BibleDoc.org

A Website of Eugene Prewitt

Looking for Answers?

I help friends to understand their Bibles!

Eugene W. Prewitt

Educator | Speaker | Author

Commentary on the Methods of Jeff Pippenger

A Summary of Thoughts and Concerns regarding the Teaching of Jeff Pippenger

  I have only met Jeff one time in my life. I attended a symposium on Daniel 11 at the Lifestyle Center of America. The meeting was sponsored by several persons that favored Jeff’s teachings on Daniel 11, though persons with varying views were invited to attend. It is fair to the organizers to say that they never thought to invite me. But how and by whom I was invited is beyond the scope of this short paper.

Before attending the seminar I was favorably inclined to believe what Jeff had to share. I had heard, as far as I knew, only positive things about his theology and his knowledge of prophecy. And to his credit, I heard that he had avoided the pitfalls of “futurism” that have ruined the usefulness of so many would-be prophetic expositors.

More than that, I heard (and am still impressed) that Jeff has a high-level of respect for the Testimonies. And more than this, that he has made a diligent study of the pioneers. This is an important point. The average Adventist doesn’t realize the difference in Biblical quality between the writings of the pioneers and modern writings. The former are logical, Biblical, earnest, and to the point. The latter deliver less of these qualities. And so, again, Jeff has made a good study of the pioneers and on the points on which they are well agreed with each other, he tends to agree with them also.

Another positive point is that Jeff reminds Adventists of their duty and need to know and teach their message. He reminds us of the coming Sunday Law, the coming change in the USA, the coming Latter Rain and the final “rise and fall” of the Papacy. In terms of our belief about the end of time and about Daniel 11, we share the following views: The Man of Sin, the Leopard-like Beast, the Little Horn, etc., represent the Papacy.

The 1260 days began in 538 and ended in 1798. Clovis led pre-France into becoming the first Catholic nation in 508. The France-led invasion of Italy brought an end to the Papal rule over Rome in 1798. France is represented by Egypt in Revelation 11. Atheism, as nationally represented by communism, is the extension of the principles of the French Revolution, and spiritually, of Egypt. The Latter Rain will add power to the church and cause our message to swell to the Loud Cry. The tidings from the East and North in Daniel 11:44 are the Sealing messages of the Sabbath and of the Fourth Angel. Daniel 12:1 is the close of human probation. There are many other points that I could add to this list. The points well established by the book Great Controversy are held in common by us, and this means a lot of points.

If I ended here I guess this paper would amount to a recommendation of Jeff’s lectures and of his printed materials. I wish I could stop here.   In the future we will be brought before tribunals. There we will be asked to give reasons for our faith. If our reasons are sound, our enemies will be vanquished by the power of the Word. The power of the Spirit will add conviction to what we share.

This Spirit-powered conviction characterized the teaching of William Miller. He held crowds spell-bound under the searching power, not of exciting antics, but of calm reasoned explanation of the scripture. Authors wrote that if you accepted his suppositions that his conclusions were inescapable. This is how our writings on prophecy should be. Scripture should interpret scripture. Clear passages should illumine obscure ones. This is how the introduction to Jeff’s book advertises the rest of it, as a Bible study that lets scripture interpret itself.

Discussing the weaknesses of Jeff’s book, “The Final Rise and Fall of the King of the North”, carries certain risks. I think of three of these dangers: First, argument is always risky. We are prone to be proud and biased. A desire to “smite with the fist of wickedness” characterizes the devotional persons of our church according to Isaiah 58. I, as a Christian, must be kind and considerate in my presentations. Second, Jeff has built his interpretations around a framework of truth. Any discussion of the weaknesses of his reasons could be easily misunderstood as an argument against the framework itself. If Jeff has given faulty reasons for believing a true fact, an attack on the faulty reasons could appear as an attack on the truths they were used to buttress. Third, the power of the Ellen White statements that fill the book is strong. Many persons could well be benefitted by those statements in a powerful way. They could be awakened to a closer sense of their need to prepare for Christ’s coming. To show the weaknesses of the book could be perceived by them as an attack on the beauty of the spiritual revival they, as readers, have experienced.   If the reader understands the nature of these dangers it will make my work safer.

When I point out logical fallacies (there are a few) and faulty principles (there are a couple) and faulty parallels (there are many), the reader can understand that I still believe in the soon coming National Sunday Law. Any doubts regarding my own teaching may quickly be settled by listening to my sermons at www.audioverse.org or reading my materials at www.bibledoc.org.   What follows immediately is a summary of concerns with the Jeff’s book already mentioned. After the summary you will find a partial detailing of issues related to the book and expanding on the summary.

