Book Overview - Revelation
BY THE GENERAL EDITOR
THE Greek Text upon which the Commentaries in this Series are based has been formed on the following principles: Wherever the texts of Tischendorf and Tregelles agree, their readings are followed: wherever they differ from each other, but neither of them agrees with the Received Text as printed by Scrivener, the consensus of Lachmann with either is taken in preference to the Received Text: in all other cases the Received Text as printed by Scrivener is followed. It must be added, however, that in the Gospels those alternative readings of Tregelles, which subsequently proved to have the support of the Sinaitic Codex, have been considered as of the same authority as readings which Tregelles has adopted in his text.
In the Commentaries an endeavour has been made to explain the uses of words and the methods of construction, as well as to give substantial aid to the student in the interpretation and illustration of the text.
The General Editor does not hold himself responsible except in the most general sense for the statements made and the interpretations offered by the various contributors to this Series. He has not felt that it would be right for him to place any check upon the expression of individual opinion, unless at any point matter were introduced which seemed to be out of harmony with the character and scope of the Series.
J. ARMITAGE ROBINSON.
THE text of this edition was formed by my brother on the same principles as in the previous volumes of the Series. The Introduction and Commentary are based upon those in the English Series, but both have been carefully revised and expanded. My brother’s minute study of the Language of the Book was of the greatest use to me in adapting the Commentary to the Greek Text. Professor Weiss’ edition (Texte und Untersuchungen, VII. 1) was also very helpful.
I am indebted to Prof. W. Robertson Smith for the details of famine prices in the note on Revelation 6:6, which were communicated to me through the General Editor, whom I also have to thank for many valuable suggestions and criticisms.
G. A. SIMCOX.
Much he ask’d in loving wonder,
On Thy bosom leaning, Lord!
In that secret place of thunder,
Answer kind didst thou accord,
Wisdom for Thy Church to ponder
Till the day of dread award.
Lo! Heaven’s doors lift up, revealing
How Thy judgments earthward move;
Scrolls unfolded, trumpets pealing,
Wine-cups from the wrath above,
Yet o’er all a soft Voice stealing—
“Little children, trust and love!”
ANALYSIS OF THE INTRODUCTION
Authorship and Canonicity of the Revelation, p. xiii
I. THE connexion of the two questions: three possible answers, p. xiv. External attestation of St John’s authorship, p. xiv. Justin Martyr (A.D. 135? 160), p. xiv. Papias (c. 150 A.D.), p. xv. Martyrs of Vienne (177 A.D.), p. xvi. Irenæus (c. 180 A.D.), p. xvii. Tertullian (c. 199 A.D.), p. xviii. Clement of Alexandria (c. 202 A.D.), p. xviii. Muratorian Fragment (190 … 210 A.D.), p. xix. Ancient versions, p. xix. Origen († 253 A.D.), p. xx. Hippolytus († 234 A.D.), p. xx. Victorinus († 303), p. xx.
II. Ancient objections to Authenticity: Alogi, p. xxi. Gaius, p. xxi.
III. Dionysius of Alexandria (250 A.D.), p. xxiii. Subsequent history of opinion, p. xxvii. Eusebius (†? 339 A.D.) to Epiphanius, († 402 A.D.), p. xxix. Lingering objections: Epiphanius to Charles the Great, 793, p. xxix. Revived doubts at the time of the Reformation, p. xxx.
IV. The final decision of the Church in favour of the Canonicity of the Book to be tested rather by the fulfilment of its predictions than by fixing the personality of the author, p. xxx.
V. Are the Johannine writings by a single author? p. xxxii. Alleged unlikeness of (a) style and grammar, p. xxxiii; (b) theological conceptions; (c) tone and temper. Reasons for laying little weight on (c), p. xxxiii. Comparison of theological conceptions in the different Johannine writings, p. xxxiv. Comparison of characteristic diction, p. xxxv. Comparison of style and language, p. xxxviii. Possible reconciliation of difficulties, p. xli.
Date and Place of Composition, p. xli
Evidence of the Book itself, p. xli. Evidence of Irenaeus, p. xlii. Clement of Alexandria, p. xlii. Tertullian, p. xliv. Origen, p. xliv. Epiphanius, p. xlv. Victorinus, p. xlvi. Further consideration of internal evidence, p. xlvii. Apparent conflict of external and internal evidence as to date, p. l.
Principles of Interpretation, p. li
Difficulty of the subject, p. li. Reaction from over-confident theories, p. lii. No reason for treating the book as unintelligible p. liii. Clues to interpretation, p. liii.  Old Testament Prophecy, p. liii.  Oral teaching of Apostles and earlier writings of New Testament, p. liii.  Events of past or contemporary history, p. liii.  The coincidences with Daniel, p. liii.  The Man of Sin at Rome and Jerusalem, p. liv. Sketch of the patristic theory, p. liv. The millennium and the Eternal Kingdom, p. lv.  Difficulties of this view and subsequent theories, p. lviii. Mystical theory, Tyconius, Andreas, Arethas, Oecumenius, p. lix. The Continuous Historical Theory, p. lx. Its mediaeval beginning, p. lx. Its Protestant development, p. lx. The strong point of this view is that it gives a meaning to the succession of Visions, p. lx. The difficulty: the earlier Visions seem to embrace the end of all things, p. lxi. The Preterist and Futurist theories: a reaction against the Continuous Historical, p. lxii. Each a partial revival of one aspect of the Traditional, p. lxii. The Preterist Theory inadequate, p. lxii. The Futurist apparently arbitrary, p. lxii.  Elements of truth in the different theories, p. lxii. Partial and gradual fulfilment, p. lxiii. Nero as a type of Antichrist, resemblances and contrasts, p. lxiii. The expectation of his return, p. lxv. The Seven Heads of the Beast, p. lxv. The veracity of the Seer depends upon the recognition of many Antichrists, p. lxv. Antiochus in his measure a type of Antichrist, p. lxvii. Nero as a new Antiochus, p. lxvii. Domitian as a new Nero, p. lxviii. Contrast between Domitian and Antichrist, p. lxviii. The Preterist theory applicable to the types; the Futurist to the antitypes of the Revelation, p. lxix. Plan and method of the Book, p. lxix. A series of signs apparently leading up to the end followed by a new beginning, p. lxix. This corresponds to the historical crises which from time to time have seemed to foreshadow the End of all things, p. lxix. The parallel gives support to the Continuous Historical Theory if not held exclusively, p. lxx. The Book providentially intended to be applied to current events, p. lxx. But only to be fully understood in the end of the days, p. lxx. One element of Truth in the Continuous Historical Theory is the recognition of the perpetual significance of Rome, p. lxxi. Yet neither the Mediaeval Empire nor the Papacy in any proper sense Antichristian, p. lxxii. The latter especially has always witnessed to the Trinity and the Incarnation, p. lxxii. How far Papal Rome is to be identified with the Apocalyptic Babylon, p. lxxii.
Analysis, p. lxxiii
Text, p. lxxv
Peculiarities of Textus Receptus in this Book, p. lxxv. Due to the circumstances and action of Erasmus, ib. Materials for a Critical Text, pp. lxxv–lxxix. Uncials: Codex Sinaiticus, p. lxxv. Codex Alexandrinus, p. lxxvi. Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, ib. Codex Porphyrianus Rescriptus, ib. Codex Vaticanus ib. Cursives, ib. Ancient Versions—Syriac, Old Latin, Armenian, Coptic, Aethiopic, pp. lxxvi–lxxviii. Fathers, pp. lxxviii–lxxix. Groups into which the evidence falls, pp. lxxix–lxxxi.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
E. V. English Version.
A. V. Authorised Version.
R. V. Revised Version.
Aeth. Aethiopic Version.
Aeth.Rom Aethiopic, Roman edition 1548 A.D.
Arm.zohr Armenian, Zohrab’s Edition (Venice, 1789).
Am. Codex Amiatinus 6th century in Laurentian Library at Florence.
Fu. Codex Fuldensis 6th century at Fulda.
Tol. Codex Toletanus 10th century at Madrid.
MSS. of Revelation at Leipzig collated by Matthiae.
Cod. Flor. Codex Floriacensis, a palimpsest 7th century from the abbey of Fleury, now at Paris.
Amb. Aut. Ambrosius Autpertus or Ansbertus.
And. Andreas Archbishop of Caesarea.
And. Comm. Andreas’ Commentary: the text of the MSS. differs.
And.a Andreas’ Augsburg MS. 12th century.
And.bav Andreas’ Munich MS.
And.c Andreas’ MS. from Coislin library, 10th century.
And.p Andreas MS. from Palatine library, 12th century.
Areth. Arethas, Archbishop of Caesarea.
Beat. Beatus, quoted by Haussleiter.
Primas. Primasius, edited by Haussleiter.
Tyc. ap. Aug. Ap. Tyconius reproduced in the homilies in the Appendix to St Augustine.
Cyp. St Cyprian as quoted by Haussleiter.
[Cyp.] Enlarged edition of Testimonia Haussleiter.
Epiph. St Epiphanius.
Hipp. St Hippolytus. The readings not given by Tischendorf are from the newly published 4th book of his commentary on Daniel.
Hieron. St Jerome.
Iren. St Irenaeus in the old Latin Version.
Iren.Gr. St Irenaeus where the Greek is extant.
Promissa. Auctor libri de promissionibus dimidii temporis.
Tert. Tertullian as quoted by Haussleiter.
Text. Rec. Textus Receptus as printed by Scrivener.
Lach. Lachmann’s larger edition.
Tisch. Tischendorf: eighth edition; where the text aud notes differ the latter are cited.
W. H. Westcott aud Hort.
AUTHORSHIP AND CANONICITY OF THE REVELATION
IN the case of some of the books of Scripture, the questions of their authorship and of their canonical authority are quite independent of one another. Many books are anonymous, many have their authors known only by a post-canonical tradition; and the rejection, in any case where it may be called for, of this tradition need not and ought not to involve a denial of the divine authority of the book. Even in cases where the supposed author is named or unmistakeably indicated in the book itself, it does not always follow that the book either must be written by him, or can owe none of its inspiration to the Spirit of truth: the person of the professed author may have been assumed dramatically without any mala fides. On the other hand, there are books which plainly exclude any such hypothesis, and either must be forgeries, more or less excusable but hardly consistent with divine direction, or else must be the genuine and inspired works of their professed authors.
The case of the Revelation may be regarded as intermediate between the two last-named classes. The author gives his name as “John,” but gives no unmistakeable token, in this book itself, to identify him with St John the Apostle: and hence the opinion is rationally tenable, that the Revelation is the work of a person named John, writing what he bonâ fide regarded as a supernatural vision, but not having more claim on the reverence of the Church than his work can command on its own merits. On the other hand, we shall find that the book was so early and so widely received as the work of the Apostle, that it may well be suspected that, if not really his, it was falsely put forward as his, and intended by the real author to be received as his: so that those who reject the Apostolic authorship of the book may be pardoned if they regard it as a fraudulent forgery.
It thus will be convenient to discuss the two questions of authorship and of canonical authority in connexion with one another, though remembering that the determination of one does not (except in the first of the cases now to be mentioned) necessarily involve that of the other. The book may be either  the genuine and inspired work of St John the Apostle; or  a forgery in the name of St John the Apostle; or  it may be the genuine and inspired work of another John; or  a bonâ fide but uninspired work of another John. We may fairly set aside the logically conceivable cases, of the Apostle writing not under divine inspiration, and of a person writing indeed fraudulently, but not intending to personate the Apostle. Let us examine the evidence, external and internal, for each of these views:—
I. The external attestation of St John’s authorship is strong. Only three books of the New Testament at most (St Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, perhaps those to the Ephesians and Philippians) are known to be cited with the author’s name as early as the Apocalypse. JUSTIN MARTYR (whose First Apology, written not later than A.D. 160, attests the authority if not the authorship of the book by a clear reference to Revelation 12:9 or Revelation 20:2) quotes the substance of Revelation 20:3-6 as part of the Revelation made ‘to a man named John, one of the Apostles of Christ’—in the Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. This testimony may be very early, for the Dialogue, though written after the Apology, professes to reproduce a conference the date of which is variously fixed from A.D. 135 to 148, while the scene is laid at Ephesus, where surely, if anywhere, the true authorship of the Revelation must have been known. There is of course the possibility that a writer who identified Semo Sancus with Simo Sanctus may have hastily identified the John of whom he heard at Ephesus as the Seer of the Apocalypse with John the Apostle of whom he must have heard from the beginning of his conversion in Palestine. But if he really appealed to the authority of St John as early as A.D. 135, it is probable that he would have been corrected if mistaken.
We may regard as practically contemporary with this the evidence afforded by PAPIAS, bishop of Hierapolis near Laodicea, who acknowledged the Apocalypse, as is stated by Andrew, bishop (in the fifth century?) of Caesarea in Cappadocia, in the prologue to his Commentary on the book. Papias’s evidence, if we had it at first hand, would be even more convincing than Justin’s: for not only did he belong to the district where the Revelation was first circulated, but he is said to have been a hearer of St John himself—he certainly was a zealous collector of traditions relating to him. But Papias’s own works are lost, and though Andrew was doubtless acquainted with them, his testimony is not quite decisive. Eusebius professes (H. E. III. iii. 2), in his account of early divines, to state whenever they quote as Scripture books of which the canonicity was disputed: and he does thus note the passage of Justin’s Trypho already cited. In his account of Papias (ib. xxxix. 13), he tells us that he quoted the First Epistle of St Peter, and that of St John, though, as the canonicity of these books was not disputed, he was not bound to note the fact. If then Papias had quoted the book about which there was the keenest dispute of all, Eusebius would surely have told us so; especially as he actually founded a conjecture as to its authorship (see p. xxvii on a passage in Papias. Thus the argument from the silence of Eusebius, which is worth very little as evidence that Papias did not know St John’s Gospel, is, as regards the Revelation, as strong as an argument from silence can be.
Moreover, he enables us to account for Andrew’s assuming that Papias knew the book, without his having expressly cited it. Papias certainly held the doctrine of a Millennium, which is not, even apparently, taught in any canonical book but the Apocalypse. Andrew may therefore have taken for granted that he derived the doctrine from it, while in reality he may have had no authority but the general belief of the Church. The only passage in the extant fragments of Papias bearing on the subject seems to be derived by tradition from the Book of Enoch. If he had actually read the passage of that book, which he seems to be reproducing, he could not have put the rather silly description of the ideal bliss which it contains into the mouth of our Lord.
But, even if Papias did not expressly quote the Revelation, it does not follow that he was not acquainted with it: and in fact we find it unhesitatingly received by the Churches of Asia during the second century. Of the many Christian writers of that age and country almost all the works are lost: but we have catalogues of those of Melito, bishop of Sardis, the ablest, most learned, and most critical among them, who flourished in the reign of M. Aurelius, A.D. 161–180. He not only acknowledged “the Revelation of John,” but wrote a commentary upon it. His testimony would be the weightier if as is probable his work on ‘Prophecy’ was directed like Clement’s against Montanism.
A colony from the Churches of Asia appears to have been established about this time, or earlier, at Lyons in Gaul. In A.D. 177 they and their neighbours of Vienne were exposed to a savage persecution, of which a detailed account, addressed to their Asiatic kinsmen, was written by a surviving brother: and considerable fragments of this are preserved by Eusebius (H. E. V. i–iii.). In this the Revelation (Revelation 22:11) is expressly quoted as “the Scripture.” Besides this, we have constant evidence of the writer’s familiarity with the book: he speaks of Christ as “the faithful and true Witness” (Revelation 3:14), and of “the heavenly fountain of the water of life” (Revelation 7:17, Revelation 22:1). The Church is personified as a Virgin Mother (c. 12): the Martyrs in their spiritual beauty are compared to a “bride adorned in embroidered robes of gold” (Revelation 21:2): one of them “follows the Lamb whithersoever He goeth” (Revelation 14:4) and throughout we have references, not only to the expected persecution of Antichrist, but to the imagery of the Dragon and the Beast.
