the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms Hengstenberg's Commentary
by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg
THIS second volume, together with the first, contains the whole of Dr Hengstenberg’s work on the Revelation. The Translator has throughout confined himself to the task of endeavouring to convey the meaning of the original without essential alteration or abridgement, and without note or comment of his own. He is satisfied with having thus made accessible to students in this country a work on many accounts of great value, and one of the most important contributions of any age to Apocalyptic literature.
He trusts, however, that his simply having done the part of a Translator will not be held as committing him to all the views it unfolds, either in respect to the general structure of the book, or to the precise import of particular symbols. He would certainly at times have been inclined to indicate a doubt, or to express a dissent, had he not deemed it better to allow the sentiments of the learned author to go forth in unimpaired freedom, that they may be considered entirely on their own merits. Occasionally, he is obliged to acknowledge, sentences have passed from him with a regret, that the thoughts contained in them should either have been expressed at all, or expressed in a form so capable of being turned to an improper use. The last sentence of the comment on ch. Revelation 19:21 may be pointed to as an example of this description.
The work in the translation is accompanied with a twofold Index, which will be of considerable value in facilitating references, the one to the passages in other books of Scripture, which have received incidental illustration, and the other to the more important topics discussed. It will be understood, that only those passages in the other books of Scripture are noticed, on which some elucidation is thrown in the Commentary. Simple references are not noticed in the Index. It is proper also to notice in regard to a term that occurs with great frequency in the original, Weltmacht, that in by far the greater number of instances it has been rendered “worldly power,” or “power of the world,” though in a considerable number also, especially when combined with “ungodly” or “God-opposing,” it has been deemed better to preserve the more literal rendering of “world-power.” Where the other renderings are adopted, it should still be borne in mind, what the English circumlocutions do not necessarily imply, that the term usually denotes the power of this world in a concentrated form, such as it exhibited in heathen Rome, and the other great monarchies of former times.
THE Revelation of St John was for a long time a shut book to me. That it was necessary here to lay open a new path; that neither the course pursued in the older ecclesiastical, nor that of the modern Rationalistic exposition was to be followed, I never entertained a doubt. The constantly renewed attempts at fresh investigations resulted only in a better understanding of particular points, but accomplished nothing as to the main theme. I was not the less persuaded, however, that the blame of this obscurity lay not in the book itself, with the divine character of which I was deeply impressed, but in its exposition; and I did not cease to long for the time when an insight might be granted me into its wonderful depths. Several years ago, I was visited with what was, in other respects, a heavy season of affliction, which obliged me to discontinue for some months my official duties. I looked about for a rod and staff that might comfort me, and soon lighted on the Revelation. Day and night I pondered on it, and one difficulty vanished after another. At the period of my recovery, there was scarcely a point of any moment respecting which I did not think I had obtained light. I had still, however, after becoming well, to finish my Commentary on the Psalms. Then I went to my task with the greatest eagerness. The sad times of March 1848 did not interrupt, but rather expedited my labours.
It was my purpose to have issued the two volumes of the work simultaneously. But I have now resolved to bring out the first volume alone—because the Revelation has a very close relation to the wants of the present time, and I reckoned it my duty to endeavour, according to the best of my ability, that the rich treasury of counsel and comfort, which the Lord has provided for us in this book, should as soon as possible be made accessible to those who desire to possess it. Such as wish to obtain a glimpse of the whole of the exposition, may find what they desire in the two treatises: The beast in the Apocalypse, Evang. Kirche-Zeitung, 1847, and: The thousand years’ reign, Do. 1848.
The title shows that this work is intended for all who search the Scriptures. The remarks contain little of a grammatical nature. The text will present no difficulties to cultivated readers, even though not theologians, if they are only animated by an earnest desire to become thoroughly acquainted with the contents of the book.
Of the investigations which are usually brought into Introductions to the Apocalypse, that alone is presented here which respects the historical starting-point of the book, as being the only one which really has its proper place before the exposition. All besides is reserved for concluding treatises to be contained in the second volume.
Many readers will think there are too frequent quotations from the older Expositors, especially from Bengel. Such persons, however, should remember that their wants are not the only ones that require to be met. The experience I have already had in connection with my Commentary on the Psalms, has specially induced me not to be sparing in these quotations. Certainly the greater number of readers will be more pleased with this than if I had gone into greater length in stating and commenting on the views of others, which would have been of less service in regard to this book than almost any other in the Bible. The present times, too, urgently demand that we should disburden the exposition of sacred Scripture from all unprofitable matter, and instead of that should present what properly accords with its design, as declared in 2 Timothy 3:16, and may constantly bring it to mind. That the ascetical element should create no prejudice against the necessity of scientific inquiries is taken for granted; and I hope that no reproach will in this respect be cast on me.
I am perfectly aware that this work is destined to meet with much disfavour from many who are united with me in faith. The persons whose concurrence I should have most highly prized, are precisely those in whom the exposition of Bengel, to which also I owe more than to any other for the explanation of particular parts, has taken deepest root; insomuch that an attack on it, which has made the Revelation dear and precious to them, will scarcely be regarded by them in any other light than as an attack on the Revelation itself. But I am still not without confidence, that the method of exposition attempted here will by and bye make way, especially among those who are disposed to look more profoundly into the Old Testament, and in particular into its prophetical writings. For this is absolutely indispensable to a proper understanding of the Revelation. My confidence rests on the conviction, that I have not striven to foist in any thing, but to the best of my ability have sought merely to expound and enforce what is written.
In conclusion, I commend this work, the deficiencies of which I deeply feel, to Him who has given me strength to execute it thus far, and who has rendered it to myself a source of edification and comfort.
ON THE TIME OF THE COMPOSITION OF THE BOOK
THE older theologians proceeded almost uniformly on the supposition, that the Book of Revelation was composed in the closing period of Domitian’s reign—an opinion that finds, in Vitringa especially, an excellent though brief defence. On the whole, however, little comparatively was done to establish this opinion on solid and satisfactory grounds; even Bengel did not go deeply into the matter. The feeling for the genuine historical interpretation of the Apocalypse was still not awakened, so that but little weight could as yet be attached to this most important inquiry, and it was passed hurriedly over. The interest felt in it was less on account of the exposition, than for the defence of the authority of the old ecclesiastical tradition, which had declared in favour of the composition under Domitian. But there being no right feeling awakened for the true historical interpretation, the power failed, in connection with that interest, to give a lucid exhibition of the proof. This can only be found when one understands how to obtain from many scattered indications a living image of the existing condition of the Seer, which forms the proper starting-point for the announcement of the future. Vitringa has some excellent observations in this respect, but they are confined to the seven epistles. In regard to the remainder of the Book, the question as to the historical starting-point can scarcely be said to be so much as mooted. With him, as with Bengel, and so many unfortunately even to our own day, the prophecy swims, as it were, in the air; and nothing, consequently, could be derived a from it for determining the period of its composition. In more recent times the position advanced originally by Grotius, Hammond, Lightfoot, for the purpose of understanding certain passages of the fate of Judaism, that the Book was composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, has been pretty generally acquiesced in. And on the authority especially of Ewald and Lücke the precise opinion, that the Apocalypse was composed under Galba, has obtained very general consent. By many it is uttered with a sort of naive confidence, and most of all by those who have brought almost nothing of an independent investigation to bear upon the subject.
We shall, first of all, examine the external testimonies that relate to the point at issue. From these we shall gather the result that, what Lampe has said in his Comm. on John i. p. 62, “all antiquity agrees in the opinion of Domitian’s being the author of John’s banishment,” is no paradox, but the simple truth. For, the deviations from this result are on the part only of such as do not deserve to be heard and considered.
The series of testimonies for the composition under Domitian is opened by Irenaeus. He says, B. V. c. 30, “For if it were necessary at present to declare plainly his name (i.e. the name of the person indicated by the number 666 in the Apocalypse Revelation 18:18), it might be done through him, who also saw the Apocalypse. For it was seen not long ago, but almost in our generation, toward the close of Domitian’s reign.” [Note: Εὶ? γὰ?ρ ἀ?ναφανδὸ?ν τῶ?ͅ? νῦ?ν καιρῶ?ͅ? κηρύ?ττεσθαι τοῦ?νομα αὐ?τοῦ?, δἰ? ἐ?κεί?νου ἀ?̓?ν ἐ?ῤ?ῥ?έ?θν τοῦ? καὶ? τὴ?ν ἀ?ποκά?λυψιν ἑ?ωρακό?τος· οὐ?δε γὰ?ρ πρὸ? πολλοῦ? χρό?νου ἐ?ωρά?θη , ἀ?λλὰ? σχεδὸ?ν τῆ?ς ἡ?μετέ?ρας γενεᾶ?ς , πρὸ?ς τῳ?͂? τέ?λει τῆ?ς Δομετιανοῦ? ἀ?ρχῆ?ς .] Irenaeus was in a position for knowing the truth. According to the beginning of the chapter, the nos. 666 (in opposition to the other reading 616) bear testimony to having seen John in the face. [Note: Μαρτυρού?ντων αύ?τῶ?ν ἐ?κεί?νων τῶ?ν κατ̓? ὀ?́?ψιν τὸ?ν Ιωά?ννην ἑ?ωρακό?των .] He speaks not by way of conjecture or on constructive reasons, but as of a matter established beyond any possibility of doubt. He neither expressly refers, nor alludes to the passage, ch. Revelation 1:9, from which the opponents of the composition under Domitian might so naturally attempt to account for the testimonies of antiquity to that era. Nor does he announce it, as if communicating something that had hitherto been unknown, but with another design altogether, he introduces it as a thing then generally known and acknowledged. This is evident from the circumstance of his contenting himself with only a brief indication, and his being quite silent regarding the persecution of Domitian, and the apostle’s exile to Patmos, the occasion which gave rise to the composition of the Apocalypse in the existing circumstances of the period—confident that his first readers would readily supply all this themselves.
Clement of Alexandria (in the work Qυ is dives § 42, and in Eusebius III. 23) says: “For since he (John) after the death of the tyrant returned to Ephesus from the isle Patmos,” [Note: Επειδὴ? γὰ?ρ τοῦ? τυρά?ννου τελευτή?σαντος ἀ?πὸ? τῆ?ς Πά?τμου τῆ?ς νή?σου μετῆ?λθεν εἰ?ς τὴ?ν Ἐ?φεσον .] &c. The manner in which he speaks of the matter shews that there is implied a generally known tradition: the tyrant, the Roman emperor of the first century, Domitian, who, as is well known, pre-eminently deserves that name. It cannot be alleged that Clemens spoke of the tyrant, and not of Domitian, because he was ignorant of the name. He would in that case have chosen a general designation, not such an one as pre-supposes that he had in view a definite person.
Origen on Matthew 20:22-23, says: “But the sons of Zebedee have drunk the cup and been baptized with the baptism, since Herod killed James the brother of John with the sword; and the king of the Romans, as tradition testifies, condemned the witnessing John on account of the word of truth to the isle Patmos. But John himself instructs us regarding his martyrdom, not saying indeed who had adjudged him to it, yet declaring in the Apocalypse as follows: ‘I, John, your brother and companion in tribulation,’ &c., and seems to have beheld the Revelation on the island.” [Note: Πεπώ?κασι δὲ? τὸ? ποτή?ριον καὶ? τὸ? βά?πτισμα ἐ?βαπτί?σθνσαν οἰ? τοῦ? Ζεβεδαί?ου νἱ?οι , ἐ?πεί?περ Ἡ?πώ?δης μὲ?ν ἀ?πεκτεινεν Ἰ?ά?κωβον τὸ?ν Ἰ?ωά?ννον μαχαί?ρᾳ?: ὁ? δὲ? Ρωμαιων βασιλεὺ?ς , ὠ?ς ἡ? παρά?δοσις διδά?σκει , κατεδί?κασε τὸ?ν Ιωά?ννην μαρτυροῦ?ντα δαὶ? τὸ?ν τῆ?ς ἀ?ληθεί?ας λό?γον εἰ?ς Πά?τμον τὴ?ν νῆ?σον· διδασκει δε τα περι του , μαρτυριον εαυτον Ιωά?ννης , μὴ? λέ?γων τί?ς αὐ?τον κατεδί?κασε , φά?σκων ἐ?ν τῆ? ἀ?ποκαλύ?ψει ταῦ?τα· ἐ?γὼ? Ἰ?ωαννης ὁ? ἀ?δελφὸ?ς ὑ?μῶ?ν καὶ? συγκοινωνὸ?ς ἐ?ν τῆ?ͅ?θλί?ψει κ .τ .λ ., καὶ? ἐ?́?ιοκε τὴ?ν ἀ?ποκά?λυψιν ἐ?ν τῆ?ͅ? νή?σῳ? τεθεωρηκέ?ναι .] Here the king of the Romans forms the contrast to Herod the king of the Jews. Origen is silent respecting the name, because he was generally known, and the blank was easily supplied from the tradition, to which he refers. That the omission of the name is not, with Lücke p. 410, to be accounted for by his not knowing it, is evident from the analogy in Clemens, where more definitely, though still without the application of any proper name, the term “tyrant” is used; it is evident also, from the analogy in Eusebius III. 20, where “the isle” is the well-known traditional island Patmos; and, finally, from a comparison of the other preservers of the tradition, in particular Irenaeus, who expressly names Domitian. Had Origen not been well assured regarding the name connected with the tradition—for which not the semblance of a reason can be given, and which is a mere refuge invented for the occasion—he would not have pointed so unconditionally to tradition, without at least intimating that he ascribed to it only a partial credibility.
The assertion, proceeding only from interested considerations, that what the ancients knew of John’s exile to Patmos was inferred simply from the statement in ch. Revelation 1:9, is contradicted by Origen as distinctly as he well could. He remarks expressly, that he derived the fact of John’s banishment to Patmos primarily from a substantial tradition, of whose credibility he, the critic, suggests no doubt. He introduces the testimony of John himself only as a confirmation, and remarks that it is less complete than the tradition, since the latter alone, besides what was common to the tradition and the Apocalypse, mentions who condemned the apostle. The tradition could not simply have been drawn by Origen from Irenaeus. For, he refers to this far more than is to be found in the merely indicative statement of Irenaeus, who says nothing, indeed, of the condemnation of John and his banishment to Patmos. We have no right, with Lücke, to lay the emphasis on, “he appears to have seen the Apocalypse on the island,” and thence conclude, that the composition of the Apocalypse was only regarded by Origen as having probably taken place in Patmos. It is only a modest expression, which refers not so much to the execution of the particular work, as to human knowledge in general, according to the adage, αἰ?τί?ην δὲ? ἀ?τερεκέ?α μὲ?ν ἰ?́?ασι μοῦ?νοι θεοὶ?, ἐ?οικυῖ?αν δὲ? καὶ? ἀ?́?νθρωποι (the certain cause is known only to the gods, and the probable to men).
More cannot justly be attributed to the “he appears,” since the tradition, to which Origen refers, on the part of its other vouchers connects the composition of the Apocalypse with the banishment to Patmos as an undoubted fact.
Eusebius, in B. III. ch. xviii. of his Church History, says, “Under him (Domitian) tradition relates, that the apostle and evangelist John, who was still alive, on account of his testimony for the divine word, was condemned to reside in the isle Patmos.” [Note: Ἐ?ν τού?τῳ? κατέ?ξει λογος τὸ?ν ἀ?πό?στολον καὶ? ἐ?υαγγελιστή?ν Ἰ?ωά?ννην ἑ?́?τι τῳ? βί?ῳ? ἐ?νδιατρί?βοντα , τῆ?ς εἰ?ς τὸ?ν θεῖ?ον λό?γον ἑ?́?κεκεν μαρτυρί?ας , Πά?τμον οἰ?κεῖ?ν καταδικασθῆ?ναι τὴ?ν νῆ?σον . See in reference to the κατέ?χει λό?γος , which by no means marks an unauthorized, loose report, but commonly tradition, Rothe’s Aufange der Christ. Kirche, p. 359.] In B. III. ch. xx.: “Then also that the apostle John returned from his banishment on the island, and took up his dwelling again at Ephesus, the tradition of our older men has delivered to us.” [Note: Text: Τό?τε δὴ? οὐ?͂?ν καὶ? τὸ?ν ἀ?πό?στολον Ἰ?ωά?ννην ἀ?πὸ? τῆ?ς κατὰ? τὴ?ν νῆ?σον φογῆ?ς τὴ?ν ἐ?πὶ? τῆ?ς Ἐ?φέ?σου διατριβὴ?ν ἀ?πειληφεναι ὁ? τῶ?ν παῤ? ἡ?μί?ν ἀ?ρχαί?ων παραδί?δωσι λό?γος .] Again, in B. III. ch. xxiii., “John governed there (in Asia) the churches, after his return from exile on the island, subsequent to the death of Domitian.” [Note: Ἰ?ωά?ννης τὰ?ς αὐ?τό?θι διεῖ?πεν ἐ?κκλησί?ας ἀ?πὸ? τῆ?ς κατὰ? τὴ?ν νῆ?σον μετὰ? τὴ?ν Δομετιανοῦ? τελευτὴ?ν ἐ?πανελθὼ?ν φογῆ?ς .] Also in the Chronicon under the fourteenth year of Domitian, “The apostle John, the theologian, he banished to the isle Patmos, where he saw the Apocalypse, as Irenaeus says.”
Eusebius is quite consistent with himself in the several passages, and always speaks with the same confidence (comp. besides Demonstr. III. 5). When in the Chronicon he refers to Irenaeus as a sure voucher, it is so far of importance as it shews him to have had no suspicion that that Father had formed it by merely combining notices together. But it does not at all prove that Irenaeus was the only source of the tradition to Eusebius. The contrary is manifest from the circumstance, that what Eusebius gives as the testimony of tradition, contains more than what is stated by Irenaeus, and also, because in one of the passages he refers to several depositaries of the tradition. Never once does Eusebius point, by so much as a single syllable, to any other view regarding the author of John’s exile, and the time of the composition of the Apocalypse. So that there must then in this respect have been perfect unanimity in the church. Finally, under the name of Victorinus of Petabio, who suffered martyrdom under Diocletian in the year 303, we have a writing on the Apocalypse, which is printed in the third volume of the Bibl. Patr. Lugd., and which as to its substance is undoubtedly genuine, for it bears too exactly the character of the style which Jerome ascribes to Victorinus (see the collection of his expressions in the Bibl. Patr., and other reasons for its substantial genuineness, may be seen in Lücke, p. 494). But in this work the composition of the Apocalypse under Domitian, during the exile in Patmos, is spoken of as a matter of undoubted certainty. [Note: The main passage is at p. 419: Oportet te iterum propheiare, inquit, populis et lingnis: hoc est, quoniam quando hoc vidit Johannes, erat in insula Patmos, in metallum damnatus a Domitiuno Caesare. Ibi ergo vidit Apocalypsin: et cum senior jam putaret, ae per passionem accepturum receptionem, interfecto Domitiano omnia judicia ejus soluta sunt, et Joannes de metallo dimissus sic postea tradidit hanc eandem quam acceperat u Domino Apocalypsin, hoc eat, oportete iterum prophetare. See also p. 420.]
These are all the testimonies on the time of the composition of the Apocalypse belonging to the age of living tradition. They declare with perfect unanimity that John was banished by Domitian to Patmos, and there wrote the Apocalypse. Variations begin only to appear in the age of theology and learning. Epiphanius is the first, who puts forth another view. But even there the tradition still has such sway, that all persons of any critical acumen, all who know how to distinguish between historically accredited facts and conjectures and combinations, declare themselves on its side. At the head of these is Jerome, who did not reckon it worthwhile even to notice the existence of a different account, which must therefore be held to be every way improbable. [Note: E.g. de viria illust. 9: Johanness quarto decimo anno secundum post Neronem persecutionem movente Domitiano iu Patmos insulam relegatuas scripsit Apocalypsin. Also ad Jovin ii. l4, and in the Chronicon. The ancient and right account is found also in Sophorinus (abont 629), in the life of John, and in Theophylact’s Commentary on the four Gospels: Τεσσαρεσκαιδεκά?το ἐ?́?στε , δεύ?ταρον μετὰ? Νέ?ρωνα διωγμὸ?ν κινοῦ?ντος Δομετιανοῦ? εἰ?ς Πά?τμον νῆ?σον περιορισθεὶ?ς συνέ?ταξεν ἀ?ποκά?λυψσιν , &c.] The matter stands precisely similar with the question regarding the genuineness.
For the more correct appreciation of the other and differing accounts we submit the following remarks.
1. It is only in writers of inferior rank that these accounts are to be found. Epiphanius, who is the first in point of time, is also by far the most important. But the judgment which Vitringa expressed regarding him, “that he was an extremely incredulous person, and in the mention of traditions or sayings of the ancients much less exact than he seems to be,” is now generally received. To pitch him against Irenaeus, and treat with discredit the testimony of the latter, on the ground of what he has said, would betray a palpable want of critical acumen. [Note: Vitringa, however, does him on injustice, when, following Huetius, he would discover a confusion of such a nature (in one important passage, adv. haer. T. i. p. 431, also in another, p. 450) as would entirely destroy his title to be heard. Vitringa makes him say there, that John was already upwards of ninety years old when he returned from the island under Claudius. In that ease, Epiphanius had preserved unchanged the age which John had attained at the time when, according to the tradition, he returned from the island. Epiphanius relates that John “composed his Gospel at a great age, after the ninetieth year of his life, after his return from Patmos, which took place under the emperor Clandius.” But Lampe had already shewn, on John vol. i. p. 81, that Epiphanius meant to say that John was “ninety years old and upwards when, after his return from Patmos, and a considerable period more which he spent in Asia, be composed his Gospel.” By expressing himself, however, in so careless and loose a manner, Epiphanius has certainly laid himself open to misunderstanding.] The late Syriac translator and Pseudodorotheus carry still less weight. And Theophylact furnishes a test for the measurement of his sagacity, in announcing, instead of the Apocalypse, that the Gospel was composed at Patmos, without probably a single authority to support the statement. [Note: Διὰ? τοῦ? ἰ?δί?ος εὐ?αγγελί?ου , ὁ?́? καὶ? συνέ?γραψεν ἐ?ν Πά?τμῳ? τῃ?͂? νή?σῳ? ἀ?ξό?ριστος διατελῶ?ν μετὰ? τριακονταδὺ?ο ἑ?́?τη τῆ?ς τοῦ? Χριστοῦ? ἀ?ναλή?ψεως . The deviation from the tradition here attaches merely to the number. Is this to be regarded as quite certain?]
2. None of those who deviate from the tradition venture to refer to it, while this is quite common with those who place the exile of John and the writing of the Apocalypse under Domitian.
3. “Only those (remarks Lücke) who place the exile under Domitian, indicate the continuance in a definite way.” All the others speak in a vague manner, and do not venture to go into more exact specifications: precisely as we should have expected, on the supposition of the one class resting on historical tradition, and the other following uncertain conjectures.
4. The deviators are quite at variance among themselves, while the statement which places the composition under Domitian has the fixed impress, that is the mark of truth. The Syriac translation makes the exile of John and the composition of the Apocalypse to have taken place under Nero, Epiphanius under Claudius, and according to Pseudodorotheus he was banished to Patmos by Trajan.
5. The deviators shew also by their vacillation and wavering that they have no firm ground beneath their feet. Pseudodorotheus, after he has placed the banishment of John to Patmos under Trajan, adds, “But others say, he was banished to Patmos, not under Trajan, but under Domitian, the son of Vespasian.” [Note: Before Theophylact on John: Ὑ?πὸ? δὲ? Τραϊ?ανοῦ? βασιλέ?ως ἐ?ξωρί?σθη ἐ?ν τῃ?͂? νή?σω Πατμῳ? διὰ? τὸ?ν λό?γον τοῦ? κυρί?ου ... Εἰ?σι δὲ? οἱ? λέ?γουσι , μὴ? ἐ?πὶ? Τραϊ?ανοῦ? αὐ?τὸ?ν ἐ?ξωρισθῆ?ναι ἐ?ν Πά?τμῳ?, ἀ?λλὰ? ἐ?πὶ? Δομετιανοῦ? υἱ?οῦ? Οὐ?εσπασιανοῦ?.] Arethas, who at ch. Revelation 7:1-8 places the composition of the Apocalypse before the Jewish war, at ch. Revelation 1:6, makes it to have been written under Domitian.
6. We can with tolerable certainty discover the extraneous grounds, which have given rise to these departures from the historical tradition, and through which they lose all their importance. They have no higher origin than the opinions of our modern critics, who on the ground of the first plausible conjecture and discovery on the internal field, disregard and tread under foot the weightiest and most solid testimonies. Epiphanias ranks in the same line with Züllig.
It cannot but appear strange, that all those who depart from the tradition, amid their other diversities agree in this, that they place the composition of the Revelation before the era of Jerusalem’s overthrow. That what impelled them to this was the belief of certain passages in Revelation having respect to the Jewish catastrophe, seems probable alone from the analogy of later critics and expositors, who from Grotius downwards have been chiefly influenced by this consideration to disallow the composition of the Apocalypse under Domitian. But it is raised to certainty by expressions of Andreas and Arethas, who in reference to certain passages expressly affirm that they were understood by some of the Jewish war, who consequently could not do otherwise than transfer the composition of the book to a time previous to that war. [Note: Andreas says on ch. 6:12; Καὶ? εἰ?͂?δον ὁ?́?τε ἡ?́?νοιξε τὴ?ν σφραγί?δα τὴ?ν ἐ?́?κτην , καὶ? σεισμὸ?ς μέ?γας ἐ?γέ?νετο , καὶ? ὁ? ἡ?́?λιος ἐ?γέ?νετο μέ?λας ὡ?ς σά?κκυς κ .τ .λ . Καὶ? ταῦ?τά? τινες εἰ?ς τὴ?ν ἐ?πὶ? Οὺ?εσπασιανοῦ? πολιορκί?αν ἐ?ξά?λαβον ἀ?́?παντα τῶ?ν εἰ?ρημέ?νων ἐ?́?καστον τροπολαγή?σαντες . Also on ch. 7:1: Καὶ? ταῦ?τά? τισιν ὑ?πὸ? Ρωμαί?ον πά?λαι τοῖ?ς Ἰ?ουδαί?οις γεγανή?θαι ἐ?ξεί?ληπται .] But in proportion as the exposition of the Apocalypse was then in a state of infancy, the less consideration can justly be attributed to what has sprung from such a ground.
Why the Emperor Claudius should have been fixed on may be gathered from those who have latterly contended for the composition under his reign. Grotius, Hammond, and others derive their chief argument in favour of Claudius from Acts 18:2, and the well-known passage of Suetonius (Claud, c. 25), which speak of the expulsion of the Jews, and this is supposed to have involved also John’s banishment to Patmos. Another argument may still be found in the original passage Matthew 24:7, “And there shall be famines and pestilences in various places,” on which Revelation 6:5-8 rests; for this has often been referred to the times of Claudius, in whose reign a famine four times broke out and a pestilence twice—comp. Acts 11:28, the comm. on Sueton. c. 18, Schott Comment, in Sermones de reditu, p. 27.
It was the more natural to think of Nero, when one once abandoned the ground of testimony and gave way to conjectures, since, having been the first to begin the work of persecution against Christians, and the person under whom the most distinguished of the apostles, Peter and Paul, suffered martyrdom, he was regarded in ancient times as distinctively the persecutor. Tertullian already makes John, not indeed banished by Nero to Patmos; yet put by him into a barrel of boiling oil. [Note: So at least Jerome already, adv. Jovin. c. i. c. 14, understood his expression, de praeaer. c. 86. Comp. Lampe on John Prolog, i. c. 4, i § 8.]
We are not, however, to suppose that with the result we have now attained, the inquiry respecting the composition of the Apocalypse is to be regarded as closed. External testimonies alone cannot decide the matter. It is conceivable, that what was originally conjecture, may have clothed itself in the garb of tradition, and under this form deceived even the most honest inquirers. But we must put the matter in its fair and correct position—that we have no longer to speak of two equally accredited views of antiquity; that we must recognise upon the one side a well-supported tradition, and on the other an uncertain conjecture; that we must proceed to the investigation of the internal grounds with the consciousness of having already at the outset won a firm position, from which we should not suffer ourselves to be driven by any uncertain conjectures, but only by the most conclusive arguments. But the more careful examination of the internal grounds, far from invalidating the external testimonies, rather yields the result, that the Book could have been composed at no other time than during the reign of Domitian.
I. Let us first bring into view the condition of the churches in Lesser Asia, as that appears in the seven epistles. Dr. Lücke himself is obliged to admit, p. 243, that the Revelation supposes a condition of the churches, which, in contradistinction from the earlier one of Paul’s time, may be designated the age of John. First of all, the seven epistles presuppose a time, when that word of the Lord, “But when the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept,” and that word, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold,” had already passed into fulfilment. The blessed period of the first love is past, even there too, where it still relatively stood fast; zeal has relaxed and corruption make great inroads; we feel ourselves everywhere transferred to the later times, “in which a grievous corruption, that not suddenly but by gradual advances had sprung up, and acquired new strength as it proceeded, had already befallen those churches.”
In Ephesus the love which Paul, in Ephesians 3:18 of his epistle, had besought for the Ephesians, has become cooled. “But I have somewhat against thee, that thou hast left thy first love,” ( Revelation 2:4). Already it is a time, when that which still remained is in danger of perishing. “Remember from whence thou hast fallen (it is said in ver. 5), and repent and do the first works; else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.” Paul, in his farewell discourse to the church at Ephesus, Acts 20, still makes no mention of any blemishes among them, but only warns them against the snares of the threatening foe. The Epistle to the Ephesians, written by Paul (according to Wieseler in his Chronol. of the Apost. age, p. 455) during the period of his first two years’ imprisonment at Rome, or in the year 61 or 62 (according to Harless about the year 62), everywhere conveys the impression of fresh life, of a first love. The apostle begins at the very outset with an expression of thanksgiving to God for all the rich spiritual gifts which he had conferred on that church. He lauds in particular the love of the Ephesians, their brotherly love, which has its source and foundation in the love of God, Ephesians 1:15-16, “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.”
The church of Sardis appears in a still sadder condition. “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead”—is the word to her, Revelation 3:1—your light has already well-nigh become extinct.
Laodicea had become lukewarm; wretched and miserable, poor, and blind, and naked. The condition of the Laodicean church in Paul’s time is partly to be estimated by that of the Ephesian, according to Colossians 4:16, partly and more particularly by that of the church of Colosse; comp. Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:13; Colossians 4:15-16. The Epistle to the Colossians was written about the same time with that to the Ephesians (see Wieseler), and not long before the close of Paul’s life, when suffering imprisonment at Rome. There, just as in the Epistle to the Ephesians, he gives thanks for what he had heard of their faith and love: “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and your love to all the saints,” ( Colossians 1:3-4). According to Colossians 2:5, the apostle is with them in spirit rejoicing and beholding their order and their faith in Christ.
Dr Lücke thinks, p. 413, that the change in question can be explained, though a period of only ten years had intervened. But even this short space is not secured. The date of the Apocalypse is supposed by him to have been separated from that of the Epistles to Ephesus and Colosse by a period of somewhere about six years. And then it is clear as day, that even a space of ten years could not account for so radical a change. It bespeaks a change of persons, the arrival of a new generation: comp. Judges 2:7, according to which the people served the Lord so long as Joshua and the elders lived, who had seen the mighty works of the Lord, which he had done for Israel. In regard, especially, to what concerns the Laodiceans it will not do merely to say: Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis. It were indeed a source of despair, if such a change on the part of established Christians could be explained from a change of times, and, God be thanked, is without an example in the history of the Christian church. The world can certainly become demoralized in a short time, but Christians retain their anointing. And then in the decennium immediately following the composition of the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, no change of times can be pointed out, which should have brought such perils with it, endangering even the elect. It came only at the period, to which the church tradition assigns the composition of the Apocalypse, under the reign of Domitian. There all the premises are to be found, which are required to explain the facts. We have, in that case, an interval of more than thirty years. During that period the apostles had all, with the exception of John, gone to their rest, and so the boundary set by the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 had been crossed; gone, too, were the Christian fathers, who had seen the great deeds of the Lord, while a storm of persecution, such as the Christian church had not yet seen, passed over the less firmly established new generation. Hence, the Seer writes, according to ch. Revelation 1:9, to his companions in tribulation and in the patience of Jesus Christ. Then did the word of the Lord in Matthew 13:20-21, find a mournful fulfilment: “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he who heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and bye he is offended.”
Farther, we find in the churches to which John wrote, the errors of those, whom he designates by the symbolical names of the Nicolaitans or Balaamites, deeply rooted and wide-spread. According to ch. Revelation 2:21, the Lord had already given ample time to their operations: “And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.” How strong the pressure of the Nicolaitans was upon the church at Ephesus, is manifest from its being mentioned as a matter of high desert, that they hated the deeds of these Nicolaitans. They must there have been already excluded from the church. For in apostolic times this was the form in which hatred manifested itself—comp. 1 Corinthians 5—and it could not otherwise have been a fact of a public character, as it appears to have been. In the church at Pergamos the matter had not been brought to such an exclusion, a proof how strong the party there was. So also in the church at Thyatira. It must there have found its way to the directorship; as may be inferred from the Jesabel, the wife of the angel, the weaker half of the party in office.
The rise of the importance of this sect can only be explained in connection with the influence which heathenism had preserved in men’s minds, by reason of persecution, as a similar temptation and inclination to apostacy to Judaism in consequence of Jewish persecution meets us in the epistle to the Hebrews. And among Israel also the heathenish tendencies were never stronger than in the times of severe oppression on the part of the world, before the conquest of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, and under Antiochus Epiphanes. Pergamos, which was a chief seat of this heresy, is described as the throne of Satan, the main centre of the heathenish persecution. Antipas, the faithful witness, had there suffered martyrdom. The community had under the persecution maintained their faith, but they were not to come out of the conflict without wounds. In Thyatira, the second seat of the heresy, the promise given shews that the temptation to false doctrine sprung from a terrible pressure on the part of heathenism. “He that overcometh and keepeth my words to the end, to him will I give power over the nations . . . and I will give him the morning star (a glorious supremacy).” If the church internally resists the pressure of heathenism, does not allow itself to be drawn aside to heathenish errors, it shall also gain externally the victory over it. Therefore, the temptation had come in from “the power of the heathen.” Whosoever withstands it, receives in turn “the power of the heathen.” Then, for the rise of this heresy out of the heathen persecutions, there is the analogy of ch. 11. In consequence of the overflowing of the heathen the fore-court of the temple is there given up, such, namely, as had no deep root, they are overcome through the heathen persecutions, and are drawn over to the fellowship of those, who in their minds were heathenish.
Accordingly, the getting the victory over this error implies what could not have existed before the times of Domitian, when for the first time a severe persecution, and one that threatened the annihilation of the Christians, swept over the church, and especially did not exist in the reign of Galba, during which there was no proper persecution of the Christians.
In the epistles of Paul there still occurs no trace of such a gross and wide-spread falling away into the region of heathenism. The errors, with which Paul contends, were chiefly of Jewish origin, as were also the troubles which then pressed upon the Christians. Hymeneus and Philetus, according to the second epistle of Paul to Timothy, written at the very close of the apostle’s life, succeeded with their refined philosophical error in turning only a few from the faith—ἀ?νατρέ?πουσι τὴ?ν τιῶ?ν πύ?στιν . The farther spread of such errors was expected only in the coming future; 1 Timothy 5:17, comp. Acts 20:29-30.
The proper kernel of our heresy meets us, for the first time, in the second epistle of Peter, which the apostle wrote, according to 2 Peter 1:13-14, when he had death in immediate prospect. To the name of the Nicolaitans here corresponds there the comparison with Balaam, in 2 Peter 2:15-16. The errors appear there chiefly to belong to the future; although the liveliness of the description, and the circumstance that the errors are sometimes spoken of as present, show that the apostle had the first beginnings of the evil already before his eyes. The occasion of its rise is indicated in 2 Peter 3:4. Where, say the opposing party, is the promise of his coming? The desire for this must have been awakened by the violence of the persecution and the tribulations of the world. What the Christians had latterly to suffer under Nero was well fitted, particularly at Rome, to call forth the first workings of the evil, and especially to open the eyes of the apostle in respect to the magnitude in the future, when the persecution should increase and widen, of the danger that should thence threaten the church. We are conducted a step farther by the epistle of Jude. The errors, which in the second epistle of Peter appeared as still chiefly lying in the future, are here represented as already present. “The errors (says Heydenrich in his defence of the genuineness of the second epistle of Peter), which Peter had announced as ready to appear, were now in actual being, and strove to gain a footing in the church, with which Jude was more immediately connected. How appropriate that he should repeat, and call up to the recollection of his readers, what at an earlier period Peter had so impressively and profoundly uttered for their warning!” That what was future in Peter had now become present, was the proper motive to Jude for writing his epistle. [Note: Decisive for the priority of the second epistle of Peter, as compared with that of Jude, is Jude v. 17, 18, comp. with 2 Peter 3:3. We have here also an important testimony for the genuineness of the second epistle of Peter. But see Heydenrich, p. 97, also 103.] But even in Jude the error is still by no means so far advanced and so fully disclosed to view, as in the Revelation. There also it is said only, that “certain men had crept in unawares.” We see ourselves here, therefore, brought into a quite isolated region, the path to which only began to be indicated in the latest epistles of the New Testament.
II. Of great importance for determining the time of composition is the passage ch. Revelation 1:9, “I John, your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony, of Jesus Christ.” From this passage various proofs may be derived in confirmation of the view that the Book must first have been composed under Domitian. First, the prophet designates himself as the companion of Christians in Lesser Asia, to whom he primarily wrote, in their tribulation, and indeed in such a tribulation as kindled the desire after the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of glory. For, as the world then sought to lay the church at its feet, the church needed to have her faith quickened in regard to the coming glory, that she might be able to bring fully into exercise the patience of faith. The discourse here, therefore, must be of a Christian persecution in the proper sense, and one that was of a general nature. But such a persecution first happened under Domitian. That which took place in Nero’s time was confined to Rome.
Then the Seer presents himself here to our view as one who had suffered exile on account of his fidelity to the Christian testimony. Such local deportations, beside punishments of a capital nature, there is good evidence for believing were inflicted during the persecution of Domitian. On the other hand, under Nero, history knows only of capital executions at Rome, and never once mentions anything like deportations from one place to another. Finally, the Seer, John, was on the isle Patmos when he received the Apocalypse. But it was under Domitian that tradition affirms John to have been banished thither.
Now, every thing has been brought into requisition to dispose especially of the second and third of these points. Lücke, in his Introduction, p. 244, would fain have us to make no account of the passage in determining the period of the composition. For the exposition is doubtful regarding the exile to Patmos, and the tradition of such an exile of John is not harmonious—problematical. We do not need to enter on the latter point here; as the subject has already been discussed in the preceding investigations. To remove the exile to Patmos from our text in an exegetical way, Lücke has certainly bestowed great pains in the treatise on the Revelation of John 1:1-2; John 1:9, in the Studien und Kritiken for the year 36, p. 654, ss. But we cannot avoid feeling our suspicions awakened as to the results there obtained, when we see how the main object in view comes out in the inquiry, for example in the words p. 661: “If we have rightly interpreted the passage, ch. Revelation 1:9, the exegetical reason, at least, disappear for the tradition, that John was ever banished to Patmos as a martyr;” and a more careful examination only serves to prove this suspicion to be well grounded.
Lücke reasons thus: What may hinder us from determining thus the phraseology of the Apocalypse, that “the testimony of Jesus Christ,” with “the word of God,” may be understood partly, as in John 20:4, and John 12:17, of the gospel generally, so far as it refers to the testimony of Jesus, partly in a more special sense, if a particular prophetical word of God is meant, which was to be given or communicated through Jesus? Ch. Revelation 1:9 stands too near to ch. Revelation 1:2, not to be interpreted pre-eminently by it. If there the special revelation of the future is meant, so also here. Patmos is the place selected by God himself, where John must receive that revelation. Dr Bleek confesses that he has arrived at the same view, in the Evangelienkritik, p. 192: “The nearness of the passage (ch. Revelation 1:2) renders it at least probable that we should explain in a corresponding manner ch. Revelation 1:9, as indicative of the design, on account of which the Seer had withdrawn himself to the isle of Patmos, viz. that he might there receive the divine revelation which he unfolds in his Book.”
From the first we feel compelled to think unfavourably of this interpretation. The air of martyrdom swims all around us in the Book of Revelation. Just as it can be rightly understood and appreciated only by those who have experience of tribulations, [Note: Bengel says in his Gnomon on ch. 1:9: In tribulatione maxime hic liber fidelibus sapit. Asiatica ecclesia, praeaertim a floridissimo Constantini tempore, minus magni aestimavit hunc librum. Vix vestigium reperias Apacalypseos a Constantinopolitanis doetoribus allegatae: ubi in Chrysostomi operibus citatur, hoc ipsum alieni tractatus indicium est. Africana ecclesia, cruci magis obnoxia, semper hunc librum plurimi fecit.] so it could only have been written by one who had himself drunk of the bitter cup of martyrdom, had himself felt the force of its temptations, and in experience had known the sweetness of that consolation which he stretches forth to others. The persecution on the part of the worldly power of heathendom is the starting-point of the whole; and that the author was himself affected by it is evident from the prevailing tone of sadness, and the wrestling character of faith:—comp. the “I wept much” in ch. Revelation 5:4, which pervades the whole Book. The Book becomes a riddle, whenever we lose sight of the truth that it was written by a martyr (as such John is already designated by Polycrates of Ephesus, in Euseb. v. 24); and we must proceed on this ground, even though ch. Revelation 1:9 did not exist. Such passages as ch. Revelation 7:9-17 indispensably require this key. So only would a partaker of the tribulation of Jesus Christ administer consolation. We, therefore, cannot feel disposed to abandon a mode of explanation which is in such perfect harmony with the whole spirit of the Book, unless constrained to do so by the most urgent necessity.
But so far from this being the case, the interpretation which understands the passage of martyrdom is the only tenable one. For, never and nowhere do the expressions “the word of God,” and “the testimony of Jesus Christ,” of themselves mark a prophetical announcement. In ch. Revelation 1:2 they certainly have that import, but only in connection with what precedes, and without prejudice to their more general signification: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John, who (here also, as formerly in the gospel and the epistles [Note: It is true, certainly, that ver. 2 does not directly refer to the Gospel of John, as many held formerly, but to the matter of the Revelation itself. But, on the other hand, one cannot deny the connection with John’s gospel, in 1:14, 19:36. and especially the conclusion, 21:24, as also with the first epistle of John ch. 1:1, ss., and 4:14, without doing violence to that exegetical feeling, to which we must make our appeal, as there are no conclusive reasons here for establishing what will not be frankly conceded. This connection of the beginning of the Revelation, especially with the close of the gospel and the beginning of the epistle, presents itself clearly before us with the construction; Who also here, as in the gospel and the epistle testified of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, and that in the form of an immediate vision. We have thus also an explanation of the otherwise strange generalness of expression, the want of any direct reference to the prophetical matter. We must the less, too, think of refusing to acknowledge this connection of the Revelation with the gospel and epistle, as it goes hand in hand with other references in the Revelation to the gospel. Comp. for example ch. 3:20, with the expression of the Lord in John 14:21; John 14:23; ch. 5:5 with John 16:33; ch. 5:6 with John 1:20; John 1:36; ch. 7:16, with John 6:35; ch. 11:7 with John 7:6; John 8:30; ch. 12:9 with John 12:31-32; John 19:13, with the introduction to the gospel. The facts now mentioned are also in so far of importance as they evince the priority of the Gospel and the Epistle to the Revelation, and so forbid us transferring the composition of the Apocalypse to an early period. But as this argument is not of a palpable kind, we satisfy ourselves with merely indicating it.)] , testified of the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ that he saw.” In the passage before us, however, no such restrictive clauses have preceded, nor is there to be found any such reason for the more general mode of expression, as occurs above, in the allusion to the gospel and the epistles; here, therefore, the discourse can only be of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus in general.
But were the phrase, “for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” doubtful in themselves, they would still receive from the connection in two ways a more precise and definite import. First, by the preceding context: your companion in the tribulation and the patience of Jesus Christ; the words, “I was in the isle that is called Patmos,” etc., representing more definitely the part which the Seer had in the tribulation and patience of Jesus Christ. Then, by the sojourn on the island. This was fitted for no other purpose than as a place of banishment. Not for the preaching of the gospel, to which several in earlier times referred the expression, on account of the word of God,” etc. For, the island, which, according to Pliny, H. N. iv. 12, was thirty thousand paces in circuit, was too insignificant to draw toward it the regard and labours of an apostle, or of any one occupying so high a place as to have intrusted to him the oversight of the churches in Asia. Nor had it any peculiar fitness as a place where the Revelation was to be received. This might as well have been imparted to the Seer in his own dwelling. The only circumstance, which, with any appearance of probability, might be alleged as a reason for the apostle undertaking a visit to Patmos, in order to receive the Revelation there, is the nearness of the sea—a circumstance which has actually been adduced by Züllig, in his Revelation of John Th. i. p. 233. One might point with that view to ch. Revelation 13:1, “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea.” But it were to overlook the power of the Spirit, if we should suppose, that the prophet must, or even could make a voyage, in order to have the sea within view. Daniel, when far in the interior of the solid land, saw the four winds striving on the great sea. It was also in the Spirit only that Daniel found himself on the river Ulai, in Daniel 8:2. In the Revelation we can the less think of any thing else, as the Seer had before him constant examples of the use of the sea as a symbol by the older men of God. Nor is there to be found a single case, in which a prophet undertook a journey to a distant place, that he might there receive a vision.
The argument from the manner of expression and the connection is still farther strengthened by a comparison of the passage, ch. Revelation 13:10, which implies, that at the time when the Book was composed, beside capital executions there were also banishments to different places on account of the faith of Christ—a passage, which entirely accords with the one before us in the sense we put on it. In regard also to the particular expressions, see the passages ch. Revelation 6:9, “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held;” Revelation 11:11, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony;” Revelation 20:4, “Those that were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God;”—in all which unquestionably it is faithfulness in confessing Christ in the midst of sufferings, which is denoted by these expressions.
Finally, the reference of our passage to the martyrdom of John is still farther confirmed by comparing it with Matthew 20:22-23, Mark 10:38. There the Lord announced to James and John that they should drink of his cup and be baptized with his baptism. A literal fulfilment of this declaration is what, both from its own nature and from the example of James, as well as the analogous case of Peter, we naturally expect to find. At the same time, we are not to overlook the circumstance, that in respect to John it was tempered by another announcement in John 21:20-22, according to which a martyrdom in the proper sense, as involving the loss of life for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, does not come into view. The exile to Patmos is the only event in which the fulfilment can be sought. This was recognized already by Origen in Matt. Opp. iii. p. 719. To the like effect Jerome, in his commentary on the passage in Matthew; who, besides, refers to the report of John having been put into a barrel of boiling oil,—a report which had its rise in the feeling, as if the banishment to Patmos did not seem sufficient to fulfil the word of Christ. For the same reason, Victorinus of Petabio aggravates the exile in Patmos, by describing it as a banishment to the works in the mountains, and Theophylact (on the same passage) still makes John, after the exile, be sent back to Patmos by Trajan.
Exception has been taken against the reference of the passage to the exile of John, because only the greater culprits were doomed to this punishment; criminals of an ordinary kind were appointed instead to work in the mountains. But it is easy to shew, that the fact on which this argument is based does not rest on a solid foundation. [Note: That the punishment was applied even to common criminals in certain alone from Juvenal i. 73: Aude aliquid brevibus Gyaris et carcere dignum, si vis esse aliquid: probitas landatur et alget. Comp. x. 163. According to Suetonius, Tit. c. 8, the delatores of Titus were banished in asperimas insularum. What Pliny says in the Panegyr. c. 34, of the conduct of Trajan towards the delatores, we shall give at length; as it is well fitted to supply us with an exact copy of the situation of the Seer: Congesti sunt in navigia raptim conquisita se tempestatibus dediti. Abirent fugerentque vastatas delationibus terras, ac si quem fluctus ac procellae scopulis reservassent, hic nuda saxa et inhospitale litus incoleret, ageret duram et anxiam vitnm. With this let the history of Flaccus, in Philo, p. 987, A., be compared: Μετὰ? δὲ? τὴ?ν ἀ?φαί?ρεσιν τῆ?ς οὐ?σί?ας κατέ?γνωστο αὐ?τοῦ? φυγὴ? , καὶ? ἐ?ξ ἀ?πά?σης μὲ?ν λαύ?νετο τῆ?ς ἠ?πεί?ρου , τό?δ ἐ?στὶ? μεῖ?ζον καὶ? ἀ?́?μεινον τμῆ?μα τῆ?ς οἰ?κουμέ?νης , ἐ?ξ ἀ?πά?σης δὲ? νή?σου τῶ?ν εὐ?δαιμό?νων .] There is at any rate no want of proof that this punishment was especially suspended over those who were accused of misdemeanour against the state religion of Rome. [Note: Lampe, in his Comm. on the Gospel of John 1:65: religionis ab idololatria Romana abhorrentis professioni exilium pro poena decrevit Marcus imperator: Modestinus Juris consultus legc . . . . digest, de poenis: Si quis aliquid fecerit, quo leves hominum animi superetitione naminis terrentur: divus Marcus hujusmodi homines in insulam relegare rescripsit.]
III. The persecution of the Christians, which proceeded from the supreme magistrate himself, from the Roman state and its rulers as such—this forms the historical starting-point of the Revelation. Such a persecution, being intended to repel the invasion which the new religion made upon the state’s sovereignty, its pretended divinity, implied that the conflict between the deified world-power, and the worship of the true God and his Son, had already begun. The beast, the world-power, has, according to ch. Revelation 13:1 (comp. Revelation 17:3), upon its heads the name of blasphemy. Its adherents, according to ch. Revelation 13:4 (comp. Revelation 18:8), ask in a confident and insulting tone, Who is like the beast? It opens its mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven ( Revelation 13:6). According to Revelation 13:8, it is worshipped by its adherents as a polemical demonstration against the Lamb. According also to Revelation 13:12, the false prophet directs to this worship, and according to ver. 15 he has power to compass the death of those who do not worship the image of the beast.
We have here an important proof that the Revelation could not be composed before Domitian’s time. “Domitian,” says Reimarus, on Dio Cassius, p. 1112, “was the first, Caligula perhaps excepted, who among the Romans laid claim to the name of God, and therefore nearly the whole odium connected with that ought to rest upon him.” Certain approaches, indeed, to this claim are to be met with in the earlier Caesars, in particular in Augustus. But in those cases it was the flattery of others which prompted what was done, and the emperor himself rather exercised a restraining influence. [Note: Spanheim, de usu numismatum dissert. III. f. i. p. 141: “No one will be surprised that the fawning and idolatrous Greeks should have worshipped with divine honours and titles the emperors themselves, as supreme lords of the world, or a kind of present Deity; and not such merely as had died, but those also who were still alive. Respectiug Augustus, indeed, what is recorded by Tranquillus is well known: “Templa, quamvis sciret etiam Proconsulibus decerni solere, in nulla tamen provincia, nisi communi suo Romaeque nomiue receipt: nam in urbe quidem pertinacissime ahstinnit” (in Augusto, c. 52). Tacitus, however, reports the matter a little differently, when he mentions how persons of a sober cast of mind reflected against Augustus, that nothing peculiar in divine honour was left to the gods, since he wished himself to be worshipped at temples and statues by flamens and priests. This is confirmed also by Victor Schotti, and Horace says in reference to it: Praesenti tibi maturos largimur honores, jurandasque tuas per nomen ponimus aras.” Suetonius also states, beside what is quoted above by Spanheim: Atque etiam argenteas statuas olim sibi positas conflavit omnes, exque iis aureas cortinas Apollini dedicavit.] But here the emperor took the initiative, and the claim was so extravagantly urged, that scarcely any thing of a similar kind is to be met with among the later emperors, and on this very account Domitian is quite notorious in antiquity. Philostratus, in the life of Apollonius, B. viii. c. 4, p. 324, makes Apollonius defy the claim of Domitian, “who would have himself regarded as the god of all men.” According to Suetonius, he began his letters thus, “Our Lord and God commands that it should be done so and so;” and formally decreed that no one should address him otherwise either in writing or by word of mouth. [Note: Sueton. Domit. c. 13: Pari arrogantia, cum precuratorum suorum nomine formalem dictarct epistolam, sic coepit: Dominus et Dcus noster hic fieri jubet. Unde institutum posthac, ut ne scripto quidem ac sermone cujnsquam appellaretur aliter.] According to Dio Cassius, Nerva caused the gold and silver images of Domitian, which were very numerous, to be melted. [Note: Dio Cassiua Nerva c. 1.: Μί?σει δὲ? Δομετιανοῦ? αἱ? αὐ?τοῦ? πολλαὶ? μὲ?ν ἀ?ργυρ αϊ?, πολλαί? δὲ? καὶ? χρυσαϊ? οὐ?͂?σαι συνεχωνεύ?θησαν· καὶ? ἐ?ξ αὐ?τῶ?ν μεγά?λα χρή?ματα συνελέ?γη .] Pliny says, that he regarded any slight to his gladiators as an act of impiety toward his divinity. [Note: Plinius Panegyr. c. 33: Demens ille verique honoris ignarus, qui crimina magistatis in arena colligebat, ac se despici et contemni, nisi etiam gladiatores ejus veneraremur, sibi maledici in illis, suam divinitatem, suum numen violari interpretabatur, cum se idem quod deos, idem gladiatores quod se putaret.] He states, that Trajan was content with the place next to the gods, but that Domitian put himself on a footing of equality with them; nay, raised himself above them, and as if he alone almost had any claim to godhead, chose for his statues the most hallowed sites in the temple, and caused entire hosts of victims to be offered to himself. [Note: Panegyr. c. 52: Tu delubra nonnisi adoraturus intras, tibi maximus honor excubare pro templis, cum vice custodis aut satellitis statuae tuae ponuntur in vestibulis templorum, at non in ipsis, postibusque praetexi (apponi) .... At paulo ante aditus omnes, omnes gradus totaque area, hinc auro, hinc argento relucebat, seu potius polluebatur, cum incesti Principis statuis permixta Deorum simulacra sorderent Simili reverentia, Caesar, non apud genium tuum bonitati tuae gratias agi, sed apud numen Jovis optimi max. pateris; illi debere nos quidquid tibi debeamus, illius quod bene faciae muneris esse, qui te dedit Ante quidem ingentes hostiarum greges per Capitolinum iter, magna sui parte velut intercepti, divertere via cogebantur, cum saevissimi domini atrocissma effigies, tanto victimarum cruore coleretur, quantum ipse humani sangninis profundebat.] In the downfal of Domitian Pliny saw an irony in real life on his pretended divinity. [Note: Ille tamen, quibus sibi parietibus et muris salutem suam tueri videbatur, dolum secum et insidias et ultorem scelerum denm inclusit. Dimovit perfregitque custodias Poena, augustosque per aditus et obstructos, non secus ac per apertas fores et invitantia limina prorupit; lungeque tunc illi divinitas sua.]
Hence, it is self-evident that under Domitian Christianity had to enter on a struggle of life or death with the imperial power, which always claimed, even in the hands of its most discreet possessors, more than Christians could yield. A sharp collision was now, therefore, inevitable. It is true, we cannot produce distinct historical statements to the effect that Domitian urged his impious claim precisely against the servants of God and his Son, and considered the honour given to these as a robbery of that due to himself. But this omission is easily explained from the decided aversion of heathen authors to Christianity, who could not but regard it as fatal to relate what would appear to give Christians the right side in the matter, and thereby awaken sympathy in their favour. Still, there are not wanting plain enough notices, which, when properly explained, perfectly supply the defect of particular accounts.
The chief passage here is that of Dio Cassius, B. lvii. p. 1112, Reim.: “In this same year Domitian put to death, beside many others, the consul Flavius Clemens, although he was his uncle, and had to wife Flavia Domitilla, who was also a relative of the emperor. Both were accused of impiety, for which also many others were condemned, having gone astray after the customs of the Jews. But Domitilla was only banished to Pandatereia.” [Note: Καὶ? τῳ?͂? αὐ?τῳ?͂? ἐ?́?τει ἀ?́?λλους τε πολλοὺ?ς καὶ? τὸ?ν Φλά?βιον Κλή?μεντα ὑ?πατεύ?οντα καί?περ ἀ?νεψιὸ?ν ὀ?́?ντα , καὶ? γυναϊ?κα καὶ? αὐ?τὴ?ν συγγεην͂? ἑ?αυτοῦ? Φλαβί?αν Δομιτί?λλαν ἐ?́?χοντα κατέ?σφαξεν ὁ? Δομετιανό?ς . Ἐ?πηνέ?χθη δὲ? ἀ?μφοϊ?ν ἐ?́?γκλημα ἀ?θεό?τητος , ὑ?φ̓? ἠ?́?ς καὶ? ἀ?́?λλοι ἐ?ς τὰ? τῶ?ν Ἰ?ουδαί?ων ἠ?́?θη ἐ?ξοκέ?λλοντες πολλοι κατεδικά?σθησαν . Καἰ? οἱ? μὲ?ν ἀ?πέ?θανον , οἱ? δὲ? τῶ?ν γοῦ?ν οὐ?σιῶ?ν ἐ?στερή?θησαν· ἡ? δὲ? Δομιτί?λλα ὑ?περωρέ?σθη μό?νον εἰ?ς Πανδατέ?ρειαν .]
That Clemens was a Christian, there can be no doubt. The Christians were in the earlier periods of gospel history classed with the Jews, and as Reimarus remarks, “very few among the Romans at that time went over to Judaism proper, especially among the persons of note, but many to Christianity.” So also Tillemont: “Situated as the Jews then were, it is quite improbable that a consul, who was uncle to the emperor, should have espoused their religion.” Besides, the sister’s daughter of Flavius Clemens is known to have been a distinguished Christian (the Flavia Domatilla in Eusebius, Ch. Hist. iii. 18, [Note: Ἐ?ν ἐ?́?τει πεντεκαιδακά?τῳ?͂? Δομετιανοῦ? ΦλαΒί?αν Δομιτί?λλαν , ἐ?ξ ἀ?δελφῆ?ς γεγονυί?αν ΦλαΒί?ου Κλή?μεντος , ἐ?νὸ?ς τῶ?ν τηνικά?δε ἐ?πὶ? Ῥ?ώ?μης ὑ?πά?των , τῆ?ς εἰ?ς Χριστὸ?ν μαρτυρί?ας ἐ?́?νεκεν εἰ?ς νῆ?σον Ποντί?αν κατὰ? τιμωρί?αν δεδό?σθαυι . We must take care to distinguish between the two Flavias Domatillas, the one the wife, the other the niece of Clemens. Without sufficient reason Scaliger has identified the two, and would correct Eusebius from Dio.] and in Jerome’s Chron.) and possibly it was to her that Flavius owed his first religious impressions. Finally, Suetonius designates the same Flavius as a man of “despicable inactivity.” [Note: Domit. c. 16: Flavium Clementum patruelem suum, contemptissimae inertiae cujus filios etiamuum parvulos successores palam destinaverat, et abolito priore nomine alterum Vespasianum appellari juserat, alterum Domitianum, repente ex tenuissima suspicione tantum non ipso ejus consulatu interemit.] This was a reproach which was frequently cast upon the Christians, because they withdrew from the corrupt civil life as it existed in heathendom, and thought more of their citizenship in heaven than in the Roman commonwealth. [Note: Pitiscus on Sueton. 1. c.: Contemptisaimae inertiae cum hunc Flavium vocat noster eo ipso Christianum fuisse demoustrat. De hoc injuriae in Christiano stitulo Tert. in apol. c. 42: Infructuosi in negotiis dicimur.] This reproach did not apply to the Jews.
How the accusation of “impiety” is to be understood, is clear from what immediately precedes, where we learn that a person who had been accused did homage to Domitian, and named him frequently Lord and God [Note: As Martial in like manner said to Domitian . Hoc satis eat, ipsi caetera mando Deo. See Havercamp on Tertullian’s Apol. P. 176.]—a title under which he had already been addressed by others. It may farther be understood from what is said at p. 1107: “So much, however, was conceded to him, that almost the whole world, as far as subject to his dominion, was filled with his images and statues, both in silver and gold;” and from all that has been said of Domitian’s self-deification; since he would scarcely allow any other god to stand beside himself, and the one divinity which had a place in his heart was his own pretended one. To the same result we are conducted by the passage quoted from Suetonius. According to this author Clemens was put to death “on account of a very slender suspicion.” From the connection this suspicion could only be that of resistance to authority. And the suspicion and the accusation of impiety are seen to harmonise, the moment we suppose that Clemens ventured to disavow the emperor as his lord and god, and do homage to his statues, on the ground of fidelity to his heavenly king.
That Domitian looked upon Christianity with a jealous eye, may also be inferred from what Eusebius has related in his Church History, iii 19, 20, from Hegesippus, as to Domitian causing the relatives of Christ to be sent for to Rome, because he was afraid of the coming of Christ.
It is clear as day, then, that for all that respects the conflict of the world-power with the kingdom of Christ, we obtain an excellent historical starting-point, when we understand the Apocalypse to have been composed under Domitian, while such is entirely wanting on any other hypothesis.
The Revelation supposes, that, at the period of its composition, the Antichristian action of the world-power was accompanied by the Antichristian operation of the world-wisdom; that this last had already taken up a decided opinion against Christianity, implying of course that it had now become a power in public life. In proof of this see ch. Revelation 13:11, ss., according to which the false prophet persuades to the worship of the beast, gives spirit to the image of the beast, and effects that those who would not worship the image should be killed. Here, again, we are left without any definite accounts, and for the reasons already mentioned. We find notices, however, which leave no reasonable doubt that under Domitian the pretensions of the Roman emperor against Christ obtained support in a species of false worldly wisdom, which condescended to garnish those pretensions, and to give them a dazzling appearance, more unquestionably from hatred to Christ, than from avaricious flattery. The most remarkable notice of the kind, and that which furnishes the key for understanding others of a less definite nature, occurs in Philostratus’ life of Apollonius, B. vii. 4. After relating how Domitian persecuted the philosophers, he continues, “But some also were led to discourse in a manner that was serviceable to the delinquencies,” [Note: Ἐ?́?νιοι δʼ? ἐ?τ λό?γους ἀ?πενεχθῆ?ναι ξυμβού?λους τῶ?ν ὁ? μαρτημά?των .] tending to vindicate the emperor’s misconduct by giving a scientific colour to his divine pretensions. He boasts of his hero, that he had kept free from any such delinquency, for, “having taken wisdom for his mistress, he was free from dependence on Domitian, . . fearing nothing in respect to himself, but moved with pity on account of what was fraught with destruction to others.” [Note: Τὴ?ν σοφί?αν δέ?σποιναν πεποιημέ?νος ἐ?λευθερος ἠ?ν τῆ?ς Δομετιανοῦ? φορᾶ?ς ,... δεδιὼ?ς μὲ?ν οὐ?δεν ἱ?́?διον , ἁ?́? δὲ? ἐ?τερους ἀ?πώ?λλυ ἐ?λεῶ?ν .] There were, therefore, philosophers who, by their discourses in respect to the emperor’s claims, brought others into trouble; and who could these be but the Christians, the only persons that set themselves with determined energy against such claims? After considering this passage, one can scarcely doubt, when it is elsewhere related how the Stoic Palfurius Sura under Domitian had acted the part of a very bitter delator, and was in consequence condemned after the emperor’s death, that this philosopher pursued the vile business in his capacity as a philosopher, employing his philosophy and eloquence for the persecution of Christianity, and for garnishing the antichristian claims of the emperor. [Note: Schol. ad Juvenel. iv. 53. Palfurius Sura consularis in agone cum virgine La cedemonia sub Nerone luctatus est. Post inde a Vespasiano senatu motus, transivit ad stoicam sectam, in qua cum praevaleret, et eloqueutia et artis poeticae gloria, abusus familiaritate Domitiani, aoerbissime partes delationis exercuit: quo interfecto senatu accusante damnatus est.] Dio Cassius names, among many delators who were condemned to death under Nerva, another philosopher, Seras. [Note: Lib. 08, c. 1: Πολλοὶ? δὲ? καὶ? τῶ?ν συκοφαντησά?ντων θά?νατον κατεδικά?σθησαν , ἐ?ν οἰ?͂?ς καὶ? Σέ?ρας ἠ?͂?ν ὁ? φιλό?σοφος .] From all this what Pliny says of Nerva’s measures against the delators, appears in a new light. [Note: After having praised Nerva for his energetic measures against the delators, he continues: Id hoc magis arduum fuit, quod imperator Nerva, te filio, te successore dignissimus, perquam magna quaedam edicto Titi adstruxerat, nihilque reliquisse nisi tibi videbatur, qui tam multa excogitasti, ut si ante te nihil esset inventum.]
IV. The Revelation was composed at a time when there was an organized bloody persecution, which extended over all Christendom. Ch. Revelation 13:7 is alone sufficient to prove this, according to which the beast makes war with the saints and overcomes them; and power is given him over all tribes, and peoples, and tongues, and nations, Christians over the whole earth. It appears also from Revelation 13:8, according to which all, that dwell on the earth, worship the beast; Revelation 2:13, which speaks of the martyr-crown being won far from the centre of the Roman state, and under the direction of the magistracy, acting as Satan’s instrument ( Revelation 13:3); Revelation 6:9, where the prophet sees under the altar the souls of those, who had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they had; Revelation 17:6, where he sees the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus; Revelation 16:6, according to which they have shed the blood of saints and prophets; Revelation 18:20, in which God is said to avenge upon the new Babylon saints, and apostles, and prophets, while in ver. 24 the blood of saints and of prophets is declared to have been found in her. Finally, ch. Revelation 20:4, where the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God revive again, and those who had not worshipped the beast, nor his image, nor had received his mark upon their forehead and their hand. No doubt, the future is in these passages represented as present, but only in so far as it was to be a continuation of the present. There is never found a trace of what for the time being existed only within local boundaries, appearing afterwards as a heavy tribulation or general persecution extending to the whole of Christendom. Comp. besides ch. Revelation 7:14.
There is a onesidedness in the representation given of Christ. Throughout we see only the aspect he presents to the enemies of his kingdom, and indeed specially the heathen enemies; the Jews appear only as insignificant opponents, as tails of smoking firebrands, that were briefly despatched in the epistles. And this consideration, coupled with the longing desire that is manifested toward the coming of Christ, and the lively faith in respect to the nearness of his approach; all lead to the conviction, that a general conflict of heathenism and Christianity, a conflict of life and death, had already entered.
Now, that such a bloody persecution existed under Domitian, can certainly be proved, and nothing but the confusion of a Dodwell could deny it. [Note: See against him, as maintaining in his Dissertatio de paucitate martyrum that the persecution under Domitian never proceeded so far as to inflict tortures, to say nothing of actual bloodshed, Pagi crit. i., p. 83, and Ruinart in his Praefatio in Acta Martyrum iii.] This is just what might have been expected from the relation in which Christianity stood to the claim of divinity put forth by Domitian, which he urged with unsparing rigour. “It was enough,” says Suetonius, “that any word or deed against the majesty of the emperor was objected against any one;” [Note: Domit. c. 12: Satis erat obijci qualecunque factum dictumque adversus majestatem principis.] and as majesty is here meant, the mere confession of Christianity must have appeared as a capital offence against it. But we possess explicit testimonies even from heathen writers, although, for the reasons already mentioned, these are cautions and reserved in their words. In one of the passages formerly quoted, Dio Cassius says that Domitian put to death “many others” besides the Flavius Clemens, whose death itself inferred the martyrdom of many companions; for when the emperor conducted himself in such a way toward his nearest relatives, how should he have spared others? According to the same author, Nerva punished many delators with death, who, we may be sure, only suffered themselves what they had brought upon others; he set free those who for high treason had been condemned, or were under investigation; [Note: Nerva c. i.: Καὶ? ὁ? Νερού?ας τοὺ?ς τε κρινομέ?νους ἐ?πʼ? ἀ?σεβεί?ᾳ? αφῆ?κε καὶ? τοὺ?ς φεύ?γοντας κατή?ςαγε . The ἀ?σέ?βεια , impietas, is the crimen majesutis, quia imperatores paene pro diis colebantur, et Domitianus tantos gerrbat spiritus, ut divino fastigio parem ae putaret. Reimarus.] and forbade accusations respecting that crime and the Jewish manners to be any longer received. With that prohibition, another (Nerva c. ii.) against setting up gold or silver statues, went hand in hand; for the claim of divinity in Domitian, and the persecution of Christians, stood to each other in the relation of cause and effect. Philostratus, in the passage already quoted, complains, that under Domitian a certain class of philosophers had become to others the occasion of death. The notices of Christian authors lead to the same result. In the account of the martyrdom of St Ignatius, in Ruinart, p. 13, it is said, that he with difficulty escaped the earlier storms of the many persecutions that took place under Domitian. [Note: Τοὺ?ς πά?λαι χειμῶ?νας μό?λις παραγαγὼ?ν τῶ?ν πολλῶ?ν ἐ?πὶ? Δομετιανοῦ? διωγμῶ?ν .] Eusebius, in his Chronicon, under the year 2112, reports on the authority of Brutius, that “very many Christians suffered martyrdom under Domitian.” He relates in his Church History, iii. 19, 20, that Domitian caused the relatives of Christ to be fetched from Palestine to Rome.
Thus, therefore, we have an excellent historical starting-point in this respect for the composition of the Apocalypse, if we refer it to the time of Domitian. But none such can be found, if the period of composition is transferred to the reign of Galba. For, there was then no persecution of Christians, and the only bloody persecution conducted under public authority, which had previously occurred, that under Nero, had both been of short continuance, and did not pass beyond the limits of Rome—not to mention, that it had not been raised against Christians so directly “for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” as is here supposed. The extension of this persecution beyond the limits of Rome, is in itself not probable. And the Christians, according to the credible report of Tacitus, [Note: Anual, xv. 44: Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos, et quaesitissimis poenis affecit quos per flagitia invisos vulgns Cbristianos appellabat.] were not punished primarily as Christians, but on the ground of having been the first to begin the burning of the city, [Note: See on the connection of the burning and the Christian persecution, Wieseler Chronol. des Apost. Zeitalters, p. 943, ss.][Note: Quo maxime facto maturavit sibi exitium. Continuis octo mensibus tot fulgura facta nuntiataque sunt, ut exclamaverit: feriat jam quem volet (hoc suo telo Jupiter, q. d. etiamsi me percutere voluerit, Beroaldus). Tactum de coelo Capitolium templumque Flaviae gentis, etc.] so also Eusebius in his Church History, ii. 25. The first person, who positively says, that the persecution of Nero spread beyond Rome, is Orosius, a late author, and one who is the less to be regarded, as Tertullian knows only of Rome. [Note: Adv. Gnost. c. 15: Vitas Caesarum legimus; orientem fidem Romae primus Nero cruentavit. Apol. c. 5: Consulite commentarios vestros: illic reperietis primum Neronem in hanc sectam cum maxime Romae orientem, Casariano gladio ferocisse.] In other things he merely copies Suetonius, and introduces but this one circumstance from his own hand. [Note: Seuton. in Nero. c. 16, says: Afflicti supplicia Christiani, genus hominum superstitionis novae et maleficae. Orosius, B. vii. c. 7, following him so far, that he derives the persecution from the burning, primus Romae Christianos supplicio et mortibus affecit, ac per omnes provincias pari penecutione excruciari imparavit.] If the reasons for and against the extension beyond the limits of Rome were otherwise equal, we should still feel constrained to decide for the latter, on the simple ground, that from Nero being the first persecutor of the Christians, it was quite natural in process of time to attribute to him more in this respect than originally and properly belonged to him.
Against this view of the Neronian persecution as a merely passing and local one, an argument might certainly be raised from the first epistle of Peter, if it were indeed the case, first that this epistle was written immediately after the outbreak of that persecution, and then that it proceeds on the supposition of a general persecution of the Christians. But both assumptions are untenable. That the epistle was written not after, but before the persecution of Nero, in which Peter won the crown of martyrdom, has been proved by Wieesler (p. 564, ss.). And the persecutions, which are discoursed of in the first epistle of Peter, and to exhort to stedfastness under which is one object of the epistle, are essentially different from those in the Revelation. What in the first epistle of Peter is only a subordinate aim, in the Apocalypse is all-predominant: the persecutions referred to in the former are only such as are inseparable from the existence of Christianity itself. No indication exists of a threatening martyrdom, none of persecution by the world-power as such, nor even any certain marks of occasional judicial persecutions. Christians are represented as suffering reproach among the heathen, being reviled as evil-doers, 1 Peter 2:12; they have much to suffer, especially in the way of calumny, 1 Peter 2:23, 1 Peter 3:9, 1 Peter 3:16, 1 Peter 4:14. The strongest passage is 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist, stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” But this passage simply indicates, that the heathen mind was then beginning to become fully conscious of the antagonism that existed between it and Christianity, and the danger which thence threatened its views and feelings; it implies nothing in regard to persecutions of blood in the proper sense, nor to any interference on the part of the magistrate, nor to the supposed fact, that the heathen state had already taken the matter into its own hand.
V. The Revelation was written in the midst of persecutions, during which not only executions, but also banishments, took place. This is clear from ch. Revelation 13:10, “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” In this passage, as the comparison with Luke 21:24, Amos 1:6, Psalms 68:19, &c., shews, it is not merely imprisonment, but also deportations and exiles that are meant, which is also confirmed by ch. Revelation 1:9, where the Seer describes himself as being in the isle Patmos “ for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Nothing of this sort is reported concerning the Neronian persecution. All the sources, Tacitus and Suetonius at their head, make mention only of capital punishments, which were also the only appropriate ones for such a charge. On the other hand, in the persecution under Domitian, banishment, especially to desert islands, is often and expressly referred to. According to Dio Cassius the wife of Flavius Clemens was exiled to Pandatereia. According to him also, Nerva recalled those who had been banished. [Note: See Zonaras, p. 583, B.: Τοῖ?ς ὑ?πʼ? ἐ?κεί?νου ἐ?ξελαθεῖ?σι δό?γματι ἐ?πανελθεῖ?ν ἐ?φῆ?κε καὶ? τὰ?ς οὐ?σί?ας ἀ?πολαβεῖ?ν .] And according to Eusebius, both in his history and his Chronicon, the sister’s daughter of Flavius, Domatilla, was for her Christian confession banished to the island Pontia.
VI. Domitian, above almost every other, was a fit representative of the terrible bloody beast, full of names of blasphemy, and of the horrible woman drunk with the blood of saints and of the witnesses of Jesus—comp. ch. Revelation 13:17. What Pliny says of Domitian in his Panegyr. c. 18, not unfrequently reminds one of the Revelation, and suggests the thought, that to the author of the latter Domitian sat for the picture of the beast. He describes him as the “most savage monster,” that sometimes gulped the blood of relatives, sometimes employed himself in slaughtering the most distinguished citizens, before whose gates fear and terror watched. He was himself of frightful aspect, pride on his forehead, fury in his eye, constantly seeking darkness and secrecy, and never coming out of his solitude, excepting to make solitude. [Note: Nec salutationes tuas fuga et vastitas sequitur, remoramur, resistimus ut in communi domo, quam nuper immanissima bellua plurimo terrore munierat. Cum velut quodam specu inclusa nunc propinquorum sangninem lamberet, nunc se ad clarissimorum civium strages caedesque proferret. Observabantur foribus horror et minae et par metus admissis et exclusis. Ad hoc, ipse occursu quoqun visuque terribilis, superbia in fronte, etc.] A similar description is given also by Tacitus in his Agricola. In ch. xliv. he mentions it as a great consolation in respect to Agricola’s early death, that “he thus escaped that last period, in which Domitian no longer at intervals and during vacant periods, but constantly, and as with one stroke, made havoc of the state.” How little the insipid Nero can in this respect be compared with Domitian, is manifest from what is said of both by Philostratus, B. vii. c. 4. Nero, says he, led the life of a player on the harp and flute, and for such a life little vigour was required. Quite otherwise with Domitian; “he was a man of great bodily strength, and despised the pleasures which music yields, and which tend to soften the mind; he found his enjoyment in the pains and lamentations of others, and thought that the king by night should put an end to all other works, but give a beginning to deeds of murder.”
“He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (ch. Revelation 13:10). The view given in this passage pervades the Apocalypse. We see in it under the altar the souls of those who were slain for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus; we hear them crying with one voice, and saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” And as this cry is heard, we see how God does judge the blood of his servants that had been shed. It is worthy of re mark, that even the antichristian heathen world had a suspicion of the greatness of the guilt which Domitian had incurred by his persecution of the Christians, and of the retribution to which he had in consequence exposed himself. A proof how vigorously the feeling had then been awakened respecting the retributive righteousness of God in Christendom! For only as a reverberation of the powerful movement that had arisen there can we account for what was then felt in the heathen world. It could not wholly withstand the strong impression that flowed in upon it, but against its own will and principles was drawn within the sweep of the movement. “The gods,” says Philostratus, viii. 25, “drove Domitian from his dominion over men; for he had killed the consul Clemens, to whom he had given his own sister (?)” [Note: Εώ?θουν δὲ? θεοὶ? Δομετιαὸ?ν τῆ?ς τῶ?ν ἀ?νθρώ?πων προσδρί?ας· ἐ?́?τυχε μὲ?ν γὰ?ρ Κλή?μεντα ἀ?πεκτονὼ?ς ἀ?́?νδρα ὑ?́?πατον ὠ?͂?ͅ? τὴ?ν ἀ?δελφὴ?ν τὴ?ν ἑ?αυτοῦ? ἐ?δεδώ?κει .]“Especially through this deed,” says Suetonius, “he hastened his own downfal;” and then proceeds to give a long series of pre-intimations that announced beforehand the coming catastrophe. [Note: Quo maxime facto maturavit sibi exitium. Continuis octo mensibus tot fulgura facta nuntiataque sunt, ut exclamaverit: feriat jam quem volet (hoc suo telo Jupiter, q. d. etiamsi me percutere voluerit, Beroaldus). Tactum de coelo Capitolium templumque Flaviae gentis, etc.]
Having thus obtained the result, that the Revelation was written under Domitian, it will not be difficult to determine more exactly the period to which it should be referred within this circle, even apart from the tradition, which, according to Irenaeus, ascribes it to the closing period of Domitian’s reign Heathen writers (see, besides those already quoted, Juvenal Sut. iv. v. 153) agree in this, that the bloody persecution of the Christians, in the midst of which the Revelation was written, was soon followed by the death of Domitian. Accordingly, and in conformity also with the statement of Brutius in Eusebius, and in the Chronicon Paschale, under the fourteenth year of Domitian, that many Christians suffered martyrdom during that year, the Revelation must have been composed shortly before the death of Domitian. There can be no doubt that it was only this event which put a stop to the persecution of the Christians, although Tertullian and Hegesippus maintain the contrary, and represent Domitian as himself putting a stop to all his persecuting measures. The mild treatment which Domitian gave to the relatives of Jesus, and which rests on good historical authority, furnished the occasion for this representation, as in Eusebius it appears only as a report attached to the latter. It looks from the first very unlike Domitian that he should have come to a better mind; and the closing of the persecution suits much better to Nerva, who is called by Martial soft and good-natured, and who endeavoured to rectify every thing that Domitian had put wrong. It was Nerva who, according to Dio Cassius, set all at liberty that had been accused of high treason, who recalled, such as had been banished, and ordered that no farther accusations of the kind should be received. It was Nerva who, according to Pliny, adopted the most stringent measures against the delators. According also to Tacitus and Philostratus, it was the death of Domitian which first put an end to his fury. And not till the tyrant had gone did John effect his return from the isle Patmos to Ephesus, as we learn from Clemens of Alexandria, and Eusebius in his Church History (B. III. 20, 23).
That the Apocalypse could not have been written so early as the time of Galba, is evident from the absence of any, even the most cursory, reference to the fall of Jerusalem, as an event nigh at hand. Unquestionably, any reference to this event did not properly enter into the plan of the author; its starting-point is a frightful rise of the hostile power of heathenism, its theme the triumph of Christianity over heathendom. But since the fall of Jerusalem occupies so prominent a place in the prophecies of our Lord regarding the future development of His kingdom, which form in a manner the text on which John comments,—since, also, it was precisely in the time of Galba that the fate of Jerusalem was preparing for its accomplishment,—it would have been unnatural had the author of the Apocalypse made no reference whatever to it. We should the rather have expected him to do so, when even in the epistles we see how constantly respect is hail to the existing heathen oppression, which had then come forth into the foreground, but which did not exclude some incidental reference to the subordinate Jewish persecution. See what is intimated respecting the humiliations that were to overtake the Jewish persecutors in ch. Revelation 3:9; where, however, not a single word occurs respecting the fall of Jerusalem, which could scarcely have been the case if that crushing catastrophe had still been future. Further, since the prophet applies the name of Jerusalem and of Zion to the church, it would have been very natural, had the outward Jerusalem and Zion still existed in their former dignity, to have given some indication that their pretensions were soon to be laid in the dust. That these names should have been simpliciter applied to the church, that the latter also should be represented, without the slightest explanation, as the temple (ch. Revelation 11:1), is most easily explained, if there was but one thing to which the terms now could refer. To the same conclusion points also the analogy of Ezekiel, who received the vision of the new temple and the new city in the fourteenth year after the destruction of the old ones. See Ezekiel 40:1.
In unison with its place in the Canon, the Revelation must form the key stone to the books of the New Testament, and be separated in particular from the epistles of Paul by a considerable space of time and by the epoch of Jerusalem’s fall. This appears from the doctrine, which is clearly and distinctly unfolded in it, that the second coming of Christ and the resurrection were at a great distance from the present time; that in the middle lay a period of a thousand years; before, the overthrow of Rome by the ten kings, the conquest of these kings by Christ, and the destruction of the heathenish world-power; afterward, the revival of heathenism, its new conflict with the church, and the glorious victory of the latter. An easy transition to this manner of viewing things is to be found in 2 Peter 3:8, where the possibility is indicated of the Lord’s coming being so long deferred, that it would be regarded in a human aspect as very distant. There is no room for an opposition with the earlier writers of the New Testament, as these plainly declare, that they did not know the time of the Lord’s coming. But a decided advance is made in the knowledge, and an advance of such importance that it could scarcely have been made so early as the period assigned by some for the composition of the Book. It seems to require a basis of new circumstances and relations, and in particular that the appearance of the Lord to execute judgment on Jerusalem should have already belonged to the past. So long as this event had not taken place, it must have been very difficult to determine what in our Lord’s discourses referred to it, and what to the end of the world. The asseveration of our Lord, “Verily I say to you, this generation shall not pass away till all is fulfilled,” in Matthew 24:34, must have rendered doubtful the indication of a more distant future by the end of all things, until history had entered as an expositor—until the destruction of Jerusalem as an isolated fact, not connected with a general catastrophe for the world, had shown that there was not an absolute and final, but only a preparatory fulfilment to be looked for. It presented, so to speak, a microscopic view of the judgment, where everything was to be seen on a small scale, which at the actual end of the world was to appear in its proper greatness. Hence, all that our Lord in Matthew prophecies regarding his coming, refers immediately both to the destruction of Jerusalem, and to the end of the world, with all its manifold ,and recurring signs, preludes, preparations, and warnings; and it is a vain undertaking, which has been latterly attempted again by Dorner, to endeavour to distinguish mechanically and externally what should be referred to the one event and what to the other. There is a pervading reference, as we have said, to both events, the destruction of Jerusalem being contemplated as the nearer, and that also which was to be the exact image of the other, the final judgment of the world. But as to the period of the latter, no definite marks occur in our Lord’s prediction. Till this historical commentary was given, the matter must needs have been allowed to hang in suspense, after the example of our Lord, and as appears to have been actually done by the apostles. It was only when such a commentary had been given that the ground was laid for imparting the new explanations, which are unfolded in the Apocalypse, just as of old when the seventy years of Jeremiah were on the point of expiring, Daniel came forth with his prophecy of the seventy weeks of years.
It is not necessary to do more than set opposite to these strong external and internal grounds for the composition of the Apocalypse under Domitian, a reference to those passages in it, which are said imperatively to demand its composition before the destruction of Jerusalem. Züllig goes farthest in this direction, He says in Th. i. p. 137, “The Book bears on it, not in one place, but in many, nay in its whole structure, an undeniable proof of having been written before the fall of Jerusalem.” Others of the same opinion speak in more moderate terms. According to Lücke, and those who have followed him without any particular inquiries of their own, ch. 11 bears testimony to the composition before the fall of Jerusalem, and ch. Revelation 17:10-11 determines the period to be specially that of the reign of Galba. Bleek, in his Beiträgen, p. 81, thinks that it is quite plain Jerusalem must still have been standing from ch. 11, and probably also from ch. Revelation 20:9, as compared with Revelation 21:10, ss. But these references can only impose upon such as are ignorant of the state which the exegesis of the Revelation has now attained. He who takes this properly into account, will in the first instance at least assume for his starting-point the period of Domitian, as that which has so many solid grounds to support it, and will consider whether he may not thence gain an insight into the whole by unbiassed and earnest inquiry, and especially may find the passages in question brought into their true light. The result will then be gained, that these passages could not refer to the period before the destruction of Jerusalem, far less that they must be referred to that early period. But it is one of the fundamental defects of the theology of the present day, that criticism is brought into play before exegesis has sufficiently done its part, and that the crudest thoughts are proclaimed with naive confidence as “the result of the more exact and more perfect exegetical investigations, for which the age is distinguished;” whence the path is at once taken to the region of criticism, and the most solid arguments both of an external and internal nature are unscrupulously set aside. This is certainly not the scientific mode of proceeding, however commonly it boasts of being so.
The title in most copies is: Revelation of John the Theologue (or the Divine). But this title cannot have been original; it belongs to a pretty late period. This is manifest even from the fact, that other epithets also occur in the manuscripts. Vers. 1-3 occupy the place of a title, and it is not probable that John gave a double title to his book. Nor would John have called his book in one breath the Revelation of John and the Revelation of Jesus Christ. The first name could only be applied to the book by a pretty hard and easily misunderstood abbreviation: The Revelation of Jesus Christ communicated through John; but the book would more fitly have been denominated: The prophecy or vision of John. The surname Theologue, which John here bears, is founded on a consideration of the distinctive character of his Gospel, and is used in reference to a doubt, which arose at a pretty late period, respecting the composition of the Revelation by the apostle and evangelist John. In regard to the explanation of this surname expositors differ. But the only right one is that which refers it to the character of the Gospel of John in relation to the three first gospels. Having respect especially to the character of its commencement as compared with that of the other gospels, the ancients designated John’s Gospel as the pre-eminently theological and spiritual one, Thus Clemens of Alexandria says in Eusebius, B. VI. c. 14, with respect to a tradition, which he had received from the oldest presbyters: “Those gospels, which contain the genealogies, were the first to be published. . . But John, last of all, perceiving that what had reference to the body had already in the gospel been sufficiently detailed, and being encouraged by his intimate friends and moved by the Spirit, he wrote a spiritual gospel.” Eusebius himself says in B. III. c. 24: “John has, therefore, with propriety passed by the genealogy of our Lord after the flesh, because it had previously been written by Matthew and Luke, but commenced with the theology (the doctrine of the divinity), which had been reserved for him by the divine Spirit as something better.” [Note: Comp. Basilius in the Catena in John 1 : Τοῦ? εὐ?αγγελικοῦ? κηρύ?γματος ὁ? μεγαλοφωνό?ντατος , καὶ? πά?σης μὲ?ν ἀ?κοῆ?ς μεὶ?ζονα , πά?σης δὲ? διανοί?ας σεμςό?τερα φθεγξά?μενος ὀ? Ἰ?ωά?ννης ἐ?στὶ?ν , οὑ?́?τως παροιμιά?ζων . ] Thus understood the form of the superscription before us corresponds to the others; such as: The Revelation of John the apostle and evangelist. The two have this in common, that they both alike mark the identity of John the seer and John the evangelist. The same view is farther confirmed by the fact, that the ecclesiastical writer, with whom John first bears the name of the Theologue, Eusebius (in Praep. xi. 18) applies it also to Moses, B. VII. c. 9, and to Paul, B. XI. c. 19. This fact abundantly shows, that the name must have been intended to designate John only with respect to the three other evangelists, and that it is to be referred neither to the doctrine of the divinity of the Logos, nor (with Züllig) to the prophetical inspiration. [Note: There is no proof that the church fathers named John the Theologue with special reference to the Apocalypse. The epithet everywhere refers to the Gospel; comp., besides Eusebius, the passages quoted by Lampe in his Proleg. in Joh. B. I. c. 7, § 22. With the supposition that the surname of Theologue refers to the prophetical inspiration, it ill accords what the presbyter Gregory says in his life of Gregory of Nazianzen, μό?νον τοῦ?τον μέ?τα τὸ?ν εὐ?αγγελιστὴ?ν Ἰ?ωννην θεολό?γον ἀ?ναφανῆ?ναι . But Gregory of Nazianzen was certainly no prophet.] If it is asked, why should John have been designated thus only in the superscription of the Apocalypse, the answer is, because it was designed thereby to intimate that this John is no other than the evangelist.