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Bible Commentaries

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New TestamentMeyer's Commentary

- Revelation

by Heinrich Meyer

















18 & 20 ASTOR PLACE.





“BLESSED is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy.” Such are the words in which this last book of the Bible is commended to our attention and study. However exalted its mysteries above our comprehension, we dare not because of their difficulty pass over them, but may confidently expect to be richly rewarded by the frequent contemplation even of those portions of the book whose solution we cannot even feebly conjecture in this life. It is perfectly consistent with the utmost simplicity in the preaching of the Gospel, and with the avoidance of curious speculations so much to be condemned, for the Christian pastor to aid the reading of his hearers by the exposition of such lines of divine thought in this book as in his private studies he can clearly trace.

This volume is offered as a help to such study. Its author, Dr. Fr. Düsterdieck, is well known as a writer on Apologetics, and still continues to publish exegetical papers in Luthardt’s Zeitschrift für kirchliche Wissenschaften and elsewhere. He has furnished us with perhaps the most important commentary on this book which we thus far possess. His spirit is reverent and devout, his judgment generally calm and discriminating, his investigations wide and exhaustive. Although we concede so much, we are by no means ready to indorse his opinions on all the subjects presented, and in several of his long discussions we regard his judgment, which is ordinarily trustworthy, as seriously at fault. In revulsion from the assumptions of the Tübingen school, which conceded the apostolic origin of the Book of Revelation, and then from that basis endeavored to prove, because of dissimilarity of style, etc., the non-Johannean origin of the Gospel ascribed to St. John, our author has taken the directly opposite position, and denied the apostolic origin of Revelation, with what success, the reader must judge. Compelled in translation to examine the argument very closely, it has seemed to us at every step unsatisfactory, forced, and unworthy of the high character of this work. It must not be inferred, however, that, in denying that the Apostle John wrote the book, he also denies its inspiration: this he maintains, although with limitations which many of our readers will doubtless regret, as may be seen on pp. 84 sqq. The author belongs to the præterist class of interpreters, and argues that the time of composition was prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. In the notes, we have frequently given the arguments on an opposite side, mostly from some of the later standard authorities. This commentary is itself of high value, especially because of its compact summary of the interpretations of all the more prominent expositors, and in connection with what has been added, we are convinced, may be most safely and profitably employed.

The work of translation has often been extremely difficult, because of the long and involved sentences, frequently consisting of a mosaic of quotations; but we trust that the reader may be able, in the form which we have given, to follow the author intelligently.



PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 11, 1886.


THE various expositions of the Book of Revelation would, of themselves, form a library. This list includes the more prominent works, as well as some others of interest to students, either because of their recent or their American origin.

ALFORD: Greek Testament, vol. iv., 3d ed. 1866.

AUBERLEN: Der Prophet Daniel und die Offenbarung Johannis. 1854. English translation, 1856.

BARNES: Notes. 1852.

BECK: Erklärung d. Offenb. Joh. Cap. i. xii., ed. Lindenmeyer, 1883.

BENGEL: Erklärte Off. Joh. 1740, 1834.

60 erbaul. Reden. 1748. 3d ed. 1835 37.

† BISPING: Erklärung der sieben katholischen Briefe. 1871.

BLEEK: Vorlesungen herausg. von Hossbach. 1862.

BOEHMER (E.): Verfasser u. Abfassungszeit der joh. Apoc. 1855.

BOEHMER (H.): Die Offenb. Joh. Ein neuer Versuch. 1865.

BRANDT (A. H. W.): Einleitung zum Lesen der Offenb. St. Joh. 1860.

CARPENTER: The Revelation of John the Divine (Handy Comm. series). 1883.

CHRISTIANI: Übers. Darstellung des Inhalts. 1869.

COWLES: The Revelation of John. 1871.

CUMMING: Lectures. 2 vols. 1849 51.

DESPREZ: The Apocalypse fulfilled. New ed. 1865.

DE WETTE: Kurz Erklärung d. O. T. 3d ed. 1862.

DIEDRICH: Die Offenb. Joh. kurz erläutert. 1865.

DEUTINGER: Die christliche Ethik nach dem Ap. Joh.; Vorträge über die Briefe und die Offenb. 1867.

EBRARD: Die Off. Joh. (vol. vii. of Olshausen’s Comm.). 1859.

ELLIOTT: Horae Apocalypticae. 4 vols. 5th ed. 1862.

EICHHORN: Comm. in Apoc. J. 2 vols. 1781.

EWALD: Comm. in Apoc. exeg. et crit. 1828.

Die johann. Schriften. 1862. vol. ii.

FARRAR: The Early Days of Christianity. 1882. pp. 437 493.

FÜLLER: Erklärung. 1874.

FULLER (S.): The Revelation of St. John. 1885.

GÄRTNER: Erkl. des Pr. Daniel u. d. Offenb. 1863.

GARRATT: Commentary on the Revelation. 1878.

GEBHARDT: Lehrbegriff d. Apok. 1873. English translation, 1878.

GERHARD (J.): Annot. 1643, 1645, 1712.

GODET: Studies on the N. T. English translation, pp. 294 398.

GRÄBER: Versuch einer hist. Erkl. 1863.

HAHN: Leitfaden zum Verständnisse, etc. 1851.

HARMS (CLAUS): Die Offenb. gepredigt. 1844.

HÄVERNICK: Über die neueste Behandl. u. Ausleg. d. Apok. 1834.

HEIDEGGER: Diatribe. 2 vols. 1687.

HEINRICHS: Annotatio. 2 vols. 1818, 1821.

HENGSTENBERG: Erläuterung. 2 vols. 1849, 1850. English trans., 1851 53.

HERDER: Μαραν Α ̊ θα , das Buch von der Zukunft d. Herrn. 1779. English translation, 1821.

HESS: Briefe über die Offenbarung. 1843.

HEUBNER: Predigten ü. die 7 Sendschreiben. 3d ed. 1850.

HILGENFELD: Nero der Antichrist (Zeitschrift für wissensch. Theol.). 1869. iv.

HOFFMANN (W.): Maranatha. 1858.

HOLTZHAUSER: Erklärung. 1827.

HOLTZMANN: (in Bunsen’s Bibelwerk) 1858.

HUNTINGFORD: The Voice of the Last Prophet. 1858.

The Apocalypse, with Commentary, etc. 1881.

HUSCHKE: Das Buch mit 7 Siegels. 1860.

JENAUR: Rationale Apok. 2 vols. 1852.

JESSIN: Erklärung. 1864.

JOHANNSEN: Die Offenb. J. 1788.

KELLY: The Revelation of John. 1860, 1871.

KEMMLER: Die Offenb. Jesu Christi an Joh. 1863.

KIENLEN: Commentaire. 1870.

† KIRCHER: Explicatio. 1676.

KLEUKER: Urspr. u. Zweck. 1799.

KLIEFOTH: Erklärung. 3 vols. 1874.

KREMMENTZ: Die Offenb. J. im Lichte d. Evang. nach J. 1883.

KROMAYER (J.): Commentarius. 1662, 1674.

LÄMMERT: Die Offenb. J. durch d. h. Schrift ausgelegt. 1864.

LANGE: (in Bibelwerk) 1870. English translation, 1874.

LORD: Exposition. 1831.

LÖWE: Weissagung u. Weltgeschichte. 1868.

LUTHARDT: Die Offenb. J. übersetzt u. kurz erklärt. 1860. (Die Lehre von den letzen Dingen, 1861.)

MAITLAND: The Apostles’ School of Prophetic Interpretation. 1849.

† MARLORATUS: Exposition. 1574.

MATTHÄI: Erklärung. 1828.

MAURICE: Lectures. 1861.

MEDE: Clavis Apocalyptica. 1627.

Commentarius. 1632.

MILLIGAN: (in Schaff’s Popular Commentary) 1883.

The Revelation of St. John. Boyle Lectures for 1885.

MURPHY: The Book of Revelation. 1882.

NAPIER: Interpretation. 1593, 1611, 1645. (Also in French, Dutch, and German.)

NEWTON (B. M.): Thoughts on the Apocalypse. 1843.

NEWTON (Sir I.): Observations on Daniel and the Revelation of St. John. 1733. Lat., 1737.

NEWTON (Bishop THOMAS): Dissertation on the Prophecies. Last ed. 1843.

OOSTERZEE (v.): Christus unter den Leuchtern. 1874.

PAREUS: Comment. in Apoc. 1618.

PHILIPPI: Der Lehre von Antichrist. 1875.

PLUMPTRE: The Epistles to the Seven Churches. 1877.

POND: The Seals opened. 1871.

RICHTER: Kurzgef. Auslegung. 1864.

RIEMANN: Die Offenb. Joh. für chr. Volk. 1868.

RINCK: Die Zeichen der letzen Zeit, and der Lehre von Antichrist. 1868.

ROUGEMONT: La Révél. de St. Jean. 1866.

SABEL: Die Offenb. aus dem Zusammenlung der mess. Reichsgesch. 1861.

SANDER: Versuch einer Erkl. 1829.

SCHMUCKER (J. G.): Erklärung. Also translated into English, 1845.

SCHRÖDER: Auff. der Offenb. (Jahr-Buch f. d. Theol., 1864).

SEISS: Lectures. 1869 73.

SELNECKER: Erklärung. 1567, 1568, 1608.

† STERN: Komment. über die Offenb. 1854.

STORR: Neue Apologie der Offenb. 1805.

STUART: Commentary on the Revelation 2:0 vols. 1845.

SVOBODE: On the Seven Churches. 1869.

TAIT: The Messages to the Seven Churches. 1884.

TRENCH: The Epistles to the Seven Churches. 1861.

VAUGHN: Lectures. 1863.

VITRINGA: Anacrisis. 1705.

VOLKMAR: Commentary. 1862.

WEISS: Apok. Studien (in Stud. u. Kr., 1869).

WIESSELER: Zur Auslegung u. krit. apok. Lit. 1839.

WORDSWORTH: Lectures. 1848.

ZÜLLIG: Die Offenb. J. vollst. erkl. 1834, 1840.



Cf. F. Lücke, Versuch einer vollst. Einl. in die Offenb. des Johannes u. in die apokalypt. Literatur überhaupt . 2d ed., Bonn, 1848, 1852. Also the review of it by Bleek, Stud. u. Krit ., 1854, p. 959; 1855, p. 159.


1. As to contents , the Apocalypse falls into three manifestly distinct chief divisions. [1] For, with the most closely cohering series of visions, complete in themselves, of Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5 , which form the chief theme , as the fulness of the Apocalyptic subjects are all here brought into contemplation, the first three chapters are related in several ways (cf. Revelation 1:1-3 ; Revelation 1:4 sqq.; Revelation 1:9 sqq.; Revelation 2:1 sqq.), as the introduction; while the section Revelation 22:6-21 , expressly indicating a concluding retrospect of what precedes (Revelation 22:6 ), forms the epilogue .

[1] Beng., Lücke, De Wette, etc.


Even though the book be divided according to its formal organism, [2] three main divisions, but of different compass, still result. For then the chief theme is manifestly the entire recital of the visions imparted to John, from Revelation 1:9 to Revelation 22:17 (all “the words of the prophecy of this book,” Revelation 22:18 ; cf. Revelation 1:3 ), which the prophet in describing them to the churches accompanies with his own preface (Revelation 1:1-8 ) and conclusion (Revelation 22:18-21 ). Ewald’s division into four parts (title and introduction, Revelation 1:1-8 ; the briefer vision with the seven epistles, Revelation 1:9 to Revelation 3:22 ; the long series of connected visions, Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5 ; conclusion, Revelation 22:6-21 ) depends upon a confusion of the material and formal principles of division. Hence the separation of chs. 3 and 4 seems as groundless as the grouping together of Revelation 22:6-21 .

[2] Cf. Vitringa.

A survey of the contents in detail must here be given, so far as not only its methodical design, but also its unity, is thereby perceptible.

The Introduction (chs. 1 3) contains, in the first place (Revelation 1:1-3 ), the preface, properly so called, in which the book is designated (Revelation 1:1-2 ) according to its nature and contents; viz., as a prophetical writing, which is to present a revelation of God, through Jesus Christ, concerning events that are to occur in the near future, and is therefore most urgently commended (Revelation 1:3 ). Then follows the preface of John, its writer (Revelation 1:4-8 ), to the seven churches of Asia Minor (cf. Revelation 1:11 , ch. Revelation 2:3 ), as the first readers of the prophetical book; a preface which not only presents a salutation in accord with the entire contents of the book (Revelation 1:4-6 ), but also after the manner of the ancient prophets expresses at the very outstart, in short and sententious phrases (Revelation 1:7-8 ), the fundamental idea, and to a certain extent the theme, of the whole book. But if John, as the prophetic deliverer of a divine revelation, already in Revelation 1:1-3 and Revelation 1:4-8 addresses particular churches, so he now reports (Revelation 1:9-20 ) how on a Lord’s Day the Lord had himself appeared to him, and given the express command that what he saw (Revelation 1:11 ; Revelation 1:19 ), and, therefore, not only this manifestation of the Lord in calling him, but also the entire ἀποκάλυψις (revelation) (Revelation 1:1 ) described from the fourth chapter, he should write to the churches named in Revelation 1:11 . With this, he intrusts to John special letters to all those churches (Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22 ); in which, according to the various conditions, necessities, and dangers of each church, the sum of the entire revelation (discernible already from Revelation 1:7 sq.; cf. Revelation 1:1 ; Revelation 1:3 ) is elaborated and applied for their consolation.

The proper chief subject of the prophetic book (Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5 ) then introduces the report committed to writing by John, in compliance with the command (Revelation 1:11 ; Revelation 1:19 ), concerning a series of visions, in which there is given to the prophet beholding them the revelation concerning things to come ( ἅ δεῖ γενέσθαι , Revelation 4:1 ; cf. Revelation 1:1 ), which he is to testify to the churches. John, in compliance with a heavenly voice, taken up into the opened heaven, beholds God (the Father) upon his throne, surrounded by twenty-four elders, who likewise sit upon thrones. About the throne of God, there are also four beings who are described as cherubim. These beings, whose song of praise the elders adoringly continue, worship God enthroned, as the thrice holy, the Almighty, eternal Lord, which was, and is, and is to come (ch. 4; cf. Revelation 4:8 with Revelation 1:4 ; Revelation 1:8 ).

In the right hand of him that sits on the throne, John now sees a book written within and without, and sealed with seven seals (Revelation 5:1 ). At the loud cry of a strong angel, “Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” no one able to do this is found in the entire circuit of creation. Yet John, who weeps over this, as he has learned that the book contains the future things which he was to behold, is encouraged by one of the elders, who points him to the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who has prevailed, to the Son of David, as the one who is worthy to open the book (Revelation 5:2-5 ). Then John sees in the midst of the throne and of the four beings and the elders, a Lamb standing as it had been slain, with seven horns and seven eyes (Revelation 5:6 ). This Lamb takes the book out of the right hand of him that sits upon the throne (Revelation 5:7 ); upon which the four beings and the twenty-four elders celebrate his worthiness to open the book, and offer as the reason (cf. already Revelation 5:5 ) the fact that the Lamb was slain, and has accomplished the work of redemption (Revelation 5:8-10 ). All angels, yea all creatures, now unite in the ascription of praise to him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb (Revelation 5:11-14 ).

Upon this the Lamb begins (Revelation 6:1 ) to unseal the book of fate; and John beholds not words written in the book, but significative forms and events as representations (cf. Revelation 1:1 , ἐσήμανεν , be signified) of what was to happen (cf. Revelation 4:1 ). After the opening of the first seal (Revelation 6:2 ), John beholds a rider upon a white horse, and with a bow in his hand. A crown is given to him: he is a conqueror, and goes forth to conquer. The second seal (Revelation 6:3 sq.) brings a rider upon a flaming red horse. He receives a great sword: he is to take peace from the earth, that men should kill one another. From the third seal (Revelation 6:5 sq.) comes a black horse, whose rider holds a pair of balances. A voice which is heard in the midst of the four beings proclaims famine. The fourth seal (Revelation 6:7 sq.) brings a pale, livid horse, whose rider is called Death. He is to bring death to the fourth part of the earth, by the sword and hunger and other plagues. When the fifth seal (Revelation 6:9-11 ) is opened, John hears how the souls of those who have been slain because of the word of God, cry to God from under the altar, as to how long he would delay to avenge their shed blood upon those who dwell upon the earth. To each of these martyrs a white robe is given, and it is said to them that a certain number of their brethren must first be killed. After the opening of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17 ), a mighty earthquake occurs, the sun is darkened, the stars fall upon the earth, the heaven is rent asunder, all mountains and islands are removed from their places, and the cries of alarm by the dwellers upon earth testify what also the fearful signs make known; viz., that the great day of God’s wrathful judgment has come.

This final judgment, as the end of what is to happen, is to be expected now in the last or seventh seal. But the complete final development proceeds from this last seal only through a long series of further visions. Before it is opened, another event occurs in ch. 7. John beholds four angels, who stand upon the four corners of the earth, and hold there the four winds of the earth, in order that they may not yet break forth and inflict injury. For, as another angel who holds the seals of the living God cries out, the servants of God must first be marked on their foreheads with this seal (Revelation 7:1-3 ). The number sealed out of Israel, John hears: they are one hundred and forty-four thousand; out of every tribe, twelve thousand (Revelation 7:4-8 ). But hereupon he sees an innumerable multitude of all nations and tongues, standing before the throne of God and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and with palms in their hands, raising songs of praise in which the angels unite. These are they, as one of the elders says, which came out of great tribulation, and have entered into the glory of heaven (Revelation 7:9-17 ).

After this episode, the seventh seal is opened by the Lamb (Revelation 8:1 ). Silence in heaven for about a half hour follows, during which the seven angels receive seven trumpets (Revelation 8:2 ). Another angel comes, and places himself by the altar, with a golden censer in his hand, because he is to offer up incense with the prayers of the saints, and thus to make them acceptable (Revelation 5:3 sq.). As a testimony that the prayers are heard, and that what follows is a consequence of the hearing of the prayer, the angel fills his censer with fire from the altar, and casts it upon the earth. Threatening signs follow, interrupting the silence which has hitherto prevailed, and giving the signal to the seven angels with the trumpets, who prepare to sound them (Revelation 8:5 sq.). At the blast of the first trumpet (Revelation 8:7 ), hail and fire, mingled with blood, fall upon the earth; and the third of all that grows upon it is consumed. The second trumpet (Revelation 8:8 sq.) brings a great mountain, aflame with fire, which, on being cast into the sea, changes one-third of it into blood, and causes the death and destruction of the third of all living creatures in the sea, and of all ships. At the third trumpet (Revelation 8:10 sq.), a burning star falls upon the third of the streams and springs, whose waters it makes bitter (its name is “Wormwood”), so that many men die thereby. At the fourth trumpet (Revelation 8:12 ), the third of the sun and of the moon and of all the stars is darkened, and accordingly a third of the day, while a third of the night is deprived of the light of stars.

Before the three angels still remaining sound their trumpets, John hears an eagle, flying in the zenith, proclaim a threefold woe upon those who dwell upon the earth, because of the three blasts of the trumpets that are yet to come (Revelation 8:13 ). The fifth trumpet (Revelation 9:1-11 ) brings from hell an army of locusts, which for five months were to fearfully torment, but not to kill, the men who were not sealed (cf. Revelation 7:1 sq.). This is the first woe: two others follow (Revelation 9:12 ). At the blast of the sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13-21 ), the command is given, through a voice from the horns of the altar, to the sixth angel having a trumpet, to loose the four angels which are bound in the Euphrates, but are ready to rush upon the earth with an immense demoniacal army of horsemen, and to slay a third part of men. This happens, and yet the survivors do not repent.

The plague announced by the sixth trumpet belongs, of course, to the second woe (cf. Revelation 8:13 ), but is not yet fulfilled (cf. Revelation 11:14 ). Hence the seventh trumpet does not immediately sound; and there follows next, in chap, 10, a significant digression, to which the part of the second woe that still remains (Revelation 11:1-13 ) is added.

A mighty angel, having a little book in his hand, comes from heaven, and puts his feet, which are like pillars of fire, the right upon the sea, and the left upon the earth (Revelation 10:1 sq.). Seven thunders answer his loud call with their voices, which John understands, but is not to write, but to seal (Revelation 10:3 sq.). The angel now swears that forthwith, viz., in the days of the seventh trumpet, the blessed and glorious end will come, when the mystery of God, as He himself has proclaimed it to the prophets, will be finished (Revelation 10:5-7 ). Thereupon, at the command of a heavenly voice, John takes the little book from the angel’s hand, and swallows it. It is, as the angel said, as sweet to him in the mouth as honey, but bitter in his belly. A heavenly voice interprets this eating of the book: John is to prophesy again before peoples and tongues and many kings (Revelation 10:8-11 ).

This new prophecy immediately begins. A reed is given to the seer, with which he is to measure the temple at Jerusalem, and the altar, together with those who worship in the temple, in order to separate what is measured from the court and the city, which for forty-two months is to be trodden down by the heathen (Revelation 11:1 sq.). During this time, two witnesses of Christ, furnished with divine power to work miracles, are to preach repentance. But the beast out of the pit will kill them, and their corpses are to lie unburied in the streets of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also the Lord of those witnesses was crucified (Revelation 11:8 ), for three days and a half, to the joy of the godless inhabitants of the earth (Revelation 11:3-10 ). Yet after three days and a half so John further reports his vision the two witnesses are again awakened by God, and raised to heaven before the eyes of their terrified enemies (Revelation 11:11 sq.). At the same time, a great earthquake destroys a tenth of the city, and kills seven thousand inhabitants, whereby the rest are brought to repentance (Revelation 11:13 ). With this judgment upon Jerusalem, the second woe is finished. The third follows quickly (Revelation 11:14 ).

The seventh trumpet also now sounds (Revelation 11:15 ), whereupon various songs of praise arise in heaven, which celebrate the fulfilment of the mystery of God to be expected, according to Revelation 10:7 , from the seventh trumpet as having already occurred, and the day of wrathful judgment upon the heathen as having already come (Revelation 11:15-18 ). The temple of God in heaven is opened, so that the ark of the covenant contained therein is visible; and other threatening signs occur like those in Revelation 8:5 (Revelation 11:19 ).

But the third woe in its actual coming is still not yet seen; and if the heavenly songs of praise and thanksgiving (Revelation 11:15-18 ) celebrate the glorious end as already come, this can be only a prolepsis, which has its correct application in this, that the seventh trumpet is now sounded, and is partly the more fitting, as it is the inhabitants of heaven who, when the seventh sound of the trumpet has given the signal of the fulfilment, regard this as having already occurred. Yet a further revelation to John follows, concerning the days of the seventh trumpet, which in fact still impend (cf. Revelation 10:7 ), in a new series of visions, through which future things, as they actually belong to the fulfilment of the mystery of God, are represented. This blessed end (Revelation 21:1 sqq.), to which the divine gospel in the prophets points promissively (cf. Revelation 10:7 ), can come only through the complete judgment upon all that is ungodly (chs. 17 sqq.). Yet the description of this judgment can be satisfactorily explained only by a description of that which is ungodly in its inmost nature and most peculiar forms of appearance. The latter forms the chief scope of chs. 12 16 Nevertheless, even here there is no lack of elements pointing forward and giving assurance of systematic progress.

John beholds in heaven a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. She is with child, and is about to give birth (Revelation 12:1 sq.). There appears a great flaming-red dragon, with seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns. His tail sweeps a third of the stars of heaven, and casts them upon the earth. He puts himself before the travailing woman, in order, after the birth, to devour the child (Revelation 12:3 sqq.). The woman bears a son who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. The child is caught up unto God, and God’s throne. The woman flees into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared for her, that she should be fed there twelve hundred and sixty days (Revelation 12:5 sq.). A conflict now arises in heaven between Michael, together with his angels, and the dragon (i.e., the devil) and his angels; and the latter are cast to the earth (Revelation 12:7-9 ). This victory is celebrated by a loud voice in heaven, praising God and his Christ; but at the same time proclaiming wrath upon the earth and the sea, because the devil, cast down thereto, would exert his great wrath during the brief period allowed him (Revelation 12:10-12 ). The dragon persecutes the woman; but she receives two wings of an eagle, in order to fly into the wilderness to her place (Revelation 12:13 sq.). In vain the dragon casts after the woman a stream of water, which the earth swallows up, so that he departs to contend with the rest of the seed of the woman (Revelation 12:13-17 ).

The dragon goes upon the shore of the sea (Revelation 12:11 ; Revelation 12:17 ), from which a beast rises with ten horns, seven heads, ten crowns, and names of blasphemy upon its heads. It is like a leopard, but has the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion; it receives from the dragon its power and throne (Revelation 13:1 sq.). One of its heads is wounded unto death, but the deadly wound is healed (Revelation 13:3 ). The whole earth wonders at the beast, and worships the dragon. The beast dares to speak blasphemies, and to contend victoriously with the saints. It has power over the whole earth for forty-two months (Revelation 13:5 ), and is worshipped by all who do not belong to the Lamb (Revelation 13:4-8 ), a fearful prophecy which John commits to writing, not without adding an intimation concerning the judgment upon this ungodly being, and admonishing the saints to patience and faith (Revelation 13:9 sq.). Upon this, John sees another beast rise from the earth, with two horns like a lamb, and speaking like a dragon (Revelation 13:11 ). By seduction, miracles, and force (Revelation 13:17 ), this beast causes the dwellers upon earth to worship the former beast (Revelation 13:12-17 ). The number to explain its name to one having understanding is 666 (Revelation 13:18 ).

Another vision follows essentially in the sense of the intercalated paracletic section of Revelation 13:9 sq. On Mount Zion stands the Lamb, with a hundred and forty-four thousand of his people, while heavenly voices sing before God’s throne a new song which only the redeemed can learn. An angel, with the everlasting gospel intended for all dwellers upon earth, flying in the zenith, demands conversion to the true God, while he testifies that the hour of judgment has come (Revelation 14:6 sq.). Another angel proclaims the fall of great Babylon as having already occurred (Revelation 14:8 ); and a third, the eternal punishment of the worshippers of the beast (Revelation 14:9-11 ). There is next a paracletic digression of John (Revelation 14:12 ); also a heavenly voice commands him to write that they who die in the Lord are blessed (Revelation 14:13 ). Then the course of the development towards the end , whose next goal Revelation 14:8 already proleptically marks, again continues. Upon a white cloud appears one like the Son of man, with a golden crown upon his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. From the temple comes another angel, who calls to him who sits upon the cloud, to begin with the sickle the harvest, for which the time has come. The latter then thrusts his sickle into the earth, which is harvested (Revelation 14:14-16 ). Still another angel comes forth out of the heavenly temple, likewise holding a sharp sickle, which, by the order of an angel coming forth from the altar, he thrusts into the earth. Thus the vine of the earth is harvested, and the wine-press is trodden outside of the city; the blood which proceeds therefrom extends to the horses’ bridles, sixteen hundred furlongs (Revelation 14:17-20 ).

A new, astonishing sign in heaven appears to the seer: the seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is the wrath of God fulfilled (Revelation 15:1 ). After a hymn of the victors over the beast, who, in the song of Moses and the Lamb, proclaim the righteousness of God and his glory, which is to be worshipped by all the nations (Revelation 15:2-4 ), those seven angels come forth from God’s temple, and receive from one of the four beings seven golden vials filled with the wrath of the everlasting God (Revelation 15:5-7 ). The temple is filled with smoke from the glory and power of God, so that no one can enter therein until the seven plagues of the seven angels are fulfilled (Revelation 15:8 ). A voice from the temple now commands the seven angels to pour their vials upon the earth (Revelation 16:1 ). The first vial, poured out upon the earth (Revelation 16:2 ), brings a severe ulcer upon the men who bear the mark of the beast, and worship his image. The second vial (Revelation 16:3 ), poured out upon the sea, changes it into blood as of a dead man; every thing living in the sea dies. The third vial (Revelation 16:4 ), poured out upon the rivers and springs, changes them into blood. The angel of the waters glorifies the righteousness of the divine judgments; so, too, the angel of the altar (Revelation 16:5-7 ). The fourth vial (Revelation 16:8 sq.), poured out upon the sun, causes a heat that scorches men. But all these plagues work no repentance. The fifth vial (Revelation 16:10 sq.), poured out upon the throne of the beast, causes darkness in his kingdom, but only new blasphemies on the part of those who are afflicted. The sixth vial (Revelation 16:12-16 ) is poured upon the Euphrates, which is dried, that the way may be prepared for the kings of the East. Out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, come three unclean spirits, like frogs, which gather the kings for the struggle of that great day “Behold, the Lord cometh quickly: blessed is he that watcheth” (Revelation 16:15 ) and that, too, to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon. The seventh vial (Revelation 16:17-21 ) is poured out into the air. A heavenly voice cries, “It is done.” Amidst voices, lightnings, and thunders, an unprecedented earthquake occurs, which divides the great city into three parts, and overthrows the cities of the nations. Islands and mountains vanish (cf. Revelation 6:14 ). A great hail falls. Yet men continue their blasphemies. One of the seven angels having the vials now comes to John, and wishes to show him the judgment of the great harlot, with whom the kings and the inhabitants of the earth in general have committed fornication (Revelation 17:1 sq.). He carries the seer, in spirit, into the wilderness. There sits upon a scarlet-colored beast, covered with names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns, a wanton woman, having in her hand a cup full of abominations, and upon her forehead a name written which designates her as Babylon, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth. She is drunken with the blood of saints (Revelation 17:2-6 ). To the astonished John, the angel explains the mystery of the woman and the beast (Revelation 17:7-18 ). Another angel proclaims the fall of great Babylon as having already occurred (cf. Revelation 14:8 ), and declares that her sins are the cause of the judgment (Revelation 18:1-3 ). Another voice from heaven first commands the servants of God to go forth out of Babylon, in order to share neither her sins nor her plagues (Revelation 18:4 ); and then, to more firmly establish the burden of her sins, describes her complete ruin (Revelation 18:5-20 ), which another angel portrays by casting a great millstone into the sea, thus describing the destruction of the godless city, stained by the blood of martyrs (Revelation 18:21-24 ). Thus the fulfilled judgment upon the great harlot is celebrated in heaven with songs of praises (Revelation 19:1-8 ). Before, however, the other ungodly powers are judged, there follows, in a brief digression (Revelation 19:9 sq.), an allusion to the blessed fulfilment of the mystery of God (cf. Revelation 10:7 ) at the marriage-supper of the Lamb; for already a chief act of the judgment is accomplished, whereby that glorious end will be attained. The description of the other acts of judgment continues directly afterward (Revelation 19:11 ). Christ himself, with his followers, goes forth from the opened heaven (Revelation 19:11-16 ), while an angel, standing in the sun, with a loud voice calls together the birds to eat the flesh of the inhabitants of the earth (Revelation 19:17 sq.), against the beast, which with his army awaits the conflict (Revelation 19:19 ). The beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire; the rest are slain with the sword which proceeds from the mouth of Christ, and all the birds are filled with their flesh (Revelation 19:20 sq.). Then Satan himself is bound for a thousand years by an angel coming out of heaven, and cast into the abyss, whence he is to be loosed again for a short time after that period (Revelation 20:1-3 ). During the thousand years, those reign with Christ who for his sake have been slain, and have not served the beast, after they have been raised from the dead, the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4-6 ). After the expiration of the thousand years, Satan loosed goes forth to deceive the nations in the four ends of the earth, Gog and Magog, and to bring them together for battle. They also rise up over the surface of the earth, and surround the camp of the saints, the beloved city; but fire from heaven consumes them, and they are cast to eternal torments in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10 ). Then finally, in the judgment of the world, in which all the dead appear before the gloriously enthroned Judge (the second resurrection; cf. Revelation 20:5 ), all those whose names are not found written in the book of life, together with death and hell, are cast out. This is the second death (Revelation 20:11-15 ).