Pothinus, the aged bishop of Lyons, who died in this persecution, was succeeded by IRENAEUS. The latter was certainly a native of Asia, probably of Smyrna: and, though his works belong to a later date than Justin or the other writers we have named, he is not practically more remote from the source of authentic tradition. For in his boyhood he had known and heard St Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, and he remembered the account he gave of his personal intercourse with St John (Ep. ad Flor., ap. Eus. H. E. V. xx. 8, 9). Now St Polycarp was burnt A.D. 155, and had then been a Christian 86 years: his conversion therefore, or birth in a Christian family, must have taken place A.D. 69 or 70. And St Irenaeus states (Adv. Haer. III. iii. 3) that both his conversion and his appointment as bishop were the acts of “Apostles;” the latter can hardly have been the act of any other Apostle than St John, who (according to Irenaeus) “lived till the time of Trajan,” i.e. at least to A.D. 98. At that time Polycarp may have been from 30 to 40 years old; thus it appears that he had been the personal disciple of St John from early childhood to full maturity. His traditions therefore about the Apostle must have been absolutely authentic, and they must have served as a check on the circulation in Asia of spurious ones, at least among those who knew Polycarp personally. It thus appears that Irenaeus received authentic traditions about St John, passing through but one intermediate step. Now Irenaeus’ testimony to the authorship of the Apocalypse is even more definite than any that we have yet met with. He not only everywhere ascribes it to the Apostle, but states (Adv. Haer. v. xxx. 1) that “it was seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, near the end of the reign of Domitian” (i.e. A.D. 95–6). And he tells us that this statement rests on the authority of persons who had seen St John—possibly therefore of Polycarp, or at least of Papias.
Shortly before the date of the martyrdoms of Lyons arose the fanatical heresy of the MONTANISTS, on the borders of Mysia and Phrygia. Their wild beliefs on the subject of the New Jerusalem would tend rather to discredit than to support the authority of the book they appealed to as teaching the like: but the fact that their opponents in Asia accepted it as a common ground for discussion proves how unanimous was the tradition respecting it. The Martyrs of Lyons themselves wrote on the controversy, which in their days had not amounted to an actual schism. Alcibiades, one of their number, is still generally identified with the Alcibiades whom Eusebius mentions in the same chapter, H. E. V. iii. 2, as one of the leaders of the Montanist party. On the other hand, Apollonius, who is said to have been an Ephesian, wrote after the controversy had grown very bitter: but we are told that he quoted the Revelation as authoritative, and apparently as the work of St John.
TERTULLIAN, who wrote in Africa at the very end of the second century and in the early part of the third, constantly quotes the book as St John’s, and seems to know nothing of any doubts about it, except on the part of heretics. His testimony is however the less valuable, as he admitted the Book of Enoch: he became a Montanist in later life, and his quotations from the Revelation seem all to be in works written after his fall into heresy. Still it is probable that this is due to a change of temper, rather than to a change of opinion: for everything indicates that the orthodox Church of Africa accepted the book without hesitation. It certainly did so in the next generation, as we know from St Cyprian’s works.
Approximately contemporary with Tertullian—perhaps rather earlier—was CLEMENT of Alexandria, who quotes the Revelation as St John’s work, and refers historically to his exile in Patmos. He is less likely than Tertullian to have tested for himself the current tradition of his day: for though he does not, like St Irenaeus, quote Hermas with the formula ἡ γραφὴ λέγει, he does accept him as Scripture; while Tertullian openly rejected him when a Montanist, and probably never treated him with more than perfunctory respect.
Of about the same age, or possibly a little later, would be the anonymous work on the Canon, known as the MURATORIAN FRAGMENT, and supposed to be a Latin version of a Greek original written at Rome. In this the “Apocalypse of St John” is recognised: so apparently, though more doubtfully, is an “Apocalypse of St Peter,” which if mentioned is mentioned with the remark that some object to its being read in the Church: this would imply two things—that when the list was drawn up the Canon was still half open to doubtful works, and that so far as the writer knew there was no doubt about the Apocalypse of St John.
About this same period there appears another kind of evidence, shewing still more plainly the belief, not of individual divines alone, but of large provincial Churches—the VERSIONS of the New Testament made for ecclesiastical use in Churches where Greek was not generally spoken. The old Latin version was in use by Tertullian’s time, and must almost certainly have included the Apocalypse. The versions in the different Egyptian dialects, however, do not seem to have contained it till a later date. As to the Syriac, perhaps the oldest version of all, the evidence is more doubtful. The Peschitto, or vulgate Syrian version in use from the fourth century onwards, does not contain the book: but according to the view now taken by what seem to be the highest authorities, this is only a revision of the oldest version, that being one which has not been recovered, except (in part) for the Gospels. It cannot be thought impossible that this oldest version included the Apocalypse which is quoted as inspired by St Ephraem of Edessa, the great divine and poet of the Syrian Church, though he also uses the four minor Catholic Epistles which were not then part of the Syriac Canon.
If we are now past the time when living tradition can be appealed to as decisive evidence, we have reached the time when scientific principles of criticism began to be applied to the traditional beliefs of Christendom. Justin, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, were all well-educated men: the first and third ranked as “philosophers,” in the sense in which that term was used in their age: Tertullian was a man of real original power of thought. Origen, the pupil and successor of Clement, was not only a learned student, but an able critic. He discusses ably and sensibly the question, admitted to be doubtful, of the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews: he notices the doubts, though without doing much to solve them, that existed as to that of the Second Epistle of St Peter: but as to the Apocalypse he seems to know of no doubts at all, or none worth heeding.
A man of almost equal learning, of about the same date, was HIPPOLYTUS, bishop of Portus near Rome, or perhaps a claimant of the Roman see. In his extant works he constantly and unhesitatingly ascribes the Revelation to the Apostle John: but from a catalogue of his whole works it seems that he thought it necessary to defend its authenticity, though he had not always found it so, if, as Bishop Lightfoot suggests, the lost original of the Muratorian Canon was identical with his early metrical list of Canonical books.
The last witness who need be quoted at this stage of the enquiry is VICTORINUS, a bishop and martyr in the Diocletian persecution. He wrote a Commentary on the Revelation, which was sent to St Jerome with a request that he would correct it. Probably all extant MSS. are based upon his revision: his letter to Anatolius seems to imply that there was a system of marks for those passages in the original chiefly referring to the Millennium which St Jerome regarded as over literal, and also for St Jerome’s own additions chiefly drawn from Tyconius. It might be possible to distinguish these from the original text, and from later additions, e.g. the explanation of Genseric for the Number of the Beast; and then we should be in a position to judge of the precise value of the traditions which St Victorinus had inherited. His testimony, like that of later fathers, is chiefly valuable as shewing that earlier fathers were regarded as witnesses to an ecclesiastical tradition.
II. The earliest people we hear of as denying the authenticity of the Apocalypse are the so-called ALOGI, generally regarded as an Asiatic sect or school of extreme opponents of Montanism, who thought it necessary to discredit the writings of St John because their Montanist countrymen appealed to their authority in support of their own views. All, or nearly all, we know of them comes from St Epiphanius, a diligent and zealous reader of books without tables of contents or indices, who too often confused his authorities and amplified them by hearsay. Lipsius and Lightfoot hold that he took his account of the Alogi from the lost work against heresies which St Hippolytus wrote before the larger work which Dr Miller recovered and published. This early work was certainly used by Epiphanius, Philastrius, and the so-called Pseudo-Tertullian, whose work, whether he meant to personate Tertullian or no, has reached us as an appendix to the de Praescriptione. Dr Salmon holds that his only source was the work of Hippolytus against Gaius, a learned and respected Roman Presbyter, several quotations from which have been published from time to time in Hermathena by Dr Gwynn from a mediaeval Syrian writer. If Epiphanius drew from Hippolytus’ work against heresies we may infer that the latter invented the nickname of Alogi, which means ‘unreasonable,’ and seemed to be deserved by their denial of the Logos, the Word or Reason of God, proclaimed by St John. We may also infer that the sect or school practically disappeared in the interval between the two treatises: we might also infer that they are identical with the persons mentioned by St Irenaeus as rejecting the Fourth Gospel. We might also contrast the objections which we know from Epiphanius with those which we know from Eusebius and Bar Salibi. As far as it appears from Epiphanius their chief argument was that they found the book mysterious and unedifying. The answer is obvious, that very likely it was unedifying to them. A more important argument common to them and to Gaius was that ?93 years after the Ascension there was no church at Thyatira (the reason being, ?as the Montanists claimed, that the Church there had been swallowed up by Montanism); to which Hippolytus replied that (?)after an interval of 112 years i.e. 234 A.D. that church had been happily restored. Of course the evidence of the Revelation itself is sufficient to prove that a church of Thyatira had existed when the Revelation was written. Gaius also dwelt forcibly on the contrast between the Day of the Lord that ‘cometh as a thief in the night’ and the terrible signs which follow the Seals and Trumpets and Vials: though he failed to notice that the same contrast presents itself in the Discourse on the Mount of Olives. The Syriac fragments make it quite clear that Gaius refers to the Canonical Revelation in the passage quoted by Eusebius (H. E. III. xxviii.) in which he speaks of “Cerinthus, who by revelations professedly written by a great Apostle passes off upon us false marvels professedly shewn to him by angels; and says that after the Resurrection the kingdom of Christ will be earthly; and that the flesh having its dwelling in Jerusalem will do service again to lusts and pleasures. And being an enemy to the Scriptures of God he says, desiring to deceive, that a thousand years fully told will pass in a marriage of feasting.” There is much in this which does not correspond to the present Canonical text: it is possible that Cerinthus may have found it worth while to circulate a garbled edition of the Apocalypse; just as Tertullian tells us (Adv. Marc. I. i.) that a Marcionite had diligently circulated a very faulty copy he had made of the second draught of the Treatise against Marcion.
If Hippolytus knew the Alogi as a sect or school, it is clear that their great offence was the rejection of the Fourth Gospel; and it is remarkable that as they were otherwise orthodox there should have been any part of Christendom in which the tradition of the Fourfold Gospel was still unknown. Of course where the tradition was uncertain there was a strong temptation to reject the book, which seemed to support the Montanist doctrine of the Paraclete, with the book which nourished the Montanist hope of the Parousia. Gaius is generally supposed to have accepted the Fourth Gospel, as Hippolytus quotes it against him. But if the Muratorian Canon does represent the list of books received at Rome, that list was not unquestioned. The dispute between dignitaries of an orthodox church as to whether the Apocalypse was canonical or heretical, startling as it is to our notions, was probably less bitter and not more important than the questions which afterwards divided Hippolytus and Callistus: both of whom were bishops, both of repute as divines in their own day, and recognised as saints and martyrs by the later Church.
III. DIONYSIUS of Alexandria (bishop A.D. 249–265), the most famous of the famous and holy men who proceeded from the school of Origen, had, it is plain, received the Apocalypse without question, like his master, as one of the New Testament Scriptures recognised by the Church. But, in what seems to have been a later work, he had occasion to discuss the question critically. He recapitulates the arguments of those who rejected the book, with special reference no doubt to Gaius, and probably to the so-called Alogi. The argument sounds a little like theirs, as quoted by St Epiphanius, “that the title is false: for, they say, it is not John’s, nor yet is it a Revelation, being completely veiled by the thick curtain of ignorance.”
But Dionysius himself treats the question in exactly the spirit, at once devout and critical, in which such questions ought to be treated: and the result is, that he sweeps away the bad arguments against St John’s authorship, and states the good ones in a form that really has never been improved upon between his day and ours. Those who denied the canonicity and orthodoxy of the book had only two grounds to go upon—its obscurity, and its alleged description of the Kingdom of Christ as earthly. Now on the latter point St Dionysius thoroughly sympathised with the objectors: he had engaged in a controversy with Nepos, an Egyptian bishop who maintained millenarian views, and succeeded in convincing him and his followers that they were wrong. But Dionysius saw that it was neither reverent nor critical to make the authority of the book stand or fall with a particular interpretation of a particular passage in it. To the charge of obscurity he replies, “Even if I do not understand, I yet conceive some deeper sense to lie in the words. Not measuring and judging these things by private reasoning, but giving the chief weight to faith, I have supposed it too high to be comprehended by me: and I do not reject these things which I have not seen, but admire them the more, because I have not.” He then expresses his own opinion, and the grounds for it, as follows:
“That he was called John, and that this writing is John’s, I will not dispute: for I agree that it is the work of a holy and inspired man. Still, I would not readily admit that this John is the Apostle, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, the author of the Gospel that bears the title According to John, and of the Catholic Epistle. I argue from the temper of the two, from the style of the language, and from what is called the purport of the book, that they are not the same. For the Evangelist never introduces his own name, nor proclaims himself, either in the Gospel or in the Epistle. St John nowhere [speaks of the Apostle by name?] either as being himself or as another: but the writer of the Revelation puts himself forward at the very beginning: ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which He gave to Him, to shew unto His Servants shortly. And He sent and signified it by His Angel to His Servant John, who bare witness of the Word of God and His testimony, whatsoever he saw.’ Then he also writes an Epistle: ‘John to the seven Churches which are in Asia; grace be to you and peace.’ But the Evangelist has not written his name even at the beginning of the Catholic Epistle, but begins without preamble with the mystery of the divine revelation itself: ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes.’ For on account of this revelation the Lord also called Peter blessed; saying, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My heavenly Father.’ But neither in the second and third Epistles current as John’s, short as they are, is the name of John put forward, but ‘the Elder’ is written without name. But this writer has not even thought it enough, when he has named himself once for all, but takes it up again: ‘I John, your brother, and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and in the patience of Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.’ And again, near the end, he says this: ‘Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book; and I John who see and hear these things.’ Now that it is a John who writes this, we ought to believe on his own word; but what John is uncertain. For he has not said, as in many places of the Gospel, that he is the Disciple beloved of Jesus, nor he who leaned upon His breast, nor the brother of James, nor that he was eye- and ear-witness of the Lord: for he would have said some of these things which I have mentioned, if he had wished to indicate himself clearly. But, instead of any of these, he calls himself our brother and partaker with us, and a witness (or martyr) of Jesus, and blessed as seeing and hearing the revelations. But I suppose there were many of the same name as John the Apostle, who for their love for him, admiration, and desire to imitate him and to be beloved like him of the Lord, were glad to assume the same name, as Paul and Peter are frequent names among the children of the faithful. There is in fact another John in the Acts of the Apostles, who was surnamed Mark; whom Barnabas and Paul took with them, of whom it says again, ‘And they had also John to their minister.’ But whether he is the writer, I would not say: for it is written that he did not come with them into Asia, but ‘Paul and his company set sail from Paphos, and came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John departed from them and returned to Jerusalem.’ But I think that there was another John among those who had been in Asia: for in fact they say that there are two tombs at Ephesus, each called that of John. And further, from their thoughts, language, and composition, this may reasonably be considered a different person from the others. For the Gospel and the Epistle harmonise with one another, and begin alike; the one ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ the other ‘That which was from the beginning.’ The one says, ‘And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Only-begotten from the Father:’ the other the same a little varied: ‘That which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life: and the life was manifested.’ For this is his prelude to his main contention, as he makes plain in what follows, against those who said that the Lord had not come in the flesh: wherefore he continues carefully: ‘And we bear witness of that which we have seen, and declare unto you the life, the eternal [life], which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us: that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.’ He keeps close to himself, and does not withdraw from his announcement, and sets forth all by means of the same headings and names, of which we will briefly mention some. He who studies the books carefully will find in each frequently life, light, repulse of darkness; constantly truth, grace, joy, the flesh and blood of the Lord, the judgement, the forgiveness of sins, the love of God towards us, the commandment for us to love one another, the duty of keeping all the commandments, the condemnation of the world, the Devil, the Antichrist: the promise of the Holy Spirit, the adoption on the part of God, the constant demand of faith on our part, the Father and the Son everywhere: altogether, by every possible mark, we are allowed to see the same colouring in the Gospel and the Epistle. But compared with these the Revelation is utterly different and strange, neither touching nor approaching (one may almost say) any of these, nor having a syllable in common with them. Nor again has either the Epistle (I pass over the Gospel) any recollection or thought of the Revelation, or the Revelation of the Epistle: whereas Paul in his Epistles has given some hint of his revelations, which he did not write separately. Further, one may also argue from the difference of language of the Gospel and Epistle compared with the Revelation. For they are written, not only without error in the Greek language, but with the greatest literary skill in the words, the reasonings, the arrangements of the exposition: far from there being any barbarous word, ungrammatical phrase, or in fact vulgarisms of any sort found there. For he had, as it seems, both forms of the Word, the Lord having granted him both, the word of knowledge and that of expression. But to this author I will not deny that he had seen a revelation, and received knowledge and prophecy; but I can see that his dialect and language are not correct Greek, but that he uses barbaric constructions, sometimes ungrammatical. These it is not necessary now to recount: for I do not say this for ridicule—let no one suppose it—but only defining the unlikeness of the writings.”
