the rituals and historical events of the Jews are symbolic representations of the spiritual church that came after it.  Researchers have noted that the "little horn" in the prophecy of Daniel 8 also shows up in the prophecy of Daniel 7 (see Dan 7:8), and there is a similar description in the prophecies of Daniel 11-12 and Revelation 13.  Also, we have this explanation given:
Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision (Dan. 8:17)
The vision thus concerns end times.  Thus, many conclude that the historical events surrounding Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the Jewish temple of the 2nd century was a representative type of things to come.  Biblical scholars who have concluded this are on the right track.  In the New Church, it is known that the Jewish people were a representative church, and historical events that happened to them were a type of things to come for the Christian Church.  The Seventh Day Adventist church has recognized the historical interpretation, and as they have the most research on this topic I will focus on their interpretation.  The 2300 days of Daniel 8 are understood to be a time period of 2300 years.  The "little horn" is understood to be Papal Rome which trampled upon the truths of the Christian church.  The issue here is to find a starting point for the 2300 year time period.  For this, they choose the starting point of 457 B.C. for the 490 year prophecy of Daniel 9.  Counting from 457 B.C., they arrive at the end date of 1844 A.D. as shown in the following chart:


Originally, they thought the year 1844 A.D. was the year of the Second Coming, based on falsely interpreting scripture in a literal manner.  Subsequently they revisited scripture on this prophecy and now understand that the sanctuary is the sanctuary of heaven, and that the year 1844 A.D. marked the cleansing of the sanctuary of heaven.  Some of the teachings on the meaning of the "cleansing of the sanctuary" in heaven by Seventh Day Adventists are questionable as they are based on the external literal sense of scripture.  Further insight on this matter can be given from the visions received by Swedenborg.

ANALYSIS OF THE HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION

So the question to ask here, is the 2300 year prophecy valid, and does it start in 457 B.C. and end in 1844 A.D.?  Here is a link in which a Seventh Day Adventist does his own analysis in an article entitled 1844---is it biblical?  There are four main assumptions that need to be made, as follows:

1. One apocalyptic day equals one literal year.
2. Daniel 9 explains the mystery of Daniel 8.
3. The 490 years of Daniel 9 are "cut off" from the longer time span of 2300 years.
4. The 2300-year prophecy started in 457 B.C.

So which of these assumptions are true?  The first assumption is definitely correct: there is strong support that days equal prophetic years, and there is scripture to support that (see Num. 14:34, Eze. 4:5-6, and Dan. 9:24-27 in which days are used to represent years, see also The Day-year Principle).  Thus I would agree, the 2300 days of the corruption of the Jewish religion under Antiochus IV Epiphanes is representative of a longer 2300 year period.

So what about the second assumption?  This is somewhat true, as both prophecies concern end times, which are represented by the desolation and destruction of the Jewish temple.  Also, it is the same angel Gabriel who gives both visions:
Yea, while I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.  (Dan. 9:21)
So what about the third assumption, that the 490 years are "cut off" from the larger time period of 2300 years?  This I would say is possibly true, but the 490 year period of Daniel 9 is more closely related to the 70 year desolation period .

So what about the fourth assumption, that the year 457 B.C. marks the beginning of the 2300 years?  This is speculative.  All that can be determined for certain is that the year 457 B.C. is the start date for the 490 year prophecy of Daniel 9 (for research on this, see Establishing the date 457 B.C).