The entire judgment of every thing ungodly is thus completed. There follows, finally (Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5 ), the presentation of the blessed mystery of God, in its actual fulfilment (cf. Revelation 10:7 ). John beholds a new heaven and a new earth, and the new Jerusalem descending from heaven as an adorned bride (Revelation 21:1 sq.); at which not only a voice from heaven proclaims the eternal blessedness of those dwelling with God, but also he that sitteth on the throne himself testifies that the eternal fulfilment is accomplished, both in the glorification of the believing victors, and in the condemnation of all the godless (Revelation 21:3-8 ). But one of the seven angels having the vials wishes to show John the Lamb’s bride more closely; therefore he brings the seer in spirit to a high mountain (Revelation 21:9 sq.), whence he beholds the new Jerusalem in the glory of God, as it is described, Revelation 21:11 to Revelation 22:5 . Thus has the revelation, begun in ch. 4, attained its highest goal, and exhausted its subject; it has disclosed, up to the eternal accomplishment, that which was to come to pass (cf. Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 21:1 ). The two parts of the epilogue (Revelation 21:6-11 ; Revelation 21:18-21 ), still following, conclude in a twofold respect all that precedes. On the one hand, the visions by means of which there is imparted to John the revelation concerning future things (Revelation 21:6 , ἅ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει ) are closed, since an angel, who, in Christ’s name, speaks with John, confirms the certainty and importance of that which John has seen, and is to publish in his prophetical writing, and repeatedly testifies to the fundamental truth that the Lord is coming (Revelation 21:6-11 ). On the other hand, the prophet himself completes his writing, in which, according to the command received, he has communicated the revelation given him, with the solemn testimony of the divine punishment of those who will either add any thing to, or subtract any thing from, the prophecies in this his book (Revelation 21:18 sq.). But, as the Lord promises his speedy coming, the prophet answers with a cry of longing for this coming (Revelation 21:20 ). With a benediction upon the reader, corresponding to the introductory greeting (cf. Revelation 21:4 sqq.), the whole is finished (Revelation 21:21 ).

2. The leading features of the plan , according to which the Apocalypse is skilfully designed, are clearly manifest already from this summary of the contents; but a more minute account not only is necessary for the establishment of the critical view of the complete and original unity of the present book, but also gives the most certain norm for the entire exposition, since it proceeds from the context itself. The question is especially concerning the central chief division of the book (Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5 ); for the section from Revelation 22:6 is to be regarded as the conclusion, upon which there is as little controversy among expositors as there is concerning the introductory design of chs. 1 3, although, of course, the meaning of the seven epistles (chs. 2, 3), in themselves, and in their relation to the proper revelation (chs. Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5 ), is variously comprehended. Yet this depends upon the view of the development and disposition of the central chief subject. John himself testifies (Revelation 1:10 ) that he has written the visions of his prophetic book on one day. [3] It is never declared that in the course of the revelation of the future he has ever actually abandoned [4] the standpoint to which he was raised at its beginning (Revelation 4:1 ), [5] while it is self-evident that in his never-interrupted ecstatic condition, from Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5 , he yet can be conscious of a change of standpoint (cf. Revelation 10:1 , Revelation 17:3 , Revelation 21:10 ; and especially Revelation 11:1 sqq., where the seer in his trance must even be active); and as, even externally regarded, the report of the visions in no way admits the meaning that the individual parts of the revelation are immediately recorded the one after the other, after John has received them through sight and hearing: [6] so the revelation described in ch. 4, in its inner formation, is controlled from the beginning on by a development having unity, and directly tending towards a final goal. For the book of fate, at the throne of God (chap. 5), contains beneath its seven seals just that which is to be revealed to John, and then to be prophetically published by him; viz., ἅ δεῖ γενέσθαι , “the things which must come to pass” (cf. Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 5:1 ). If no one be found able to open the seals, the future also remains concealed from John (Revelation 5:4 ). But Christ, the Mediator of revelation (cf. Revelation 1:1 ), opens the seals, so that significant visions now appear to the seer, which describe to him the future things. If, in this entire fundamental idea of the book of fate, there is to be sense and order, neither can that which proceeds from the sixth seal already be regarded as the complete representation of the actual final judgment, i.e., with the sixth seal, all revelation to its very end be once for all exhausted, [7] neither can any thing concerning the future be revealed, which is not included in the book of fate, and to be interpreted as proceeding from the seals. [8] The occasion for misunderstanding this formal fundamental law, controlling the entire composition of the Apocalypse, lies in this, that the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17 ) is not immediately followed by the seventh (Revelation 8:1 ), and that even the seventh seal does not bring, after the analogy of that which precedes, a vision that is definite and in itself intelligible, with which, then, the revelation proceeding from the sealed book of fate is to end, but rather, in another form (the seven trumpets), constitutes a new series of visions, or rather evolves them from itself.

[3] Against Grotius and others, who wish to distinguish the visions by different times.

[4] Against De Wette, etc.

[5] But not Revelation 1:10-18 , as Klief. proposes; cf. on Revelation 1:20 .

[6] Against Bengel, Erklärte Offenb. Joh. , Stuttg., 1740, p. 296 sq.

[7] As with Hofmann.

[8] Against Hengstenberg, Ebrard, and, in general, against the entire theory of a recapitulatio . (See author’s note below.)

The same art, however, with which John at the crisis of the seventh seal opens, as it were, a new path, which in its beginning is based upon the conclusion of the first (viz., in the seven seals, Revelation 8:1 ), meets us again at the similar second crisis; namely, where, after the close of the vision of the six trumpets (Revelation 9:21 ), the seventh trumpet, and with it the end of the entire revelation, is to be expected. As, between the sixth and the seventh seals, a digression of essentially progressive significance enters (ch. 7), so also between the sixth and seventh trumpets (ch. 10). And if already, at that first crisis, many an expositor loses the course of the argument, this danger is all the more imminent at the second crisis, as not only externally the peculiar digression of ch. 10, where John is provided with new prophecies, enters as a distinct revelation, not proceeding from the sixth trumpet (Revelation 11:1-14 ), but also that which is directly represented after the blast of the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15-19 ), may appear at first sight as the actual description of the complete end; from which, then, it would follow, that what succeeds ch. 12 forms an entirely new beginning, completely independent of the original plan of a series of seals and trumpets. There would consequently be a complete break between chs. 11 and 12 But this misunderstanding is obviated in a twofold way by the formal organism itself: first, between the fourth and fifth trumpets, three woes are proclaimed as still impending, of which the first two occur before the seventh trumpet; and, secondly, in the digression, Revelation 10:7 , pointing to a new prophecy to all nations and many kings (cf. Revelation 10:11 ), it is expressly said that the seventh trumpet will bring the glorious fulfilment of the blessed mystery of God. But neither does the small section, Revelation 11:15-19 , contain the account of the fulfilment of the mystery of God, nor within Revelation 11:1-14 do we find the demands of the prediction given to the prophet at Revelation 10:11 satisfied. On the contrary, the entire section, Revelation 12:1 to Revelation 22:5 , contains all that according to Revelation 8:13 , Revelation 10:7 , and Revelation 10:11 , is still to be expected; viz., not only the third woe, which is truly analogous to the two first in seven vials of wrath, and with the same the detailed account of the final judgment of all that is ungodly, especially the definite prophecy concerning the kings and nations in the service of the beast which comes from the abyss (cf. already Revelation 11:7 , where the reach of the second woe extends across into that of the third), but also the description of the final glory in which the mystery of God is to be fulfilled. If, therefore, that which succeeds ch. 12 does not result from the seven trumpets in the same express form in which the series of the seven trumpets issues from the seven seals (cf. especially the remarks to ch. 12, in the exposition), yet not only is the inner connection with that original design maintained, but the external conformity is to be recognized besides in this, that, in clear analogy with the seven vials and the seven trumpets, the third woe appears in the form of seven vials. Thus it may be well said, in accordance with the original design of the Apocalypse (but, of course, without regard to the manner in which that original design is modified by chap. 12), that the seventh seal, through the seven trumpets which also proceed therefrom, extends to Revelation 22:5 . John, then, has seen all that is to happen; and the secret contents of the book of fate, sealed with the seven seals, are completely disclosed.


This statement follows the course already indicated by Bengel, and, more safely and without his false side-look, by Lücke, Bleek, Ewald, and De Wette. It is opposed to the ancient and modern views which proceed from the theory of the Recapitulatio . This theory, which has been and still is highly influential in the exposition of the Apocalypse, even to the most minute details, owes its importance to Augustine, who in his renowned work, the De Civitate Dei , I. xx., c. 7 17, elaborately discusses the eschatological expressions in Revelation 20, 21, especially with reference to the Donatist Tichonius, who wrote a much-read but lost commentary on the Apocalypse. [9] “To recapitulate” is the opposite of “observing the order.” Augustine (l.c., c. 14): “He speaks by recapitulating , as returning to that which he had omitted, or rather had deferred.… That is, therefore, what I have said, that by recapitulating he has returned to that which he had passed oRev :But now he has observed the order,” etc. To recapitulate, then, is when any thing is described at a later, while according to actual chronological order it should be described in a former, part of the book. By this exegetical canon of “recapitulation,” Augustine attempts to remove the chief difficulty which he finds in the Apocalypse. “And in this book, indeed, many things are said obscurely to exercise the mind of the reader, and there are in it a few things from whose manifestation the rest may be laboriously traced, especially since it so repeats the same things in many ways, that it seems to speak now one thing and then another, although it is discovered speaking the very same things now in this way, and again in that” (l.c., c. 17). Recapitulation is not identical with repetition, although the Latin word repetere can be used also in the sense of recapitulare (l.c., c. 14); but already in Augustine both belong together, so that he fixes the course in accordance with which this entire theory has been so elaborated, that, by the apparent rule of recapitulation and repetition, in fact the most immoderate and arbitrary freaks of exegesis may be justified. This is manifest already in Beda, since, mistaking the plan of the Apocalypse as a whole, because of a misunderstanding of the mutually interpenetrative construction of the seals and trumpets, he writes ( Prolog. , l.c., p. 761): “Where, according to the custom of this book, it observes the order up to the sixth number, and, omitting the seventh, recapitulates , and, as if having followed the order, concludes the two narratives with the seventh. But even the recapitulation itself is to be understood according to the passages. For sometimes it recapitulates from the origin of the suffering, sometimes from the middle of the time, sometimes concerning the very latest persecution alone, or will not speak of what is much before.” If, therefore, according to this view of the plan of the Apocalypse, the last seals could refer to things anterior to those of the preceding seals, or if, in the book, the trumpets succeeding the seals, and the vials succeeding the trumpets, could be stated to be a recapitulation of things which in reality belong under the seals, a true regularity of plan could not be acknowledged in these references which intersect one another. But the theory of recapitulation and repetition was, in this respect, very skilful. How if the first trumpet and the first vial by recapitulating referred to the same thing that had been referred to by the first seal, and if thus a regular parallelism would be shown between the seven seals, trumpets, and vials? Even to this extreme was the recapitulation theory carried by Nicholas Collado, [10] who was followed by David Pareus [11] and others. By the three forms of visions, viz., seals, trumpets, and vials, says Nic. Coll., the same thing is always described, and that, too, so that while the seals contain only a brief σκιαγραφία (sketch), the trumpets and seals always afford the more detailed images, to which then it is added, entirely in the sense of the ancient recapitulation theory: “Not what will be before or after among these seven, but in what order of discourses and signs they were indicated to John.” The individual seals, trumpets, and vials correspond thus, each in its place, to one another, so that finally the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet, and the seventh vial in like manner concur in portraying the end of all things. In the results of this theory, Nic. Coll. does not allow himself to be deceived concerning the fact, that the individual parallel seals, trumpets, and vials, although represented as declaring the same thing with increasing clearness, yet occasionally express what, according to his own explanation, is directly the opposite. The fifth seal, e.g., speaks of the martyrs sacrificed by the Romish Church; but the fifth trumpet presents, in the figure of the locusts from hell, the Romish clergy, the mendicant monks, etc.; and the fifth vial, finally, portrays a divine wrathful judgment upon the Pope of Rome. But there is only this yet wanting, viz., to place under this law of the recapitulating parallels, the seven epistles of chs. 2 and 3, whose close historical relation has long ago already been explained by most expositors as a mere foil [12] to what is, properly speaking, the prophetic contents. Yet this is done, not only by Ludw. Crocius, [13] Matth. Hofmann, [14] and Coccejus, [15] who accordingly assign seven periods to the entire N. T. time, but also by Campegius Vitringa, [16] the latter of whom is pre-eminently distinguished for his advocacy of the theory of the recapitulating parallelism in the plan of the Apocalypse, since, on the one hand, he represents this theory in its most remote consequences by including also the seven epistles in this parallelism, but, on the other hand, sees the necessity of being cautious in the application of the principle which he urges to an extreme. Vitringa does not say that all the seven letters, seals, trumpets, and vials each in every particular place correspond with one another; since such a complete correspondence in the formal arrangement is not supported by the prophetic contents, as Vitringa discovered by his exposition: on the contrary, he frankly modifies his judgment concerning this, conformably to the contents of the individual epistles, seals, trumpets, and vials, in the actual application of this principle of the recapitulating parallelism. Thus he frames a scheme of the book, which by its combination of the most accurate regularity, derived from the law of recapitulating parallelism urged to the extreme, and of the most confused irregularity, growing out of the interpretation of details that enter into the sphere of history, appears truly labyrinthine. According to Vitringa, the three first epistles, seals, and trumpets are actually parallel. Then the fourth and fifth trumpets alone extend farther. The fourth epistle has its parallel in the fourth seal and the sixth trumpet, at the close of which the vials are inserted. The fifth epistle, fifth seal, and end of the sixth trumpet have as their parallels, the first, second, third, and fourth vials; the sixth epistle has its parallel in the fifth and sixth vials. Then the seventh epistle stands alone. The sixth seal and seventh vial belong together; and finally the seventh seal, parallel with the seventh trumpet, completes the whole.

[9] Concerning the relation of the exposition under the name of Tichonius on the Apoc. of St. John (Augustine’s works, ed. Bened., vol. iii., App., p. 13), to the original work from which Beda especially ( Explic. Apoc. Opp. Col. Agripp ., 1688, vol. v. p. 761) has taken the VII. Rules of Tichonius, cf. Lücke, p. 995.

[10] Methodus facillima ad explicationem sacrosanctae Apocalypseos Joannis theologi, ex ipso libro desumpta . Marg., 1584.

[11] Comment. in divin. Apoc . Heidel., 1618. Opp. ed., Genev., T. II.

[12] [i.e., something of another kind, to set off something else to advantage.]

[13] Syntagma theol ., 1635.

[14] Chronotas apocal ., Opp. theol., 1674.

[15] Cogitationes de Apoc . Opp. Amstel., 1701, T. VI. Cf. also the Synopsis et medulla prophetiae Cantici , and the Commentary on the Song of Solomon, 1:1. Opp. T. II.

[16] Ἀνάκρισις Apokalypsios Joannis Apostoli, Franeq. 1705. Amstel., 1719.

In this way is confusion introduced under one rule. And yet to be silent concerning the older adherents of the system of Vitringa, as Joachim Lange [17]

Hofmann, [18] Hengstenberg, and Ebrard have turned back into this course, even though they very clearly differ in many places from Vitringa. Concerning Hengstenberg, who, in his theory of the groups of visions standing one beside the other, repeats the old recapitulation theory; and concerning Ebrard, who not only parallelizes the prophetic range of the epistles with that of the following visions (since the epistles interpreted as partly consecutive and partly synchronistic, i.e., describing conditions of the Church partly following each other chronologically, and partly co-existing simultaneously, are regarded as extending to the very end), but also places the ultimate end at Revelation 11:15 sqq., within the series of visions (Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5 ), we will speak at greater length on the basis of particular expositions of chs. 2, 3, Revelation 8:1 , Revelation 11:15 sqq. Meanwhile we must here already judge how Hofmann’s view of the plan and of what is closely connected therewith, viz., of the prophetic relation of the Apocalypse, is, notwithstanding peculiar modifications, essentially like the ancient recapitulation theory. Hofm., whom A. Christiani [19] follows, divides what is properly the Book of Revelation (Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 22:5 ) into five sections: I., chs. 2, 3; II., Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 8:1 ; III., Revelation 8:2 to Revelation 11:19 ; IV., 12 14.; V., Revelation 15:1 to Revelation 22:5 (Revelation 15:1 to Revelation 16:18 , Revelation 16:18 to Revelation 22:5 ). The first part, viz., the seven epistles, refers [20] to the circumstances of the present: Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 8:1 proceeds to “the entire future,” as there is here portrayed “all that belongs thereto, in order to bring about the divine mystery of our salvation.” The three remaining sections (Revelation 8:2 to Revelation 22:5 ) refer “to the end,” with the distinction that Revelation 8:2 to Revelation 11:19 contains “God’s final calls to repentance before the judgment;” chs. 12 14, “the final struggle against the Church in the flesh;” and, finally, the section from Revelation 15:1 , on “the judgment of wrath upon the world, and the deliverance of the Church.” To one not more fully acquainted with the peculiar view of Hofmann concerning the nature of prophecy, it must be inconceivable how he could at one time say that the seven epistles refer to the present, but likewise [21] that “corresponding to the seven pictures presented alongside of one another in the epistles, there will be in like manner seven forms of Christian congregational life belonging together, until the end of Church history, when the Lord sends the final trial upon his Church and the world, in order then himself to come,” etc. But if we receive the statement concerning the seven epistles just as Hofmann presents it, the recapitulatory character of his view of the plan of the Apocalypse comes into view at once. Just this view, which in our opinion harmonizes neither in general with the true conception of prophecy, nor in particular with the context of chs. 2, 3, viz., that the epistles continue to prophesy until “ the end of Church history ,” declares that Hofm. already, at the beginning of the book, finds the end of all things. The second section (Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 8:1 ), by recapitulating, starts again from the beginning, and brings us to the end, at which Hofm., in Revelation 8:1 , stands a second time. For the third time we reach the end in Revelation 11:19 , after a recapitulation has occurred for the second time from Revelation 8:2 ; and after the third recapitulation, beginning with Revelation 12:1 , we come to the end for the fourth time. It will be sufficient to indicate the misunderstanding from which this modification by Hofmann of the ancient recapitulation theory suffers, only with respect to the chief critical point in the course of the Apocalypse, viz., where there is a transition from the last seal to the trumpets. This misunderstanding depends upon two hypotheses, which only with great difficulty can be regarded consistent with the context: (1) Hofmann regards the sealed book of Revelation 5:1 , as not containing that which is represented to John by the visions proceeding from the opened seals, but that in the book something was written which could be known only after the opening of the seven seals, and must be realized by the events portrayed in the history of the seals; that the proper contents of the book are nothing else than “the new condition of things to which God is leading through the occurrences of the present world.” John, therefore, has reason to weep (Revelation 5:4 ); for, if the seals had remained unopened, “the blessed mystery of the future world, eternal life, would not have been attained.” [22] But in this explanation the relation of the seals to the book is not stated in accordance with the text. For, if it be not those very things that stand written in the book as the divine decree, which are made manifest by the account of the seals, it will, on the one hand, be very difficult to comprehend how, from the seals which then could be designated only as comprehending the sphere of what God has reserved, the mystery of what is written in the book, such rich contents as the visions of the seals show could proceed; and, on the other, it must also be somewhere indicated, that in the book that stands written which Hofm. wishes to find in distinction from the revelation of the seals actually presented to us. Hofm., however, not only has his conjectures concerning the contents of the book, but also errs in deciding the relation of the seals to the professed contents, by making the fruition or fulfilment of the glorious condition of the new world professedly described in the book dependent upon the opening of the seals. It is of course in itself correct to say that the mystery of God will attain its fulfilment only with the consummation (cf. Revelation 10:7 ) of all that the visions of the seals show to be future; but this is not altogether the aspect under which the book with its seven seals is represented. For in Revelation 5:4 , John weeps, not because, if no one can open the seals of the book, its contents must remain unfulfilled , but manifestly because then they must remain unknown . (2) But even granting that Hofm. has correctly divined the contents of the book, and correctly defined the relation of the seals, yet it would not follow that the seven trumpets proceeding from the seventh seal do not introduce a new series of visions, and that at Revelation 8:1 we already stand at the real end. Especially according to Hofm.’s arrangement (cf. also Hengstb. and Christiani), is such a conception extremely difficult. Hofm. finds already in the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17 ) the description of what is properly the judgment of the world. If we leave out of view the fact that he forces into this connection all also of ch. 7, [23] and if we ask only concerning the contents of the seventh seal as distinguished from the professed contents of the book, Hofm. answers, “Thus the seventh seal can be opened; the last which still hinders the rolling-up of the book, i.e., the new world, can receive its beginning. This it was not for John to see. He only receives at the opening one impression, which is to make up for this vision: ‘There was silence in heaven.’ ” In fact, the seventh seal thus has no contents whatever; it is only opened, not in order that the contents of the book may be seen or heard, but that thereby John, to whom what shall happen has been revealed in definite visions through all the preceding seals, may attain, by the ensuing silence, “an impression” of that which is to be fulfilled without his seeing it, and which, notwithstanding, is nothing less than the blessed goal both of his own and all other prophecies (cf. Revelation 10:7 ). Such an outline [24] of course urgently demands a completion, which is to be effected by “ recapitulating .”

[17] Apokalyptisches Licht and Recht . Halle, 1730.

[18] Weiss. u. Erfüll ., II., p. 300 sqq.

[19] Uebersichtl. Darst. des Inhalts der Apok ., Dorpat, 1861.

[20] p. 376.

[21] p. 324 sq.

[22] Cf. Christiani.

[23] Where, in the Judgment, in contrast with the alarmed world the well-concealed Church is described, viz., both the believing who are then still alive (Revelation 7:1-8 ), and also the blessed dead (Revelation 7:9 sq.), concerning which we are not to make the mistake that the world, whose destruction is described in the sixth seal, now appears as still (Revelation 7:1 ) existing.

[24] p. 12.

The recapitulation theory is applied by H. Kienlen ( Commentaire historique et critique sur l’ Apocal ., Paris, 1870. Cf. my notice in the Theol. Stud. u. Krit. , 1871, p. 566), with the modification that essentially there is but one recapitulation, viz., from Revelation 7:1 , after the close of chap. 6 has for the first time reached the full end. Kliefoth utterly rejects the theory, yet does not maintain entire independence of it. He thinks that the parousia has been brought to contemplation already in Revelation 14:14 . The first part of the Apocalypse is to follow the progressive development of the Church up to the parousia; the last of the seven epistles (Revelation 3:14 sqq.) is to represent the condition of the churches as they will be found by the Lord at his coming; while the second part, beginning with Revelation 4:1 , has as its proper subject the final events far in the future. The way to determine the meaning of particular passages corresponds to this form of recapitulation proposed by Kliefoth. He rejects the arbitrariness of allegorizing, yet not only has many allegorizing interpretations, but even presents concrete declarations in a way that may be called schematizing. Cf., e.g., Revelation 11:8 , Revelation 20:9 , where there will be found a description of the city of Jerusalem; but in this he has in mind the metropolis of Christianity at the end of time.

B. The methodical disposition of the Apocalypse is further conditioned by the number seven , and the numbers three and four as its components. There are seven epistles, seals, trumpets, vials. Thus the fundamental plan of the book may almost be said to be projected according to the number seven. But in this similarity there enters a diversity, by the resolution of seven into three and four. The first three epistles are distinguished from the last four by the construction of the conclusion. In the seals, the number four precedes, and three follows; for every time after the opening of the first four seals, one of the four beings, by whose introduction the scene is very significatively animated, summons the seer to come near. The first four trumpets, also, are distinguished from the three last: the latter are expressly proclaimed as three woes. Finally, in the vials, the first three are separated from the last four by voices which cease to be heard after the pouring-forth of the third vial.


It is incorrect, when treating of the art displayed in the plan of the book, to introduce still other numeral standards, which do not control the composition of Apocalyptic scripture, but belong only to its prophetic contents. The ten of the dragon’s horns, the seven of his heads, the two of Christ’s witnesses, etc., and all chronological numbers, as three and a half, five, etc., therefore in no way belong here. This is contrary to Lücke, [25] and to W. F. Rinck, [26] who [27] wished to represent the entire course of the Apocalypse according to the standard of a great jubilee period, but, in order to introduce the analogy of the seven periods of seven, [28] prior to the great Hallelujah, Revelation 19:1 sqq., is compelled to arrange the most heterogeneous subjects in a series: 1. The Seven Epistles. 2. The Seven Seals. 3. The Seven Trumpets. 4. The Seven Vials of Wrath. 5. Babylon upon the Seven Hills and with the Seven Emperors (Revelation 17:9 ). 6. The Beast with Seven Heads (13, 19). 7. The Devil as the Dragon with Seven Heads (12, 20.). Numbers 5-7, however, in no way stand in one line with Numbers 1-4.

[25] p. 407 sqq.

[26] Apokalyptische Forschungen; oder, Grundriss der Offenb. Joh. u. Anleitung zu ihrem Verständniss . Zur., 1853.

[27] Cf. already Herder , ΜΑΡΑΝ ΑΘΑ . Das Buch von der Zukunft des Herrn, des Neuen Testaments Siegel . Riga, 1779, p. 247 sqq.

[28] “ Wochenjahre ” should be Jahrwochen .


Ewald has recently, [29] in an ingenious way, sought to trace in the Apocalypse a plan founded upon an extremely skilful relation of numbers. His view is as follows: The development of the entire future viz., not only to the first end, the fall of Rome, and to the two other stages (viz., the destruction of the entire Roman Empire, ch. 19, and of all heathendom, ch. 20.) which also still belong to the beginning of the last divine end, but even up to this, which is the fulfilment in the proper sense is revealed to the prophet in five series of seven visions each (Revelation 4:1-7 ; Revelation 4:11 ; Revelation 8:1-11 ; Revelation 8:13 ; Revelation 11:15 to Revelation 14:20 ; Revelation 15:1 to Revelation 18:24 ; Revelation 19:1 to Revelation 22:5 ). Previous to these five series of seven each, there is a sixth series of seven in the seven epistles (chs. 2, 3); and the whole is, as it were, framed by a seventh series of seven, whose first half (Revelation 1:1-20 ) forms the introduction, and whose second half (Revelation 22:6-21 ) the close, of the history and the prophetic writing. The five series of seven visions are constructed according to fixed numerical standards. These present themselves in the simplest way in the first two series of seven. We have here three small groups, viz., two introductory visions (Revelation 4:1-11 , Revelation 5:1-14 , and Revelation 8:1-6 ), besides three central visions, showing the real progress of future things (Revelation 6:1-8 , Seals 1 4; Revelation 6:9-11 , Fifth Seal; Revelation 6:12-17 , Seal 6; and Revelation 8:7-13 , Trumpets 1 4; Revelation 9:1-12 , Fifth Trumpet; Revelation 9:13-21 , Sixth Trumpet ), and finally two concluding visions (Revelation 7:1-17 , and Revelation 10:1-11 , Revelation 11:1-14 ). In the first of the three chief visions, there are, moreover, always four parts (seals, trumpets): if we enumerate these singly, the result is ten parts for each of the two series of seven. This numerical standard lies at the basis, also, of each of the three other series of seven (Revelation 11:15 to Revelation 22:5 ), but in such a manner that these three series of seven unite with the two preceding as one great series of seven. Taking into consideration the individual series, we find in the series Revelation 11:15 to Revelation 14:20 , first, two heavenly introductories (Revelation 11:15-19 , Revelation 12:1-17 ); secondly, three central visions (Revelation 13:1 to Revelation 13:10 , Revelation 13:11-18 , Revelation 14:1-5 ); and, finally, two supplementary visions (Revelation 14:6-13 , Revelation 14:14-20 ). In like manner, in the fourth series, two introductory visions (Revelation 15:1-4 , Revelation 15:5 to Revelation 16:1 ), three central (Revelation 16:2-9 , Revelation 16:10 sq., Revelation 16:12-21 ), and two supplementary (Revelation 17:1-18 , Revelation 18:1-24 ); and in the fifth series, two introductory visions (Revelation 19:1-16 ), three central (Revelation 19:17 to Revelation 20:6 , Revelation 20:7-10 , Revelation 20:11-15 ), two concluding visions (Revelation 21:1-8 , Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5 ). We must, however, regard the entire group of the last three series of seven as one triple enlarged series of seven. If the question here were chiefly concerning a mere repetition of the scheme lying at the foundation of the two preceding series, the result would be, that just as, by a juncture ( Knotenpunkt ) in the seventh seal, the second series (the trumpets) are connected with the first, so also, by means of a juncture lying in the seventh trumpet, the addition of a seventh simple series of seven (the vials) follows. But for the proportion of prophetic views which are now to be mastered, such a simple form would be too short: it must be trebled. At the same time, therefore, in the expanded form it is indicated, that even if the course of the earthly development proceeds rapidly, and the beginning of the end (the fall of Rome) impends at a brief space, yet the true divine end itself appears as always postponed to a greater distance. Corresponding to this, also, is another expansion of the proportions of the original scheme. For, as we found in the first two of the five series, that in the seven there are at the same time ten sections, so also we can likewise recognize in the third series ten smaller sections, since the first contains the succeeding, or side, visions (Revelation 14:6-13 ), and the second, two sections (Revelation 14:14-20 ); while the following series is so expanded as to embrace sixteen sections (for the first of the central visions (Revelation 16:2-9 ) contains four; the third (Revelation 16:12-21 ), two; and the last, the supplementary vision (Revelation 18:1-24 ), six small sections); and the sixth series extends so far that it likewise comprises seventeen small sections (for the first of the central visions (Revelation 19:17 to Revelation 20:6 ) contains four, and the latter of the two concluding visions, though a small series (Revelation 21:9 to Revelation 22:5 ), has seven separate sections).

[29] Die Johann. Schriften , vol. ii. Götting., 1862, p. 38 sq.

But such determination of its skilful numerical construction contains one error that is so critical as to unsettle the entire structure. Ewald errs when he thinks [30] that seventeen sections are to be obtained in the last series of seven: for there are but sixteen; viz., two introductories, four sections contained in the first of the central visions, the two following central visions, the first final vision, and the seven sections comprised in the last final vision. If the sixteen sections thus given be accepted, then the sum of all the small sections which should be found in the five series of seven (viz., in the first three series, ten each; in the fourth, sixteen; and in the fifth, as stated, seventeen, but in fact only sixteen) would be, not sixty-three, [31] but only sixty-two; i.e., the sum can be referred no longer to a proportion of seven (9×7); and this means nothing less than that the standard of seven is no longer applicable to what is properly the chief part of the scheme of construction. But if Ewald is to obtain the erroneously received [32] number of seven small sections, he must, as he actually does in his division of the translation, separate the final vision into eight sections; i.e., just in that very part of the work of art which appears to be the crown of all, the standard of distribution into sevens , according to which the whole is said to be planned, is laid aside, and exchanged for an entirely different distribution into eights .

[30] p. 47.

[31] p. 48.

[32] p. 47 sqq.

The entire scheme traced by Ewald in this way only reaches the result that the laws determining the regular art of the composer of the Apocalypse are applied with an arbitrary exaggeration to the very extreme of artificiality. The division and classification of the small sections according to the standard of seven, which Ewald undertakes, in many passages are in no way supported by the text. Why should we, e.g., in the vision of the new Jerusalem, enumerate seven (or eight) small sections, while such visions as chap. 12, chap. Revelation 13:1-10 (where in Revelation 13:8-10 a discussion of an entirely different character occurs), and chap. 17, are each regarded as one small section? Ewald, moreover, manifestly violates the order and meaning of the text, by connecting the section Revelation 11:15-19 with Revelation 12:1-7 , and regarding both as one introductory vision, inserted, according to a regular plan, in the very beginning of a new series of seven. With entire justice, Ewald indeed says that in the last seal and the last trumpet the points of transition for the fuller development are found; but this does not justify the complete separation, in the plan of the book, of the seventh seal and the seven trumpets from the first six, and the insertion of the seventh seal as an introductory vision into the series of trumpets (Revelation 8:1 ), or the consideration of the final trumpet as only the opening of the following series. The section Revelation 11:15-19 is hereby put in a false light; for this section has just as obviously a definitive signification, already illustrative of the end of things, as the following (Revelation 12:1 sq.) points us forward, by communicating here certain knowledge necessarily presupposed in the understanding of the succeeding visions. In Revelation 11:15-19 , we have a real closing vision; in Revelation 12:1 sq., a true introductory vision. It is doubly false when Ewald separates the section Revelation 11:15 sq. from what precedes, and reckons it with what follows. A similar contradiction to the drift of the text occurs, when in chap. 7 Ewald finds the two concluding visions of the first series of seven. What is recorded in chap. 7 has nothing whatever to do with the preceding six seals, but throughout is directed to what is to follow.