The only ancient critic who adds anything to this forcible argument against the unity of authorship of the Revelation and the Gospel is Eusebius. He calls attention (H. E. III. xxxix. 4) to a passage of Papias, where he distinguishes, apparently, from the Apostle St John another Disciple of the Lord, whom he calls “John the Elder” or “Presbyter;” thus giving direct evidence of what, in St Dionysius, is not much more than a conjecture—the existence at Ephesus, or at least in proconsular Asia, of two leaders of the Christian Church, both named John. Lücke among other modern critics has forcibly expanded one part of St Dionysius’ argument: the Seer of the Apocalypse nowhere implies that he has known Christ after the flesh, or indeed that apart from his visions he has any personal claim to authority in the churches: the Evangelist and the writer of the First Epistle claims unmistakeably to have been an eyewitness of the Lord’s earthly life: and he writes to his little children with the authority as well as the love of a father. The contrast is the more significant because, as St Dionysius observes, a kind of self-assertion seems to mark the Seer, a kind of self-suppression the Evangelist.
To judge by Eusebius there was little disposition in ancient times to accept the compromise suggested by St Dionysius: those who regarded the Revelation as a canonical work regarded it as the work of the son of Zebedee. Though Eusebius speaks often on the subject it is hard to ascertain either his own judgement or the prevailing opinion of his contemporaries. Probably both still leant in favour of the Apocalypse: he puts the hypothesis that the book is genuine first, when he mentions the question: in the sermon at the dedication of the church at Tyre (which is reported H. E. X. iv) the magnificence of the church is a figure of the glory of Jerusalem above: and the preacher seems to have the New Jerusalem of the Revelation in his mind throughout (see especially §§ 11, 12), though his quotations are all taken from the Old Testament. One thing is clear: though there was a well-known class of books whose genuineness was disputed, no one was content to include the Revelation in it: the Antilegomena might or might not be apostolic or canonical; even if they were not, they did not necessarily cease to be edifying: but the contemporaries of Eusebius felt that a book which claimed so much as the Apocalypse must either have the highest anthority or none.
When the generation which had lived through the Diocletian persecution passed away, the balance of opinion shifted for a time. It was felt that the question was rather “Is the Revelation one of the books acknowledged as sacred by the living Church of our day?” than “Is it so clearly attested by ancient tradition to have come from the Apostle John that all internal difficulties of whatever kind ought to be disregarded?” Nothing like the actual conversion of the civilised world seemed to have been foretold, and all that had been foretold seemed to have become almost impossible. Only while the empire was heathen was it easy to expect a new Nero, and to look for a millennial reign of the saints to follow upon his overthrow. For this reason or for others the churches of Asia Minor and Palestine rejected the book. St Cyril of Jerusalem in speaking of the last times is careful to remind his hearers that his doctrine rests not on the apocryphal Revelation but on the canonical book of Daniel: yet he speaks of Antichrist as the eighth king, which is obviously taken from the Apocalypse; and this though he warns his catechumens never to read at home books which are not read in the church. St Gregory of Nazianzus is equally inconsistent. He closes a list of canonical books which excludes the Apocalypse, with the warning that none other is genuine; yet he quotes ‘John in the Apocalypse.’ St Gregory of Nyssa (II. 44) in an ordination homily quotes the address to the Angel of Laodicea with the words τοῦ εὐαγγελιστοῦ Ἰωάννου ἐν ἀποκρύφοις: where it seems as if an ‘apocryphal’ book was too sacred rather than too worthless for public reading. Both the Gregories and St Basil quote Revelation 1:1, in controversy with the Arians, and apply it to the Son; all probably follow St Athanasius, who held the book to be canonical, as did all his successors. In spite of the authority of the Church of Alexandria the general opinion of the East was still against the book in the beginning of the fifth century, when St Jerome wrote to Dardanus. Though Epiphanius went back to the traditional view, he thought that the Alogi and those who perpetuated their doctrine would have been excusable, if they had treated the Apocalypse, though genuine and inspired, as too mysterious for public reading.
From the time of St Epiphanius no writers of weight questioned the authority of the book in the East; and in the West the two great doctors St Jerome and St Augustine repeatedly and emphatically adhered to the unbroken tradition of the Latin Church. But the echoes of past disputes still had a certain influence: the Nestorian Canon is still defective because the Greek Canon was defective at the time of the separation: the Jacobites seem after the separation to have adopted the Alexandrian Canon, and the Syriac translation of the book which is grotesquely literal belongs to them. Even in the West Junilius, a contemporary of Primasius, was influenced at second-hand by the hesitations of the school of Nisibis. The Fourth Council of Toledo, 633 A.D., after mentioning that many (probably in the East) still rejected its authority, decrees that it is to be recognised in the public services between Easter and Pentecost. Oddly enough Charles the Great in a capitulary of 789 A.D. goes back to the Canon of the Council of Laodicea 363 A.D., which is generally supposed to have condemned the book. The capitulary did not influence theologians, but it may have influenced lectionaries.
As the Reformers were more or less under the influence of Erasmus and the Renaissance, it was inevitable that the canonicity of books which had been questioned in the first three centuries should be questioned again. Luther, who knew that tradition was not unanimous, felt at liberty to give full expression to his personal dislike of the book, as he had done in dealing with the Epistle of St James. For a time it seemed possible that the Protestant Canon would draw a broad line between the undisputed and disputed books of the New Testament. Several causes concurred to avert this danger. Melancthon, who wished to minimise the points of difference between Christians, persuaded Luther to make the preface to the translation in his second edition much less contemptuous and combative than it had been in the first. The mass of the Protestants adopted and exaggerated the mediæval theory that Papal Rome was the apocalyptic Babylon, and completed it by the still more questionable theory that the Pope was the Antichrist. It was discovered as soon as Luther was dead that he had been the Angel with the Everlasting Gospel; and this was set forth in his funeral sermon. When exegesis had entered this path it soon became clear that the Apocalypse was as valuable for Protestant polemics as the Epistle to the Hebrews for Protestant dogmatics. It would have cost much to give up either, and if the question of canonicity had not been rightly decided in the fifth century, there was no rational prospect of deciding it better in the sixteenth. It is otherwise with the question of authorship, though it is probable that those who found the book less edifying than they could wish, and so were moved to question its canonicity, were glad to shelter themselves under doubts of its apostolic authorship.
IV. No one in ancient times seems to have cared to question the inspiration, or reject the authority, of the Revelation, except those who, in the anti-millenarian controversy, thought it necessary to deny its orthodoxy. Thus the view that it is indeed a genuine work, belonging to the main stream of Christian thought, but that it can claim no higher inspiration than that of a subjective enthusiasm, does not present itself till modern times, nor then except on the part of rationalists: it involves matter of controversy which turns on a priori grounds, and cannot be discussed here: except so far as the question of interpretation involves the further question, “Have the Seer’s predictions been fulfilled, or have Christians reason to expect that they will be?” By this test, no doubt, we are justified in judging the claims of what professes to be an inspired prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:22): but we must ascertain what it is that is foretold, before we can judge whether it has “followed or come to pass,” or is in the way to do so. For the present, it will be enough to say, that practically the whole Church has agreed to recognise the authority of the book, and that this ought to compel us to recognise it: though its authority does not, perhaps, stand so high as that of those books “of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.” Indeed, both in ancient and modern times, there has been a disposition to treat it with greater reserve, if not greater distrust, than the other canonical books. In the English Church till 1872, while the rest of the New Testament was “read over orderly every year thrice, beside the Epistles and Gospels,” out of the Apocalypse there were “only certain Proper Lessons appointed upon divers feasts.” And something similar seems to have been the case in earlier times, from the fact that, while the theologians of Alexandria—even St Dionysius—acknowledged the canonical authority of the book, it was not translated till a comparatively late date into either of the vernacular dialects of Egypt. In the Greek-speaking Churches also it never came into general ecclesiastical use; and for this reason, probably, ancient copies of it are rare as compared with the other books of Scripture.
Conceding then the inspiration and canonicity of the book we approach without prejudice the question of its authorship. Its antiquity is undoubted, and the only person besides the Apostle suggested as its author was a personal “disciple of the Lord,” so that we can readily conceive his writing by divine inspiration. We have only to judge, whether the internal evidence against its being by the author of the Gospel and Epistles is so strong, as to set aside the great body of external evidence, whereby all alike are ascribed to St John the Apostle.
V. The theory has been advanced in modern times, that the Revelation may be the work of the Apostle, but that if so the Gospel and Epistles cannot be: that they may at most be written by John the Presbyter, or some one else at Ephesus who inherited a genuine apostolic tradition. But to this the total absence of ancient support is an enormous objection. The question of the authorship of the Johannine writings was discussed, from the second century onwards, both from a theological and from a critical point of view. Every theory was suggested but this: this could not fail to have been suggested, if there had been the smallest thread of tradition that could be discovered in its favour. No doubt the Revelation is rather more like than the Gospel to what we might have expected to be the work of the Galilean Apostle, the Son of Thunder: but the notion that, within 50 years of the Apostle’s death—probably within 18— the Gospel was accepted as his, when it was not his, becomes all the more incredible, if there was a genuine work of his current in the same churches where the other was first circulated.
The internal evidence, moreover, for the apostolic authorship of the Gospel, though not obvious, is on the whole preponderating: on this question see the Prolegomena to the Gospel. If therefore the unity of authorship of the two be denied, it must be the Revelation that is non-apostolic.
We return therefore to the decisive question, “Do St Dionysius’ arguments prove diversity of authorship, in the face of the strong external evidence of unity?” And on the whole, strong as they are, they seem hardly sufficient for this. It is a very extreme measure to set aside contemporary evidence to the authorship of a book; especially of a book ascribed to an author who had been prominent and universally known among the community who received the book as his. No doubt there would be a real tendency to be over-hasty in assigning to a venerable name a work that claimed, and that deserved, high authority: and thus a really inspired book, written by a namesake of an Apostle, might easily be ascribed to the Apostle by future generations: but hardly by the generation that had known the Apostle himself, and received from him his genuine writings.
Moreover, strong as is the internal evidence against the unity of authorship, it is not altogether so strong as it seems at first sight: while internal evidence for the unity is by no means wanting. The arguments of St Dionysius, and of other critics who have maintained his view, may be divided under two heads, (a) the unlikeness of style and grammar, and (b) the unlikeness of theological terms and ideas, between the Revelation and the other Johannine writings.
Indeed, a third element of unlikeness is sometimes alleged, between the moral tone and temper of the two writers. But this is too delicate a consideration, too much a matter of subjective feeling, for much weight to be given to it: and, as a matter of fact, it is not put forward by those who have the best right to be heard. The character of a saint, at least of the greatest saints, is a complex and many-sided one: those who know most of the mind of the Spirit, and the saintly character which is His work, do not find much difficulty in forming a harmonious conception of the character of St John, while taking in, as one element, his authorship of the Revelation. And in fact, it is quite a mistake to think that the Apostle of love was incapable of severe condemnation. Not to mention the imperfectly disciplined temper shewn in Luke 9:54, we see in the Gospel itself, in the Epistles, and in the best authenticated traditions of his later life, that his zeal could be stern, even fierce, upon occasion. See in the Gospel John 1:10-11, John 2:24-25, John 3:18-19, John 4:20, John 5:14; Joh_5:38-47, John 6:70, John 7:7, John 8:15; Joh_8:21-24; Joh_8:38-47, John 9:39-41, John 10:26, John 12:37-43; Joh_12:48 : in the First Epistle 1 John 2:15-19; 1 John 2:22, 1 John 3:1 fin., 1 John 3:8; 1 John 3 :1Jn_3:13-15, 1 John 4:3; 1 John 4:5, 1 John 5:16 fin.: in the Second, 2 John 1:10, and in the Third, 3 John 1:9-10; as evidence that the Evangelist sees nothing inconsistent with the “spirit he is of” in the stern condemnation of sin and unbelief or misbelief, either by the Saviour or by himself in His name. On the other hand, the tender charity of the Evangelist is not absent from the Apocalypse, though it may be admitted that the book is, in its primary character, a vision of judgement: see Revelation 1:5 fin., Revelation 1:9, Revelation 7:14-17, Revelation 21:3-4, besides many other passages where the tenderness, if less unmixed, is perceptible.
When we come to theological conceptions it is to be remembered that as a reverent Christian temper will expect and find substantial unity of doctrine in all New Testament writers, differences in the way of presenting doctrine will have more importance for a believer than for a rationalist. For instance, a rationalist, who thought that the Apocalypse and the Gospel both contained a doctrine of the Person of the Lord Jesus not to be found in other books of the New Testament, would find in this a presumption of unity of authorship; while a believer would attach more weight in proportion to the fact that the Seer leans much more upon Old Testament prophecy than the Evangelist. Subject to this it may be said that the differences in the manner of presenting truth, though real, are not decisive against the unity of authorship. In one great and important point the two books do coincide not only in their doctrine but in the method of presenting it. It is in these books only, that the name “The Word” is ascribed to the Lord Jesus. It is true, that the coincidence is not entire: in the Revelation (Revelation 19:13) He is called “the Word of God:” in the Epistle (Revelation 1:1) “the Word of life,” if there the term be used personally: and in the Gospel “the Word” absolutely; but there the context suggests that if the ellipsis be filled up, it can only be in the same manner as in the Revelation.
The case is similar as regards the description of the Son of God as a Lamb. Isaiah 53:7 is quoted in Acts 8:32; and He is likened to a lamb in 1 Peter 1:19 : but He is not called a Lamb except in John 1:29; John 1:36 and in the Apocalypse passim. But in the Gospels (and in the other passages) the word is Ἀμνός: in the Apocalypse it is Ἀρνίον, which is used in the Gospel, Revelation 21:15, not of Christ but of members of the Church.
