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by Henry Alford
AUTHORSHIP, AND CANONICITY
1. THE Author of this book calls himself in more places than one by the name John, ch. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:9, Revelation 22:8. The general view has been, that this name represents St. John the son of Zebedee, the Writer of the Gospel and the three Epistles, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
2. This view rests on external, and on internal evidence. I shall first specify both these, and then pass on to other views respecting the authorship. And in so doing, I shall at present cite merely those testimonies which bear more or less directly on the authorship. The most ancient are the following:
3. Justin Martyr, Dial. 81, p. 179 (written between A.D. 139 and 161): καὶ … παρʼ ἡμῖν ἀνήρ τις, ᾧ ὄνομα ἰωάννης, εἷς τῶν ἀποστόλων τοῦ χριστοῦ, ἐν ἀποκαλύψει γενομένῃ αὐτῷ χίλια ἔτη ποιήσειν ἐν ἱερουσαλὴμ τοὺς τῷ ἡμετέρῳ χριστῷ πιστεύσαντας προεφήτευσε, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα τὴν καθολικὴν καὶ συνελόντι φάναι αἰωνίαν ὁμοθυμαδὸν ἅμα πάντων ἀνάστασιν γενήσεσθαι καὶ κρίσιν.
We may mention by the way, that this testimony of Justin is doubly important, as referred to by Eusebius, himself no believer in the apostolic authorship: H. E. iv. 18: μέμνηται δὲ καὶ τῆς ἰωάννου ἀποκαλύψεως σαφῶς τοῦ ἀποστόλου αὐτὴν εἶναι λέγων.
The authenticity and value of the passage of Justin has been discussed at considerable length and with much candour by Lücke, Einl. pp. 548–56. He, himself a disbeliever in St. John’s authorship, confesses that it is a genuine and decided testimony in its favour.
4. Melito, bishop of Sardis (+ cir. 171), is said by Euseb. H. E. iv. 26, to have written treatises (or a treatise, but the plural is more likely: and so Jer(219) Catal. 24, vol. ii. p. 867: “de diabolo librum unum, de Apocalypsi Joannis librum unum”) on the devil, and on the Apocalypse of John: καὶ τὰ περὶ τοῦ διαβόλου, καὶ τῆς ἀποκαλύψεως ἰωάννου. It is fairly reasoned that Eusebius would hardly have failed to notice, supposing him to have seen Melito’s work, any view of his which doubted the apostolic origin: and that this may therefore be legitimately taken as an indirect testimony in its favour. See Lücke, p. 564; Stuart, p. 258; Davidson, Introd. iii. 540.
5. Of a similar indirect nature are the two next testimonies. Theophilus, bishop of Antioch (+ cir. 180), whose Libri ad Autolycum are still extant, is said by Euseb. iv. 24 to have written a book πρὸς τὴν αἵρεσιν ἑρμογένους τὴν ἐπιγραφὴν ἔχον, ἐν ᾧ ἐκ τῆς ἀποκαλύψεως ἰωάννου κέχρηται μαρτυρίαις.
6. And similarly Eusebius, H. E. Revelation 22:18, says of Apollonius (of Ephesus? so in the treatise Prædestinatus, cent. v.: see Lücke, p. 567), who flourished in Asia Minor at the end of cent. ii., and wrote against the Montanists, thereby making his testimony more important: κέχρηται δὲ καὶ μαρτυρίαις ἀπὸ τῆς ἰωάννου ἀποκαλύψεως· καὶ νεκρὸν δὲ δυνάμει θείᾳ πρὸς αὐτοῦ ἰωάννου ἐν τῇ ἐφέσῳ ἐγηγέρθαι ἱστορεῖ. From this latter sentence there can be no doubt that Apollonius regarded the Apocalypse as the work of John the Apostle.
7. We now come to the principal second century witness, Irenæus (+ cir. 180). Respecting the value of his testimony, it may suffice to remind the student that he had been a hearer of Polycarp, the disciple of St. John. And this testimony occurs up and down his writings in great abundance, and in the most decisive terms. “Joannes domini discipulus” is stated to have written the Apocalypse in Hær. iv. 20. 11; 30. 4; v. 26. 1; 35. 2, pp. 256, 268, 323, 336: and “Joannes” in iv. 21. 3; v. 36. 3, pp. 258, 337. And this John can be no other than the Apostle: for he says, iii. 1. 1, p. 174, ἰωάννης ὁ μαθητὴς τοῦ κυρίου (in the Latin, as above) ὁ καὶ ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος αὐτοῦ ἀναπεσών, καὶ αὐτὸς ἐξέδωκε τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ἐν ἐφέσῳ τῆς ἀσίας διατρίβων. But the most remarkable testimony, and one which will come before us again and again during the course of these Prolegomena, is in v. 30. 1–3, pp. 328 ff. There, having given certain reasons for the number of Antichrist’s name being 666, he proceeds, τούτων δὲ οὕτως ἐχόντων, καὶ ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς σπουδαίοις καὶ ἀρχαίοις ἀντιγράφοις τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ τούτου κειμένου, καὶ μαρτυρούντων αὐτῶν ἐκείνων τῶν κατʼ ὄψιν τὸν ἰωάννην ἑωρακότων.… Then, after some remarks, and stating two names current as suiting the number, he concludes, ἡμεῖς οὖν οὐκ ἀποκινδυνεύομεν περὶ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ ἀντιχριστοῦ, ἀποφαινόμενοι βεβαιωτικῶς· εἰ γὰρ ἔδει ἀναφανδὸν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ κηρύττεσθαι τοὔνομα αὐτοῦ διʼ ἐκείνου ἂν ἐῤῥέθη τοῦ καὶ τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν ἑωρακότος. οὐδὲ γὰρ πρὸ πολλοῦ χρόνου ἑωράθη, ἀλλὰ σχεδὸν ἐπὶ τῆς ἡμετέρας γενεᾶς, πρὸς τῷ τέλει τῆς δομετιανοῦ ἀρχῆς.
This is beyond question the most important evidence which has yet come before us. And we may observe that it is in no way affected by any opinion which we may have formed respecting Irenæus’s exegetical merits, nor by any of his peculiar opinions. He here merely asserts what, if he were a man of ordinary power of collecting and retaining facts, he must very well have known for certain.
8. Keeping at present to the direct witnesses for the authorship by St. John, we next come to Tertullian (+ cir. 220). His testimonies are many and decisive.
Adv. Marcion. iii. 14, vol. ii. p. 340: “Nam et apostolus Johannes in apocalypsi ensem describit ex ore Domini prodeuntem.…”
Ib. 24, p. 356: “Hanc (cœlestem civitatem) et Ezekiel novit, et apostolus Joannes vidit.”
De Pudicitia 19, p. 1017: “Sed quoniam usque de Paulo, quando etiam Joannes nescio quid diversæ parti supplaudere videatur, quasi in apocalypsi manifeste fornicationi posuerit pœnitentiæ auxilium, ubi ad angelum Thyatirenorum,” &c.
See also de Resurr. 27, p. 834; de Anima, 8, p. 658; adv. Judæos, 9, p. 620; de Cor. Militis, 13, p. 96; adv. Gnosticos, 12, p. 147.
9. The fragment on the Canon called by the name of Muratori, and written cir. 200, says, “et Joannes enim in Apocalypsi licet septem ecclesiis scribat, tamen omnibus dicit …,” where the context shews that the Apostle John must be intended.
10. Hippolytus, bishop of Ostia (Portus Romanus), cir. 240, in his writings very frequently quotes the Apocalypse, and almost always with ἰωάννης λέγει. Whom he meant by ἰωάννης is evident from one passage, De antichristo, c. 36, Migne, Patr. Gr., vol. x. p. 756: λέγε μοι, μακάριε ἰωάννη, ἀπόστολε καὶ μαθητὰ τοῦ κυρίου, τί εἶδες καὶ ἤκουσας περὶ βαβυλῶνος. And then he proceeds to quote ch. Revelation 17:1-18. Multitudes of other citations will be found by consulting the index to Lagarde’s edition(220). And one of his principal works, as specified in the catalogue found inscribed on his statue, was ἀπολογία (or τά, for the word has become obliterated, only A being now legible) ὑπὲρ τοῦ κατὰ ἰωάννην εὐαγγελίου καὶ ἀποκαλύψεως: mentioned also by Jerome, Catal. 61, vol. ii. p. 901.
11. Clement of Alexandria (cir. 200), in his Strom. vi. 13 (106), p. 793 P., says of the faithful presbyter, οὗτος πρεσβύτερος … ἐν τοῖς εἴκοσι καὶ τέσσαρσι καθεδεῖται θρόνοις, ὥς φησιν ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει ἰωάννης. And elsewhere he fixes this name as meaning the Apostle, by saying in his Quis dives salv. § 42, p. 959: ἄκουσον μῦθον, οὐ μῦθον ἀλλʼ ὄντα λόγον, περὶ ἰωάννου τοῦ ἀποστόλου παραδεδομένον … ἐπειδὴ γὰρ τοῦ τυράννου τελευτήσαντος ἀπὸ τῆς πάτμου τῆς νήσου μετῆλθεν ἐπὶ τὴν ἔφεσον.…: and then he proceeds to tell the well-known story of St. John and the young robber.
12. Origen, the scholar of Clement (+ cir. 233), who so diligently enquired into and reported any doubts or disputes about the canonicity and genuineness of the books of the N. T., appears not to have known of any which regarded the Apocalypse. In a passage of his Commentary on St. Matt. preserved by Euseb. H. E. vi. 25, he says, τί δεῖ περὶ τοῦ ἀναπεσόντος λέγειν ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος τοῦ ἰησοῦ, ἰωάννου, ὃς εὐαγγέλιον ἓν καταλέλοιπεν, ὁμολογῶν δύνασθαι τοσαῦτα ποιήσειν ἃ οὐδὲ ὁ κόσμος χωρῆσαι ἐδύνατο; ἔγραψε δὲ καὶ τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν, κελευσθεὶς σιωπῆσαι καὶ μὴ γράψαι τὰς τῶν ἑπτὰ βροντῶν φωνὰς.
We have also this remarkable testimony in his Commentary on Matt. tom. xvi. 6, vol. v. p. 719 f.: καὶ τὸ βάπτισμα ἐβαπτίσθησαν οἱ τοῦ ζεβεδαίου υἱοί, ἐπείπερ ἡρώδης μὲν ἀπέκτεινεν ἰάκωβον τὸν ἰωάννου μαχαίρᾳ, ὁ δὲ ῥωμαίων βασιλεύς, ὡς ἡ παράδοσις διδάσκει, κατεδίκασε τὸν ἰωάννην μαρτυροῦντα διὰ τὸν τῆς ἀληθείας λόγον εἰς πάτμον τὴν νῆσον. διδάσκει δὲ τὰ περὶ τοῦ μαρτυρίου αὐτοῦ ἰωάννης, μὴ λέγων τίς αὐτὸν κατεδίκασε, φάσκων ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει ταῦτα, ἐγὼ ἰωάννης … τοῦ θεοῦ (Revelation 1:9), καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς. καὶ ἔοικε τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν ἐν τῇ νήσῳ τεθεωρηκέναι.
And Origen again repeatedly cites the Apocalypse without the least indication of doubt as to its author: as may be seen by consulting any of the indices to the editions. His procedure in this case forms a striking contrast to that in the case of the Epistle to the Hebrews: see Prolegg. to this vol. ch. i. § i. 16–23.
13. Still keeping to those Fathers who give definite testimony as to the authorship, we come to Victorinus, bishop of Pettau in Pannonia, who suffered martyrdom under Diocletian in 303. His is the earliest extant commentary on the Apocalypse. On ch. Revelation 10:4, he says (see Migne, Patr. Lat., vol. v. p. 333), “Sed quia dicit se scripturum fuisse (Joannes) quanta locuta fuissent tonitrua, id est, quæcunque in veteri testamento erant obscura prædicata, vetatur ea scribere sed relinquere ea signata, quia est Apostolus.…”
And afterwards, on “oportet autem te iterum prophetare,” “Hoc est, propterea quod quando hæc Joannes vidit, erat in insula Pathmos, in metallo damnatus a Domitiano Cæsare. Ibi ergo vidit Apocalypsin: et cum jam senior putaret se per passionem accepturum receptionem, interfecto Domitiano omnia judicia ejus soluta sunt, et Joannes de metallo dimissus, sic postea tradidit hanc eandem quam acceperat a Deo Apocalypsin.”
14. Ephrem Syrus (+ cir. 378), the greatest Father in the Syrian church, repeatedly in his numerous writings cites the Apocalypse as canonical, and ascribes it to John: see the reff. in Stuart’s Introduction, p. 271. In the Greek translation of his works, we read in the second Homily on the Second Advent of the Lord, καθὼς ἀκούομεν τοῦ ἀποστόλου λέγοντος, and then he quotes Revelation 21:4-5; vol. ii. p. 248, ed. Assem. See Lücke, Einl. p. 598, note.
Now these citations are the more remarkable, because the old Syriac or Peschito version does not contain the Apocalypse: as neither indeed apparently did the later or Philoxenian version originally, nor its republication by Thomas of Harkel (see Lücke, p. 598). It may fairly be asked then, How came Ephrem by his Syriac version of the Apocalypse (for he seems not to have been acquainted with Greek)? And, How came the Peschito to want the Apocalypse, if it was held to be written by the Apostle?
15. It would exceed the limits of these Prolegomena to enter into the answers to these questions, which have been variously given: by Hug and Thiersch, that the Peschito originally contained the book, and that it only became excluded in the fourth century through the influence of the schools of Antioch and Nisibis: by Walton and Wichelhaus, that the Peschito was made in the first century, when as yet the Apocalypse had not won its way among the canonical books: by Hengstenberg, that the Peschito was not made till the end of the third century, after the objections against the apostolicity of the book had been raised by Dionysius of Alexandria(221).
16. These answers are all discussed by Lücke, Einl. pp. 597–605, and severally rejected. His own solution is by no means satisfactory as to the former of the two questions,—how Ephrem came by his Syriac version. The latter he answers by postponing the date of the reception of the Apocalypse into the canon till after the publication of the Peschito, i. e. as now generally acknowledged, the end of the second century.
17. Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus at the end of the fourth century, cites the Apocalypse as written by the Apostle. In combating the Alogi, who rejected the gospel of John and the Apocalypse, he speaks much and warmly of that book, and says among other things (Hær. li. 35, p. 457), οἵ τε ἅγιοι προφῆται καὶ οἱ ἅγιοι ἀπόστολοι, ἐν οἷς καὶ ὁ ἅγιος ἰωάννης διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου καὶ τῶν ἐπιστολῶν καὶ τῆς ἀποκαλύψεως ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ χαρίσματος τοῦ ἁγίου μεταδέδωκε: and ib. 32, p. 455, having cited 1 Corinthians 15:52, he proceeds, συνᾴδοντος τοίνυν τοῦ ἀποστόλου τῷ ἁγίῳ ἀποστόλῳ ἰωάννῃ ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει, ποία τις ὑπολείπεται ἀντιλογία;
18. Basil the Great (+ 378), adv. Eunomium ii. 14, vol. i. p. 249, says, τὰ παρὰ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος διὰ τοῦ μακαρίου ἰωάννου λαληθέντα ἡμῖν, ὅτι ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος κ. τ. λ., and afterwards, ἀλλʼ αὐτὸς ἡμῖν ὁ εὐαγγελιστὴς ἐν ἑτέρῳ λόγῳ, τοῦ τοιούτου ἦν τὸ σημαινόμενον ἔδειξεν, εἰπών, ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ παντοκράτωρ, Revelation 1:8.
19. Hilary of Poictiers (+ 368), in his Prologue to the Psalms, says (c. 6, vol. i. p. 5), “ita beati Johannis Apocalypsi docemur: et angelo Philadelphiæ Ecclesiæ scribe.” So also in his Enarratio in Ps. 1:12, p. 26, “sanctus Joannes in Apocalypsi testatur, dicens, Revelation 22:2.” Stuart cites from p. 891 of the Paris edn. of 1693,—“et ex familiaritate Domini revelatione cœlestium mysteriorum dignus Johannes(222).”
20. Athanasius (+ 373) in his Orat. i. contra Arianos, § i. 11, vol. i. (ii. Migne) p. 327, cites John 1:1, and then says, καὶ ἐν ἀποκαλύψει τάδε λέγει, ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος.
21. Gregory of Nyssa, brother of Basil the Great (+ 395), in his discourse, “In suam ordinationem,” vol. iii. p. 546, Migne, says, ἤκουσα τοῦ εὐαγγελιστοῦ ἰωάννου ἐν ἀποκρύφοις πρὸς τοὺς τοιούτους διʼ αἰνίγματος λέγοντος ὡς δεὸν ἀκριβῶς ζέειν μὲν πάντως τῷ πνεύματι, κατεψύχθαι δὲ τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ· ὄφελον γὰρ ἦσθά φησι ψυχρὸς ἢ ζεστός, κ. τ. λ. Revelation 3:15. Of course this cannot mean that the Revelation is what we now commonly know as an apocryphal book, or, as Lücke remarks, the sentence would contradict itself: but ἀπόκρυφα here is equivalent to μυστικὰ or προφητικά: in the same way as Dion. Areop. De Eccl. Hierarch. iii. 4, vol. i. p. 287, calls the book τὴν κρυφίαν καὶ μυστικὴν ἐποψίαν τοῦ τῶν μαθητῶν ἀγαπητοῦ καὶ θεσπεσίου.
22. Didymus (+ 394) in his Enarr. in Epist. i. Joann. iv. 1, 2, p. 1795, says, “Et in apocalypsi frequenter Joannes (the writer of the Epistle) propheta vocatur.”
23. Ambrose (+ 397) constantly cites the Apocalypse as the work of the Apostle John: e. g. De virginitate 14 (86), vol. iii. p. 234: “Quomodo igitur adscendamus ad cœlum, docet Evangelista qui dicit Et duxit me Spiritus in montem magnum, &c.” Revelation 21:10; and De Spiritu Sancto iii. 20 (153), p. 697, “Sic enim habes, dicente Johanne evangelista Et ostendit mihi flumen aquæ vivæ, &c.” Revelation 22:1 ff.
24. Augustine (+ 430) uses every where the Apocalypse as a genuine production of the Apostle and Evangelist John. Thus we have, Ep. 55 (cxix.) 6 (10), vol. ii. p. 209, “Joannes apostolus in apocalypsi:” De Civ. Dei 22:7. 1, vol. vii. p. 666, “Joannes Evangelista in libro qui dicitur apocalypsis.” In Joan. Tract. xxxvi. 5, vol. iii. p. 1665,—“in Apocalypsi ipsius Joannis cujus est hoc evangelium:” see also Tract. xiii. 2, p. 1493; De peccat. mer. ii. 7 (8), vol. x. p. 156; de Trinit. ii. 6 (11), vol. viii. p. 852, &c.(223)
(223) It hardly appears fair in Lücke to lay a stress on such expressions as this “ipsins Joannis cujus est,” as implying that Augustine thought it necessary to protest by implication against the opposite view. There is nothing in the expression which he might not very well have said in speaking of the Acts as related to the Gospel of St. Luke: in which case there was no doubt.
25. Jerome (+ 420), adv. Jovin. i. 26, vol. ii. p. 280, speaks of the Apostle John as also being a prophet, “vidit enim in Pathmos insula, in qua fuerat a Domitiano principe ob Domini martyrium relegatus, apocalypsin, infinita futurorum mysteria continentem.” And then follows, as also in his Catal. 9, vol. ii. p. 845, see below, § ii. par. 12, Irenæus’s account of the place and time of writing the book.
We shall have to adduce Jerome again in treating of the canonicity. And now that we have arrived at the beginning of the fifth century, the latter question becomes historically the more important of the two, and indeed the two are henceforth hardly capable of being treated apart.
26. Before we pass to the testimonies against the authorship by the Apostle and Evangelist St. John, let us briefly review the course of evidence which we have adduced in its favour. It will be very instructive to compare its character with that of the evidence for the Pauline authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews, as collected in the Prolegomena to that Epistle.
27. There we found that, while there prevailed in the great majority of the more ancient Fathers a habit, when they are speaking loosely, or ad populum, of citing the Epistle as the work of St. Paul,—on the one hand, all attempts fail to discover any general ecclesiastical tradition to this effect: and on the other, the greatest and ablest of these writers themselves, when speaking guardedly, throw doubt on the Pauline authorship, while some of them set it aside altogether. In course of time, we there also found, the habit of citing the Epistle as St. Paul’s became more general: then sprung up assertion, more and more strong, that it veritably was his: till at last it was made an article of faith to believe it to be so. So that the history of opinion in that case may be described as the gradual growing up of a belief which was entirely void of general reception in the ancient church.
