I am currently working on an edition of Apocalypse Explained, which will include all six volumes in one work as an e-book, and again have the advantages of hyperlinked references. I originally thought Apocalypse Explained was a draft of the published work, Apocalypse Revealed, and that the latter was a more condensed version. But another scholar pointed out to me that is not the case: they are two completely different works. Swedenborg started all over with Apocalypse Revealed. Here is some background history between these two works, taken from the biography Emanuel Swedenborg: His Life and Writings, by William White:
In the account of the Last Judgment, issued in 1758, it is written-A bit of a harsh assessment there, but I would agree: Apocalypse Explained is much more richer in discourse than Apocalypse Revealed. Swedenborg meanders about, explaining multiple verses of scripture that is found nowhere else. Conservative Swedenborgians wish to distinguish between Swedenborg's published works and his unpublished works, as the latter were works in progress. But Apocalypse Explained falls into a gray area - it was never published, but unlike the other manuscripts it was meticulously prepared for the printer. It was not intended to be a draft.
"Within two years an explication of the Apocalypse from beginning to end will be published."
In pursuance of this promise, the Apocalypse Explained was written as far as Chapter xix., v. 10, and the title-page, with Londini, 1759, prepared, when for some unknown reason the work was set aside.
The Apocalypse Revealed made its appearance in 1766 six years after due. Whether in reference to it, or the Apocalypse Explained, we read-
"I heard a voice from Heaven, 'Enter into your chamber and shut the door and apply to the work begun on the Apocalypse, and finish it within two years.'" [see Angelic Wisdom Concerning Marriage Love, n. 522]
The second work is much inferior to the first: it is less diffuse, but is dry as a dictionary. The Apocalypse Explained abounds in extraordinary digressions, illustrative and miscellaneous, through which it is almost impossible to preserve the thread of, apocalyptic exposition unbroken: but in these digressions are to be found some of the wisest and most happily expressed of Swedenborg's opinions. Unless the cost of publication hindered, I can scarcely imagine how he had the heart to replace it with the bony Apocalypse Revealed. The Apocalypse Revealed is not an abridgment of the Explained, but a new work. The drift of both is the same, but when we compare particular interpretation with particular interpretation, we discover not only variations, but differences irreconcileable. If, as he says, "the Lord alone taught and illuminated me," [see Angelic Wisdom Concerning the One God, Divine Providence, n. 135] it would be worth knowing how the differing interpretations are to be accounted for. People with Divine pretensions should never be surprised in undress. A more astute practitioner would have put the Apocalypse Explained in the fire when the Revealed was sent to press.
There is an interesting article called Which of Swedenborg's works are Divine inspiration? which notes that "The unpublished works have long been a source of incorrect teaching". It also contains a reference to an interesting article entitled, Are there imperfections in Swedenborg's Scripture Interpretation?, where John F. Potts refutes these allegations, and notes that most are found in the unpublished work of Apocalypse Explained, and do not affect the interpretation. But, in my view, the writings of Swedenborg are not Divinely Inspired in the way scripture is. They were Divinely influenced. For a better explanation of what I mean, see my previous blog, What books are Divinely Inspired?
So, I see no need to defend or explain away the minor mistakes that Swedenborg makes. Overall, he was quite meticulous and much more accurate and careful than other writers. Errors of factual knowledge, which we receive from the outer world through our senses, is different from spiritual revelations received from above. In the case of scripture, the words were dictated word by word. Not so in the case of Swedenborg, although at times he did hear "the living Voice". As I was preparing Heavenly Arcana for publication, I noted that certain footnotes would explain differences between the original Hebrew text and the Latin translation by Schmidius of scripture that was used by Swedenborg. And it was revealed to Swedenborg that the Masoretic Hebrew text was highly accurate. These things, in my view, are minor. What is important here is the overall method that Swedenborg used to explain the spiritual sense of scripture, and the revealed symbolism. Swedenborg solves a major problem for all of Christianity: he has proven how certain books of the Bible are Divinely inspired. That is major, that is what people should pay attention to. It has immediate impact on application to one's life.
So, for Apocalypse Explained, the edition I am working on is for the most part complete, but the hyperlinking of the footnotes is taking some time. But the passage from William White interested me: what differences are there between Apocalypse Explained and Apocalypse Revealed? I took a quick glance, actually quite a few. Let me take an example. Apocalypse (or Revelation) 2:19 states the following:
I know thy works, and charity, and ministry, and faith, and thy endurance, and thy works, and the last more than the first.In Apocalypse Revealed, the verse is stated correctly, but later when Swedenborg interprets it, he accidentally dropped the second phrase of "thy works". It sounds minor, but it is not. It has a major consequence in the interpretation of this verse and those that follow it. In the case of Apocalypse Explained, he does not drop the words, and comes out in my view with probably the correct interpretation. So in this case, it would seem a minor slip of the pen may have affected the interpretation. So what? Well, I am not sure if I just want to publish this edition of Apocalypse Explained as is. I think what is required here is a more critical edition, where there are critical footnotes explaining the differences between Apocalypse Explained and Apocalypse Revealed. And I am suspecting I may find more cases where the unpublished work may have a better interpretation than the published one. Probably, overall, they complement each other. Its a bit hard to switch between the two works, but the e-book I am now planning for Apocalypse Explained will make it easier. The result of this is the fine line that some like to make between his published and unpublished works just got a little grayer.
So what does this mean? The work that Swedenborg started is unfinished. It is up to others, those who decide to belong to the New Church, to finish it.