Legend 3: the writings of the Apostles

November 3, 2016 § 8 Comments

Kurt Simon’s third legend is:

The characterization of the Biblical epistles as “useful books for the church” Apocalypse Explained 815 (and Letter to Beyer, April 15, 1766).

From <http://www.swedenborgproject.org/2009/01/29/swedenborgian-legends/>

Here are the passages Mr. Simon’s refers to:

As passages from the Word have been cited above (n. 785) in which “works,” “deeds,” “working,” and “doing” are mentioned, I will now cite passages where “faith” and “believing” are mentioned, but only from the Gospels, and not from the Epistles of the Apostles, and for the reason that the Gospels contain the words of the Lord Himself, all of which have concealed in them a spiritual sense, through which immediate communication with heaven is granted, while the writings of the Apostles contain no such sense, although they are nevertheless useful books for the church. (AE 815.2)

As regards the writings of the Apostles and Paul, I have not quoted them in the Arcana Coelestia for the reason that they are doctrinal writings, and so are not written in the style of the Word as are the Prophets, David, the Gospels, and the Apocalypse. The style of the Word consists wholly of correspondences, and therefore they effect immediately communication with heaven, while in doctrinal writings, there is another style, which does indeed have communication with heaven but mediately. The reason why they were so written by the Apostles, was that, by them, the New Christian Church should have its beginning, and therefore doctrinal matters could not be written in the style of the Word but only in a way which could be understood more clearly and intimately. The Apostles’ writings are nevertheless good church-books and maintain the doctrine of charity and the faith thereof, just as strongly as does the Lord Himself in the Gospels and the Apocalypse, as can be clearly seen and discovered if one has his mind thereon when reading them. (Letters 2; Letter to Dr. Beyer, April 15, 1766)

The letter to Beyer is particularly interesting. It was written in mid-April of 1766. Prior to that time not only had Swedenborg not quoted or cited the apostles in the Arcana, he had not (to the best of my knowledge) quoted or cited them in any published work prior to that date! But that was about to change. Shortly after Swedenborg’s letter to Beyer, Swedenborg published the Apocalypse Revealed. Apocalypse Revealed quotes or cites 6 of the works of the apostles; Conjugial Love 3; Brief Exposition 2; and True Christian Religion 11!

It should be noted, that while the apostles are not quoted to cited prior to 1766 in the published works, they are alluded to:

  • 1 Cor. 14. 34  in AC 8994.4
  • Acts 17: 28 in AC 2892, 5605.3, 10774; SS 28; DLW 301

Again, Mr. Simons is correct, these teachings are not repeated in the published works. Apparently what makes these teachings “incorrect” is the characterization that these books of the Bible are “useful.” I do not understand this. The Lord apparently found them useful enough to quote and cite in most of works published after 1765!

§ 8 Responses to Legend 3: the writings of the Apostles

  • Lee says:

    Hi Bill,

    It is very unfortunate that most knowledgeable Swedenborgians have not paid attention to what Swedenborg said about the Acts and the Epistles, and have ceded these books to the Protestants and Catholics—as if the Acts and the Epistles actually taught what Protestants and Catholics say they do. The simple fact of the matter is that they do not. In fact, it is in the Epistles that the Protestant Bible clearly and decisively rejects Luther’s invented doctrine of justification by faith alone:

    You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

    This is the only passage in the entire Protestant Bible in which the term “faith alone” appears. And in that one passage, it is specifically rejected as justifying, or saving, a person. The term “grace alone” never appears at all.

    Luther was well aware that James rejected faith alone. That’s why he tried (unsuccessfully) to get James, and three other books: Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation, removed from the Bible (see: Luther’s canon). He thought that his doctrine of justification by faith alone should determine what’s in the Bible, rather than the Bible determining what should be in Christian doctrine.

    As Swedenborg said, the key doctrines of traditional Christianity are pure human inventions, taught nowhere in the Bible. On this, see my recent article, “Today’s Christianity: Vastly Void of Truth.” What is called “Christianity” today has long since abandoned the plain teachings of the Bible for a whole series of false, human-invented doctrines that are taught nowhere in the Bible.

    When I was in my teens and early twenties, I was just as ignorant of the Acts and the Epistles as are most Swedenborgians. I didn’t bother to read them. I simply assumed that they taught faith alone, Jesus paying the penalty for our sins, and so on. But the fact of the matter is that they teach no such thing. Nowhere do the Epistles ever say that we are justified by faith alone, or that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. It’s just not there. For over twenty years I have been challenging Protestants to produce even one verse that says either of these things. None has ever been able to do so. That’s because even the Protestant Bible simply doesn’t teach these things. They were invented by Luther, Calvin, and Melanchthon, just as Swedenborg said.