28. We are not yet prepared to enter on the whole of the corresponding history of opinion in this case: but as far as we have gone, it may be described as the very converse of the other. The apostolic authorship rests on the firmest traditional ground. We have it assured to us by one who had companied with men that had known St. John himself: we have it held in continuous succession by Fathers in all parts of the church. Nowhere, in primitive times, does there appear any counter-tradition on the subject. We have nothing corresponding to the plain testimonies of Tertullian in favour of Barnabas, or of Origen that there was an ἱστορία come down that Clement of Rome or St. Luke had written the Epistle. In subsequent paragraphs we shall see how variation of opinion was first introduced, and why.
29. But before doing so, it will be well to complete this portion of our enquiry, by mentioning those early writings and Fathers which, though they do not expressly state who was the author of the book, yet cite it as canonical, or at all events shew that they were acquainted with and approved it.
30. Among these the very earliest have been matter of considerable question. The supposed allusions in Polycarp, for instance, though strongly maintained by Hengstenberg, are really so faint and distant, that none but an advocate would ever have perceived them. Such are, e. g. the expression in Polyc. ad Phil. c. l, p. 1005, Migne, ἔλεος ὑμῖν κ. εἰρήνη παρὰ θεοῦ παντοκράτορος, seeing that ὁ παντοκράτωρ is as a N. T. word confined to the Apocalypse, being in 2 Corinthians 6:18 cited from the O. T.:—in p. 1012, c. 8, μιμηταὶ οὖν γενώμεθα τῆς ὑπομονῆς αὐτοῦ, because in Rev. we find ἡ ὑπομονὴ [ ἰησοῦ], (Revelation 1:9, rec.) Revelation 3:10. But so do we in 2 Thessalonians 3:5; indeed it need not be an allusion at all, being a very obvious expression. And Hengstenberg’s next instance, which he calls as good as an express citation of the Apocalypse as an inspired writing, c. 6, p. 1012, οὕτως οὖν δουλεύσωμεν αὐτῷ μετὰ φόβου καὶ πάσης εὐλαβείας, καθὼς αὐτὸς ἐνετείλατο, καὶ οἱ εὐαγγελισάμενοι ὑμᾶς ἀπόστολοι, καὶ οἱ προφῆται οἱ προκηρύξαντες τὴν ἔλευσιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν, is in reality no instance at all, the citation being from Hebrews 12:28, and the following words being just as applicable to St. James and St. Jude, as to St. John. Nay, Hengstenberg’s argument has two edges: for if the allusion here be to the Apocalypse, then we have a most important early witness to its not having been written by an Apostle.
31. The passages which Hengstenberg brings from the Epistle of the Church of Smyrna on the martyrdom of Polycarp, are even more uncertain and far-fetched(224). Such advocacy is much to be lamented: it tends to weaken instead of strengthening the real evidence.
32. The next testimony produced is however of a very different kind. It is that of Papias, of whom Iren., Hær. v. 33. 4, p. 333, in adducing the traditional words of our Lord respecting the millennial abundance of the earth, says, ταῦτα δὲ καὶ παπίας ἰωάννου μὲν ἀκουστής, πολυκάρπου δὲ ἑταῖρος γεγονώς, ἀρχαῖος ἀνήρ, ἐγγράφως ἐπιμαρτυρεῖ ἐν τῇ τετάρτῃ τῶν αὐτοῦ βίβλων· ἔστι γὰρ αὐτῷ πέντε βιβλία συντεταγμένα. It is well known that Eusebius, in his famous chapter, H. E. iii. 39s, attempts to set aside this ἰωάννου ἀκουστής by citing from Papias himself his assertion that he set down in his work what he had heard as the sayings of the Apostles, naming St. John among them. But there is nothing to prevent his having united both characters,—that of a hearer, and that of a collector of sayings: and Irenæus, the scholar of Polycarp, is hardly likely to have been mistaken on such a point. Now regarding Papias, as a witness for the Apocalypse, we have a scholium of Andreas, of Cappadocia, at the end of the fifth century (see Lücke, p. 525 note), printed in substance in Cramer’s Catena, p. 176, at the beginning of the commentaries on the Apocalypse: περὶ μὲν τοῦ θεοπνεύστου τῆς βίβλου περιττὸν μηκύνειν τὸν λόγον ἡγούμεθα, τῶν μακαρίων γρηγορίου φημὶ τοῦ θεολόγου καὶ κυρίλλου, προσέτι τε καὶ τῶν ἀρχαιοτέρων παππίου, εἰρηναίου, ΄εθοδίου καὶ ἱππολύτου ταύτῃ προσμαρτυρούντων τὸ ἀξιόπιστον· παρʼ ὧν καὶ ἡμεῖς πολλὰς λαβόντες ἀφορμὰς εἰς τοῦτο ἐληλύθαμεν, καθὼς ἐν τισὶ τόποις χρήσεις τούτων παρεθέμεθα. And accordingly, on Revelation 12:7-9, he expressly cites Papias’s work: παππίας δὲ οὕτως ἐπὶ τῆς λέξεως(225), κ. τ. λ.
33. There seems to be ample proof here that Papias did maintain, as from what we otherwise know we should expect, the inspiration, i. e. the canonicity of the book. All that has been argued on the other side seems to me to fail to obviate the fact, or to weaken the great importance of this early testimony. See the whole discussed at length in Stuart, pp. 250–254: Lücke, pp. 524–546: Hengstenberg, pp. 101–116. I may be permitted to say, that both the last-mentioned Commentators have suffered themselves to be blinded as to the real worth of the evidence by their zeal to serve each his own hypothesis.
34. The Epistle of the churches of Lyons and Vienne to the churches of Asia and Phrygia concerning the persecution which befell them under Marcus Aurelius, A.D. 177, is preserved by Eusebius, H. E. Revelation 12:1-2. The citations in it from the Apocalypse are unmistakable. In speaking of the martyr, Vettius Epagathus, they say, ἦν γαρ καὶ ἔστι γνήσιος χριστοῦ μαθητὴς ἀκολουθῶν τῷ ἀρνίῳ ὅπου ἂν ὑπάγῃ (Revelation 14:4). They account for the rage of the Pagans against the Christians by its being the fulfilment of Revelation 22:11, ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ, ὁ ἄνομος ἀνομησάτω ἔτι καὶ ὁ δίκαιος δικαιωθήτω ἔτι(226). They call Christ ὁ πιστὸς κ. ἀληθινὸς μάρτυς and ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν, expressions manifestly taken from Revelation 1:5; Revelation 3:14. See Lücke, pp. 567, 568.
35. The testimony of Polycrates of Ephesus, in Euseb. H. E. v. 24, concerning the burial of St. John in Ephesus, has been pressed by Hengstenberg into the service of the canonicity of the Apocalypse, but is far too uncertain in meaning to be fairly introduced(227). See Hengstb., pp. 125–129: and Lücke, pp. 568–571.
36. Cyprian (cir. 250) repeatedly refers to the Apocalypse, and unhesitatingly treats it as part of Holy Scripture. In Ep. xiii. 1, p. 260, he says, “maxime cum scriptum sit Memento unde cecideris, et age pœnitentiam,” Revelation 2:5; see also Ep. xxviii. 1, p. 300, lii. (ad Antonianum Ep. x., Migne, Patr. Lat. vol. iii.) 22, p. 787. In Ep. xxvi. 4, p. 293, he cites the Apocalypse as on a level with the Gospels: “tuba Evangelii sui nos excitat Dominus dicens, Qui plus diligit patrem, &c.…: et iterum, Beati qui persecutionem passi fuerint, &c.…: et, Vincenti dabo sedere super thronum meum, &c.” Revelation 3:21.
In Ep. lii. ubi supra, “pœnitentiam non agenti Dominus comminatur; Habeo, inquit, adversus te multa, &c.” Revelation 2:20.
De lapsis, c. 27, p. 488, “ipse quoque Dominus præmoneat et præstruat dicens Et scient omnes ecclesiæ, &c.…” Revelation 2:23.
De opere et eleem. c. 14, p. 611, “Audi in Apocalypsi Domini tui vocem.… Dicis, inquit, dives sum, &c.…” Revelation 3:17. The opening chapters of the treatise, De Exhortatione Martyrii, consist of Scripture testimonies strung together. In them he cites the Apocalypse as Scripture, c. 2, 3, 8, pp. 657 f., 661 (“et in Apocalypsi eadem loquitur divinæ prædicationis hortatio dicens”), 10, 11, 12. The same is the case in the Libri Testimoniorum.
Besides these places Stuart quotes from his works, p. 168, “Aquas namque populos significare in Apocalypsi Scriptura divina declarat, dicens, Aquæ, &c.” Revelation 17:15.
37. Athanasius(228) (+ cir. 373) gives in his 23rd ἐπιστολὴ ἑορταστική, Opp. Pars ii. vol. ii. p. 156, a list of the books of the sacred canon, dividing them into three classes: the first of these being the canonical, which are the sources of salvation: in which only is the true doctrine of religion declared, to which no man can add, and from which none can take away: the second ecclesiastical—such as may be read in the church for edification, but are not inspired: the third, apocryphal, written by heretics, and supposititious. In the first class he places the Apocalypse: and in his writings accordingly he refers to it frequently(229).
38. In Chrysostom’s own works we have no comments on the Apocalypse, nor any distinct references to it as Scripture. That he was acquainted with it, plainly appears from such passages as that in Hom. i. on Matt. § 8, vol. vii. p. 23, ed. Migne, where in speaking of the heavenly city, he says, καταμάθωμεν οὖν αὐτῆς τὰ θεμέλια, τὰς πύλας τὰς ἀπὸ σαπφείρου καὶ μαργαριτῶν συγκειμένας.
Suidas says under ἰωάννης, δέχεται δὲ ὁ χρυσόστομος καὶ τὰς ἐπιστολὰς αὐτοῦ τρεῖς, καὶ τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν.
39. I recur again to Jerome’s testimony(230). In his letter to Paulinus, Ep. 53, he gives the whole sacred canon. And in including the Apocalypse in it, he remarks, § 8, vol. i. p. 280, “Apocalypsis Joannis tot habet sacramenta quot verba. Parum dixi pro merito voluminis. Laus omnis inferior est. In verbis singulis multiplices latent intelligentiæ.” In his Comm. on Psalms 149, vol. vii. App. p. 1267, Migne, he says, “legimus in Apocalypsi Joannis, quæ in ecclesiis legitur et recipitur; neque enim inter apocryphas scripturas habetur, sed inter ecclesiasticas.”
In his Ep. to Dardanus, § 3 (vol. i. p. 971), we have the passage cited at length in the Proleg. to the Epistle to the Hebrews, § i. par. 74, in which he says, “quod si eam (the Ep. to the Heb.) Latinorum consuetudo non recipit inter scripturas canonicas, nec Græcorum quidem ecclesiæ Apocalypsin Joannis eadem libertate suscipiunt. et tamen nos utramque suscipimus, nequaquam hujus temporis consuetudinem, sed veterum scriptorum auctoritatem sequentes, qui plerumque utriusque abutuntur testimoniis, non ut interdum de apocryphis facere solent, quippe qui et gentilium literarum raro utantur exemplis, sed quasi canonicis.”
40. It is hardly worth while to cite later and less important authorities on this side. They will be found enumerated in Stuart, Introd. p. 276: Davidson, p. 545: and still more at length in Lücke, pp. 638 ff. Of the general tendency of later tradition I shall speak below, par. 63.
41. I now come to consider those ancient authorities which impugn the apostolicity and canonicity of the book.
42. First among these in point of time, though not of importance, are the Antimontanists or Alogi of the end of the second and beginning of the third century (see Epiphan. Hær. li. 32 ff. pp. 455 ff.: Neander, Kirchengesch. i. 2, p. 907) who rejected the writings of St. John. οὐκ αἰδοῦνται δὲ πάλιν, says Epiphanius, οἱ τοιοῦτοι κατὰ τῶν ὑπὸ τοῦ ἁγίου ἰωάννου εἰρημένων ἐξοπλιζόμενοι, νομίζοντες μή πη ἄρα δύνωνται τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἀνατρέπειν.… φάσκουσι δὲ κατὰ τῆς ἀποκαλύψεως τάδε χλευάζοντες.… Then follow their objections against the book, which are entirely of a subjective character: τί με ὠφελεῖ ἡ ἀποκάλυψις ἰωάννου, λέγουσά μοι περὶ ἑπτὰ ἀγγέλων καὶ ἑπτὰ σαλπίγγων; and again, φάσκουσιν ἀντιλέγοντες, ὅτι εἶπε πάλιν γράψον τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐκκλησίας τῷ ἐν θυατείροις· καὶ οὐκ ἔνι ἐκεῖ ἐκκλησία χριστιανῶν ἐν θυατείρῃ. πῶς οὖν ἔγραφε τῇ μὴ οὔσῃ: &c. To these apparently Dionysius of Alexandria, presently to be cited, alludes, when he says (ut infra, par. 48), τινὲς μὲν οὖι τῶν οὸ ἡμῶν ἠθέτησαν καὶ ἀνεσκεύασαν πάντῃ τὸ βιβλίον, καθʼ ἕκαστον κεφάλαὸν διευθύνοντες, ἄγνωστόν τε καὶ ἀσυλλόγιστον ἀποφαίνοντες. ψεύδεσθ τε τὸν ἐπιγραφήν, ἰωάννου γὰρ οὐκ εἶναι λέγουσιν, ἀλλʼ οὐδʼ ἀποκάλυ εἶν τὴν σφόδρῳ καὶ παχεῖ κεκαλυμμένην τῷ τῆς ἀγνοίας παραπετἁσματι· καὶ οὐχ ὅπως τῶν ἀποστόλων τινά, ἀλλʼ οὐδʼ ὅλως τῶν ἁγίων ἢ τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς ἐκκλησίας τούτου γεγονέναι ποιητὴν τοῦ συγγράμματος. κήρινθον δὲ τὸν καὶ ἀπʼ ἐκείνου κληθεῖσαν κηρινθιακὴν συστησάμενον αἵρεσιν, ἀξιόπιστον ἐπιφημίσαι θελήσαντα τῷ ἑαυτοῦ πλάσματι ὄνομα. τοῦτο γὰρ εἶναι τῆς διδασκαλίας αὐτοῦ τὸ δόγμα, ἐπίγειον ἔσεσθαι τὴν τοῦ χριστοῦ βασιλείαν, καὶ ὧν αὐτὸς ὠρέγετο φιλοσώματος ὢν καὶ πάνυ σαοκικός, ἐν τούτοις ὀνειροπολεῖν ἔσεσθαι, γαστρὸς καὶ τῶν ὑπὸ γαστέρα πλησμοναῖς, τουτέστι σιτίοις καὶ πότοις καὶ γάμοις, καὶ διʼ ὧν εὐφημότερον ταῦτα ᾠήθη ποριεῖσθαι, ἑορταῖς καὶ θυσίαις καὶ ἱερείων σφαγαῖς.
43. I have considered it important to quote this passage at length, as giving an account of the earliest opponents to the authenticity of the Apocalypse and of the reason of their opposition. The student may further follow out the account of these Alogi in Epiphanius, l. c. They have been very lightly passed over by Lücke (p. 582) and others, who are not willing that their procession of opponents to the apostolic authorship should be led by persons whose character is so little creditable. But the fair enquirer will not feel at liberty thus to exclude them. They were perhaps more outspoken and thorough, perhaps also less learned and cautious than those who follow: but their motives of opposition were of the same kind: and it is especially to be noted, as a weighty point in the evidence, that, being hostile to the authority of the writings commonly received as those of the Apostle John, they in their time conceived it necessary to destroy the credit of the Apocalypse as well as that of the Gospel.
44. The Roman presbyter Caius, λογιώτατος ἀνήρ according to Euseb. vi. 20, who lived in the Episcopate of Zephyrinus (i. e. 196–219), wrote a polemical dialogue against the Montanist Proclus, of which a fragment has been preserved by Eusebius iii. 28, speaking out still more plainly: ἀλλὰ καὶ κήρινθος ὁ διʼ ἀποκαλύψεων ὡς ὑπὸ ἀποστόλου μεγάλου γεγραμμένων τερατολογίας ἡμῖν ὡς διʼ ἀγγέλων αὐτῷ δεδειγμένας ψευδόμενος ἐπεισάγει, λέγων μετὰ τὴν ἀνάστασιν ἐπίγειον εἶναι τὸ βασίλειον τοῦ χριστοῦ· καὶ πάλιν ἐπιθυμίαις καὶ ἡδοναῖς ἐν ἱερουσαλὴμ τὴν σάρκα πολιτευομένην δουλεύειν. καὶ ἐχθρὸς ὑπάρχων ταῖς γραφαῖς τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀριθμὸν χιλιονταετίας ἐν γάμῳ ἑορτῆς θέλων πλανᾷν λέγει γίνεσθαι.
45. Some, as Hug, al., have in vain endeavoured to persuade us that some other book is here meant, and not the Apocalypse of John. No such work is to be traced, though we have very full accounts of Cerinthus from Irenæus (Hær. i. 26, p. 105) and Epiphanius (Hær. xxviii. pp. 110 ff.): and neither the plural ἀποκαλύψεων (which is also used by Dionysius, as cited below, of our apocalyptic visions), nor the exaggerated account of the earthly Kingdom as promised (see the same in the objections of the Alogi as cited by Dionysius above) can have the least weight in inducing us to concur in such a supposition.
46. When Lücke sets aside Caius in the same category as the Alogi, as having equally little to do with ecclesiastical tradition, we cannot help seeing again the trick of a crafty partisan wishing to get rid of an awkward ally.
47. Undoubtedly the weightiest objector to the canonicity of the Apocalypse in early times is DIONYSIUS, the successor next but one to Origen in the presidency of the catechetical school of Alexandria, and afterwards bishop of that see (A.D. 247). This worthy scholar of Origen (see Neander, Kirchengesch. i. p. 1229 f.) remained ever attached to him, loving and honouring him: and wrote him a letter of consolation when he was thrown into prison in the Decian persecution. This Dionysius, as he himself tells us, had become a believer in the Gospel by a course of free investigation, and unbiassed examination of all known systems: and after his conversion, he remained true to this principle as a Christian and as a public teacher. He read and examined without bias all the writings of heretics, and did not reject them, until he was thoroughly acquainted with them, and was in a situation to confute them with valid arguments. While he was thus employed, one of the presbyters of his church warned him of the harm which his own soul might take by so much contact with their impure doctrines. Of this danger, he says, he was himself too conscious: but while pondering on what had been said to him he was determined in his course by a heavenly vision ( ὅραμα θεόπεμπτον προσελθὸν ἐπέῤῥωσέ με): and a voice distinctly said to him, “Read every thing that comes into thy hands: for thou art well able to judge and prove them all ( πᾶσιν ἐντύγχανε οἷς ἂν εἰς χεῖρας λάβοις· διευθύνειν γὰρ ἕκαστα καὶ δοκιμάζειν ἱκανὸς εἶ): indeed such was at the first the source of thine own faith.” And, he says, “I received the vision as agreeing with the apostolic saying ( ἀποστολικῇ φωνῇ) which says to the strong ( τοὺς δυνατωτέρους) γίνεσθε δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται.”
48. The notices left us of Dionysius in the seventh book of Eusebius, entirely correspond with the above. And the judgment which he passes on the Apocalypse is characterized by sound discretion and moderation. I give it at length.
