Ethelbert William Bullinger (December 15, 1837 – June 6, 1913) was an Anglican clergyman, prolific author, Biblical scholar, and dispensational theologian.
From 1867 to his death, Bullinger was the secretary of the Trinitarian Bible Society, He was the founder and editor of a monthly journal “Things to Come” for over 20 years. The journal was copied and published in its original format in 7 volumes in 1970 and is now out of print. The work contains many articles and portions of his books along with a question and answer column from his readers and remarks on contemporary events. An unusual feature–and one that demonstrates the graciousness of Dr. Bullinger– are the many sermons, lessons and outlines included from other leading ministers of his day, such men as Sir Robert Anderson, J. Hudson Taylor, Ivan Panin and others. In addition to Dr. Bullinger’s contributions, the work is valuable to a Bible student in that it verifies a large group of well known leaders in the 1800’s were Pre-Tribulational Premillennialists. Their knowledge of prophetic truth further emphasizes that a great body of truth, freely known and preached in the 19th century, was lost to the Body of Christ by the early 20th century and by and large remains so today, being replaced by Covenant Theology, Neo-Pentecostalism, Adventism, and Charismatic fanaticism.
Every man’s teaching should be checked out, scripture with scripture. Bullinger, although in many ways a brilliant man he held a few controversial views that were seen to be extreme by even his dispensational friends. Like many in the Trinitarian Bible Society, he was not strictly adherent to the King James Bible nor was he totally convinced of the absolute authority of the Massoretic, Majority Text, or the Textus Receptus. He corrected Hebrew, Greek, and English texts, using Classical Greek, the Apocrypha and other extra-biblical sources as proof. He was very vocal in his opposition to the Revised Version of 1881. Although one of the most able Hebrew scholars of his day, Bullinger was shunned from the RV Committee, most likely due to his criticism of Westcott and Hort’s critical text but also due to what was seen as unorthodox views of prophecy and the state of man after death.
The Bible student should not discount his work, for much of his dispensational theology is valuable and excelled (as long as he followed the Bible text) far beyond his contemporaries, as well as the teaching of today. On the other hand, neither should we swallow “hook, line, and sinker” everything he said as the final word on dispensational theology.
His acquiescence to “scholarly standing” in using secular sources affected his conclusions, many of them at variance with the King James Bible. The following article illustrates his methods of interpretation–a weak and proud moment of his scholarship –Dave Reese, 2013)
THINGS TO COME, A Journal of Biblical Literature. Vol. III., FEBRUARY, 1897., No. 8., pp. 93, 94.
Questions and Answers.
QUESTION NO. 121.
D., Bromley. “What is the force of the word ‘wait,’ in 1 Thess. i. 10, ‘to wait for His Son from Heaven’ ?”
“The word is remarkable, for it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though there are five other words translated “wait for.” This means to wait out, to await with endurance, patience, and confidence, that which is known, foreseen, and expected. In Job vii. 2 it is used of a hireling who looks or waits for his pay. In Isa. lix. 11, “We look for judgment, but there is none ; for salvation, but it is far from us.” In Judith vii. 12, Holofernes is urged to “remain” in the camp, while the Jews whom he was besieging should die, or capitulate from thirst, and in viii. 17, they say, “Therefore let us wait for salvation of Him, and call upon Him to help us.”
‘In classical Greek the meaning is the same. In Homer (Od. xix. 342), Ulysses addressing his wife before he makes himself known to her, speaks of his wanderings and says, “Many a night on some humble couch I rested and awaited the fair-throned divine dawn.” In Æschylus too (Eumen, 234 or 243), Orestes says, “I await the end of the suit” (which was to seal his fate for killing his mother for having murdered his father !). He waited for that which was certain to come.
‘Hence, the force and beauty of this word assures us of the certainty (as other words do not) of that for which we wait. Many are waiting for that which will never come. But this Word tells us that He for whom we wait shall surely come, and will not tarry.”
Bullinger goes to some length here to give the meaning of “wait” and his source proof is very revealing. Instead of the CONTEXT OF THE WORD OF GOD, he uses the Apocrypha and Classical Greek to prop his point. (This is the same method of modern day perversion found in the new English translations.) Far better is it to quote the whole of Habakkuk’s prophecy rather than the few selected words. The interpreter could then show the other place in the NT where Paul commends waiting for the coming of the Lord; this would allow the Bible to interpret itself. Here is the whole of Habakkuk’s use of “wait” and “tarry”:
“2 And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Habakkuk 2:2, 3)
Notice the clear KJB translation of Habakkuk 2:2-3: “…though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” It is very evident there is a sense in the word “tarry” of a DELAY but the assurance is given it will not be delayed forever. They are to “wait” with full expectation of that which will surely come. There is no implication that it will never come; it will come at the time purposed. There is nothing in the word “tarry” to think it means a permanent absence.
Why then must we go to Judith or Homer? They add nothing to the “wait” in Habakkuk nor do they help the Thessalonians! (It appears a purpose was to show that Bullinger had read the Apocrypha and Classical Greek.)
A far better way to emphasize the “wait” in Thessalonians is to go to the other NT church that is “waiting” on the Lord’s return. Let the Bible define itself.
Paul wrote to the carnal church (1 Corinthian 3:1-3) at Corinth and commended them for “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:” He corrected their bad behavior in other matters (tongues, envy, division, Lord’s Supper, fornication) but praised them for waiting on the Lord. Had the “wait” by the Corinthians been a false confidence in the imminent return, Paul would surely have corrected that error as he did the other errors in the Corinthian church. (“Imminent” means He COULD come at any moment–and was DEFINITELY coming although He had “tarried” since the promise).
Paul would have corrected the doctrinal errors of thinking (1) the Lord COULD come at any moment and (2) dispel any notion that He WOULD come at a definite future time, as well as telling them (3) that if they did not drop this error of eager and expectant “waiting” they SHOULD NOT be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,
“4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:4-9)