Early Periodization Of Redemptive History -- By: Arnold D. Ehlert

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 14:2 (Spring 1971)
Article: Early Periodization Of Redemptive History
Author: Arnold D. Ehlert

Early Periodization Of Redemptive History

Arnold D. Ehlert, Th.D.*


The distinguished Oxford philosopher of history, Dr. R. G. Collingwood, wrote in his The Idea of History (p. 49-50), “Any history written on Christian principles will be of necessity universal, providential, apocalyptic, and periodizod. (i) It will be a universal history, or history of the world, going back to the origin of man… (ii) It will ascribe events not to the wisdom of their human agents but to the workings of Providence preordaining their course… (iii) It will set itself to detect an intelligible pattern in this general course of events, and in particular it will attach a central importance in this pattern to the historical life of Christ, which is clearly one of the chief preordained features of tile pattern. It will make its narrative crystalize itself around that event, and treat earlier events as leading up to it or preparing for it, and subsequent events as developing its consequences. It will therefore divide history at the birth of Christ into two parts, each having a peculiar and unique character of its own: the first, a forward-looking character, consisting in blind preparation for an event not yet revealed; the second a backward-looking character depending on the fact that the revelation has now been made. A history thus divided into two periods, a period of darkness and a period of light, I shall call apocalyptic history… (iv) Having divided the past into two, it will then naturally tend to subdivide it again: and thus to distinguish other events, not so important as the birth of Christ but important in their way, which make everything after them different in quality from what went before. Thus history is divided into epochs or periods, each with peculiar characteristics of its own, and each marked off from the one before it by an event which in the technical language of this kind of historiography is called epoch-making.”

Karl Loewith in his Meaning of History develops a definition of the term “Philosophy of history” to mean “a systematic interpretation of universal history in accordance with a principle by which historical events and successions are unified and directed toward an ultimate meaning. Taken in this sense,” he says, “philosophy of history is… entirely dependent on theology of history, in particular on the theological concept of history as a history of fulfillment and salvation.” He says further that “the ancients did not presume to make sense of the

*Graduate Studies Librarian, Biola College and its Graduate School, Talbot Theological Seminary, La Mirada, California.

world or to discover its ultimate meaning.” H...

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