Mr. Harold Camping’s views of the end times are extremely complex, which is one of the reason that they attract many folks. In some ways, they are like a more complicated version of Jenga, in which a tower is constructed from numerous sticks that seem to be more or less separable from the tower. One problem with the extreme complexity of his views, however, is that there are numerous single points of failure for his entire system. For example, if Mr. Camping is wrong about the spiritual significance of the number 23 (which happens to be the age that Jehoahaz was when he began to reign, and the length of the period of judging of the pre-regnum judge Tola), many of his arguments would collapse. But how could one prove that 23 is supposed to be the number of “ruling” or “reigning” (both Tola and Jehoahaz were rulers) as opposed to “obscurity” (both men are relatively obscure Biblical characters) or as opposed to “God’s wrath or judgment” (one “judged” Israel, the other was taken prisoner by the King of Egypt)? No one really can: Mr. Camping can assert one of those, or any of those, without anyone being able to tell him that the Bible clearly contradicts him, because the sort of identification he’s making is essentially arbitrary. In fact, selecting “judgment” has the weakest argument of those three possibilities, since Tola “judging” Israel basically meant protecting it, whereas the judgment that fell on Jehoahaz resulted in Israel becoming a tributary to Egypt.

As you can see, though, the argument regarding the significance of numbers ends up being something like the reverse of the game of Jenga. We pull something out of the tower that Mr. Camping has constructed, and while it might wobble a bit, it doesn’t immediately come crashing down. Why is that? Because Mr. Camping’s complex approach is used as a support for each tenuous argument. “Maybe the biblical evidence is quite weak for 23 being a spiritual number,” we can imagine him saying, “but then isn’t it a strange coincidence that it fits together with all of these other pieces of the puzzle?” Of course, those other pieces of the puzzle are tenuous themselves: in fact we could legitimately question the spiritual significance he gives to almost every number in his list of spiritually significant numbers.

That said, having observed Jenga played, I recognize that there are some points of any tower that are fundamental, which if removed do undermine the entire building. What are those fundamental planks in Mr. Camping’s system?

One of the fundamental planks in Mr. Camping’s system is his rejection of the grammatical-historical hermeneutic. Mr. Camping recognizes this and states: “For example, anyone who follows the man-made, grammatical, historical hermeneutic, which is utilized throughout the church world, will not be able to correctly understand many very important truths of the Bible. This includes the Bible’s teachings concerning the end of the church age, and the fact that the true believers can know much about the timetable and details of the end of the world.” (We Are Almost There, Chapter 1, pp. 4-5)

What Mr. Camping fails to recognize or appreciate is that his own system has many planks built on the grammatical-historical hermeneutic, either directly or indirectly. For example, in most cases, the spiritual signification of the numbers is derived from looking at the passage in which they appear, applying a grammatical-historical hermeneutic to understand the sense of that passage, and then selecting one or more item from that passage to have spiritual significance. In the case of the 153 fishes in John 21:11, Mr. Camping recognizes a grammatical-historical sense to the passage before imposing his spiritualizing interpretation on it.

The grammatical-historical hermeneutic aspect to Mr. Camping’s interpretation with respect to John 21:11 is rather trivial: the story is quite straightforward and easy to understand at the grammatical-historical level. That’s not always the case. Sometimes Mr. Camping blunders in his analysis, even at the grammatical-historical level of the investigation.

I’ll try to provide an example of Mr. Camping’s grammatical-historical blunder, but first let me show you the significance of this particular Jenga piece. One way that Mr. Camping derives May 21, 2011, as the day of the Rapture is based on a comparison of relative dates of various historical events, including not only the crucifixion, but also the Flood, and apparently even Creation. Mr. Camping rejects Ussher’s careful and studied chronology in favor of a chronology that appears to be entirely of his own creation. One of the keys to Mr. Camping’s chronology is a view that Biblical genealogies are not necessarily the same as modern genealogies.

If Mr. Camping’s view of the Biblical genealogies is wrong, then his chronology is not reliable, and if his chronology is not reliable, then his prediction based on that chronology is not reliable. Now, of course, he may simply resort to saying that he has also confirmed the date some other way, but those other ways are also similarly tenuous, so that’s not a valid rebuttal on his part.

Where is the blunder in Mr. Camping’s view of Biblical genealogies? Mr. Camping builds his geneaologies based on a principle that passages like Genesis 5 should not be viewed as providing a series of fathers and sons, but as providing representative men of each era of mankind. The basis for this claim is an analysis of the genealogies in Exodus particularly with respect to the duration of the sojourn in Egypt.

Using the grammatical-historical hermeneutic, Mr. Camping recognizes that the Israelites sojourned in Egypt four hundred, thirty years.

