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E. W. Bullinger

Ethelbert William Bullinger (December 15, 1837 - June 6, 1913) was a Vicar of the Church of England, Biblical scholar, and dispensationalist theologian.

Life and Work

Born in Canterbury, England, his family traced its lineage back to the noted Swiss reformer Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1557). He was educated at King's College, London, and gained recognition in the field of Biblical languages.

E.W. Bullinger was noted broadly for three works: A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament (1877); for his ground-breaking and exhaustive work on Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (1898); and as the primary editor of The Companion Bible (published in 6 parts, beginning in 1909; the entire annotated Bible was published posthumously in 1922). These works and many others remain in print (2004).

In 1881, four years after the publication of the Lexicon and Concordance, Archibald Campbell Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury conferred upon Bullinger a Doctor of Divinity degree, citing Bullinger's "eminent service in the Church in the department of Biblical criticism."


Bullinger's theology was extreme dispensationalism on which he wrote numerous articles which appeared in his Monthly Journal Things to Come. His name has become virtually synonymous with Hyper-dispensationalism.

He 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." {Companion Bible, Appendix 181}

The term hyper- or ultradispensational refers to the relatively late date ascribed to the beginning of the current dispensation and as well, perhaps, to the great emphasis believers place on the concept. Bullinger places the beginning of "the church" (the "Body of Christ") not at Pentecost but at a point in Paul's ministry after his arrival at Rome (as described in Acts, chapter 28) and just before he is believed to have written the Epistle to the Ephesians. The particular significance of Ephesians is that it reveals the "great mystery", that "the Gentiles [would] be joint-heirs [with the Jews], and a joint-body and (joint) partakers of the promise in Christ through the gospel". In addition it makes clear that this is an ancient secret, long part of God's plan, but only then newly (i.e., very recently, in Bullinger's opinion) revealed. {Companion Bible, Appendix 193}

Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of this doctrine is that it apparently has implications for the applicability of the majority of New Testament scripture (the Gospels and the earlier, "Acts period" Epistles) to the church, since those writings consist of material which is considered to have been addressed to the people of the previous dispensation (i.e., "'earthly' or ethnic Israel").

Further reading

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