Ethelbert William Bullinger AKC (December 15, 1837 – June 6, 1913) was an Anglican clergyman, Biblical scholar, and ultradispensationalist theologian.
Life and work
He was born in Canterbury, Kent, England, the youngest of five children of William and Mary (Bent) Bullinger. His family traced their ancestry back to Heinrich Bullinger, the Swiss Reformer.
His formal theological training was at King's College London from 1860–1861, earning an Associate degree. After graduation, on October 15, 1861, he married Emma Dobson, thirteen years his senior. He later received a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1881 from Archibald Campbell Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury who cited Bullinger's "eminent service in the Church in the department of Biblical criticism."
Bullinger's career in the Church of England spanned 1861 until 1888. He began as associate curate in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey in 1861, and was ordained as a priest in the Church of England in 1862. He served as parish curate in Tittleshall from 1863–1866; Notting Hill from 1866–1869; Leytonstone, 1869–1870; then Walthamstow until he became vicar of the newly established parish of St. Stephen's in 1874. He resigned his vicarage in 1888.
In the spring of 1867, Bullinger became clerical secretary of the Trinitarian Bible Society, a position he would hold till his death in 1913. Bullinger was editor of a monthly journal Things to Come subtitled A Journal of Biblical Literature, with Special Reference to Prophetic Truth. The Official Organ of Prophetic Conferences for over 20 years (1894–1915) and contributed many articles.
In the great Anglican debate of the Victorian era, he was a Low Churchman rather than High Church sacerdotalist.
His three major works were
- A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament (1877) ISBN 0-8254-2096-2;
- Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (1898) ISBN 0-8010-0559-0
- Primary editor of The Companion Bible (published in 6 parts, 1909–1922) ISBN 0-8254-2177-2. It was completed after his death by his associates.
These works and many others remain in print (2007).
Bullinger's friends included well-known Zionist Dr. Theodor Herzl. This was a personal friendship, but accorded with Bullinger's belief in a Biblical distinction between the Church and the Jewish People. Another close personal and theological friend was the famous Sir Robert Anderson.
Trinitarian Bible Society
In 1867, at age 29, Bullinger accepted the office of clerical secretary of the Trinitarian Bible Society (TBS), an office which he exercised, with rare lapses due to illness in his later years, until his death. Accomplishments of TBS during his secretariat include:
- Completion and publication of a Hebrew version of the New Testament under a TBS contract with Christian David Ginsburg after the demise of Isaac Salkinson.
- Publication of Ginsburg's first edition of the Tanakh (Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible).
- Formation (1885) of the Brittany Evangelical Mission Society under Pasteur LeCoat and translation of the Bible into the Breton language.
- First-ever Protestant Portuguese Reference Bible.
- Distribution of Spanish-language Bibles in Spain after the Spanish Revolution of 1868.
Bullinger was also a practiced musician. As part of his support for the Breton Mission, he collected and harmonized several previously untranscribed Breton hymns on his visits to Trémel, Brittany.
Bullinger and Ginsburg parted ways, and another edition of Tanakh was published by the British and Foreign Bible Society.
Bullinger's views were often unique, and sometimes controversial. He is so closely tied to what is now called "Ultradispensationalism" that it is sometimes referred to as Bullingerism. Noted dispensationalist Harry A. Ironside (1876–1951) declared Bullingerism an "absolutely Satanic perversion of the truth". Bullingerism differs from mainstream dispensationalism with regard to the beginning of the church. Mainstream dispensationalism holds that the Church began at Pentecost as described early in the New Testament book entitled "Acts of the Apostles". In stark contrast, Bullinger held that the Church, which the Apostle Paul revealed as the Body of Christ, began after the close of Acts, only revealed in the Prison Epistles of the Apostle Paul. Other dispensationalists (often described as "mid-Acts" dispensationalists, i.e., Acts 9 or 13) hold that the Church, the Body of Christ, began at or shortly after Saul's conversion.
Bullinger described dispensations as divine "administrations" or "arrangements" wherein God deals at distinct time periods and with distinct groups of people "on distinct principles, and the doctrine relating to each must be kept distinct". He emphasizes that "Nothing but confusion can arise from reading into one dispensation that which relates to another.", and lists seven dispensations:
|Dispensational Scheme of Bullinger|
|Edenic state of Innocence||Period "without law"||Period under the Law||Period of Grace||Epoch of Judgment||Millennial Age||The Eternal State of Glory|
ended with the expulsion from Eden
|Genesis 4 to Exodus 19
ended with the flood and judgment on Babel
|Exodus 20 to Acts 28
ended at the rejection by Israel of the grace of God
at the end of Acts
will end at the Day of the Lord
will end at the destruction of the Antichrist
will end with the destruction of Satan
|Rev 20-22 will not end|
Outside of ultradispensationalism, many other examples of Bullinger's unique views can be found. For example, Bullinger argues that Jesus was crucified with four, not just two, criminals. Bullinger argued for mortality of the soul, the cessation of the soul between death and resurrection. While Bullinger did not express any views concerning the final state of the lost, many of his followers did hold to annihilationism. Purportedly, Bullinger was also a member of the Universal Zetetic Society.