After the passage already cited in par. 42, he proceeds (Eus. H. E. vii. 25): “ καὶ γὰρ εἰ μὴ συνίημι, ἀλλʼ ὑπονοῶ γε νοῦν τινὰ βαθύτερον ἐγκεῖσθαι τοῖς ῥήμασιν. οὐκ ἰδίῳ ταῦτα μετρῶν καὶ κρίνων λογισμῷ, πίστει δὲ πλέον νέμων, ὑψηλότερα ἢ ὑπ ἐμοῦ καταληφθῆναι νενόμικα· καὶ οὐκ ἀποδοκιμάζω ταῦτα ἃ μὴ συνεώρακα, θαυμάζω δὲ μᾶλλον ὅτι μὴ καὶ εἶδον.” ἐπὶ τούτοις τὴν ὅλην τῆς ἀποκαλύψεως βασανίσας γραφήν, ἀδύνατον δὲ αὐτὴν κατὰ τὴν πρόχειρον ἀποδείξας νοεῖσθαι διάνοιαν, ἐπιφέρει λέγων “ συντελέσας δὴ πᾶσαν, ὡς εἰπεῖν, τὴν προφητείαν, μακαρίζει ὁ προφήτης τούς τε φυλάσσοντας αὐτήν, καὶ δὴ καὶ ἑαυτόν. ΄ακάριος γάρ φησιν ὁ τηρῶν τοὺς λόγους τῆς προφητείας τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου· κἀγὼ ἰωάννης ὁ βλέπων καὶ ἀκούων ταῦτα. καλεῖσθαι μὲν οὖν αὐτὸν ἰωάννην, καὶ εἶναι τὴν γραφὴν ἰωάννου ταύτην, οὐκ ἀντερῶ, ἁγίου μὲν γὰρ εἶναί τινος καὶ θεοπνευστου συναινῶ. οὐ μὴν ῥᾳδίως ἂν συνθείμην τοῦτον εἶναι τὸν ἀπόστολον, τὸν υἱὸν ζεβεδαίου, τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἰακώβου, οὗ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ κατὰ ἰωάννην ἐπιγεγραμμένον, καὶ ἡ ἐπιστολὴ ἡ καθολική. τεκμαίρομαι γὰρ ἔκ τε τοῦ ἤθους ἑκατέρων, καὶ τοῦ τῶν λόγων εἴδους, καὶ τῆς τοῦ βιβλίου διεξαγωγῆς λεγομένης, μὴ τὸν αὐτὸν εἶναι. ὁ μὲν γὰρ εὐαγγελιστὴς οὐδαμοῦ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ παρεγγράφει, οὐδὲ κηρύσσει ἑαυτόν, οὔτε διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, οὔτε διὰ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς.” εἶθʼ ὑποβάς, πάλιν ταῦτα λέγει, “ ἰωάννης δὲ οὐδαμοῦ οὐδὲ ὡς περὶ ἑαυτοῦ οὐδὲ ὡς περὶ ἑτέρου· ὁ δὲ τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν γράψας, εὐθύς τε ἑαυτὸν ἐν ἀρχῇ προτάσσει· ἀποκάλυψις ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ ἣν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ δεῖξαι τοῖς δούλοις αὐτοῦ ἐν τάχει. καὶ ἐσήμανεν ἀποστείλας διὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ τῷ δούλῳ αὐτοῦ ἰωάννῃ, ὃς ἐμαρτύρησε τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν αὐτοῦ ὅσα εἶδεν. εἶτα καὶ ἐπιστολὴν γράφει· ἰωάννης ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαις ταῖς ἐν τῇ ἀσίᾳ, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη. ὁ δέ γε εὐαγγελιστής, οὐδὲ τῆς καθολικῆς ἐπιστολῆς προέγραψεν ἑαυτοῦ τὸ ὄνομα, ἀλλὰ ἀπερίττως ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ τοῦ μυστηρίου τῆς θείας ἀποκαλύψεως ἤρξατο ὃ ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν, ὃ ἑωράκαμεν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν. ἐπὶ ταύτῃ γὰρ τῇ ἀποκαλύψει καὶ ὁ κύριος τὸν πέτρον ἐμακάρισεν εἰπὼν ΄ακάριος εἶ σίμων βὰρ ἰωνᾶ, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα οὐκ ἀπεκάλυψέ σοι, ἀλλʼ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ οὐράνιος. ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ φερομένῃ ἰωάννου καὶ τρίτῃ, καίτοι βραχείαις οὔσαις ἐπιστολαῖς, ὁ ἰωάννης ὀνομαστὶ πρόκειται, ἀλλὰ ἀνωνύμως ὁ πρεσβύτερος γέγραπται. οὗτος δέ γε οὐδὲ αὔταρκες ἐνόμισεν εἰσάπαξ ἑαυτὸν ὀνομάσας, διηγεῖσθαι τὰ ἑξῆς, ἀλλὰ πάλιν ἀναλαμβάνει ἐγὼ ἰωάννης ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὑμῶν, καὶ συγκοινωνὸς ἐν τῇ θλίψει καὶ βασιλείᾳ καὶ ἐν ὑπομονῇ ἰησοῦ, ἐγενόμην ἐν τῇ νήσῳ τῇ καλουμένῃ πάτμῳ, διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν ἰησοῦ. καὶ δὴ καὶ πρὸς τῷ τέλει ταῦτα εἶπε ΄ακάριος ὁ τηρῶν τοὺς λόγους τῆς προφητείας τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου. κἀγὼ ἰωάννης ὁ βλέπων καὶ ἀκούων ταῦτα. ὅτι μὲν οὖν ἰωάννης ἐστὶν ὁ ταῦτα γράφων, αὐτῷ λέγοντι πιστευτέον· ποῖος δὲ οὗτος, ἄδηλον. οὐ γὰρ εἶπεν ἑαυτὸν εἶναι, ὡς ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ πολλαχοῦ, τὸν ἠγαπημένον ὑπὸ τοῦ κυρίου μαθητήν, οὐδὲ τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἰακώβου, οὐδὲ τὸν αὐτόπτην καὶ αὐτήκοον τοῦ κυρίου γενόμενον. εἶπε γὰρ ἄν τι τούτων τῶν προδεδηλωμένων, σαφῶς ἑαυτὸν ἐμφανίσαι βουλόμενος. ἀλλὰ τούτων μὲν οὐδέν. ἀδελφὸν δὲ ἡμῶν καὶ συγκοινωνὸν εἶπε καὶ μάρτυρα ἰησοῦ, καὶ μακάριον ἐπὶ τῇ θέᾳ καὶ ἀκοῇ τῶν ἀποκαλύψεων. πολλοὺς δὲ ὁμωνύμους ἰωάννῃ τῷ ἀποστόλῳ νομίζω γεγονέναι, οἳ διὰ τὴν πρὸς ἐκεῖνον ἀγάπην, καὶ τὸ θαυμάζειν καὶ ζηλοῦν, ἀγαπηθῆναί τε ὁμοίως αὐτῷ βούλεσθαι ὑπὸ τοῦ κυρίου, καὶ τὴν ἐπωνυμίαν τὴν αὐτὴν ἠσπάσαντο. ὥσπερ καὶ ὁ παῦλος πολὺς καὶ δὴ καὶ ὁ πέτρος ἐν τοῖς τῶν πιστῶν παισὶν ὀνομάζεται. ἔστι μὲν οὖν καὶ ἕτερος ἰωάννης ἐν ταῖς πράξεσι τῶν ἀποστόλων ὁ ἐπικληθεὶς ΄άρκος · ὃν βαρνάβας καὶ παῦλος ἑαυτοῖς συμπαρέλαβον, περὶ οὗ καὶ πάλιν λέγει εἶχον δὲ καὶ ἰωάννην ὑπηρέτην. εἰ δὲ οὗτος ὁ γράψας ἐστίν, οὐκ ἂν φαίην · οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀφῖχθαι σὺν αὐτοῖς εἰς τὴν ἀσίαν γέγραπται · ἀλλὰ ἀναχθέντες μέν φησιν ἀπὸ τῆς πάφου οἱ περὶ παῦλον, ἦλθον εἰς πέργην τῆς παμφυλίας. ἰωάννῃς δὲ ἀποχωρήσας ἀπ ʼ αὐτῶν, ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς ἱεροσόλυμα. ἄλλον δέ τινα οἶμαι τῶν ἐν ἀσίᾳ γενομένων · ἐπεὶ καὶ δύο φασὶν ἐν ἐφέσῳ γενέσθαι μνήματα, καὶ ἑκάτερον ἰωάννου λέγεσθαι. καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν νοημάτων δὲ καὶ τῶν ῥημάτων καὶ τῆς συντάξεως αὐτῶν, εἰκότως ἕτερος οὗτος παρ ʼ ἐκεῖνον ὑπονοηθήσεται. συνάδουσι μὲν γὰρ ἀλλήλοις τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καὶ ἡ ἐπιστολή, ὁμοίως τε ἄρχονται. τὸ μὲν φησὶν ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος · ἡ δέ, ὃ ἦν ἀπαρχῆς. τὸ μὲν φησὶ καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο, καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός · ἡ δὲ τὰ αὐτὰ σμικρῷ παρηλλαγμένα, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν, ὃ ἑωράκαμεν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα, καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν, περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς · καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἐφανερώθη. ταῦτα γὰρ προανακρούεται διατεινόμενος, ὡς ἐν τοῖς ἑξῆς ἐδήλωσε πρὸς τοὺς οὐκ ἐν σαρκὶ φάσκοντας ἐληλυθέναι τὸν κύριον · δι ʼ ἃ καὶ συνῆψεν ἐπιμελῶς καὶ ὃ ἑωράκαμεν μαρτυροῦμεν, καὶ ἀπαγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον, ἥτις ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα, καὶ ἐφανερώθη ὑμῖν · ὃ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ ἀκηκόαμεν, ἀπαγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν. ἔχεται αὑτοῦ καὶ τῶν προθέσεων οὐκ ἀφίσταται. διὰ δὲ τῶν αὐτῶν κεφαλαιων καὶ ὀνομάτων πάντα διεξέρχεται · ὧν τινα μὲν ἡμεῖς συντόμως ὑπομνήσομεν. ὁ δὲ προσεχῶς ἐντυγχάνων εὑρήσει ἐν ἑκατέρῳ πολλὴν τὴν ζωήν, πολὺ τὸ φῶς, ἀποτροπὴν τοῦ σκότους, συνεχῆ τὴν ἀλήθειαν, τὴν χάριν, τὴν χαράν τὴν σάρκα καὶ τὸ αἷμα τοῦ κυρίου, τὴν κρίσιν, τὴν ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν, τὴν πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἀγάπην τοῦ θεοῦ, τὴν πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἡμᾶς ἀγάπης ἐντολήν, ὡς πάσας δεῖ φυλάσσειν τὰς ἐντολάς · ὁ ἔλεγχος τοῦ κόσμου, τοῦ διαβόλου, τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου, ἡ ἐπαγγελία τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, ἡ υἱοθεσία τοῦ θεοῦ, ἡ διόλου πίστις ἡμῶν ἀπαιτουμένη, ὁ πατὴρ καὶ ὁ υἱὸς πανταχοῦ · καὶ ὅλως διὰ πάντων χαρακτηρίζοντας, ἕνα καὶ τὸν αὐτὸν συνορᾷν τοῦ τε εὐαγγελίου καὶ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς χρῶτα πρόκειται. ἀλλοιοτάτη δὲ καὶ ξένη παρὰ ταῦτα ἡ ἀποκάλυψις, μήτε ἐφαπτομένη, μήτε γειτνιῶσα τούτων μηδενὶ σχεδόν, ὡς εἰπεῖν, μηδὲ συλλαβὴν πρὸς αὐτὰ κοινὴν ἔχουσα · ἀλλ ʼ οὐδὲ μνήμην τινὰ οὐδὲ ἔννοιαν, οὔτε ἡ ἐπιστολὴ τῆς ἀποκαλύψεως ἔχει · ἐῶ γὰρ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον · οὔτε τῆς ἐπιστολῆς ἡ ἀποκάλυψις · παύλου διὰ τῶν ἐπιστολῶν ὑποφήναντός τι καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀποκαλύψεων αὐτοῦ, ἃς οὐκ ἐνέγραψε καθ ʼ αὑτάς. ἔτι δὲ καὶ τῆς φράσεως τὴν διαφοράν ἐστι τεκμῄρασθαι τοῦ εὐαγγελίου καὶ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς πρὸς τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν. τὰ μὲν γὰρ οὐ μόνον ἀπταίστως κατὰ τὴν ἑλλήνων φωνήν, ἀλλὰ καὶ λογιώτατα ταῖς λέξεσι, τοῖς συλλογισμοῖς, ταῖς συντάξεσι τῆς ἑρμηνείας γέγραπται. πολλοῦ γε δεῖ βάρβαρόν τινα φθόγγον, ἢ σολοικισμόν, ἢ ὅλως ἰδιωτισμὸν ἐν αὐτοῖς εὑρεθῆναι. ἑκάτερον γὰρ εἶχεν, ὡς ἔοικε, τὸν λόγον, ἀμφότερα αὐτῷ χαρισαμένου τοῦ κυρίου, τόν τε τῆς γνώσεως, τόν τε τῆς φράσεως. τούτῳ δὲ ἀποκάλυψιν μὲν ἑωρακέναι, καὶ γνῶσιν εἰληφέναι καὶ προφητείαν, οὐκ ἀντερῶ, διάλεκτον μέντοι καὶ γλῶσσαν οὐκ ἀκριβῶς ἑλληνίζουσαν αὐτοῦ βλέπω, ἀλλ ʼ ἰδιώμασι μὲν βαρβαρικοῖς χρώμενον, καί που καὶ σολοικίζοντα. ἅπερ οὐκ ἀναγκαῖον νῦν ἐκλέγειν · οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐπισκώπτων, μή τις νομίσῃ, ταῦτα εἶπον, ἀλλὰ μόνον τὴν ἀνομοιότητα διευθύνων τῶν γραφῶν.”
49. It will be seen that while on the one hand he separates himself from those who disparaged the book and ascribed it to Cerinthus, on the other he distinctly repudiates all literal interpretations of it as impossible, and approaches the enquiry with a strong anti-chiliastic bias. This more especially appears, from a previous chapter of the same book of Eusebius, in which is detailed the proceeding of Dionysius with regard to the schism of Nepos, an Egyptian bishop of chiliastic views: Eus. H. E. vii. 24.
50. With regard to the whole character of Dionysius’s criticism, we may make the following remarks:
a) its negative portion rests upon grounds common to him and ourselves, and respecting which a writer in the third century, however much we may admire his free and able treatment of his subject, has no advantage at all over one who writes in the nineteenth. It is as open to us as it was to him, to judge of the phænomena and language of the Apocalypse as compared with the Gospel and Epistles of St. John.
b) the positive result of his argument, if fairly examined, is worth absolutely nothing. The writer to whom he ascribes the book is, even to himself, entirely unknown: more unknown than Silvanus as a conjectural author of the Epistle to the Hebrews: more unknown than even Aquila. The very existence, in his mind, of the other John, who wrote the Apocalypse, depends on the very shadowy words ἐπεὶ καὶ δύο φασὶν ἐν ἐφέσῳ γενέσθαι μνήματα, καὶ ἑκάτερον ἰωάννου λέγεσθαι.
51. And this latter consideration is very important. It shews us that at all events, the idea of John the Presbyter having written the Apocalypse was, in the middle of the third century, wholly unknown to ecclesiastical tradition in the church of Alexandria: or else we should never have found this seeking about and conjecturing on the matter.
52. I shall treat, further on, the question raised by this criticism of Dionysius as to the internal probability of the authorship by the Apostle John. At present I advance with notices of those who impugned or doubted it in ancient times.
53. And of those we next come to Eusebius of Cæsarea, the well-known ecclesiastical historian. His opinion on the question is wavering and undecided. In his H. E. iii. 24, having asserted the genuineness of St. John’s Gospel and First Epistle, and placed the other two Epistles among the ἀντιλεγόμενα, he proceeds, τῆς δʼ ἀποκαλύψεως ἐφʼ ἑκάτερον ἔτι νῦν παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς περιέλκεται ἡ δόξα. ὅμως γε μὴν ἐκ τῆς τῶν ἀρχαίων μαρτυρίας ἐν οἰκείῳ καιρῷ τὴν ἐπίκρισιν δέξεται καὶ αὕτη. Again in the next chapter, in giving a list of the ὁμολογούμεναι θεῖαι γραφαί, when he has mentioned the four Gospels and Acts and one Epistle of St. John and one of St. Peter, he says, ἐπὶ τούτοις τακτέον εἴ γε φανείη, τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν ἰωάννου, περὶ ἧς τὰ δόξαντα κατὰ καιρὸν ἐκθησόμεθα. And a little below, when he is speaking of the νόθα, he says, ἔτι τε ὡς ἔφην ἡ ἰωάννου ἀποκάλυψις εἰ φανείη, ἥν τινες ὡς ἔφην ἀθετοῦσιν, ἕτεροι δὲ ἐγκρίνουσι τοῖς ὁμολογουμένοις.
54. In iii. 39, in adducing the well-known passage of Papias, εἰ δήπου καὶ παρηκολουθηκώς τις τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις ἔλθοι, τοὺς τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἀνέκρινον λόγους· τί ἀνδρέας ἢ τί πέτρος εἶπεν ἢ τί φίλιππος ἢ τί θωμᾶς ἢ ἰάκωβος ἢ τί ἰωάννης ἢ ΄ατθαῖος ἢ τις ἕτερος τῶν τοῦ κυρίου μαθητῶν, ἅ τε ἀριστίων καὶ ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἰωάννης οἱ τοῦ κυρίου μαθηταὶ λέγουσιν, he says, ἔνθα καὶ ἐπιστῆσαι ἄξιον δὶς καταριθμοῦντι αὐτῷ τὸ ἰωάννου ὄνομα, ὧν τὸν μὲν πρότερον πέτρῳ καὶ ἰακώβῳ καὶ ΄ατθαίῳ καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς ἀποστόλοις συγκαταλέγει, σαφῶς δηλῶν τὸν εὐαγγελιστήν, τὸν δʼ ἕτερον ἰωάννην διαστείλας τὸν λόγον ἑτέροις παρὰ τὸν τῶν ἀποστόλων ἀριθμὸν κατατάσσει, προτάξας αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀριστίωνα· σαφῶς τε αὐτὸν πρεσβύτερον ὀνομάζει. ὡς καὶ διὰ τούτων ἀποδείκνυσθαι τὴν ἱστορίαν ἀληθῆ τῶν δύο κατὰ τὴν ἀσίαν ὁμονυμίᾳ κεχρῆσθαι εἰρηκότων, δύο τε ἐν ἐφέσῳ γενέσθαι μνήματα, καὶ ἑκάτερον ἰωάννου ἔτι νῦν λέγεσθαι, οἷς καὶ ἀναγκαῖον πἐρος έχειν τὸν νοῦν. εἰκὸς γὰρ τὸν δεύτερον, εἰ μή τις ἐθέλοι τὸν πρῶτον τὴν ἐπʼ ὀνόματος φερομένην ἰωάννου ἀποκάλυψιν ἑωρακέναι.
55. The student will observe how entirely conjectural, and valueless as evidence, is this opinion of Eusebius. Certainly Lücke is wrong in his very strong denunciations of Hengstenberg for describing Eusebius as studiously leaving the question open. For what else is it, when he numbers the book on one side among the undoubted Scriptures with an εἰ φανείη, and then on the other among the spurious writings with an εἰ φανείη also: while at the very moment of endorsing Dionysius’s conjecture that the second John saw its visions, he interposes εἰ μή τις ἐθέλοι τὸν πρῶτον? That a man with the anti-chiliastic leanings of Eusebius concedes thus much, makes the balance of his testimony incline rather to than away from the canonicity of the book. I would not press this, but simply take it as indicating that in Eusebius’s time, as well as in that of Dionysius, there was no ecclesiastical tradition warranting the disallowing it as the work of the Evangelist. Adverse opinion there was, which found its fair and worthier employ in internal criticism, and issued in vague conjecture, resting on the mere fact of two persons named John having existed in Ephesus. Who and what the second John was, whether he had any right to speak of himself as the writer of the Apocalypse does, or to address with authority the seven churches of Asia,—on these and all such questions we are wholly in the dark.
56. Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 386) is a more decided witness for the exclusion of the Apocalypse from the Canon. In his Catecheseis, iv. 35, 36, pp. 68 f., having prefaced the account of the twenty-two canonical books of the O. T. with πρὸς τὰ ἀπόκρυφα μηδὲν ἔχε κοινόν, he enumerates the canonical books of the N. T., the four Gospels, Acts, seven catholic epistles, fourteen of St. Paul, and concludes τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ πάντα ἔξω κείσθω ἐν δευτέρῳ. καὶ ὅσα ἐν ἐκκλησίαις μὴ ἀναγινώσκεται, ταῦτα μηδὲ κατὰ σαυτὸν ἀναγίνωσκε, καθὼς ἤκουσας. And it is to be observed that he appeals for this arrangement to ancient authorities: for he says to his catechumen, in the words alluded to in the last-cited clause, ταύτας μόνας μελέτα σπουδαίως, ἃς καὶ ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ μετὰ παῤῥησίας ἀναγινώσκομεν. πολύ σου φρονιμώτεροι καὶ εὐλαβέστεροι ἦσαν οἱ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ ἀρχαῖοι ἐπίσκοποι οἱ τῆς ἐκκλησίας προστάται, οἱ ταύτας παραδόντες.