Of the 18 or 19 characteristic Johannine phrases enumerated by Dionysius, we certainly meet with few in the Revelation in exactly the same form or with the same frequency: but, in some form, we meet with nearly all.  We never have the phrase “eternal life,” but we constantly hear of “life” as an attribute of heavenly gifts—the Book of Life (cf. Philippians 4:3), the Crown of Life (cf. James 1:12), the Tree of Life, and the Water of Life; which last only differs in construction, not in sense, from St John’s Gospel John 4:10-11, John 7:38.  The word “light” occurs rarely, and hardly ever in a directly spiritual sense: yet Revelation 21:11; Revelation 21:14 shew that the image was one that seemed to the Seer natural and appropriate.  “Darkness” does not occur as a substantive, and the cognate verbs in Revelation 8:12, Revelation 9:2, Revelation 16:10 are images of punishment rather than of sin.  Ἀλήθεια does not occur, nor does ἀληθής. But the rarer word ἀληθινός is characteristic of all the Johannine writings, and rare in the rest of the N.T. As an epithet of God or His Son, we meet it in the Gospel John 7:28, John 17:3, and virtually John 1:9, John 6:32, in the Ep. I. 1 John 5:20 (three times), and in the Revelation 3:7; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 6:10; Revelation 19:11 : nowhere else but 1 Thessalonians 1:9. And the use of the word in the Gospel John 19:35 is very like that in Revelation 19:9; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6.  “Grace” is not really a frequent word in St John. Except in the salutation at the head of the second Epistle, which is paralleled by Revelation 1:4; Revelation 22:21, we have it only in the Gospel Revelation 1:14-17. Hence it proves nothing that it does not (except in the two places cited) occur in the Revelation.  “Joy,” and especially the phrase “joy fulfilled” is, on the contrary, a phrase characteristic of the Gospel and Epistles, and absent from the Revelation. Even the verb “rejoice” is rare; it occurs only twice (Revelation 11:10, Revelation 19:7), and only once of holy joy. Here then is a real diversity.  “The flesh and blood” of the Lord are mentioned in the Gospel John 1:14, John 6:51 sqq., John 19:34, in the Epistles I. Revelation 1:7, Revelation 4:2, Revelation 5:6-8, Revelation 2:7. For the most part, these passages relate to the doctrine of the Incarnation and—what is closely connected with this—the doctrine of the Sacraments: the latter subject is not mentioned in the Revelation, and the word “flesh” is not used in connexion with the former. But in Ep. I. Revelation 1:7 we have a closer parallel in thought and imagery to Revelation 7:14; Revelation 22:14 (true text) than anywhere else in the N.T.: see also Revelation 1:5 (whatever be the true reading) and Revelation 5:9.  The word “judgement” is as frequent in the Revelation as in the Gospel, more so than in the Epistle: and the thought of the Divine Judgement is, of course, all-pervading. It is a question of interpretation, not a self-evident point of style, whether the nature of the Divine Judgement is conceived in quite the same way in the different books.  Ἄφεσις τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν as a phrase does not occur in the Revelation nor in the Gospel or Epistles: in the Gospel however we have ἀφιέναι τὰς ἁμαρτίας in John 20:23, and in the First Epistle in 1 John 1:9, 1 John 2:12 : and it is this, doubtless, that St Dionysius is thinking of. The idea of course is frequent throughout the N.T.—certainly not absent in the Revelation.  “The love of God,” as distinct from that of Christ (see Revelation 1:5, Revelation 3:9, and, with a verbal variation found also in the Gospel, John 3:19) is only spoken of once, and that indirectly, in the Revelation (Revelation 20:9). Here then is a real difference of manner and language—not of temper nor of theological thought, for God’s electing love, as the first source of man’s salvation, is as plainly set forth in Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:15 as anywhere in Scripture.  The command to “love one another” is probably, though not certainly, on the same footing. The “love” of Revelation 2:4; Revelation 2:19 may be mutual brotherly love, but probably is special love to Christ. If so, here is a very great difference indeed from St John’s acknowledged writings—Christian love or charity being absolutely unnamed.  The phrase “keeping His Commandments,” on the contrary, is as emphatic if not as frequent in the Revelation as in the Gospel and Epistle: see Revelation 12:17, Revelation 14:12 (not Revelation 22:14; even if the received text were right, the phrase in it is varied). (13–15) The “world” is never used in the Revelation in an ethical sense, only in a physical (Revelation 13:8, Revelation 17:8 : Revelation 11:15 is not really an exception): and the “Devil” and “Antichrist” are usually designated, not by those names (see however Revelation 12:9, Revelation 20:2), but as “the Dragon” and “the Beast.” As however the whole subject of the book is, God’s judgement on the sinful world, on the Devil, and on Antichrist, this difference is no evidence at all against unity of authorship. Of course the two books differ in kind and method; and, allowing for this, we find a unity not a diversity between their thoughts.  “The promise of the Spirit,” spoken of in the Gospel cc. 14–16. &c. is not mentioned in similar terms in the Revelation: and “the seven Spirits of God” of Revelation 1:4; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 5:6 are decidedly unlike the Gospel in language, whatever be the relation between the two theologically. “The Spirit,” of the Epistles to the Churches (Revelation 2:7, &c.) and of Revelation 14:13, Revelation 22:17, is indeed spoken of in a way like enough to that of the Gospel and Epistles: but the likeness is not greater than the common belief of the whole Church would necessitate. On the other hand, there is a likeness perhaps rather more individual between Ep. I. Revelation 4:1-6, and Revelation 16:13-14.  The word “adoption” is nowhere used in the Johannine writings, being in the N.T. peculiar to St Paul. We have the thought of sonship in Revelation 21:7; but it is decidedly commoner in the Gospel and Epistle, where also it appears as a present blessing, while in the Apocalypse it seems to be reserved for the world to come. Here then the discrepancy, though not very great, is real.  The word “faith” occurs four times in the Revelation (Revelation 2:13; Revelation 2:19, Revelation 13:10, Revelation 14:12), once in the First Epistle (Revelation 5:4), and nowhere in the Gospel. Here St Dionysius fails to notice that while he is speaking of the substantive πίστις, the Evangelist uses the verb πιστεύω: it is quite true that the verb is more prominent in the Gospel and the Epistle than the substantive is in the Revelation; but the complete absence of the substantive from the Gospel and of the verb from the Revelation is hardly more than an accident in either case.  The names of “the Father” and “the Son” are never coupled as correlative, or used absolutely, in the Revelation, as they are constantly in the Gospel and Epistles, and even in our Lord’s saying reported in St Matthew 11:27, St Luke 10:22. The nearest approach is Revelation 14:1 (true text). Christ is called “the Son of God” in Revelation 2:18, and speaks of “My Father,” as in the Gospels, in Revelation 2:27, Revelation 3:5; Revelation 3:21 : but such expressions as these, and Revelation 1:6, belong to Christian theology, not Johannine phraseology.
On the whole then it appears that the difference of ideas is much less extensive than it seems. In the points numbered , , , , and perhaps , ,  there is a real difference in the thoughts, but otherwise the matter resolves itself mainly into a difference of language—sometimes so merely a matter of style and grammar as that one book has an abstract word and the other the cognate concrete.
(b) Thus we pass to the other branch of the argument—the unlikeness in style and language of the Revelation to the other Johannine writings. Now this unlikeness is undeniable, though it has been overstated, and some people, by refuting over-statements, have seemed to minimise it. It may perhaps be said that St Dionysius overstates it, not by exaggerating (as some modern critics have done) the peculiarities and harshnesses of the Revelation, but by overestimating the literary power shewn in the Gospel and Epistles. It is quite true, that the author of these has a sufficient mastery of language for the adequate expression of his sublime and profound thoughts. Moreover, he writes in correct grammatical Greek, with less trace of Hebrew idiom than most of the N.T. writers: and he is rather fond of refining a point, sometimes of some theological importance, e.g. John 8:58, by the use of some delicate distinction of the Greek language, often quite untranslateable: e. g. ἐρωτᾶν and αἰτεῖν in ch. 16, ποιμαίνειν and βόσκειν, ἀγαπᾶν and φιλεῖν in ch. 21. And yet he does not write like a master of the Greek language. He does not write in the literary dialect of his time, echoing the language of the classical period, as St Luke does when he chooses: he does not, like the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, write under the influence of the Alexandrine school of Hellenising Jewish literature: if his theology has something in common with Philo’s, his style is unaffected by him. He says what he has to say in short, weighty, simple and rather unconnected sentences: his Greek is correct, because he never ventures on constructions complicated enough to risk a blunder.
The language of the Apocalypse, on the other hand, is fairly characterised by Dionysius. The Greek indeed is not so ungrammatical as it seems, nor are all its offences against the laws of grammar to be ascribed to ignorance or inability to write correctly: see Revelation 1:4 (true text) for a solecism obviously conscious and intentional. Moreover the language has laws of its own (e. g. as to the apposition of nouns, the connexion of participles with finite verbs) which, though they are not the laws recognised by classical or even by Hellenistic Greek, still are laws of language, and are observed with fair consistency. Still the fact remains that the Apocalypse is written in a language which, however well adapted to its subject and purpose, cannot be called good Greek, even when tried by the peculiar standard applied to the New Testament. It seems the work of a man who thinks in Hebrew, and turns the Hebrew sentences embodying his thoughts into Greek, not according to the traditional rules by which, since the composition of the Septuagint, a compromise had been made between the genius of the two languages, but quite independently, by rules of his own making.
Some of the grammatical peculiarities of the book will be pointed out in the Notes: it is impossible to discuss them fully here. With a few exceptions (see on Revelation 12:7) they do not affect translation. It must suffice here to say, that primâ facie the style of the Revelation is so utterly unlike that of St John’s Gospel and Epistles, as to make it all but incredible that they are the work of the same author. We say all but incredible: for it is just conceivable that a man may change his style entirely, so that his writings of different periods shall seem like the writings of different men.
As Greek is the original language of the discourses of the Fourth Gospel, those who believe that Aramaic was practically the one popular language in Palestine must conclude that they are at most inspired paraphrases of the thoughts of the Lord. Upon this hypothesis it might not be impossible to reconcile the conflict between external and internal evidence by assigning the Apocalypse and the other Johannine writings to quite different periods. If we suppose (see the next chapter) that the Revelation was written by St John the Apostle between A.D. 68–70, and the Gospel and Epistles A.D. 80–100, we get a credible view of the history of the Apostle’s mind, or at least of his style. A Jew of Palestine, habitually familiar with both the biblical Hebrew and the Aramaic vernacular, he was perhaps altogether ignorant of Greek till the age of 50 or 60. Then, being called on to take the pastoral charge of Greek-speaking Churches, he addressed them in their own language, which he had learnt as far as he could: but he refused to let his imperfect knowledge of the language hamper or even modify his expression of the message entrusted to him: he would say what he had to say somehow, even if he did not know how to say it in grammatical Greek. But, when he had lived from ten to thirty years in the midst of these Greek-speaking Churches, he learnt their language thoroughly, and became able to compose in it with vigour and correctness, if not with the mastery of a native. It is quite true that “the Greek of the Gospel and Epistle is not the Greek of the Apocalypse in a maturer state” (Alford), but it is conceivable that the man who had the one to unlearn might learn the other.
The alternative, if both groups of writings be rightly ascribed to the Apostle, is to suppose that the Gospel and Epistles represent his habitual style in which he spoke simply and easily so that his amanuenses or editors had no difficulty in smoothing away little incorrectnesses, if there were any, while the Apocalypse represents his language when still exalted by his visions: at such times, it may be, his sense of the sublime overstrained his knowledge of Greek, and disciples hesitated to correct the words of one who was plainly speaking in the Spirit.
DATE AND PLACE OF COMPOSITION
THE book itself tells us (Revelation 1:9) where the vision recorded in it was seen: it does not follow that the record was written in the same place. Such is, however, the probable conclusion. The English reader might indeed understand from the words “I was in the isle” that the writer was no longer there: and tradition, such as it is, seems to regard the book as written after the Seer’s release. But the indications of the book itself are decidedly in favour of the composition in Patmos. Ἐγενόμην ἐν τῇ νήσῳ really means, “I had come to be in the island,” and does not in the least imply that he had left it: just as Daniel might equally have written “I became dumb” (Daniel 10:15) if, like Ezekiel and Zacharias, he had continued so for a long time, and had written in that state. And in Revelation 1:11; Revelation 1:19; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 19:9; Revelation 21:5, and still more Revelation 10:4, it seems almost implied that the successive visions were written down as fast as they were seen; see however note on Revelation 10:4. Moreover the command to write and send to the Seven Churches seems inconsistent with the Seer being, at the time of writing, resident at one of them and free to visit the rest personally: and the style of the book, so far as any argument can be built on it, suggests that it was written in the same ecstatic state of mind in which the vision was unquestionably seen. Altogether, it seems most probable that the book was written at Patmos, but the point is one of no great importance.
This cannot be said of the question of the date; which is much disputed, with strong arguments on both sides. We have already seen (p. xvii.) that there is very strong external evidence for ascribing the Apocalypse to the last three or four years of the Apostle’s life, A.D. 95–98. “It was seen,” says St Irenaeus, “… at the end of the reign of Domitian;” if it was not written till his return from exile, this was probably in the reign of Nerva. It is needless to quote later writers who say the same, for it is probable that most if not all of them derived their belief from this passage of Irenaeus. But it is certain, that his testimony was generally accepted by the Church at large, and that there is no trace of controversy as to the date of the work, independent of the controversy as to its authorship.
Nevertheless, there are statements in early Christian writers which seem to shew that the tradition on this point was not absolutely unanimous. Several of the earliest who refer to St John’s exile avoid naming the emperor who condemned him, while the earliest of all who refer to the book do not, as it happens, mention the fact of the exile. If the evidence of St Irenaeus is not exactly contradicted, still less can we say that it is confirmed.
The evidence nearest in time to his is negative and cannot be strongly pressed, but upon the whole harmonises with the date under Domitian. St Clement of Alexandria introduces into his treatise Τίς ὁ σωζόμενος πλούσιος; a μῦθος, in the way which was fashionable with philosophers since the time of Prodicus and Plato. This μῦθος, which he assures us is something more, is the beautiful and often-repeated story of St John reclaiming a young convert who had become a robber chieftain. He dates the beginning of the story “when, after the death of the tyrant, he had returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus.” Now we know that Domitian sentenced many Christians to banishment, and that they were released after his death by his successor Nerva: moreover, Domitian’s character, and that of his government, was far more likely to make a Greek writer describe him as a “tyrant” than that of any other early emperor. The only other emperor whose victims we can suppose to have been, as a matter of course, released on his death was Nero: he certainly did persecute the Christians, but we do not hear of banishment as ever inflicted by him, as it certainly was by Domitian.
Yet Clement’s story that follows seems far more consistent with a date under (we may say) Vespasian than under Nerva or Trajan. At the later date, St John must have been at least ninety years old, and it is most improbable that his bodily vigour can have been unimpaired. In fact, a still better known legend (though not resting on equally early authority) describes him as being, for some time before his death, entirely decrepit, though fully retaining his mental faculties. But St Clement (and here all tradition agrees with him) describes the Apostle after his exile as making Ephesus indeed his head-quarters, but travelling thence in all directions, “in some places to establish bishops, in some to arrange whole churches, and in some to ordain by lot (?) [κλήρῳ κληρώσων] one or more of those indicated by the Spirit.” Some months, at least, are implied to have been thus spent: some years seem to be required for the instruction of the young man, his gradual fall into vice, and the time when he is recognised by the Church as “dead to God.” But at the end of this time, we find that the local Church, “when some occasion arose, again summoned John:” and not only does he readily make the journey when summoned, but, as soon as he hears of the fall of his disciple, he rides off on horseback to the mountains to seek for him. When the robbers have seized him and (presumably) taken his horse, their captain recognises him and, from shame, takes to flight: then no doubt it is thought remarkable that the Apostle “pursued him at full speed, forgetting his old age:” but this, which would be remarkable in a man of 70, is all but incredible in a man of 97. And finally, it is implied that, before he was restored to the Church, the robber had to pass through a long course of penance through which the Apostle was able to guide and assist him.
Tertullian, in a work apparently orthodox and therefore early (Praescr. Haer. 36), which Fuller and Noeldechen date 199 A.D., says that at Rome “the Apostle John, after he had been plunged in burning oil without suffering anything, was banished to an island.” He mentions this in close connexion with the martyrdoms of SS. Peter and Paul, which certainly took place under Nero: still it cannot be said that he implies that it was at the same time. But St Jerome (adv. Jov. i. 26) quotes Tertullian as saying that, “being put by Nero into a jar of boiling oil, he came out cleaner and more vigorous than he went in.” Now St Jerome was quite capable of lax quotation, of improving upon his authorities, and of confusing what he inferred from them with what they said. But on the other hand, we know that he used works of Tertullian now lost; and that, unless Nero was really mentioned by Tertullian (or someone else who repeated the same tradition), it would have been far easier to infer from the mention of St John’s banishment that his intended martyrdom took place under Domitian, than from the mention of the other Apostles that it took place under Nero. And the banishment, it is quite plain from the extant passage, followed immediately on the miraculous escape from death.
These stories seem therefore to have their roots, not in any real tradition reaching back to the time when the facts were known, but to an unreal conventional treatment of sacred history, whereby it was attempted to supply the missing links between the age of the New Testament and that of the fully constituted Church.
Origen, in his commentary on St Matthew 20:22 sqq., speaks of “tradition” as teaching that “the Emperor of the Romans condemned John, being a witness” (or “martyr”) “for the word of truth, to the isle of Patmos. John,” he continues, “teaches us about his own martyrdom, not telling who condemned him, saying ‘I John … was in the isle that is called Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ’ (Revelation 1:9). And he seems to have seen the Revelation in the island.” Here it is implied that there was a tradition about St John’s banishment, independent of the book itself: perhaps also, that this tradition stated the name of the Emperor who condemned the Saint. But, if Origen knew a tradition on this subject, he does not give it: and, in default of evidence to the contrary, it is presumable that the tradition was the usual or Irenaean one—that if it named anybody it named Domitian.