THE SPIRITUAL INTERPRETATION OF DANIEL 8

As explained in  The Spiritual Meaning of Daniel's Prophecy of the Statue of Nebuchadnezzar, the literal interpretation is not the only interpretation of the prophecy.  It is in fact the lowest interpretation, and hidden within it is a more spiritual interpretation.  In the spiritual sense, every event, and every word of scripture, has a particular spiritual significance that in its most universal sense is related to the Lord and His church.  So let us take a look at the vision of Daniel 8 in detail:
Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. (Dan. 8:3)
In the literal sense this simply refers to the Medo-Persian Empire, where the Median Empire initially had power, but later power passed into the hands of the Persian Empire.  In the spiritual sense, all things of scripture are related to love and truth, and this is no exception.  Horns are symbolic of power.  The initial small horn is symbolic of the truth of faith which comes first in time, but the second horn that comes up later and is taller than the first is the good of charity.  In one's spiritual development, one first learns the truth, but as one grows, one then does the good of charity and love which one learned from the truth.  The ram thus represents the spiritual church, which Swedenborg also demonstrates from multiple passages of scripture.  The goat which arises afterwards, however, represents the church that separates faith from charity:
"That a ram signifies that which is spiritual, or, what is the same, those who are spiritual, is plain also in Daniel — that a ram was seen by him standing before the river, which had two horns; afterward a he-goat of the goats, which smote him, broke his horns, and trampled him down (viii. 3, 4 and following verses); where nothing else is meant by the ram than the spiritual church, and by the he-goat of the goats those who are in faith separated from charity, or in truth separate from good, who gradually lift themselves up against good, and at length against the Lord — which is also described." (Swedenborg, Heavenly Arcana, n. 2830.6)
In other words, the he-goat represents those of the Protestant Church, who in the 16th century made faith alone saving, regardless of one's works, by misinterpreting the writings of the apostle Paul (see A New Perspective on Paul and the New Church Perspective on Paul).  That a goat represents this is also shown from multiple passages of scripture in Swedenborg's works (see The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem), for each and every animal in scripture represents something slightly different.  Swedenborg is more explicit about this prophecy of Daniel 8 in the following passage:
"From this what is signified by the "ram" and the "he-goat," and "the battle between them," in the eighth chapter of Daniel can be seen, namely, that the "ram" there means those who are in faith from charity, and the "he-goat" those who are in faith separated from charity. Thus the future state of the church is there described, namely, that faith separate would dissipate all charity, which is the good of life, and falsity therefrom would have rule in the Christian world." (Swedenborg, Apocalypse Explained, n. 817.4)
Thus it can be seen, that the historical events of Medo-Persia, Greece, the Jews, and the desecration of the Jewish temple were symbolic and representative of the future events which would beset the Christian church.  The destruction of true Christianity can be seen in the power that the Protestant churches have over much of the Christian church in espousing their basic doctrine, which was an invention of the 16th century.  As the he-goat came from the west, so we see that Protestants have their power in western Europe and the U.S.  The spiritual sense of the he-goat is described in the following passage, which I will quote in full:
"..."the he-goat of the goats that came over the faces of the whole earth" signifies faith separate from charity, springing from evil of life; "the he-goat of the goats" is that faith; the "west" evil of life; and "the earth" the church; "he had a conspicuous horn between the eyes" signifies that this is from self-intelligence; "he ran upon the ram in the wrath of his strength, and brake his two horns, and cast him down to the earth, and trampled upon him," signifies the entire destruction of charity and of faith therefrom, for when charity is destroyed faith also is destroyed, for the latter is from the former; "the great horn of the he-goat was broken, and in place of it there came up four toward the four winds of the heavens," signifies all falsities conjoined with evils therefrom, "horns" signifying the falsities of evil, "four" their conjunction, and "the four winds of the heavens" all, both falsities and evils; "out of one of them came forth a little horn" signifies justification by faith, for this is born of the principle of faith alone; it is said to be "little" because it does not appear as a falsity. That this horn "grew exceedingly towards the south, and towards the east, and towards beauty, and grew even to the host of the heavens, and cast down some of the host to the earth, and trampled upon them," signifies that it destroyed all the truths and goods of the church; "the south" meaning where truth is in the light, "the east" and "beauty" where good is in clearness through truth, "the host of the heavens" all truths and goods of heavens and the church; "to cast down the host to the earth, and to trample upon them," signifies to destroy utterly; that "even to the prince of the host it magnified itself," and that "the dwelling place of his sanctuary was cast down," signifies the denial of the Lord's Divine Human, and the consequent vastation of the church; "the prince of the host" is the Lord in respect to the Divine Human, because from that proceed all the truths and goods that constitute the church; "the dwelling place of the sanctuary" is the church where these are; this plainly means the truths destroyed by falsities, for it is said, "it cast down truth to the earth."" (Swedenborg, Apocalypse Explained, n. 316.16)
So the meaning of the sanctuary is now clear: it is not the Jewish temple, but represents the corruption and desecration of Christianity from within.  It also represents the denial that the human of Jesus Christ is the Son of God, this denial comes in the form of the doctrine of a trinity of three persons.  The original truth of Christianity is that Jesus is Jehovah in human form, with Him is the Divine trinity of the Divine itself, the Divine Human, and the Divine proceeding.  The Nicene Creed is a falsehood, an invention of men.  For more information on the doctrine of the Divine Human, how the fullness of the Godhead is revealed in one person Jesus Christ, see The Lost Doctrine of the Temple of the Divine Human and The Divine Human of the New Church.  From this we conclude: the sanctuary, in the highest sense, represents the doctrine and truth of the Divine Human.  For the Lord himself is the temple (see John 2:19-21), and He Himself is the foundation of the church.