57. Cyril nowhere mentions the Apocalypse by name. But he seems to use it, and even where he by inference repudiates it, to adopt its terms unconsciously. An instance of the former is found in Cat. i. 4, p. 18, where he says to his catechumen, speaking of his baptism, καταφυτεύῃ εἰς τὸν νοητὸν παράδεισον· λαμβάνεις ὄνομα καινόν, Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:17. Of the latter, in Cat. xv. 13, p. 230, where, professing to get his particulars respecting Antichrist from Daniel, and having said ὀπίσω αὐτῶν ἀναστήσεται βασιλεὺς ἕτερος ὃς ὑπεροίσει κακοῖς πάντας τοὺς ἔμπροσθεν, he proceeds, καὶ τρεῖς βασιλεῖς ταπεινώσει, δῆλον δὲ ὅτι ἀπὸ τῶν δέκα τῶν προτέρων, ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν δέκα τούτων τοὺς τρεῖς ταπεινῶν πάντως ὄτι αὐτὸς ὄγδοος βασιλεύσει: this last particular being from Revelation 17:11. Again,—although, ib. c. 16, p. 232, he protests respecting the three and a half years of Antichrist’s reign, οὐκ ἐξ ἀποκρύφων λέγομεν, ἀλλʼ ἐκ τοῦ δανιήλ,—in c. 27, p. 239, he alludes to the heresy of Marcellus of Ancyra in these words, τοῦ δράκοντός ἐστιν ἄλλη κεφαλὴ προσφάτως περὶ τὴν γαλατίαν ἀναφυεῖσα (Revelation 12:3). Indeed previously in c. 15, p. 232, he had written δεινὸν τὸ θηρίον, δράκων μέγας, ἀνθρώποις ἀκαταγώνιστος, ἕτοιμος εἰς τὸ καταπιεῖν, evidently from the same place in the Apocalypse.
58. Thus Cyril presents to us remarkable and exceptional phænomena: familiarity with the language of the book, so as to use it unconsciously as that of prophecy, combined with a repudiation of it as canonical, and a prohibition of its study. It would appear that there had been at some time a deliberate change of opinion, and that we have, in these evident references to the Apocalypse, instances of slips of memory, and retention of phraseology which belonged to his former, not to his subsequent views.
59. In the sixtieth canon of the synod of Laodicea, held between 343 and 381 (see Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, i. 721 ff.), an account of the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments is given in which the Apocalypse is omitted. The genuineness of this canon has been doubted (Lücke, p. 361), but apparently without reason: see Hefele, ut supra, pp. 749 ff. We next come to the testimony of Gregory of Nazianzen (+ 390), who in his poem, περὶ τῶν γνησίων βιβλίων τῆς θεοπνεύστου γραφῆς, vol. ii. (iii. Migne) p. 259 ff., gives the same canon as Cyril, and adds, πάσας ἔχεις· εἴ τι δὲ τούτων ἐκτός, οὐκ ἐν γνησίοις. But here again, as in Cyril’s case, we are met by the phænomenon of reference to the book and citation of it as of theological authority. In Oratio xlii. 9, vol. i. (ii. Migne) p. 755, he says, speaking of the angels presiding over churches, πείθομαι μὲν ἄλλους ἄλλης προστατεῖν ἐκκλησίας, ὡς ἰωάννης διδάσκει με διὰ τῆς ἀποκαλύψεως. And in another place, Oratio xxix. 17, p. 536, he cites, in speaking of the Godhead of Christ, καὶ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος καὶ ὁ παντοκράτωρ, adding, σαφῶς περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ λεγόμενα.
Lücke suggests in explanation of this, that possibly the churches of Asia Minor, especially that of Cappadocia, had excluded the Apocalypse from public reading in the church, on account of the countenance which it had been made to give to the errors of Montanism, and placed it among the ἀπόκρυφα. This may have been so: but I cannot think his inference secure, that therefore we may infer the general fact, that the book rested on no secure ecclesiastical tradition.
60. In the Iambi ad Seleucum, printed in Gregory’s works, ii. (iii. Migne) p. 1104 f., ascribed by some to Gregory himself, but more usually to Amphilochius of Iconium, we have the Apocalypse mentioned by name: τὴν δʼ ἀποκάλυψιν τὴν ἰωάννου πάλιν τινὲς μὲν ἐγκρίνουσιν, οἱ πλείους δέ γε νόθον λέγουσιν. οὗτος ἀψευδέστατος κανὼν ἂν εἴη τῶν θεοπνεύστων γραφῶν.
But it is to be noticed, that in the scholium of Andreas cited above, par. 32, he enumerates Gregory among those who recognized the canonicity of the Apocalypse.
61. After this, it will be sufficient to give a general view of the antagonism to the authority of the book. It was maintained chiefly in the Eastern church; the Western, after the fifth century, universally recognizing the Apocalypse. It is remarkable that Sulpicius Severus (Hist. Sacr. ii. 31, Lücke) says the Apocalypse is “a plerisque aut stulte aut impie” rejected. But as Lücke observes, he must have found these “plerique” in the Greek, not in the Latin church. Pope Gelasius (Migne Patr. Lat. vol. cxxx. p. 984) in his decree “de libris recipiendis et non recipiendis” (500) gives the book its place in the Canon of the Catholic Church, between the Epistles of St. Paul and the Catholic Epistles. Primasius and Cassiodorus, in the sixth century, expound it as apostolic and canonical. But Junilius the African, the friend of Primasius, says, De partib. leg. div. i. 4, in Migne Patr. Lat. vol. lxviii. p. 18, that only seventeen books, viz. the O. T. prophets and the book of Psalms, contain the Scripture prophecy: “cæterum,” he continues, “de Joannis apocalypsi apud Orientales admodum dubitatur.” This he had learned from Paulus, a Persian, of the school of Nisibis: and he consequently seems inclined not to place it among the “libri perfectæ auctoritatis.”
62. The fourth synod of Toledo (633) in its seventeenth canon, decrees that, seeing the Apocalypse is by many councils and Popes sanctioned as a work of the Apostle John, and as canonical, it should under pain of excommunication, be preached on in the church between Easter and Pentecost. The Synod speaks of “plurimi qui ejus auctoritatem non recipiunt, atque in ecclesiis Dei prædicare contemnunt.” This, Lücke thinks, points to doubters in the West also. But Isidore of Seville (+ 636) in his De officiis eccl. i. 12, vol. vi. pp. 374 ff., having given the generally received canon, speaks of many Latins who doubted of the Pauline origin of the Epistle to the Hebrews, of the genuineness of 2 Peter, of the Epistle of James,, 2 and 3 John; but not a word of any who doubted about the Apocalypse. So that it may be after all that the Synod of Toledo, as Junilius, may allude to Orientals only.
63. Henceforward in the Western church, with the sole exception of the Capitulare of Charlemagne, which, following Greek authorities and especially the Synod of Laodicea, excluded the book from public reading, we find universal recognition of the Apocalypse until the Reformation.
64. In the Greek church during the last noticed period opinions were much in the same state as in the fourth century. On one side we find rejection of the book, at the least from public ecclesiastical use: on the other, unsuspecting reception of it as a genuine work of the Apostle John. Neither side takes any pains to justify its view critically, but simply conforms to local ecclesiastical usage. Cyril of Alexandria, de Adorat. vi. vol. i. p. 188, says, τὸ τῆς ἀποκαλύψεως βιβλίον ἡμῖν συντιθεὶς ὁ σοφὸς ἰωάννης, ὃ καὶ ταῖς τῶν πατέρων τετίμηται ψήφοις. The very expression here, it is true, betrays consciousness of the existence of doubts, which however do not affect his confidence, nor that of his contemporaries Nilus and Isidore of Pelusium(231).
65. At Antioch, however, the opinion in cent. v. seems to have been different. Its greatest Father of this period, Theodore of Mopsuestia (+ 429), never cites the Apocalypse in his extant writings and fragments, even where we might have certainly expected it. In the fragments of his expositions of the N. T. we have no allusion to it, even when on 2 Thessalonians 2:3 ff. (Migne, Patr. Gr. vol. lxvi. pp. 933 ff.) he speaks of Antichrist and of the second Advent; nor again in his Commentary on the twelve prophets. Opponent as he was of the allegorical method of interpretation, he may have been withheld from receiving the Apocalypse by consciousness that no other mode would suit it: or he may have followed the older practice of the Syrian church, and the canon of the Laodicean Synod. Still, he rejected the Epistle of James, which both these recognized: and Lücke thinks he may have rejected the Apocalypse from the decision of his own judgment, helped by his disinclination to the book, and the existing doubt about its canonicity: being one of those who, like Luther in later times, “den Kanon im Kanon suchten und fanden.”
66. Theodoret (bishop of Cyrus, + 457) alludes two or three times to the book in his Dialogues on the Trinity (iii. 12) and on the Holy Ghost (i. 18, printed by Migne among the works of Athanasius, vol. iv. pp. 447, 485): but on 2 Thessalonians 2. and on Hebrews 12:22, he leaves it unnoticed, as also in his Commentary on Daniel. On Psalms 86:2, vol. i. p. 1217, he seems to aim at describing the heavenly Jerusalem in contrast to the apocalyptic description. In speaking (hæret. fabb. lib. ii. 3, vol. iv. p. 329 f.) of Cerinthus, and (lib. iii. 1, 2, 6, pp. 340 f., 346 ff.) of the Nicolaitans, the Montanists, and even of the chiliast Nepos and his antagonist Dionysius of Alexandria, he says not a word of the Apocalypse. Only in his Dialogus Immutabilis (vol. iv. p. 59) he once names it, and adduces ch. Revelation 1:9 with the formula ἰωάννης φησίν: but then it is in citing from Athanasius.
67. After this, in the sixth century, the Syrian churches were divided on the matter. The Nestorians rejected the Apocalypse, following Theodore of Mopsuestia and the Peschito: the Monophysites received it, following the Alexandrians, and Hippolytus, and Ephrem Syrus. See Lücke, pp. 644, 5, who thinks from certain indications that even among them it was not in ecclesiastical, but only in theological use.
68. In the Greek church in Asia Minor, we have Andreas, of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, the writer of the first entire and connected Commentary on the Apocalypse. He fully and earnestly recognizes its genuineness and inspiration, and (see above, par. 32) appeals to the testimony of the ancients to bear him out: mentioning by name Papias, Irenæus, Methodius, Cyril of Alexandria, and Gregory Theologus (of Nazianzum). It is perhaps hardly fair in Lücke to infer that, because he names so few, more might not have been adduced: hardly fair again to conclude that, because he promises to use their writings in his Commentary, and has not expressly cited them, he did not so use them, or was himself one of the first who explained the book.
69. Arethas, who followed Andreas(232) in his see, and in his work of commenting on the Apocalypse, repeats in his prologue the scholium of Andreas on the Inspiration of the book, adding the authority of Basil the Great. But we are now approaching a time when, as Lücke remarks, it is really of small import who used the book and who did not, who regarded it as the work of the Apostle, and who did not. Still, a few facts stand out from the general mass, which may be useful as indications, or at all events have a claim to our attention.
70. Such is the fact of the omission of all reference to the Apocalypse in the writings of Cosmas Indicopleustes in cent. vi. In his Topogr. Christiana, book vii. (in Migne, Patr. vol. lxxxviii.), he treats of the duration of the heavens according to Scripture, and Lücke thinks must of necessity have cited the book had it been in his canon. Still, he uses the Festal Epistle of Athanasius, in which it is expressly included in the Canon.
71. The second canon of the Trullian, or Quinisextan council, sanctions on the one hand the canon of the Laodicean council and that of the eighty-five apostolical canons, both which omit the Apocalypse, and on the other that of the African Synods of the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth centuries, which include it. Various conjectures have been made as to the account to be given of this (see Lücke, pp. 648, 9). The desire to leave the question open (Lücke) can hardly have been the cause. We may safely leave such evidence to correct itself.
72. The list may be closed with one or two notices from later centuries, shewing that the doubts were not altogether forgotten, though generally given up.
Nicephorus (beginning of cent. ix.), in his Chronographia brevis, p. 1057, Migne, reckons only twenty-six books of the N. T., and does not mention the Apocalypse either in the ἀντιλεγόμενα or in the ἀπόκρυφα.
73. A prologue to the book in the cursive codex 64 (cent. x. or beginning of xi.), after defending its canonicity and apostolic origin, apologizes thus for the ancient Fathers not mentioning it among the books to be openly read in church: περὶ γὰρ τῶν ἀναγκαίων ἦν αὐτοῖς ἡ σπουδή, καὶ πρὸς τὰ κατεπείγοντα ἵσταντο, ταύτην μὴ ἐγκρίνοντες αὐτοῖς, ἢ διὰ τὸ μερικῶς μὴ ἐκτίθεσθαι αὐτούς, ἢ διὰ τὸ ἀσαφὲς αὐτῆς καὶ δυσέφικτον καὶ ὀλίγοις διαλαμβανόμενον καὶ νοούμενον, ἄλλως τε οἶμαι διὰ τὸ μηδὲ συμφέρον εἶναι τοῖς πολλοῖς τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ βάθη ἐρευνᾷν, μηδὲ λυσιτελές.
74. In the proœmium given in Cramer’s Catena to the extracts from the comments of Œcumenius (cent. xi.), p. 173, the canonicity of the book is strongly asserted, and its being μύησις τῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος ἀνακλίσεως τῆς ὑπερθέου σοφίας τοῦ ἠγαπημένου, and not τῶν νόθων, ὡς τινὲς πλάνῳ συγκροτούμενοι πνεύματι ἐληρώδησαν. For this, the writer refers to Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, Methodius, Cyril, and Hippolytus: and then says οὐκ ἂν τοιούτοις καὶ τοσούτοις ἀνθρώποις τοῦτο δόκουν, εἰ μὴ τὸ μέτριον αὐτῷ ᾔδεσαν σπουδαζόμενον.
75. In the Church History of Nicephorus Callistus (cent. xiv.), he treats it (ii. 42) as an acknowledged fact that the Apostle John, when in exile in Patmos under Domitian, wrote his Gospel and his ἱερὸν καὶ ἔνθεον ἀποκάλυψιν. Still, when enumerating the books of the canon in ii. 46, partly from Eusebius, he says summarily of the Apocalypse, that τινὲς ἐφαντάσθησαν that it was the work of John the Presbyter.
76. It will be well to review the course and character of the evidence from antiquity. As we have before noticed, so again we may observe, that throughout, we have results here in marked contrast to those of our enquiry regarding the Epistle to the Hebrews. In that case there was a total lack of any fixed general tradition in the earliest times. Gradually, the force and convenience of an illustrious name being attached to the Epistle bore down the doubts originally resting on its authorship, and the Pauline origin became every where acquiesced in. Nothing could be more different from the history of the doubts about the authorship of the Apocalypse. Here we have a fixed and thoroughly authenticated primitive tradition. It comes from men only removed by one step from the Apostle John himself. There is absolutely no objective evidence whatever in favour of any other author. The doubts first originate in considerations purely subjective.
77. These are divisible into two classes, anti-chiliastic and critical. It was convenient to depreciate the book, on controversial grounds. It was found advisable not to read it in the churches, and to forbid it to the young scholar. And, as matter of fact, thus it was that the doubts about the authorship sprung up. If it countenanced error, if it was not in the canon, if it was not fit to be read, then it would not be the work of the Evangelist and Apostle.
78. Again, to the same result contributed the critical grounds so ably urged by Dionysius of Alexandria and observed upon above, par. 50. I have there remarked, not only how absolutely shadowy and nothing-worth is Dionysius’s οἶμαι that John the Presbyter wrote the book, but how this very word is most valuable, as denoting the entire absence of all objective tradition to that effect in the middle of the third century.
79. Thus the doubts grew up, and in certain parts of the church, prevailed: the whole process being exactly the converse of that which we traced in our Prolegomena to the Hebrews.
80. And, as far as the force of ancient testimony goes, I submit that our inference also must be a contrary one. The authorship of the book by the Apostle John, as matter of primitive tradition, rests on firm and irrefragable ground. Three other authors are suggested: one, Cerinthus, by the avowed enemies of the Apocalypse,—an assertion which has never found any favour: the second, John the Presbyter, whose existence seems indeed vouched for by the passage of Papias, but of whom we know nothing whatever, nor have we one particle of evidence to connect him with the authorship of the Apocalypse: and the third John Mark the Evangelist, who is equally unknown to ancient tradition as its author.
81. As far then as purely external evidence goes, I submit that our judgment can only be in one direction: viz. that the Apocalypse was written by the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee.
82. It will now be for us to see how far internal critical considerations substantiate or impugn the tradition of the primitive church.
83. And in so doing, it will be well for us at once to deal with certain confident assertions which Lücke and others are in the habit of making respecting the testimony of the Apocalypse itself.
84. Lücke begins this portion of his Introduction by setting aside at once the evidence of Justin Martyr and Irenæus, on the ground of supposed inconsistency with the “Selbstzeugniss” of the writer himself;—he cannot be the Apostle and Evangelist, “because he plainly distinguishes himself from the Apostles;”—referring back to a previous section for the confirmation of this assertion. On looking there, we find “in ch. Revelation 21:14, in describing the heavenly Jerusalem, he speaks expressly of the twelve Apostles of Christ and their names on the twelve foundation stones of the celestial city, but apparently in such a manner as not in any way to include himself among them, but rather to exclude himself from them, and to speak of them as a higher and special class of servants and messengers of God.”
85. Now let the reader observe that the “apparently” (“augenscheinlich”) of the former section has become “plainly” (“deutlich”) in the latter: for it is thus that even the best of the Germans are often apt to creep on, and to build up a whole fabric of argument upon an inference which at first was to themselves merely an uncertainty.
86. In this particular case, the original assertion has in fact no ground to rest upon. The apocalyptic writer is simply describing the heavenly city as it was shewn to him. On the foundations are the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. Now we may fairly ask, What reason can be given, why the beloved Apostle should not have related this? Was he who, with his brother James, sought for the highest place of honour in the future kingdom, likely to have depreciated the apostolic dignity just because he himself was one of the Twelve? and on the other hand, was he whose personal modesty was as notable as his apostolic zeal, likely, in relating such high honour done to the Twelve, to insert a notice providing against the possible mistake being made of not counting himself among them?
87. So that the first tentative introduction, and the very confident after-assertion, of this testimony of the book itself, are alike groundless. A similar instance will be found below, when we come to discuss the time and place of writing, of confident assertion respecting two supposed notices of date contained in the book itself. They turn out to be altogether dependent for their relevancy on a particular method of interpretation, not borne out by fair exegesis
88. The notices contained in the Apocalypse respecting its writer may be stated as follows
First, his name is John, ch. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:9, Revelation 22:8.
89. Secondly, he was known to, and of account among, the churches of proconsular Asia.
90. Thirdly, he was in exile (for so we submit must the words of ch. Revelation 1:9 be understood: see note there) in the island of Patmos on account of his Christian testimony.
We may add to these personal notices, that he takes especial pains to assert the accuracy of his testimony, both in the beginning and at the end of his book: ch. Revelation 1:2, Revelation 22:8.
91. Now thus far we have nothing which goes against the ecclesiastical tradition that he was the Apostle and Evangelist John. In the latter part of his life, this Apostle was thus connected with proconsular Asia, long residing, and ultimately dying at Ephesus: see Prolegomena to Vol. I., ch. v. § i. 9 ff. It is impossible to reject this concurrent testimony of Christian antiquity: nor have even those done so, whose doubts on the Apocalypse are the strongest.
92. Again, the exile of the Apostle John in Patmos under Domitian is matter of primitive tradition, apparently distinct from the notice contained in the Apocalypse: for his return from it under Nerva, of which no notice is contained in that book, is stated as such by Eusebius: τότε (when the senate after Domitian’s death decreed that the unjustly exiled should return to their homes) δὴ οὖν καὶ τὸν ἀπόστολον ἰωάννην ἀπὸ τῆς κατὰ τὴν νῆσον φυγῆς τὴν ἐπὶ τῆς ἐφέσου διατριβὴν ἀπειληφέναι, ὁ τῶν παρʼ ἡμῖν ἀρχαίων παραδίδωσι λόγος, H. E. iii. 20. And again, ib. 23, ἐπὶ τούτοις κατὰ τὴν ἀσίαν ἔτι τῷ βίῳ περιλειπόμενος αὐτὸς ἐκεῖνος ὃν ἠγάπα ὁ ἰησοῦς ἀπόστολος ὁμοῦ καὶ εὐαγγελιστὴς ἰωάννης τὰς αὐτόθι διεῖπεν ἐκκλησίας, ἀπὸ τῆς κατὰ τὴν νῆσον μετὰ τὴν δομετιανοῦ τελευτὴν ἐπανελθὼν φυγῆς.
93. Equally definite is the tradition, that St. John lived on among the Asiatic churches till the time of Trajan: see Prolegg. Vol. I., ut supra.
94. It is worth while just to pause by the way, and consider, in what situation we are placed by these traditions. To reject them altogether would be out of all reason: and this is not done by Lücke himself. So that we must either suppose that portion of them which regards the exile to have found its way in, owing to the notice of Revelation 1:9, or to have been, independently of that notice, the result of a confusion in men’s minds between two persons of the same name, John. Either of these is undoubtedly possible: but it is their probability, in the face of other evidence, which we have to estimate.