St Epiphanius twice (Haer. li. 12, 33) ascribes St John’s banishment to Claudius, dating his return also in the same reign. In the former place he says that, “in his advanced old age, after 90 years of his life, after his return from Patmos, which took place under Claudius Caesar, he wrote the Gospel.” The simplest explanation of this strange statement is that the writer took from one authority that the Gospel was written after the return from Patmos in advanced old age, and from another that the banishment was the act of Claudius, or perhaps that the Revelation was made in his reign. Our only reason for supposing that the Roman government had begun to take notice of Christianity is the statement of Suetonius that it had occasioned disturbances among the Jews of Rome, which led to their banishment. It is true that Epiphanius does not, like Origen and, by implication, Clement and Tertullian, ascribe the banishment to the personal act of the Emperor: he or his authority may have meant that when Claudius banished the Jews from Rome the Proconsul of Asia banished St John from Ephesus. Of course the narrative in the Acts leaves no room for any event of the kind: and it is not worth while to guess that Nero is really meant, though of course he took the name of Claudius from his adoptive father, for in fact neither he nor anyone else used the name. Charles I. might have been called Charles II. because his father was christened Charles James, but in fact he never was.
The only reason for attaching any weight to the mention of Claudius in St Epiphanius is that he, according to Lipsius, may have been using at first or second hand some apocryphal acts drawn up under the name of Leucius, a real or imaginary disciple of St John, which Zahn thinks may be as old as St Irenaeus. A gnostic writer of that date was still in a position to collect and distort genuine traditions. It is out of the question that the Revelation as a whole should be so early. Grotius, whose chronological analysis of the visions is rather too mechanical, placed the Vision of the Seven Seals under Claudius, identifying the famine foretold by Agabus with that foretold under the Third Seal. Anyone who conjectured that St John prophesied from the days of Claudius to the days of Domitian and received the command, in the days of the latter, to gather all his revelations into one book and send them to the Seven Churches, might reconcile Leucius and St Irenaeus.
The commentary, which goes by the name of St Victorinus, certainly seems to confirm the tradition of St Irenaeus. We have the distinct statement that the Revelation was given in the reign of Domitian, and that the Gospel was written afterwards. Such a statement of itself seems almost too precise to be credible, for Domitian’s persecution fell in the close of his reign, and the Gospel cannot have been written afterwards: according to Irenaeus and all authorities St John only just lived into the reign of Trajan, so on this hypothesis the Revelation and Gospel were written so close together that it is hard to see how it could have been known which was written first. did any fourth century writer know confidently whether St Paul wrote to the Galatians before or after the Corinthians? to the Philippians before or after the Ephesians and Colossians? On the other hand, if the two works belonged to quite different periods of the Apostle’s life, there would have been no more difficulty in remembering the distinction between them than there would have been (even apart from internal evidence) in remembering that between the Pastoral Epistles and those written before St Paul’s imprisonment. Possibly a tradition that the Gospel was written after the return from banishment in Patmos (where the Revelation was seen), but before the death of Domitian, might have perpetuated itself alone. In fact we find the statement of date associated with an interpretation of Revelation 17:10, which, unacceptable as it is, has very much the appearance of being as old as the reign of Trajan.
The “Seven Kings” are identified as Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus (“five are fallen”): “one is,” Domitian, “the other is not yet come, and when he cometh, he must continue a little space,” i.e. Nerva, who only reigned two years. To a disinterested reader this explanation needs no refutation. On what principle is the enumeration of the Emperors of Rome (if these be meant by the “kings”) to begin with the ephemeral princes of disputed title who struggled with one another through the eighteen months after Nero’s death? In popular apprehension, among the provincials at least, the first Roman Emperor was Julius Caesar: in strict constitutional law, the first who held the empire as an established form of government was Augustus. The series of Emperors might legitimately begin with either of these, but with no one later. Obviously there is one only excuse for the interpretation: the interpreter started with a certainty that the Revelation was seen under Domitian and then reckoned backwards and forwards. Even then it is startling that he can have imagined that Trajan was the eighth king, the beast who was and is not, who cometh up out of the deep and goeth into perdition. Trajan was according to the unanimous tradition of antiquity the best of the Roman Emperors: Tertullian, who was never tempted by excess of charity, finds no difficulty in making Trajan illustrate his theory that the good Emperors mitigated the bad laws against the Christians. It cannot be imagined that an inspired Seer should have meant to represent him as the great enemy of God and righteousness. It is equally incredible that a saint who suffered in the Diocletian persecution, or a commentator writing after it, should have devised such a perverse misconception out of his own head.
But a contemporary who had seen St Ignatius sent, possibly by Trajan’s personal order, to feed the lions at Rome, who saw the outbreak of a second and probably a greater Jewish war, who saw Trajan’s eastern triumphs ending and his embarrassments beginning might be forgiven for a mistaken hope that the ruin of the Fourth Monarchy which had seemed so near after the fall of Nero was to be accomplished under an Emperor who seemed far more than Nero to be the very incarnation of Rome, to gather up in himself all the terrible power of the Beast whose deadly wound was healed. One cannot even say such an explanation was incredible, while the rebellion of Barcochba seemed to zealots to be shaking the throne of Hadrian. After that time it was increasingly difficult for a theory which identified the arch enemy with Trajan to originate: the wonder is that it survived.
Marcus Aurelius, Severus and Decius, to say nothing of Galerius and Maximin inflicted far more upon the Church than Trajan. Now it is obvious that the contemporaries of Trajan or even Hadrian, though their wishes might warp their interpretation of the Apocalypse, are even better authorities than St Irenaeus for its date. They are it would seem much more deeply committed than he is to the belief that the Seer saw his great vision under Domitian.
Yet their witness is at variance with what in ancient and modern times has been accepted as the obvious sense of the prophecy of the “Seven Kings.” If the principle of interpretation here adopted is right—if they are individual Roman Emperors—it can hardly be doubted that they stand for the first seven, and that the Apocalypse was seen in the days of the sixth—though there is room for difference of opinion who the sixth is.
If we reckon from Julius he must be Nero: if we reckon from Augustus he may be either Galba or Vespasian: for there is no reason to suppose that the three claimants of empire, Galba, Otho and Vitellius, were counted as actual emperors. His successor is to have a short but (apparently) not a merely ephemeral reign: the eighth will be an Antichristian revival of one of his predecessors. Probably we are to reckon from Augustus: for there can be little doubt that ch. 17 is later than the death of Nero. If we suppose that the Apocalypse is the record of a single vision its date will probably in any case be between the death of Nero and the destruction of Jerusalem, so that the distinction between Galba and Vespasian is chiefly important as affecting the authority of the Seer: if Galba be the sixth king the vision received no obvious fulfilment; if he be Vespasian the seventh is the shortlived Titus, and the eighth Domitian, a tyrant and a persecutor, who was recognised both by Christians and Pagans as a revival of Nero.
Apparently in ch. 11. Jerusalem and the Temple are spoken of as still existing: even in Revelation 16:19 the city appears to be standing. In ch. 11 we cannot be sure how much is to be understood literally, how far “the Holy City” and “the Temple of God” are to be understood spiritually of their evangelical antitypes. But on the whole it appears simplest to take the literal sense, which appears to be the traditional one. If so the vision must be earlier than the destruction of Jerusalem, and is probably earlier than the outbreak of the war. What is foretold is not the destruction of the city, as in the prophecy of the Mount of Olives, but its profanation as in Daniel 9. The close parallel resemblance between the imagery in the vision of the seven seals and that in our Lord’s prophecy (Matthew 24 and parallels) gives weight to the respectable traditional evidence for referring that vision to the fall of Jerusalem. If ch. 11 falls early in the reign of Nero, ch. 17 may fall late in the reign of Vespasian: ch. 13 contains much that would be easiest to understand if it was written under Domitian, who systematically exacted the divine honours which Nero had been content to invite and Caligula to claim by fits and starts.
On the hypothesis of the unity of the Apocalypse, we seem to meet with the same conflict between external and internal evidence as to the date, which we met before as to the authorship. If the Revelation as a whole was written by the Apostle John at some time between the death of Nero in June A.D. 68, and the capture of Jerusalem in August A.D. 70: and if the Gospel and Epistles were much later works of the same author, we should be able to harmonise most of the evidence, but not all. We should be able to accept all the mass of well-attested evidence which, as we have seen, we have to the authorship of the book: while its peculiarities and the difficulties in the way of referring it to the Evangelist, would be at any rate less perplexing. We should still have to explain or to leave unexplained the internal evidence that the Lord spoke freely in Greek, which, if so, His Disciples must have understood, and the external evidence of St Irenaeus as to the date as well as any traditions which may underlie the perplexing statements of St Victorinus and St Epiphanius. As to St Irenaeus it is possible to account for his statement about the date without supposing it to be a mere blunder.
If the story in Tertullian be true, it is likely enough to have happened, as St Jerome understood, under Nero. Savage punishments like those mentioned were inflicted by him on the Christians, and turned the popular hatred against them into pity; and it is credible that, when one of the victims was saved by a miracle or what looked like one, public opinion should have enforced a commutation of his sentence to simple exile. But, as exile was not a penalty often inflicted in Nero’s persecution, while it was in Domitian’s, Irenaeus may have assumed that St John’s exile took place at the same time as that of other confessors. Or it is possible, that the Apostle was condemned by Domitian, or at least in his name, in the beginning of A.D. 70, when he, after the victory of Vespasian’s army, was the only member of the new imperial family at Rome, and enjoyed the titular office of city praetor. It would then be a comparatively slight error if St Irenaeus, knowing that St John was sent into exile by Domitian, assumed that he was sent at the same time as other ‘witnesses’, i.e. at the end of Domitian’s own reign, instead of the beginning of his father’s.
Most recent critics are disposed to admit both St John’s authorship of the Revelation and its early date. In England, indeed, many, perhaps most, orthodox commentators still adhere to the Irenaean or traditional date. But it is utterly unfair to suppose that there is any necessary connexion between the interpretation of ch. 17 mentioned above and the rationalistic views of some of its advocates: as we have seen, believers in the divine truth of the prophecy need be at no loss for seeing how, on this view, it received at least a partial and typical fulfilment. How far that fulfilment was adequate—in what sense this or other predictions of the book have yet been fulfilled, or to what extent they yet remain to be fulfilled—these are questions of interpretation. If the date and circumstances of the vision can be determined on critical grounds, they will throw some light on the interpretation, when we come to attempt it: but the critical question may be, and ought to be, treated without prejudice from the supposed necessities of exegesis.
PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION
EVERY student of the Apocalypse must be aware, that the interpretation of its visions has been a matter of controversy, almost ever since the age when it was written: and in view of this fact, it would clearly be presumptuous to propose any detailed scheme of interpretation with any approach to confidence. Still more obviously, it would be beyond the scope of an elementary sketch like the present Introduction, to enter into the controversy, or even to put forward the arguments by which the various schools have maintained their respective causes. And it would be beyond our limits to trace, in more than the barest outline, the history of opinion on the subject of the interpretation of the book: though that history may serve for a patient student, at once to suggest true principles and to warn him of the need of caution in applying them.
The presumptuous confidence with which, a generation or two ago, definite and detailed predictions of the future history of the world were grounded upon the visions of this book, and supposed to enjoy its authority, has now provoked a reaction. Many orthodox readers are content to leave at least the bulk of the book absolutely uninterpreted. The letters to the Seven Churches, it is obvious, are full of moral and spiritual instruction to the Church of all ages: the imagery of the first, fourth, and fifth chapters, perhaps of the twelfth, and certainly of the two last, is so transparent that no believer can fail to see the foundation of our salvation figured in the former, and its consummation in the latter. But the rest of the book is commonly left unread, or read only with a literary interest, as a phantasmagoria of sublime images: if people are too reverent to regard the book as a riddle without an answer, they treat it as one which they can never hope to guess, but must wait till the answer shall be told.
It is however scarcely credible that this can be the right spirit in which to regard any part of God’s Word: it is quite certain, that it is not the spirit in which the author of the Apocalypse expected or intended his own work to be regarded. Plainly, he throughout considers that he is conveying valuable information to his readers: this appears from the very title of the book, and the explanation which follows it in the opening words: see also Revelation 1:3, Revelation 13:9-10, Revelation 19:9-10, Revelation 20:6, Revelation 22:6-7. It is true, that we are told that certain things contained in the vision are intentionally concealed (Revelation 10:4), and that certain others can only be interpreted by a rare gift of discernment (Revelation 13:18): but the general purport of the prophecy is expected to be intelligible, and most of its details to be instructive, to the Church at large.
If then the visions contained in the book were expected and intended by the author to be intelligible, it is only reasonable to suppose that we shall find them so, if we will read them without prejudice, and from a point of view as near as possible to that of the readers who were addressed in the first instance. For, while it is likely that the book (assuming it to be a truly inspired prophecy of events still in the future) will be of greater value to the generation that sees its complete fulfilment than to any before, it is plain that it was expected to edify its first and immediate recipients: it can scarcely then be unintelligible or useless to the many generations that lie between.
I. This may then be taken as the first of the principles to direct us in the attempt to understand the book: its first readers must have had a clue to it. Such a clue may have been furnished in any of three ways— by the Old Testament prophecies which the Seer repeats and makes his own, if we can ascertain the sense in which Jews or Christians of St John’s day understood them;  by the oral teaching of St John and other Apostles, or by the earlier writings of the New Testament;  by the events of past or contemporary history.
 The Revelation of St John is full of reminiscences—of what may almost be called imitations—of the prophecies of the Old Testament. In some cases it may sufficiently account for these, that the Seer uses an image or a phrase familiar to his own mind and to the minds of his readers, though not using it exactly in its original sense. But there are other cases—more important if not more numerous—where it is plainly implied that the new prophecy has a meaning analogous to, if not identical with, that of the old: e.g. in Revelation 2:27 the promise of Psalms 2:9 is applied to the faithful and courageous Christian; but the last words of the verse shew that St John understood the original promise as made not to the Christian but to Christ. On the other hand, it is quite certain that the Beast described in Revelation 13:1-2 is either identical with one, or is an embodiment of all, of the beasts described in Daniel 7. Again, the “time, times, and half a time” of Revelation 12:14, and the apparently coincident 42 months or 1260 days (Revelation 11:2-3, Revelation 12:6, Revelation 13:5) plainly stand in a close relation with the identical or similar periods in Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7; Daniel 12:11-12 : though here it may be said that the earlier prophecy is at least as obscure as the later. In fact, familiarity with Daniel’s prophecy, and the generally received interpretation of it, must have made St John’s readers readily understand his prophecy as directed against Rome, and against a person wielding the power of Rome (though the power in his hands was separable from Rome locally), who was to be such an oppressor to the new People of God as Antiochus Epiphanes had been to the old.
 And such an oppressor—or at least such a blasphemous enemy to God—had been foretold by the Apostles from very early times: more plainly, perhaps, in their oral teaching than in their writings. For the only place where he is clearly foretold in an apostolic writing earlier than the Revelation is 2 Thessalonians 2 : and there St Paul seems to use a certain reserve, and certainly refers to his oral teaching as serving to supplement what he writes. In this subject, therefore, it seems that the tradition of the early Church is entitled to more than usual authority, as to the interpretation of the designedly obscure predictions of the Apostle’s written words. And here the earliest tradition agrees approximately with the doctrine of the Apocalypse, while it is manifestly independent of it. The Beast in the Apocalypse is a support and ally of Rome, yet becomes in the end the enemy of Rome, and his most daring defiance of God is after her fall. The Man of Sin in 2 Thess. is only to be revealed in his full self-deifying lawlessness, when “that which withholdeth” (variously described as a person or as a power) is taken out of the way: that is, if tradition be trusted, when the Roman Emperor or Empire has been put down.
