Part one in a series of articles on the Little Horn of Daniel 8, and the Leopard-like beast of Revelation 13.
Perhaps the one text which has proven to be most problematic for Seventh-Day Adventists is Daniel 8:9-14; and in particular verse 9.
Daniel 8:8 - Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.
Daniel 8:9 - And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.
Daniel 8:10 - And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.
Daniel 8:11 - Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down.
Daniel 8:12 - And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.
Daniel 8:13 - Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spoke, 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?
Daniel 8:14 - And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.'
While Daniel chapter 7 traces the four world kingdoms to the `little horn' that comes out of pagan Rome, with the Papacy depicted as the little horn, this text ignores pagan Rome as the fourth world kingdom, and thus implies that the `little horn' (papal Rome) arose from Greece. So if we are to follow the `Law of First Mention' and apply this text to Rome, then precisely how did papal Rome come out of Greece?
The preterist interpretation of this text is that the `little horn' solely applies to Antiochus in a historical sense, with the antichrist having already arisen by the sixth century A.D, and is usually attributed to either Antiochus Epiphanes IV himself, or the Roman Emperor Nero, while the Futurist interpretation is that Antiochus was a type of a future antichrist who is described in Daniel 9:26-27 - a Jew from the tribe of Dan who will rebuild a literal temple in Jerusalem, and in the middle of the `week' of Dan. 9:27 in bad faith breaks his covenant with the Jews and brings on a reign of terror, which then ends in Armageddon. Neither interpretation is palatable, as far as S.D.A doctrine is concerned. Particularly when both modes of prophecy divert the prophetic eyes of the Protestants from the `man of sin', as described in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
Both modes of interpretation rely upon a third century theologian named Hippolytus (ca. 170 - 200 A.D) as their progenitor, in an attempt to give legitimacy to their claims for correctly interpreting prophecy. However, if one is to carefully read Hippolytus's two treatises on prophecy (`On Christ and Antichrist' & `Commentary on the Prophet Daniel') one finds that Hippolytus followed the Historicist mode of prophecy to the time in which he lived:
`"After this again thou hast told me of the beast dreadful and terrible. It had iron teeth and claws of brass: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it."Already the iron rules: already it subdues and breaks all in pieces; already it brings all the unwilling into subjection; already we see these things ourselves.' (`Treatise on Christ & Antichrist', v. 33)
However, he also believed that the `little horn' depicted in Daniel 8 was an entirely different power from the `little horn' which is depicted in Daniel 7, and believed that it was represented by Antiochus Epiphanes:
`For Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, who was of the line of Alexander. And after he had reigned in Syria, and brought under him all Egypt, he went up to Jerusalem, and entered the house of the Lord, and the golden candlestick, and the table, and the altar, and made a great slaughter in the land; even as it is written: "And the sanctuary shall be trodden underfoot, unto evening and morning, a thousand and three hundred days. " For it happened that the sanctuary remained desolate during that period, three years and a half, that the thousand and three hundred days might be fulfilled; until Judas Maccabeas arose after the death of his father Matthias, and withstood him, and destroyed the encampment of Antiochus, and delivered the city, and recovered the sanctuary, and restored it in strict accordance with the law.' (`Fragments from Commentaries', v, 10; Hippolytus.)
Hippolytus believed that that Antiochus was a type of a future antichrist, and represented the `abomination of desolation' at the end of time:
`Daniel has spoken, therefore, of two abominations; the one of destruction, and the other of desolation. What is that of destruction, but that which Antiochus established there at the time? And what is that of desolation, but that which shall be universal when Antichrist comes?' (`Fragments from Commentaries', v. 40, Hippolytus.)
He portrayed the antichrist as a Jew from the tribe of Dan - presumably because the tribe of Dan was prone to idolatry:
`For as Christ springs from the tribe of Judah, so Antichrist is to spring from the tribe of Dan.' (`Treatise on Christ and Antichrist', v. 14.)
Hippolytus believed that the antichrist would exalt himself above every god, and would rebuild the temple of Jerusalem. He then applied verse 27 of the prophecy of the Seventy `Weeks' of Daniel to this future despot, and believed that in the middle of the covenanted prophetic week, he would break his covenant, at which the `abomination of desolation' would preside for 1290 literal days, or approximately three and a half years:
`Thus, then, does the prophet set forth these things concerning the Antichrist, who shall be shameless, a war-maker, and despot, who , exalting himself above all kings and above every god, shall build the city of Jerusalem, and restore the sanctuary. Him the impious will worship as God, and will bend to him the knee, thinking him to be the Christ. He shall cut off the two witnesses and forerunners of Christ, who proclaim His glorious kingdom from heaven, as it is said: "And I will give power to my two witnesses and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth." As also it was announced to Daniel: "And one week shall confirm a covenant with many; and in the midst of the week it shall be that the sacrifice and the oblation shall be removed" - that the one week might be shown to be divided into two. The two witnesses, then, shall preach three years and a half; and Antichrist shall make war upon the saints during the rest of the week, and therefore desolate the world, that what is written might be fulfilled: "And they shall make the abomination of desolation for a thousand two hundred and ninety days." '(`Fragments from Commentaries', v. 39, Hippolytus.)
These events were predicted to take place by 500 A.D, basing this interpretation of prophecy upon the formula that each day of creation equates to 1,000 years, at which the thousand year Sabbath rest would begin after the apocalypse:
`5. `For as the times are noted from the foundation of the world, and reckoned from Adam, they set clearly before us the matter with which our inquiry deals. For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus [Ceasar], in the year 5500; and he suffered in the thirty-third year. And 6,000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day "on which God rested from all His works." For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they "shall reign with Christ," when He comes from heave, as John says in his Apocalypse: for "a day with they Lord is as a thousand years." Since then, in six days God made all things, if follows that the 6,000 years must be fulfilled.