Contrary to the text, also, is the distribution proposed by G. Volkmar, [33] which, following Baur, is based essentially upon the hypothesis that the proclamation from a distance, of the judgment of Heaven, contained in the first part (Revelation 1:9 to Revelation 9:21 ), is described in the second part (Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 22:5 ) in its earthly fulfilment.

[33] Comment. zur Off. Joh ., Zürich, 1862.

3. The unity of this book, and that, too, its original unity, is proved by the methodical organism, in which the entire contents are harmoniously presented from the beginning to the end. The entire Apocalypse is from one fount. A law of formal composition penetrates the whole; [34] a fundamental thought, an essential goal of the entire prophecy everywhere, is likewise prominent. [35] The promises in the seven epistles (chs. 2, 3) are full of references to the description of the blessed fruition (Revelation 21:1 sqq.). Their superscriptions mention the Lord of his congregations, not only in the way in which he appears to John from Revelation 1:12 on, but also in the same sense wherein he reveals himself in all the visions. The individual parts of the fundamental scene, ch. 4, particular subjects and personal beings, constantly recur in the course of the visions, even to their end: a very marked being, belonging to the so-called second part of the Apocalypse (ch. 12. sqq.), is expressly mentioned already in the first part (Revelation 11:7 ).

[34] Cf. Revelation 1:1 with Revelation 1:11 , Revelation 4:1 , Revelation 22:6 .

[35] Cf. Revelation 1:7-8 , with Revelation 4:8 , Revelation 6:10 , Revelation 10:7 , Revelation 11:17 , Revelation 22:6 sq.


Grotius was the first to suppose that the visions of the Apocalypse were seen and committed to writing at different times and places. The occasion for this view, which throughout is neither clear nor expressed in consistent connection, he derived from the twofold tradition concerning the place and time of the composition of the Apocalypse. As he found testimony on the one hand that “John received and wrote the revelation at Patmos during the times of the Emperor Claudius,” and again, “This happened at Rome under Domitian,” he regarded both testimonies as correct, and then referred the former statement to what was first, and the latter to what was last, seen. [36] But what the things first and what those last seen are, he has nowhere stated clearly. On Revelation 15:1 he states that all which succeeds happened and was written at Ephesus, but then says that it was during the time of the Emperor Vespasian; and on Revelation 17:1 , Revelation 19:1 , remarks, “At another time.” That the whole was “reduced to unity” by one hand, Grotius acknowledged, and expressly mentioned the Apostle John as this writer (on Revelation 4:1 ).

[36] Annot . on Revelation 1:9 .

Vogel [37] sought more through inner criticism to distinguish four parts [38] in the Apocalypse, and to establish different authors; referring to the author of from Revelation 12:1 sq., whom he regards as apparently the presbyter John, the business of editing the whole. Vogel’s hypothesis was attacked by Bleek, [39] who in turn expressed the view that the second part of the Apocalypse (ch. 12 sq.) was not written until after the destruction of Jerusalem, while the first part (chs. 4 11) was written prior to that event. [40] In support of this, he appealed not only to the dissimilar historico-chronological references in the Apocalypse, but also to the want of connection between chs. 11 and 12, which he attempts to explain by regarding the proper close to be expected after the second woe, [41] which must also have contained the quickly approaching third woe, as cut away and replaced by the now ill-fitting second part. But Bleek has himself expressly withdrawn this opinion. [42]

[37] Commentationes VII. de Apoc. Joann ., Erlang., 1811 16.

[38] Revelation 1:1-8 , Revelation 1:9 to Revelation 3:22 , chs. 4 11, chs. 12 22.

[39] Beitrag zur Kritik und Deutung der Offenb. Joh ., etc., in the Berlin Theol. Zeitschr ., vol. ii., 1822, p. 240 sqq.

[40] Cf. chap. 11.

[41] Revelation 11:14 .

[42] Cf. Beiträge zur Evangelien Kritik , Berl., 1846, p. 81. Studien u. Kritik ., 1855, p. 220 sq. Vorles. über d. Apok., herausgeg. von Th. Hossbach , Berlin, 1862, p. 116 sqq.

4. It is only recently that the attempt has been made [43] scientifically to characterize the literary form of the Apoc. by a definite technical term, and that, too, in opposition to Eichhorn, [44] who, as Pareus [45] before him, and Hartwig, [46] wished the Apoc. to be regarded as a dramatic work of art. Eichhorn distinguishes in the proper drama (Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5 ; to which chs. 1 3 form the prologue, and Revelation 22:6 sq. the epilogue), first , a prolusio (prelude) (Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 8:5 ), in which the theatre for the dramatic action is prepared, [47] then three acts as follows: Act I. (Revelation 8:6 to Revelation 12:17 ), Jerusalem is conquered, or Judaism overcome by Christianity. Act II. (Revelation 13:1 to Revelation 20:10 ), Rome is conquered, or heathenism overcome by Christianity. Act III. (Revelation 20:11 to Revelation 22:5 ), the heavenly Jerusalem descends from heaven, or the blessedness of the future life which is to endure eternally is described. Eichhorn says, [48] that the five chief subjects of history (viz., 1. The destruction of Judaism. 2. The kingdom of Christ in its feebleness arising therefrom. 3. The destruction of heathenism. 4. The kingdom of Christ prevailing on earth arising therefrom. 5. The kingdom of the blessed) would, properly speaking, have required for their presentation five acts, but that as John had but three cities (the earthly Jerusalem, Rome, the heavenly Jerusalem) which were available as symbols, he had to restrict his drama to three acts. This view of the dramatic nature of the Apoc., Eichhorn bases on the assumption that everywhere in the same there is action , and these acts following one another are seen in definite places of exhibition. [49] But hereby Eichhorn establishes as his fundamental view, since the entire elaboration into details depends thereon, especially this: viz., that John saw his vision as a drama, but in no way that the book composed by the seer in which he gives a report of the scene is dramatic; the only question, therefore, is as to what class of writings the Apoc. belongs with respect to its literary character and form. Eichhorn can therefore emphatically assert, as he himself says [50] in self-correction, that the Apoc. is “a description of a seen drama.” But even what the Apoc. reports far exceeds the precise artistic form of an actual drama; and as the interpretation of the prophetic contents given by Eichhorn, so also is the designation of the artistic form as dramatic, and the entire distribution into acts, scenes, and exodes, truly frivolous. Hence Eichhorn has found as little approbation for his view, as his predecessors for theirs. Even Heinrichs, [51] who in other respects is entirely dependent upon Eichhorn, controverts [52] it. The correct point in the conception of the Apoc. as a drama lies in this: that the lifelike change of the visional occurrences and language, written in the book, has such clearness as to correspond to the idea of what in artistic form is properly the drama. Hence also, no one can deny that a certain dramatic virtuosity in the artistic form of the Apoc. must be acknowledged; and in so far we may speak of particular scenes, etc., in the book.

[43] Cf. especially Lücke, p. 374 sqq.

[44] Comment. in Apoc. Joann ., Götting., 1791. Cf. also the Einl. in das N. T. , vol. ii. 2, Leipz., 1811, of the same author.

[45] l.c., p. 31 sq.: Drama propheticum sen coeleste .

[46] Apologie der Apok. wider falsches Lob und falschen Tadel , Chenn., 1781 sq., iii. p. 283 sqq.

[47] “ Scena adornatur .”

[48] Einl ., p. 369.

[49] a. a. O. S., p. 334 sq.

[50] p. 336.

[51] Apocal. Nov. Test. grœce perpetua annotatione illustr . Ed. Koppianae, vol. x. Philippians 1:2 ; Götting., 1818, 1821.

[52] l. c., p. 1; Proleg ., p. 84 sq.

Older theologians [53] have regarded the Apoc. as a letter. But the epistolary greeting and wishes found in the introduction (Revelation 1:4 sqq.) and at the close (Revelation 22:21 ) just as little establish the true epistolary character of the entire writing, as, conversely, we could conclude from the absence of such formula, that, e.g., 1 John is not an actual letter, but only a brief discussion.

[53] Cf. Lücke, p. 376.

Lücke styles the literary form of Apoc. “Old Testamental,” and that, too, “prophetic,” and more definitely “apocalyptic;” [54] particularly, that it follows and resembles the Ezekielian and Danielian form. This statement of Lücke is unsatisfactory in proportion as an answer to the question concerning the artistic form of the Apoc. is expected in terminology derived from unbiblical rhetoric and poetics. Yet just that which is unsatisfactory in the explanation that the literary form of the Apoc. is apocalyptic , is instructive and not without a good foundation. For the artistic forms by which the works of art of unbiblical rhetoric and poetics are appropriately designated apply to the biblical books only in inexact analogy; since the biblical artistic form, which of course is present, is the organic moulding of matters which in virtue of divine inspiration are fundamentally different from the subjects of all unbiblical artistic language. Eichhorn, who regards every thing presented in the Apoc. as nothing else than pure fictions of a merely poetic genius, could, without any thing further, apply to the artistic work of the Apoc. the canons of classical poetics. But the more thoroughly the fundamental distinction between biblical and classical literature is recognized, must the standard of classical art appear inapplicable. Thus the subject is treated in Lücke, who, as he will not yield in “devotion” to the Apoc., designates its artistic form, not according to classical poetics, but according to its own nature.

[54] p. 377 sq.

Since, however, the Apoc., like the prophetical scriptures of the O. T., as a work composed not without the exercise of human art, has an analogy to the works of art of unbiblical rhetoricians and poets; the literary form of the Apoc. may therefore also be defined by way of analogy, from general literary science. Even Lücke [55] has suggested a comparison between the Apoc., and the poem of Dante which the poet himself called a “comedy,” while he celebrates the world to come by the prefix “divine.” It is a pity that G. Baur, who has compared the Book of Job with Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” [56] has taken no occasion to make passing references to the Apoc.; for what he has ingeniously elaborated might in many respects be applied here. If we still had the same terminology of rhetoric and poetics as Dante, we would designate the Apoc. as a sublime form of comedy. For Dante himself declares [57] that he called his poem comedy, since the subject “from the beginning is horrible and repulsive, because it is Hell; and in the end is prosperous, desirable, and pleasing, because it is Paradise.” Besides, “the mode of speaking is gentle and humble, the common talk in which even women converse.” In the sense wherein Dante calls his powerful trio “a gentle and humble mode of speaking,” viz., because it is the ordinary vernacular ( locutio vulgaris , etc.), the designation is applicable also to the Apoc.; so likewise as to the subject of the book, the development through the terrors of the plagues and the judgment of wrath, to the eternal peace of the new Jerusalem. Accordingly the Apoc. is in the sense of Dante, as to contents and form, a real (divine) comedy. [58] But if modern poetics more correctly ascribes the poem of Dante, relating what he saw in hell, purgatory, and paradise, to the epic class, in like manner may the artistic form of the Apoc. be designated as epic; a character which is not impaired by particular lyrical parts of the book, [59] but only heightened thereby, since, according to De Wette’s excellent remark, “the parts exhibit in a well-executed way the great idea of the divine peace” They form the pauses in the epic course and movement of the whole.

[55] p. 391.

[56] Stud. u. Kritik ., 1856, 3, p. 586 sq.

[57] Quoted by Baur, a. a. O. S., 618.

[58] Thus even Joh. Gerhard designates the history of Christ’s suffering as a comedy in five acts, because from a wonderfully brilliant beginning a blessed and joyful result follows; viz., the resurrection. To the Pharisees, etc., Christ’s suffering was a tragedy. Cf. Erklärung der Historie des Leiden und Sterbens unsers Herrn Christi Jesu , Berlin, ed. 1868, p. ii.

[59] The hymns, etc.

An unfavorable estimate of the Apoc. as a work of art has been made by E. Reuss. [60]

[60] Gesch. der heil. Schrift. N.T. , Braunschw., 1860, p. 146. On the artistic ideas of the Apoc., cf. F. Piper, Einleit. in die Monumentale Theologie , Gotha, 1867, p. 17 sqq.


1. The more difficult the understanding of the Apoc. appears, and in many respects actually is both as a whole and in detail, the more necessary is it to obtain from the writing itself, with the utmost clearness and definiteness, the fundamental thoughts sustaining and conditioning the whole and the details in contents and form. These fundamental thoughts John has himself traced with such strong, broad lines, that they are visible even in the most intricate parts of the entire description. In this way, the prophet has himself given for the exposition of his book, not only the most inviolable norm, but also the most correct key, so that the hope for an agreement and essential harmony between the interpreters who cross and contradict one another, is based upon the extent that agreement in the recognition of the fundamental thought is possible.

If, according to Revelation 1:1 , Revelation 4:1 , Revelation 22:6 , John beheld ἅ δεῖ γενέσθαι ( ἐν τάχει ) “the things which must come to pass (shortly),” which therefore forms the subject of the prophecy contained in his writing, such varied contents seem thereby indicated, that a fixed fundamental thought reducing all the particulars to unity apparently cannot possibly be present. This impossibility has been maintained by numerous expositors, who, as, e.g., Nicolaus de Lyra, have found the particular facts of ecclesiastical and secular history prophesied, by treating the Apoc. as, e.g., Aretius [61] declares: “If you look well into this book, you will see the fortune of the whole Church portrayed as on a tablet.” [62] From this standpoint, [63] from which no fixed fundamental thought running through all the details can in any way be seen, there has been devised the art of allegorical exposition, from which alone the entire fulness of the most special predictions was to be derived. Hence, even to Hengstenberg, Ebrard, Auberlen, [64] etc., allegorizing is a necessity, because even these expositors, although to them the fundamental thought of the Apoc. is not so hidden as to the older expositors, yet misunderstand its true relation to the individual members of the entire prophecy, and likewise find in the Apoc. a proportion of particular predictions concerning which it is not amiss to say that the modern allegorists wish to regard the particular events [65] foretold, not in the light of ecclesiastical or secular history, but in that of the history of empires , and hence that their mode of exposition should be designated the imperial -historical. [66] But the entire mass of future things ( ἅ δεῖ γενέσθαι ), apparently lacking a fixed limitation and organic unity, not only receives by the addition ἐν τάχει (shortly) [67] a more specific determination, but it is also undeniable that the entire prophecy tends towards a definite and more than once expressly designated goal. To this must be added the undoubted relationship between the Apoc. and the eschatological discourses of our Lord, especially Matthew 24:0 , and the analogy of N. T. prophecy in general. As now the Lord himself presents his personal return as the fixed goal for the hopes of believers, and this his parousia forms the fundamental thought of all his prophetic discourses unto the end; [68] as, in the hour of his ascension, the two angels [69] proclaimed to the disciples the Lord’s return; and as the deepest and most essential feature of the entire hope and prophecy of the N. T. pertains to this personal parousia of the Lord, and all other eschatological questions, as, e.g., resurrection, judgment, etc., depend upon this centre, [70] so also the entire prophecy of the Apoc. rests upon the fundamental thought of the personal return of the Lord . As the proper theme of the entire book, this prophetic fundamental thought is explicitly announced from the very beginning; [71] and where in the epilogue the deepest relation of the entire revelation is once more summarily presented, there it is repeated in the words ἝΡΧΟΜΑΙ ΤΑΧΎ (“I come quickly”), [72] as also then, on the other hand, the entire answer of all believers to the divine revelation given in the prophetical book is compressed into one word expressing the longing for the Lord’s return: ἜΡΧΟΥ (“come”). [73]

[61] Comment. in omnes Epistolas itemque in Apoc. Joann ., Morg., 1583.

[62] Si probe inspicias hunc librum, videbis quasi in tabella depictam fortunam totius ecclesiae (on Revelation 1:9 ).

[63] A formal synopsis of Church history, applied to Apocalyptic prophecy, was written by Joh. Jonston ( Hist. civ. et eccles. ab orbe cond. ad a. 1633 , Francof. 1678. Secular history he gave according to Daniel.

[64] Der Prophet Daniel und die Offenb. John , 2 d ed. Basle, 1857.

[65] e.g., the migration of nations, the German Empire, etc.

[66] See below, note to paragraph 3.

[67] Cf. Revelation 1:3 : ὁ γὰρ χαιρὸς ἐγγύς , “for the time is at hand.”

[68] Cf. Matthew 24:0 . sq., Matthew 26:29 ; Matthew 26:64 ; Luke 12:40 ; John 5:26 sqq.

[69] Acts 1:11 .

[70] Cf. 1 Peter 4:5 ; 1 Corinthians 1:7 sq., 1 Corinthians 15:22 sq.; 1 Thessalonians 4:14 sq.; 1 John 2:28 .

[71] Revelation 1:8 .

[72] Revelation 22:7 ; Revelation 22:12 ; Revelation 22:20 .

[73] Revelation 22:17 ; Revelation 22:20 .


Kliefoth’s exception (on Revelation 1:7 ), that the prophecy refers to the preparations for the parousia and its effects, and hence that the parousia itself cannot be designated as the fundamental thought, seems to me entirely inapplicable, because, in connection with those very preparations and effects, the main question is concerning the parousia itself. Hilgenf. correctly recognizes the goal of prophecy, but incorrectly, and without foundation in the text, determines the goal of the parousia to be “the erection of an earthly kingdom of the Messiah.” Even the thousand years reign of the Apoc. is not purely earthly. The error in Hilgenf. concurs with two other misunderstandings prevalent in Baur’s school, that the account of Nero redivivus is the key to the Apoc.; and that the book is an expression of a decided anti-Pauline Judaeo-Christianity. But in the last respect Hilgenf. does not go as far as Volkmar.

If the prophet thus himself presents the leading fundamental thought of his entire prophecy, it is scarcely necessary yet to indicate the particular passages in which this fixed basis becomes manifest. All the prophecies and threats which the Lord causes to be written to the seven churches presuppose that he will come. [74] The entire manifestation of the Lord, [75] his designation as ΠΡῶΤΟς ΚΑῚ ἜΣΧΑΤΟς (“the first and the last”), is the pledge of his coming to judgment, which also is indicated in this: that God is called, already in the introductory greeting, [76] and in the divine declaration [77] sealing the principal theme [78] whose announcement precedes, ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος (“which is, and which was, and which is to come”). [79] The definite relation of the entire prophecy to the future coming of the Lord is also established in the very beginning, where the revelation properly speaking begins, viz., at the opening of the first seal, [80] by the fact that the very first form which John beholds is the Lord himself going forth to victory; and again at the close, it is the Lord himself who goes forth from heaven to subdue his enemies. [81]

[74] Cf. especially Revelation 2:16 , Revelation 3:11 ; Revelation 3:20 .

[75] Revelation 1:12 sq.

[76] Revelation 1:4 .

[77] Revelation 1:8 .

[78] Revelation 1:7 , ἐθχέται (“Behold, he cometh”).

[79] Revelation 4:8 ; cf. also Revelation 11:17 , where the ὁ ἐρχόμευος is lacking because the coming is there celebrated, although proleptically as having already occurred.

[80] Revelation 6:2 .

[81] Revelation 19:11 sq.

2. From this fundamental thought of the personal return of the Lord, whose further elaboration is to be more minutely traced under No. 3, proceeds the paracletic force and purpose of the Apoc. A delicate sense of this peculiar paracletic office of the Apoc. is expressed in several ecclesiastical statements concerning the use of the book in divine worship. Already in the so-called Comes , a pericope taken from the Apoc. [82] is in addition to Matthew 2:13 sq. appointed for the festival of Holy Innocents, as the first martyrs for Christ, [83] and is retained by the Catholic, the Anglican, and other evangelical churches. [84] Still more characteristic is the ordinance of the fourth Synod of Toledo, in the year 633, that the Apoc. should be read between Easter and Whitsun-day; an arrangement which is still in force. [85] The entire Pentecostal season in its joyful character resembled Sunday; and therefore fasting and praying on bended knees occurred as rarely then as on the Lord’s Days. [86] For not only when a Church festival is to celebrate the eternal glory of the martyrs of Jesus Christ, and divine vengeance upon their murderers, does the Apoc. have a judicial tone; [87] but as it was itself given to the seer on a Lord’s Day, [88] so also upon it rests the sanction of this Christian day of peace and joy, and it becomes the text-book for every Sunday of the entire Pentecost. From the very nature of the case, the paracletic element in the Apoc. is presented not so much in the great series of visions, Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:5 , as rather in the introductory part (chs. 1 3) and the close (Revelation 22:6 sqq.); but while here the paracletic force of the prophetic fundamental thought is expressly and intentionally unfolded and applied, yet this makes itself perceptible also in what is, properly speaking, the main part of the book. When the prophet at the very beginning addresses his brethren as “ a companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ ,” [89] he expressly renders the paracletic contents of his prophecy prominent. This prophetic consolation appears formally elaborated in the seven epistles (chs 2, 3), whose admonitions, reproofs, warnings, threats, and promises all proceed from the fundamental thought of the impending coming of the Lord. In the θλῖψις (tribulation) [90] sure to happen, and even already present, which Satan in his exasperation excites through the dwellers upon earth, Jews and heathen, and will continue to excite with ever-increasing rage against believers, [91] they are with patience [92] and watchful fidelity to persevere unto the end, to firmly maintain the words and commandments of their heavenly Lord, not to deny his name, [93] to be faithful even to the end; [94] because they know, and are assured most confidently by the present prophecy, that the Lord, who is the King of all kings, [95] and the victor over all enemies both of himself and his people, [96] and who by redemption has made his people also kings, [97] will in the end personally return, to execute just vengeance upon all enemies, [98] and after their conflicts and victories to reward his faithful servants. [99] John, therefore, has good reason for so urgently commending to readers [100] his prophetic book, which in its most essential fundamental thoughts brings with it such important comfort.

[82] Revelation 14:1 sq.

[83] Cf. E. Ranke, Das kirchl. Perikopensystem , Berl. 1847. Appendix Monum . p. lv.

[84] Cf. Daniel, Codex Liturg. eccl. Luth ., Lip. 1848. Tab. I. A.

[85] Cf. Lücke, p. 640 sq.

[86] Cf. the fragment from the writings of Irenaeus concerning the passover: τ . πεντακοστῆς ἐν ᾗ οὐ κλίνομεν γόνυ , ἐπειδη ἱσοδυναμεῖ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κυριακῆς , “on Pentecost at which we do not bend the knee, since it has the same force as the Lord’s Day.” Opp. ed. Stieren., T. I., Leipz., 1853, p. 829. Cf. Justini, Opp. ed. Otto. T. III. p. 2, Jen., 1850, p. 180. Tertullian, De cor. mil ., c. Revelation 3 : “On the Lord’s Day, fasting or to adore with bended knees we regard sacrilege. We rejoice in the same privilege from Easter to Pentecost.”

[87] Cf. Revelation 19:2 , and similar passages.

[88] Revelation 1:10 .

[89] Revelation 1:9 .

[90] Revelation 2:9 , Revelation 3:10 .

[91] Cf. Revelation 12:12 ; Revelation 12:17 , Revelation 20:7 sqq.

[92] Revelation 1:9 , Revelation 3:10 , Revelation 13:10 , Revelation 16:15 .

[93] Revelation 3:8 ; Revelation 3:10 , Revelation 22:7 ; Revelation 22:14 .

[94] Revelation 2:10 ; cf. Revelation 6:10 sq.

[95] Revelation 19:16 .

[96] Cf. Revelation 6:2 , Revelation 14:1 sqq., Revelation 19:11 sqq.

[97] Revelation 1:6 , Revelation 5:9 .

[98] Revelation 6:10 , Revelation 8:3 sqq., Revelation 11:18 , Revelation 13:10 , Revelation 19:2 .

[99] Cf. all the closing promises in the Epistles, chs. Revelation 2:3 , Revelation 7:13 sqq., Revelation 11:18 , Revelation 22:12 , etc.

[100] Revelation 1:3 , Revelation 22:18 sq.

3. What has thus been said concerning the fundamental thoughts pervading the entire Apoc., and the consolation derived therefrom, may be claimed to be recognized by every impartial expositor. For even though, in an individual passage cited, the particular exposition may be urged as contradictory, yet the result, as a whole, abides sure, since what has been said concerning the Apoc. stands as though written on its very front; and if, to mention some great name, EICHHORN states the fundamental thoughts of the book otherwise, he thereby testifies, not to the ambiguity of the subject, but only to his own rationalistic prejudice. We enter, however, a battlefield, when we proceed to more accurately state the concrete elaboration, in the Apoc., of the fundamental thought of the Lord’s personal return. In this lies the special apocalyptic character of the prophetical book; here is the special source of the controversy concerning the Apoc., with respect to criticism as well as exegesis. John himself expressly entitles his book prophetic; [101] as he writes, he employs a true προφητεύειν ( prophesying ). [102] He himself also indicates with what right his book can claim true prophetic authority, so that it is essentially on the same level with the Holy Scriptures of the O. T. prophets, as John also teaches nothing else than that the contents of his prophecy agree with those of the O. T. [103] According to the biblical, and that, too, not merely the O. T. fundamental view, a prophet is one in whose mouth God puts his words, through whom God himself speaks in revelation, an interpreter, as it were the mouth of God. [104] This conception of the prophetic character, corresponding to the biblical conception of God, is that in which the Apoc. presents itself most definitely and expressly. For, what he writes in the book, John has not derived from himself: he is only the witness, [105] who, in obedience to a divine command, according to an express divine call, writes what has been divinely presented to his view, what has been first on God’s part revealed to him. This John urges repeatedly in attestation of the truly prophetic character of his book, [106] and it is also expressed in the entire plan of the Apoc. For what are here proclaimed are future things ( ἅ δεῖ γενέσθαι ) which have been previously ordained by the eternal, all-governing God, the Alpha and the Omega, just judgments, ways and works of his holiness, might, and glory, which, on the one hand, must of course come to pass, because he is the Alpha and the Omega, [107] but, on the other hand, are also a divine mystery [108] enclosed in the seven-times sealed book. [109] But, as when God in former times revealed his mystery to the ancient prophets, he proclaimed the final glorious goal of his mystery in a joyful message, [110] so also God gave to John a revelation [111] concerning future things, which he was himself to prophetically proclaim, by opening the seals of the book of fate [112] before the gaze of the prophet who sees in the spirit, [113] and furnishing him with the true gift of “prophesying.” [114] Still more definitely marked is this relation between the apocalypse of the divine mystery, and the prophesying of John dependent thereon, [115] in that not only the form of the Apoc., the vision , but as its personal communicator, first of all Christ himself, and afterwards an angel, is introduced. [116] With respect to the vision as the form of the revelation and the mediating service of angels, John stands in a parallel with the later prophets of the O. T., especially with Zechariah and Daniel, the book of the latter being even sometimes called the O. T. Apocalypse; and also, in the mode of imparting the revelation through Christ, there is no essential distinction between John and the ancient prophets. For, as they already pointed to Christ as the proper goal of their prophecy, [117] so from the N. T. standpoint we must judge also that the Spirit of Christ wrought in them that revelation from which their prophecy proceeded. [118] In the fullest and clearest way, this is applicable to the Christian prophets, whose fellowship of faith with Christ [119] is the first fundamental pre-supposition for the reception of revelation. On a Lord’s Day, it is made to John. [120] Christ himself appears to the prophet, and sends him as his servant [121] to his congregations to which he himself, as the Lord and Saviour, will make this revelation. [122] Christ himself opens the seals of the book of fate, whose contents refer, even in that which essentially pertains to himself, to his return.

[101] Revelation 1:3 : τ . λόγους τῆς προφητείας , “the words of this prophecy.” Cf. Revelation 22:7 ; Revelation 22:10 ; Revelation 22:18 , Revelation 19 : τ . λόγ . τῆς προφητείας τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου , “the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”

[102] Cf. Revelation 10:11 .

[103] Cf. Revelation 10:7 .

[104] Cf. Exodus 4:15 sq., with Revelation 7:1 ; Deuteronomy 18:18 ; John 11:51 ; 1 Peter 1:10 sq.; 2 Peter 1:21 .

[105] Revelation 1:2 .

[106] Revelation 1:1 sqq., Revelation 22:6 sq.; cf. Revelation 4:1 , Revelation 10:8 sqq., Revelation 14:13 , Revelation 19:9 sq., Revelation 21:5 sq., 9, Revelation 22:1 .

[107] Revelation 1:8 ; cf. Revelation 11:15 sqq., Revelation 19:1 sqq.

[108] Cf. Revelation 10:7 .

[109] Revelation 5:1 sqq.

[110] Revelation 10:7 : τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θεοὺ ὡς εὐηγγέλισε

τοὺς προφήτας , “the mystery as he hath promised the glad tidings to the prophets.” Note the correlative conceptions.

[111] ἀποκάλύψις , Revelation 1:1 . Cf. Daniel 2:19 : τῷ Δαν . ἐν ὀράματι τῆς · νυκτὸς τὸ μυστήριον ἀπεκαλύφθη , “The secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision.” Daniel 2:22 : ἀυτὸς ἀποκαλύπτει βαθέα καὶ ἀπόκρυφα , “He revealeth the deep and secret things.”

[112] Revelation 6:1 sqq.

[113] Revelation 1:10 , Revelation 4:1 sqq.

[114] Revelation 10:8 sq.

[115] Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:29 sq: Προφηται δὲ δὐο ἢ τρεῖς λαλείτωσαν

ἐὰν δὲ ἄλλῳ ἀποκάλυφθῇ κ . τ . λ .: “Let the prophets speak, two or three … if any thing be revealed to another.”

[116] Revelation 1:1 ; Revelation 1:12 sqq., Revelation 6:1 sqq., Revelation 10:1 sqq., Revelation 17:1 sqq., Revelation 21:9 , Revelation 22:1 ; Revelation 22:6 sqq.

[117] Acts 10:43 ; cf. Revelation 10:11 .

[118] 1 Peter 1:11 ; cf. Revelation 19:10 .

[119] Revelation 1:1 : τῷ δούλῳ αὐτοῦ Ἱωάννῃ , “to his servant John.” Cf. Revelation 1:5 : ἀγ . ἡμᾶς , “hath washed us;” Revelation 5:9 : συγκοιν . ἐν τ . δλ . κ . βασιλείᾳ κ . ὑπομονῇ ἑν Ἰησ ., “companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.”

[120] Revelation 1:10 .

[121] Cf. Revelation 1:1 .

[122] Revelation 1:11 sqq.

Accordingly, in calling his writing an ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ , [123] John does not mean to indicate what we have in mind when we apply to it the technical term apocalyptic . There the word ἀποκάλυψις has no special emphatic sense; [124] and it is undoubtedly an exegetical error when it is taken in the sense of παρουσία , ἐπιφάνεια , and the genitive Ἰησ . Χρ . as an objective genitive. [125] John expresses nothing else than the prophetic character of his book, when he refers its mysterious contents to the revelation given him through Christ [126] The word ἀποκάλυψις , as a technical designation of a particular species of prophetical books, is entirely foreign to all scriptural usage. In the O. T., the noun ἀποκάλυψις occurs in the corresponding verb ἀποκαλύπτειν , [127] but not in a religious sense; yet, even in its general sense, it appears as a correlative of μυστήριον . [128] In the sense of the N. T., it is also impossible to speak of an ἀποκάλυψις Ἰωάννου , as the oldest title of our book reads; yet even in the N. T., already, occasion is given for the later application of the technical expression. Paul presents ἀποκάλυψις as a special kind of divine operation alongside of προφητεία , διδαχή , γλῶσσα ( prophecy, doctrine, tongues ), etc.; [129] and just that which forms the fundamental thought in the prophetic book of John, is called in the apostolic writings the ἀποκάλυψις τοῦ κυρίου . [130] Thus it occurred, that the book treating of that impending revelation, i. e., of the coming of the Lord, which is itself called an ἀποκάλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χρ ., i. e., a revelation communicated by the Lord himself, is designated absolutely by the title ἀποκάλυψις , to which then the name of the writer could be attached. Thus then originated the title Ἀποκάλυψις Ἰωάννου , in no way corresponding to John’s meaning; and, in, conformity with this ecclesiastical use of the term, the pseudo-John, who wrote an apocryphal Apocalypse, was able to employ it, when, without reflecting upon his bungling work, he fixed his title: Ἀποκάλυψις τοῦ ἁγίου ἀποστόλου καὶ εὐαγγελίστου Ἰωάννου τοῦ θεολόγου . [131] As a literary, technical expression, Justin [132] does not yet use the term ἀποκάλυψις ; but the fragment of Muratori already speaks of an Apoc. of Peter beside one of John; and Irenaeus quotes with the formula: “John in the Apoc. says,” [133] although he still can speak of “ beholding ” the revelation. [134] The adoption of the word ἈΠΟΚΆΛΥΨΙς as a technical literary expression is analogous with the use of ΕὐΑΓΓΈΛΙΟΝ , whereby in the N. T. confessedly nothing less is designated than a book, as, e. g., we speak of a “Gospel of Matthew,” etc.; but the ancient traditional titles [135] correspond much more to the original meaning, than does the title ἀποκ . Ἰωάννου .