At the same time, the dominion of the Man of Sin is connected, not with Rome only but with Jerusalem. This power will be at least as much spiritual as temporal, and thus it affiliates itself as well to the divinely chosen Sanctuary as to the divinely appointed seat of Empire. But in the one case, even more than in the other, his enmity to the divine purpose is as distinctly marked as his desire to shew himself heir to it. “He sitteth in the Temple of God, setting himself forth as God,” says St Paul. St John describes how the dead bodies of his victims shall lie “in the street of the great City … where also their Lord was crucified.” And both Apostles tell us, how his power would be supported by the quasi-spiritual evidence of miracles—miracles as striking as those of our Lord Himself, or any of the Prophets before Him, and only distinguished from theirs by the absence of the spirit of charity and of holiness.
Looking on to the tradition of the post-apostolic ages, we find that, though the details of apocalyptic interpretation were as obscure, and opinions about them varied as much, as in modern times, yet as to the outline of future events revealed in this Book and elsewhere, there was an agreement complete except in one point (that of the Millennium). From the time of Tertullian and St Hippolytus—not to say of SS. Justin and Irenaeus—we have a consistent expectation of the course of events that will precede the Last Judgement. Their views are not indeed derived from the Apocalypse exclusively, but they almost always give a meaning, and always give the same meaning, to its predictions. The Roman Empire was to be broken up into ten kingdoms, bearing (we must understand from Daniel) the same relation to it that the Hellenised kingdoms of the East bore to the Empire of Alexander. Among these kingdoms will arise a new Empire, reviving the old pretensions of Rome to world-wide instead of merely local dominion; but instead of resting on law, patriotism, and submission to the will of Providence, this new Empire will have no other basis than the self-will, the self-assertion, at least the self-deification, of its Ruler. He will come (if one may apply to the kingdom of evil the analogies of language used of the Kingdom of God) “in the spiritual power” of Epiphanes and of Nero: he may be called Nero in the sense in which our Lord is in prophecy called David, or His forerunner Elias. He will be a man free from coarse vices, such as hinder the consistent pursuit of any aim, but equally free from any restraint imposed by the fear of God, or by regard for human opinion. Claiming for himself the honour due to God and the supreme obedience due to His Law, he will persecute the Christian Church: his persecution being so relentless, so systematic and well-directed, that the Church would be exterminated did not God supernaturally interpose to “shorten the days.” But, while persecuting Christianity, he will extend a more or less hearty patronage to Judaism, being possibly himself of Israelitish birth. Having in some sense revived the Roman Empire, he will yet shew himself an enemy to the City of Rome, which will be finally destroyed, either by his armies or by the direct act of God: and he will, perhaps on occasion of this destruction, choose Jerusalem for his seat of empire. To this end he will restore the Jews to their own land: he will perhaps be recognised by them as their Christ: he will restore their Temple, but will make it serve rather to his own glory than to that of the Lord God of Israel.
So far, his career has apparently been unchecked. Now God sends against him two Prophets—probably Moses and Elijah, or Enoch and Elijah—who, by their words and miracles, to some extent counteract his. But they will be put to death in his persecution, and then his power will appear finally established: but only for a few days. God will raise them from the dead, and call them up into Heaven: and by this miracle, together with the preaching that preceded their death, the Jews will be converted. Elijah will have fulfilled his destined work, of “turning the hearts of the fathers to the children,” i.e. of God’s old People to His new.
Still Antichrist’s universal empire appears scarcely shaken by the secession of the one little nation of Israel: he will assemble the armies of the world for its reconquest, and it will seem far easier for him to reduce his second capital than his first. But when in the Land of Israel, he and his army will be met and destroyed, not in a carnal battle with the forces of Israel after the flesh, but by the power of God in the hand of His Son.
Here, according to what seems to be the oldest form of the tradition, and certainly that standing in closest relation to the Apocalypse, follows what is popularly called the Millennium. The whole reign of Antichrist lasted, apparently, but three years and a half: the divine triumph after his overthrow will last for a thousand years. This will begin, perhaps, with the appearance of the Lord Jesus on earth, certainly with the resurrection of the Martyrs, Prophets, and other chief Saints. Whether these remain on earth or no, the condition of the earth is made such that it shall not be an unworthy abode for them. Moral evil, if not annihilated, at least has its power broken. Jerusalem remains what Antichrist had made it—the spiritual and temporal metropolis of the world: but this worldwide power is now in the hands, not of God’s enemy, but of God Himself: and the world under the rule of Jerusalem realises the most glorious prophetic descriptions of the Kingdom of God.
Yet this Kingdom of God is not the final and eternal one: indeed some in all ages have been disposed to doubt whether such an earthly Kingdom of God will be established at all. From the time of SS. Jerome and Augustine (the latter distinctly changed the older opinion for this), the general opinion of the Church has been that such a measure of liberty and predominance as has been hers since the conversion of Constantine is the only earthly Kingdom of God to be looked for. And if—feeling the inadequacy of this fulfilment to the language of St John and other Prophets—we incline to recur to the earlier view, we must confess that even so Pauca tamen suberunt priscae vestigia fraudis.
Not only does the natural order of the world go on—with deaths and (what shocked fourth century feeling most) marriages and births occurring; but there must be some root of moral evil remaining, to account for the end of this age of peace. The Devil will at last for a short time recover his power: while the central regions of the world remain faithful to God, the outlying ones are stirred up to revolt against Him, and press in to crush His Kingdom by the brute force of numbers. They are on the point of success—nearer to it, perhaps, than their predecessor Antichrist had been—when they are, like Antichrist, overpowered by the direct interposition of God. Then, all God’s enemies being subdued, comes the end of all things—the General Resurrection of the Dead, the final Judgement, and the Eternal Kingdom of God.
 This is on the whole the traditional explanation of the Apocalypse: it is at almost all points the obvious one: the only thing which is not obvious is the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Antichrist, which is nowhere foretold; though it was almost an inevitable hypothesis for interpreters who lived later than Titus or Hadrian, it was difficult to find a place for it, especially if the twelve hundred and sixty days of the Prophecy of the Two Witnesses came before the forty and two months of the persecution of Antichrist. While this view was in possession the interpretation of the Apocalypse hinged on the visions of the Witnesses, the Woman and the Dragon, the Beast and the Harlot: afterwards when the Roman Empire and even the City of Rome were Christian the horizon changed: the Church had no longer cause to cry for vengeance against Babylon: the Kingdom of the World in a real sense had become the Kingdom of God and of His Christ, yet the world was sinful and sorrowful still. One effect of this was to discredit the Apocalypse: it seemed to have become unmeaning and unreal: it was a relief to reject its Apostolic authorship and its canonical authority: when this feeling gave way to respect for the Churches which adhered to the old tradition, the style of interpretation changed. The literal sense became secondary: instead of looking for a series of definite predictions of the last days interpreters sought mystical meanings for symbols which would be always applicable.
The great representative of this tendency in the West was Tyconius, a learned and thoughtful Donatist layman, who indirectly ruled the course of Apocalyptic interpretation from the fourth century to the twelfth. We do not know how far he was original; the explanation of the Woman in Labour as the Church who is always travailing in birth of her children is as old as St Hippolytus. St Jerome in his letter to Anatolius accompanying a revised and expanded version of the Scholia of St Victorinus gives a long list of authors whom he professes, perhaps truly, to have consulted, but everything which he gives is taken from Tyconius; and it is the same in the Summa Dicendorum, which is preserved by Beatus and is probably by St Jerome, as it refers back to the literal sense which, was discussed in the Scholia of St Victorinus. The commentary of Tyconius is lost; but it was clearly the main source of Primasius, an African bishop of the sixth century, of Bede and of a series of homilies (a double recension of which is printed in the Appendix to St Augustine), as well as of Beatus, a Spanish abbot of the eighth century, who reproduces without being startled the conjecture, natural even to a moderate Donatist, that there might be no Church outside Africa.
Tyconius himself was a very remarkable interpreter: he was the first to insist on the apparent parallelism between the Seals, the Trumpets, and the Bowls, and this led him to a general theory of recapitulation which was adopted by St Augustine. Again, the view that what is said of Christ may be understood of His mystical body and vice versa, and that the same holds of the Devil and of his kingdom, had at least the advantage of substituting applications of immediate utility for doubtful conjectures as to the future. Often the individual interpretations are beautiful: e.g. the New Jerusalem is always coming down from Heaven, as often as one of her citizens is born again from above. He anticipated the communion founded by Mr Irving in the thought that each of the Seven Churches typifies a certain class of believers, so that the Epistles to them are of perennial application. So too the judgements on the third of the earth are explained by a threefold division of mankind into unbelievers and true and false believers, which shews that he was working his way to something at any rate less narrow than the technicalities on which the Donatists justified their schism. The commentaries of Andreas and Arethas (bishops of Caesarea in Cappadocia in the fifth? and ninth? centuries) are equally mystical but not equally interesting. In their hands the symbolism of the Apocalypse ceases to be suggestive, they find nothing there but the commonplaces of orthodoxy which they bring with them. The same holds good for the most part of Œcumenius, though he contributes something of his own in the conjecture that the Mahommedan invasion is foretold. It cannot be said that the mystical method of interpretation has become obsolete in England it is on the whole the method of Isaac Williams, who says that the Seer, when instead of waiting for what should be spoken he turned to see Him Who spoke, sets us an example of how we should study his book. It is also the method of Dr Milligan, a more recent, it may be a more influential expositor; for whom Babylon is the world in the Church, and Satan is bound for a thousand years, i.e. completely bound so that he cannot injure the true believer, while at the same time he is loosed for a little season to work his will on those who turn from the eternal light to the darkness of this perishable world.
The continuous historical theory which finds in the Apocalypse a prophecy of the fortunes of the Church from the time of the Seer to the consummation of all things had its beginning in the Apocalyptic school which grew up beside the Franciscan movement. The opening of the Seven Seals corresponded to seven stages in the development of the Christian Church: St Francis and St Dominic and their orders were the Two Witnesses: the seraphic St Francis was the Angel with the Everlasting Gospel: most important of all, Papal Rome was Babylon, though the Pope was not yet Antichrist and the school as a body looked for an angelic Pope who should regenerate the Church and the world by returning to apostolic poverty. Wyclif in the great schism went so far as to say that Antichrist was divided against himself.
Among Protestant interpreters it was long a fixed point that Rome was Babylon and that the Pope was Antichrist, and as their history had been foretold it was a natural inference that the whole history of the Church had been foretold too; and much ingenuity and some learning were expended in this direction by a school whose most respectable representatives in England were Bishop Newton and Dean Elliott, the author of the well-known Horœ Apocalypticœ.
The strong point of this view is, that it enables us to give a meaning, not merely to every vision, every image, in the Apocalypse, but to the order and connexion in which the visions and images are arranged. It is quite certain, that that order is not arbitrary nor accidental, that the arrangement is (if we may apply the terms of human criticism) as elaborate, as artistic, and as symmetrical as any of the descriptions: and consequently it may fairly be held, that the arrangement forms an essential part of the Seer’s teaching, and that no interpretation can be adequate which does not give a reason and a meaning for the arrangement. And the most obvious and natural view of the meaning is, that the arrangement is chronological—that every successive vision is a description, more or less figurative, of events successive to one another in the same order.
Yet no one has attempted to carry out this view quite consistently, and to interpret every vision as describing an event later than the vision before it. It is quite true that, as a rule, the visions are not only described in successive order, but are felt by the Seer to be successive—in the later ones he refers to the earlier (e.g. Revelation 14:1 (true text), Revelation 20:2, Revelation 17:1, Revelation 21:9). But not only do some of the visions remain in view while later ones have risen which seem to take their place (see Revelation 11:16; Revelation 11:19, Revelation 15:5-8, Revelation 16:7, Revelation 19:4): there are cases (e.g. Revelation 11:7, Revelation 13:1-10, Revelation 17:3) where we seem to have unmistakeably the same figures or events described twice over, with only a difference in the point of view. Hence, some like Tyconius analyse the whole book into groups of visions, each one of which covers the whole range of human history, from the Seer’s time (or even earlier) to the end of the world. This is called “the resumptive theory.”
And certainly, it is difficult to understand Revelation 6:12-17 of anything except the time immediately before the Last Judgement, or Revelation 14:14-20 of anything but the Last Judgement itself. Yet, when we find the latter passage immediately followed, not by the “beginning of the eternal rest,” but by a fresh series of plagues,—which are, we are told, “the last, for in them is fulfilled the wrath of God,”—it is hard to avoid reconsidering the obvious and natural interpretation: and often as the final Judgement has been prepared for and worked up to, in no other case do we find anything resembling a description of it, till it is described, quite unmistakeably in Revelation 20:11-15.
The Preterist and Futurist schools had their origin in a reaction against the Continuous Historical. Roman Catholics were of course under the necessity of providing a counter theory of the meaning of a canonical book of Scripture which was used unsparingly and effectively against Rome; and Protestants like Grotius, who desired the reunion of Christendom, naturally gave them their support: besides, the difficulty of supposing that the Seer intended to predict events and persons whom he did not name and could not have imagined, grew as the historical scheme which was read into his visions became more complicated. When men turned back from the wide field of the history of Christendom to the book itself, the natural prima facie impression which it makes revived. It seemed once more as if the Seer spoke of events to be accomplished in his own day, of a judgement on Jerusalem and Rome, of the reign, the persecution and the doom of Antichrist. The Preterist school, which appeared first, trusted the first half of this impression: they pressed all the passages where the Seer insists that the things of which he speaks must shortly come to pass, they pointed to the terrible judgements which did fall on Jerusalem and even on Rome in that generation, and they more or less explained away all that is said of Antichrist and of the victory over him: for instance Grotius explains the victory of the Rider on the White Horse as the free course of the Gospel after the fall of Nero, which is as inadequate as the continuous historical explanation of the Man Child as Constantine, in whom Christianity was exalted to imperial dominion. The Futurist school on the contrary trusted the second half of the impression: they returned so far as possible to the patristic explanation of the book, dropping for the most part the return of Nero, but retaining the rest of the traditional account of Antichrist. One considerable difficulty of this scheme is that the Seer is made to prophesy not against the Rome and Jerusalem of his own day, but against an apostate Rome and a restored Jerusalem to be revealed in the end of the days, and this though he says repeatedly that the time is at hand.
 It remains to try to trace the elements of truth in the systems of interpretation which have succeeded one another. The mystical system is plainly not exclusive and can coexist with any and every theory of the literal sense (for instance Tyconius’ doctrine of “recapitulation”): the continuous historical theory as tracing a series of partial fulfilments may be regarded as supplementary to the traditional view which believers will have no difficulty in accepting as in the main the true interpretation of the Apocalypse. It is not of course a complete interpretation of all its details, but it gives a framework, in which every detail may find its place: and for the explanation of details we may be content to wait, till the time shall come when they are manifest to those whose faith sees the consistent fulfilment of the prophecy as a whole. Yet those who have faith to expect the entire fulfilment cannot help asking—indeed they are bound to ask—what special predictions are already fulfilled or on the way to fulfilment, what signs of the coming end are already visible: and so they are led to go over the same ground as those, who, not recognizing the Prophets as recipients of a supernatural revelation of the future, are obliged to ask how their predictions were suggested by the circumstances of the present.
And if the view be accepted that the Apocalypse was written within a year or two after the death of Nero, circumstances that might have suggested such forecasts are certainly not wanting. Nero himself realises the character of Antichrist in almost every feature. He was a cruel persecutor of Christianity: he was indifferent or even hostile to the national sentiments and national religion of Rome. If he can ever be said to have acted on principle, he did so under the influence of the aesthetic culture of Greece, what religious feeling he had was oriental, perhaps even Jewish: his mistress and empress Poppaea seems to have been a Jewish proselyte. When his loss of the empire was imminent, he spoke of destroying Rome and transferring his throne to Jerusalem; and it was held that his motives for this plan were as much superstitious as political. But in truth Nero was too self-willed to “regard any god:” even the “Syrian goddess,” to whom he had shewn some of the devotion which he denied to “the gods of his fathers,” was discarded before his death: if he did not openly deify himself, like his predecessor Gaius, he shewed himself incapable of hearty worship for any other god but self.