95. We may safely ask then, was either of these mistakes at all likely to have been made by Irenæus, who could write as follows: ὥστε με δύνασθαι εἰπεῖν καὶ τὸν τόπον ἐν ᾧ καθεζόμενος διελέγετο ὁ μακάριος πολύκαρπος, καὶ τὰς προόδους αὐτοῦ καὶ τὰς εἰσόδους καὶ τὸν χαρακτῆρα τοῦ βίου καὶ τὴν τοῦ σώματος ἰδέαν καὶ τὰς διαλέξεις ἃς ἐποιεῖτο πρὸς τὸ πλῆθος, καὶ τὴν μετὰ ἰωάννου συναναστροφὴν ὡς ἀπήγγειλε, καὶ τὴν τῶν λοιπῶν τῶν ἑωρακότων τὸν κύριον, καὶ ὡς ἀπεμνημόνευε τοὺς λόγους αὐτῶν. I own it seems to me out of all probability that such a writer, in ascribing the Apocalypse to John the Apostle, could have confused him with another person of the same name. If we ever have trustworthy personal tradition, it is surely when it mounts up to those who saw and conversed with him respecting whom we wish to be informed.
96. It may be said indeed, that Irenæus does not mention the exile in Patmos. But this would be mere trifling: he does not, simply because he had no occasion to do so: but his own date of the seeing of the Apocalypse, at the end of the reign of Domitian (see above, par. 7), would, in combination with other notices, be sufficient to imply it: and besides, he admits it by inference from his unhesitatingly adopting the book as written by the Apostle.
97. It seems then to me that the course of primitive tradition, even among those who did not believe the Apocalypse to have been written by the Apostle, asserts of him that he was exiled in Patmos under Domitian: and that we have no reasonable ground for supposing this view to have arisen from any confusion of persons, or to have been adopted merely from the book itself. Persons are appealed to, who knew and saw and heard the Apostle himself: and those who thus appeal were not likely to have made a mistake in a point of such vital importance.
98. We now come to a weighty and difficult part of our present enquiry: how far the matter and style of the Apocalypse bear out this result of primitive tradition. The reader will have seen, by the previous chapters of these Prolegomena, that I am very far from deprecating, or depreciating, such a course of criticism. I do not, as some of those who have upheld against all criticism the commonly received views, characterize such an enquiry as presumptuous, or its results as uncertain and vague. It is one which the soundest and best critics of all ages have followed, from Origen and Dionysius of Alexandria down to Bleek and Lüke: and, as I have elsewhere observed, is one which will be more esteemed in proportion as biblical science is spread and deepened.
99. In applying it to the book before us, certainly the upholder of the primitive tradition of its Authorship is not encouraged by first appearances. He is met at once by the startling phænomena so ably detailed by Dionysius of Alexandria at the end of his judgment (above, par. 48). The Greek construction of the Gospel and Epistle(233), though peculiar, is smooth and unexceptionable, free from any thing like barbarism or solœcism in grammar: οὐ μόνον ἀπταίστως κατὰ τὴν ἑλλήνων φωνήν, says Dionysius, ἀλλὰ καὶ λογιώτατα ταῖς λέξεσι, τοῖς συλλογισμοῖς, ταῖς συντάξεσι τῆς ἑρμηνείας γέγραπται. When however we come to compare that of the Writer of the Apocalypse, we find, at first sight, all this reversed: διάλεκτον καὶ γλῶσσαν οὐκ ἀκριβῶς ἑλληνίζουσαν αὐτοῦ βλέπω, ἀλλʼ ἰδιώμασι μὲν βαρβαρικοῖς γρώμενον, καί που καὶ σολοικίζοντα.
100. All this must be freely acknowledged, and is abundantly exemplified in the following Commentary. The question for us however is one which lies deeper than the surface, and beyond mere first appearances. It presents itself to us in a double form:
1) Is there any account which might be given of this great dissimilarity, consistent with identity of Authorship?
2) Are there any indications of that identity lying beneath the surface, notwithstanding this great dissimilarity?
101. In reply to the first question, several thoughts at once suggest themselves as claiming mention and contributing to its solution. The subject of the Apocalypse is so different from those of the Gospel and Epistle, that we may well expect a not inconsiderable difference of style. In those, the Writer is, under divine guidance, calmly arranging his material, in full self-consciousness, and deliberately putting forth the product, in words, of his own reflectiveness: in this, on the other hand, he is the rapt seer, borne along from vision to vision, speaking in a region and character totally different(234). Is this circumstance any contribution to our reply? Let us consider further.
102. St. John was not a Greek, but a Galilean. To speak a certain kind of Greek was probably natural to him, as to almost all the inhabitants of Palestine of his time. But to write the Greek of his Gospel and Epistle, can hardly but have been to him matter of effort. Or to put it in another point of view, the diction and form in which they were conveyed were the result of a deliberate exercise of a special gift of the Spirit, matured by practice, and deemed necessary for the purpose of those writings, to be put forth in them.
103. In the Apocalypse, the case may be conceived to have been different. The necessarily rhapsodical and mysterious character of that book may have led to the Apostle being left more to his vernacular and less correct Greek. Circumstances too may have contributed to this. The visions may have been set down in the solitude of exile, far from friends, and perhaps from the appliances of civilized life. The Hebraistic style may have come more naturally in a writing so fashioned on Old Testament models, and bound by so many links to the prophecies of Hebrew prophets. The style too of advanced age may have dropped the careful elaboration of the preceding years, and resumed the rougher character of early youth.
104. I do not say that these considerations are enough to account for the great diversity which is presented: nay, I fairly own, that taken alone, they are not: and that the difficulty has never yet been thoroughly solved. Still I do not conceive that we are at liberty to cut the knot by denying the Apostolic Authorship, which primitive tradition has so firmly established. Far better is it to investigate patiently, and not, by blind partisanship on either side, to stop the way against unfettered search for a better account of the phænomena than has hitherto been given.
105. It has been shewn more than once, and in our own country by Dr. Davidson in his Introduction, pp. 561 ff., that the roughnesses and solœcisms in the Apocalypse have been, for the purposes of argument, very much exaggerated: that there are hardly any which may not be paralleled in classical authors themselves, and that their more frequent occurrence here is no more than is due to the peculiar nature of the subject and occasion. This consideration should be borne in mind, and the matter investigated by the student for himself.
106. Our second question asked above was, whether there are any marks of identity of Authorship linking together the Gospel, Epistle, and Apocalypse, notwithstanding this great and evident dissimilarity?
107. The individual character of the Writer of the Gospel and Epistle stands forth evident and undoubted. We seem to know him in a moment. Even in the report of sayings of our Lord common to him and the other Evangelists, the peculiar tinge of expression, the choice and collocation of words, leave no doubt whose report we are reading. And so strongly does the Epistle resemble the Gospel in these particulars, that the criticism as well as the tradition of all ages has concurred in ascribing the two to the same person?
108. If now we look at the Apocalypse, we cannot for a moment feel that it is less individual, less reflecting the heart and character of its Writer. Its style, its manner of conception and arrangement of thought, its diction, are alike full of life and personal reality. So that our conditions for making this enquiry are favourable. Our two objects of comparison stand out well the one over against the other. Both are peculiar, characteristic, individual. But are the indications presented by them such that we are compelled to infer different authorship, or are they such as seem to point to one and the same person
109. The former of these questions has been affirmed by Lücke and the opponents of the Apostolic authorship: the latter by Hengstenberg and those who uphold it. Let us see how the matter stands. And in so doing (as was the case in the similar enquiry in the Prolegomena to the Epistle to the Hebrews), I shall not enter fully into the whole list of verbal and constructional peculiarities, but, referring the reader for these to Lücke and Davidson, shall adduce, and dwell upon, some of the more remarkable and suggestive of them.
110. The first of these is one undeniably connecting the Apocalypse with the Gospel and the Epistle, viz. the appellation ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ given to our Lord in ch. Revelation 19:13 (see John 1:1; 1 John 1:1). This name ὁ λόγος for our Lord is found in the N. T., only in the writings of St. John. I am aware of the ingenuity with which Lücke (p. 679) has endeavoured to turn this expression to the contrary account, maintaining that it is a proof of diversity of authorship, inasmuch as the Evangelist never writes ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ: but I may leave it to any fair-judging reader to decide, whether it be not a far greater argument for identity that the remarkable designation ὁ λόγος is used, than for diversity that, on the solemn occasion described in the Apocalypse, the hitherto unheard adjunct τοῦ θεοῦ is added.
111. Another reply may be given to our deduction from the use of this name: viz. that it indicates not necessarily John the Apostle, but only one familiar with his teaching, as we may suppose that other John to have been. All I can say to this is, that which I cannot help feeling to apply to the whole hypothesis of the authorship by the second John, that if it be so,—if one bearing the same name as the Apostle, having the same place among the Asiatic churches, put forth a book in which he also used the Apostle’s peculiar phrases, and yet took no pains to prevent the confusion which must necessarily arise between himself and the Apostle, I do not well see how the advocates of his authorship can help pronouncing the book a forgery, or at all events the work of one who, in relating the visions, was not unwilling to be taken for his greater and Apostolic namesake.
112. Another link, binding the Apocalypse to both Gospel and Epistle, is the use of ὁ νικῶν, in the Epistles to the churches, ch. Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:26, Revelation 3:5; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 3:21(bis): and in ch. Revelation 12:11, Revelation 15:2, Revelation 17:14, Revelation 21:7. Compare John 16:33; 1 John 2:13-14; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:4(bis), 5. It is amusing to observe again how dexterously Lücke turns the edge of this. ὁ νικῶν is never used absolutely in Gospel or in Epistle, as it is in the Apocalypse: therefore it again is a mark of diversity, not of identity. But surely this is the very thing we might expect. The νικᾷν τὸν κόσμον, τὸν πονηρόν, αὐτούς, &c.,—these are the details, and come under notice while the strife is proceeding, or when the object is of more import than the bare act: but when the end is spoken of, and the final and general victory is all that remains in view, nothing can be more natural than that he who alone spoke of νικᾷν τὸν κόσμον, τὸν πονηρόν, αὐτούς,—should also be the only one to designate the victor by ὁ νικῶν. Besides which, we have also the other use, in Revelation 12:11; Revelation 17:14.
113. A third remarkable word, ἀληθινός, is once used by St. Luke (Luke 16:11), once by St. Paul (1 Thessalonians 1:9), and three times in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:22): but nine times in the Gospel of St. John(235), four times in the Epistle(236), and ten times in the Apocalypse(237). Here again, it is true, Lücke adduces this on the other side, alleging that while the Evangelist uses the word only in the sense of genuine— ὁ ἀληθινὸς θεός, τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ἀληθινός,—the Author of the Apocalypse uses it of Christ as a synonym with πιστός, δίκαιος, ἅγιος, and as a predicate of the λόγοι, κρίσεις, ὁδοί of God. This latter is true enough; but the former assertion is singularly untrue. For in three out of the nine places in the Gospel, the subjective sense of ἀληθινός must be taken: viz. in iv. 37, viii. 16, xix. 35: and in the last of these, ἀληθινὴ αὐτοῦ ἐστιν ἡ μαρτυρία, the word is used exactly as in Revelation 22:6, οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι πιστοὶ καὶ ἀληθινοί.
114. The word ἀρνίον, which designates our Lord 29 times in the Apocalypse, only elsewhere occurs in John 21:15, not with reference to Him. But it is remarkable that John 1:29; John 1:36 are the only places where he is called by the name of a lamb, the word ἀμνός being used, in reference doubtless to Isaiah 53:7 (Acts 8:32), as in one other place where He is compared to a lamb, 1 Peter 1:19. The Apocalyptic writer, as Lücke observes, probably chooses the diminutive, and attaches to it the epithet ἐσφαγμένον, for the purpose of contrast to the majesty and power which he has also to predicate of Christ: but is it not to be taken into account, that this personal name, the Lamb, whether ἀμνὸς or ἀρνίον, whether with or without τοῦ θεοῦ, is common only to the two books?
115. To these many minor examples might be added, and will be found treated at length in Lücke, p. 669 ff., Davidson, p. 561 ff.(238) The latter writer has succeeded in many cases in shewing the unfairness of Lücke’s strong partisanship, by which he makes every similarity into a dissimilarity: but on the other hand he on his side has gone perhaps too far in attempting to answer every objection of this kind. After all, while there certainly are weighty indications of identity of authorship, there is also a residuum of phænomena of diversity quite enough for the reasonable support of the contrary hypothesis. If the book stood alone in the matter of evidence, I own I should be quite at a loss how to substantiate identity of authorship between it and the Gospel and Epistle. But as it is our main reliance is on the concurrent testimony of primitive tradition, which hardly can be stronger than it is, and which the perfectly gratuitous hypothesis respecting a second John as the author entirely fails to shake.
1. οὐ δύνασθε βαστάζειν ἄρτι, John 16:12
οὐ δύνῃ βαστάσαι κακούς, Revelation 2:2.
2. κεκοπιακὼς ἐκ τῆς ὁδοιπορίας, John 4:6.
οὐ κεκοπίακες, Revelation 2:3.
3. δύο ἀγγέλους ἐν λευκοῖς … John 20:12.
περιπατήσουσιν μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐν λευκοῖς, Revelation 3:4.
4. The verb κεῖμαι used of mere position, John 2:6; John 19:29; John 20:5-6; John 21:9; Revelation 4:2 only.
5. ὄνομα αὐτῷ, John 1:6; John 3:1 (Revelation 18:10); Revelation 6:8; Revelation 9:11.
6. Compare Revelation 3:18 with 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27, as to the χρίσμα and its effects.
116. Our question respecting the internal evidence furnished by the book itself is thus in a position entirely different from that which it occupied in the Prolegomena to the Epistle to the Hebrews. There, we had no primitive tradition so general, or of such authority as to command our assent. The question was perfectly open. The authorship by St. Paul was an opinion at first tentatively and partially held: then as time wore on, acquiring consistency and acceptance. Judging of this by the book itself, is it for us to accept or to reject it? In lack of any worthy external evidence, we were thrown back on this as our main material for a judgment.
117. But with regard to the Apocalypse, external and internal evidence have changed places. The former is now the main material for our judgment. It is of the highest and most satisfactory kind. It was unanimous in very early times. It came from those who knew and had heard St. John himself. It only begins to be impugned by those who had doctrinal objections to the book. The doubt was taken up by more reasonable men on internal and critical grounds. But no real substantive counter-claimant was ever produced: only one whose very existence depended on the report of two tombs bearing the name of John, and on a not very perspicuous passage of Papias.
118. This being so, our inquiry has necessarily taken this shape:—Is the book itself inconsistent with this apparently irrefragable testimony? And in replying to it we have confessed that the differences between it and the Gospel and Epistle are very remarkable, and of a character hitherto unexplained, or not fully accounted for: but that there are at the same time striking notes of similarity in expression and cast of thought: and that perhaps we are not in a position to take into account the effect of a totally different subject and totally different circumstances upon one, who though knowing and speaking Greek, was yet a Hebrew by birth.
119. Thus, all things considered, being it is true far from satisfied with any account at present given of the peculiar style and phænomena of the Apocalypse, but being far less satisfied with the procedure of the antagonists of the Apostolic authorship, we are not prepared to withhold our assent from the firm and unshaken testimony of primitive tradition, that the author was the Apostle and Evangelist St. John.
PLACE AND TIME OF WRITING
1. The enquiry as to the former of these is narrowed within a very small space. From the notice contained in the book itself (ch. Revelation 1:9) the writing must have taken place either in Patmos, or after the return from exile. The past tenses, ἐμαρτύρησεν in ch. Revelation 1:2, and ἐγενόμην in Revelation 1:9, do not decide for the latter alternative; they may both be used as from the point of time when the book should be read, as is common in all narratives. On the other hand, it would be more probable ab extra, that the writing should take place after the return, especially if we are to credit the account given by Victorinus, that St. John was condemned to the mines in Patmos. We have no means of determining the question, and must leave it in doubt. If the style and peculiarities are to be in any degree attributed to outward circumstances, then it would seem to have been written in solitude, and sent from Patmos to the Asiatic churches.
2. The only traditional notice worth recounting is that given by Victorinus: on Revelation 10:11, Migne, Patr. Lat. vol. v. p. 333: where he relates that John saw the Apocalypse in Patmos, and then after his release on the death of Domitian, “postea tradidit hanc eandem quam acceperat a Deo Apocalypsin.” Arethas indeed says on Revelation 7, ὁ εὐαγγελιστὴς ἐχρησμῳδεῖτο ταῦτα ἐν ἰωνίᾳ τῇ κατʼ ἔφεσον: but this is too late to be of any account in the matter.
3. It has been remarked(239), that the circumstance of John having prepared to write down the voices of the seven thunders, Revelation 10:4, appears to sanction the view that the writing took place at the same time with the seeing of the visions.
4. As regards Patmos itself, it is one of the group called the Sporades, to the S. of Samos (Pliny, iv. 23. Strabo, x. p. 488. Thucyd. iii. 23). It is about thirty Roman miles in circumference. A cave is still shewn in the island (now Patmo) where St. John is said to have seen the Apocalypse. See Winer’s Realwörterbuch, and the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.
5. With regard however to the time of writing, there has been no small controversy. And at this we need not be surprised, seeing that principles of interpretation are involved.
We will first deal with ancient tradition as far as it gives us any indication as to the date.
6. Irenæus, v. 30. 3, p. 330, in a passage already cited (§ i. par. 7), tells us that the Apocalypse (for such is the only legitimate understanding of the construction) ἑωράθη … σχεδὸν ἐπὶ τῆς ἡμετέρας γενεᾶς, πρὸς τῷ τέλει τῆς δομετιανοῦ ἀρχῆς.
7. Clement of Alexandria (Quis dives salvus, § 42, p. 949 P., cited also by Eusebius, H. E. iii. 23), says ἐπειδὴ γὰρ τοῦ τυράννου τελευτήσαντος ἀπὸ τῆς πάτμου τῆς νήσου μετῆλθεν εἰς τὴν ἔφεσον, κ. τ. λ. This passage, it is true, contains no mention who the tyrant was, nor any allusion to the writing of the Apocalypse: but it is interesting for our present enquiry as shewing, in its citation by Eusebius, how he understood the date furnished by it. For he introduces it by saying that St. John τὰς κατὰ τὴν ἀσίαν διεῖπεν ἐκκλησίας, ἀπὸ τῆς κατὰ τῆν νῆσον μετὰ τὴν δομετιανου τελευτὴν ἐπανελθὼν φυγῆς, and cites Clement as one of the witnesses of the fact.
8. Origen merely calls St. John’s persecutor ὁ ῥωμαίων βασιλεύς, without specifying which. And he seems to do this wittingly: for he notices that John himself does not mention who condemned him. See the passage quoted above, § i. par. 12.
9. Eusebius, H. E. iii. 18, having cited the passage of Irenæus noticed above, says οἵ γε καὶ τὸν καιρὸν ἐπʼ ἀκριβὲς ἐπεσημῄναντο ἐν ἔτει πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ δομετιανοῦ, μετὰ πλειόνων ἑτέρων καί φλαβίαν δομετίλλαν ἱστορήσαντες, ἐξ ἀδελφῆς γεγονυῖαν φλαβίου κλήμεντος, ἑνὸς τῶν τηνικάδε ἐπὶ ῥώμης δυνατῶν, τῆς εἰς χριστὸν μαρτυρίας ἕνεκεν εἰς νῆσον ποντίαν κατὰ τιμωρίαν δεδόσθαι. And this same statement he repeats in his Chronicon, A.D. 95, vol. i. p. 551 f., Migne. In H. E. iii. 20 he gives the account of the return of St. John from Patmos in the beginning of Nerva’s reign, cited above, § i. par. 92.
10. Tertullian does not appear quite to bear out Eusebius’s understanding of him, H. E. iii. 20: for he only says, Apol. c. 5, vol. i. p. 293 f., after mentioning the persecution of Nero, “Tentaverat et Domitianus, portio Neronis de crudelitate: sed qua et homo, facile cœptum repressit, restitutis etiam quos relegaverat.” Here he certainly makes Domitian himself recall the exiles.
11. Victorinus, in the passage above referred to (“quando hoc vidit Johannes, erat in insula Patmos, in metallum damnatus a Domitiano Cæsare”), and afterwards (“Johannes, de metallo dimissus, sic postea tradidit hanc eandem quam acceperat a Deo apocalypsin”), plainly gives the date: as also in another place, p. 338: “Intelligi oportet tempus quo scripta apocalypsis edita est, quoniam tunc erat Cæsar Domitianus.… unus exstat sub quo scripta est apocalypsis, Domitianus scilicet.”
12. Jerome (de Vir. illustr. 9, vol. ii. p. 845) says, “quarto decimo anno secundam post Neronem persecutionem movente Domitiano in Patmos insulam relegatus scripsit apocalypsin.… interfecto autem Domitiano et actis ejus ob nimiam crudelitatem a Senatu rescissis sub Nerva principe redit Ephesum.” So also his testimony above, § i. par. 25.