[123] Revelation 1:1 .

[124] Against Auberlen, a. a. O. S., 81.

[125] Cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:7 ; 1Co 1:7 ; 1 Peter 1:7 ; 1 Peter 1:13 ; 1 Peter 4:13 . Against Heinr., Lücke also (p. 23) is not clear.

[126] Cf. Ephesians 3:3 ; Galatians 1:12 .

[127] Daniel 2:19 sq.

[128] Sir 22:22 ; cf. Sir 47:23 ; Sir 11:27 . A very special use of the term is presented in 1 Kings 20:30 .

[129] 1 Corinthians 14:6 ; 1 Corinthians 14:26 .

[130] 2 Thessalonians 1:7 ; 1 Corinthians 1:7 ; 1 Peter 1:7 ; 1 Peter 1:13 .

[131] (“Apocalypse of the holy apostle and evangelist, John, the divine.”)

[132] ἐν ἀποκαλύψει γενομένῃ αὐτῳ

προεφήτευσε (“prophesied by a revelation made to him”), c. Trypho , ch. 81.

[133] C. Haer., iv. 14, 18. Ed. Stieren, pp. 600, 619.

[134] l.c., v. 30, p. 803.

[135] εὐαγγ . κατὰ Μ . (Gospel according to M.)

But when the question is concerning the comprehensive statement of the special apocalyptical character of biblical prophecy, it must be manifestly unhistorical and unjust to proceed from apocryphal apocalyptical literature, by including with the Jewish products of that class the canonical Book of Daniel as the O. T. Apocalypse, [136] and with the Christian writings of that class the canonical Apoc. of John, and thus for writings of a different character seeking the same so-called apocalyptic standard. Even Lücke [137] proceeds essentially in this way. More correct is Auberlen’s [138] view, above all things, to establish the pure conception of biblical apocalyptics; but he proceeds from Daniel, and according to that attempts to determine both what is the same and what is different in the N. T. Apocalypse. But the history of the origin of the idea of apocalyptics itself points in the opposite direction. It is from the Johannean Apoc. that the name and idea of what is apocalyptic originate, and have been transferred to the Book of Daniel and the entire apocryphal apocalyptic literature which stands in most obvious dependence upon these two apocalypses in the canon. That is called apocalyptic which appears to be like the book which designates itself as an ἀποκὰλυψις Ἰησοῦ Χρ .: the Johannean Apoc. is, therefore, the norm according to which the conception of what is apocalyptic, both within and without the canon, must be determined.

[136] Cf. Hilgenfeld: Die judische Apocalyptik in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwickelung , Jena, 1857.

[137] a. a. O. S., 34 sqq.

[138] p. 79 sq.


It is instructive first to compare this with definitions found in another way. LÜCKE, who properly, and in conformity with the fundamental thought of the Johannean Apoc., emphasizes the eschatological element in the Apoc. prophecy, [139] reckons further among its characteristics the circle of visions pertaining to universal history, the combination of prophecy and history, and that, too, of the past and present not less than the future: to which it is besides added, not only that it is not always clearly seen what is actually past, present, or future to the Apoc. prophets, and that in a pseudepigraphic way the entire prophecy was ascribed to some ancient men (as Enoch, Moses, Daniel, etc.), but also, that, even according to the ideal truth of the symbol, there are actual and even chronological particulars prophesied; as, e. g., the symbol appears as the peculiar form of representation, corresponding to the vision as the prevalent form of revelation. On the other hand, Hilgenfeld justly observes that this entire definition lacks unity in the determination of principles, and that the Johannean Apoc. is neither universal-historical nor pseudepigraphical. It is his purpose [140] to characterize only the Judaic apocalyptics. What he indicates concerning the nature of apocalyptics in general, he does not expressly apply to the Johannean Apoc.; yet his opinion in this respect also can, to an extent, be discerned. Apocalyptics, he says, presupposes the conclusion of the ancient, national prophecy: it is a sequel and imitation of the latter. From ancient prophecy, it derives the form, the prophetic garb (so that the pseudepigraphic mode of composition becomes almost a necessity), and also the most essential contents; only with the distinction, that “the subject is no longer, as before, concerning the transient contact of Judaism with a great heathen power, but rather concerning its relation to an eventful and manifold worldly dominion passing from one heathen nation to another.” Jewish apocalyptics attempts to answer the question “how and when the dominion of the world, possessed so long by heathen nations, will finally be delivered to the people of God.” [141] According to Hilgenfeld’s view, therefore, what is apocalyptic is not truly prophetic; the canonical prototype of Daniel, and the apocryphal imitations, he places in the same category; both kinds of apoc. writings are only copies of the national prophecy. According to this, an essentially apocalyptic element, belonging also to the true prophets, cannot be affirmed. [142] But even what has been said concerning the apocalyptic fundamental thoughts is incorrect. Daniel does not prophesy the transition of the dominion of the world from the heathen to the people of God; and just as inapplicable is this to the Johannean Apocalypse.

[139] “The eschatological Apoc. has chiefly to do with the future of the divine kingdom” (p. 34).

[140] a. a. O. S., 10 sqq.

[141] p. 11 sq.

[142] Cf. Revelation 10:7 .

In opposition to Lücke, as well as to Hilgenfeld, stands Auberlen. He also regards apocalyptics chiefly with reference to the silence of prophecy in general; but he does not, like Hilgenfeld, make apocalyptics an imitation of ancient prophecy developed from times wherein there was no revelation. But with him apocalyptics is regarded as the very highest summit of true prophecy: “the Apocalypses are to serve the Church of God as prophetic lights for the times without revelation, in which the Church has been given over to the hands of the Gentiles.” [143] The O. T. time of the Gentiles is the post-exilic period; for this, the Book of Daniel is intended. The N. T. time of the Gentiles is that of Church history, the entire period until the end of days; for this, the Johannean Apoc. has been given. Thus it becomes accountable how each testament has but one Apoc. Connected with this, however, are the facts, that not only the apocryphal imitations of prophecy appearing in the times destitute of revelation, chiefly took the Apocalypses as models, [144] but also that criticism and exegesis, in the absence of spiritual understanding, can most easily do injustice to the Apocalypses as the most wonderful products of the Spirit of revelation. As to the peculiar character of the Apocalypses, the result of their special application to the times of the Gentiles without revelation, is that they are, on the one hand, more universal in their sweep, and, on the other, more special in their description of details, [145] than other prophecy. [146] What Auberlen [147] says concerning the distinction between the O. T. and the N. T. Apocalyptics, does not allude to the nature of the conception. More important is the chapter on “The Nature of Apocalyptics,” in which the dream and vision are explained as its subjective , and symbolism as its objective form. [148] The prophet, says Auberlen, speaks only in the Spirit; [149] but the apocalyptist is in the Spirit. [150] “Here, therefore, where the object is not so much an immediate influence upon contemporaries, but a communication to all coming generations, man is alone with God revealing himself, and perceives only that which has been disclosed to him from above.” But the form of symbolism [151] shows in the Apocalypses, which have to do especially with the second appearing of Christ for judging, “how every thing natural must die, in order that the glory of the essential spiritual life may emerge.” [152]

[143] καιροὶ ἐθνῶν , Luke 21:24 .

[144] “The times without revelation, which nevertheless retained the influence of its still fresh impression, in their efforts of imitation naturally preferred the more to turn to that part of sacred literature which had revelation for its subject, as here the most wonderful and exalted form of the then painfully missed revelation was found.”

[145] i.e., in foretelling particular facts, even in secular history, and chronological determination.

[146] a. a. O. S., pp. 79 85.

[147] pp. 85 89.

[148] pp. 89 101.

[149] 1 Corinthians 12:3 .

[150] Revelation 1:10 ; Revelation 4:2 .

[151] Which, besides disclosing to the wise, at the same time is intended for a relative veiling, so that even to the wise its true significance is offered only gradually in its progressive fulfilment (p. 95).

[152] p. 97.

This entire discussion of Auberlen rests upon a conception of inspiration and prophecy which seems to us as unbiblical as the criticism and exegesis conditioned thereby are erroneous; yet our exceptions here concern only particulars. 1. It is neither correct to say that the distinction between ordinary and apocalyptic prophecy lies in this, that the apocalyptist is in the Spirit, and the prophet speaks in the Spirit, nor that the apocalyptic form of revelation is the most wonderful and exalted. All prophets can speak in the Spirit, only by being in the Spirit: John, therefore, testifies concerning himself, [153] not that he is an apocalyptist as one being in the Spirit, but that he is a prophet like all the rest. The particular form of revelation, viz., the ecstatic vision and the dream, is not the summit, but only the lowest grade, of divine revelation: [154] in like manner, the symbolical form also of prophetic discourse is inferior to the non-symbolical; and that symbolism does not essentially belong to apocalyptics, follows not only from the fact that prophetic discourses of an apocalyptic form occur without the symbolical form, above all others, the apocalyptic discourses of the Lord himself, but also that there are symbolical discourses which are not of an apocalyptic nature. 2. Closely connected with this, is what Auberlen says concerning the peculiar contents of apocalyptic prophecy, and its designation more for all coming generations than for a circle present to the prophet. No doubt, if it were the office of apocalyptics to foretell by a universal survey, and at the same time by the special portrayal of details, the facts and chronological relations of the history of the world, the church, or empires, such prophecy would have weight only with coming generations, and would gradually become intelligible by its gradual fulfilment. But John writes his Apocalypse for a definite circle of churches, with the express purpose to edify not all coming generations, but the contemporary congregations; and, on the other hand, it is to be emphatically denied that the Johannean Apocalypse intends to give either a universal or a special survey of history until the coming of Christ. The mode of exposition advanced by Auberlen can derive either from the text, only by the most arbitrary allegorizing. The pretended designation for all coming generations presupposes that the seven churches must be understood, in some sense or other, allegorically, and even the geographical names of the cities have been allegorically interpreted, yet these universal or special predictions, in the sense of Auberlen and many ancient and modern expositors, are to be obtained only by interpreting allegorically the visions, which in no respect indicate their allegorical character, and by accommodating the historical circle of visions of the prophet, and the consequent definiteness and limitation of prophecy, by an allegorizing violation of the context. The former occurs especially in the accounts of the seals and trumpets; the latter, in the following chapters.

[153] Revelation 1:10 ; cf. Revelation 1:1 sqq.

[154] Numbers 12:6 sqq.; cf. 1 Corinthians 14:2 sqq.

Just as certainly as the conception and name of what is apocalyptic are derived from the Johannean Apocalypse (which professes to be nothing else than a prophetical book), with historical justice is only that to be regarded prophetical and apocalyptic which is peculiar to this book, and yet has essential similarity with the prophetical writings of the Old Testament; viz., the fundamental thought of the personal return of Christ, and the consequent glorious and eternal fruition of the kingdom of God. This apocalyptic prophecy, on the one hand, can grow in its fullest and purest form, only from New-Testament soil, since the actual manifestation of God in the flesh, and the completion of the work of redemption, constitute of themselves the actual pledge of his final manifestation for judgment, and the eternal fruition of his kingdom; [155] and, on this account, the prophetic discourses of the Son of man himself are in a model way apocalyptic, [156] and all the New-Testament Scriptures are no less permeated by apocalyptic prophetic thoughts. [157] But on the other side, as Revelation 10:7 profoundly indicates, the apocalyptic element is native to even Old-Testament prophecy. The protevangelium (Genesis 3:15 ) already contains the living germ of the entire biblical apocalyptics; but just in the proportion as, in the development of Old-Testament prophecy, the image of the Redeemer to come in the flesh is the more clearly presented, is the apocalyptic prophecy of the eternal fruition of his work and kingdom the more definitely expressed. This is true, even though the apocalyptic predictions of those ancient prophets, since the first appearing of the Son of man had not yet occurred, with moral necessity bear the limitation of not distinguishing with New-Testament clearness between the first and second coming of Christ.

[155] Cf. Revelation 1:5 ; Revelation 1:18 ; Revelation 3:21 ; Revelation 5:5 ; Revelation 5:9 sq.

[156] Cf. Matthew 24:0 sq., Matthew 7:22 sq.; John 6:39 sq.

[157] Romans 8:20 sqq., Revelation 13:11 ; 1 Corinthians 3:13 ; 1 Corinthians 5:5 ; 1 Corinthians 15:54 sqq.; Philippians 2:9 sqq., Revelation 3:20 sq.; Titus 2:13 ; Hebrews 1:10 sqq., Revelation 4:9 sqq. Cf. especially all the testimonies concerning Christian hope.

But this essential apocalyptic prophecy receives a more definite form by the relation in which the coming of Christ, and the fruition of his kingdom, are placed to the antichristian powers. This reference in general is, according to the nature of the subject, necessary, because the coming of Christ cannot be thought of [158] without his work of judgment, by which the victorious [159] fruition of his kingdom is conditioned: but, in biblical apocalyptics, this reference to the anti-theocratic and antichristian powers appears also in more concrete embodiment, and that, too, in such a way that this reference, as well in Old-Testament as in New-Testament apocalyptics, is to forms of ungodly world-powers historically presented; but in this, not only does New-Testament prophecy in general have peculiar pre-eminence above that of the Old Testament, but, even within the New Testament, the apocalyptic prophecy of the Lord as that which is truly complete has pre-eminence above that of John. In Daniel’s view, the anti-theocratic world-power is concentrated in Antiochus Epiphanes: on him and his blasphemous reign, therefore, according to Daniel’s Apocalypse, the final judgment comes. [160] When the Lord himself speaks of his return to judgment, he applies the threat in his apocalyptics to Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, which had rejected him. He does not say, however, that the destruction of Jerusalem will be contemporaneous with the actual end of the world, and that immediately after that event his kingdom will be completely established; but he renders prominent the real connection between that particular historical act of judgment and the final judgment of the world. He expresses the eschatological import, which the treading-down of the Holy City by the Gentiles has, more than any other event of history, to the parousia . In the Johannean Apocalypse, we find what is similar, although not precisely identical. On the one hand, John’s historical horizon is so extended as to embrace not only antichristian Judaism, but also antichristian heathenism, which, in the form of Rome drunk with the blood of the Christian martyrs, stands before the eyes of the prophet. But, on the other hand, John’s apocalyptic prophecy [161] intentionally and completely discloses the demoniacal foundation of what is of antichrist among the inhabitants of the earth, so that also the judgment upon those demoniacal powers forms an especially important subject of prophecy. The synagogue of Satan are the Jews, who with blasphemy and deeds of violence prepare for believers the Lord’s tribulation; [162] and in Jerusalem, where Christ was crucified, his two witnesses will be killed by the beast from the abyss: [163] but the Roman secular power, deceived by the satanic false prophet, and worshipping the antichristic image of the beast, stands entirely in the service of Satan, and is the instrument for his rage against the congregation of saints. [164] Accordingly the final judgment proceeds, after Jerusalem has been trodden down, [165] in such a way that first the great harlot Babylon, i.e., heathen Rome, [166] is judged; after that, the demoniacal powers themselves, which were active in that human embodiment of antichrist, chiefly the beast worshipped by the heathen and the false prophet, [167] and then also Satan himself. [168] The judgment of all the dead forms the full completion of the entire eschatological catastrophe, at which death itself and hell are cast into the lake of fire. [169]

[158] Cf., as an example for this common characteristic of all apocalyptic prophecy, Psalms 110:1 sqq.; Isaiah 11:4 sqq., Isaiah 66:24 ; Matthew 7:22 ; Matthew 25:31 sqq.; 1 Corinthians 15:25 sq.

[159] Cf. Revelation 6:2 ; Revelation 19:11 sqq.

[160] If we suppose that in Daniel 7:26 (Daniel 2:34 sq., Daniel 2:44 sq., Revelation 7:9-14 ), the judgment of Revelation 19:11-21 (Matthew 24:29 sqq.) is described in distinction from that of Revelation 20:11 sq. (Matthew 25:31 sqq.), according to Auberlen, p. 369, then Daniel’s Apocalypse would say, that, with the judgment upon Antiochus, the one thousand years reign begins. But it is arbitrary to introduce into the prophecy of Daniel, from the Johanneau Apocalypse, the ideas of the one thousand years reign, and of the two acts of the final judgment. The allusion to Antiochus is questioned by Auberlen and others, in ch. 7, but conceded by them in ch. 8; the parallelism of the individual prophecies in the Book of Daniel decides, however, against Auberlen. The acknowledgment required by the text, that the apocalyptic expectation is greatly limited by the historical horizon, coheres with the conception likewise obtruded upon the book throughout its interpretation, that it is pscudepigraphic.

[161] Cf. also 2 Thessalonians 2:3 sqq.; 1 John 2:18 sqq.

[162] Revelation 2:9 , Revelation 3:9 .

[163] Revelation 11:7 sqq.

[164] Ch. 12 sqq.

[165] Revelation 11:1-14 .

[166] Revelation 17:1 sqq.

[167] Revelation 19:11 sqq.

[168] Revelation 20:1 sqq., 7 sqq.

[169] Revelation 20:11 sq.

Two remarks are especially called for concerning this Apocalyptic contemplation of the antichristian powers, and the judgment upon them. 1. The judgment upon Jerusalem is presented, on the one hand, according to its inner connection with the proper final judgment. It belongs in the series of the three woes, of the second of which it forms the latter half. [170] But, on the other hand, this judgment upon Jerusalem is expressly distinguished from the final judgment itself which succeeds. In general, the entire prophecy referring to the future treading-down of the Holy City by the heathen not so much predicts the future fact of its overthrow as such, as it rather interweaves it, in a peculiarly ideal way, into the chain of its eschatological development. [171] 2. The concrete view of the heathen secular power under the form, present to the prophet, of the Roman secular power, which is expressed not only in the general description of ch. Revelation 13:17 sqq., but also in the most definite individual features, [172] appears limited by John’s historical horizon to such an extent that he already mentions [173] the last of the Roman kings, who in the near impending advent of the Lord [174] is to be visited by the judgment. The sixth king is the present one; the seventh will remain only a short time; the eighth, the personification of the beast, will be the last. [175]

[170] Revelation 11:14 .

[171] Cf. the Exposition from Revelation 11:1-14 .

[172] Revelation 13:18 , Revelation 17:9 sqq.

[173] Just as in Daniel 7:26 .

[174] ἐν τάχει , ταχύ , “shortly,” “quickly,” Revelation 1:1 ; Revelation 1:3 , Revelation 22:7 ; Revelation 22:12 ; Revelation 22:20 .

[175] Revelation 17:10 sq.


The proof for the above presentation can be given only by the exposition of the details from the text itself; yet so much should here be said concerning the nature of inspiration and prophecy, as is requisite, on the one hand, for the foregoing conclusion, and, on the other, for outlining the still deeper antitheses consequent upon methods and results of the criticism and exegesis of the Apoc. that are mutually contradictory.

Auberlen [176] distinguishes, according to exegetical results, “three main groups of expositions.” 1. The Ecclesiastical-Historical , of which, in Germany, Bengel was the most prominent advocate, “considers the Revelation of John as a prophetic compendium of Church history.” 2. The Chronologico-Historical , adopted by Herder, Ewald, De Wette, Lücke, Züllig, Baur, etc., “proceeds from a conception of prophecy which excludes an actual, divinely-wrought contemplation of the future,” and refers the contents of the Apoc. to Jerusalem and Rome. 3. The Governmental-Historical , [177] adhered to by Hofmann, Hengstenb., Ebrard, and Aub. himself, “rests, as to its principle, upon the same basis as the ecclesiastical-historical over against the chronologico-historical . It believes in actual prophecy. It also does not deny the possibility of special prophecy, but only that the N. T. Apoc., so far as actually presented, is intended as a detailed history of the future.” But against this classification, which unites, under No. 2, views the most divergent, and separates, under No. 1, those which are most closely allied, the most weighty objection may be urged. The chief defect is this: The exposition adopted by Bleek, De Wette, and Lücke is, on the one hand, directly contrary to the chronological-historical conception of the Apoc., as found in Grot., Eich., Heinrichs, etc.; and, on the other hand, has correctly grasped the idea, in conformity with the text, of the kingdom of Christ, and its fruition at his return, as the chief thought of the Johannean Apoc.: yet what really distinguishes the so-called governmental-historical interpreters [178] in respect to the Apocalyptic fundamental thought of the fruition of Christ’s kingdom, from Lücke, etc., is nothing else than what belongs also to the ecclesiastical-historical; viz., the pretended historical detail, which both governmental-historical and ecclesiastical-historical expositors derive only by vying in arbitrariness of allegorizing with some of the chronologico-historical expositors, [179] against which Bleek, Lücke, and De Wette constantly contend. Naturally, the critical and exegetical conceptions of the Apoc. are distinguished according to the attitude which they take to the peculiar prophetic character which the book claims, and to the Apocalyptic fundamental thought which throughout pervades it. 1. By the rationalistic conception of inspiration and prophecy, the prophetical character which the Apoc. claims for itself is directly denied, and its fundamental thought entirely explained away. If John says that he was in the Spirit, this is grata fraus [180] (a pleasing delusion). All the professed visions are, in fact, nothing but fictions of a poetic genius; for by all those symbolical pictures the author represents “a future event, towards which all Christians looked forward with confidence; viz., the victory of Christianity over Judaism and heathenism.” [181] When it is said in the Apoc., that Christ will be victorious, this is only a metonymy common “even in prosaic discourse,” which is to be understood in the same way of “Christianity,” as Jerusalem and Rome, by metonymy or symbolically, indicate Judaism and heathenism. [182] Upon this purely rationalistic standpoint, Grot, already stood, who, therefore, in the exposition of particulars, often agrees in a surprising way with Eich. [183] 2. It is according to a magical conception of inspiration and prophecy, that those whom Auberlen calls the ecclesiastical-historical and governmental-historical interpreters, give their exposition. There are found in the Apoc. the most special, and even chronological, predictions, which are fulfilled in the course of all time, from John’s present even to the parousia . By allegorical interpretation, these predictions are derived from the text, as, conversely, the historical allusions of the Apoc. are accommodated by an allegorical interpretation to John’s present. Upon this standpoint we find N. de Lyra, and after him chiefly the old Protestant expositors, with their applications to the Turks and the Pope; [184] then Bengel, with his Apocalyptic chronology; and in modern times, Hengstenb., Ebrard, Auberlen, and Hofmann: and if these, as a class, substitute general conceptions (powers, potencies, tendencies, etc.) for the definite forms invented by the older interpreters of the same class, yet recently H. J. Gräber [185] has again made the Turks and the Pope the chief subjects of the book. 3. It is from an ethical [186] conception of inspiration, that the present attempt at an exposition of the Apoc. will proceed, in connection with the labors of Bleek, De Wette, and especially of Lücke. In the most decided opposition to the above rationalistic denial of actual inspiration, the true prophetical character of the Apoc. will be here acknowledged, although understood otherwise than in the magical sense. If Bengel [187] can decide that particular expressions of prophetic language, as angels, heaven, sun, etc., like “counters,” mean sometimes one thing and again another, [188] this is here denied just as decidedly as, e. g., the possibility that John [189] could have written the name of the beast by the number 666, but could not himself have been acquainted with it. [190] These examples mark the distinction between a magical and an ethical conception of revelation. According to the former, what the prophet beholds is presented externally to him as a foreign object: he can behold every thing that the divine revelation will show him, and declare what he has beheld. According to the ethical view of the subject, the prophetic vision which appears by means of divine inspiration in the spirit of the prophet is conditioned by the entire subjectivity of the man; what the prophet writes is not a pure “copy” of a heavenly book, [191] but a divinely human product of his activity supported by the inspiring Spirit of God, in which the prophetic writer acts also in accordance with his human knowledge of art. According to a magical conception of revelation, the question why the little book eaten by John was in his mouth sweet, but in his belly became bitter, [192] may be answered, [193] “that the mouth of the seer was consecrated to his calling, but his belly belonged to the earthly world.” On the other hand, in an ethical way, inspiration appears to be such as to sanctify and guide equally the entire indivisible personality of man in all his powers, the will as well as the intellect, the reason as well as the conscience and imagination, speech as well as writing and acting. Accordingly, the particular visions which John describes must be received for what he himself gives them; he has actually seen every thing, and the visions are not mere fabrications. [194] But the subjects contemplated have, as is usual, assumed a form according to the standard of the human subjectivity of the prophet. John, e. g., in ch. 4, beholds, and therefore describes, the cherubim in no other way than Ezekiel, but in their subjective truth; while but one of the two prophets could speak without error when the question was concerning objective reality. If, also, the visions in which John has beheld the individual plagues preceding the parousia of the Lord, have undoubtedly presented themselves, just as he testifies, to his spirit enlightened by God, it would only be a consequence therefrom, that every individual vision would contain a definite prophecy, to be actually fulfilled; unless the fantasy of a prophet be not touched by the inspiring Spirit of God, just as well as every other faculty of his inner man, and there would not therefore be a poesy produced and sanctified by the Spirit of God, which lends to the proclaimed truth the elevated beauty of a truly suitable form. The poesy of the writer of the Apocalypse stands in the same living relation to the subject of his prophecy as the rhetoric of a Paul or a John to the contents of their evangelical message and consoling discourse. Connected with this, also, is the fact that the writer of the Apocalypse, without injury to his actual character as prophet, is customarily limited by his historical horizon. A true prophet does not assume what the Sibyl boasts of herself:

[176] p. 411 sq.

[177] Cf., against this view, Baur, Die reichsgeschichtl. Auffassung der Apok. Theol. Jahrbücher , xiv., Tüb, 1855; 2, p. 283 sqq.

[178] Among whom it is difficult to reckon Hofmann, since he virtually refers the whole Apoc., not to the course of history unto the end, but only to the end itself; and also in one special point agrees with the chronologico-historical expositors. For in principle it is the same, whether the antichrist of the Apoc. be regarded as Nero returned, which Aub. proposes as probably the chronologico-historical interpretation most properly so called, or as Antiochus Epiphanes returned. (Hofm., ii. 345.)

[179] Grot., Eich., Herder, Heinrichs, etc.

[180] Eich. on Revelation 4:1 .

[181] Eich., Ein., p. 338.

[182] a. a. O. S., 332.

[183] Cf., e. g., on Revelation 1:7 : Aderit cum magna tempestate adversus incredulos Judaeos et Romanos , “He will come with a great tempest against unbelieving Jews and Romans.” On Revelation 3:12 : Sensus est, eos qui in persecutione Neroniana constantes fuerint, visuros Spiritu prophetico, quomodo Deus secundum sua promissa triumphaturus sit de Judaeis et Romanis, quod praecipuum est Apocalypseos argumentum (“The sense is, that they who in the Neronian persecution have been steadfast will see, by the prophetic Spirit, how God, according to his promises, will triumph over Jews and Romans, which is the chief argument of the Apocalypse”).

[184] Cf., e. g., Nic. Collado , l. c., p. Rev32: Totum hunc librum spectare praecipue ad describendam tyrannidem spiritualem Romani papatus et totius cleri ejus (“That this entire book is directed chiefly to the description of the spiritual tyranny of the Pope of Rome and of all his clergy”).

[185] Vers. einer historischen Erkl. der Off. des Joh ., Heidelb. 1857. Cf. also Ch. Paulus, Blicke in die Weissagung der Off. des Joh ., Stuttg. 1857. J. Ph. Sabel, Die Offenb. Johaus dem Zusammenhange der messian-Reichsgeschichte , Heidelb., 1861.

[186] Cf. my treatise: De Rei propheticae in Vet. Test. natura ethica, Apologet. Beiträge , i., Gött., 1865.

[187] a. a. O. S., 89.

[188] The earth is made to signify “Asia” (Beng.), “the Jews” (Alcasar), “the godly” (Aretius), “the Christian part of the earth” (Vitr.), “Europe” (Launoi), the “godly world” (Stern), etc. The stars signify “the teachers of the church” (Aretius on Revelation 6:12 ), “heretics” (Bede on Revelation 8:2 ), “bishops” (Stern on Revelation 8:10 ), “Jews” (Böhmer on Revelation 6:12 ), “sovereigns” (Hengstb.), etc.

[189] Revelation 13:18 .

[190] Hofm., a. a. O. II., p. 312. Likewise Kliefoth, Theol. Zeitschr ., 1862, p. 83. Christiani.

[191] Bengel, a. a. O. S., 319.

[192] Revelation 10:9 sq.

[193] Hofm., ii. p. 342.

[194] Eich., Ewald, etc.

Οἰδα ἐγὼ ψάμμων τʼ ἀριθμοὺς καὶ μέτρα θαλάσσης ,

ὀιδʼ ἀριθμοὺς ἄστρων καὶ δένδρεα καὶ πόσα φύλλα , κ . τ . λ . [195]

[195] (“I know the numbers of the sands, and the measures of the sea,

I know the numbers of the stare, and how many trees and leaves.”)

1. viii. p. 749. Sibylline Oracles, Op. et Stud. Servatii Gallaei , Amst. 1689.

Hence John does not prophesy what many expositors, in spite of the express warning of the Lord, have tried to decipher from the Apoc.; viz., the day and the hour of the establishment of his kingdom. [196] But he errs in regarding the form of the Roman Empire present to him as the last of its kind, because of the speedily approaching manifestation of the Lord himself to subdue all. Connected with this error is the truth of a morally understood inspiration, since this sunders man not from the natural fundamental condition of his individual personality; but what we dare not expect from a prophet is, e. g., the delusion ridiculed by cultivated heathen, that the deceased Emperor Nero, [197] or Antiochus Epiphanes, [198] shall return as antichrist.

[196] The artificialness with which an investigator of Scripture otherwise so excellent as Bengel ( Ordo temporum , Stuttg., 1741, p. 303 sq.) seeks to weaken the clearest Scripture passages (Mark 13:32 ; Acts 1:7 ) is without a parallel.

[197] Ewald, Lücke, De Wette.

[198] Hofmann.

The anti-Pauline Judaeo-Christian tendency of the Apocalypse, emphasized by the school of Baur for critical interests, is derived neither from the presupposed number of the twelve apostles (Revelation 21:14 ), nor from the polemical expressions of the epistles (Revelation 2:2 ; Revelation 2:6 ; Revelation 2:14 , etc.). The objectively firmly established number of the apostles is manifest even in Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5 ). The expressions against heretical manifestations, however we may decide concerning their controversial interpretation, are not, in any case, to be turned to account for the purpose of the school of Baur, because the free evangelical view of Paul concerning the φαγεῖν εἰδωλόθ . has ethical limitations, of which the heretical libertines of the Apocalypse wanted to know nothing, while in respect to the πορνεῦσαι the Apostle Paul speaks as decidedly as the author of the Apocalypse. In no respect did Paul declare πορνεία permissible (against Hilgenf.’s mutilated presentation, Einl ., p. 415). That the Judaic Christianity of the Apocalypse is not anti-Pauline and anti-evangelical, is manifest from the fact that the new Jerusalem appears without a temple (Revelation 21:22 ). This is also contrary to E. Renan, Der Antichrist , Ger. ed., Leipzig and Paris, 1873 (p. xxvii, “The Apocalypse breathes dreadful hatred towards Paul,” etc.).