Point One:           How is history repeated?   That history is repeated, especially in our day, is absolutely established by the prophets. But the nature and cause of that repetition needs to be understood before that repetition is a helpful element in our interpretation of prophecy.   The work of God in the earth presents, from age to age, a striking similarity in every great reformation or religious movement. The principles of God’s dealing with men are ever the same. The important movements of the present have their parallel in those of the past, and the experience of the church in former ages has lessons of great value for our own time.  {GC 343.1}

History repeats because God, and even men and demons, operate on basically the same principles from age to age.   God does not force evil men to repeat the history of their ancestors. In fact, God warns them against doing so. He does, however, encourage faithful persons to imitate the faithfulness of ancient worthies. In every age mercy pleads with both camps until hope for the former is lost through the hardness of their hearts.

Ps 78:8  And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

Eze 20:17  Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness. 18  But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols:

In every age there is given to men their day of light and privilege, a probationary time in which they may become reconciled to God. But there is a limit to this grace. Mercy may plead for years and be slighted and rejected; but there comes a time when mercy makes her last plea. The heart becomes so hardened that it ceases to respond to the Spirit of God. Then the sweet, winning voice entreats the sinner no longer, and reproofs and warnings cease.  {DA 587.1}

The law of cause and effect doesn’t change. So the type of behavior exhibited by Abel produced persecution by persons like Cain. Holy living by Jesus led to his persecution. In fact, all that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Revivals are collective growth in holy living. Therefore a great revival will be followed by a serious persecution. Thus history repeats itself.   The apostle Paul declares that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12.

Why is it, then, that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber? The only reason is that the church has conformed to the world’s standard and therefore awakens no opposition. The religion which is current in our day is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the word of God are so indifferently regarded, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the faith and power of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled.  {GC 48.3}

As an example of how history repeats we may consider the story of the Exodus. When Moses’ followers rebelled against God, Moses was tested over his love for them by an invitation to separate from their company. This happened in Numbers 14. It happened twice again in Numbers 16. It happened also in Numbers 20. God used the rebellion of the rebellious to cultivate the faithful intercession of the faithful. And this happened repeatedly on the way to Canaan, a trip representing our journey at the end of the world.

The question is: Does history repeat in numerical patterns? Or does it repeat rather as men of one age make choices similarly to men of another? Should I expect that, in our day, there will be four such intercede-or-leave tests, each with characteristics of the four in Israel’s history, and in the same order? Should I expect 10 unfaithful men (against two faithful peers and two faithful leaders) to spearhead the first rebellion (as Num 14); three unfaithful men (two with families, one, like Korah, without his family) to spearhead the second (as Num 16); the third to be the entire nation (as Num 16 also), and the forth to irritate the faithful (as Moses struck the rock in Num 20)?

Or should I expect that in the end of time that there will be repeated tests of men’s love for their brethren by calls to leave the denomination because of its sins? In the same way, shouldn’t I expect that most rebels will take their families with them, but that being a child of a rebel doesn’t doom a man (as it didn’t doom Korah’s children)? And shouldn’t I expect that I am under obligation to guard my spirit, even while interceding, so that I am not irritated by the church’s unfaithfulness (as was Moses) and so, like him, forfeit my chance at translation?

The latter paragraph, and not the former, is the proper way to view the repetition of history. In the latter case we understand that God selected snippets of history that would well represent the spiritual condition of our age. That is how Paul used the Exodus stories in 1 Corinthians 10:

5  But with many of [the Israelites] God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 ¶  Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. 7  Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8  Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9  Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10  Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. 11  Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. 12  Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

But the other way of understanding historical patterns is one used by Jeff regarding Daniel 11:30-36, regarding the timing of numerous events, and regarding number-oriented patterns and parallels. He looks for numbers of “enemies”, order of obstacles, and short patterns in history, and reads these as prophecies, as principles of how the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan works.

Yet this idea is flawed. The reason that there were three horns to pluck up by the influence of the little horn was not that God was making it happen that way to produce a prophetic pattern. The little horn uprooted the very tribes it needed to, and unless a prophet says otherwise, that is all we should assume. In summary of this first concern, a misunderstanding of how history repeats creates many false prophecies out of perceived patterns planned neither by God nor orchestrated by Satan.

Point Two:          How much should we trust an author?

Jeff repeatedly makes suggestions as to the meaning of passages of scripture. He states his convictions as matters of fact. The Libyans and the Ethiopians, he explains, represent the poor and the rich. He gives a little evidence in the form of some anecdotal history. And then he expects his readers to believe him.

