Zechariah and the Two Witnesses

Source: Veronica Chater, Waiting for the Apocalypse: A Memoir of Faith and Family (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2009) 237.

The Group had the spirit of True Catholicism. The group was Catholicism. They were the phoenix sprung up from the embers of the post-Vatican II pile of rubble. And their leader was a kind of prophet; a witness. God had promised Zerubbabel, the prince of Judah, two witnesses–one religious and one political–to the crimes committed by humanity against him and his Church. Archbishop Lefebvre was the religious witness. Now Dad had found the political one: Dr. Plinio. The Crusades of the twentieth century had begun. The war cry had been sounded.

Yesterday, I wrote a little bit on the two witnesses, for Veronica Chater did two things that I usually don’t see in Armstrongite circles: (1.) she tried to read it in light of its biblical context, the Book of Zechariah, and (2.) she appreciated Zechariah’s implication that there would be a political witness and a religious witness.

As far as I know (and my knowledge is limited), the only other person who’s done that is Fred Coulter of the Christian Biblical Church of God. I remember listening to a taped sermon by him on the two witnesses, and he said that Zechariah 4 identifies them as Zerrubabel and Joshua the high priest. In the Book of Zechariah, they are the ones God anoints to carry on his work of restoring the temple and Jerusalem. My impression is that most biblical scholars would agree with this interpretation of Zechariah 4.

But both Coulter and Veronica Chater’s traditional Catholicism (which she no longer holds) want Zechariah 4 to apply to the future, not just the time of Zerubbabel and Joshua. Consequently, Coulter makes Zerrubabel and Joshua a type of the coming two witnesses. For Coulter, one would be a political leader like Zerubbabel, and the other would be the high priest, who would miraculously convert to Christ.

Chater’s traditional Catholicism, however, takes a slightly different approach. For her, God promised Zerubbabel that God would raise up two witnesses who would confront the church. She’s reading the Old Testament as many Christians do (albeit not the literalistic dispensationalists): as non-literal, spiritual, and related to the church. In this interpretative framework, Israel and the temple represent the church, so that’s how Chater can see the Catholic church in Zechariah 4.

The problem is that Zechariah 4 does not explicitly say that there will be a political witness and a religious witness. It’s likely that it means that, since Zerubbabel and Joshua appear to be the two witnesses in that chapter. But Chater does not seem to acknowledge that point, for, in her scenario, God is speaking to Zerubbabel about two future witnesses, not ones that exist in his time (including himself). Coulter solves this problem by making Zerubbabel and Joshua types of the future witnesses. For Coulter, Zerubbabel and Joshua were the two witnesses of their time, but there will be two witnesses like them in the future. That’s how he arrives at the conclusion that there will be a political witness and a religious witness. But how is Chatel reaching that conclusion?

Another point in which Coulter and Chater differ: Coulter sees the two witnesses as end-times figures. For him, they will appear together in the end to challenge the Beast and the false prophet. For Chatel, however, they don’t necessarily appear together in the same period of time, since one was Archbishop Lefebvre, who made his stand against Vatican II in the 1960’s. And the other is Dr. Plinio, who supposedly emerged at a prophet years later. In this scenario, much of history is the “end-times.” My understanding is that this is the Adventist understanding of prophecy: the Beast and the two witnesses have been around for centuries, meaning that they’re not just figures who pop out of nowhere in the very last days of human history.

But the position that Chater presents is not the only traditionalist Catholic view on eschatology, for, as I wrote more than a year ago in my post Catholic Eschatology, the priest at the Latin mass I attend sees the Antichrist and the two witnesses as future figures, meaning they do not exist yet.

I hope this post enhances understanding or appreciation of the different ways people approach prophecy. Have a nice day!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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1 Response to Zechariah and the Two Witnesses

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