THE SPIRITUAL INTERPRETATION OF THE 2300 DAYS

From the spiritual sense, we now know that the prophecy of Daniel 8 spans a long period of time, and that it concerns the spiritual development and corruption of the Christian church.  We now arrive at the spiritual interpretation of the 2300 days.  However the passage has been mistranslated by the KJV, first here is a more literal translation:
Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. (Dan 8:13-14)
In the Hebrew, it does not say "days," instead it literally says "evenings and mornings."  At first it seems insignificant, but the gloss of the translators hides the internal spiritual meaning.  Leading up to the year 1844 A.D., interpreters thought this referred to the Second Advent, and Swedenborg confirms that they are correct in their interpretation from the spiritual significance of "morning" which Swedenborg demonstrates from multiple passages (see The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem), some are below:
"That the Lord's coming or the approach of His kingdom is not compared to the morning, but is called the morning, may be seen in Daniel: A holy one said, . . . How long shall be the vision, the continual sacrifice, and the transgression that maketh desolate? . . . He said unto me, Until evening and morning, two thousand three hundred, then shall the sanctuary be justified. . . . The vision of the evening and the morning which hath been told is truth (viii. 13, 14, 26). Morning here stands manifestly for the Lord's coming." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2405.4)
Here is another passage:
"That the coming of the Lord into the world is signified by evening and morning, is evident in Daniel: Then I heard a holy one speaking . . . How long shall be the vision, the continual sacrifice, and the transgression . . . to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden down? And he said to me, until evening and morning two thousand three hundred; then shall the sanctuary be justified (viii. 13, 14). That here by evening is meant the last time, when the church was altogether vastated and the Lord came into the world, and by morning the light and rising of a new church from Him, is manifest." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 7844.4)
Another passage:
"That morning signifies the first state of the church, and also a state of love, is evident from Daniel: One holy one said, how long shall be the vision, the continual sacrifice, and the wasting transgression? . . . And he said to me, until evening and morning two thousand three hundred; then shall the sanctuary be justified (viii. 13, 14). The subject here is the coming of the Lord; evening is the state of the church before His coming, while morning is the first state of the church after His coming, and in the supreme sense it is the Lord Himself. That the Lord in the supreme sense is the morning, is because He is the Sun of heaven, and the Sun of heaven never sets, but is always rising; hence also the Lord is called the east, consequently also the morning (n. 2405, 2780, 9668)" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10134.10)
There are several other passages, which repeat the same thing.  From the spiritual sense, we now know that the Seventh Day Adventists were correct in interpreting the end of the 2300 day prophecy as predicting the Second Advent.  However, due to their literal interpretation of scripture, they falsely expected a literal physical return of Jesus.  With the wrong date.  In the New Church, the Second Advent is not a return of Jesus in physical form, but rather it is the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word.  The First Advent was a revelation of the Word in human flesh (see John 1); the Second Advent is the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word in scripture, revealing how the Bible is Divinely inspired.  This again can be shown in Swedenborg's commentary on the prophecies of the Second Advent in scripture; a complete explanation would take volumes (again, see The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem for the proof of this assertion).

THE TIME PERIOD OF THE 2300 YEAR PROPHECY OF DANIEL 8

So now we arrive at the time period of the 2300 years.  We have seen that the historical interpretation is correct, that the 2300 days is a prophetic period of 2300 years, spanning the Christian era.  We also know from the revelations received by Swedenborg is that the end of the 2300 years refers to the Second Advent.  On these two points the Seventh Day Adventists are correct.