1. As to the original destination of the Apocalypse , by which we understand not only the circle of readers according to its external local limitations, but also the purpose of the book, occasioned by these concrete circumstances and events, we need especially speak only in a few words, since this original destination, which can be gathered with greater evidence from the context, is of importance in the examination of the difficult and controverted questions concerning its origin, and especially its author and the time of composition. The circle of readers in Asia Minor is expressly mentioned in the Apocalypse itself; [199] for even though the number seven of the congregations should have a definite typical significance, and correspond to the relation to the universal. Church, peculiar to the Apocalypse by virtue of its fundamental thought, as well as asserted by itself, [200] yet the simple geographical destination in the text is the less to be explained away by any sort of allegorizing theory, as that typical reference to the universal Church is undoubtedly based [201] upon the firm foundation of fixed historical relations. [202]

[199] Revelation 1:4 ; Revelation 1:11 ; chs. 2 and 3

[200] Cf. Revelation 1:3 , Revelation 22:7 ; Revelation 22:16 sqq.

[201] See on Revelation 1:4 ; Revelation 1:11 ; Revelation 1:20 .

[202] Hengstb. (1:83), who also errs in stating that what is said in Revelation 1:4 sqq. refers not to the entire Apoc., but only to chs. 2 and 3, says, “When John wrote to the seven churches, he had already before his eyes the model of the seven catholic and the fourteen Pauline epistles, including the Epistle to the Hebrews, which, though even not altogether directly, yet proceeded from Paul as its source.” The arbitrariness in this critical judgment (which not only presupposes that John had our canon of epistles, but also obtrudes upon the same an entirely senseless allusion to a simple and double enumeration of seven of those letters) is so great that Lücke (p. 421) not even once correctly understands Hengstb.’s real meaning. Cf., on the other hand, Bleek, Studien u. Kritiken , 1855, p. 168. The fragment of Muratori thinks that Paul followed John, as the former also wrote his letters to seven different churches.

The inner purpose of the Apoc. is also to be clearly recognized from the text itself. The paracletic elaboration of the fundamental thought concerning the impending return of the Lord, discussed in Sec. 2, 2, serves the purpose expressed already in the introduction and conclusion, and occasionally in other passages, [203] partly of encouraging and strengthening in fidelity, by the hope of the Lord’s return, the seven churches, and still further the entire Church, in the distress already present and yet to be expected from the unchristian world (Jews and heathen), and partly, also, [204] to reprove and reform the inner evils of the churches themselves, to guard and establish their good circumstances, and in general so to teach and guide those redeemed by Christ, that they may receive the blessed reward with which the Lord is to come. [205] The end of the Apoc. is therefore, even apart from the special inner relations of the seven churches, in so far a peculiar one, as the tribulation already suffered, and still impending, is the immediate occasion to which the rich fundamental thoughts concerning the personal advent of the Lord are so emphatically applied in consolatory hope and earnest warning, that the prophetic comfort contained in the entire book refers to that end; [206] but, on the other hand, no N. T. consolatory work is conceivable which does not serve, at least indirectly, to lead believers to the coming Lord, to whom they belong, and that, too, as must necessarily occur from the nature of the opposition between the kingdom of Christ and the world, through the very midst of unavoidable trouble. Thus the Apoc., in its end, has that exclusively and immediately which in all other N. T. literature appears as an indispensable, special (apocalyptic) item. [207]

[203] Cf. Revelation 1:3 ; Revelation 1:9 , chs. 2 and 3, Revelation 16:15 , Revelation 22:7 ; Revelation 22:10 sqq.

[204] Cf. the seven epistles.

[205] Revelation 22:12 .

[206] i.e., it is of an Apocalyptic nature.

[207] Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:8 ; 2 Corinthians 4:14 sqq., Revelation 5:10 , Revelation 11:2 ; Philippians 3:20 sq.; 2 Timothy 2:9 sqq.; 1 Peter 1:18 sqq., 1 Peter 4:12 sqq.; James 5:7 sqq.; 1 John 2:28 .

2. The question concerning the original destination of the Apoc. leads back to the final critical question concerning the origin of the book, i.e., concerning its author, and the time and place of its composition. As the author of the Apoc. [208] belongs, as to his station in life, to the geographical circle in which are his first readers, and this circle belongs to a definite time, viz., the apostolic-Johannean, the question arises of itself, as to whether John, who announces himself as the author, is to be regarded as the apostle or not, a question for whose answer it is highly important to determine, as far as possible, the time of the composition of the book, in its relation to the time [209] during which the Apostle John labored in Asia Minor.

composition of the book, in its relation to the time [209] during which the Apostle John labored in Asia Minor.

[208] Cf. Revelation 1:9 .

[209] In itself, indeed, likewise uncertain.

Criticism is here occupied with the testimony of the book concerning itself , and the testimonies of ecclesiastical tradition . Every expression [210] of the book concerning itself appears doubtful, in the degree that the exposition, both as a whole and in particulars, is a matter of controversy, while the testimonies of tradition are in complete agreement neither with one another, nor with the statements of the book itself. If now, in the latter case, the book’s own testimony is to be unconditionally preferred to that of tradition, the critical investigation will be the more difficult in proportion as the witness contradicting the book is, perhaps because of his age, the more important, and the origin of his error can be less readily traced. In addition to such exegetical and historical difficulties, is the consideration that the Apoc., by reason of its peculiar prophetical character, manifestly serves as a touchstone by which to test the entire theological culture of critics and exegetes, and, even apart from scientific elaboration, contains rich material as certainly for the pure hope of the Christian faith, as it does apparently for a curiosity that hankers after disclosures of the future. Thus is explained not only the fanatical abuse which is employed upon this book, but also the animosity by which the scientific investigation of this book is disturbed more than that of any other in the Bible, the O. T. Apoc. perhaps excepted. The most candid and courageous judgment in regard to this has been excellently stated by Hengstenb.: [211] “The position which every one takes, with respect to the contents of the book, is decisive concerning his blessedness or condemnation.” [212]

[210] In their discussion we can and must distinguish what refers to the time and place of composition, from those referring to the person of the composer.

[211] ii. 372.

[212] Revelation 22:18-19 .

a . The book’s testimony concerning itself , as to the place and time of composition, is ( a ) direct; i.e., there are in the Apoc. express declarations from which the time (and place) of composition can be learned, without requiring, as in the indirect testimonies, the interposition of a combination of relations occurring in other places.

As John’s Apocalytic prophecy looks towards its proper goal, viz., the Lord’s return, in such a way that there is presented within the historical horizon of the prophet, not only unbelieving Judaism, but also antichristian heathenism, and that, too, under the concrete form of Rome ruling the world; [213] so in these two respects the Apoc. contains direct chronological testimonies, viz., ch. Revelation 11:1-14 , and chs. 13 and 17 If the two testimonies harmonize chronologically, this is the more important as the contents of the former are in other respects dissimilar from those of the latter.

[213] Cf. § 2, 3.

Whether Revelation 11:1-14 [214] be a prophecy concerning the impending destruction of Jerusalem as such, or not, may here be left entirely undecided. It is sufficient for chronological interest, that that prophecy depends upon the presupposition that the destruction of the Holy City had not yet occurred . This is derived with the greatest evidence from the text, since it is said, Revelation 11:2 , that the Holy City, i.e., Jerusalem, [215] is to be trodden down by the Gentiles. [216] This testimony of the Apoc., which is completely indubitable to an unprejudiced mind, can still be misunderstood only with great difficulty, [217] by accompanying its acceptance with the avowal that so eminent an interpreter as Irenaeus made an erroneous statement concerning the time of its composition.

[214] Why E. Bohmer ( Ueber Verfasser und. Abfassungszeit der johannischen Apok ., etc., Halle, 1855, p. 23) has not taken into consideration Revelation 11:1 sqq., is inconceivable. Besides, he assigns the Apoc. to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem.

[215] Cf., besides, Revelation 5:8 .

[216] … τ. ἔ θνεσιν. κα ὶ τ ὴ ν πόλιν τ ὴ ν ἁ γίαν πατήσουσι. Cf. Luke 21:23 : καὶ Ἰερουσαλὴμ ἔσται πατουμένη ὑπό ἐθνῶν .

[217] Hofmann, a. a. O. II., p. 301 Hengstenb., etc.

The chronological results of Revelation 11:1 sqq. are confirmed by what is said in chs. 13 and 17 Even here a completely certain explanation of all individual difficulties is not advanced, but only the recognition of certain fundamental lines of exposition: viz., that the beast rising from the sea with his ten horns, seven heads, and ten crowns (ch. 13), essentially signifies nothing else than the beast with seven heads and ten horns carrying the great harlot; in other words, that as certainly as the name of the beast ( Λατεῖνος ), indicated in Revelation 13:8 , can apply only to the Roman secular empire, so also the mysterious name Babylon, Revelation 17:5 , refers to Rome; and also that not only does Revelation 17:9 refer to the seven hills of the seven-hilled city, but also that the seven kings mentioned in Revelation 17:10 , who are represented by the seven horns, are to be understood not of dynasties or governments, but of personal sovereigns, and therefore of the Roman emperors. If that be correct, then Revelation 17:18 contradicts the statement of Irenaeus, that the Apoc. was beheld under Domitian; for if five of the heads, i.e., emperors, have fallen, then the one at that time present, the sixth, can in no case be later than Vespasian. We reach him by beginning with Augustus, and passing over the three kings between Nero and Vespasian (Galba, Otho, Vitellius), regarding their short reign as an interregnum. [218] After this, the result of the combination of Revelation 17:10 with Revelation 11:1-14 would be, that the Apoc. was written in that part of the reign of Vespasian which was prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, i.e., between the close of December, 69, and the spring of 70. And if the Lord’s Day of Revelation 1:10 were to be regarded not as a Sunday, but as that particular day after which Sundays were designated as Lord’s Days, then it would follow [219] that John beheld the revelation on Easter of the year 70.

[218] Cf. Suetonius, Vespas . Revelation 1 : REBELLIONE trium principum et caede INCERTUM diu et quasi VAGUM IMPERIUM suscepit firmavitque tandem gens Flavia . “The Flavian gens at length received and established the imperial power which by the rebellion and slaughter of the three princes had been long uncertain and as it were in transition .”

[219] Böhmer, p. 29.

Ewald and others regard the sixth emperor present to John, not as Vespasian, since they do not reckon him as Nero’s immediate successor, but as Galba. In a chronological respect, the distinction is insignificant, as Galba reigned only from June, 68, to January, 69. More important is the diversity of exposition in chs. 13 and 17, upon which each of these chronological results respectively rests. According to our view, the account in ch. 13 presupposes that not only Galba, but also Otho and Vitellius, the latter of whom Ewald in no way considers, belong to the past; while the comparison with ch. 17 yields the result that at that time Vespasian had the throne. For when John (Revelation 13:1 sqq.) ascribes to the beast seven heads, of which one is wounded unto death, and yet healed, but at the same time ten horns and ten crowns, he means on the one hand ten kings, [220] i.e., persons , whose actual reign is symbolized by ten horns and crowns (viz., 1, Augustus; 2, Tiberius; 3, Caligula; 4, Claudius; 5, Nero; 6, Galba; 7, Otho; 8, Vitellius; 9, Vespasian; 10, Titus): but, on the other hand, the three usurpers between Nero and Vespasian could not have the same position with the other emperors as “ heads ” of the beast; on the other hand, “the rebellion of the three princes” which rendered “the imperial power uncertain and as though in transition,” gave the mortal wound to the head of the beast, which was healed only when Vespasian seized the power. He, therefore, appears as the sixth head of the beast; he is the first of the Flavian family, which has again established the tottering government. But whether the sixth or the seventh head was then ruling, is learned not from ch. 13, but from ch. 17. Yet, notwithstanding the substantially identical significance in the whole, the presentation of details is not throughout the same. In ch. 13, a beast appears as the symbol of the antichristian Roman Empire; while ch. 17, under the figure of the harlot drunk with the blood of saints, sitting upon that beast, describes the world’s metropolis, Rome, as the concrete embodiment of the Roman dominion over the world. [221] But even the beast itself is depicted and understood in a somewhat different way. The seven heads , i.e., emperors, are alike; but from the seven crowns there is no speech, but only from the ten horns, which, however, do not stand, as in ch. 13, in a parallel with the seven heads, but describe [222] still future kings. These ten horns have therefore nothing whatever to do with the reckoning and interpretation of the seven heads, as is established from ch. 13 and Revelation 17:10 . The seven heads are, as in ch. 13, the Emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero these five are fallen (Revelation 17:10 ); the sixth, which was then the present one; and Titus, the other which is still to come, and when come to remain only a short time. The eighth , symbolized by no special head on the beast, since he himself will be regarded the personification of the whole beast (Revelation 17:11 ), is, then, Domitian, the second son of Vespasian, the brother of Titus, of whom it is therefore said, ἐκ τῶν ἐπτά ἐστιν (“He is of the seven”). [223] This eighth emperor John considers not only as the individual personification of the Roman antichrist, but also as the last possessor of the Roman dominion over the world; as in his person this finds its complete fulfilment, with him it also perishes. [224]

[220] Cf. Revelation 17:10 .

[221] Cf. Revelation 17:18 , ἠ πόλις ; Revelation 17:9 , ὅρη ἐπτά .

[222] Revelation 17:12 .

[223] Cf. Exposition.

[224] Revelation 17:8 ; Revelation 17:11 sqq.

In respect to the chronological interest, there is still only one point of the account in Revelation 17:8 sqq., to be kept in view, which serves to more accurately determine the declaration in Revelation 17:10 . The beast, says John, [225] was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the abyss. Here not only the ΜΈΛΛΕΙ ἈΝΑΒΑΊΝΕΙΝ ἘΚ Τ . ΑΒΎΣΣΟΥ (Revelation 5:8 ), but also the relation of the entire conception to that of the healed mortal wound, [226] can remain undiscussed. It results only in this: viz., the beast is not , and yet is the sixth of his heads. This can have the meaning only that the then present emperor (Vespasian), symbolized by the sixth head, has the dominion in such way that, while in one respect he must be regarded a real head of the beast, yet in another respect it may be said that the dominion over the world, signified by the beast, is not there. This prophetic enigma appears therefore to point to the time when Vespasian was proclaimed emperor by his Oriental legions, while Vitellius still stood at the head of his Germanic army. As Vespasian had, in fact, already won the empire, for there was no doubt as to what would be the result of the war with Vitellius,

Vespasian was already the head of the beast; and yet his imperial power was not unquestioned and undivided, and the Roman dominion over the world lay neither in his hand nor in that of Vitellius. In so far, says John, the beast is not. This condition of things, which created violent commotion in Egypt, Syria (Palestine), and Asia, [227] where the legions swore allegiance to Vespasian, occurred in the beginning of the year 70. At this time, therefore, upon the basis of Revelation 17:8 sqq., we must put the composition of the Apoc.; and that, too, with the greater certainty, as we have already been taught from ch. Revelation 11:1 sqq., that it at all events was completed before the destruction of Jerusalem. [228]

[225] Revelation 17:8 ; Revelation 17:11 .

[226] Revelation 13:3-4 .

[227] Cf. Tacitus, Histories , ii. 78 sqq.; Suetonius, Vespasian , 5.

[228] It is improper, therefore, as, e.g., in Eichhorn, to fix the composition of the Apocalypse between the years 71 and 78. Cf., on the contrary, already Heinrichs.

( β ) The indirect self-witness of the Apoc. concerning the time of its origin, which is in its very nature more indefinite and doubtful, [229] lies in the relation of Christians to Jews and heathen, and in the intimations given of the inner circumstances of congregations. What appears in both respects, in the Apoc., appears on the one hand not so much in fixed historical form, as rather in the garb of a prophetic description; but, on the other hand, we are by no means so fully instructed concerning the historical relations mentioned in the Apoc., by accounts given elsewhere, as with confidence to recognize the temporal relations reflected in particular allusions of the book.

[229] Cf. Lücke, p. 433 sqq., 820 sqq., with Hengstenb., i. p. 9 sqq.

How great was the hostility of the Jews to the Christians, cannot be clearly learned from Revelation 2:9 sq., Revelation 3:9 . [230] Defamations on their part occur during the entire apostolic and post-apostolic periods. We also know already, from the Book of Acts, that in the beginning the Jews instigated the civil authorities against the Christians. At the martyrdom of Polycarp, Jews and heathen made common cause. [231] Under the Roman government, the Jews did not dare with their own hands to do them violence. This was true in the time of Paul, as well as in that of Justin. [232] Yet it happened, especially at the time of the revolt against the Roman government, that the Jews also showed their hatred to the Christians by deeds of violence. [233] May it not, then, be supposed that the hostility of the Jews, indicated in the Apoc., [234] was not content with mere “blaspheming,” but brought upon Christians other sufferings also? [235] And is it not consistent with this, that by the war with the Romans the fanaticism of the Jews was stirred up? Perhaps in connection with what is said in Revelation 11:3 sqq., the remembrance of what James the Lord’s brother suffered at Jerusalem may be recalled. [236] The conjecture appears still nearer, that the promise to the church at Philadelphia [237] is not without reference to the impending destruction of Jerusalem. If, now, we put together the facts that it is David’s key which the Lord has, and with which he has opened to the Church a door which no man can shut; that the Jews who hitherto have blasphemed are to acknowledge the Redeemer, and turn to the Church for aid; that the speedy return of the Lord [238] will bring the new Jerusalem , all this is indicated, if we find herein traces in general of definite historical relations, not to the time of Domitian, whose heavy hand oppressed the Jews no less than the Christians, but to that of the destruction of Jerusalem. By that impending judgment, the Lord would show the blaspheming Jews that in his death he had loved the Church, [239] but that upon that unbelieving people his blood would justly be avenged. It was just this judgment upon Jerusalem which would open their eyes; one indeed of fearful violence, but yet like a door opened by the key of David, whereby believers in Philadelphia could introduce those Jews who would hear and see, into fellowship with the eternal King upon the throne of David, and could establish them in the hope of the new Jerusalem.

[230] Cf. also Revelation 11:3 sqq.

[231] Mart. Poly ., c. 10 sqq.

[232] Cf. Justin, Dial. c. Tryph ., c. Revelation 16 : καταρώμενοι ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς ὑμῶν τοὺς πιστεύοντας ἐπὶ τὸν Χριστόν . Οὐ γὰρ ἐξονσίαν ἔχετε αὐτόχειρες γενέσθαι ἡμῶν διὰ τοὺς νῦν ἐπικρατοῦντας · ὁσάκις δὲ ἂν ἐδυνήθητε , καὶ τοῦτο ἐπράξατε (“Cursing in your synagogues those who believed in Christ. For you do not have the power to lay hands upon us, on account of those who now have the mastery. But as often as you could, you did so”).

[233] Justin, Apol ., i. 31: Ἀναιροῦντες καὶ κολάζοντες ἡμᾶς ὁπόταν δύνωνται

καὶ γὰρ ἐν τῷ νῦν γεγενημένῳ ἰουδαϊκῷ πολέμῳ Βαρχωχέβας

Χριστιανοὺς μόνους εἰς τιμωρίας δεινάς , εἰ μὴ ἀρνοῖντο Ἰησοῦν τὸν Χριστὸν καὶ βλασφημοῖεν . ἐκέλευεν ἀπάγεσθαι (“They slay and punish us whenever they are able. For, in the Jewish war which lately raged, Barchochebas gave orders that Christians alone should be led to cruel punishments, unless they would deny Jesus Christ, and utter blasphemy”).

[234] Revelation 2:9 sq., Revelation 3:9 .

[235] θλῖψις , πάσχειν , Revelation 2:9 sq.

[236] In the year 69. Cf. Gieseler, Kirchengeschichte , I. i. p. 125.

[237] Revelation 3:9 .

[238] Revelation 3:11 .

[239] Revelation 3:9 .

More fruitful and definite are the allusions of the Apoc. to the Roman Empire in its relation to the Christians; but, even in this respect, the prophetic-poetical coloring, wherein necessarily the historical facts are presented, must be taken into consideration. It is by neglecting this, that Hengstenb., with seeming confidence, reaches the solution that the Apoc. could have been written at no other time than that of Domitian. This emperor was the first, he says, to have himself deified: only, therefore, to him is what is said in Revelation 13:4 ; Revelation 13:8 ; Revelation 13:12 , and Revelation 18:18 , applicable. But in ch. 13, it is no particular sovereign (no particular head), but the entire beast, which, in its godless nature, is described. To the Roman imperial power, as such, is attributed the self-deifying pride, confiding in its own seemingly unlimited authority. If, in his prophetic description, [240] John had thought of special objects, they could be only such as, by recurring in a similar way in different possessors of the Roman power, characterize its entire antichristian nature. There belong the apotheosis, conferred already upon Julius Cæsar; [241] the erection of altars which already pleased Augustus; [242] the madness of Caligula, who put the head of his own statue upon one of the Olympian Jupiter, and had himself saluted as Jupiter Latiaris, erecting a temple to himself, with special priests and sacrifices, [243] etc. But what is said in ch. 13, concerning the Roman imperial power as such, is applied in Revelation 18:18 to the city as the concrete embodiment of the Roman dominion over the world. [244] “Every passage points to Domitian” [245] as little as to any other emperor; but John has in view the blasphemous pride, as, e.g., it displays itself in the altars consecrated in the city of Rome. Besides, what the Apoc. says concerning the violence inflicted upon Christians on the part of the Roman world-power, John thinks also pertains only to the time of Domitian. That the book was written in the midst of the oppression of the Neronian persecution, [246] dare not be inferred, since that persecution was confined to the city of Rome, and to the infliction of capital punishment; while the Apoc. presupposes that the persecution was co-extensive with Christianity, [247] and was accompanied not only by executions, but by banishment to desert islands, [248] and imprisonment. [249] But since, where the antichristian world-power is beheld in the more definite form of the harlot who symbolizes the city, [250] it appears drunk with the blood of the martyrs; just in the degree in which the description of the world-power, ch. 17 sqq., is more concrete than in ch. 13, the leading feature in the picture of the hatred of antichrist has a coloring that is more historical, although the entire description always remains of so very a prophetical-poetic character, that the city, as the proper centre of the entire empire, appears stained with the blood of the martyrs shed not only in the empire, but in the whole world. [251] But that already, in the times before Domitian, Christians were cast into prison, [252] and had otherwise in their daily life to bear the scorn and hatred of the heathen, [253] is self-evident, especially after Nero himself in the capital had given the example by surrendering the Christians to the already long-existing hatred of the heathen. But, even without definite testimonies, it must be accepted, that, especially in the East, during the war against the rebellious Jews, the Christians, as the Romans took no pains to distinguish them from Jews, had to endure all kinds of oppression and persecution.

[240] Cf. Isaiah 36:18 sqq.

[241] Suetonius, Caes ., 88. Cf. on Claudius Eutropius, Hist ., vii. 13.

[242] Suetonius, Octav ., 52: Templa in nulla tamen provincia nisi communi suo Romaeque nomine recepit. “He allowed temples, nevertheless, in no province unless in the common name of himself and Rome.” Herod the Great already had erected, in a city so well known as Caesarea, a temple in honor of the Emperor Augustus, and in it his statue in the form of the Olympian Zeus, besides the image of Hera brought from Argos, representing Rome. Josephus, B. Jud ., i. 21, 7. Cf. Wieseler, Beiträge , Gotha, 1869. See especially the chapter Kaisercultus in L. Preller’s Romische Mythologie .

[243] Suetonius, Caligula , 21

[244] Cf. ch. 17.

[245] Hengstenb.

[246] De Wette, Lücke, Ewald, Bleek.

[247] Which Hengstenb. (i. p. 24) finds designated also in Revelation 13:7 : πᾶσαν φυλήν

ἔθνος .

[248] Revelation 1:9 .

[249] Revelation 13:10 .

[250] Ch. 17 sqq.

[251] Revelation 18:24 .

[252] 2 Corinthians 10:0 ; 2 Corinthians 13:10 .

[253] Revelation 13:16 .

The allusions of the Apoc., therefore, refer no more to the times of Domitian than to those of Vespasian. But if we combine the passages already discussed, with the direct testimony derived from Revelation 17:10 sq., and with what is said in Revelation 6:10 sq., there will be a new confirmation of the view that the Apoc. was written under Vespasian. The question of the souls of the martyrs, ἕως πότε , κ . τ . λ ., [254] presupposes that since their martyrdom some time already had transpired. Had the Apoc. been seen in the beginning of the year 70, this would have harmonized with its application to those martyrs: but the reference is especially to be ascribed to those executed by Nero at Rome; for, in July of the year 64, that persecution broke out in which Peter perished, after, as is highly probable, Paul had been slain at Rome a few months previously. [255] Of course, in itself, the question ἕως πότε , κ . τ . λ ., would be with complete propriety applicable to the times of Domitian; but this chronological reference is rendered impossible by the answer. [256] For, in a short time, [257] the longing of the martyrs for revenge will be satisfied; only a certain number of believers must first suffer the martyrdom appointed them also. Then the Lord comes, yea, he comes quickly, [258] to destroy drunken Rome. This is to be determined more accurately according to Revelation 17:10 sq. Domitian, the eighth, i.e., the last sovereign of the antichristian Roman Empire, is the one who, as the personification of the antichristian beast, will make the number of the martyrs complete, whereupon then the entire Roman sovereignty over the world will fall in ruins.

[254] Revelation 6:10 .

[255] Cf. Wieseler’s Chronologie des apost. Zeitalters , Gött. 1848, p. 541 sqq.

[256] Revelation 6:11 .

[257] χρόνον μικρόν .

[258] ἐν τάχει , ταχύ , ὁ καιρὸς ἐγγύς .

Finally, the inner circumstances of the Asiatic churches come into consideration, and especially the moral faults and false doctrines condemned in the seven epistles. [259] If the Apocalyptic picture of any church be compared with such, e. g., as is presented in the Pauline Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, a contrast becomes manifest, which must then be chronologically estimated. Hengstenb. thinks that the space between the work of the Apostle Paul in the Asiatic churches, and the time of composition assigned by Lücke, to be too brief to account for such facts as that the first love should already have so greatly cooled, such peculiar errors have arisen, and, in general, the entire condition of the churches become so unsatisfactory as represented in the Apoc., and that the time of Domitian is the very earliest wherein this is conceivable. But, on the one hand, the departure of the Apostle Paul had withdrawn a firm support from the young congregations, and even the Epistles to the Colossians and Galatians show how soon strong errors entered when the apostle’s absence gave them room, and, on the other hand, it is highly improbable that the condition of those seven churches would not have been better than the Apoc. indicates, if it had been actually written only towards the end of Domitian’s reign, and therefore after the Apostle John had personally labored for almost a generation in those congregations as his own peculiar district. [260] But if we consider that between the close of Paul’s activity in Asia, [261] and the beginning of the reign of Vespasian, i. e., the time of the composition of the Apoc., over twelve years intervene; and that since the composition of the Epistle to the Ephesians, [262] perhaps eight years have passed; and, further, that the beginning of the more speculative and more practical errors which are reproved in the Apocalyptic epistles [263] had manifested themselves already in the times of Paul, the condition of the Asiatic churches, presupposed by the Apoc., will not appear inconceivable at the time at which, for other reasons, we must fix the composition of the book.

[259] Chs. 2 and 3.

[260] Hengstenb. i. 54.

[261] He left Asia after a stay of almost three years, about Pentecost of the year 57. Wieseler, a. a. O. S., 118.

[262] In the year 61 or 62. Cf. Weiseler, p. 455.

[263] Revelation 2:14 ; Revelation 2:20 ; Revelation 2:24 .

Concerning the place where the Apoc. occurred, the author himself gives a definite testimony, inasmuch as he expressly states that on the Island of Patmos he received the divine revelation written in the book; for, [264] that the entire abode of the prophet on that island is only imaginary, [265] is an assertion without any foundation. But it is a further question, whether John also composed his book on that island. To Bengel, Hengstenb., etc., this is a matter of course, since they assume that the literary composition of the Apoc. was completed on the very same day on which the prophetic vision occurred. But [266] it is not only inconceivable, according to the nature of the case, that the ecstatic condition of the seer soon yields to the more tranquil self-consciousness required for literary composition, and then again soon recurs, and thus the vision interrupted by the act of writing every time returns to its original connection; but also the preterite ἘΓΕΝΌΜΗΝ [267] expressly contradicts the view that the Apoc. was committed to writing at Patmos. Besides, the book nowhere else contains any direct expression concerning the place of its composition. But if John [268] went to Patmos in order, in the quiet of that island, to receive the divine revelation to his spirit, and if, further, the Apocalyptic writing was intended for the seven churches of Asia Minor, the opinion is justified that John was at home among that circle of congregations, and that after his return from Patmos he wrote consecutively the revelation received for the seven churches. Perhaps Ephesus was the dwelling-place of John, and therefore the place of composition; for the conjecture readily arises, that the prophet passed over to Patmos from one of the cities [269] bordering closely upon the coast. But Ephesus is the nearest, and first mentioned. [270]

[264] Revelation 1:9 .

[265] Eich., Einl ., a. a. O. S., 366 sqq.; Volkmar, p. 63.

[266] Bleek, Lücke, etc.

[267] Revelation 1:9-10 .

[268] Revelation 1:9 sq.

[269] Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos.

[270] Revelation 1:11 , Revelation 2:1 .

sec. iv. the author of the apocalypse

b . Concerning its author, also, the book itself gives testimony, both directly and indirectly. The former consists of such expressions as of themselves make known the author: the latter results from the comparison of the Apoc. with the Gospel and Epistles of the Apostle John.

( α ) The direct self-witness of the Apoc. to its author.

As the author calls himself John, [271] first of all the question arises, whether or not he wished to be regarded as the apostle of that name. Even were this the case, criticism would have to ask further, whether the claim of the writer of the Apoc., to be regarded as the Apostle John, be actually justified or not. A result prejudicial to the canonical authority of the book would follow only in case criticism could with confidence decide that the author had falsely assumed the name of the Apostle John; for, while pseudonymity, in a purely literary work, may in a moral respect be a matter of indifference, yet where not only the treatment is directed to the edification of Christian churches, but also where the attaching of a name thereto must serve to guarantee the truly prophetic authority of a writer, such absence of a delicate sense of regard for truth would be presupposed as would disqualify a Christian writer for full canonical credit. For, to a writer of such kind, the possible literary custom of the time, according to which pseudonymity is not regarded as properly false, would afford no adequate excuse; since in his moral character he must stand far above his times, if to these times, and those which are to follow, he is to give an actual norm, dependent upon divine inspiration. But, without any difficulty with respect to the canonical authority of the Apoc., it is the decision of criticism that the author is to be regarded not the Apostle John, for the very reason that he does not claim to be such.

[271] Revelation 1:1 ; Revelation 1:4 ; Revelation 1:9 , Revelation 22:8 .

The mere mention of his own name, on the part of the author, does not serve so much to make us acquainted with the person as, rather, to present the critical question, according to whose different answers the critics fall into two chief classes, as the author of the Apoc. is or is not regarded the Apostle John. The former class falls, again, into two very dissimilar groups. The one group consists of critics who ascribe to the Apostle John not only the Apoc., but also the Gospel and the three Epistles. To this first group belong all the Catholic expositors and critics; [272] the old Protestants; and after the Apostolic-Johannean authenticity of the Apoc. was attacked in England by an anonymous edition of the N. T., [273] and by a likewise anonymously published “Discourse, Historical and Critical, on the Revelation ascribed to St. John” (Lond., 1730), by F. Abauzit, [274] and in Germany by the school of Semler [275] men like Leonh. Twells, [276] J. F. Reuss, [277] F. A. Knittel, [278] Bengel, J. B. Lüderwald, [279] G. C. Storr, [280] Hartwig, Herder, Eichhorn, J. F. Kleuker, [281] Haenlein, [282] E. W. Kolthoff, [283] E. Dannemann; [284] and recently Hengstenberg, Ebrard, A. Niermeyer, [285] Elliot, [286] Auberlen, E. Böhmer, Gebhardt, Kliefoth, etc. On the other hand, the second group is composed of the school of Baur, [287] which ascribes the composition of the Apocalypse to the Apostle John, while it denies his authorship of the Gospel and the three Epistles. [288]

[272] Cf. Hug, Einl ., ii. § 176. C. Stern, Kommentar über die Offenbar. des Apostels Joh ., Schaffh. 1854. G. K. Mayer, Die Aechtheit des Evangeliums nach Joh ., Schaffh. 1854, p. 139 sqq., 222 sqq.

