Those interested in his paper can Google "Pretribulational Rapture in 17th and 18th Century England (pdf)." It features the highlights of his book "Dispensationalism Before Darby" (Lampion Press, 2015) which has been lauded by LaHaye, Ice, Reagan and other pretrib diehards.
Right off the bat I noticed his misspelling of well-known prophecy writers. Lindsey became "Lindsay," Benware became "Benaware," Jeffrey became "Jeffery," and Scofield became "Schofield."
I soon noticed, when going over Watson's attempt to prove the existence of pretrib rapture belief in his 17th and 18th century sources, that what he quoted was anything but pretribism. Many times those writers of yesteryear would merely be talking about "preservation" (or synonymous terms). Just before the quotes, Watson in short prefaces psyched up readers with a liberal usage of "Pretribulation" (or pretrib) and he seemed to use the word "rapture" endlessly (his way of putting "rapture" glasses on readers!). Oddly, I found only one mention of "dispensationalism" in one of the featured quotes even though it is in Watson's book title!
What would be announced as pretrib rapture doctrine would be nothing more than a rapture before the final "conflagration," or before "Israel's resurrection," or before the final days of the Beast's power, or before Babylon's destruction, or before the "great destruction" at Armageddon, or before the Beast's zenith of "power," or before the Beast and false prophet are "cast into the lake of fire."
Watson at times would say that some ancient writer taught two future comings, but upon checking it was found that the writer was merely talking about a coming before, and another coming after, a future millennium - certainly nothing about a pretrib coming! He admitted that a good number of the writers he researched were actually posttribulational in outlook, but by including them wasn't he undercutting his main purpose of claiming discovery of pretribulationism in writers centuries before Darby?
On the first page of his paper, Watson mentioned a debate he had in 2007 with a fellow CCU prof who stated that dispensationalism and related ideas "began only 150 years ago in the mind of Darby."
Watson revealed that the same debate was what inspired him to search for pretrib teaching in old books in British libraries. Since no posttrib or prewrath profs that I know would have an incentive to purposely look for pretribulationism before Darby's time, it's apparent to me that Watson, well versed on the current international "rapture" debate, had already been favoring the pretrib view which in recent years has seen pretrib merchandisers like Thomas Ice claiming evidence of pretrib in pre-1830 writers like Pseudo-Ephraem. In fact, Watson's paper cited Ice far more than any other prophecy writer of today!And when analyzing 18th century preacher Morgan Edwards, Watson echoed Ice and selectively quoted Edwards in the manner Ice had done! For an accurate assessment of Edwards, Google "Morgan Edwards' Rapture View" which shows that Edwards tied his "rapture" to the cosmic signs in Matt. 24! For more on Ice, pretribism's bulldog, Google "Pretrib Rapture Pride," "Walvoord Melts Ice," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," and "Be careful in polemics - Peripatetic Learning" (the latter written by a doctoral student in England).
At the end of his paper Watson listed four of the writers he analyzed, said that none of them were pretrib but that they did mention "others who were" pretrib. I checked the quotes from all four (Thomas Collier, 1674; Praisegod Barebones (sic), 1675; Thomas Burnett, 1681; and Pierre Jurieu, 1687) - and none of the four mentioned anyone they knew of who was pretrib! And after all the pretrib "hype" in his title and throughout his prefaces before the quotes he offers, Watson has no category of "Pretribulation" in his chart at the back but has other categories showing what his authors saw in the way of "two comings," "resurrection," etc. and of course those who used "rapture" (but not after the word "pretrib")!
Watson does mention Edward Irving on p. 32, and says that Irving and Darby "had begun teaching a pre-tribulation rapture" by "1831." My research shows that Irving and his Irvingites (who, BTW, credited a Miss Margaret Macdonald in Scotland as being the very first person to "discover" a pretrib rapture in the Bible) publicly taught pretrib in Sep. of 1830 in their journal "The Morning Watch." Darby, on the other hand, was still defending posttrib historicism in Dec. 1830 in the "Christian Herald," saw in 1837 the church "going in with Him to the marriage, to wit, with Jerusalem and the Jews," and didn't clearly teach pretrib until 1839 ("Notes on the Revelation"); his pretrib rapture was then based on the man child "caught up" in Rev. 12:5 (but Irving had used the same symbol for the same purpose back in 1831 and Darby, an avid reader of Irving's journal, "borrowed" Irving's thought without giving him credit!).
If anyone before 1830 had taught a pretrib rapture, I'm sure that Darby would have heard about it. He was well read, knew several modern languages and even some ancient ones. The earliest pretrib teachers (in the 1830s) all stated that the pretrib rapture concept was a brand-new idea. In an 1834 letter Darby, while discussing the novel pretrib coming, wrote that "the thoughts are new," adding that "it would not be well to have it so clear, as it frightens people. We must pursue it steadily; it works like leaven...."
Finally, I've long known that writers who bring up the origin of the pretrib view usually pad their books by quoting writers living centuries before and after the real originator and fail to use a microscope or magnifying glass like Sherlock Holmes and really focus on "who done it." It's almost as if certain writers are using a telescope to find the pretrib origin while looking out the window of an airplane circling the earth!
I can imagine Dr. Watson contacting me and saying "Are you accusing me of using a telescope?"With apologies to Arthur Conan Doyle and P. G. Wodehouse, I could reply: "Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary!"