on Revelation 17 :11
And the beast, that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition - That is to say, the Latin kingdom that has already been, but is now no longer nominally in existence, shall immediately follow the dissolution of the seventh form of Latin government; and this dominion is called ογδοος, an eighth, because it succeeds to the seventh. Yet it is not an eighth head of the beast, because the beast has only seven heads; for to constitute a new head of the beast the form of government must not only differ in nature, but also in name. This head of the beast is, therefore, εκ των ἑπτα, One of the seven. Consequently the form of government represented by this head is the restoration of one of the preceding seven. The restored head can be therefore no other than the regal state of the Latins, or in other words the Latin kingdom, (Ἡ Λατινη βασιλεια), which followed the patriciate or seventh head of Latin government. But the beast in his eighth state, or under his first head restored, goeth into perdition. No other form of Latin government shall succeed; but the beast in his last or antichristian condition shall be taken together with the false prophet that wrought miracles in his sight, "and cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone."
It is observable that the eighth Latin power is called by the angel the beast, and also one of his heads. This apparent discordance arises from the double signification of the heads, for if we take the beast upon which the woman sits to be merely a representation of that secular power which supports the Latin Church, then the seven heads will represent the seven electorates of the Germanic empire; but if by the beast we understand the general Latin empire from first to last, then what is, according to the angel's first interpretation of the heads, called the beast, is in this case only one of his heads. See on Revelation 17:18 (note).
on Revelation 17 :11
And the beast that was, and is not - That is, the one power that was formerly mighty; that died away so that it might be said to be extinct; and yet Revelation 17:8 that "still is," or has a prolonged existence. It is evident that, by the "beast" here, there is some one power, dominion, empire, or rule, whose essential identity is preserved through all these changes, and to which it is proper to give the same name. It finds its termination, or its last form, in what is here called the "eighth"; a power which, it is observed, sustains such a special relation to the seven, that it may be said to be "of the seven," or to be a mere prolongation of the same sovereignty.
Even he is the eighth - The eighth in the succession. This form of sovereignty, though a mere prolongation of the former government, so much so as to be, in fact, but keeping up the same empire in the world, appears in such a novelty of form, that, in one sense, it deserves to be called the eighth in order, and yet is so essentially a mere concentration and continuance of the one power, that, in the general reckoning Revelation 17:10, it might be regarded as pertaining to the former. There was a sense in which it was proper to speak of it as the eighth power; and yet, viewed in its relation to the whole, it so essentially combined and concentrated all that there was in the seven, that, in a general view, it scarcely merited a separate mention. We should look for the fulfillment of this in some such concentration and embodiment of all that it was, in the previous forms of sovereignty referred to, that it perhaps would deserve mention as an eighth power, but that it was, nevertheless, such a mere prolongation of the previous forms of the one power, that it might be said to be "of the seven"; so that, in this view, it would not claim a separate consideration. This seems to be the fair meaning, though there is much that is enigmatical in the form of the expression.
And goeth into perdition - See the notes on Revelation 17:8.
In inquiring now into the application of this very difficult passage, it may be proper to suggest some of the principal opinions which have been held, and then to endeavor to ascertain the true meaning:
I. The principal opinions which have been held may be reduced to the following:
(1) That the seven kings here refer to the succession of Roman emperors, yet with some variation as to the manner of reckoning. Prof. Stuart begins with Julius Caesar, and reckons them in this manner: the "five that are fallen" are Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius. Nero, who, as he supposes, was the reigning prince at the time when the book was written, he regards as the sixth; Galba, who succeeded him, as the seventh. Others, who adopt this literal method of explaining it, suppose that the time begins with Augustus, and then Galba would be the sixth, and Otho, who reigned but three months, would be the seventh. The expression, "the beast that was, and is not, who is the eighth," Prof. Stuart regards as referring to a general impression among the pagan and among Christians, in the time of the persecution under Nero, that he would again appear after it was reported that he was dead, or that he would rise from the dead and carry on his persecution again. See Prof. Stuart, Com. vol. ii., Excur. 3. The beast, according to this view, denotes the Roman emperors, specifically Nero, and the reference in Revelation 17:8 is to "the well known hariolation respecting Nero, that he would be assassinated, and would disappear for a while, and then make his appearance again to the confusion of all his enemies." "What the angel," says he, "says, seems to be equivalent to this - 'The beast means the Roman emperors, specifically Nero, of whom the report spread throughout the empire that he will revive, after being apparently slain, and will come, as it were, from the abyss or Hades, but he will perish, and that speedily,'" vol. ii. p. 323.
(2) That the word "kings" is not to be taken literally, but that it refers to forms of government, dynasties, or modes of administration. The general opinion among those who hold this view is, that the first six refer to the forms of the Roman government:
(5) military tribunes;
(6) the imperial form, beginning with Augustus.
This has been the common Protestant interpretation, and in reference to these six forms of government there has been a general agreement. But, while the mass of Protestant interpreters have supposed that the "six" heads refer to these forms of administration, there has been much diversity of opinion as to the seventh; and here, on this plan of interpretation, the main, if not the sole difficulty lies. Among the opinions held are the following:
on Revelation 17 :11