Joseph A. Seiss, The Apocalypse

by Georg Adamsen on February 9, 2008

in Scholarly commentaries

Seiss's ApocalypseSeiss, Joseph Augustus. The Apocalypse: A Series of Special Lectures on the Revelation of Jesus Christ, with revised text. Repr. ed. s.l.: C. C. Cook, 1900. 536 pp.

The Apocalypse was reprinted many times and at various locations for decades. Most recently reprinted under the title The Apocalypse: Exposition of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1987. 536 pp. Repr. New York, Cosimo, 2007.

The commentary

Apart from being premillenial and a so-called partial pre-tribulationist (i.e. the entire church participates in the millennial reign, according to Seiss; see on Rev 4:1 and Rev 20:6; see more here and here) resurrected, which gave rise to controversy between Lutherans, Seiss argues from Revelation 1:1-3 that “is a book of which Christ is the great subject and centre, particularly in that period of his administrations and glory designated as the day of his uncovering, the day of his appearing” and it is “a book of the revelation of Christ, in his own person, offices, and future administrations, when he shall be seen coming from heaven, as he was once seen going into heaven” (on Rev 1:1). Indeed, Revelation is “an account of the revelation of Christ in his personal forthcoming from his present invisible estate, to receive his Bride, judge the wicked, and set up his eternal kingdom on the earth” (ibid.).

Seiss also argues that “the Lord’s day” refer to the eschatological Day of the Lord (on Rev 1:1). This is, according to Seiss, what the actual contents of the book are all about. In this respect, I agree with Seiss, but we do not agree as to what it means, as I reject the premillennial interpretation myself (cf. here).

Seiss argues that Revelation is very valuable and precious:

If we are interested in the story of the manger and the cross; if we can draw strength for our prayers and hopes by invoking Christ by the mystery of his incarnation, fasting, temptation, agony, and bloody sweat; if we find it such a precious treasure to our souls to come into undoubting sympathy with the scenes of his humiliation and grief; what should be our appreciation of this book, which treats of the fruits of those sufferings, and tells only of that wronged Saviour’s glory and triumphs, and shows us our Lord enthroned in majesty, riding prosperously, and scattering to his ransomed ones the crowns and regencies of empire which shall never perish, and celestial blessednesses without number and above all thought!

Seiss argues that the author is the apostle John (on Rev 1:1), but does apparently not date Revelation. His view on the book makes it unnecessary.

Seiss’s commentary is cited some 18 times in Gregg, Four Views. C. I. Scofield claimed that it was the best of more than fifty books that he has read about Revelation (see here). In Denmark a lay interpreter, K. M. Schmidt [link follows], found it the best interpretation know to him.

The author
Joseph Augustus Seiss According to FamousAmericans.net, Joseph Augustus Seiss (1823-1904) was born and confirmed a Moravian. Having studied theology in private, he was ordained as a Lutheran pastor. 1858-1904 Seiss served in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He published more than 100 writings, including this commentary. According to FamousAmericans.net, Seiss published this commentary in 1869-1881 in three volumes, but several Americans libraries gives the year of publication as 1865.

Seiss was Doctor of Divinity, but so far I have not been able to determine where and for what.

Seiss was praised as a “confessionalist,” i.e. as one who adhered to the Lutheran confessions. However, his premillennial view gave rise to controversy (Dictionary of Christianity in America, s.v.). Dr. C. F. W. Walther refuted Seiss’s view that the early church was (crass) chiliastic, according to Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. 3, p. 532 n 53b.

Among his other publications is The Last Times and the Great Consummation (1863), available through Google Book.

For biography of Seiss, see Lawrence R. Rast Jr., “Joseph A. Seiss and the American Lutheran Church,” Ph.D. dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 2003, and Samuel Robert Zeiser, “Joseph Augustus Seiss: Popular Nineteenth-Century Lutheran Pastor and Premillennialist,” Ph.D. dissertaton, Drew University, 2001.

The Apocalypse is available for WordSearch (see the image of the book above) and as part of the Free Bible Explorer. It is also available via MBooks – Michigan Digitization Project.

ISBN: 1602061432

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