[273] The New Testament in Greek and English, etc., London, 1729.

[274] Concerning the remarkable history of this work written originally in French (Abauzit, Œuvres diverses , t. i., London, 1770), cf. Lücke, p. 496 sq.

[275] Oeder, Freie Unters. über die sogennante Off. Joh. mit Anmerk, von Semler , Halle, 1769. Semler, Abhandl. von freier Unters. des Kanon, nebst Antwort auf die Tübing. Vertheidigung der Apok ., Halle, 1771. Semler, Neue Unters. über Apok ., Halle, 1776.

[276] A critical examination of the late New Text and Version of the N. T. in Greek and English, London, 1732. Cf. Wolf, Curae Philolog. et Crit.… in Apoc ., Hamb. 1735, p. 387 sqq.

[277] Dissert, theol. de auctore Apocal ., Tüb. 1767. Cf. his Vertheidigung der Off. Joh. gegen Semler , Frankf. 1772.

[278] Beitrâge zur Kritik über Joh. Offenbarung ., Braunschweig and Hildesh. 1773.

[279] Bemühungen zur gründlichen Beurtheilung und Erkenntniss der Offenb. Joh ., Helmst. 1777 78.

[280] Neue Apologie der Offenb. Joh ., Tüb. 1783. Zweck der evangel. Gesch. u. der Briefe Joh ., Tüb. 1786, p. 70 sq.

[281] Über den Ursprung und Zweck der Off. Joh ., Hamburg, 1800.

[282] Handbuch der Einleit. in die Schriften des N. T. , vol. i., Erl. 1801, p. 220 sqq.

[283] Apocalypsis Joanni Ap. vindicata , Hafn. 1834.

[284] Wer ist der Verf. der Off. Joh ., Hannov. 1841.

[285] Verhandeling over de Echtheid der johanneischen Schriften , Gravenhage, 1852. Cf. Lechler, Stud. u. Krit ., 1856, p. 867 sqq.

[286] Horae Apocalypticae, or a Commentary on the Apocal., critical and historical , iv. ed., London, 1851.

[287] Cf. Baur, Krit. Untersuchungen über die kanonischen Evangelien , Tüb. 1847. Das Christenthum und die christl. Kirche der drei ersten Jahrhunderte , Tüb. 1853.

[288] Volkmar deviates so far from these as to assert that the Apoc. was composed not by the Apostle John himself, but only in his spirit by an anti-Paulist. Cf., on the other hand, Hilgenf., Der Kanon und der Kritik des N. T. , Halle, 1863, p. 236. Einl ., p. 681.

The critics of the second class, also, who deny the composition of the Apoc. by the Apostle John, fall into different groups, as some who occupy the older rationalistic standpoint regard [289] the Apoc. as a supposititious writing; [290] while the later, more scientific criticism, which controverts the composition of the Apoc. by the Apostle John (i.e., by the author of the Gospel and Epistles), more or less definitely asserts that the writer of the Apoc. did not wish to be regarded the Apostle John, and, therefore, that the book is not supposititious, although it cannot be ascertained with certainty whether the writer be possibly the presbyter John, [291] or another of the same name, [292] perhaps the evangelist John Mark. [293]

[289] Abauzit, Oeder, Semler, etc, M. Merkel, Historisch-krit. Aufklärung über die Streitigkeiten der Aloger als Beitrag zum zuerlässigen Beweise, dass die Apok. ein unächt Buch sei , Frank. and Leipz. 1782. Umständlicher Beweis, dass die Apok. ein untergeschobenes Buch sei , Frank. and Leipz. 1785. H. Corrodi, Krit. Gesch. des Chiliasmus , Zür. 1781 sqq., vol. ii. sec. 12 sqq. Versuch einer Beleuchtung der Gesch. des jüd. u. christl. Bibelkanons , Halle, 1792, vol. ii. p. 301 sqq., etc.

[290] Oeder (cf. also Corrodi, ii. 332) again advanced the idea already expressed in ancient times (cf. § 5), that the Apoc. derived its origin from Cerinthus.

[291] Bleek, Ewald, ii. 66.

[292] Heinrichs, Ewald, De Wette, Lücke; Neander, “History of the Planting and Training,” etc., Hamburg, 1841, vol. ii. p. 540 sq.

[293] Hitzig, Über Johannes Markus u. s. Schriften , Zür. 1843. Cf., on the other side, Lücke, p. 778 sqq.

From the fact that the writer of the Apoc. calls himself John, it does not immediately follow that he must be regarded the apostle of that name, but only that to the first circle of readers of the book that self-designation of the prophet must have been sufficient. Quite a different representation has been made, not only to us, but already in ancient times, by the tradition that the Apostle John composed the revelation to which that name is attached. [294] But the question is, whether the book itself contains any further intimations concerning the composer. There are none such in the expression, Τῷ ΔΟΎΛῼ ΑὐΤ . , Revelation 1:1 , ascribed improperly to John’s apostolic office; nor in the ἘΜΑΡΤΎΡΗΣΕΝ , Revelation 1:2 , which no more contains any allusion to a former written declaration of John, i.e., to his Gospel, than in the ὌΣΑ ΕἾΔΕΝ there is to be found any to the fact [295] that John was an eye and ear witness; [296] nor also from Revelation 1:9 sqq., for the ancient tradition of the banishment of the apostle to the Island of Patmos arises from a misunderstanding of this passage, which does not speak in any way concerning a banishment. [297] The immediate self-witness of the Apoc. concerning the John whom it mentions as its author is of negative character, as it only makes known that the writer of the Apoc. is not the Apostle John. [See Note I., p. 87.] No trace of apostolic authority shows itself in the relation of the writer of the Apoc. to the churches to and for whom he writes. John writes only as a brother and companion, [298] without asserting that paternal attitude to his little children which the Apostle John takes in his first Epistle, without detracting from his fraternal fellowship, and of which some indications or other must have been found in the Apoc. if this had actually been written by the Apostle John, and at the end of his life, after many years’ service in those churches. The author of the Apoc. writes not from apostolic sovereignty, but from an especial revelation; even the seven epistles were expressly dictated to him by the Lord. The apostle hardly needed the complete and emphatic attestation to which the prophet refers in his special appeal. [299] Possibly it is still more important that [300] nowhere, neither in the introduction [301] nor at the close, is there the least trace of the confidential relation between the Lord and the Apostle John.

[294] See above, sec. 5.

[295] Kliefoth.

[296] Acts 21:0 sqq.

[297] See Exposition, and cf. sec. 5.

[298] Revelation 1:9 .

[299] Revelation 1:9 sq.

[300] Cf. Ewald, Jahrbücher der bibl. Wissensch . v. 1853, p. 179 sqq.

[301] Cf. especially Revelation 1:9-20 .

A peculiar testimony to the fact that the author is not one of the apostles, he himself gives in the way in which he portrays their prominent position in the Church. In the twelve foundations which support the walls of the New Jerusalem, are the names of the twelve apostles; [302] in the second half of the twenty-four elders who stand before the throne of God, are probably to be reckoned the twelve apostles, regarded as the patriarchs of the N. T. [303] The point here [304] is not so much that such a representation would be a violation of modesty if the author of the Apoc. were himself one of the twelve apostles, [305] as, on the other hand, it has to do with the complete objectivity with which the twelve apostles are presented to the author of the Apoc. This has been felt even by Hengstenb., only with the result that he has not inferred that the author of the Apoc. must stand outside of that apostolic twelve, but simply that the Apoc. could have been composed “only at the end of the apostolic period.” Yet this does not remove the difficulty of the writer of the Apoc. seeing himself among the elders in heaven, and his own name in the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem. Even the appeal to Ephesians 2:20 does not serve to render what is said in Revelation 21:14 inconceivable in the mouth of an apostle. While we concede that in the former passage the gen. τῶν ἀποστόλων is an appositive gen. to the Τῷ ΘΕΜΕΛΊῼ , and therefore, that, according to a different mode of conception from 1 Corinthians 3:11 , the apostles and prophets are themselves considered the foundation of which Christ is the corner-stone; [306] yet we do not conclude [307] that only a pupil of the apostles could have written thus concerning the apostles, as it is written in Ephesians 2:20 , but we believe that only Paul, not one of the twelve, could have thus written. Just, therefore, as Paul (Ephesians 2:20 ) distinguishes himself from the apostles, [308] John [309] evidently presupposes that he himself does not belong to the twelve. [See Note II., p. 87.]

[302] Revelation 21:14 .

[303] Revelation 4:4 ; Revelation 4:10 .

[304] Cf. also Revelation 18:20 .

[305] Ewald. Cf., on the contrary, Hengstenb.

[306] Cf., on the contrary, Meyer.

[307] De Wette.

[308] Cf., especially, also 1 Corinthians 15:5 ; 1 Corinthians 15:7 ; 1 Corinthians 15:11 .

[309] Revelation 4:4 ; Revelation 21:14 .

( β ) The indirect self-witness of the Apoc. to its author lies in the relation occupied by the Apoc. to the writings of the Apostle John. In the entire mode of conception and statement, in type of doctrine, and in many linguistic peculiarities, the author of the Apoc. is clearly to be distinguished from the author of the Gospel and the Epistles of John; i.e., from the apostle.

It must be acknowledged at the very beginning, that, from the indirect self-witness of the Apoc. on all the sides above mentioned, a completely rigid proof cannot be deduced. For as the Apoc. belongs to an entirely different class of writings from the Gospel and the Epistles of John, as even the Apoc. epistles could not have the same literary character as the three epistles of the apostle, it depends ultimately upon the tact of the critic cultivated in the Holy Scriptures, as to whether he will decide that the differences between the Apoc. and the writings of the Apostle John, denied by no thoughtful person, have their ultimate foundation in the difference of subjects, or the personal diversity of authors. And this decision is in no way conditioned alone by critical observations as such, but rests fundamentally upon certain theological principles, which in the critical function may be said to be transparent. For, just to the degree in which the visions described in the Revelation are in their genesis to be regarded independent of the individuality of the prophet, and the composition of the book to be only a relation of images previously objectively formed, and not as a conception and composition conditioned by the subjectivity of the prophet, [310] must the critical significance of the differences indicated vanish. From this standpoint, therefore, it may be asserted that it is inconceivable that the composition of the Apoc. and the other Johannean writings should have been contemporaneous; [311] yea, the substantial ignoring of the difference between the Apoc. and the Gospel with the Epistles, in connection with which there is perhaps an allusion still made to the difference in the character of the subjects, is from that standpoint much more correct than when it is accounted for by the statement, that, between the composition of the Gospel and the Apoc., there lies almost the life of a generation, in which time the apostle could have developed from the author of the Apoc. to that of the Gospel. Even though this development be not regarded a retrogression, as by Eichhorn and other rationalists, who find in the Gospel and the Epistles traces of old age, an unfitness of John to be the author of the Apoc. is thus assumed which agrees ill with the idea of his apostolic office, and that, too, apart from the fact that then the testimony of Irenaeus, according to which the Apoc. originates with the Apostle John and towards the end of Domitian’s reign, must be abandoned at least as to its latter half. Hengstenb. is therefore, from his standpoint, correct throughout, when, holding fast to the testimony of Irenaeus even in a chronological respect, he denies that the differences between the Apoc. and the other Johannean writings are such as to justify the inference of different authors, and proceeds, on the other hand, to trace the peculiarities of the Evangelist also in the writer of the Apocalypse. For then the defence rests with all emphasis upon the assumption that John, as writer of the Apoc., was “in the Spirit,” which as Evangelist he was not. [312] Besides, not only does Hengstenb. see in the declaration, ἙΓΕΝΌΜΗΝ ἘΝ ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΙ [313] that which “convicts of falsehood” [314] the critics who wish the human genius of the writer of the Apoc. to be recognized, in distinction from that of the Evangelist; but he regards it a priori self-evident that so great a prophecy as that of the Apoc. “could proceed” only from the circle of the apostles, yea, only from one who among the apostles himself had one of the first places.” [315] This Apocalyptic prophecy, he says, “is the N. T. prophecy absolutely,” the “highest apostolic gift;” and who “has this in the highest degree need not first assert that he is an apostle.” [316] This is not meant as though the Apoc. element belonged only to N. T. prophecy; [317] but in the sense in which Auberlen also asserts that the summit of all biblical prophecy is the apocalyptic, which is presented in the Book of Daniel and the Revelation of John. [318] But just as certainly as the allegorical mode of exposition, by which Hengstenb., Auberlen, etc., find in the Apoc. the most special and comprehensive circumstances, is incorrect, is it without proper foundation to accord to the writer of the Apoc. the highest honor of prophetic character. It is a kind of exegetical superstition, which prevents the recognition, by means of an impartial comparison, of the difference between the Apoc. and the apostolic and especially the Johannean writings. The essential distinction between the entire mode of contemplation, and accordingly of statement also, of the writer of the Apoc. and the Apostle John, lies to speak briefly and directly in this: that in the former a mode of contemplation appealing to the senses, and in the latter one to the spirit, is expressed. In the writer of the Apoc., the fancy prevails; while in the apostle there is pure thought, in its free truth, speculative depth, and gracious life-power. When the writer of the Apoc. introduces, prior to the actual advent of the Lord, long series of purely earthly and cosmic plagues, or of such as are produced by infernal creatures, e.g., scorpion-like grasshoppers and ignivomous horses, such fanciful mode of contemplation is as foreign to the Evangelist as is the statement of the writer of the Apoc. concerning the nearness of the advent, since the latter not only regards the then existing Roman Empire as the last form of antichristian heathenism, but designates a definite emperor, who by the coming of the Lord is to be overthrown and perish. Besides, if such expositors are to be justified, who [319] hold, concerning this, that the writer of the Apoc. considers Nero returned from the dead as the eighth and last emperor, it is of course comprehensible if the incorrectness of such an exposition becomes, to the criticism of the school of Baur, a proof against the origin of the Apoc. from the Apostle John; but one who acknowledges the N. T. conception of apostolic endowments and authority, [320] and finds the Gospel with the Epistles of John corresponding thereto, should need no proof that the apostle could not have written such a fable of a Nero redivivus .

[310] Cf. sec. 2.

[311] As, e.g., the Catholic Mayer.

[312] a. a. O. II., pp. 425, 431.

[313] Revelation 1:10 .

[314] a. a. O., 1st ed. p. 170.

[315] i. p. 39.

[316] a. a. O.

[317] s. o. sec. 2.

[318] It is characteristic of the three different theological fundamental views which obtain among the critics and exegetes of the Apoc. (s. o. sec. 2), how the estimation of the book goes hand in hand with the critical judgment concerning its apostolic or non-apostolic origin. Hengstenb., Auberlen, etc., regard the book as written by the Apostle John, because it presupposes the greatest fulness of apostolic inspiration. Baur and his school regard the book as written by the Apostle John, because standing on so low a stage of Christian, viz., Jewish-Christian, culture, that its production in the apostolic times, whither the strongest tradition points, is conceivable. Lücke, De Wette, etc., regard the book as not written by the Apostle John, because to them it stands beneath the line of full apostolic dignity, especially as it appears far inferior to the intellectual elevation of the Johannean writings. Cf. De Wette, p. Revelation 6 : “A book, of which we must lay aside an entire chapter as an empty shell after having pressed out a few drops of juice.” Cf. also Luther in his Preface of 1523.

[319] As even Niermeyer, who yet wishes to assert the composition of the Apoc. by the Apostle John.

[320] Cf. my treatise on the Apostle Peter, Hann. 1876.

If particular examples be required, in order in contrast with the pneumatical character of the apostle to estimate what is peculiar to the writer of the Apoc., who loves to display everything in concrete, plastic forms, in fixed and defined mass and numbers, we need only recall the seven Spirits of God, [321] the description of the throne of God and the new Jerusalem, the seven angels, [322] the angel of the waters, [323] etc.; even general tabular statements of numbers and places [324] belong here. If the Apoc. be received according to its own presentation, it is easily understood how through this peculiar character of concrete, external visibility, the poetic beauty of the book is essentially conditioned; [325] but at the same time such a species of poetic genius makes itself perceptible as is entirely different from the personality of the Apostle John, devoted entirely to introspection, and most delicately organized for purely spiritual objects and relations.

[321] Revelation 1:4 , Revelation 5:6 .

[322] Revelation 8:2 .

[323] Revelation 16:5 .

[324] Cf. on Revelation 9:14 .

[325] In connection with which, there is also the artistic blunder of Revelation 8:12 .

The characteristic distinction of the mode of presentation (style) is, as a whole, chiefly only the necessary reflection of the underlying mode of contemplation; yet certain elements and means of presentation also come into consideration, which have their natural source outside of the personality of the author, but just on this account afford a fulcrum for the science of criticism, by giving the means for judging as to whether the Evangelist John has appropriated the items conditioning the mode of presentation in the same way as has the writer of the Apocalypse. It is, in general, a characteristic of the deliberation manifest in the mode of thought of the Apostle John, that the statement has something on which it lingers, giving opportunity for calm contemplation, and presenting it on its various sides in what might be called a circular movement about a subject which is still kept close at hand. [326] United with this is that gracious and gentle love which understands, also, how to use mild speech as a means to reach the heart. But, with this keynote of the Apostle John’s discourse, the manner of the Apocalypse throughout does not harmonize. It is self-evident that the writer of the Apocalypse cannot speak in the key of the First Epistle of John; but if these two works came from the same composer, it would nevertheless result, that just as the distinction in mode of statement in the Epistles, and the historical writing of the apostle, in no way conceals the essential similarity, so, also, the distinction based upon the subject-matter between an apocalyptic and an epistolary or historical style, must still manifest a deeply underlying identity of authorship. But that is not the case. In the Apocalypse, another mind thinks, another heart beats, and another mouth speaks. This is not said in the least to the discredit of the writer of the Apocalypse; for there must be in the kingdom of God many men, even many teachers, and yet not every one is to speak like the one who leaned on the Lord’s breast. But this voice of the disciple we cannot recognize again in the language of the writer of the Apocalypse. Even the Apocalyptic epistles, that to Ephesus not excepted, are written in the lapidary style of brief sentences of the sharpest precision. The introductions ΤΆΔΕ ΛΈΓΕΙ , Κ . Τ . Λ . , the incontrovertible ΟἹΔΑ , the incisive reproofs, peremptory demands of repentance, and direct threats, even the accredited sentences and rich promises, possess, in the most pregnant way, the majestic sublimity which is peculiar to the entire book; but throughout, there is so little of the subtile magic of the apostle’s mildness, which expresses itself in the gentle harmony of a flexible style, that on the other hand, even in the minutest details, the structure of words and sentences of the writer of the Apocalypse is such as to render rough and stiff his language, which by its disdain of all polish, yea almost of all signs of inner consecutiveness of thought, [327] is just as truly the mode of expression corresponding to his peculiar mode of contemplation, as it appears foreign to the Evangelist and epistolary writer John. [See Note III., p. 87.]

[326] Cf. my Comm. on 1 John 1:0 , p. xxix. sqq.

[327] It has been observed, e.g., that, from ch. 4 on, almost all the sentences begin with καί , while chs. 1 3 are mostly without any express connective; and that the Apocalyptic style is remote from that circumstantiality which the apostle delights to present in the parallelism of positive and negative sentences. An appeal to disprove this is improperly made to Revelation 2:9 ; Revelation 20:6 (Nierm.). Besides, two individual examples would not prove linguistic character; but compare these sentences with the apostle’s mode of expression, e.g., in 1 John 2:4 sq., Revelation 5:10 .

The mode of contemplation and expression of the Apocalypse has been called Old-Testamental and Judaeo-Christian; yea, there has been found in it even a strong leaning towards rabbinical and cabalistic representations: while the Apostle John stands at the summit of the New-Testament standpoint, and his entire mode of contemplation and speech is Gentile-heathen, Hellenistic. In this point, also, the criticism of the Apocalypse displays the most remarkable irregularities. Herder, e.g., holds to the origin of the book from the Apostle John, and his judgment is: “The whole the design, from which I can explain, in its place, every thing, to every manifestation, every angel, every sign, almost, I might say, every word is the vision of Christ in the beginning of the book, clothed in the brilliancy of the Sephiroth .” [328] To Baur [329] the Judaic narrowness of the book (as he regards, e.g., Revelation 21:14 , as excluding Paul from the number of the apostles, and Revelation 2:2 , Revelation 6:9 ; Revelation 6:14 sq., to be an attack upon Paul and Pauline Christianity [330] ) is an historical trace of its origin from the Apostle John. Ewald, who finds in the Apocalypse far more that is rabbinical than do Lücke, Bleek, and De Wette, [331] for this reason denies that it is the apostle’s; while Hengstenb., etc., [332] deny every thing rabbinical and cabalistic, explaining what is seemingly so immediately from the Old Testament, and trying to trace the same in the Evangelist, in order to ascribe the Apocalypse to the Apostle John.

[328] a. a. O., p. 334.

[329] Unters. über die kanon. Evang ., pp. 345 sq., 368.

[330] Id ., § 2, Anmerk .

[331] Cf. especially Lücke, p. 688 sqq.

[332] Cf. Hävernick, De Kabbalistica, quae Apocalypsi inesse dicitur, forma et indole , Rost. 1834.

In order, therefore, to establish that the distinction between the Apocalypse and the other Johannean writings is accountable by the diversity of authors, there is no need of proof that the Apocalyptic modes of conception and expression are so greatly interpenetrated by rabbinical-cabalistic elements, as Herder even expressly asserts, or that they stand upon so low a standpoint of Judaic bias as the school of Baur believes that it discerns, for the one is as incorrect as the other, but it results from two sources that are at hand, and scarcely need citation; viz., the relation of the Apocalypse to the Old Testament, and, even if all other numerical statements be omitted, the application, according to no Old-Testament type, of the art of gematria [333] for the purpose of concealing (Revelation 13:18 ). In both respects, the Apocalypse stands as far from the Apostle John as possible. Long ago it was noted, [334] that the Apocalypse does not contain a single express citation, [335] but also that it is filled through and through with allusions to, and reminiscences of, the Old Testament. No book of the New Testament is, in tone, so completely Old-Testamental as is the Apocalypse; but, on the other hand, the Old-Testamental tone is heard nowhere less than in the Gospel and Epistles of John. But the resort to an enigma whereby the writer of the Apocalypse [336] describes in numbers a name whose letters, in their numerical valuation, yield that sum, is of such nature, that the writings of the Apostle John do not offer even the most remote similarity; but what is similar occurs in the Epistle of Barnabas, where the number 318 is applied so that 18 designates the letters I H, the initial letters of the name of Jesus, while the 300, which is written with the cruciform T, is made to point to redemption. Similar is the designation of the name of Jesus, in the sibylline books, by the number 888; [337] and the prophecy that Rome will stand as many years as the numerical value of the letters declares, viz., 948. [338] [See Note IV., p. 88.]

[333] [i. e., the numerical indication of names. See Farrar’s Early Days of Christianity , p. 468 sqq.; and article by same author, on Rabbinical Exegesis, in The Expositor for 1877, 1st series, vol. v. 7.]

[334] Cf. Bengel’s Gnomon on i. 3.

[335] Even not Revelation 1:7 , with which John 19:37 is apt to be compared. But the evangelist quotes; the writer of the Apoc. does not; and not only the wording, but also the relation of the two passages, is essentially different.

[336] Revelation 13:18 .

[337] Sibyll. Or., ed. Gall., i. p. 176.

[338] Id ., vii. p. 715 sqq.

The differences occurring in type of doctrine between the writer of the Apoc. and the Apostle John are, in general, to such an extent conditioned by diversity in their mode of conception, that the particular examples pertaining thereto, concur partly with those above cited. We confine ourselves to the presentation of only a few that are especially clear; more especially, as even among critics who, because of the diversity in doctrinal views, distinguish the writer of the Apoc. from the Apostle John, it is not firmly established and, from the nature of the case, it cannot in many cases be firmly established to all wherein and how far a diversity of individuality in the composer is proved, and how much perhaps must be ascribed to diversity in the literary class of composition to which the books belong. [339] Of most decided significance is the one, that the Apoc. teaches a first and a second resurrection, of which the writings of the Apostle John know as little as they do of the one thousand years reign, which the Apoc. places between the first and the second resurrection. [340] But this distinction in the type of doctrine appears especially conspicuous in that the Evangelist also [341] speaks in his way of a twofold resurrection, but properly understands only the second to be expected at the Lord’s advent; while he places the spiritual quickening in faith, the passing from death to life, [342] as a spiritual resurrection, parallel with the bodily resurrection at the last day. [343] [See Note V., p. 88.]

[339] Cf. Ewald, Comment ., p. 74; Lücke, p. 707 sqq.; Bleek, Stud. u. Krit ., 1855, p. 500 sqq. On the other side, Hengstenb., ii. p. 444 sqq.; cf. also H. Gebhardt, Der Lehrbegriff der Apok ., Gotha, 1873. [English, Edinburgh, 1878.]

[340] Revelation 20:4 sqq.

[341] 5:25 sqq.

[342] 1 John 3:14 .

[343] The thoroughly established exposition of John 5:25 sq. by Lücke, Meyer, etc., is attacked to no purpose by Hengstenb., who spiritualizes it.

No less important is the dissimilarity in the representation of antichrist, and his hostility to Christ and his kingdom. The apostle knows of one antichrist, i.e., a human personality who will appear in a notable way as an instrument of Satan. [344] We do not believe, as does Bleek, [345] that John, in his first Epistle, mentions antichrist as an individual personality, in order to correct this idea, and to change it into that of the many antichrists: but, on the one hand, the apostle gives no complete and precise description of antichrist; and on the other, because of the inner connection between the one antichrist and the already present many antichrists, who have proceeded from the Christian Church, and now disturb it by the false doctrine denying that the Son of God has come in the flesh, he appears to the apostle to be not one who attacks Christianity externally through the hatred of Jews and heathen, but who internally agitates it with diabolical deceit by undermining the foundation of faith. All this is different in the Apoc.; and just where an apparent similarity occurs, [346] there is in fact the greatest difference. What is the antichrist, the beast from the sea, [347] or the two-horned beast, the false prophet? [348] Each, of course, in its manifestation, appears once in a definite human personality; [349] but in the person of the Roman emperor, in whom the Roman dominion over the world, displayed under the image of a beast, is concentrated and expressed. Even the false prophet has immediate reference, not with respect to an opposition to divine fundamental truth, but only as regards the first beast, whose blasphemous worship he requires. Such an idea of antichrist as the Apostle John indicates in his Epistles [350] is foreign to the Apoc. It not only presents other forms in which antichrist exists, but has an entirely different tendency and meaning. With this concurs the circumstance that the Apoc. does not contain the name ὁ ἀντίχριστος , to which it cannot be objected that the word is not found in the Gospel of John. For the Evangelist has no occasion to speak of antichrist; but the writer of the Apoc. could not leave antichrist unmentioned, because it is his express purpose to fully portray the judgment of the Lord upon the antichristian principle whose particular manifestations in the Apoc. are actually presented. [See Note VI., p. 88.]

[344] Cf. my Commentary on 1 John 2:18 .

[345] p. 203; cf. also Ewald, ii. 364 sqq.

[346] Revelation 17:11 .

[347] Revelation 13:1 sqq., Revelation 17:3 sqq., Revelation 20:10 .

[348] Revelation 13:11 sqq., Revelation 20:10 .

[349] Revelation 17:11 .

[350] 2 John 1:7 .

A deeply penetrating difference in an apparent similarity is displayed also at Revelation 19:13 , where Christ is designated by the name ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ . Already the gen. τοῦ θεοῦ shows something of a departure from the mode of contemplation of the Apostle John: it is, however, utterly inconceivable to us, how the apostle who wrote John 1:1 sqq. could have described the Logos under any other form whateRev :If, against this, we are reminded that the accomplishment of the incarnation of the Word is presupposed by the description in Revelation 19:11 sqq., the distinctive character of the doctrinal view of the Apostle John is presented on only one side; for the apostle, who, of course, teaches that the Word (of God) has become man, nevertheless nowhere designates the divinely-human person of the Lord, even not in his heavenly state of exaltation, as the Word (Logos) of God. Hence Revelation 19:13 seems to us to testify to a theological mode of thought which remarkably deviates from that of the Apostle John. (See Note VII., p. 88.)

An indirect testimony to the fact that the Apoc. was not composed by the Evangelist John is given, finally, by many particular grammatical peculiarities . [351] We believe that it is going too far when all the syntactical improprieties and grammatical irregularities which at first sight present themselves in the Apoc. mode of expression are utilized to show the distinction between the style of the Apostle John and that of the Apoc. If the question be concerning the coloring of Apocalyptic style, as a whole, and the character of the Apocalyptic mode of statement expressing itself in the whole structure of the language, which is in its nature conditioned by the nature of the subject, we need only refer to the fact [352] that the mode of thought which expresses itself in the mode of statement is foreign to the Evangelist; but then the simplicity and ruggedness, yea, even the grammatical incorrectness, besides the Hebraic tone of the Apocalyptic language, which appears to disdain the rules according to which man’s discourse is directed, because it has to reveal the immutable glory of divine mysteries, [353] are no more to be made prominent in the sense that the answer depends upon particular improprieties of construction in the Apoc., which have no analogy in the Gospel and Epistles of John; but these irregularities indicate only the peculiar Apocalyptic mode of statement to which they owe their origin. On the other hand, it seems to us, in a rhetorical respect, significant, when the writer of the Apoc. does not use such customary expressions in the writings of the Apostle John as are well adapted to the Apocalyptic style, or when, on the contrary, he has favorite expressions of his own, not current with the Evangelist John, and yet such as do not belong within the special sphere of apocalyptic literature. The most important consideration, finally, is when the same expressions are understood and fashioned by the writer of the Apoc. in a different way than by the apostle. In this last respect, most significant to us appears to be the manner which the idea of the Lord as the Lamb of God, derived from Isaiah 53:0 , and become the common property of the Christian Church, [354] is expressed by each. The expression of the Evangelist, ὁ ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ , is nowhere found in the Apoc.: on the other hand, the apocalyptic τὸ ἀρνίον ( τὸ ἐσφαγμένον ) is nowhere found in John’s Gospel or Epistles. When Hengstenb., [355] however, says that even the word ἀρνίον is common to the Evangelist and the writer of the Apoc., and appeals to John 21:15 , even though it be conceded that this passage was written by the Evangelist himself, the more significant becomes the constant distinction made in the designation of Christ. For, if the evangelist had used the term ἀρνίον of the lambs of Christ’s flock, it would be the more inconceivable if the same writer in the Apoc. would constantly have used that expression of the Lord himself, but by an exception in his Gospel would have selected, in order to express this idea of the Lord, the term ἀμνὸς ( τοῦ θεοῦ ). [See Note VIII., p. 89.] The word νικᾶν , with respect to Christ and his believers, is common both to the Evangelist and the writer of the Apoc.; but, while the former constantly adds to it a definite object ( τὸν κόσμον , τὸν πονηρόν ), the latter, as a rule, [356] uses the word absolutely. [357] [See Note IX., p. 89.] The writer of the Apoc. thinks and writes ψευδής ; [358] the Evangelist thinks and writes ψεύστης . [359] The former writes Ἱερουσαλήμ ; the latter, Ἱεροσόλυμα , although the writer of the Apoc., in the formula Α and Ω , in the enumeration of Revelation 13:18 , and in many particular expressions, follows the Greek mode. [See Note X., p. 89.] Here belongs, also, the use of the ἰδού in the Apoc., in distinction from the ἴδε by the Evangelist.

[351] Cf. Ewald, p. 66 sqq.; Lücke, p. 662 sqq. On the other side, Hengstenb., p. 423 sqq.

[352] See above.

[353] Cf., e.g., Revelation 1:4 .

[354] Acts 8:32 ; 1 Peter 1:19 .

[355] i. p. 204.

[356] Nevertheless, cf. Revelation 11:7 , Revelation 12:11 , Revelation 13:7 .