According to the traditional view one feature was wanting to complete the resemblance of the two characters. The latter part of Daniel 11 was interpreted of Antichrist: and the view that the “Desire of Women” was an object of worship was unknown to any ancient expositor but St Ephraem, who probably inherited Jewish traditions through the school of Edessa. In their obvious sense the words imply that the profane king of whom Daniel speaks will be free from sensual vices; and even apart from this Antichrist is to counterfeit sanctity. Nero was enslaved by these vices from boyhood to the end of his life. And, while with this one exception the characters of the two coincide so closely, their careers do not. Nero was a legitimate Roman Emperor, acknowledged as such by the Apostles themselves: it was in the early days of his reign, that the benefits of the Empire to mankind were most fully realised. And atheist, tyrant and persecutor as Nero was, he certainly did not accomplish half of what the Revelation ascribes to Antichrist. He did not destroy Rome, nor reign and claim divine honours in Jerusalem: at most, it may be believed that he for a moment partially effected the first, and contemplated the second. Neither was he overthrown in the same way as Antichrist. While his generals were engaged in a successful war with the unbelieving Jews, he himself was overthrown by a revolt, or series of revolts, on the part of the army and the Senate—by a course of events in which there was the same mixture of good and evil as in ordinary human action, and in which it is impossible to see any direct or miraculous intervention of God.
This admits, however, of a more or less satisfactory reply. The career of Antichrist is the career, not of Nero as known to us, as a personage of ancient history; nor as known to the Seer, as a personage of recent history, but of Nero as, the Seer thought, he was to be—of Nero risen from the dead, or restored after a period of seeming death. Although there appears to have been no room for reasonable doubt of the fact of Nero’s suicide, there was a widely spread popular belief that he was alive, perhaps in the far east, and that his return from thence might be looked for. During his own generation, this belief gave occasion for pretenders to appear: we hear distinctly of two if not three; one as late as the reign of Domitian, who nearly succeeded in engaging the armies of Parthia in his cause. When it had become manifestly impossible that Nero could, in a merely natural way, be alive and in hiding, still the expectation of his reappearance by no means died out: only it assumed the form of a superstition. Both among heathens and Christians, the expectation continued down to the age of the Barbarian inroads: and among the Christians, it connected itself more or less closely with the expectation of the Antichrist foretold in the Apocalypse. Was this connexion recognised by the Seer of the Apocalypse himself?
We have already had occasion to notice an opinion according to which it was. If the Beast’s seven heads, in Revelation 13:1-2, Revelation 17:10-11 are rightly understood of individual Emperors of Rome, there can hardly be a doubt that Nero is one of them, and that he is, in some sense, identified with the predicted Antichrist. In all probability, the head “smitten unto death” symbolises the death (not denied to have been real) of Nero: he is reckoned (together with Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, and Claudius) among the five kings that are fallen. But his reappearance as Antichrist is anticipated: after the reign of the contemporary Emperor, and the short one of his immediate successor, will appear “the Beast which was, and is not,” who “both himself is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.” That is, the eighth Roman Emperor will be the revival of one of his predecessors (viz. the fifth); only in his revival he will be animated by the spirit of devilish, instead of merely human wickedness, as he will be possessed of devilish instead of merely human power.
Of course, it is certain that the Roman Empire was not terminated, or the visible kingdom of God established, by a miraculous interposition cutting short the reign of the eighth Emperor of Rome. If the Seer of the Apocalypse commits himself to the assertion that this was destined to happen, it is certain that his prediction failed. This will present, of course, no difficulty either to unbelievers in the communication to the Prophets of supernatural knowledge of the future, or to those who deny the claims of the Apocalypse to the character of a true supernatural prophecy: on either of these principles it is easy to say, “This is what the Seer expected to happen, but it did not.” Does it follow that, if we accept the divine authority of the Revelation made to St John, we must reject this interpretation of his visions, as one not borne out by the events? The analogy of other prophecies will suggest another course. The resemblances between the Nero of history and the Antichrist of prophecy are too close to be accidental: so are the resemblances, it may be added, between several other historical characters and Antichrist. On the other hand, Nero and each of these other Antichristian figures differs from the Antichrist of prophecy in some more or less essential features: and none of them has done the acts, or achieved the career, or met with the end, foretold for him. The inference seems to be, that in these “many antichrists” there have been partial and typical fulfilments of the prophecies of the Antichrist, in whom they will find their final and exact fulfilment: just as the various Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament have found or will find their final and exact fulfilment in Christ, while many of them were partially fulfilled—some of them even suggested—by events which came to pass in the day of the Prophets.
In particular, there is absolutely no room for doubt that this explanation must be applied to the prophecies of the Old Testament which most closely resemble the Apocalypse—those in the seventh, eighth, and eleventh chapters of Daniel. The eighth chapter, and at least part of the eleventh, undeniably describe the reign, the persecution, and the overthrow of Antiochus Epiphanes: but, if these be regarded as having no further reference, the latter at least must be condemned as wanting that perfect truth which appears essential to a divinely inspired prophecy. If however we regard Antiochus as a type of Antichrist, it becomes credible—one may even say probable—that those parts of the prediction which have not been fulfilled by the one will be by the other. Thus understood, the three separate visions throw light upon one another. In c. 7 the reference is, apparently, to the final Enemy only—the imagery is almost exactly that afterwards used by St John in the Apocalypse, and the meaning presumably the same. In c. 8, on the other hand, while the imagery is not indeed identical, but closely parallel with that of the preceding chapter, it seems plain that the Enemy described is Antiochus, and his history forms an adequate fulfilment of the prediction. Lastly, in c. 11 we have the historical antecedents of Antiochus described, in even more unmistakeable detail than in c. 8: we hear of Antiochus himself, and of the conflict between him and Israel: then suddenly the historical Antiochus, with his ridiculous follies and miserable human vices, seems to vanish, and make way for a figure of demoniac grandeur, defying God on what, except to faith, seem equal terms. When this Enemy of God and His People has arisen, and developed his full power, the remedy is no longer to be looked for in the sword of the Maccabees: the champion Israel needs is the Archangel Michael, or indeed the Almighty Himself: the general Resurrection follows, and the general Judgement.
If the Book of Daniel be accepted as a really inspired prophecy, this series of visions admits of but one explanation. The oppression of Antiochus is foretold, in part for its own sake, as an important episode in the temporal and religious history of God’s People: in part also as a type of a greater and still more important oppression. And it seems probable, that Nero is treated by the New Testament Seer exactly as Antiochus was by his predecessor—that the historical Nero is treated as the type of Antichrist, that the descriptions of the one pass insensibly into descriptions of the other. We may, consistently with our reverence for the prophecy, say, “So much of this prediction was realised in the Seer’s age: the rest has not yet been fulfilled:” for we shall hold that the partial fulfilment was a foretaste and a type of a fulfilment which, when it comes, will be complete.
The partial fulfilment of the prophecy concerning the Empire has been already mentioned (p. lxiv). We may say that Nero’s real successor in the Empire was Vespasian—the 18 months between his accession and Nero’s death being really a time of anarchy. The pretenders or claimants of empire who arose in almost every province may or may not be indicated by the “ten kings that have received no kingdom as yet,” but it is arbitrary to select from among them, and recognise as de facto emperors, the three who were, for a few months, successively recognised at Rome. If we accept Nero then as the fifth of the “five fallen” emperors, Vespasian, the destroyer of Jerusalem, is the sixth, under whom, it is on this view probable, the vision was seen. His successor Titus was “not yet come, and when he came was to continue a little space,” i.e. not to have a merely ephemeral reign like those of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, but yet a short one—about two years. And his successor—his brother Domitian—was to be a Nero: and so he was.
This is, however, an imperfect and inadequate fulfilment of the prophecies of Antichrist in this book. Domitian was, it is true, a revival of Nero in his cruelty; he was, like Nero, a persecutor of the Church: he was also—like Nero and unlike the predicted Antichrist—foully unclean in life. But he differed from Nero in possessing talents and principles which, while to some extent they bring him nearer to the type of spiritual wickedness, may also be regarded as giving him the dignity of that power which “withholdeth” the manifestation of the Lawless One. Domitian was no blasphemous atheist, but was, as a Pagan, sincerely and even fanatically religious: and his gross personal vices did not prevent his having a zeal for virtue, which seems to have been sincere. And, for good or evil, he was a Roman—not like Antiochus, Nero, or Antichrist, a denationalised cosmopolitan. It may be doubtful to what extent the Empire suffered dishonour in Domitian’s days; but at worst he must be acquitted of having wilfully betrayed its honour.
Thus it seems necessary to look for a completer fulfilment of the prophecy than any that has yet been seen, while yet it is possible to point to a fulfilment that, to some extent, corresponds with the prediction even in the minutest details. We may thus recognise a common element of truth in both the “preterist” and the “futurist” schemes of interpretation. Just as the 72nd Psalm is recognised as setting forth the greatness of Solomon’s, “in type, and in truth of Christ’s Kingdom;” so the Revelation may be regarded as a picture of the persecution of the Church, “in type,” by such Emperors as Nero and Domitian, “in truth” by the Antichrist of the last days, and as a prophecy of Christ’s victory over both enemies, the type and the antitype.
In fact, the method and plan of the book seems to be, that we have again and again a series—most frequently a group of seven—of pictures that plainly symbolise the approach of the Judgement. Up to the penultimate stage, everything would lead us to think the Judgement was immediately to follow: but the penultimate stage itself is prolonged and expanded: and when at last it ends, and the series is complete, it is found to usher in, not the end of all things, but the beginning of a new series of events, still preparatory for the final Judgement.
Now whatever predictions of the Apocalypse have been or have not been fulfilled, there is no doubt that this feature of it has been realised conspicuously. In the first century—in the third—in the fifth—in the ninth—in the sixteenth—in the age of the French Revolution—perhaps in our own time the signs of the coming Judgement have multiplied. The faithful have seen them beginning to come to pass, and have looked up and lifted up their heads, as though their redemption were drawing nigh: while those who were not faithful, or at least whose faith was without love, have sought to hide from the face of Him that sitteth upon the Throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. And yet, after a generation or two, the signs have passed away: the Judge has not come, the whole world has not been judged; rather, it has taken a new lease of life, and become a battlefield between new forms of good and evil, a court for new judgements of God between them. We cannot say indeed that those were wrong who expected the Judge to appear. They were bidden to expect Him—they were bidden to expect Him all the more, when they saw such signs as they did see: and so how could they do otherwise than they did? Indeed, dare we say that their expectation was disappointed? The world has not been judged, but the nation, the polity, the generation has been: the Kingdom of God’s eternal rest has not been set up, but they that have believed do enter rest. The Vision of Judgement has been fulfilled in part and in type: the partial fulfilment serves to stay, without satisfying, faith’s hunger for the final fulfilment.
Thus it seems possible to recognise an element of truth in both the “continuous” and what may be called the “resumptive” methods of interpretation, as we did in both the “preterist” and the “futurist” theories. “We may believe that the chief object of the book is to teach the Church how to prepare for the Lord’s coming to Judgement. With that object, we are told, not only in general terms what signs will mark His approach, but, in some detail, what events will immediately precede it. But in the providence of God, the signs of His approach, and events more or less resembling those immediately preceding it, have occurred repeatedly: and this Book accordingly intimates, that they will occur repeatedly. To Christians who had seen an almost perfect image of Antichrist in Nero, it was foretold that a new Nero, a perfect Antichrist, was to come: it was, not improbably, intimated that there would be in some sense a new Nero in the next generation, which was fulfilled in Domitian. Yet the “wars and rumours of wars” of the year 69–70 did not usher in the Second Advent: they passed off, and left the empire in peace and prosperity. Jerusalem had fallen, and Rome had tottered: but the whole earth sat still and was quiet: and Rome, at least, had recovered from the shock. Again, in the conquests of the Teutonic barbarians, of the Arabs, of the Turks; or in the paganising apostasies of Julian, of the Renaissance, of the great Revolution, and of our own day, we may see likenesses, more or less close, of the things foretold in this Book: He Who inspired the Book doubtless intends that we should. Only, while the Book was written for the Church of all ages, it was written specially for the Church of the Apostles’ own age, and for the Church of the last age of all: we need not therefore expect to find any intermediate age of affliction, or any intermediate enemy of the truth, indicated with such individualising detail as Nero and his persecution on the one hand, or Antichrist and his on the other.
Certainly, there is this objection to the various forms of the “continuous historical” theory which have attempted to identify special visions in the Apocalypse with special events in mediaeval or modern history—that no just view of the history of any polity or system will support such a series of identifications. Indeed, there is this element of truth, or at least of plausibility, in such schemes, that the one national or local feature indicated by the Seer coincides with what men have learnt, more and more as time has gone on, to be the centre and heart of the continuous life of the world’s history—The City on the Seven Mountains. The Revelation, it is plain, tells us what the history of Rome is in God’s sight: and the history of Rome is the one thread that runs unbroken through the history of the world. But it is only by the most arbitrary treatment—passing without warning from the figurative to the literal, and from the literal to the figurative—that any appearance can be maintained of a resemblance between the history of Rome, or of the world gathered round Rome, and the successive visions of the Apocalypse: nor is it possible, in honesty or in charity, to ascribe to the Rome of past history a uniform character such as is ascribed to the Babylon of the Apocalypse. No doubt, there have been times,—(much later than those of Nero and Domitian,)—when a Roman Emperor or a Roman Pope has presented a figure which, to the eyes of faith and righteousness, looks terribly like that of Antichrist. Godless profligacy like that of Frederic II., cultivated, heathenish indifference to righteousness like that of the age of Leo X., was certainly felt—and we cannot doubt, rightly felt—to be the antichristian power of their time, by the moral reformers of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance: but it is unjust and unreasonable to hold the Empire in all ages, or the Papacy in all ages, responsible for the sins of the Empire or the Papacy in those ages. We who in our own age have seen the rival powers of the Empire and the Papacy represented by honourable Christian men like William I. and Leo XIII., ought to be able to do justice alike to Pagan Emperors like Trajan and Diocletian, to Christian Emperors like Henry III. and Barbarossa, and to Popes like Gregory I., Gregory VII., Innocent III., and Pius V. To treat either of these groups of men as the champions and representatives of Antichrist is hardly less than blasphemy against the work of God.
And in fact, the identification of the Papacy with Antichrist admits of direct refutation. “He is the Antichrist,” says St John, (Ep. I. Revelation 2:22) “who denieth the Father and the Son:” he defines “the spirit of Antichrist” as the “spirit which confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” (Ep. I. Revelation 4:3). Now, whatever the errors of the Papacy and of the Roman Church, it is certain that no Pope has ever denied the truth on the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. The most questionable of Roman doctrines—in particular those relating to the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary—so far from contradicting the true doctrine of “Jesus Christ come in the flesh,” presuppose it and are deduced (however unwarrantably) from it. It is likely enough that the Papacy has in many ages incurred “the Babylonian woe,” not in respect of theological opinions, but in proportion as “the mitre and the crosier” were, in Bishop Coxe’s words,
“Sullied with the tinsel of the Caesar’s diadems:”
but, when the Caesars themselves were the bar against Antichrist, their successors or their apes can hardly be identified with him. One thing is plain about the Apocalypse—that it describes a clearly defined moral conflict between good and evil, between Christ and His enemies: not a controversy in which good men, and men who love Christ in sincerity, are to be found on different side. It is an idle latitudinarianism to assume that in such controversies truth is unimportant, or that compromise is the only guide to it; but it is something worse to waste on such controversies the zeal that should be reserved for the true war with the real Antichrist.
Revelation 1:1-3. Title and description of the Book.
Revelation 1:4 to Revelation 3:22. Prologue and Dedication, shewing how St John received from Christ the command to write the vision, and send it to the Seven Churches.
Revelation 1:4-20. The vision of the Son of Man.
Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22. The Epistles to the Seven Churches.
Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:7. The Vision or Revelation itself.
A. Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 5:14. Vision remaining visible through all the rest; shewing (ch. 4) the divine glory (see Ezekiel 1; Isaiah 6), and (ch. 5) the Lamb that was slain sharing it.
(a) Revelation 5:1-14. The book of the seven seals and the Glory of the Lamb who is worthy to open it.