    Swedenborg was right about the Acts and the Epistles. They do indeed “maintain the doctrine of charity and the faith thereof, just as strongly as does the Lord Himself in the Gospels and the Apocalypse.”

    See, for example, Romans 2:1-16, in which Paul, who supposedly taught salvation by faith alone, and that only Christians can be saved, clearly teaches how Jews and “Greeks” (pagan polytheists) will be saved on Judgment Day through Jesus Christ based on the good works they have done as directed by their own conscience. That’s Swedenborg’s doctrine! And Paul said this before his much more famous and heavily quoted statement in Romans 3:28 about being justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the Law—by which, as Swedenborg said, he meant the ritual works of the Law of Moses, not obeying the Ten Commandments. Protestants are just plain wrong about Paul and what he taught. Swedenborg is right.

    My eyes were opened to this fact by reading Great Truths on Great Subjects (the six Brighton Lectures), by the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley. These should be required reading for all Swedenborgian seminarians. For those who can’t get their hands on an original printed copy (it was highly popular, and went through many printings), there are various facsimile editions available. I have also posted them online at my old website (which is no longer being maintained): Great Truths on Great Subjects: Six lectures delivered at Brighton, England, First published in London, 1858-59.

    In these lectures, Bayley—who did pay attention to what Swedenborg said about the Acts and the Epistles—uses the entire Protestant Bible to support Swedenborg’s theology. He especially shines in the Q&A sessions after each lecture, in which he responds to various questions and challenges from his audience, which included local Protestant clergy and laypeople who took great exception to the Great Truths on Great Subjects that Bayley was delivering to the public in his lectures. Bayley was not only a highly educated and intelligent man, but a true gentleman, as shown in his gracious responses to his detractors.

    I strongly recommend that all readers of Swedenborg also read the Bayley lectures—and then read the Acts and the Epistles in the way Swedenborg recommended: keeping one’s mind upon the doctrine of charity and its faith while reading them. Those who do so will come to realize that the Acts and the Epistles simply don’t teach what Protestants say they do. Rather, when properly understood, they fully support Swedenborg’s teachings about God, the Incarnation, Redemption, Atonement, the saving nature of faith and good works, and so on.

  • Dear Lee:

    Thanks for your comment. I agree completely. I don’t believe that I have read Bayley; but I have read quite a few 19th century New Church writes and have always appreciated they mastery of Acts and the Epistles. They are, as is said, good and useful books for the church.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Bill,

      Bayley’s Brighon Lectures are a real gem among the 19th century New Church literature. Do yourself a favor and give them a read. The Q&A sessions alone are worth the price of admission. Bayley knew his Bible cold—and not just in English, but in the original languages as well. That was when a PhD really meant something!

    • Lee says:

      Oh, and for further confirmation in the Protestant Bible that what Paul was really saying was that Christians do not have to be observant Jews, see Acts 15, where the gathering later called the Council of Jerusalem is recounted.

  • Lee says:

    Hi Bill,

    Incidentally, there is one instance in which Swedenborg quotes from the Epistles in his published writings prior to 1766. In Divine Providence #115 Swedenborg quotes Romans 3:38 and Romans 3:31.

    For a graph providing a visual synopsis of Swedenborg’s quotations from the Acts and the Epistles in his published writings, as well as his mentions of Paul by name, see Emanuel Swedenborg—Exploring a “World Memory,” p. 99, and see also the accompanying text on pp. 99-101.

    Swedenborg’s first mention of Paul by name in his published writings is in Supplements (traditionally titled Continuation of the Last Judgment), published in 1763, #87.

  • Lee says:

    I should have included in my last comment, for those reading in, that Divine Providence was published in 1764, two years before Swedenborg’s letter to Beyer quoted in the above post. So Divine Providence and Supplements, published in 1763, provide some foreshadowing of Swedenborg’s shift toward quoting from the Acts and the Epistles in his later published works.

  • Lee says:

    Hi Bill,

    Speaking of the Epistles not supporting Protestant doctrine, but supporting New Church doctrine instead, I have just written and posted a major article on Ephesians, in response to numerous reader comments and questions about Ephesians 2:8-9 on my blog:

    Doesn’t Ephesians 2:8-9 Teach Faith Alone?

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