13. So also Sulpicius Severus and Orosius, and later writers generally. The first who breaks in upon this concurrent tradition is Epiphanius, Hær. li., in two very curious passages: the first where he says c. 12, vol. i. p. 433 f., ὕστερον ἀναγκάζει τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα τὸν ἰωάννην παραιτούμενον εὐαγγελίσασθαι διʼ εὐλάβειαν καὶ ταπεινοφροσύνην ἐπὶ τῇ γηραλέᾳ αὐτοῦ ἡλικίᾳ, μετὰ ἔτη ἐνενήκοντα τῆς ἑαυτοῦ ζωῆς, μετὰ τὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῆς πάτμου ἐπάνοδον, τὴν ἐπὶ κλαυδίου γενομένην καίσαρος: the other, c. 33, p. 456, αὐτοῦ δὲ προφητεύσαντος ἐν χρόνοις κλαυδίου καίσαρος ἀνωτάτω, ὅτε εἰς τὴν πάτμον νῆσον ὑπῆρξεν.…
14. Now it is plain that there must be some strange blunder here, which Lücke, who makes much of Epiphanius’s testimony as shewing that the tradition, which he calls the Irenæan, was not received by Epiphanius, entirely, and conveniently, omits to notice. The passage evidently sets the return from exile in the extreme old age of St. John. To say that a considerable interval may be supposed to elapse between the ἐπάνοδος and his ninetieth year, would be mere trifling with the context. Now if this is so, seeing that Claudius reigned from 41 to 54 A.D., putting the return from exile at the last of these dates, we should have St. John aged ninety in the year 54: in other words, thirty-three years older than our Lord, and sixty-three at least when called to be an Apostle: a result which is at variance with all ancient tradition whatever. Either Epiphanius has fallen into some great mistake, which is not very probable, or he means by Claudius some other Emperor: if Nero, then he would still be wrong as to St. John’s age at or near to his return.
15. The testimony of Muratori’s fragment on the Canon has been cited (by Stuart, p. 218) as testifying to an early date. But all it says is this: “Ipse beatus Apostolus Paulus sequens prædecessoris sui Johannis ordinem, nomine nominatim septem ecclesiis scribat ordine tali.” And the word prædecessoris, as has been pointed out by Credner, merely seems to mean that St. John was an Apostle before St. Paul, not that he wrote his seven epistles before St. Paul wrote his.
16. The preface to the Syriac version of the Apocalypse published by De Dieu, supposed to have been made in the 6th century, says that the visions were seen by St. John in the island of Patmos, “in quam a Nerone Cæsare relegatus fuerat.”
17. Theophylact, in his preface to the Gospel of St. John, vol. i. p. 504, says that it was written in the island of Patmos, thirty-two years after the Ascension: and in so saying, places the exile under Nero. But he clearly is wrong, as Lücke remarks, of his meaning not clearly understood, when he attributes the writing of the Gospel to this time: and moreover he is inconsistent with himself: for in commenting on Matthew 20:23, vol. i. p. 107, he remarks that as Herod put to death the Apostle James the greater, so Trajan condemned John as a martyr to the word of truth.
18. Jerome, adv. Jovin. i. 26, vol. ii. p. 280, determines nothing, only citing Tertullian, “Refert autem Tertullianus quod a Nerone (for “a Nerone,” Migne reads “Romæ”) missus in ferventis olei dolium purior et vegetior exiverit quam intraverit.” But Tertullian only says, if at least De præscript. Hæret. c. 36, vol. ii. p. 49, be the place referred to, “Felix ecclesia (Romana).… ubi Petrus passioni dominicæ adæquatur, ubi Paulus Johannis (scil. baptistæ) exitu coronatur, ubi Apostolus Joannes posteaquam in oleum igneum demersus nihil passus est, in insulam relegatur.” It surely is stretching a point here to say that he implies all three events to have taken place under Nero.
19. The author of the “Synopsis de vita et morte prophetarum, apostolorum et discipulorum Domini” (ostensibly Dorotheus, bishop of Tyre, so cited in Theophylact, vol. i. p. 500: but probably it belongs to the 6th century), makes John to be exiled to Patmos by Trajan. Andreas and Arethas give no decided testimony on the point. Arethas, in commenting on Revelation 6:12, says, that some applied this prophecy to the destruction of Jerusalem under Vespasian: but this is distinctly repudiated by Andreas: allowing however (on Revelation 7:2) that such things did happen to the Jewish Christians who escaped the evils inflicted on Jerusalem by the Romans, yet they more probably refer to the times of Antichrist. Arethas again, on Revelation 1:9, cites without any protest Eusebius, as asserting St. John’s exile in Patmos to have taken place under Domitian.
20. Much more evidence on this subject from other later writers whose testimonies are of less consequence,—and more minute discussion of the earlier testimonies, will be found in Elliott, Horæ Apocalypticæ, i. pp. 31–46, and Appendix, No. i. pp. 503–517. In the last mentioned, he has gone well and carefully through the arguments on external evidence adduced by Lücke and Stuart for the writing under Galba and Nero respectively, and, as it seems to me, disposed of them all.
21. Our result, as far as this part of the question is considered, may be thus stated. We have a constant and unswerving primitive tradition that St. John’s exile took place, and the Apocalypse was written, towards the end of Domitian’s reign. With this tradition, as has been often observed, the circumstances seem to agree very well. We have no evidence that the first, or Neronic, persecution, extended beyond Rome, or found vent in condemnations to exile. Whereas in regard to the second we know that both these were the case. Indeed the liberation at Domitian’s death of those whom he had exiled is substantiated by Dio Cassius, who, in relating the beginning of Nerva’s reign, lib. lxviii. 1, says; μίσει δὲ τοῦ δομετιανοῦ αἱ εἰκόνες αὐτοῦ … συνεχωνεύθησαν.… καὶ ὁ νερούας τούς τε κρινορένους ἐπʼ ἀσεβείᾳ ἀφῆκε, καὶ τοὺς φεύγοντας κατήγαγε.… ταῖς δὲ δὴ ἄλλοις οὔτʼ ἀσεβείας, οὔτʼ ἰουδαικοῦ βίου καταιτιᾶσθαί τινας συνεχώρησε.
22. Assuming then the fact of St. John’s exile at Patmos during a persecution for the Gospel’s sake, it is far more likely that it should have been under Domitian than under Nero or under Galba. But one main reliance of the advocates of the earlier date is internal evidence supposed to be furnished by the book itself. And this, first, from the rough and Hebraistic style. I have already discussed this point, and have fully admitted its difficulty, however we view it. I need only add now, that I do not conceive we at all diminish that difficulty by supposing it to be written before the Gospel and Epistle. The Greek of the Gospel and Epistle is not the Greek of the Apocalypse in a maturer state: but if the two belong to one and the same writer, we must seek for the cause of their diversity not in chronological but rather in psychological considerations.
23. Again, it is said that the book furnishes indications of having been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, by the fact of its mentioning the city and the temple, ch. Revelation 11:1 ff., and the twelve tribes as yet existing, ch. Revelation 7:4-8. This argument has been very much insisted on by several of the modern German critics. But we may demur to it at once, as containing an assumption which we are not prepared to grant: viz. that the prophetic passage is to be thus interpreted, or has any thing to do with the literal Jerusalem. Let the canon of interpretation be first substantiated, by which we are to be bound in our understanding of this passage, and then we can recognize its bearing on the chronological question. Certainly Lücke has not done this, pp. 825 ff., but, as usual with him, has fallen to abusing Hengstenberg, for which he undoubtedly has a strong case, while for his own interpretation he seems to me to make out a very weak one.
24. Another such assumption is found in the confident assertion by the same critics, that the passages in ch. Revelation 13:1 ff., Revelation 17:10 point out the then reigning Cæsar, and that by the conditions of those passages, such reigning Cæsar must be that one who suits their chronological theory. It is not the place here to discuss principles of interpretation: but we may fairly demur again to the thus assuming a principle irrespective of the requirements of the book, and then judging the book itself by it. This is manifestly done by Lücke, pp. 835 ff. Besides which, the differences among themselves of those who adopt this view are such as to deprive it of all fixity as an historical indication. Are we to reckon our Cæsars forwards (and if so, are we to begin with Julius, or with Augustus?), or backwards, upon some independent assumption of the time of writing, which the other phænomena must be made to fit? If the reader will consult the notes on ch. Revelation 17:10, I trust he will see that any such view of the passages is untenable.
25. Upon interpretations like these, insulated, and derived from mere first impressions of the wording of single passages, is the whole fabric built, which is to supersede the primitive tradition as to the date of the Apocalypse. On this account, Irenæus must be supposed to have made a mistake in the date which he assigns, who had such good and sufficient means of knowing: on this account, all those additional testimonies, which in any other case would have been adduced as independent and important, are to be assumed to have been mere repetitions of that of Irenæus.
26. But it is most unfortunate for these critics that, when once so sure a ground is established for them as a direct indication in the book itself of the emperor under whom it was written, they cannot agree among themselves who this emperor was. Some among them (e. g. Stuart, al.) taking the natural (and one would think the only possible) view of such an historical indication, begin according to general custom with Julius, and bring the writing under Nero. Ewald and Lücke, on account of the οὐκ ἔστιν καὶ πάρεσται of ch. Revelation 17:8, which they wish to apply to Nero, desert the usual reckoning of Roman emperors, and begin with Augustus, thus bringing the writing under Galba. Again, Eichhorn and Bleek, wishing to bring the writing under Vespasian, omit Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, relying on an expression of Suetonius that their reigns were a mere “rebellio trium principum.” Thus by changing the usual starting-point, and leaving out of the usual list of the Cæsars any number found convenient, any view we please may be substantiated by this kind of interpretation. Those whose view of the prophecy extends wider, and who attach a larger meaning to the symbols of the beast and his image and his heads, will not be induced by such very uncertain speculations to set aside a primitive and as it appears to them thoroughly trustworthy tradition.
27. It may be observed that Lücke attempts to give an account of the origin of what he calls the Irenæan tradition, freely confessing that his proof (?) of the date is not complete without such an account. The character of the account he gives is well worth observing. When, he says, men found that the apocalyptic prophecies had failed of their accomplishment, they began to give a wider sense to them, and to put them at a later date. And having given this account, he attempts to vindicate it from the charge of overthrowing the authority of Scripture prophecy, and says that though it may not be as convenient as the way which modern orthodoxy has struck out, yet it leads more safely to the desired end, and to the permanent enjoyment of true faith.
28. With every disposition to search and prove all things, and ground faith upon things thus proved, I own I am quite unable to come to Lücke’s conclusions, or to those of any of the maintainers of the Neronic or any of the earlier dates. The book itself, it seems to me, refuses the assignment of such times of writing. The evident assumption which it makes of long-standing and general persecution (ch. Revelation 6:9) forbids us to place it in the very first persecution and that only a partial one: the undoubted transference of Jewish temple emblems to a Christian sense (ch. Revelation 1:20) of itself makes us suspect those interpreters who maintain the literal sense when the temple and city are mentioned: the analogy of the prophecies of Daniel forbids us to limit to individual kings the interpretation of the symbolic heads of the beast: the whole character and tone of the writing precludes our imagining that its original reference was ever intended to be to mere local matters of secondary import.
29. The state of those to whom it was addressed furnishes another powerful subsidiary argument in favour of the later date. This will be expanded in the next section.
30. These things then being considered,—the decisive testimony of primitive tradition, and failure of all attempts to set it aside,—the internal evidence furnished by the book itself, and equal failure of all attempts by an unwarrantable interpretation to raise up counter evidence,—I have no hesitation in believing with the ancient fathers and most competent witnesses, that the Apocalypse was written πρὸς τῷ τέλει τῆς δομετιανοῦ ἀρχῆς, i. e. about the year 95 or 96 A.D.
TO WHOM ADDRESSED
1. The superscription of the book plainly states for what readers it was primarily intended. At the same time indications abound, that the whole Christian church was in view. In the very epistles to the seven churches themselves, all the promises and sayings of the Lord, though arising out of local circumstances, are of perfectly general application. And in the course of the prophecy, the wide range of objects embraced, the universality of the cautions and encouragements, the vast periods of time comprised, leave us no inference but this, that the book was intended for the comfort and profit of every age of the Christian church. In treating therefore the question at the head of this section in its narrower and literal sense, I am not excluding the broader and general view. It lies behind the other, as in the rest of the apostolic writings. “These things,” as the older Scriptures, “are written for our ensamples, upon whom the ends of the world are come:” or, in the language of the Muratori fragment on the Canon, “et Johannes enim in Apocalypsi licet septem ecclesiis scribat, tamen omnibus dicit.”
2. The book then was directly addressed to the seven churches of proconsular Asia. A few remarks must be made on the general subject of the names and state of these churches, before entering on a description of them severally.
3. First, as to the selection of the names. The number seven, so often used by the Seer to express universality, has here prevailed in occasioning that number of names to be selected out of the churches in the district. For these were not all the churches comprised in Asia proper. Whether there were Christian bodies in Colossæ and Hierapolis we cannot say. Those cities had been, since the writing of St. Paul’s Epistle, destroyed by an earthquake, and in what state of restoration they were at this date, is uncertain. But from the Epistles of Ignatius we may fairly assume that there were churches in Magnesia and Tralles. The number seven then is representative, not exhaustive. These seven are taken in the following order: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. That is, beginning with Ephesus the first city in the province, it follows a line from South to North up to Pergamum, then takes the neighbouring city of Thyatira, and follows another line from North to South.
4. As regards the general state of these churches, we may make the following remarks:
We have from St. Paul, setting aside the Epistle to the Ephesians, not from any doubt as to its original destination, but as containing no local notices, and that to Philemon, as being of a private character,—three Epistles containing notices of the Christian churches within this district. The first in point of time is that to the Colossians (A.D. 61–63): then follow the two to Timotheus, dating from 67 to 68. It is important to observe, that all these Epistles, even the latest of them, the second to Timotheus, have regard to a state of the churches evidently preceding by many years that set before us in this book. The germs of heresy and error there apparent (see Vol. III. prolegg. ch. vii. § i. par. 12 ff.) had expanded into definite sects (ch. Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:15): the first ardour with which some of them had received and practised the Gospel, had cooled (ch. Revelation 2:4-5, Revelation 3:2): others had increased in zeal for God, and were surpassing their former works (ch. Revelation 2:19). Again, the days of the martyrdom of Antipas, an eminent servant of Christ, are referred back to some time past (ch. Revelation 2:13).
5. It is also important to notice that Laodicea is described (ch. Revelation 3:17) as boasting in her wealth and self-sufficiency. Now we know from Tacitus (see below, par. 13), that in the sixth year of Nero, or in the tenth, according to Eusebius (and apparently with more accuracy), Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake, and recovered herself propriis opibus, without any assistance from the Head of the state. How many years it might take before the city could again put on such a spirit of self-sufficing pride as that shewn in ch. Revelation 3:17, it is not possible to fix exactly: but it is obvious that we must allow more time for this than would be consistent with the Neronic date of the Apocalypse. This is confirmed when we observe the spiritual character given of the Laodicean church,—that of lukewarmness,—and reflect, that such a character does not ordinarily accompany, nor follow close upon, great judgments and afflictions, but is the result of a period of calm and prosperity, and gradually encroaching compromise with ungodliness.
6. I may further mention, that the fact of the relation here shewn to exist between John and the churches of proconsular Asia, points to a period wholly distinct from that in which Paul, or his disciple Timotheus, exercised authority in those parts. And this alone would lead us to meet with a decided negative the hypothesis of the Apocalypse being written under Nero, Galba, or even Vespasian. At the same time, see note on ch. Revelation 2:20,—the mention of φαγεῖν εἰδωλόθυτα there identifies the temptations and difficulties which beset the churches when the Apocalypse was written, with those which we know to have been prevalent in the apostolic age, and thus gives a strong confirmation of the authenticity of the book.
I now proceed to consider these churches one by one.
7. EPHESUS, the capital of proconsular Asia, has already been described and a sketch of its history given, in the Prolegg. to the Epistle to the Ephesians, Vol. III. prolegg. ch. 2. § ii. parr. 1–6. More detailed accounts are there referred to. The notes to the Epistle will in each case put the student in possession of the general character and particular excellencies or failings of each church, so that I need not repeat them here. In reference to the threat uttered by our Lord in ch. Revelation 2:5, we may remark, that a few miserable huts, and ruins of great extent and massiveness, are all that now remains of the former splendid capital of Asia. The candlestick has indeed been removed from its place, and the church has become extinct. We may notice, that Ephesus naturally leads the seven, both as the metropolis of the province, and as containing that church with which the Writer himself was individually connected.
8. SMYRNA, a famous commercial city of Ionia, at the head of the bay named after it, and at the mouth of the small river Meles: from which Homer, whose birthplace Smyrna, among other cities, claimed to be, is sometimes called Melesigenes. It is 320 stadia (40 miles) north of Ephesus. It was a very ancient city (Herod. i. 149): but lay in ruins, after its destruction by the Lydians (B.C. 627: cf. Herod. i. 16), for 400 years (till Alexander the Great, according to Pliny v. 31; Pausan. vii. 5. 1; till Antigonus, according to Strabo, l. xiv. p. 646 of the first Cæsars, one of the fairest and most populous cities in Asia (Strabo, ibid.). Modern Smyrna is a large city of more than 120,000 inhabitants, the centre of the trade of the Levant. The church in Smyrna was distinguished for its illustrious first bishop the martyr Polycarp, who is said to have been put to death in the stadium there in A.D. 166 (cf. Iren. Hær. iii. 3. 4, p. 176).
9. PERGAMUM (sometimes Pergamus), an ancient city of Mysia, on the river Caïcus, an ἐπιφανὴς πόλις (Strabo, l. xiii. p. 623). At first it appears to have been a mere hill-fortress of great natural strength; but it became an important city owing to the circumstance of Lysimachus, one of Alexander’s generals, having chosen it for the reception of his treasures, and entrusted them to his eunuch Philetærus, who rebelled against him (B.C. 283), and founded a kingdom, which lasted 150 years, when it was bequeathed by its last sovereign Attalus III. (B.C. 133) to the Roman people. Pergamum possessed a magnificent library, founded by its sovereign Eumenes (B.C. 197–159), which subsequently was given by Antony to Cleopatra (Plut. Anton. c. 58), and perished with that at Alexandria under Caliph Omar. It became the official capital of the Roman province of Asia (Pliny, v. 33). There was there a celebrated temple of Æsculapius, on which see note, ch. Revelation 2:13. There is still a considerable city, containing, it is said (Stuart, p. 450), about 3000 nominal Christians. It is now called Bergamah.
10. THYATIRA, once called Pelopia and Euippia (Plin. v. 31), a town in Lydia, about a day’s journey south of Pergamum. It was perhaps originally a Macedonian colony (Strabo, xiii. p. 625). Its chief trade was dyeing of purple, cf. Acts 16:14 and note. It is said to be at present a considerable town with many ruins, called Ak-Hisar, and to contain some 3000 Christians.
11. SARDIS, the ancient capital of the kingdom of Lydia, lay in a plain between the mountains Tmolus and Hermus, on the small river Pactolus: 33 miles from Thyatira and 28 from Philadelphia by the Antonine Itinerary. Its classical history is well known. In the reign of Tiberius it was destroyed by an earthquake, but restored by order of that emperor, Tacit. Ann. ii. 47; Strabo xiii. p. 627. It was the capital of a conventus in the time of Pliny (Acts 16:30); and continued a wealthy city to the end of the Byzantine empire. More than one Christian council was held here. In the eleventh century Sardis fell into the hands of the Turks, and in the thirteenth it was destroyed by Tamerlane. Only a village (Sart) now remains, built among the ruins of the ancient city.
12. PHILADELPHIA, in Lydia, on the N.W. side of Mount Tmolus, 28 miles S.E. from Sardis. It was built by Attalus Philadelphus, King of Pergamum. Earthquakes were exceedingly prevalent in the district, and it was more than once nearly demolished by them: cf. Tacit. Ann. ii. 47; Strabo xiii. 628. It defended itself against the Turks for some time, but was eventually taken by Bajazet in 1390. It is now a considerable town named Allahshar, containing ruins of its ancient wall, and of about twenty-four churches.
13. LAODICEA, Laodicea ad Lycum, was a celebrated city in the S.W. of Phrygia, near the river Lycus. It was originally called Diospolis, and afterward Rhoas (Plin. Acts 16:29): and the name Laodicea was owing to its being rebuilt by Antiochus Theos in honour of his wife Laodice. It was not far from Colossæ, and only six miles W. of Hierapolis. It suffered much in the Mithridatic war (Appian, Bell. Mithr. 20; Strabo xii. 578): but recovered itself, and became a wealthy and important place, at the end of the republic and under the first emperors. It was completely destroyed by the great earthquake in the reign of Nero: but was rebuilt by the wealth of its own citizens, without help from the state, Tacit. Ann. xiv. 27. Its state of prosperity and carelessness in spiritual things described in the Epistle is well illustrated by these facts. St. Paul wrote an Epistle to the Laodiceans, now lost. See Colossians 4:16, and Prolegg. to Vol. III. ch. 11. § iii. 2. It produced literary men of eminence, and had a great medical school. It was the capital of a conventus during the Roman empire. It was utterly ravaged by the Turks, and “nothing,” says Hamilton, “can exceed the desolation and melancholy appearance of the site of Laodicea.” A village exists amongst the ruins, named Eski-hissar.