`6. From the birth of Christ, then, we must reckon the 500 years that remain to make up the 6000, and thus the end shall be. And that the Saviour appeared in the world, bearing the imperishable ark, His own body, at at time which was the fifth and half, John declares: "Now it was the sixth hour," he says, intimating by, that one-half of the day. But a day with the Lord is 1000 years; and the half of that, therefore is 500 years. For it was not meet that He should appear earlier, for the burden of the law still endured, nor yet when the sixth day was fulfilled (for the baptism is changed), but on the fifth day and a half, in order that in the remaining half time the gospel might be preached to the whole world, and that when the sixth day was completed He might end the present life.'((`Fragments from Commentaries', v. 5,6, Hippolytus.)
Thus Hippolytus might actually be regarded as a Historicist, who then employed speculation as to how the antichrist might arise. Preterism and Futurism resulted from his speculations - with both modes of prophetic interpretation focussing upon Antiochus as having a major part to play in the identification of the antichrist. While Preterism focussed upon the speculative part of Hippolytus prophecies, and teaches that the antichrist either appeared during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D, or the collapse of the Roman Empire by 500 A.D - which thus relegated the `little horn' power (Antiochus) to ancient history, the Jesuit Ribera seized upon the futurism which flourished for the first three centuries of Church history, and then applied it to Daniel chapter 9 in an attempt to divert the prophetic eyes of the Protestants from Rome:
`The Jesuit Ribera (A.D. 1537-1591) reintroduced the earlier futurism which had prevailed and flourished during the first three centuries of Church history. Futurism had gradually been transformed into historicism. Ribera attached the Roman Church's modified version of the millennium to this reintroduced futurism. Futurism had been formerly prevalent in the early church, and futurism had interpreted the 1,000 years of Revelation 12:1-6 literally.
`The other Jesuit, Alcasar (1554-1613), introduced a systematized preterism in a commentary on the Apocalypse for the first time. Preterism is a shrunken form of historicism. Preterism appears to be a miniaturized version of historicism's supposed amount of history contained in the Apocalypse. Alcasar apparently adapted the historicist system of interpretation by greatly shortening and reducing the supposed amount of history dealt with in the Apocalypse of John. Apparently there were strong preterist styled interpretations which had developed within the continuous-historical system already. Over the course of forty years of study, Alcasar transformed some of historicism's already preterist style interpretations about 70 A.D into the modified system known as preterism.' (`The Apocalyptic Rapture Exodus', D. Almonz, 2004, pp. 50,51.)
Cardinale Bellarmine (1542-1621) built upon Ribera's work and refined it, in an attempt to drive a final nail into the coffin named `Historicism', in a largely successful attempt to destroy the Reformation completely. Bellarmine:
`1. . . . combated Protestant claims that the Pope was antichrist. Counter Reformation had checked Protestantism in Europe. Bellarmine's chief attack was on year-day principle of prophecy. He paved the way for present futurist teachings, by applying apocalyptic symbols to future.
2. He used the "Gap Theory" - 70th week of Daniel 9 was separated from 69th week and placed just before the end of the world. The beginning date for 2300 days was 445 B.C.
3. He also taught that antichrist was a Jew of the tribe of Dan. [As did Hippolytus]
4. The crucifixion date was set by Bellarmine at A.D 38 A.D instead of A.D 31.
5. Dan. 9:27. One who confirms covenant is not Christ [Bellarmine followed in the steps of Hippolytus on this point]
6. Dispensationalists teach that the covenant was confirmed with the Jews after "secret rapture" and during the 70th week. (A Catholic teaching.)
7. Futurism distorted significant prophetic events, and threw them into future in a meaningless way.' (`The Bible Instructor', L. Kleuser, 2007, p. 244.)
While the Jesuit reinterpretation of Hippolytus's speculative views on a future antichrist did not initially gain traction, it was not until the 1830's that Edward Irving (1792 - 1834), and John Nelson Darby began to propound the Rapture and the doctrine of Dispensational Premilleniallism, which accommodated Futurism as its mode of prophetic interpretation. Indeed, it is Irving who is the conduit through which the Jesuits were successful in introducing Futurism into Protestantism, as Irving was fascinated by prophecy, and became enamoured with a document which was written by a Jesuit by the name of Manuel de Lacunza Y Diaz (1731-1801). Lacunza's treatise was called `The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty', and was written under the pseudonym `Ben-Ezra'; in an attempt to make it look like it had been written by a Messianic Jew:
`Several times [since the Reformation] Jesuits offered the Protestants a system of faith, teaching that Christ himself must come to straighten out the social chaos; it will be accomplished through an exalted Jewish nation from a literal throne in a dispensation yet to come . . . . Lucunza was the third or fourth Romanist to present the dispensationalist system before it made its way into modern "orthodox" non-Roman theology . . . . . The Presbytarian minister [Irving] was the one who made Futurism - the "Ben-Ezra system" - a Protestant system.' (`The Death of the Church Victorious', Ovid Need Jr., pp 56,57.)
Co-incidentally (or not), it was in this same very same decade that William Miller first began to give public lectures on his belief on the termination of the 2,300 `days' of Daniel 8:14, and developed the entirely Biblical principal of the `Law of First Mention'. The stage had thus firmly been set between two competing systems of prophetic interpretation; with the Dispensationalists emphasizing antinomianism, while what eventually became the Adventist's emphasizing the immutability of the Decalogue - and with `1844' and the interpretation of the `little horn' of Daniel ch. 8 targeted firmly in the crosshairs by both.