But what of the start date?  We should pay attention to the question: it is asked how long the period is for the entire vision (Dan. 8:13).  The vision begins as follows:
The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. (Dan. 8:20)
So the answer is actually quite simple: the 2300 year prophetic time period begins with the beginning of the Medo-Persian Empire.  This begins of course with the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C., which was also the end of the Babylonian Empire.  Upon the fall of Babylon, Darius the Mede was made co-regent with Cyrus king of Persia.  This year 539 B.C. is known for certain as we have astronomical datings in cuneiform tablets, as well as other chronological synchronisms in various records.  The year 539 B.C, the fall of Babylon, marked the end of the 70 year period of desolation in the prophecies of Jeremiah.  Indeed, Daniel even mentions this at the start of the prophecy of Daniel 9, which he notes took place in the first year of Darius the Mede (539 B.C.):
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. (Dan. 9:1-2)
The fall of Babylon is the focus of numerous prophecies.  Note that in the literal interpretation, the 2300 days corresponds to the corruption and desecration of the Jewish temple.  Likewise, the night that Babylon fell, king Belshazzar of Babylon profaned the treasures of the Jewish temple (see Dan. 5:1-5, 23).  At that moment handwriting appears on the wall, which is interpreted as follows:
And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (Dan. 5:25-28)
The fall of Babylon is thus marked as a date of importance.  Thus in the historical interpretation of Daniel 8, the year 539 B.C. should be chosen as the start date, not 457 B.C.  This for the following reasons:
1. The vision of the 2300 days begins with the rise of the Medo-Persian Empire in 539 B.C.
2. The visions of Daniel 8 and 9 are related.  The vision of Daniel 9 is based on the 70 year prophecy which had ended in that year, 539 B.C.
3. The vision of the 2300 days begins with the corruption and desolation of the Jewish temple. This corresponds to the 70 year desolation period which had ended in 539 B.C.
4. The prophecies of Daniel 8 and Daniel 9 are two separate longer extensions of the 70 year desolation period which ended in 539 B.C.
5.  The date of 539 B.C. is marked as an important date which appeared in the "writing on the wall" in the palace of Belshazzar.
So, if we take 539 B.C. as the start date, counting 2300 years from that date brings us to the year 1762 A.D.  And at first it would seem to most that nothing in particular happened on that date.  However, it was at this time that Emanuel Swedenborg had been receiving revelations in waking visions concerning the doctrines of the New Church, which he declared was the Second Advent of the Lord.  In his visions, Swedenborg saw that a last judgment took place in the spiritual world, in a region known as the "world of spirits" which is a region mid-way between heaven and hell.  A judgment was executed on those who had not yet been judged; after the judgment many were either cast to hell or brought up to heaven.  This is described in much detail in two works, The Final Judgment and The Final Judgment Continued (also known as The Last Judgment and The Last Judgment Continued).  In other words, the Seventh Day Adventists are correct in their understanding that there was a "cleansing of the sanctuary" in heaven.  But they do not have a complete idea on the meaning, and they got the date wrong.  But the doctrine in itself is correct.  Not only that, they state that the end of the 2300 years marks the beginning of the "Investigative Judgment."  Here is their official position, from Heavenly Sanctuary:
The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection. It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom. This judgment vindicates the justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus. It declares that those who have remained loyal to God shall receive the kingdom. The completion of this ministry of Christ will mark the close of human probation before the Second Advent.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE YEAR 1762 A.D.?