14. See for further notices on the Seven Churches, Winer, RWB., and Dr. Smith’s Dictionary of Geography: from which two sources the above accounts are mainly compiled. In those works will be found detailed references to the works of various travellers who have visited them.
OBJECT AND CONTENTS
1. The Apocalypse declares its own object (ch. Revelation 1:1) to be mainly prophetic; the exhibition to God’s servants of things which must shortly come to pass. And to this by far the larger portion of the book is devoted. From ch. Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5, is a series of visions prophetic of things to come, or introducing in their completeness allegories which involve things to come. Intermixed however with this prophetic development, we have a course of hortatory and encouraging sayings, arising out of the state of the churches to which the book is written, and addressed through them to the church universal.
2. These sayings are mostly related in style and sense to the Epistles with which the book began, so as to preserve in a remarkable manner the unity of the whole, and to shew that it is not, as Grotius and some others have supposed, a congeries of different fragments, but one united work, written at one and the same time. The practical tendency of the Epistles to the Churches is never lost sight of throughout. So that we may fairly say that its object is not only to prophesy of the future, but also by such prophecy to rebuke, exhort, and console the Church.
3. Such being the general object, our enquiry is now narrowed to that of the prophetic portion itself: and we have to enquire, what was the aim of the Writer, or rather of Him who inspired the Writer, in delivering this prophecy.
4. And in the first place, we are met by an enquiry which it may be strange enough that we have to make in this day, but which nevertheless must be made. Is the book, it is asked, strictly speaking, a revelation at all? Is its so-called prophecy any thing more than the ardent and imaginative poesy of a rapt spirit, built up on the then present trials and hopes of himself and his contemporaries? Is not its future bounded by the age and circumstances then existing? And are not all those mistaken, who have attempted to deduce from it indications respecting our own or any subsequent age of the Church?
5. Two systems of understanding and interpreting the book have been raised on the basis of a view represented by the foregoing questions. The former of them, that of Grotius, Ewald, Eichhorn, and others, proceeds consistently enough in denying all prophecy, and explaining figuratively, with regard to then present expectations, right or wrong, all the things contained in the book. The latter, that of Lücke, De Wette, Bleek, Düsterdieck, and others, while it professes to recognize a certain kind of inspiration in the Writer, yet believes his view to have been entirely bounded by his own subjectivity and circumstances, denying that the book contains any thing specially revealed to John and by him declared to us; and regarding its whole contents as only instructive, in so far as they represent to us the aspirations of a fervid and inspired man, full of the Spirit of God, and his insight into forms of conflict and evil which are ever recurring in the history of the world and the Church.
6. I own it seems to me that we cannot in consistency or in honesty accept this compromise. For let us ask ourselves, how does it agree with the phænomena? It conveniently saves the credit of the Writer, and rescues the book from being an imposture, by conceding that he saw all which he says he saw: but at the same time maintains, that all which he saw was purely subjective, having no external objective existence: and that those things which seem to be prophecies of the distant future, are in fact no such prophecies, but have and exhaust their significance within the horizon of the writer’s own experience and hopes.
7. But then, if this be so, I do not see, after all, how the credit of the Writer is so entirely saved. He distinctly lays claim to be speaking of long periods of time. To say nothing of the time involved in the other visions, he speaks of a thousand years, and of things which must happen at the end of that period. So that we must say, on the theory in question, that all his declarations of this kind are pure mistakes: and, in exegesis, our view must be entirely limited to the enquiry, not what is for us and for all the meaning of this or that prophecy, but what was the Writer’s meaning when he set it down. Whether subsequent events justified his guess, or falsified it, is for us a pure matter of archæological and psychological interest, and no more.
8. If this be so, I submit that the book at once becomes that which is known as apocryphal, as distinguished from canonical: it is of no more value to us than the Shepherd of Hermas, or the Ascension of Isaiah: and is mere matter for criticism and independent judgment.
9. It will be no surprise to the readers of this work to be told, that we are not prepared thus to deal with a book which we accept as canonical, and have all reason to believe to have been written by an Apostle. While we are no believers in what has been (we cannot help thinking foolishly) called verbal inspiration, we are not prepared to set aside the whole substance of the testimony of the writer of a book which we accept as canonical, nor to deny that visions, which he purports to have received from God to shew to the Church things which must shortly come to pass, were so received by him, and for such a purpose.
10. Maintaining this ground, and taking into account the tone of the book itself, and the periods embraced in its prophecies, we cannot consent to believe the vision of the Writer to have been bounded by the horizon of his own experience and personal hopes. We receive the book as being what it professes to be, a revelation from God designed to shew to his servants things which must shortly come to pass(240). And so far from this word ἐν τάχει offending us, we find in it, as compared with the contents of the book, a measure by which, not our judgment of those contents, but our estimate of worldly events and their duration, should be corrected. The ἐν τάχει confessedly contains, among other periods, a period of a thousand years. On what principle are we to affirm that it does not embrace a period vastly greater than this in its whole contents?
11. We hold therefore that the book, judged by its own testimony, and with regard to the place which it holds among the canonical books of Scripture, is written with the object of conveying to the Church revelations from God respecting certain portions of her course even up to the time of the end. Whether such revelations disclose to her a continuous prophetic history, or are to be taken as presenting varying views and relations of her conflict with evil, and God’s judgment on her enemies, will be hereafter discussed. But the general object is independent of these differences in interpretation.
12. The contents of the book have been variously arranged. It seems better to follow the plain indication of the book itself, than to distribute it so as to suit any theory of interpretation. We find in so doing, that we have,
I. A general introduction to one whole book, ch. Revelation 1:1-3 :
II. The portion containing the Epistles to the seven churches, Revelation 1:4 to Revelation 3:22, itself consisting of
α. The address and preface, Revelation 1:4-8.
β. The introductory vision, Revelation 1:9-20
γ. The seven Epistles, Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22.
III. The prophetical portion, Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5; and herein
α. The heavenly scene of vision, Revelation 4:1-11.
β. 1. The sealed book, and the Lamb who should open its seven seals, Revelation 5:1-14.
2. The seven seals opened, Revelation 6:1 to Revelation 8:5, wherein are inserted two episodes, between the sixth and seventh seals.
a. the sealing of the elect, Revelation 7:1-8.
b. the multitude of the redeemed, Revelation 7:9-17.
γ. The seven trumpets of vengeance, introduced indeed before the conclusion of the former portion, Revelation 8:2, but properly extending from Revelation 8:6 to Revelation 11:19.
But here again we have two episodes, between the sixth and seventh trumpets,
a. the little book, Revelation 10:1-11.
b. the two witnesses, Revelation 11:1-14.
δ. The woman and her three enemies, Revelation 12:1 to Revelation 13:18. And herein
a. the dragon, Revelation 12:1-17.
b. the beast Revelation 13:1 to Revelation 13:10.
c. the second beast, or false prophet, Revelation 13:11-18.
ε. The introduction to the final triumph and the final vengeance, Revelation 14:1-20. And herein
a. the Lamb and his elect, Revelation 14:1-5.
b. the three angels announcing the heads of the coming prophecy:
1. the warning of judgments, Revelation 14:6-7.
2. the fall of Babylon, Revelation 14:8.
3. the punishment of the unfaithful, Revelation 14:9-12.
4. a voice proclaiming the blessedness of the holy dead, Revelation 14:13.
c. the harvest (Revelation 14:14-16) and the vintage (Revelation 14:17-20) of the earth.
ζ. The pouring out of the seven last vials of wrath, Revelation 15:1 to Revelation 16:21.
η. The judgment of Babylon, Revelation 17:1 to Revelation 18:24.
θ. The final triumph, Revelation 19:1 to Revelation 22:5. And herein
a. the church’s song of praise, Revelation 19:1-10.
b. the issuing forth of the Lord and His hosts to victory, Revelation 19:11-16.
c. the destruction of the beasts and false prophet and kings of the earth, Revelation 19:17-21.
d. the binding of the dragon, and the millennial reign, Revelation 20:1-6.
e. the unbinding, and final overthrow, of Satan, Revelation 20:7-10.
f. the general judgment, Revelation 20:11-15.
g. the new heavens and earth, and glories of the heavenly Jerusalem, Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5.
IV. The conclusion, Revelation 22:6-21. See on all this the table at p. 260, in which the contents are arranged with a view to prophetic interpretation.
SYSTEMS OF INTERPRETATION
1. It would be as much beyond the limits as it is beside the purpose of these prolegomena, to give a detailed history of apocalyptic interpretation. And it would be, after all, spending much labour over that which has been well and sufficiently done already. For English readers, the large portion of Mr. Elliott’s fourth volume of his Horæ Apocalypticæ which is devoted to the subject contains an ample account of apocalyptic expositors from the first times to the present: and for those who can read German, Lücke’s Einleitung will furnish more critical though shorter notices of many among them(241). To these works, and to others like them(242), I must refer my readers for any thing like a detailed history of interpretations: contenting myself with giving a brief classification of the different great divisions of opinion, and with stating the grounds and character of the interpretations adopted in the following Commentary.
2. The schools of apocalyptic interpretation naturally divide themselves into three principal branches:
α. The Præterists, or those who hold that the whole or by far the greater part of the prophecy has been fulfilled;
β. The Historical Interpreters, or those who hold that the prophecy embraces the whole history of the Church and its foes from the time of its writing to the end of the world:
γ. The Futurists, or those who maintain that the prophecy relates entirely to events which are to take place at or near to the coming of the Lord.
I shall make a few remarks on each of these schools.
3. α. The Præterist view found no favour, and was hardly so much as thought of, in the times of primitive Christianity. Those who lived near the date of the book itself had no idea that its groups of prophetic imagery were intended merely to describe things then passing, and to be in a few years completed(243). The view is said to have been first promulgated in any thing like completeness by the Jesuit Alcasar, in his Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalypsi, published in 1614. He regarded the prophecy as descriptive of the victory of the Church first over the synagogue, in chapters 5–11, and then over heathen Rome, in chapters 12–19: on which follows the triumph, and rest, and glorious close, chapters 20–22. Very nearly the same plan was adopted by Grotius in his Annotations, published in 1644: and by our own Hammond in his Commentary, published in 1653: whom Le Clerc, his Latin interpreter, followed. The next name among this school of interpreters is that of Bossuet, the great antagonist of Protestantism. His Commentary was published in 1690. In the main, he agrees with the schemes of Alcasar and Grotius(244).
4. The præterist school of interpretation has however of late been revived in Germany, and is that to which some of the most eminent expositors of that nation belong(245): limiting the view of the Seer to matters within his own horizon, and believing the whole denunciations of the book to regard nothing further than the destruction of Pagan and persecuting Rome.
5. This view has also found exponents in our own language. It is that of the very ample and laborious Commentary of Moses Stuart in America, and of Dr. Davidson and Mr. Desprez in England.
6. β. The continuous historical interpretation belongs almost of necessity to these later days. In early times, the historic material since the apostolic period was not copious enough to tempt men to fit it on to the symbols of the prophetic visions. The first approach to it seems to have been made by Berengaud, not far from the beginning of the twelfth century: who however carried the historic range of the Apocalypse back to the creation of the world(246). The historic view is found in the fragmentary exposition of the Seals by Anselm of Havelsburg (1145): in the important exposition by the Abbot Joachim (cir. 1200)(247).
7. From Joachim’s time we may date the rise of the continuous historic school of interpretation. From this time men’s minds, even within the Romish church, became accustomed to the ideas, that the apocalyptic Babylon was in some sense or other not only Pagan but Papal Rome: and that Antichrist was to sit, whether as an usurper or not, on the throne of the Papacy.
8. I pass over less remarkable names, which will be found composing an interesting series in Mr. Elliott’s history(248), noticing as I pass, that such was the view held by the precursors and upholders of the Reformation: by Wicliffe and his followers in England, by Luther in Germany, Bullinger in Switzerland, Bishop Bale in Ireland; by Fox the martyrologist, by Brightmann, Pareus, and early Protestant expositors generally.
9. As we advance in order of time, the same view holds its ground in the main among the Protestant churches. It is, with more or less individual varieties and divergences, that of Mede (1630), Jurieu (1685), Cressener (1690), Vitringa (1705), Daubuz (1720), Sir Isaac Newton (first published in 1733, after his death; but belonging to an earlier date), Whiston (1706), and the Commentators further on in that century, Bengel and Bishop Newton,
10. Mr. Elliott very naturally makes the great French Revolution a break, and the beginning of a new epoch, in the history of apocalyptic interpretation. From it, the continuous historical view seemed to derive confirmation and consistency, and acquired boldness to enter into new details, and fix its dates with greater precision.
11. Some of the more marked upholders of the view since that great Revolution have been divided among themselves as to the question, whether the expected second advent of our Lord is to be regarded as preceding or succeeding the thousand years’ reign, or millennium. The majority both in number, and in learning and research, adopt the premillenial advent: following, as it seems to me, the plain and undeniable sense of the sacred text of the book itself.
12. It is not the purpose of the present Prolegomena to open controversial dispute with systems or with individuals(249). The following Commentary will shew how far our views agree with, how far they differ from the school of which I am treating. With this caution, I cannot refrain from expressing my admiration of the research and piety which have characterized some of the principal modern Protestant expositors of this school. I must pay this tribute more especially to Mr. Elliott, from whose system and conclusions I am compelled so frequently and so widely to diverge.
13. γ. Our attention now passes to the Futurist school, consisting of those who throw forward the whole book, or by far the greater part of it, into the times of the great second Advent, denying altogether its historical significance.
14. Of these writers, some, who have been called the extreme futurists(250), deny even the past existence of the seven Asiatic churches, and hold that we are to look for them yet to arise in the last days: but the majority accept them as historical facts, and begin the events of the last days with the prophetic imagery in chap. 4. Some indeed expound the earlier seals of events already past, and then in the later ones pass at once onward to the times of antichrist.
15. The founder of this system in modern times (the Apostolic Fathers can hardly with fairness be cited for it, seeing that for them all was future) appears to have been the Jesuit Ribera, about A.D. 1580(251). It has of late had some able advocates in this country. To it belong the respected names of Dr. Maitland, Dr. Todd, Mr. Burgh, Isaac Williams, and others.
16. I need hardly say that I cannot regard this scheme of interpretation with approval. To argue against it here, would be only to anticipate the Commentary. It seems to me indisputable that the book does speak of things past, present, and future: that some of its prophecies are already fulfilled, some are now fulfilling, and others await their fulfilment in the yet unknown future: but to class all together and postpone them to the last age of the world, seems to me very like shrinking from the labours which the Holy Spirit meant us, and invites us, to undertake.
17. In the exposition of the Apocalypse attempted in this volume, I have endeavoured simply to follow the guidance of the sacred text, according to its own requirements and the analogies of Scripture. I am not conscious of having any where forced the meaning to suit my own prepossession: but I have in each case examined, whither the text itself and the rest of Scripture seemed to send me for guidance. If a definite meaning seemed to be pointed at in such guidance, I have upheld that meaning, to whatever school of interpretation I might seem thereby for the time to belong. If no such definite meaning seemed to be indicated, I have confessed my inability to assign one, however plausible and attractive the guesses of expositors may have been.
18. The result of such a method of interpretation may be apparent want of system; but I submit that it is the only way which will conduct us safely as far as we go, and which will prevent us from wresting the text to make it suit a preconceived scheme. This latter fault seemed to me so glaring and so frequent in our expositors of the historical school, and inspired me with such disgust, that I determined my own pages should not contain a single instance of it, if I could help it. And I venture to hope that the determination has been carried out.
19. The course which I have taken, that of following the text itself under the guidance of Scripture analogy, naturally led to the recognition of certain landmarks, or fixed points, giving rise to canons of interpretation, which I maintain are not to be departed from. Such are for instance the following:
20. The close connexion between our Lord’s prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives, and the line of apocalyptic prophecy, cannot fail to have struck every student of Scripture. If it be suggested that such connexion may be merely apparent, and we subject it to the test of more accurate examination, our first impression will I think become continually stronger, that the two, being revelations from the same Lord concerning things to come, and those things being as it seems to me bound by the fourfold ἔρχου, which introduces the seals, to the same reference to Christ’s coming, must, corresponding as they do in order and significance, answer to one another in detail: and thus the discourse in Matthew 24 becomes, as Mr. Isaac Williams has truly named it, “the anchor of apocalyptic interpretation:” and, I may add, the touchstone of apocalyptic systems. If its guidance be not followed in the interpretation of the seals, if any other than our Lord is he that goes forth conquering and to conquer, then, though the subsequent interpretation may have occasional points of contact with truth, and may thus be in parts profitable to us, the system is an erroneous one, and, as far as it is concerned, the true key to the book is lost.
21. Another such landmark is found I believe in the interpretation of the sixth seal: if it be not indeed already laid down in what has just been said. We all know what that imagery means in the rest of Scripture. Any system which requires it to belong to another period than the close approach of the great day of the Lord, stands thereby self-condemned. I may illustrate this by reference to Mr. Elliott’s continuous historical system, which requires that it should mean the downfall of Paganism under Constantine. A more notable instance of inadequate interpretation cannot be imagined.
22. Closely connected with this last is another fixed point in interpretation. As the seven seals, so the seven trumpets and the seven vials run on to the time close upon the end. At the termination of each series, the note is unmistakably given, that such is the case. Of the seals we have already spoken. As to the trumpets, it may suffice to refer to ch. Revelation 10:7, Revelation 11:18; as to the vials, to their very designation τὰς ἐσχάτας, and to the γέγονεν of ch. Revelation 16:17. Any system which does not recognize this common ending of the three, seems to me to stand thereby convicted of error.
23. Another such absolute requirement of the sacred text is found in the vision of ch. Revelation 12:1 ff. In Revelation 12:5, we read that the woman ἔτεκεν υἱὸν ἄρσεν, ὃς μέλλει ποιμαίνειν πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ἐν ῥάβδῳ σιδηρᾷ, καὶ ἡρπάσθη τὸ τέκνον αὐτῆς πρὸς τὸν θεὸν καὶ πρὸς τὸν θρόνον αὐτοῦ. All Scripture analogy and that of this book itself (cf. ch. Revelation 19:15) requires that these words should be understood of our incarnate Lord, and of no other. Any system seems to me convicted of error, which is compelled to interpret the words otherwise.
24. Another canon of interpretation has seemed to me to be deducible from the great care and accuracy with which the Seer distinguishes between the divine Persons and the ministering angels. Much confusion is found in the apocalyptic commentaries from this point not being attended to. “Is such or such an angel Christ Himself, or not?” is a question continually meeting us in their pages. Such a question need never to have been asked. ἄγγελος, throughout the book, is an angel: never our Lord, never one of the sons of men. This holds equally, I believe, of the angels of the seven churches and of the various angels introduced in the prophetic vision.
25. Various other rules and requirements of the same kind will be found mentioned in the Commentary itself. It may be well to speak of some other matters which seem worthy of notice here.
26. The apocalyptic numbers furnish an important enquiry to every Commentator, as to their respective significance. And, in general terms, such a question can be readily answered. The various numbers seem to keep constant to their great lines of symbolic meaning, and may, without any caprice, be assigned to them. Thus seven is the number of perfection: seven spirits are before the throne (ch. Revelation 1:4; Revelation 4:5): seven churches represent the church universal: the Lamb has seven horns and seven eyes (Revelation 5:6): in the several series of God’s judgments, each of them complete in itself, each of them exhaustive in its own line of divine action, seven is the number of the seals, of the trumpets, of the thunders, of the vials.
27. Four, again, is the number of terrestrial extension. Four living-beings are the celestial symbols of creation (Revelation 4:6 ff.): four angels stand on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of heaven (ch. Revelation 7:1): four seals, four trumpets, four vials, in each case complete the judgments as far as physical visitations are concerned: four angels are loosed from the Euphrates to slay the destined portion out of all mankind (Revelation 9:13 ff.), in obedience to a voice from the four corners of the altar: Satan deceives the nations in the four corners of the earth (Revelation 20:8): the new Jerusalem lieth four-square, having all sides equal.
28. Twelve is the number especially appropriated to the Church, and to those appearances which are symbolically connected with her. Twice twelve is the number of the heavenly elders: twelve times twelve thousand, the number of the sealed elect: the woman in ch. Revelation 12:1 has a crown of twelve stars: the heavenly city has twelve gates, at the gates twelve angels, and on them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; also twelve foundations, and on them the names of the twelve Apostles: and its circumference (probably: see note, ch. Revelation 21:16) is twelve thousand stadii. Finally, in the midst of her the tree of life brings forth twelve manner of fruits.
