Thursday, February 20, 2020

How the Protestant Eschatological Mind Was Inherited by 19th Century Greeks

Rev. Isaac Watts

I was reading through a book the other day published in 1848 titled The Origin and History of Missions: A Record of the Voyages, Travels, Labors and Successes of the Various Missionaries Who Have Been Sent Forth by Protestant Societies and Churches to Evangelize the Heathen, Compiled from Authentic Documents Forming a Complete Missionary Repository. In Chapter 4 we read about the History of the Mediterranean Missions, which focuses on the Protestant missions among the Orthodox populations of Asia Minor and Greece. There it says the following:

"On the 13th of June [1820], Messrs. Parsons and Fisk engaged the conductor of the college press [in Smyrna], to furnish them with copies of a tract on Reading the Scriptures, selected from the works of Chrysostom, and translated into modern Greek. When the tract was ready for distribution, trials were soon made of the manner in which it would be received. The result was such as to suggest the immediate republication of another tract, the End of Time, by Dr. Watts, translated also into modern Greek. With these little heralds, it was easy to gain access to the schools, to the monasteries, the nunneries; in short, to any class of the Greek population. Within a few weeks numerous copies were on their way to Thessalonica, Crete, Corfu, Ipsara, and many other places, as well as schoolmasters and priests, had most explicitly approved of this method of doing good, and had offered to take upon themselves the charge and trouble of distributing the tracts among the people, and especially among the children and youth of the various seminaries."

The tract of Reverend Isaac Watts (1674-1748) titled The End of Time mentioned above and widely distributed among Orthodox Christians in the early 19th century can be read here. It was originally published in Boston in 1740. There is nothing necessarily heretical in the tract, but we know that it was around this time that the Protestant eschatological mind began to slowly merge with the Byzantine eschatological mind within the Greek population. One can only wonder how much this tract played a role.