This isn’t safe. Our pioneers adopted another course. They took the various views, along with the scriptural evidence for each, and logically eliminated all but the true view. You could read their writings starting with a differing view and see, by the end, that you were wrong. You didn’t need to trust the authors to follow their logic.

The method of suggesting a meaning works best for passages which people know that they don’t understand. That is why I, like many, was anxious to read the section on the Libyans and the Ethiopians. I had ideas about their meaning, but had not been able to settle on any conclusion with certainty. I thought Jeff might present compelling Biblical data that would throw light on the subject. And neither have I settled on a meaning for these two nations now.[1]

Point Three:        What role does a Lexicon play in Biblical interpretation?

Words change in meaning over time. “By and by” today means “eventually.” In 1611 it meant “immediately.” And “let” today means “allow.” But in 1611 it often meant “hinder.” In cases like these lexicons can be helpful to persons unaware of the ancient meaning of a word.

But Lexicons are merely dictionaries. They describe part of the range of meanings that a word may have. Let me demonstrate a faulty use of a lexicon by taking an actual statement by Ellen White (in English) and using an English lexicon like a foreign person unfamiliar with English might erroneously do when trying to understand a translation of the passage into his own language. Supposing that the translation was a good one, it would read something like this, but in a foreign language:       

My attention was then called to William Miller. He looked perplexed and was bowed with anxiety and distress for his people. The company who had been united and loving in 1844 were losing their love, opposing one another, and falling into a cold, backslidden state. – EW 257

Looking up key words in his English lexicon, our foreign speaking person might find the following definitions for original English words:

  1. Attention: n, attentiveness, as “attention to a teacher”; affection for an ailing person; military: standing upright as a sign of respect;
  2. Call: v., to beckon with a voice; to make a song, as a “bird call”; a telephone communication or attempted communication;
  3. Bow: v., to kneel, usually as a sign of respect; to bend at the waist, as “the artist bowed to the clapping persons.”; to bend;
  4. Company: n. Group; Companions, as “they make good company”; an organized business;

So now our foreign student tries to understand the passage. He might conclude that Ellen White heard a voice calling her to be kind to William Miller who was having a rough day and was nervously kneeling, apparently under pressure from his people. These companions had been united and loving in 1844 but were losing their kindness [as is obvious earlier in the passage when they lead William to “bow.”]

But we, as English speakers, wouldn’t conclude that. You see, we know the language. It is easy for us, very easy, to know what “attention”, “call”, “bowed”, and “company” mean in that Early Writings paragraph.   This is like the difference between Bible translators and us. They knew the language. Many times it was very easy for them to know which definition of a word (for many words have more than one) ought to be understood in a passage.

And we? We don’t. And we are likely to guess wrongly and to make up fanciful interpretations if we do guess using a lexicon. [2]   A safer way (than correcting a text via lexicon) to see if there are alternate ways to read the Hebrew or Greek is to look at a variety of translations based on the same Greek Text and to check the marginal readings in the KJV. Looking to see how the word is used in other similar contexts may also provide insights. The translators of the KJV did a tolerably good job of giving literal translations and alternate readings in the margin. And other translations based on the same family of manuscripts as the KJV include the Rotherham, Webster, Weymouth, Young’s Literal, and much of the NKJV.

There is another and graver mistake in using a lexicon that is often made, and sometimes made by Jeff in this book. Men use the history of the development of the word to help them understand its meaning in a passage. Let me illustrate.

Joh 11:9  Jesus answered [611], Are there not twelve hours in the day [2250]? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.

The two words, Strongs numbers 611 and 2250, are two of the most abundantly used words in the new testament (used 250 and 389 times respectively, compared to an average occurrence of 5 uses per word.) It is easy to look at the definitions and see that they mean “answer” and “day.” And it is easy to look up other passages that use them and see that they are translated that way all through the New Testament. But if you look at the introduction of their definitions you will find that the word “answer” is derived from two Greek words, “apo” and “krino.” These words mean, “away from” and “judgment, or condemnation.” It seems that at some time the word “apokrinomai” came from replying to an accusation. Yet by the time of Jesus it was used simply to mean “answer.”

And in the passage quoted above the word “day” is haemera. This is what my lexicon says about it: from (with 5610 implied) of a derivative of hemai (to sit, akin to the base of 1476) meaning tame, i.e. gentle; Now this is all very interesting. The word day was derived from a word that meant “to sit” and that was related to a word meaning “tame” or “gentle.” It implies the Greek word for “hour” (5610).