[357] Cf Revelation 5:5 ; Revelation 3:21 , with John 16:33 ; 1 John 2:13 ; 1 John 5:4 sq.

[358] Revelation 2:2 , Revelation 21:8 .

[359] John 8:44 ; John 8:55 ; 1 John 1:10 ; 1 John 2:4 ; 1 John 2:22 ; 1 John 4:20 ; 1 John 5:10 .

No less important than these linguistic variations, and partially connected therewith, is the circumstance that the entire series of expressions with which the Apostle John designates his peculiar fundamental conception of Christianity and its life, and which in his mouth, therefore, have such a characteristic tone, since there sounds in them the true and clear mysticism of a profound spiritual realism, is far distant from the Apocalypse. Ideas and expressions like ἡ ἀλήθεια , ποιεῖν τὴν ἀλήθ ., εἶναι ἐκ τῆς ἀλήθ ., ζωὴ αἰώνιος , ὁ κόσμος , ὁ πονηρός , ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου , τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ , ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι and γεννηθῆναι , τὰ τέκνα τοῦ διαβόλου , σκοτία and φῶς , closely connected with which is that of παῤῥησία , [360] and others, the writer of the Apocalypse does not have. [See Note XI., p. 90.] But he has a phraseology of his own, not used by the Apostle John. The Apocalypse speaks of ὑπομονή , where the apostle would be expected to use παῤῥησία and χαρά . Expressions like ἡ οἰκουμένη , οἱ κατοικοῦντες ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς , ἡ μαρτυρία Ἰησ ., ὁ μάρτυς applied to Christ, ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ , ὁ πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν , etc., the apostle does not use. [See Note XII., p. 90.]

[360] Cf. 1Jn 2:28 ; 1 John 4:17 .

The force of all that has thus been said concerning the indirect self-witness of the Apocalypse as to its author does not depend upon particular observations, but upon the impression of the book as a whole. If, then, to an unprejudiced mind, especially to one not biassed by any testimony of tradition, this impression is such that the composition of the Apocalypse by the apostle, i.e., the author of the Gospel and Epistles of John, is, at least, in the highest degree improbable, this indirect self-witness of the book is supported by just as decided direct testimony, as over against that of tradition, so far as it contradicts the indirect.


( β ) The testimony of tradition concerning the origin of the Apocalypse.

As the most ancient witness for the authorship of the Apocalypse by the Apostle John, his pupil Polycarp dare not be cited. Hengstenb., who finds both in the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, and in the encyclical letter of the church at Smyrna concerning the martyrdom of their bishop, “numerous and, in part, very clear traces” of the Apocalypse, especially makes prominent a passage “which justifies us in regarding it among the gentler hints;” viz., Ep. to the Phil., ch. Revelation 6 : Οὕτως οὖν δουλεύσωμεν αὐτῷ μετὰ φόβου καὶ πάσης εὐλαβείας καθὼς αὐτὸς ἐνετείλατο , καὶ οἱ εὐαγγελισάμενοι ἡμᾶς ἀπόστολοι , καὶ οἱ προφῆται , οἱ προκηρύξαντες τὴν ἔλευσιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν · ζηλωταὶ περὶ τὸ καλὸν , κ . τ . λ . (“Let us thus serve him with fear and all reverence, as he commanded, and as the apostles who preached the gospel to us, and the prophets who proclaimed before the coming of the Lord . Let us be zealous concerning what is good,” etc.). The prophets, says Hengstenb., named after the Lord himself and the apostles, and prophesying of the coming of the Lord, belong to the New Testament. But they are not personally different from the apostles: on the contrary, prophecy reached its summit in the bearers of the apostolate, and even John himself appears in the Apocalypse as the representative of the prophets. [361] But since here the prophets could come into consideration only through a generally known and acknowledged representative, and, with the exception of John in the Apocalypse, such an one is not present, we must, according to the words of Polycarp, regard the Apostle and Prophet John the author of this book. But upon the basis of Hengstenb.’s conception of the expression οἱ προφῆται , a much more natural result would be a direct testimony to the contrary. If the prophets meant by Polycarp, who are mentioned after the apostles, be of the New Testament, they must be distinguished from the apostles; perhaps John, the writer of the Apocalypse, also belonged to their number, observe the plural οἱ προφῆται , since we know that there were several prophetic writings which referred to the coming of the Lord, circulated in very ancient times, and, as the so-called Apocalypse of Peter, and the Shepherd of Hermas, not without ecclesiastical authority. But we are rather of the opinion [362] that Polycarp had in mind not Christian, but Old-Testament, prophets. That they are mentioned after the apostles, is necessary, because Polycarp begins with the Lord himself, to whom his apostles are added. What the apostle has said concerning the coming of the Lord belongs to their εὐαγγελίσασθαι ; but the ancient prophets had already before proclaimed ( προκηρύξ ) that the Lord will appear for judgment. Upon this Old-Testament prophecy, Polycarp bases his earnest admonition, like Clement of Rome. [363]

[361] Revelation 1:1 , Revelation 22:6 ; Revelation 22:9 ; Revelation 22:16 .

[362] With Lücke, p. 520 sqq.; Bleek, Stud. u. Krit ., 1855, p. 181 sq.

[363] Ep. to the Corinthians, i., c. 23.

Papias, [364] Hengstenb. claims as a witness to the composition of the Apocalypse by the Apostle John with the greater emphasis, as he regards him an immediate pupil of the apostle. The latter point is especially to be kept in view, as well because of the testimony which Papias actually gives even though according to the documents offered only mediately concerning the origin of the Apocalypse, as also because of the highly characteristic way in which that assumed relation of Papias to the Apostle John is stated by several Church Fathers to be a very important part of the ecclesiastical tradition concerning the Apocalypse. It is established by a testimony of Irenaeus, preserved by Eusebius, [365] that Papias composed only one writing; viz., five books under the title of Λογίων κυριακῶν ἐξηγήσις . In a fragment of this work, [366] expressing his predilection for oral tradition to be acknowledged trustworthy, he says: ἐι δέ που καὶ παρηκολουθηκώς τις τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις ἔλθοι , τοὺς τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἀνέκρινον λόγους · τί Ανδρέας ἢ τί Πέτρος εἰπεν ἢ τί Φίλιππος ἢ τί Θωμὰς ἢ Ἰάκωβος ἢ τὶ Ἰωάννης ἢ Ματθαῖος ἢ τις ἔτερος τῷν τοῦ κυρίου μαθητῶν , ἅ τε Αριστίων καὶ ὁ πρεσβύτερος Ἰωάννης , οἱ τοῦ κυρίου μαθηταὶ λέγουσιν (“If then any one having attended upon the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings, what Andrew or Peter or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples said; which things Aristion and the Presbyter John, the disciple of the Lord, say”). From these words, Eusebius infers that Papias mentions two persons of the name John; viz., the apostle who is named in the rank with Andrew, Peter, Matthew, etc., and the John designated by the special title ὁ πρεσβύτερος , who of course with Aristion belonged, as well as the apostles mentioned, to the disciples of the Lord, i.e., to his immediate ear and eye witnesses, but yet in the most express manner is distinguished from the twelve. In the second place, from these words Eusebius infers, what he confirms by other passages of Papias not further quoted; viz., that Papias was an immediate pupil, not of the Apostle, but of the Presbyter John. [367] Neither of the facts presented by Eusebius, from the quoted words of Papias, is recognized by Hengstenb. when he ventures to assert that those words, just as they sound, could be understood otherwise than Eusebius has interpreted, and that therefore in them no distinction is to be made between the Apostle and the Presbyter John, as two separate persons. We maintain, on the other hand, that there is no need of opposing any thing further than a reference to the text, which seems so unambiguous that we regard any reference to the exegetical discussion cited from Eusebius as superfluous. What deceives Hengstb., so that he misunderstands the correct meaning of the words of Papias, is not only the fear of losing the testimony of Papias to the composition of the Apocalypse by the Apostle John, but also the dread of ascribing to Irenaeus a significant error in the same respect. When, e.g., Irenaeus writes, ΤΑῦΤΑ ΔῈ ΚΑῚ ΠΑΠΊΑς ἸΩΆΝΝΟΥ ΜῈΝ ἈΚΟΥΣΤΉς , ΠΟΛΥΚΆΡΠΟΥ ΔῈ ἙΤΑῖΡΟς ΓΕΓΟΝΏς , ἈΡΧΑῖΟς ἈΝΉΡ , ἘΓΓΡΆΦΩς ἘΠΙΜΑΡΤΥΡΕῖ Κ . Τ . Λ . (“To these things Papias, a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp, an ancient man, bears witness in writing”), [368] he undoubtedly designates Papias as a hearer of the Apostle John: in the mouth of Irenaeus, the mere name Ἰωάννου ἀκ . can refer to no other person, especially since, in what precedes, it is expressly said of the Apostle John, Quemadmodum presbyteri meminerunt, qui Joannem discipulum Domini viderunt, audisse se ab eo, quemadmodum de illis temporibus docebat Dominus et dicebat (“As the elders who saw John, the disciple of the Lord, related that they had heard from him how the Lord used to teach concerning those times [369] and say”). Then follows the well-known story of the mythical vines. [370] But with the same justice with which we refuse credit to this report of Irenaeus, upon the ground of what we know of our Lord’s discourses through the Apostle John in his Gospel, must we also, on the ground of the testimony of Papias, charge Irenaeus with an error when he makes Papias a pupil of the Apostle John, [371] although he announces himself as a pupil of the Presbyter John.

[364] Cf. Weiffenbach, Das Papiasfragment , Giessen, 1874. On the other side, Leimbach, Das Papiasfragment , Gotha, 1875.

[365] H. E. , iii. 39.

[366] In Eusebius, as cited.

[367] Παπ . τοὺς μὲν τῶν ἀποστόλων λόγους παρὰ τῶν αὐτοῖς παρηκολουθηκότων ὁμολογεῖ παρειληφέναι , Ἀριστίωνος δὲ καὶ τοῦ πρεσβυτέρου Ἰωάννου αὐτήκοον ἑαυτόν φησι γενέσθαι · ὀνομαστὶ γοῦν πολλάκις αὐτῶν μνημονεύσας ἐν τοῖς αὐτοῦ συγγράμασι τίθησιν αὐτῶν παραδόσεις (“Papias affirms that he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, and he further asserts that he heard in person Aristion and the Presbyter John. Therefore, frequently mentioning them by name, he gives their traditions in his writings”).

[368] B. V., xxxiii. 4.

[369] By “those times” are meant “the times of the kingdom when the just, rising from the dead, shall reign.”

[370] “The days shall come in which vines shall grow, each having ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in each one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will give five and twenty metretes of wine,” etc.

[371] Hengstenb. is in error when he regards this as also the former opinion of Eusebius. In his Chronikon , there is related with historical fidelity, first, what Irenaeus states concerning the length of the life of the Apostle John; and, secondly, that Papias and Polycarp had been regarded as pupils of the Apostle John (ed. Aucher. ii. 69: “Joannem apost. usque ad Trajani tempora permansisse Irenaeus tradit. Post quem ejusdem auditores agnoscebantur Papias Hieropolitanus et Polycarpus,” etc. “Irenaeus teaches that the Apostle John remained until the time of Trajan, after whom Papias of Hieropolis and Polycarp were acknowledged as his hearers”). Hence it does not follow that Polycarp was properly regarded such, and that Papias was actually a pupil of the Apostle John.

The question now is, What did Papias testify concerning the Apoc.? We have three data whereby this question may be answered. 1. Towards the end of the fifth century, Andreas writes, in the introduction to his Commentary on the Apoc., that there was no need to speak at length concerning the inspiration of the book, [372] since not only Gregory and Cyril, but also the more ancient writers, Papias, Irenaeus, Methodius, and Hippolytus, testified to its trustworthiness. [373] Passages from these writers were also quoted in his commentary. That Papias, in express words, stated that the Apoc. was “trustworthy,” or in what way he established this, Andreas does not say. Papias scarcely could have had already occasion to defend the Apoc. against attacks; but it is, on the contrary, highly probable that Andreas derived his testimony for the trustworthiness of the book from the circumstance that Papias and the other men mentioned quoted the Apoc. in their writings as Holy Scripture. ἈΞΙΌΠΙΣΤΟΝ (trustworthy) is in Andreas the correlate for ΘΕΌΠΝΕΥΣΤΟς (inspired). At any rate, the important fact is established, that Papias used the Apoc. as an inspired writing. But Hengstenb. very precipitately infers from this, that Papias therefore testifies to the composition of the Apoc. by the Apostle John. Andreas also has apparently presupposed this, but with the same want of foundation, and undoubtedly influenced likewise by the (erroneous) testimony of Irenaeus, who is mentioned together with Papias. That Papias has not expressly mentioned the Apostle John as the author of the Apoc., must also be inferred from the silence of Eusebius on this highly important subject, although the term ἈΞΙΌΠΙΣΤΟΝ of the Apoc. in the sense of Papias is perfectly justified in case he understands, as the composer of the book, that John whom he calls the presbyter; for this Presbyter John also, together with Aristion, Papias regards as, in addition to the apostles, a source of the pure doctrinal tradition, since he stood on an equality with them by being an immediate disciple of the Lord. 2. From the words of Papias, which Andreas quotes on Revelation 12:7 , nothing can be inferred concerning the question as to what John, Papias regards the author of the Apoc. It is even in the highest degree doubtful, whether that citation from the writing of Papias had any direct reference to Revelation 12:7 . [374] Andreas, in explaining what is said in Revelation 12:7 , according to the doctrine that the angels to whom God had intrusted a certain sovereignty over the world, had fallen from their estate because of pride and envy, [375] quotes verbatim , [376] for the two points of this doctrine, two passages of Papias: ἘΝΊΟΙς ΔῈ ΑὐΤῶΝ , ΔΗΛΑΔῊ ΤῶΝ ΠΆΛΑΙ ΘΕΊΩΝ ἈΓΓΈΛΩΝ , ΚΑῚ ΠΕΡῚ ΤῊΝ ΓῆΝ ΔΙΑΚΟΣΜΉΣΕΩς ἜΔΩΚΕΝ ἌΡΧΕΙΝ · ΚΑῚ ΚΑΛῶς ἌΡΧΕΙΝ ΠΑΡΗΓΓΎΗΣΕ . ΚΑῚ ἙΞῆς ΦΗΣΙ · ΕἸς Οὐ ΔΈΟΝ ( ΔῈ ) ΣΥΝΈΒΗ ΤΕΛΕΥΤῆΣΑΙ ΤῊΝ ΤΆΞΙΝ ΑὐΤῶΝ (“But to some of them, i.e., the divine angels of old, God both gave to rule over the arrangement of the earth, and he commissioned them to rule well. And he says, immediately after this: But it happened that their arrangement came to nothing”). According to its original meaning, the ἙΞῆς must mean that the second declaration of Papias immediately follows the first; but Andreas notes it by a special form of quotation, because it is to his purpose to support by the authority of Papias his own exposition of Revelation 12:7 , according to the two sides of the doctrinal view on which this rests. Of a “battle-array” of angels, as Hengstenb. translates the word ΤΆΞΙς , [377] there is no mention in Papias; for, even though the reading were not οὐ δεόν , as the older MS. of Andreas has it, [378] but οὐδέν , the τάξις of the angels could be regarded in no other sense than that in which Andreas shortly before has spoken of the ἔκπτωσις τῆς ἀγγελικῆς τάξεως ; [379] and just in reference to this cites Papias, because he already teaches that the rank of angels, i.e., the high station given them by God, has changed to that which is not right, i.e., that the angels have fallen. In case now Papias had even applied Revelation 12:7 to the doctrine of the angels, which is not clear from the quotation in Andreas, it is possible that he gave his judgment in connection with that passage. But, in this case, nothing further would result than what we have already heard from Andreas; viz., that Papias used the Apoc. because he acknowledged its trustworthiness. 3. Besides, from what Eusebius reports concerning the chiliastic expressions of Papias, it by no means follows that the latter used the Apoc. as a writing of the Apostle John. [380] Eusebius, [381] after citing some fabulous narratives concerning Papias, pretendedly taken from tradition, [382] says: καὶ ἄλλα δὲ ὁ αὐτὸς ὡσὰν ἐκ παραδόσεως ἀγοάφου εἰς αὐτὸν ἥκοντα παρατέθειται , ξένας τέ τινας παραβολὰς τοῦ σωτῆρος καὶ διδασκαλίας αὐτοῦ , καὶ τινα ἄλλα μυθικώτερα · ἐν οἶς καὶ χιλιάδα τινά φῃσιν ἐτῶν ἔσεσθαι μετὰ τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀνάστασιν , σωματικῶς τῆς Χριστοῦ βασιλείας ἐπί ταυτησὶ τῆς γῆς ὑποστησομένης (“The same person has set down other things as coming to him from unwritten tradition: among these, some strange parables and instructions of the Saviour, and some other things of a more fabulous nature. Among these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the bodily reign of Christ will be established on this earth.”) And Eusebius decides: ἅ καὶ ἡγοῦμαι τὰς αποστολικὰς παρεκδεξάμενον διηγήσεις ὑπολαβεῖν , τὰ ἐν ὑποδείγμασι πρὸς αὐτῶν μυστικῶς εἰρημένα μὴ συνεωρακότα σφόδρα γάρ τοι σμικρὸς , ὢν τὸν νοῦν

φαίνεται (“which things I think that he imagined, as if authorized by the apostolic narratives , not seeing at the same time the things mystically spoken in addition in the types; for it is evident that he was very limited in comprehension”). Hengstenb. assumes that Papias derived his chiliasm, not from the παράδοσις ἄγραφος (unwritten tradition), [383] as Papias himself asserts, according to the report of Eusebius, but from manuscript sources, viz., from the αἱ ἀποστολικαὶ διηγήσεις (the apostolic narratives); but since, if the apostolic narratives be understood as manuscript, “they could be regarded only especially as the Apoc.,” this would prove the Apoc. to be an apostolic book. In order to destroy the plausibility of this argument, there is scarcely need of the minuteness which Lücke does not shun; but it is sufficient simply to indicate that Papias himself, who does not mention a word of any apostolic narratives, justifies his chiliasm alone by the appeal to unwritten tradition; although Eusebius expresses his opinion ( ἡγοῦμαι ) that Papias derived his chiliasm by a misunderstanding of the narratives which Eusebius acknowledges as apostolic. But that Euseb. has counted the Apoc. among the apostolic narratives, Hengstenb. does not assert. If thereby, as is probable, he understood all evangelical literature, he has judged concerning Papias from a sound historical basis; for Justin M., [384] and still more Irenaeus, [385] who himself appeals to Papias, and whom Eusebius mentions after the indorsement given chiliasm by Papias, develop their chiliastic opinions in no way from the Apoc. alone, but just as assuredly from passages in the old prophets and the Gospels. Papias, therefore, the pupil of the Apostle John, did not say that the Apoc. was composed by the Apostle John; but he is the most ancient witness concerning the book, as he used that which he regarded a writing of divine authority. In the sense of Papias, the ἀξιόπιστον of the Apoc. concurs well with its composition by the Presbyter John; and Papias could not have said what must have then led Eusebius into error, under the supposition that this Presbyter John actually wrote the Apoc.

[372] περὶ τοῦ θεοπνεύστου τῆς βίβλου .

[373] τῶν ἀρχαιοτέρῶν Παππίου

ταύτῃ προσμαρτυρούντων τὸ ἀξιόπιστον .

[374] Cf. Lücke, with whom also Bleek agrees, against Hengstenb.

[375] πρώτῃ

ἐκ . τώσει τῆς ἀγγελικῆς τάξεως .

[376] ἐπὶ λέξεως .

[377] Cf. Revelation 12:7 : πολεμῆσαι .

[378] Lücke, p. 358 sq.

[379] Lücke has well compared with this what Justin M. writes in his Apology , ii. c. Revelation 5 : τὴν μὲν τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ τῶν ὑπό τὸν οὐρανὸν πρόνοιαν ἀγγέλοις , οὓς ἐπὶ τούτοις ἔταξε , παρέδωκεν . Οἰ δὲ ἄγγελοι παραβάντες τήνδε τὴν τάξιν , κ . τ . λ . (“Committed the care of men and of the things beneath the heaven to the angels whom he appointed over them. But the angels transgressing this appointment,” etc.).

[380] Cf. Lücke, p. 532 sqq., against Hengstenb., p. 385 sqq.

[381] l. c.

[382] παραδοξά τινα ἱστορεῖ και ἄλλα ὡσὰν ἐκ παραδόσεως εἰς αὐτὸν ἐλθόντα (“He relates, also, some other miraculous deeds as coming to him from tradition”).

[383] Since this doctrine has its source solely in the Apoc., and is found nowhere independently of this book.

[384] Dialog. with Trypho , ch. 81.

[385] L. V. c. 33, 34.

The most ancient, and, because of his age, most important witness to the origin of the Apoc. from the Apostle John, is Justin Martyr. In the Dialogue with Trypho, written between the years 139 and 161, he says, [386] after he has treated of the one thousand years reign according to an O. T. passage, [387] Καὶ ἔπειτα καὶ παρʼ ἡμῖν ἀνήρ τις , ᾧ ὄνομα Ἰωάννης , εἷς τῶν ἀποστόλων τοῦ Χριστοῦ , ἐν ἀποκαλύψει γενομένῃ αὐτῷ χίλια ἔτη ποιήσειν ἐν Ἰερουσαλὴμ τοὺς τῷ ἡμετέρῳ Χριστῷ πιστεύσαντας προεφήτευσε , κ . τ . λ . (“And then there was also with us a man whose name was John, who prophesied by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would spend a thousand years in Jerusalem”). Eusebius [388] already has said of these words: μέμνηται δὲ καὶ τῃς Ἰωάννου ἀποκαλυψεως , σαφῶς τοῦ ἀποστόλου αὐτὴν εἶναι λέγων (“He mentions also the Apocalypse of John, clearly saying that it is the Apostle’s”). It is utterly inconceivable that Justin would have designated the Apostle to the Jew Trypho, just as the words run; it is also manifest from the nature and design of the writings of Justin, as also from the peculiar character of the Apoc. that we find in other places only a few allusions to it, and especially that in no other passage does he refer to the Apostle John as its author: there is consequently no reason for denying that the words εἱς τῶν ἀποστόλων τοῦ Χριστοῦ are Justin’s, and esteeming them a gloss that has entered the text previous to the time of Eusebius. [389] Besides, the very brevity of Justin’s words makes the impression that he expresses what, according to his knowledge, is the view concerning the composition of the Apoc. universally held in the Church. Whether he knew of any other tradition, we are not informed: he certainly spoke according to a tradition indubitable to himself. Nevertheless, the objective certainty of this tradition represented by Justin does not depend upon the fact that [390] the dialogue with Trypho was held at Ephesus, and that, too, scarcely a half-century subsequent to the composition of the Apoc. [391] For even if we ignore for the present the contrary testimony given by the Apoc. itself concerning its author, and its time of composition, the tradition that it was written towards the close of Domitian’s reign rests upon no word of Justin; and, even though it should be conceded as at least highly probable that the confusion of the Apostle with the Presbyter John lies at the foundation of the tradition represented by Justin, it is in no wise inconceivable, that also in Ephesus, where the activity of the apostle for years forced the remembrance of the presbyter into the background, a tradition gained entrance which ascribed to the apostle a book whose esteem by the Church was constantly increasing.

[386] c. 81.

[387] Psalms 90:4 .

[388] H. E. , iv. 18.

[389] Against Rettig: Über das erweislich älteste Zeugniss für die Aechtheit der Apok ., Leipz. 1829; cf. Lücke, p. 549 sqq.

[390] Cf. Euseb., l. c.

[391] Hengstenb.

The importance of Justin’s testimony is increased by that of Irenaeus, who follows the tradition of the former concerning the composition of the Apocalypse by the Apostle John, but also adds something concerning the time of composition. Irenaeus, who in his youth had seen and heard Polycarp, [392] not only quotes many passages of the Apocalypse as a work of the Apostle John, but also writes, [393] in defence of the reading χξςʼ (666) of Revelation 13:18 : ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς σπουδαίοις καὶ ἀρχαίοις ἀντιγράφοις τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ τούτου κειμένου , καὶ μαρτυρούντων αὐτῶν ἐκείνων τῶν κατʼ ὄψιν τὸν Ἰωάννην ἐωρακότων , κ . τ . λ . (“This number being found in all approved and ancient copies, and those who had seen John face to face testifying”). After he has treated of the doubtful meaning of that enigmatical number, he continues that it was not the intention of the seer that the meaning should at once be discerned: ἐὶ γὰρ ἔδει ἀναφανδὸν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ κηρύττεσθαι τοὔνομα αὐτοῦ , διʼ εκείνου ἂν εῤῥεθη τοῦ καὶ τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν ἑωρακότος . οὑδὲ γὰρ πρὸ πολλοῦ χρόνου ἑωράθη , ἀλλὰ σχεδὸν ἐπί τῆς ἡμετέρας γενεᾶς , πρὸς τῷ τέλει τῆς Δομετιανοῦ ἀρχῆς (“For if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in the present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision; for that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign”). Irenaeus as “a true Catholic Churchman, in whom the Oriental and Occidental dogmatical and ethical traditions are concentrated,” [394] is of high importance, as he establishes the existence of the traditions which we have first found in Justin, and whereof there are still other traces from the second century, [395] and that, too, without having the opportunity to consider a contrary tradition concerning the origin of the Apocalypse. If we add further that the Alexandrians, Clement and Origen, and that Tertullian and Cyprian, without much reflection used the Apocalypse as a writing of the Apostle John, and that even Dionysius of Alexandria, who from the testimony of the book itself argues against its composition by the Apostle John, [396] does not depend upon a critical examination of the favorable tradition, Irenaeus appears as the most important witness of a very extensive and indubitably received account. Hengstb. also finds the strongest proof of the historical truth of this tradition in the testimony of those who had seen John. We concede that the μαρτυροῦντες cited by Irenaeus, which is decisive as to the correctness of the reading in Revelation 13:18 , in the sense of Irenaeus , must be taken as a testimony for the composition of the book by the apostle; and further, that, according to the same sense, we must decide whether the self-witness of the Apocalypse be not directly contrary to that of Irenaeus and the tradition which he represents. But just because of this self-witness of the Apocalypse, we deny that the men who themselves actually saw John, and who were competent witnesses concerning the true reading of the Apocalypse, actually testified what Irenaeus undoubtedly presupposes, and Hengstenb. asserts; viz., that the Apostle John composed the book. The question is as to whether we are in any way to explain the misunderstanding of Irenaeus, which must have occurred as certainly as the Apocalypse itself contradicts this chief witness, as well as whether we perhaps can find traces of another tradition deviating from Justin and Irenaeus, but not harmonizing with the declarations of this book.

[392] Ed. ad Florin., in Euseb., H. E. , v. 20; Iren., Opp ., i. p. 822.

[393] L. V. c. 30; Euseb., v. 8.

[394] Lücke, p. 573.

[395] The fragment of Muratori (Wieseler, a. a. O.; cf. J. Van Gilse, Disputatio de antiquissimo librorum sacrorum N. Foed. catalago, qui vulgo frag. Murat. appellatur , Amst. 1852) quotes, at any rate, the Apoc. of John, even though the text is uncertain. According to Ewald ( Jahrb . 1853, v. p. 185; cf. Joh. Schriften , ii. p. 349 sqq.), the fragmentist regards the Apoc. as a work of the Apostle John, but remarks that it is not generally acknowledged. But the latter statement Ewald bases upon the improbable conjecture that in the sentence, “Apocalypses etiam Joannis et Petri tantum recipimus, quam [quas?] quidam ex nostris legi in ecclesia nolunt” (“The Apocalypses of John and Peter also, we only receive, which some of ours are unwilling should be read in the church”), instead of the last word nolunt , it should read volunt ( wish , intead of are unwilling ). Like the fragmentist, undoubtedly, the rest, who used “the Apoc. of John,” thought of the Apostle John. So Melito, who (according to Euseb., H. E. , iv. 26) wrote Concerning the Devil, and the Apoc. of John; Polycrates ( id .); the churches of Lyons and Vienna, who in their letter (in Euseb., v. i) employ the term Apoc., without designating the author; Theophilus, who “uses proofs from John’s Apoc.” (Euseb., iv. 24), and Apollonius, of whom Euseb. (v. 18) makes the same report.

[396] In Euseb., H. E. , vii. 25.

That those μαρτυροῦντες gave their testimony orally to Irenaeus himself, is not only not said, but the present form μαρτυρόυντων permits us, on the contrary, to think of witnesses still at hand, as well as those otherwise considered accessible, as, e.g., such men as in their writings mention the Revelation of John, and especially Revelation 13:18 , men like Papias, whom Irenaeus erroneously considers as “having seen John face to face,” and others who actually might have seen the apostle. In like manner, as from the superscription of 2 and 3 John ( ὁ πρεσβύτερος ), the tradition arose that these Epistles were written by the Presbyter, and not by the Apostle John, [397] the tradition of the composition of the Apocalypse by the Apostle John was the more readily attached to the name whereby he generally calls himself, as, in the remembrance of the Church, the presbyter must naturally have become, more and more, less prominent when compared with the apostle. The circumstance that both were active in the same neighborhood of Asia Minor, perhaps simultaneously, might have supported the mistake. Here lies the weak point in the otherwise so strong a bulwark of ecclesiastical tradition, advanced by such a man as Irenaeus, its leading representative. He is chargeable with two closely connected misunderstandings: he has made Papias a pupil of the Apostle John, and, without doubt chiefly upon the apparent authority of this man, who is placed by Andreas among the oldest witnesses concerning the Apocalypse, John the author of the Apocalypse is regarded the apostle; while, in both cases, the self-witness of Papias and of the writer of the Apocalypse contradict the statement of ecclesiastical tradition.

[397] Cf. my Commentary, vol. ii. p. 460 sqq.