Exodus 12:40-41
Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

Next, Mr. Camping provides a genealogical account that he believes corresponds to those four hundred, thirty years. Specifically, Mr. Camping provides the following summation:

Levi (77 years in Egypt)
Kohath (133 years in Egypt)
Amram (137 years in Egypt)
Aaron (83 years in Egypt)
Total = 430 years total time

The numbers do sum to four hundred, thirty years, and Aaron was in Egypt for 83 years. Also, Amram was in Egypt his whole life, which was 137 years. There is, however, a small problem with Mr. Camping’s methodology. Amram is the father of Aaron. We know this from Exodus 6:20, the same place that we know that Amram was 137 years old:

Exodus 6:20 And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years.

In view of the fact that Amram is Aaron’s father, it does not make sense to simply add his age to Aaron’s age. After all, one would expect some overlap between a father and his son. Mr. Camping, however, insists that Amram died the year that Aaron was born: “Aaron in turn was born the year of Amram’s death, and was descended from Amram.” (Biblical Calendar of History, p. 3) In itself, this claim is not necessarily problematic. After all, a father could die the same year as his son is born. In fact, a father could die up to 9 months or so before his son is born.

The problem is that Amram is also the father of Moses (as we saw above), and Moses was three years younger than Aaron:

Exodus 7:7 And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.

Even if we assume that Aaron was born on the first day of year X and that Amram died the last day of year X, Moses could only be at most about 1 year and 9 months younger than Aaron. Even if Moses was born a full month late, and was conceived on the day that Amram died, he’d be less than two years younger than Aaron. Maybe it would help to put in numbers treating Aaron as though he were born on January 1, 1900:

Aaron: January 1, 1900
Amram dies: December 31, 1900
Moses born: October 31, 1901
From October 31, 1901, to December 31, 1901, Aaron would be 1, while Moses was 0, and then from January 1, 1902, to October 30, 1902, Aaron would be 2, while Moses would be 0. Thus, part of the year Aaron would seem to be two years older, and part of the year Aaron would be one year older. It would never be, however, that Moses would be three years younger, counting by birthdays. So, it is impossible that Amram died the year Aaron was born.

Mr. Camping, however, insists that Amram is not actually Aaron’s father, but simply an ancestor of Aaron. This is contradicted by the Scriptures, which declare Aaron and Moses both to be the sons of Amram, to be the children that Jochebed, his father’s sister, bare to him:

1 Chronicles 23:13 The sons of Amram; Aaron and Moses: and Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the LORD, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name for ever.

1 Chronicles 6:3 And the children of Amram; Aaron, and Moses, and Miriam. The sons also of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.

Numbers 26:59 And the name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, whom her mother bare to Levi in Egypt: and she bare unto Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister.

Exodus 6:20 And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years.

Mr. Camping’s teachings on this matter are clearly contrary to Scripture, which declares that Amram and Jochebed were the parents of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. But what can Mr. Camping say to respond to this problem?

Mr. Camping’s primary response is to appeal to “The Clue Phrase ‘Called His Name’.” (Biblical Calendar of History, p. 1). Mr. Camping insists that “Called his Name” is a secret clue word to the fact that the relationship being discussed is true parent-child relationship: “A more careful examination of the Scriptures reveals why the phrase “called his name” which is the Hebrew qara, was used. In every place where this phrase is employed, there can be no doubt of the existing relationship; invariably it is indicative of parent and child.” (Biblical Calendar of History, p. 1) We can easily rebut this argument:

a) Mr. Camping has to appeal to grammatical-historical exegesis to determine whether in those other cases a parent-child relationship is, in fact, present. Then, having no further use for that method, he acts like a child who has climbed into his father’s lap, and slaps the method in the face. The self-contradictory nature of such an approach should be evident to all.

b) Even if it were true that qara always correlated with a parent/child relationship, that would not establish that qara is a clue word to any secret meaning.

c) Mr. Camping is wrong about the claim that it is “invariably … indicative of parent and child.” (Biblical Calendar of History, p. 1) In fact, the very first instance of the word is when Adam calls his wife’s name, Eve:

Genesis 3:20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

Additionally, the expression is used of inanimate objects such as a rock:

1 Samuel 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.

or a city:

Judges 18:29 And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first.

More importantly, the expression is used of naming children, when the person naming the child is plainly not his father or mother:

Ruth 4:17 And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Both “gave” and “called” are from qara.

And most amusingly, this is even the case with Moses, who was called Moses not by his parents (Amram and Jochabed) but by Pharaoh’s daughter:

Exodus 2:10 And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.

In short, Mr. Camping’s supposed key to unlocking these genealogies is wrong. And, without that key, we have no reason to trust his chronologies. Furthermore, without his chronologies, we have no reason to trust the date of the flood that he gives. Furthermore, since we have no reason to trust the date of the flood, we have no reason to trust his date of Christ’s second coming. The Jenga tower comes crashing down, not only because we have shown that the grammatical-historical hermeneutic is simply inescapable, but because the entire system of chronology is rotten at its core.


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