One could get the idea that “day” means “an hour for gentle meditation, or sitting.” But this would be a faulty conclusion. The word just means “day.” Its meaning developed and changed over time. By the time of Jesus it had lost all meaningful connection with its historical sources. When prophets use words, they use them as those around them currently understand them, not in accordance with their ancient derivations. One of my friends, reading the first draft of this document, was concerned that I was pushing Biblical interpretation back into the dark ages where only the learned could do it.

But it is not so. In fact, William Miller studied the Bible with a Cruden’s Concordance[3] and by making use of the marginal readings. This was sufficient. He was dependant, you might say, on the scholars that translated the Bible into English. We all are, of course, unless we make diligent study of the languages ourselves. These great men translated the scripture into our language to free us so that we could read and interpret the Bible without depending on scholars. The misuse of the Lexicon actually creates an unhealthy dependence on men. When common men see that a lexicon has been referenced they often suppose that the writer is more learned than they. They assume that what he says about the Greek or Hebrew words is true since he quotes it from a lexicon. And so they repose in the conclusions of his studies being neither inclined nor able to follow him into the maze of a foreign language.

Point Four:          Does repetition transform speculation into study?

Jeff, after making a point about the interpretation of Daniel 11, often refers back to that point again and again. This is a fine method of teaching. It helps settle points in the mind. But if the initial point was made with a deficient amount of evidence, or with an improper use of parallels or of a lexicon, that fact may be readily forgotten by the reader a few pages later. This is particularly troublesome if the point made was speculative. By “speculative” I mean that Jeff selected one of the ways that a passage or word could be understood to the exclusion of others, but without evidence that he had good reason to exclude the others. The repetition gives the impression that there is a lot of material and many ideas in the study even when there is little data and few evidences. Instead of the pioneer method of evidence-evidence-evidence-evidence-conclusion, Jeff sometimes uses a conclusion-evidence-conclusion-conclusion-conclusion-conclusion pattern.

Point Five:           Does plausibility mean dependability?   Let me illustrate this with an actual point from the book. The following is a quotation from the section on the first 39 verses of Daniel 11:   After the delineation of the history of pagan Rome, verse 29 describes the closing scenes of pagan Rome’s authority.  Here we see Constantine moving the capital away from Rome at the “time appointed.” In verse 30 we see his “indignation against the holy covenant” as he introduces the first Sunday laws. So here is the plausibility. Perhaps Constantine’s Sunday Law of 321 AD is what is meant by “indignation against the holy covenant” in verse 30. Perhaps it is so. And it fits well if you believe Daniel 11 to be about Sunday Laws later on in the chapter.   But do plausibility and a nice fit in connection with end-time scenarios help us know if this is the right interpretation of the prophecy?

I say “no.” We need to look at reasons, arguments, data, and to compare scripture with scripture. Consider the following:

  1. Constantine did not live at the time of the “closing scenes of pagan Rome’s Authority.”
  2. Constantine’s Sunday Law was pagan, not Christian, in nature and wording
  3. The first part of verse 30 speaks of the “ships” that both Jeff and I understand to refer to the Vandals. They began their work against Rome after being chased from their homeland by the Huns, and this was long after the time of Constantine.
  4. Time wise, this passage parallels the introduction of the little horn in Daniel 7 where it seeks to “change times and laws.”
  5. Conclusion: It is the papacy that has indignation against the Holy Covenant in verse 30.

Conclusion   These are my concerns with the book. It does have merits. It connects Rev 14:12 and 17:3. And it connects Dan 11:36 with 2The 2. It makes a good point regarding Rev 13:2 and Rev 17. There are other valid observations.

But there is also too much creativity and speculation. Men are invited to adopt interpretations without sound reasoning. And this habit of uncritical thinking in the face of doctrinal teaching does not bode well for the time in which we live.

If someone wants more specifics on my relation to Jeff’s teachings, my comments on the following book are highlighted in blue [see the Word Document for blue highlighting] so as to be easy to find. (Items not in blue, below, are quoted from Jeff’s book.) Most of Jeff’s book is not found below. But in the numerous places where portions (many large) have been omitted, an ellipsis is inserted, usually after one of my comments in blue.