B. Revelation 6:1 to Revelation 8:1. The opening of the seven seals, and the judgements attending thereon. Before the last seal, there appear
(a) Revelation 7:1-8. The sealing of the 144,000, and
(b) Revelation 9-17. The assembly of the multitude of the justified.
C. Revelation 8:2 to Revelation 11:19. The sounding of the seven trumpets, and the judgements attending thereon. Before the first trumpet appears
(a) Revelation 8:3-5. The Angel censing the prayers of the Saints.
The last three trumpets are proclaimed (Revelation 8:13) as Woes. Before the last of them come
(b) Revelation 10:1-11. A mighty Angel having a little Book, which the Seer is commanded to eat:
(c) Revelation 11:1-2. The measuring of the Temple:
(d) Revelation 11:3-14. The prophesying of the two Witnesses (Moses and Elijah?), their martyrdom and resurrection.
D. Revelation 12:1 to Revelation 14:13. The signs in Heaven and in Earth: the heads of the Kingdoms of God and Satan, or of Christ and Anti-Christ.
(a) Revelation 12:1-13. The Woman giving birth to the Man, persecuted by the Serpent (see Genesis 3:15), and the War in Heaven.
(b) Revelation 13:1-10. The Beast to whom the Serpent or Dragon (the Devil) gives his authority (see Daniel 7; Daniel 11:36 sqq.; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10).
(c) Revelation 13:11-18. The second Beast (the False Prophet) who secures the deification of the first Beast, and persecutes those who refuse him worship.
(d) Revelation 14:1-5. The Lamb with the 144,000 of the redeemed.
(e) Revelation 14:6-12. Three Angels proclaim God’s Judgements, and (Revelation 14:13) a voice from Heaven His mercy.
E. Revelation 14:14-20. A symbolic vision of the Judgement of the earth (see Joel 3:13).
F. Revelation 15:1 to Revelation 16:21. The outpouring of the seven vials, and the judgements attending thereon. Before the first vial there appears
(a) Revelation 15:2-4. The triumph-song of the victors in the war with the Beast.
Before the last vial,
(b) Revelation 16:13-16. The spirits of devils gather the armies of Christ’s enemies.
G. Revelation 17:1 to Revelation 18:24. The fall of Babylon.
H. Revelation 19:1-21. The campaign of the Word of God against the Beast.
(a) Revelation 19:1-8. The triumph-song inspired by the fall of Babylon: the Lamb, the Victor and the Bridegroom (see Psalms 45).
(b) Revelation 19:9-10. The revealing Angel proclaims himself not divine.
(c) Revelation 19:11-21. The martial procession, and the victory.
I. Revelation 20:1-6. The Millennial Peace.
K. Revelation 20:7-10. The last campaign of the Devil.
L. Revelation 20:11-15. The universal Judgement.
M. Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:7. The glorious reign of God and His saints in the New Jerusalem.
(Revelation 21:8-9. The revealing Angel again refuses divine honours.)
Revelation 22:10-21. Conclusion.
THE Received Text of the Revelation has had a peculiar history. As in the other books, it is in the main a reproduction of the Text of Erasmus, with slight corrections which he and subsequent editors introduced mostly from the Complutensian text; but while in the other books Erasmus used MSS. which fairly represented the current mediaeval text (itself a not unfaithful representative of the text which had established itself at Antioch by the time of St Chrysostom), in the Revelation he was dependent on a very faulty representative of a singular and probably older type of text.
He borrowed a MS. from Reuchlin (now cited as 1), which when rediscovered by Delitzsch proved to be of the twelfth century; but as he found it very difficult to read he thought it must be very old, almost of the Apostolic age. This MS. contained the commentary of Andreas and the text of the Apocalypse, so arranged that it was difficult to distinguish the two: the text was full of omissions, mostly if not entirely due to homoeoteleuton, and also of puzzling contractions. Erasmus printed from his own transcript of this MS.: his text bears the traces of his own clerical errors, of the influence of the commentary, and of the Vulgate from which he retranslated without notice what was lacking in his MS.
The materials for constructing a critical text are with one exception scantier than for any other of the books of the New Testament. They are as follows.
Uncials. Codex Sinaiticus (א), generally assigned to the 4th century. Although this is the oldest MS. the text which it represents is by no means the best, being quite different from that which it represents in the Gospels. It is full of grammatical corrections and quasi-liturgical additions, such as Amen, Alleluia, and to the ages of ages.
Codex Alexandrinus (A), generally assigned to the 5th century. Of all extant MSS. the greatest weight is given to this.
Codex Ephraemi (C); also assigned to the 5th century: palimpsest. It lacks Revelation 3:19 to Revelation 5:14; Revelation 7:14-17; Revelation 8:5 to Revelation 9:16; Revelation 10:10 to Revelation 11:3; Revelation 16:13 to Revelation 18:2; Revelation 19:5 to end. This MS. comes next in importance to A.
Codex Porphyrianus (P2), 9th century: palimpsest. It lacks Revelation 16:12 to Revelation 17:1; Revelation 19:21 to Revelation 20:9; Revelation 22:7 to end.
Codex Vaticanus 2066 (B2), 8th century. This MS. is cited as B by Tischendorf; but in order to distinguish it from the famous Codex Vaticanus (B) assigned to the 4th century, which [does not contain the Apocalypse,] it is now generally cited, after Westcott and Hort, as B2; Tregelles and others cite it as Q.
Cursives. 182 are known to exist or to have existed (two or three cited by early editors cannot now be traced). They dated from the 10th to the 17th century. The most important are perhaps 1 at Mayhingen (its nearest allies are 12 and 152) and 36, 38 and 95; 36 and 95 are closely connected with A. The oldest known cursive 170 (10th century), which contains the commentary of Andreas, awaits collation in the Iberian monastery on Mount Athos.
Syriac. The Peschitto, or Syriac Vulgate, did not contain the Apocalypse (see p. xix). Lord Crawford’s library however contains a copy of the Peschitto with an appendix containing the four minor Catholic epistles (2 Pet., Judges 1:2 and 3 John) and the Apocalypse. The latter is to be published by Dr Gwynn with a retranslation into Greek (Academy, June 18, 1892). The Syriac in character resembles Pococke’s text of the four minor epistles; and it appears that the Syriac Version hitherto known is a revision of the Crawford version, bearing the same relation to it as Thomas of Harkel’s version (616 A.D.) of the four minor Catholic epistles bears to the text published by Pococke. The Greek text which underlies the new found version is very ancient, and exhibits coincidences both with א and A, and such exceptional cursives as 36 and 38 as well as the Old Latin: the Greek text to which the revision hitherto known has been servilely conformed is of a much later character.
Old or ‘African’ Latin. Codex Floriacensis, palimpsest of the 7th century from the Benedictine Monastery of Fleury, now at Paris. It contains the following fragments Revelation 1:1 to Revelation 2:1; Revelation 8:7 to Revelation 9:12; Revelation 11:16 to Revelation 12:14; Revelation 14:15 to Revelation 16:5. Fortunately also the whole of the text except Revelation 20:1 to Revelation 21:5 is preserved by Primasius, Bishop of Adrumetum in the 6th century, and a considerable part can be recovered from the quotations of St Cyprian in the 3rd.
Vulgate Latin, that is to say St Jerome’s revision of the Old Latin, A.D. 383–385, best represented by Codices Amiatinus and Fuldensis (both of the sixth century). An intermediate text is represented for Revelation 20:1 to Revelation 21:5 by St Augustine (de Civitate Dei xx. 7–17), who was copied by Primasius: and also by the citations peculiar to the enlarged edition of the Testimonies of St Cyprian, and by the alia editio or translatio frequently cited by Primasius. This last was obviously used by Tyconius, and where as not infrequently happens Primasius’ commentary differs from his text, it is probable that in the former he reproduces the text of Tyconius without noticing that his own was different.
Memphitic. It is from its position in the MSS. which contain it, rather than from any difference in language or style, that Coptic scholars infer that the Memphitic version of the Apocalypse was not strictly speaking canonical. Hence it has been inferred that it dates from the interval between St Dionysius (c. 250 A.D.), who though he acknowledged the inspiration of the Apocalypse may have discouraged its public reading, and St Athanasius, whose Festal epistle of 367 A.D. fixed the canonical rank of the book for Egypt.
Aethiopic. This version, which is assigned to the 4th or 5th century, treats the Apocalypse as canonical. It is supposed to have been made by Syrians imperfectly acquainted with Greek from MSS. of the same type as those used for the Memphitic version.
Armenian. This version was made later than 431 A.D., when St Mesrob invented an alphabet for his native language into which the books he brought back with him from Ephesus were to be translated. Up to that date Syriac had been the official language of the Armenian Church. As might be expected from the connexion between Caesarea and Armenia, the Armenian version of the Apocalypse has affinities with the text of Andreas.
Greek. Irenaeus (c. 180 A.D.) contains so many quotations, that, if his great work on Heresies had been preserved in the original, it would have been a high authority: it is uncertain how far the translator is dependent upon the Old Latin.
Hippolytus (c. 220 A.D.) quotes largely in his work on Christ and Antichrist, and in the Fourth book of his commentary on Daniel recently printed from a MS. discovered by Georgiades. The former is largely used in a homily (wrongly ascribed to him) on Antichrist and the End of the World, in which those who hide themselves in caves and under rocks are assumed to be hermits. His text appears to be less redundant than that of our present Greek MSS.
The same holds of the quotations of Origen († 253), St Methodius († 303? 311?) and St Epiphanius († 402). Making every allowance for freedom of quotation, it seems probable that all used a type of text not represented in our MSS. This bears out the impression which the language of Origen and St Jerome is calculated to make, that in the 3rd and 4th century a much greater variety of readings prevailed than can be traced in our present documents.
Andreas, Archbishop of Caesarea in the latter part of the 5th century, wrote a commentary on the Book, which, when the copious materials for a critical edition have been used, will enable us to determine the text he followed, which is independent of the Uncials, though probably on the whole inferior to that of the best of them.
His successor Arethas (who is generally identified with the author of a panegyric on a 9th century saint) also wrote a commentary, which is of comparatively little importance for textual criticism, except that he mentions from time to time various readings for which he is the only or the oldest authority.
Latin. Tertullian (199–230 A.D.) quotes largely; but it is not yet decided whether from the Old Latin or direct from the Greek: nor can the extent to which his text is singular be ascertained till all his works have been published with an adequate critical apparatus.
St Cyprian († 258) also quotes largely: his works have been edited by Hartel in the Vienna Corpus.
Tyconius, a Donatist grammarian of the latter part of the 4th century, though his commentary is only known at second hand, is an important witness to a transitional stage of the Latin Text.
St Jerome († 420) is also important; for his quotations by no means always agree with his rather perfunctory revision of the text.
St Augustine († 431); see above, p. lxxvii.
The mediaeval commentators, Beda (7th century), Beatus (8th century), Ansbertus (8th century) and Haymo († 843), all throw some subsidiary light on the history of the Latin Text.
The critical determination of the text is less certain than in the other books of the New Testament: for the materials are not only less abundant but less trustworthy. There is no representative of the so-called ‘Neutral Text’ comparable to B or even to א in the earlier books. The fourth century was certainly a very important time in the history of the text of the New Testament, and during this time the text of the Apocalypse was exposed to peculiar dangers. It was not generally regarded in the East as canonical or regularly read in the Churches, so that the tendency of scribes to correct the supposed errors of their predecessors was not checked by the familiarity of the faithful with its language. In the West, on the other hand, it retained its place in the Canon unquestioned; and hence, though the Latin authorities do not give a better text of this Book than of others, they may prove to have a greater relative value than in books where we still possess the ‘Neutral Text.’ Fortunately the Revelation (thanks to Primasius) is the one book besides the Gospels, of which we have a continuous Old Latin text, ‘unmixed’ though not ‘uncorrupted;’ and the parallels from Cyprian prove that the corruptions are not very serious. The Latin documents among other things supply evidence (unaffected by the frequent confusion between 3rd fut. in -bit, and 3rd perf. in -vit) that their Greek archetypes had aorists where our present Greek MSS. have futures. Editors however have hitherto adhered to the rule of basing their text exclusively upon uncials, and only using versions and cursives as a makeweight when uncials differ. So far as the cursives have been collated they appear to differ more from one another than the 1273 known MSS. of the Gospels; but they have not yet been classified, though this might be perhaps facilitated, as Delitzsch thought, by the fact that so many of them contain the commentaries of Andreas and Arethas, and presumably reproduce corresponding texts.
The same type of text underlies ACP A has preserved it best. C when alone is not seldom right; in c. 13., one of the most perplexing chapters, it has preserved traces of a shorter text. CP together generally represent an unfortunate revision, though now and again they enable us to correct clerical errors in A. B2 (especially when joined by P) is the best authority for such an approach to a received mediaeval text as can be said to exist; Griesbach based his text chiefly on it and its cursive allies; grammatical difficulties are often skilfully minimised; some of its additions to the text of ACP seem to represent different readings rather than glosses. א B2 is a sufficiently common group to shew that many of the characteristic readings of B2 are very old: and there is room for considerable difference of opinion how far this group may be used to check the group headed by A, and especially those readings where A stands alone. א also often coincides with Latin authorities. P is a genuine though degenerate descendant of the common parent of AC: it has many of the faults of B2 and some of its own. Often a reading is supported by a group headed P1, with or without support from outlying versions. א P1 is also not an uncommon group. Both B2 and P contain a text demonstrably affected by the commentaries of Andreas and Arcthas. Whether annotations from Melito or Apollonius may have invaded all existing documents is a curious question which awaits discussion. If it should prove (see Excursus III.) that the Revelation grew up by degrees in the hands of one or more writers, this would impart a new element of uncertainty into the text. Spitta is of opinion that the Redactor is responsible for most of the grammatical irregularities.
5. ἀγαπῶντι, with אAB2C. ἀγαπήσαντι Text. Rec with P 1 And Areth vg (qui dilexit) arm
λύσαντι, with אActs 1 syr vet. lat. (cod. flor et Primas) arm λούσαντι Text. Rec with B2P vg cop æth Areth
6. βασιλείαν ἱερεῖς, with א*AC. This reading has the support of the Old Latin (regnum nostrum sacerdotes cod. flor), and the Vulgate (nostrum regnum sacerdotes am f u. harl.); both of which however read ἡμῶν (C) before βασιλείαν, instead of ἡμᾶς (אB2P) or ἡμῖν (A), βασιλείαν καὶ ἱερεῖς א° Primas; βασιλεῖς καὶ ἰερεῖς Text. Rec with P 1 And
8. τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ. Text. Rec adds to this ἀρχὴ καὶ τέλος with א* 1 vg cop
11. λεγούσης δ βλέπεις. Text. Rec reads with 1 Andp. and (with small variants) P 7, as follows: λεγούσης ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ A καὶ τὸ Ω, ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος καὶ ὃ βλέπεις.
13. ὅμοιον υἱῷ, with CP And Areth A reads ὁμοίωμα υἱῷ. Tisch and WH read ὅμοιον υἱὸν (WH marg. υἱῷ) with אB2 1.
14. λευκαὶ ὡς ἔριον λευκόν, ὡς χιών. The Old Latin (cod. flor et Primas), reads velut lana ut nix.
15. πεπυρωμένης, so Lach and WH with AC Vet. Lat. (cod. flor Primas Cyp) de fornace ignea. Tisch reads πεπυρωμένῳ with א. Text. Rec and WH marg. read πεπυρωμένοι with B2P.
16. καὶ ἔχων. א*. The Old Latin (cod. flor Primas Cyp) read καὶ εἱχεν; A omits ἔχων and reads ἀστέρες below.
δίστομος ὀξεῖα. So all Greek MSS.; but the Old Latin (cod. flor Primas Cyp) reads utrimque (or utrumque) acutus: possibly ὀξεῖα has been transferred here from Revelation 19:15, where in many MSS. δίστομος has been carried over from this passage.
18. καὶ ὁ ζῶν. א omits καί; Primas omits all three words. If ὁ ζῶν was a marginal note, it would enter the text at first without καί.
19. μέλλει, with א° AB2P δεῖ μέλλειν א*; δεῖ μέλλει C: oportet vet. lat. vg
the Third Week of Lent