29. The occurrence of aliquot portions of these numbers is also worthy of our attention. The half of seven, three and a half, is a ruling number in the apocalyptic periods of time. Three years and a half had been the duration of the draught prayed for by Elijah (see James 5:17, note: also Luke 4:25); “a time, and times, and the dividing of time” was the prescribed prophetic duration of the oppression of the saints in Daniel 7:25. Accordingly, we find in the Apocalypse (ch. Revelation 11:2) that the two witnesses, one of whose powers is, to shut up heaven that there shall be no rain (Revelation 11:6), shall prophesy 1260 days = 3 × 360 + 180 = three years and a half. And if this particular reminds us of Elijah, the other, the turning the water into blood and smiting the earth with plagues, directs our attention to Moses, whose testimony endured throughout the forty and two stations of the children of Israel’s pilgrimage, as that of these witnesses is to endure forty and two months = 3 × 12 + 6 months = three years and a half. (Again, for three days and a half shall the bodies of these witnesses lie unburied in the street of the great city, after which they shall rise again.) The same period in days (1260) is the term during which the woman shall be fed in the wilderness (Revelation 12:6). The same in months (42) is allotted (Revelation 13:5) to the power of the first wild-beast which ascended from the sea.
30. I have not pretended to offer any solution of these periods of time, so remarkably pervaded by the half of the mystic seven. I am quite unable to say, who the two witnesses are: quite unable, in common with all apocalyptic interpreters, to point out definitely any period in the history of the church corresponding to the 1260 days of ch. Revelation 12:6, or any in the history of this world’s civil power which shall satisfy the forty-two months of ch. Revelation 13:5. As far as I have seen, every such attempt hitherto made has been characterized by signal failure. One after another, the years fixed on for the consummation by different authors have passed away, beginning with the 1836 of Bengel: one after another, the expositors who have lived to be thus refuted have shifted their ground into the safer future.
31. It is not my intention to enter the lists on either side of the vexed “year-day” question. I have never seen it proved, or even made probable, that we are to take a day for a year in apocalyptic prophecy: on the other hand I have never seen it proved, or made probable, that such mystic periods are to be taken literally, a day for a day. It is a weighty argument against the year-day system, that a period of “a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6-7) does occur in the prophecy: it is hardly a less strong one against literal acceptation of days, that the principles of interpretation given us by the Seer himself (Revelation 17:17) seem to require for the reign of the beast a far longer period than this calculation would allow. So that in the apparent failure of both systems, I am driven to believe that these periods are to be assigned by some clue, of which the Spirit has not yet put the Church in possession.
32. Still less can I offer any satisfactory solution of the prophetic number of the beast (Revelation 13:18). Even while I print my note in favour of the λατεινός of Irenæus, I feel almost disposed to withdraw it. It is beyond question the best solution that has been given: but that it is not the solution, I have a persuasion amounting to certainty. It must be considered merely as worthy to emerge from the thousand and one failures strewed up and down in our books, and to be kept in sight till the challenge ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν is satisfactorily redeemed.
33. On one point I have ventured to speak strongly, because my conviction on it is strong, founded on the rules of fair and consistent interpretation. I mean, the necessity of accepting literally the first resurrection, and the millennial reign. It seems to me that if in a sentence where two resurrections are spoken of with no mark of distinction between them (it is otherwise in John 5:28, which is commonly alleged for the view which I am combating),—in a sentence where, one resurrection having been related, “the rest of the dead” are afterwards mentioned,—we are at liberty to understand the former one figuratively and spiritually, and the latter literally and materially, then there is an end of all definite meaning in plain words, and the Apocalypse, or any other book, may mean any thing we please. It is a curious fact that those who maintain this, studious as they generally are to uphold the primitive interpretation, are obliged, not only to wrest the plain sense of words, but to desert the unanimous consensus of the primitive Fathers, some of whom lived early enough to have retained apostolic tradition on this point. Not till chiliastic views had run into unspiritual excesses, was this interpretation departed from(252).
34. It now remains that I say somewhat respecting my own view of the character and arrangement of the prophecy, which may furnish the reader with a general idea of the nature of the interpretation given in the notes.
35. And first for the principles on which that interpretation is based. α) The book is a revelation given by the Father to Christ, and imparted by Him through His angel to St. John, to declare to His servants things which must shortly come to pass: in other words, the future conflicts and triumphs of His church; these being the things which concerned “His servants.”
36. β) Of all these, the greatest event is His own coming in glory. In consequence, it is put forward in the introduction of the book with all solemnity, and its certainty sealed by an asseveration from the Almighty and everlasting God.
37. γ) Accordingly we find every part of the prophecy full of this subject. The Epistles to the Churches continually recur to it: the visions of seals, trumpets, vials, all end in introducing it: and it forms the solemn conclusion, as it did the opening of the book.
38. δ) But it was not the first time that this great subject had been spoken of in prophecy. The Old Testament prophets had all announced it: and the language of this book is full of the prophetic imagery which we also find in them, The first great key to the understanding of the Apocalypse, is, the analogy of Old Testament prophecy.
39. ε) The next is our Lord’s own prophetic discourse, before insisted on in this reference. He himself had previously delivered a great prophecy, giving in clear outline the main points of the history of the church. In this prophecy, the progress of the Gospel, its hindrances and corruptions, the judgments on the unbelieving, the trials of the faithful, the safety of God’s elect amidst all, and the final redemption in glory of His faithful people, were all indicated. There, they were enwrapped in language which was in great part primarily applicable to the great typical judgment on the chosen people—the destruction of Jerusalem. When this book was written, that event had taken place: completing the first and partial fulfilment of our Lord’s predictions. Now, it remained for prophecy to declare to the church God’s course of dealing with the nations of the earth, by which the same predictions are to be again fulfilled, on a larger scale, and with greater fulness of meaning.
40. It is somewhat astonishing, that many of those who recognize to the full the eschatological character of the prophetic discourse of our Lord, should have failed to observe in the Apocalypse the very same features of arrangement, and an analogy challenging continual observation.
41. ζ) In accordance with the analogy just pointed out, I conceive that the opening section of the book (after the vision in the introduction), containing the Epistles to the Churches, is an expansion of our Lord’s brief notes of comfort, reproof, and admonition addressed to His own in the prophecy on the Mount of Olives and elsewhere in His prophetic discourses.
42. “(253) It reveals to us our Lord as present with His people evermore in the fulness of His divine Majesty as the Incarnate and glorified Son of God: present with them by His Spirit to sympathize, to sustain, to comfort, to reprove, to admonish, as their need requires: his eye evermore on every heart, his love ever ready to supply all their need. The Epistles are no other than the expression of that special message of rebuke or encouragement which day by day in all ages the Lord sees to be needed, in one or other of its parts, by every Church, and every Christian, on earth. Every body of Christians, we are reminded, like every individual, has at each moment, its own definite religious character and condition: like Ephesus, sound, but with declining love and faith: like Smyrna, faithful in tribulation and rich in good works: like Pergamum, steadfast under open trial, but too tolerant of compromises with the world’s ways: like Thyatira, diligent in well-doing, and with many signs of spiritual progress, yet allowing false teaching and corrupt practice to go unchecked: like Sardis, retaining the form of sound doctrine, but in practice sunk into a deep slumber threatening spiritual death: like Philadelphia, faithful to the Lord’s word and name, loving Him though in weakness, and therefore kept in safety: or finally like Laodicea, ‘lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot:’ self-satisfied, because sunk too deep in spiritual sloth and indifference to be conscious of her poverty, and ready therefore to lose all without struggle or regret(254).”
43. This first section has set before us the Lord present with His church on earth; the next introduces us at once to His presence in heaven, and to the celestial scenery of the whole coming prophecy. It is to be noted that this revelation of God is as the God of His Church. The Father, seated on the Throne: the Lamb in the midst of the throne, bearing the marks of His atoning sacrifice: the sevenfold Spirit with His lamps of fire: this is Jehovah the covenant God of His redeemed. And next we have Creation, symbolized by the four living-beings—the Church, patriarchial and apostolic, represented by the twenty-four elders: and the innumerable company of angels, ministering in their glory and might, now by one of them, now by another, throughout the course of the prophecy.
44. In the next section, the Lamb, alone found worthy, opens one after another the seals of the closed book or roll, so that, when they are all opened, it may be unrolled and read. One point I have urged in the following notes: viz., that the roll is never during the prophecy actually opened, nor is any part of it read. The openings of its successive seals are but the successive preparations for its contents to be disclosed: and as each is opened, a new class of preparations is seen in prophetic vision. When the seventh is loosed, and all is ready for the unfolding and reading, there is a symbolic silence, and a new series of visions begins.
45. As regards the seals themselves, the first four are marked off from the other three in a manner which none can fail to observe. They represent, I believe, Christ’s victory over the world in His appointed way. We have Himself going forth to conquer, and in His train, the sword which He came to send on earth, the wars, famines, and pestilences, which He foretold should be forerunners of His coming. At each of these appearances, one of the living-beings who symbolize Creation echoes with his ἔρχου the sighs of the world for the manifestation of the sons of God. I conceive it to be a mistake, necessarily involved in the consecutive historical interpretation, but sometimes found where that is not, to interpret these four seals, as succeeding one another in time. All are co-ordinate, all are correlative.
46. Next to the sighs of Creation for the Lord’s coming, we have those of His martyred saints, crying from under His altar. Then, at the opening of the sixth seal, we have reproduced the well-known imagery of our Lord’s discourse and of the O. T. prophets, describing the very eve and threshold, so to speak, of the day of the Lord: the portents which should usher in His coming: but not that coming itself. For the revelation of this, the time is not yet. First, His elect must be gathered out of the four winds—the complete number sealed, before the judgments invoked by the martyred souls descend on the earth, the sea, the trees. First, the Seer must be vouchsafed a vision of the great multitude whom none can number, in everlasting glory. The day of the Lord’s coming is gone by, and the vision reaches forward beyond it into the blissful eternity. Why? Because then, and not till then, shall the seventh seal, which looses the roll of God’s eternal purposes, be opened, and the book read to the adoring Church in glory. Then we have the last seal opened, and the half-hour’s silence—the “initium,” as Victorinus sublimely says, “quietis æternæ.”
47. Thus far the vision of the seals necessarily reached onward for its completion. But there is much more to be revealed. God’s judgments on the earth and its inhabitants are the subject of the next series of visions. The prayers of the martyred saints had invoked them: with the symbolizing therefore of the answer to these prayers the next section opens. Then follow the trumpet-blowing angels, hurting the earth, the trees, the sea, the rivers, the lights of heaven. And here again, as before, the first four trumpets complete these œcumenical judgments, and with the fifth the three woes on mankind begin. The previous plagues have affected only the accessories of life: the following affect life itself.
48. In these latter we have the strictest correspondence with the foregoing vision of the seals. Two of them are veritably plagues, the one of the locust, the other of the horsemen. After this sixth trumpet are inserted two episodical passages, the one a vision, the other a prophecy (see below): then, when the seventh is about to sound, the consummation of God’s judgments passes unrecorded, as it did under the seals; and at the seventh trumpet, we have the song of thanksgiving and triumph in heaven. Such remarkable and intimate correspondence carries its own explanation: the two visions of the trumpets and seals run on to one and the same glorious termination: the former, in tracing the course of the world as regards the Church, the latter, in tracing God’s judgments of vengeance on the ungodly dwellers on earth: for it is for this that the heavenly song at its conclusion gives thanks.
49. If now we turn to the two episodes between the sixth and seventh trumpets, we find them distinctly introductory to that section which is next to follow. A little book is given to the Seer, sweet to his mouth, but bitter in digestion, with an announcement that he is yet again to prophesy to many nations—that a fresh series of prophetic visions, glorious indeed but woeful, was now to be delivered by him.
50. These begin by the measurement of the temple of God—seeing that it is the Church herself, in her innermost hold, which is now to become the subject of the prophecy. The course of the two witnesses, recalling to us by their spirit and power Moses and Elias, is predicted: and during the prediction, one principal figure of the subsequent visions is by anticipation introduced: the wild-beast that cometh up out of the abyss. That this is so, is at once fatal in my estimation to the continuous historical interpretation.
51. The student will find that there is no explanation of the two witnesses in the ensuing Commentary. I have studied the various solutions, and I own that I cannot find any which I can endorse as being that which I can feel to be satisfactory. I have none of my own. I recognize the characters: but I cannot appropriate them. I do not feel it to be any reproach to my system, or any disproof of its substance, that there are this and other gaps in it which I cannot bridge over. Nay, on the contrary, if it be a sound interpretation, there must be these: and to find events and persons which may fit the whole, ere yet the course of time is run, would seem to me rather writing a parody, than earnestly seeking a solution.
52. And now the seventh angel sounds; and as before at the opening of the seventh seal, the heavenly scene is before us, and the representatives of the church universal fall down and give thanks that God’s kingdom is come, and the time of the dead to be judged. But though this series of visions likewise has been thus brought down to the end of the final consummation, there is more yet to be revealed; and in anticipation of the character of the subsequent visions, the temple of God in heaven is opened, and the pause between one and another series is announced, as before between the seals and the trumpets, and as after at the end of the vials, by thunders and lightnings and voices.
53. And now opens the great prophetic course of visions regarding the church. Her identification in the eyes of the Seer is first rendered unmistakable, by the scene opening with the appearance of the woman and the serpent, the enmity between him and her seed, the birth of the Man-child who should rule over the nations,—His ascension to heaven and to the throne of God. Here, at least, all ought to have been plain: and here again I see pronounced the condemnation of the continuous historical system.
54. The flight of the woman into the wilderness, the casting down of Satan from heaven, no longer to accuse the brethren there, his continued enmity on earth, his persecution of the remnant of the woman’s seed, these belong to the introductory features of the great vision which is to follow, and serve to describe the state in which the Church of God is found during the now pending stage of her conflict.
55. What follows, carries out the description of the war made by the dragon on the seed of the woman. A wild-beast is seen rising out of the deep, uniting in itself the formerly described heads and horns of the dragon, and also the well-known prophetic symbols of the great empires of the world: representing, in fact, the secular powers antagonistic to the Church of Christ. To this wild-beast the dragon gives his might and his throne: and notwithstanding that one of its heads, the Pagan Roman Empire, is crushed to death, its deadly wound is healed, and all who are not written in the Lamb’s book of life worship it.
56. The further carrying out of the power and influence of the beast is now set before us by the vision of another wild-beast, born of the earth, gentle as a lamb in appearance, but dragon-like and cruel in character. This second beast is the ally and servant of the former: makes men to worship its image and receive its mark, as the condition of civil rights and even of life itself. Here, in common with very many of the best interpreters, I cannot fail to recognize the sacerdotal persecuting power, leagued with and the instrument of the secular: professing to be a lamb, but in reality being a dragon: persecuting the saints of God: the inseparable companion and upholder of despotic and tyrannical power. This in all its forms, Pagan, Papal, and in so far as the Reformed Churches have retrograded towards Papal sacerdotalism, Protestant also, I believe to be that which is symbolized under the second wild-beast.
57. Next, the apocalyptic vision brings before us the Lamb on Mount Sion with the first-fruits of His people, and the heavenly song in which they join,—as prefatory to the announcement, by three angels, of the prophecies which are to follow, so full of import to the people and church of God. These are, first, the proclamation of the everlasting Gospel as previous to the final judgments of God: next, the fall of Babylon, as an encouragement for the patience of the saints: third, the final defeat and torment of the Lord’s enemies. After these is heard a voice proclaiming the blessedness of the holy dead. Then follow, in strict accord with these, four announcements, 1) the harvest and the vintage of the earth, and the seven last plagues, symbolized by the out-pouring of the vials: 2) the ample details of the fall and punishment of Babylon: 3) the triumph of the Church in the last defeat of her Lord’s enemies: 4) the millennial reign, and finally, the eternity of bliss. But on each of these somewhat more must be said.
58. I have found reason to interpret the harvest, of the ingathering of the Lord’s people: the vintage, of the crushing of His enemies: both these being, according to the usage of this book, compendious, and inclusive of the fuller details of both, which are to follow.
59. The vintage is taken up and expanded in detail by the series of the vials: seven in number, as were the seals and the trumpets before. These final judgments, specially belonging to the Church, are introduced by a song of triumph from the saints of both dispensations, and are poured out by angels coming forth from the opened sanctuary of the tabernacle of witness in heaven.
60. The course of these judgments is in some particulars the same as that of the trumpets. The earth, the sea, the rivers, the lights of heaven—these are the objects of the first four: but ever with reference to those who worship the beast and have his mark on them. At the fifth, as in each case before, there is a change from general to special: the throne and kingdom of the beast, the river Euphrates, these are now the objects: and the seventh passes off, as in each former case, to the consummation of all things.
61. Meantime, as so often before, anticipating hints have been given of new details belonging to the other angelic announcements. At the sixth vial, we have the sounds of the gathering of an approaching battle of God’s enemies against Him, and the very battle-field pointed out. After the seventh and its closing formula, Babylon comes into remembrance before God, to give her the cup of His vengeance. Thus then we pass to the second of the angelic announcements—the fall of Babylon. Here the Seer is carried in spirit into the wilderness, and shewn the great vision of the woman seated on the beast. I have entered in the Commentary into all the details of this important portion of the prophecy: and it is unnecessary to repeat them here. It may suffice to say, that the great persecuting city, the type of the union of ecclesiastical corruption with civil tyranny, is finally overthrown by the hands of those very kingdoms who had given their power to the beast, and this overthrow is celebrated by the triumphant songs of the Church and of Creation and of innumerable multitudes in heaven.
62. But here again, according to the practice of which I cannot too often remind the student, a voice from heaven announces the character of the new and final vision which is to follow: Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And now, in the prophetic details of the third of the previous angelic announcements, and of the proclamation of the blessedness of the holy dead, the great events of the time of the end crowd, in their dread majesty, upon us. First, the procession of the glorified Redeemer with the armies of heaven following Him, coming forth to tread the winepress of the wrath of Almighty God. Then the great battle of the Lord against His foes, the beast and the false prophet, leagued with the kings of the earth against Him. Then, the binding of the dragon, the old serpent, for a season. Then, the first resurrection, the judgment of the church, the millennial reign: as to which I have again and again raised my earnest protest against evading the plain sense of words, and spiritualizing in the midst of plain declarations of fact. That the Lord will come in person to this our earth: that His risen elect will reign here with Him and judge: that during that blessed reign the power of evil will be bound, and the glorious prophecies of peace and truth on earth find their accomplishment:—this is my firm persuasion, and not mine alone, but that of multitudes of Christ’s waiting people, as it was that of His primitive apostolic Church, before controversy blinded the eyes of the Fathers to the light of prophecy.
63. But the end is not yet. One struggle more and that the last. At the end of the millennial period, Satan is unloosed, and the nations of the earth are deceived by him—they come up against and encircle the camp of the saints and the beloved city: and fire comes down out of heaven and consumes them: and the devil who deceived them is cast into the lake of fire. Then is described the general judgment of the dead, the destruction of death and Hades, and the condemnation of all whose names are not found written in the book of life.
64. Finally, in accord with the previous proclamation of the blessedness of the holy dead, the description of the heavenly Jerusalem forms the glorious close of the whole.
65. It remains that I say a few words in explanation of the annexed Table, which contains an arrangement of the Apocalyptic matter in accordance with the view upheld above.
66. In the upper part of the table, extending all across it, are specified the general subject of the book, printed in black, and the Epistles to the seven churches. Then follow, printed in red, the heavenly scenery and personages common to the whole following prophecy, till all the various visions merge, at the bottom of each column, in the new heavens and new earth, the description of which is again printed in red across the table beneath the columns.
67. The columns themselves contains the various visions, followed by the episodes which occur in them, in order: each in turn passing away into the great day of the Lord, and the events of the time of the end. Any one who has followed the Commentary, or even the epitome given in these Prolegomena, will have no difficulty in making use of the conspectus given in the table.
68. The words printed in thick type are intended to direct the reader’s attention to their recurrence as furnishing landmarks, or tests of interpretation: e. g. the numbers, seven, four, twelve: the white horse and its Rider: the ruling the nations with a rod of iron, as unmistakably identifying the Man-child of ch. 12 with the Victor of ch. 19: &c. &c.
69. I have now only to commend to my gracious God and Father this feeble attempt to explain the most mysterious and glorious portion of His revealed Scripture: and with it, this my labour of now eighteen years, herewith completed. I do it with humble thankfulness, but with a sense of utter weakness before the power of His Word, and inability to sound the depths even of its simplest sentence. May He spare the hand which has been put forward to touch His Ark: may He, for Christ’s sake, forgive all rashness, all perverseness, all uncharitableness, which may be found in this book, and sanctify it to the use of His Church: its truth, if any, for teaching: its manifold defect, for warning. My prayer is and shall be, that in the stir and labour of men over His Word, to which these volumes have been one humble contribution, others may arise and teach, whose labours shall be so far better than mine, that this book, and its writer, may ere long be utterly forgotten.
α΄ην ερχου κυριε ιησου.