———  WORDPRESS DID NOT SUPPORT THE FORMATTING OF THIS PART OF THE DOCUMENT WITHOUT ME INVESTING A LOT OF TIME TO FIX IT. TO READ THIS PART, DOWNLOAD THE DOC OR CLICK ON THE LINK AT THE END. — EUGENE, 8-22-13

 


[1] It is not central to the purpose of this paper to explain what I found regarding these two nations. Yet, as example of how Bible-study works, I will here share a few of my observations: 1.             In Jeremiah 46:1-11, the same nations in this verse, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Libya, are confederate against Babylon. Though rooted in a historical event, the wording sounds apocalyptic. There is the gathering of the nations to destroy a city but only to be themselves destroyed in a sacrifice by God [given to the birds, etc.] 2.             The words for Libya in Dan 11 and Jer 46 are different, the former meaning “empty-hearted” and the latter meaning “afflicted.” 3.             Phut, the father of the Libyans of Jer 46, was a son of Ham and a brother of Canaan. Gen 10:6 4.             In Eze 27-28 where Tyre represents the papacy, and the King of Tyre represents the Devil, we find these two words for Libya used together, showing perhaps that they are not precisely the same, but that they are similar in origin and location. They are represented as composing, with “Persia” the army of Tyre. Eze 27:10. 5.             In Eze 30:4-6 Egypt is prophesied to fall by the sword. There the nations that are round her borders, those “confederate” with her, including both those of “Ethiopia” and “Libyan” fall with her. 6.             In Eze 38, in the representation of the battle of Armageddon under the figures of Gog and Magog, we find again “Ethiopia” and “Libya” with “Persia”, as forming the manpower of the army fighting against God’s city. 7.             The bloody city Nineveh, when threatened by destruction, is warned by the history of Ammon, the city of “No.” She is told that No had as defenders Egypt, Ethiopia, and both of the groups, Phut and Lubim that are translated “Libya” elsewhere. 8.             King Asa had victory with a small force against more then one million soldieries of “Ethiopia” and Libya, (called “Lubim” in the passage). This great victory was to teach him not to depend on the arm of men, a lesson he did not learn well. 2Chro 16. 9.             Earlier than this, when Rehoboam was threatened by Egypt, Egypt was buttressed with an innumerable company from Ethiopia and Libya. These were sent to punish Jerusalem. But when Jerusalem humbled itself, God sent deliverance. 2Chro 12. 10.          These are all the passages that refer to the Libyans by means of these two words in scripture. In them we note several patterns: They (Libya and Ethiopia) are always confederate with Egypt, both against Jerusalem and against Babylon or Tyre. They form the shield-wielding soldiers and forces of Egypt. They are often connected to stories that represent Armageddon. These seem to be the repeated, and hence, Biblical points.
[2] This has been done by persons of other faiths. I had an interesting discussion regarding the Sabbath with two young men about a year ago. They promised to get back to me on why they kept Sunday. The next week they brought me a document. I can not quote it, but I can rewrite its main thesis:   In Matthew 28:1 we find the following words in the King James Version of the Bible: “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.” What the average reader doesn’t know is that the word translated “week” is the same word translated “Sabbath” earlier in the verse.  And also, that the word “day” is supplied. Read literally the passage would be rendered “At the end of the [Jewish] Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first [Christian] Sabbath, came Mary Magdalene…” The reading shows that the resurrection Sunday was the “first” of the new Sabbaths.   The problem with the above is that the word “first” is feminine and Sabbath is neuter. That is why the word “day” is supplied, because it is a feminine word. Greek readers knew that “first” couldn’t refer to Sabbath. More than that, the word “week” (the word for Sabbath can be translated either as Sabbath or week) is in the genitive, showing that it should be translated “of the week/Sabbath.” All first-grade Greek pupils knew that. When we say “It will come on the sixteenth of the month” no one thinks we are saying “It will come on the sixteenth month.” Everyone understands that the word “day” is intended to be understood.
[3] Cruden’s is a fairly thorough concordance, but it contains no lexicon. It differs, in this way, from Strong’s and Young’s.
[4] Daniel Fontenot challenged this point is a private email dated 9-8-2008. So here is some data related to the point: “according to his will” is used in reference to God (Dan 4:35), twice in reference to Alexander the Great (Dan 8:4; 11:3) and once in reference to the papcy (Dan 11:36). And this is just in the book of Daniel. When EGW uses a phrase from 2 Thes, she uses quotation marks. But “according to his will” is not in quotation marks. In Ellen White’s writings it is used in reference to “Satan” CG 93; CC 165; DD 38; GC 35;GC 595. And if you will now reread the GC 50 statement you will see that “Satan” rather than “man of sin” is the antecedent of “according to his will.” Though Satan works through the papacy to accomplish his will, we would not want to confound Satan and the papacy. If our principle says “using the phrase is interpretive” then we are stuck with a Jewish period on page 35 fulfilling Dan 11:31. When I write “generic” what I mean is that none of the words in the phrase are specialized enough to keep the phrase from being used in many different situations and in reference to many different entities. Generic phrases, for this reason, when not in quotes, should not be assumed to be quotes. If we do assume the phrase is a quote, why do we quote it from Daniel 11:31 and not from 11:3 or 8:4 or 4:35?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap