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Numerous are the instances in Scripture of such use of this number*. In its Hebrew etymology it signifies fulness and perfection t. Philo styles it teleoDogos, the completing number; and it is mentioned as such by Cyprian, who cites passages from the Apocalypse and other Scriptures, to shew the consummatio perfecta et legitima of this number 5. By what means this number became so important to the Israelites, so representative of completion and universality, may be collected from their history. God had revealed to them, that his own great work of creation had been completed in seven days; and in memory thereof he commanded them to reckon time by sevens, seven days to the sabbath day, seven months to the sabbatical month, seven years to the sabbatical year, seven times seven years to the great sabbatical or jubilee year. And when, upon' their entrance into Canaan, it pleased God miraculously to deliver the city of Jericho into their hands, he ordered them to march round it seven days, seven priests, with seven trumpets, preceding them: and on the seventh day, on which the walls fell, they were instructed to encompass it seven times 5. As therefore the number ten came to be seckoned among all nations a perfect and complete number, by counting on the ten fingers
* See Gen, ii. 3, iv. 15. xxxiii. 3. Lév. iv. 6. Prov. xxiv. 16, xxvi. 25. Is. xxx. 26. Ezek. xxx. 9. 1 Kings xviii. 43. 2 Kings v. 10. Job v. 19, xlii. 8. Olic. v. 5. Esth. i. 11. Eccl. xi. 2. Dan. iii. 19. 2 Esd. ii. 18, 19. Tob. xii, 15. Mat. xviii. 22. Luke xi. 26, xvii. 4. † Daubuz, Etymol. Dict,
See also Cyprian, De Exhort. Martyr. De Spiritu Sancto. Test. adv. Judæos; and Augustin. de Civitate Dei, lib. xi. cap. 30.
Gregory Nazianzene, alluding to this transaction, calls seven the powerful number. “Ηλιος ισαμενος, και σεληνη κατεχομενη, και Ιορδανης ανακοπτομενος, τειχη κατασειομενα ιερεων περιοδο και σαλπινγων ηχο, και αριθμω δυναμιν Korti. Orat. iü. p. 57, edit. Paris.
of man; so did the number seven, with those nations who preserved the memorials of divine revelation; and these two numbers, seven and ten, multiplied together, are accordingly used to express the utmost indefinite number. “ Not only until seven times,
says our Lord, “but until seventy times seven But with the Jews, seven became the most important number, being seen to enter into almost all their institutions t. In the eastern nations, less given to change, this use of the number seven has continued more prevalent than
The Arabians and Indians, between which nations was a great conformity of religious customs, had seven celebrated temples, and believed in seven heavens, and seven compartments of hell . And in modern India we still find this maxim in common use: “ A man's own mind will tell him more than seven
sages that sit on an high tower G.” It was through the nations of the east that the reverence for this number passed to the Greeks and Romans . According
* Matt. xyiii. 22.
+ They had seven lessons, seven readers; seventy (that is, ten timer seven) composed their supreme council; which Josephus afterwards imitating, appointed seventy elders in Galilee, and seven judges in every city. (Bell. Jud. xx. 5.) And, for the same reason, in the Roman Church, the number of Cardinal Bishops (the word Cardinal implying completion), was originally fixed at seven ; so continuing until the reign of Pope Alexander III. And the ecclesiastics of the Church of Rome were aware of this use and pre-eminence of the number seven, even so late as in the 16th century; for, in 1547, at the Council of Trent, they defended the doctrine of seven sacraments, amongst other arguments, by that of the unitersality and superior dignity of the number seven. (Padre Paolo, lib. ii.)
Sale's Koran, Prelim. Disc.
Tracts on Hastings's Trial, | Spencer, de Leg. Heb. lib. i. Varro op Weeks, in. A. Gellius, lib. iii, C. 10. Clem. Alex. Strom. lv. !
to Pythagoras, who had studied in Egypt, in Phænicia, and at Babylon, it is a number venerable, perfect, and accommodated to things sacred *. And here it may be observed, that it is not from any casual or arbitrary notion, that the number seven has been thus dignified, It is entitled to this distinction, from the natural order of things, which God was pleased to establish at the creation. A day is a natural measure of time, and, multiplied by seven, forms that period of a week which most conveniently multiplies again, so as to form months and years. J. Scaliger has observed t, “ that the number " seven is of all others the most fit to measure the
courses of the sun and moon.” Add to this, that a week, or seven days, appears to be a complete period, by other laws and provisions of Providence; since it will be found to measure, by its repetitious, more
Brucker, Hist. Phil. Crit. i. 1055. Jamblichus de Vit. Pythag.Grotius has produced proofs from Josephus, Philo, Tibullus, Homer, Ilesiod, Callimachus, and Lucian, of an observance of a seventh day among the Greeks and Romans, or of a reverence of the number seven; and from Philostratus, Dion Cassius, and Herodotus, of the account of time being numbered by weeks among the Egyptians, Indians, and the northern nations of Europe. M. Varro (as reported in Aulus Gellius, lib. iii. c. 10.) has produced some coincidences of the complete nature of this number, which shew at least that this notion of the number seven had passed to the Romans.
Αλλα και την έβδομης Γεραν, και μονον οι Εβραιοι, αλλα και οι Ελληνες ισασι,' "Ησιοδος
Πρωτος ενη, τετρας τε, και έβδομον Γερον ημαρ. Και 'Ομηρος,
“Εβδομαδη δ' ηπειτα καταλυθεν Ιερον ήμαρ» μην και Καλλιμαχος ο ποιητης γραφει, " 'Edouarn de
ετετυκτο απαντα. .
Euseb. Præp. Evang. lib. xiii. c. 13. Additional citations, fully confirming this, may be seen in Briant's Analogy, vol. i. p. 382; and in Faber's Horæ Mosaicæ, vol. i. p. 344.
7. “ Septenarium numerum accommodatissimum esse solis et lunæ “ rationibus." Canon. Isag. 95.
exactly than any other number, the natural periods of
These observations will open the way for the right apprehension of the sense in which the number seven is used by the prophetic writers. It is used to express any large, complete, indefinite number. By the seven Churches of Asia, are implied all the Churches of Asia, and, it may be, all the Christian Churches in whatever situation or period of the world * St. Paul, speaking of the events which happened to the people of God in the Wilderness, says,
“ Now these things were our examples;” they were, as the original implies, TUTOI, types, or prophetical representations, " written for our
It was understood in this extensive signification by the commentators nearest to the times of St. John, as reported by Andreas Cæsariensis. Το μυστικον των απανταχη εκκλησιων σημαινών.
Comment. in loc.
" admonition *.” The Jewish Church being removed, the Christian Church stands in its place, and is to apply to herself the same admonitions. And thus, in the present instance, the seven Churches of Asia being sunk in Mahometan superstition, their “ lamp-bearer removed,” all the Christian Churches inherit the advice given, the threatenings denounced, the blessings promised by their divine Lord.
Ver. 4. Grace be unto you, and peace, &c.] The Salutation in this epistle resembles those in other epistles of the New Testament; in almost all of which the inspired writer intreats “grace and peace from God the Father, “ and our Lord Jesus Christ.” But the Godhead is here described with some additional expressions, not unscriptural, but presented in a new form, being such as naturally arose in the mind of the Apostle from the impression of the vision which he had then seen, and was proceeding to relate. Full of the images lately presented before him, he recurs to them even in this his introduction, and instead of saying, in the calm expression which otherwise he might have used, “Grace from “God the Father,” &c. he says,
“Grace from him " that was,” &c. using the very forms of speech in which he had heard the Divine attributes described in the vision.
The description of God the Father, occurs under the same expression, ch. iv. 8, from which place it is evidently taken; and is consonant to the great I AM of Exod. iii. 14. The description of God the Son is in like manner taken from the vision. He calls himself + " the faithful and true witness. He is so styled prophetically by Isaiah I; such he was eminently in the last scene of his earthly life, when“ before Pilate i Cor. x. 6-11. + Ch. üi. 14.
: Ch. ly. 4.