According to Swedenborg, the "dead who are asleep" refer to many of those who were caught in the middle region of the world of spirits.  In the Last Judgment, which took place in the spiritual world, an investigative judgment took place in the year 1757 A.D.  Literalists, such as many within the SDA church, were expecting a literal physical resurrection and judgment to take place on earth, not understanding that all are judged in the spiritual world.  What is interesting about the SDA church is that they get some parts right, and other parts wrong.  And all this with no knowledge of Emanuel Swedenborg, because they have adopted the false doctrine that there is no afterlife.  In The Final Judgment Continued, Swedenborg offers a nice summary of the work The Final Judgment:
"In the former little work on "The Final Judgment" the following subjects were treated of: The destruction of the world is not meant by the day of the final judgment (n. 1-5). The procreations of the human race on the earths will never cease (n. 6-13). Heaven and Hell are from the human race (n. 14-22). All who have ever been born men from the beginning of creation and are deceased, are either in heaven or in hell (n. 23-27). The final judgment must be where all are together, thus in the spiritual world, and not on earth (n. 28-32). The final judgment takes place when the end of the church is come, and the end of the church is when there is no faith, because there is no charity (n. 33-39). All things predicted in the Apocalypse are at this day fulfilled (n. 40-44). The final judgment has been accomplished (n. 45-52). Babylon and its destruction (n. 53-64). The former heaven and its abolishment (n. 65-72). The state of the world and of the church hereafter (n. 73, 74)." (The Final Judgment Continued, n. 1)
The 2300 year period begins in the year 539 B.C., with the fall of the literal kingdom of Babylon.  Babylon, in the spiritual sense, represents those who use religion to obtain dominion over others.  Spiritual Babylon is thus the Roman Catholic Church, and the Last Judgment of 1757 A.D. removed its power in the spiritual world.  Much of the visions that Swedenborg received concerned the destruction of the spiritual Babylon, which makes a start date of 539 B.C. all the more appropriate to the 2300 year prophecy.

The obvious question now is how come the 2300 year prophecy ends in the year 1762 A.D., and not the year 1757 A.D.?  Swedenborg makes clear that the Last Judgment in 1757 A.D. was the first step in providing new revelations and doctrines of the New Church:
"III. Before the final judgment was effected upon them, much of the communication between heaven and the world, thus also between the Lord and the church, was intercepted.
IV. After the final judgment the communication was restored.
V. Hence it is, that since the final judgment has been effected, and not before, revelations have been made for the New Church."  (The Final Judgment Continued, n. 8)
So, what revelation was made in the year 1762 A.D.?  The main work that Swedenborg worked on in this year was a little small work known as The Doctrine of the Lord.  This was then published in 1763 A.D. along with three other works as The Four Doctrines.  But what many do not realize is that little work The Doctrine of the Lord is the central doctrine of the New Church: it states that Jesus is Jehovah in human form, and that the human form Jehovah assumed is the Son of God.  Moreover, His human form had been made one with the Divine, and is the Divine Human.  A trinity of three persons is a falsehood.  Note, as stated above, in the spiritual sense Swedenborg had stated that for Daniel 8 the sanctuary that is cast down and trampled upon is the Divine Human.  Moreover, in Swedenborg's visions it was revealed that the work The Doctrine of the Lord was very important - this small work is the little book, the book of the seven thunders in Revelation 10 (see The Mystery of the Book of Seven Thunders Explained).  In Apocalypse Revealed, Swedenborg states the following:
I will lay open what was in the little book. In the little book were the things which are contained in the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 465)
This of course, refers to the work that was published in 1763 A.D., but was probably completed in 1762 A.D.  So anyone who ever wondered what was in the book of seven thunders in Revelation, now you know.

SUMMARY CONCLUSION

I had to cover a lot of ground here.  I can summarize this in the following points:
1.  The prophecies of Daniel have both a literal and spiritual interpretation.
2.  The historical interpretation of the prophecy of Daniel 8 is partially correct.
3.  The Seventh Day Adventist interpretation is partially correct, but they chose the wrong start date.
4.  In the spiritual sense, the prophecy of Daniel 8 deals with a long time span concerning the corruption of the Christian Church.
5.  A Last Judgment took place in the spiritual world in the year 1757 A.D.  This was independently revealed to the Seventh Day Adventist church as the "cleansing of the sanctuary" in heaven, albeit with a later date.
6.  The SDA church needs to reassess some of their doctrines, not all of them are correct.  But the essential idea of some of them are correct.
7.  Although Emanuel Swedenborg was unaware of the 2300 year time period (he himself discouraged prophecy), information in the revelations confirm it.
8.  The interpretation matches the time of the revelation of the Divine Human in the work The Doctrine of the Lord.
9.  The Second Advent is not a physical return of Jesus in the clouds of the sky, but rather the Second Advent is the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, and the revelation of the true doctrines of the New Church.
This of course will probably bring up more questions than it answers, as I tried to restrict the material to the 2300 day prophecy.  There will also be resistance to it as some have probably been taught differently on these topics.  But the evidence is there for anyone to examine, to consider the revelations and doctrines of the New Church, as foreseen in scripture.