It would be strange, if in Christian antiquity there were no trace of a correct understanding of the declarations of the Apocalypse itself concerning its author, in opposition to the prevalent tradition, which, from a misunderstanding of the name of John in the Apocalypse, designates the apostle as its author, just as Euseb. expressly contradicts the statement (of Irenaeus) that Papias was an immediate pupil of the apostle, upon the ground of the very words of Papias. Such a trace is found not only in the rejection of the Apocalypse on the part of the Alogi, due to an antichristian mode of thought, nor only the judgment of the Roman presbyter Caius, resting upon the same grounds, that the Apocalypse was composed by Cerinthus and supposititiously ascribed to the Apostle John. [398] From the fact, that, in the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse is not used, [399] no conclusion dare be drawn concerning any opinion of Hermas as to the non-apostolic origin of the book, [400] especially as, on the other hand, it is probable that his entire writing, because of its apocalyptic nature, originated from the model of the Johannean Apocalypse, so that the Shepherd itself directly confirms what even without it stands fast; viz., that the Apocalypse, which Papias already regarded inspired, at the time of Hermas and in his circle enjoyed ecclesiastical authority. The silence of 2 Peter, emphasized by Lücke, is to be explained in the same way. For, if the Epistle be genuine, it was written before the Apocalypse; but if it were written in the beginning of the second century, [401] it is very readily conceivable that the blasphemers expressly mentioned [402] asked their unbelieving question because they saw the prophecies of the Apocalypse concerning the Lord’s coming unfulfilled. But why is the Apocalypse, together with the four general Epistles (2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, and Jude) wanting in the Syriac translation, the Peschito , originating at the time of Irenaeus, about the year 200? The conjecture at least is at hand, viz., that, in the most ancient Syrian tradition, the apostolic origin of the Apoc. was no more received than that of 2 and 3 John: for only in later times, after the introduction of montanistic chiliasm, is the strange phenomenon explained, that the Apoc. is received as a work of the Apostle John and inspired, and yet classed “among the apocrypha,” ἐν ἀποκρύφοις ; [403] i.e., regarded inappropriate for public ecclesiastical use, yea, even such as should be expressly excluded from the ecclesiastical canon, [404] because of the fear of its being misunderstood and abused. More explicit in proof, are the verdicts of Dionysius of Alexandria, and Eusebius. The fact that Dionysius, the pupil and successor of Origen, reached his criticism of the book in his controversy against its chiliastic abuse, makes the calm, clear thoughtfulness of his criticism, based upon the nature of the Apoc., the more praiseworthy and important, when compared with the anti-chiliastic arbitrary decision of a Caius. Dionys. [405] stands entirely upon the basis of inner criticism: from the testimony of the Apoc. itself, he infers that the author could not be regarded as the Apostle John; and a comparison with the indubitable writings of the apostle he uses as a further proof of the view that the author of the Apoc. could not have been the well-known apostle. At the same time, Dionys. in no way denies that the author was a holy and inspired man, of the name of John. [406] It is manifest that Dionysius knows that his view is in conflict with the ecclesiastical tradition, which also his predecessors, Clement and Origen, follow; he also is acquainted with no tradition favorable to himself: his opposition, therefore, contains a testimony to the prevalence of the tradition concerning the composition of the Apoc. by the Apostle John. Yet hereby the importance which scientific criticism must attach to Dionys. is not diminished; for the main point is, if we otherwise may ask the ecclesiastical tradition concerning its foundation in truth, that we have in Dionysius a man just as churchly disposed as he is scientifically cultured, whom the ecclesiastical tradition did not hinder from understanding correctly the testimony of the Apoc. concerning itself, and from combining with the exegetical opposition to the chiliastic exegesis represented by Justin and Irenaeus, a critical opposition to the tradition concerning the composition of the Apoc. by the Apostle John, going hand in hand with that exegesis. [407] Important already is the fact that Dionysius, upon the ground of the Apoc. itself, protested against the tradition which misunderstood the book. He is supplemented by Eusebius the historian, since this writer also applies the testimony of Papias only understood differently than by Irenaeus, i.e., in the sense of Papias himself against the commonly received ecclesiastical tradition. Eusebius [408] is uncertain whether the Apoc. should be enumerated among the ὁμολογουμένα or the νόθα . What causes his vacillation is not the subjective criticism of Dionysius, but, as may be learned also from Book III. c. 39, especially the testimony of Papias; for in connection with his contradiction of the report (of Irenaeus) that Papias himself had heard the Apostle John, although Papias calls himself a pupil of the Presbyter John,

Eusebius expresses the conjecture that John, the writer of the Apoc., might be identical with the Presbyter John. [409] The testimony, therefore, that the Apostle John wrote the Apoc., Eusebius can find nowhere in Papias. Papias has mentioned one called John as the author of the book; but he has nowhere expressly designated him as his teacher, for otherwise Eusebius would more confidently express his conjecture that the presbyter is actually its author. Yet for us, who with Dionysius, and in accordance with the testimony of the Apoc. itself, deny that the Apostle John is its author, the conjecture of Eusebius is the only one tenable. For, on the one hand, the apocalyptic John presents himself as a personality well known and esteemed in the circle of churches in Asia Minor; and, on the other hand, Papias, in speaking of the Apocalypse of “ the John,” points to an author by whose personality the trustworthiness of the book was assured. Of John Mark, whom Papias designates by the uniform name Mark, we cannot think: we know also, through Papias, of only two men by the name of John. If we cannot regard the apostle the author of the Apoc., we must abide by the probable conjecture of the Presbyter John. (See Note XIII., p. 90.)

[398] In Euseb., H. E. , iii. 28: Κήρινθος ὁ διʼ αποκαλύψεων ὡς ὑπὸ αποστόλου μεγάλου γεγραμμένων τερατολογίας ἡμῖν ὡς διʼ ἀγγέλων αὐτῷ δεδειγμένας ψευδόμενος ἐπεισάγει λέγων , μετὰ τὴν ἀνάστασιν ἐπίγειον εἶναι τὸ βασίλειον τοῦ Χριστοῦ , καὶ παλιν ἐπιθυμίαις καὶ ἡδοναῖς ἐν Ἰερουσαλὴμ τὴν σάρκα πολιτευομένην δουλεύειν , κ . τ . λ . (“But Cerinthus, by means of revelations which he pretended were written by a great apostle, also falsely pretended to wonderful things, as if they were shown him by angels, asserting that after the resurrection there would be an earthly kingdom of Christ, and that the flesh, again inhabiting Jerusalem, would be subject to desires and pleasures”).

[399] Cf. Lücke, p. 546, against Stern, who attempts to find a use of it in particular passages.

[400] Against Lücke.

[401] As Huther thinks.

[402] 2 Peter 2:3 .

[403] Gregor. Nyss., in Lücke, p. 629.

[404] Cf. Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianz., in Lücke, pp. 630, 632.

[405] Cf. Euseb., H. E. , vii. 24, 25.

[406] καλεῖσθαι μὲν οὖν αὐτὸν Ἱωάννην , καὶ εἶναι τὴν γραφὴν Ἰωάννου ταύτην , οὐκ ἀντερῶ · ἁγίου μὴν γὰρ εἶναι τινος καὶ θεοπνεύστου συναινῶ , οὐ μὴν ῥᾳδίως ἂν συνθοίμην τοῦτον εἶναι τὸν ἀπόστολου , κ . τ . λ . (“I do not deny, therefore, that he was called John, and that this was the writing of a John; and I agree that it was the work also of some holy and inspired man. But I would not readily agree that this was the apostle,” etc.).

[407] In the exegetico-critical treatment by Dionysius, the theological tendency is already to be recognized, against which men of the present day, like Hengstenb. and Auberlen, make resistance. Hence a deeply rooted principle comes to the surface in a characteristic way, in that Hengstenb. disparages Dionysius just in the degree that Lücke gives him the most just recognition.

[408] H. E. , iii. 25.

[409] εἰκὸς γὰρ τὸν δεύτερον , εἰ μή τις ἐθέλοι τὸν πρῶτον , τὴν ἐπʼ ὀνόματος φερομενην Ἰωάννου ἀποκάλυψιν ἑωρακὲναι (“It is proper to regard in the second, unless some one would prefer in the first class, the Apoc. called by the name of John”).

What the ecclesiastical tradition says concerning the time and place of the composition of the Apoc. is of such a nature that thereby the error which lies at the foundation of the traditional statement concerning the person of the author is only presented on another side. All statements of ecclesiastical tradition concerning the time and place of composition are inseparably connected with that concerning the banishment of the Apostle John to the Island of Patmos; i. e., they proceed from an utter misunderstanding of Revelation 1:9 , in like manner as the tradition concerning the composition of the book by the apostle is based upon the name of the author of the Apoc. The first to speak of a martyrdom of the Apostle John is Polycrates, who [410] writes: ἔτι δὲ καί Ἰωάννης ὁ ἐπὶ τὸ στῆθος τοῦ κυρίου ἀναπεσών

καὶ μάρτυς (“John also, who rested on the bosom of the Lord and martyr”). Undoubtedly he had in view Revelation 1:9 , and follows the tradition that the apostle wrote the Apoc. Irenaeus is the first to make a statement concerning the time of origin of the Apoc., and that, too, in such a way as to designate manifestly, besides, the time of the apostle’s banishment. In the passage already cited, he says the Apoc. was beheld already at the end of Domitian’s reign. That this is the meaning of the words, [411] and that the view of Wetstein, [412] whom Böhmer [413] follows, viz., that ἘΩΡΆΘΗ is to be referred to John himself, [414] is incorrect, follows partly from the clear correspondence between ΤῊΝ ἈΠΟΚΆΛΥΨΙΝ ἙΩΡΑΚΌΤΟς and ἙΩΡΆΘΗ , and partly from the fact that Irenaeus [415] reports that the Apostle John lived in the time of Trajan. The meaning of Irenaeus in presenting in contemporaneous connection the beholding of the revelation and the end of Domitian’s reign, we can explain by the words of the perhaps contemporary Clement of Alexandria: [416] ἘΠΕΙΔῊ ΓᾺΡ ΤΟῦ ΤΥΡΆΝΝὈΥ ΤΕΛΕΥΤΉΣΑΝΤΟς ἈΠῸ Τῆς ΠΆΤΜΟΥ Τῆς ΝΉΣΟΥ ΜΕΤῆΛΘΕΝ ἘΠῚ ΤῊΝ ἜΦΕΣΟΝ , Κ . Τ . Λ . (“After the tyrant was dead, he came from the Island of Patmos to Ephesus”). [417] There can be no doubt that the tyrant of whom Clement speaks is Domitian, the persecutor of Christians, who, according to the representation of Eusebius, is portrayed as, in hatred of God, the successor of Nero. [418] Like Origen, Eusebius [419] also reports a tradition concerning the apostle’s banishment to Patmos. The existence of such a tradition is just as certain as that of the tradition connected with it concerning the composition of the Apoc. by the Apostle John; but the unhistorical character of the former tradition is still more clearly established. The entire tradition of the banishment of the apostle is of itself in the highest degree doubtful, from the fact [420] that Hegesippus says nothing of it. He has given no report of any martyrdom of the Apostle John. For it is inconceivable that Eusebius, who [421] from Hegesippus gives an account of the Christian martyrs under Domitian, should have made no mention whatever of this apostle, in case he had found in Hegesippus any notice of his banishment; besides, even the way in which Eusebius, at the close of ch. 20, mentions the banishment of the apostle, affords positive proof that Hegesippus knew nothing of it. [422] In connection with this silence of Hegesipp., is the twofold circumstance that the tradition itself, as definitely presented since Irenaeus, not only betrays by its constant growth, as well as by its discordancy, the uncertainty of its historical foundation; but also by its reference to Revelation 1:9 , indicates the source whence, by the misunderstanding of those words of the Apoc., it has originated. Already Irenaeus says that the Apoc. was seen “at the close of the reign of Domitian,” notwithstanding the fact that the book itself clearly states that it was composed before the fall of Jerusalem. The end of Domitian’s reign occurred in the year 96, in which Nerva followed. The tradition, of which Eusebius gives a report in his Chronicle, [423] therefore puts the banishment of the Apostle, and the beholding of the revelation, in the year 95. Clement of Alexandria [424] reports further, that, after the death of Domitian, the apostle returned to Ephesus, under Nerva, as the tradition is explained in Eusebius; [425] for just as the banishment of the apostle is placed under Domitian, of whom it is known that he manifested his hatred of Christians by sentences of banishment, so also the return of the apostle is placed under Nerva, concerning whom it is known that he recalled those banished by Domitian. [426] But at the same time, with Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian mentions a martyrdom of the apostle previous to the banishment to Patmos: [427] “Habes Romam ubi Apostolus Joannes, posteaquam in oleum igneum demersus nihil passus est, in insulam relegatur” (“You have Rome, where, after the Apostle John suffered nothing when plunged into boiling oil, he is banished to an island”). He does not need, therefore, the chronological relation between the “in oleum igneum demersus,” and the “in insulam relegatur,” in order to mark this the more accurately. But how tradition received Tertullian’s intimation, and still further elaborated it, is to be seen in Jerome, who, [428] with express reference to Tertullian, nevertheless reports what the latter did not say: “Refert autem Tertullianus, quod a Nerone missus in ferventis olei dolium purior et vegetior exiverit, etc.” (“Tertullian moreover relates, that, being cast by Nero into a vessel of boiling oil, he came forth purer and more vigorous ”). Like Irenaeus, [429] he puts the banishment of the apostle to Patmos, and the composition of the Apoc., under Domitian. [430] It cannot be said that Tertullian, Victorinus, and Jerome contradict the tradition represented by Clement of Alexandria and others: they only make its growth and formation visible. Epiphanius, however, testifies to a manifestly contradictory tradition, [431] by putting the banishment to Patmos, and [432] the beholding of the revelation, in the time of the Emperor Claudius. [433] If we ask, finally, whence the tradition of the apostle’s exile originated, we can derive the answer from the fact that Origen, [434] after stating, upon the foundation of tradition, that the Roman Emperor had banished the apostle to Patmos, in order to confirm this tradition appeals to Revelation 1:9 , as the apostle’s own words: διδάσκει δὲ τὰ περὶ τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἑαυτοῦ Ἰωάννης , μὴ λέγων τίς αὐτὸν κατεδίκησε , φάσκων ἐν τῇ αποκαλύψει ταῦτα (“John teaches the facts concerning his martyrdom, not saying who sentenced him, relating in the Apoc. as follows”) then comes the citation

καί ἔοικε τὴν ἀποκαλύψιν ἐν τῇ νήσῳ τεθεωρηκέναι (“and he seems to have beheld the Apoc. on the island”).

[410] In Euseb., H. E. , iii. 31, v. 24.

[411] Cf. already Euseb., H. E. , iii. 18.

[412] N. T. , ii. 746.

[413] a. a. O. S., 30.

[414] Eum sub exitum imperii Domitiani conspectum fuisse. Joannes id, quod non scripserat, postea saltem dixisset, cum diu post editum librum fuerit superstes . Wetst. “That he was seen at the close of Domitian’s reign. What he did not write, John, at least, afterwards said, since he was a survivor long after the book was published.”

[415] L. II. c. 22; L. III. c. 3 (Euseb., H. E. , iii. 23).

[416] In Euseb., iii. 23.

[417] Cf. Origen on Matthew 20:22 sqq.: ὁ δὲ Ῥωμαίων βασιλεύς , ὡς ἡ παράδοσις διδάσκει , κατεδίαησε τὸν Ἰωάννην μαρτυροῦντα διὰ τὸν τῆς αληθείας λόγον εἰς Πάτμον τὴν νῆσον , κ . τ . λ . (“But the Roman emperor, as tradition teaches, banished John, bearing witness by the word of truth, to the island of Patmos”).

[418] Eusebius, iii. Revelation 17 : τελευτῶν τῆς Νέρωνος θεοεχθρίας τε καὶ θεομαχίας διάδοχον ἐαυτὸν κατεστήσατο (“At length established himself as the successor of Nero’s hatred and war with God”).

[419] Revelation 3:20 ; cf. c. Revelation 18:0 .

[420] Cf. Bleek, Beitr ., p. 199; Vorles ., p. 158 sq.

[421] H. E. , iii. 20.

[422] τότε δὴ οὗν καὶ τὸν απόστολον Ἰωάννην ἀπὸ τῆς κατὰ τὴν νῆσον φυγῆς τὴν ἐπὶ τῆς Ἐφέσου διατριβὴν ἀπειληφέναι , ὁ τὡν παρʼ ἡμῖν αρχαίων παραδίδωσι λόγοσ . Cf. also c. 18. “It was then also that the Apostle John returned from his banishment at Patmos, and took up his abode at Ephesus, as the account of the ancients delivers it to us.”

[423] i. p. 80.

[424] Cited above.

[425] H. E. , iii. 20.

[426] Euseb., cited above.

[427] De Praesert. Haeret ., c. 36.

[428] Adv. Jovinian , i. 26.

[429] Cf. also Victorinus, d. 303, who, in his Commentary on the Apoc., adds: “Condemned to the mines .” Bibl. max. Patrum , Paris, T. I. p. 569.

[430] De vir. illustr ., c. 9.

[431] Haer ., Leviticus 12:0 .

[432] c. 33.

[433] Cf. Lücke, p. 806 sqq., who cites still other traces of the uncertainty of the tradition.

[434] Above cited.

The ecclesiastical tradition, in its prevalent form, contains three inseparable points: that the Apostle John is the author of the Apoc.; that he beheld the revelation on the Island of Patmos; and that this occurred under Domitian. Against all three points, even against the second, [435] stands the decisive self-witness of the Apoc., from the misunderstanding of which this prevalent tradition has developed. But there are also traces of a different tradition, and of a more correct understanding of the expressions of the Apoc. itself. Hence it is the right and duty of criticism to assert that the Apoc. was not written by the Apostle and Evangelist John; while, at the same time, it can express only the probable conjecture that John, the author of the Apoc., must be identical with the presbyter of that name. [See Note XIV., p. 91.]

[435] Cf. on Revelation 1:9 .


Full canonical authority belongs to the Apoc. only if it were written by an apostle, and, if because of its origin through divine inspiration it were of the same truly normative character as the other undoubtedly genuine writings of the apostle. In both respects the Apoc. appears deficient, yet not to such extent that it mast have its place outside of the ecclesiastical canon: deutero-canonical authority, but nothing less, belongs to it.

It does not profess to be the work of an apostle, either truly or falsely; but it was still written in the immediately apostolic times, before the destruction of Jerusalem, and that, too, by a man who, according to the throughout credible testimonies of the most ancient tradition, himself had seen and heard the Lord, and who, when he wrote his book, filled a prominent place in the Church. In the degree that the ancient Church established itself in the opinion that John the author of the Apoc. was identical with John the Apostle and Evangelist, it yielded to an error which already in ancient times contradicted ecclesiastical witnesses, and even at present has almost completely suppressed a gift of critical science bestowed upon the Church in ever-increasing fulness. But beneath the error lies the truth, necessary and sufficient for its deutero-canonical authority, that it was composed by an apostolic man.

Yet the book would not have been received into the canon if the Church had not found that it was trustworthy and inspired. The claim which it makes in this respect, that certainly something truly prophetic and resting on a divine revelation is reported, has been acknowledged by the ancient Church as well established; and the self-witnessing Spirit, controlling the Church in theological science and Christian life, has constantly confirmed, in essentials, this ancient judgment, but at the same time modified it with increasing clearness and confidence. The more the holy art of the exposition of Scripture has attained an insight into the structure of the Apoc., and the meaning of particular expressions, the less can the Church incur the temptation of regarding the book as a collection of predictions, [436] and the less will the judgment of those who pronounce the Apocalyptic prophecy the most glorious fruit of apostolic endowment, and the inspiration of the author of the Apoc. the richest and purest work of God’s Spirit, be indorsed by the Church. Christian science and life will always experience the more certainly that God’s Spirit, who spake in the Apostle John as well as in the author of the Apocalypse, found in the former a nobler vessel than in the latter; i.e., while the Apoc. is canonical, it is, nevertheless, deutero-canonical.

[436] This is the inheritance of unchurchly and unscientific sects. Only a fanatic could say that Bengel derived from an inner revelation the limitation of the non-chronus (x. 7) to 1036 years. Cf. Prüfung der apokalypt. Zeitrechnung ., Stuttg. 1840, p. 74. The author confidently expects, in the year 1950, the parousia , for which Bengel had designated the year 1836.

The proof for this lies partly in what has already been cited, [437] and partly in the exposition of details. There are especially three points to be emphasized, as of the highest importance for the ecclesiastical use of the Apoc.

[437] Cf. especially sec. 2.

1. If the explanation given below of Revelation 14:4 be correct, the writer presents a view of marriage not consistent with scriptural ethics. He is, of course, far removed from the heretical prohibition of marriage; [438] but, in his Christian advice, he speaks differently from the Apostle Paul. [439] The author of the Apoc. errs by regarding all sexual intercourse impure, and therefore in assigning those believers who abstain entirely therefrom a prominent place above the other saints.

[438] 1 Timothy 4:3 .

[439] 1 Corinthians 7:38 .

2. His conception of the one thousand years’ reign has no sufficient support in the analogy of Scripture. The N. T. doctrine, on the one hand, mentions that the general resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment, will occur at the parousia , [440] but at the same time distinguishes several acts in that catastrophe; viz., first, the resurrection of the righteous, [441] and afterwards the resurrection of all others. Both resurrections, together with the final judgment, occur ἘΝ Τῇ ΠΑΡΟΥΣΊΑ ΑὐΤΟῦ . But to the author of the Apoc. the distinction between the several acts in the final catastrophe appears so elaborated, that between the first and the second resurrection there lies a period comprised within an earthly limit (one thousand years), wherein there occurs an earthly rule of believers no more earthly, i.e., those who have arisen from the dead; and, at the end thereof, the saints, no longer earthly nor to be touched by any enemy, are attacked in the earthly Jerusalem by diabolic and human enemies, who then fall into eternal ruin. These expressions, if we deny their ideal, poetical nature, are self-contradictory, and opposed to the analogy of Scripture. But even what is at least contained in his poetical presentation as the very meaning of the author of the Apoc. viz., the admission of a diabolical activity against the kingdom of God, immediately before the second resurrection extends beyond the limits of Christian thought given by the analogy of Scripture.

[440] Matthew 25:36 sqq.

[441] Luke 14:14 ; 1 Corinthians 15:23 : οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ; i.e., those actually belonging to Christ, and acknowledged by him as his own. Meyer to the contrary.

3. That the author of the Apoc. sees the antichristian power embodied in the Roman Empire, is a natural limitation: this is the occasion for the error that this embodiment will be the last before the parousia . [442] But the chronological designation in Revelation 17:10 sq. not only has proved to be incorrect, but is with difficulty to be reconciled with the Lord’s warning. [443] It is essentially of the same nature as the expectation expressed a few years later, in 4th Esdras, that, with the last of the Flavians, the Roman Empire will perish. [444] This last point, which lies in the proper centre of the Apocalyptic prophecy, alone determines already the deutero-canonical authority of the book, even though the two other points could be obviated. Yea, in itself it might be possible that the idea is that Satan, in the last moment before his final sinking into condemnation, undertakes yet once more an outward as well as a mad, attack against the kingdom of Christ.

[442] Cf. Tertullian, Ad Scap ., c. Revelation 2 : “Cum toto Romano imperio, quosque seculum stabit, tamdiu enim stabit .” “With the entire Roman empire, as long as the world will stand, for it will stand so long .”

[443] Acts 1:7 .

[444] Cf. Ewald, Gesch. d. V. Israel ., vii. 74.

The ecclesiastical use of the Apoc. can only aim at communicating to congregations the sure results of the learned exegesis already existing in the Church. False, and serving a deceptive edification, [445] is every ecclesiastical exposition and application having any contents that are exegetically incorrect. [446] The ecclesiastical exposition should rather, on its part, be opposed to the widely spread, superstitious abuse of the book.

[445] To speak with Calvin on 1 Corinthians 8:10 , a ruinosa edificatio .

[446] Hence the “vow concerning the homiletical treatment of the Apoc.,” by A. F. Schmidt (Stuttgart, 1867), is entirely useless.

The question for us now is not with respect to the general foundation of N. T. doctrine upon which the Apoc. stands, but concerning what is peculiar to the book. The Apoc. is the most eloquent record of Christian hope, and of the fidelity, patience, and joy springing from hope. Since the Lord has risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven, he will also return to awaken and judge the dead. Christian hope, bestowed with faith in the Lord, holds with inner necessity to his parousia . The prophecy of this parousia is, therefore, not only every prophecy concerning Christ, [447] but also the point towards which the preaching of Christ infallibly tends. The peculiar theme of the Apoc., therefore, grows from the living fulness of the gospel; and the Apoc. offers splendid models, [448] clearly defined, for the ecclesiastical explanation and application of every prophetical, fundamental thought. The patient hope of congregations will also be exercised and strengthened by the holy art with which the Apocalyptic prophet represents the signs and preparations for the parousia . It is incorrect to directly refer the particular visions of seals, trumpets, and vials, to particular events in secular, ecclesiastical, or governmental history; but it is correct to regard the entire course of temporal things as tending, according to God’s order, to an eternal fulfilment; and also correct are the beautiful words of Bengel, [449] that we should read the Apoc. “as candidates for eternity .” The long series of preparations, always beginning anew, contains in itself the corrective to the author’s chronological error that the Lord’s parousia was at hand.

[447] Revelation 10:7 .

[448] Chs. 2 and 3.

[449] Ordo tem ., p. 326.


I., p. 57

On the other hand, Davidson ( Introduction to N. T. , iii. 559): “He does not take the title apostle , because, carrying with itself an idea of official authority and dignity, it was foreign to his natural modesty. Neither in his Gospel nor in any of his Epistles does he call himself by that high appellation. He does not even take the name of John in them, but reveals himself in other ways as their author. And, that the title servant of Jesus Christ is more appropriate here than apostle , is obvious from the nature of the communication. In the Gospel he speaks of himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved , for then he stood in an intimate relation to Christ as the Son of man appearing in the form of a servant; but in the present book Christ is announced as the glorified Redeemer, who should come quickly to judgment, and John is his servant , intrusted with the secrets of his house. Well, therefore, did it become the writer to forget all the honor of his office, and be abased before the Lord of glory. The resplendent vision of the Saviour had such an effect upon the seer, that he fell at the Saviour’s feet as dead; and it was, therefore, natural for him to be clothed with humility, and to designate himself the servant of Jesus Christ, the brother and companion of the faithful in tribulation .”

II., p. 58

The inference of our author is in both cases unnecessary. Cf. Alford ( Proleg ., vol. iv. c. viii. § i. 86): “The Apocalyptic writer is simply describing the heavenly city as it was shown to him. On the foundations are the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Now, we may fairly ask, what reason can be given why the beloved apostle should not have related this? Was he, who with his brother James sought for the highest place of honor in the future kingdom, likely to have depreciated the apostolic dignity just because he himself was one of the twelve? and, on the other hand, was he whose personal modesty was as notable as his apostolic zeal, likely, in relating such high honor done to the twelve, to insert a notice providing against the possible mistake being made of not counting himself among them?”

III., p. 63

Diversities of subjects and experience could readily account for the diversities of style and tone. By a similar argument, it might be shown that the Luther who wrote the charming letter to his little boy Hans, concerning the children’s heaven, could not be the same who flung defiance at the Pope in the Smalcald Articles. The Homeric controversy ought to furnish a warning concerning the dangers of pressing diversities to an extreme, where learned critics, after agreeing that those writings come from a number of distinct hands, fall at once into irreconcilable confusion, when, on the ground of internal evidence, they endeavor to assign the various parts to their several supposed authors. All the mildness of John in the Gospel and Epistles does not conceal the fact that he was one of the Boanerges (Mark 3:17 ; cf. Luke 9:54 , Mark 9:38 ). Even the fiery disposition, so tempered with mildness, as exhibited in the Gospel, could be employed in the service of the Redeemer, when the hour came for a change of contemplation from the Saviour in his humiliation, and the very beginning of his glorified life as exhibited on earth, to the beatific vision of unspeakable things in heaven. The sympathetic nature of the apostle immediately reflects the change in his Lord, who is no longer the Man of sorrows, but the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb, indeed slain, but now seen worshipped by the heavenly hosts.

IV., p. 64

Schultze (Zöckler’s Theol. Handbuch , i. 423 sq.): “The distinctions that have been made conspicuous, the Hebraizing style of the Apoc., its vivacious, ardent, imaginative mode of expression, its strikingly sensitive mode of thought, its cabalistic numerical symbolism, all this, so far as it is established, is explained by the entirely different character necessarily distinguishing a prophetic-apocalyptic from an historical statement.… The distinction is similar to that which exists between the historical and prophetical sections in Isaiah, Daniel, and Zechariah.”

V., p. 65

Gebhardt ( The Doctrine of the Apocalypse , p. 402) finds “in John 5:25 the first resurrection, the resurrection of the just; and in John 5:28-29 , the general resurrection to judgment,” by regarding the resurrection from spiritual death “now,” as potentially, or germinally, the first resurrection. The one “is the completion;” the other, “the beginning, or the germ.”

VI., p. 66

But if such inconsistency as the author here maintains could be established, it would have a result more far-reaching than the simple establishment of the diversity of writers. If there is no real antagonism between books that are equally the product of divine revelation, no failure to reconcile seeming contradictions is valid in this connection as an argument.

VII., p. 66

Davidson ( Introduction , iii. 555): “Yet, in the First Epistle of John, Christ is designated ὁ λόγος τῆς ζωῆς , which is nearly synonymous with ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ .” Alford ( et supra , ¶ 110): “I may leave it to any fair-judging reader to decide, whether it be not a far greater argument for identity, that the remarkable designation ὁ λόγος is used, than for diversity, that, on the solemn occasion described in the Apoc., the hitherto unheard adjunct τοῦ θεοῦ is added.”

VIII., p. 67

Alford ( Prolegomena , ¶ 114): “The word ἀρνίον , which designates our Lord twenty-nine times in the Apoc., only elsewhere occurs in John 21:15 , not with reference to him. But it is remarkable that John 1:29 ; John 1:36 , are the only places where he is called by the name of a lamb; the word ἀμνός being used, in reference, doubtless, to Isaiah 53:7 (Acts 7:32 ), as in one other place, where he is compared to a lamb (1 Peter 1:19 ). The Apocalyptic writer, as Lücke observes, probably chooses the diminutive, and attaches to it the epithet ἐσφαγμένον , for the purpose of contrast to the majesty and power which he has to predicate of Christ; but is it not to be taken into account, that this personal name, the Lamb , whether ἀμνὸς or ἀρνίον , whether with or without τοῦ θεοῦ , is common only to the two books?” Cremer ( Lexicon , on ἀρνίον ): “In the Apocalypse, it is the designation of Christ, and, indeed, of the exalted Christ; first, in Revelation 5:6 , where the term, especially in the diminutive form, appears to have been selected, primarily, for the sake of the contrast with Revelation 5:5 . The reason why the lion, which has overcome, presents himself as a lamb, is that he gained his victory in that form.” So Gebhardt (p. 112), who adds: “Possibly because the writer had once introduced Christ by it, for reasons of authorship he continues its use. It may be, also, that he preferred it, because he desired continually to bring into prominence the contrast between the appearance of Christ and his real importance.”

IX., p. 67

Alford (¶ 112): “But surely this is the very thing which we might expect. The νικᾷν τὸν κόσμον , τὸν πονηρόν , αὐτούς , etc., these are the details, and come under notice while the strife is proceeding, or when the object is of more import than the bare act; but when the end is spoken of, and the final and general victory is all that remains in view, nothing can be more natural than that he, who alone spoke of νικᾷν τὸν κόσμον , τὸν πονηρόν , αὐτούς , should also be the only one to designate the victor by ὁ νικῶν .”

X., p. 67

Yet both forms are used by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul. In the Apoc. it occurs but three times, and in this form is better adapted to poetry.

XI., p. 68

Of these expressions, the abstract ἠ ἀλήθεια of the Gospel naturally is replaced by the concrete of the Apoc., as the very change in the character of subject suggests; ποιεῖν τὴν ἀληθειαν occurs but once in the Gospel, and once in the Epistle; εἶναι ἐκ τῆς ἀλήθ . occurs but once in the Gospel, though twice in the First Epistle; and ἐκ θεοῦ γεννηθῆναι , but once in the Gospel, though frequently in the First Epistle.

XII., p. 68

Peculiarities of diction are to be expected, yet Davidson (p. 578 sq.) notes on ἡ οἰκουμένη : “Denoting, as it appears to do, the Roman Empire in the Apoc., it was not suited to the topics discussed in John’s acknowledged writings. It occurs in the LXX. as the representation of תֵּבֵל ; and, in consequence of the peculiarly Hebraistic character of the Apocalyptic diction, it is found in the book before us.” On ὑπομονή : “It is not surprising to see it in the Apoc., because the leading object of the writer was to inculcate patient endurance of afflictions and persecutions, and to comfort his readers with the hope of release. The Gospel and Epistles of John are occupied with topics which did not require or admit the term,” etc.

XIII., p. 80

The entire argument of Düsterdieck on the external evidence is unsatisfactory, and its careful study can have no other effect than to demonstrate its weakness. See the elaborate arguments on the other side in Alford, Davidson, and Stuart, as also in briefer compass in Lange and Farrar ( Early Years of Christianity , p. 405). Cf. also Gebhardt, 1 4. The whole is well summed up by Schultze (Zöckler’s Handbuch ): “The most ancient historical witnesses testify that this John was the Apostle; as Polycarp, according to Irenaeus, v. 20. Papias appealed, in support of his chiliasm, to the apostolical διηγήσεις ; Melito of Sardis wrote an explanation; Theophilus, Apollonius, Polycrates, all witnesses from Asia Minor, whither the book was sent, acknowledge it as Johannean, without specially emphasizing that the apostle was the composer, since at that time (as Düst. concedes) this was undoubted. The most important witness is Justin ( c. Tr. , 81), who lived long in Asia Minor. Iren. (v.) speaks of the many ancient MSS. which would not have existed if the book had not an apostolic origin. Many references occur to it also in the Epistle to the church at Lyons. Contemporaneously with this, the Can. Mur. says that the apostle wrote letters to the seven churches; in connection, indeed, with the remark, ‘Some of us are unwilling that they be read in church.’ For similar reasons, it was translated in the Peschito. But the apostolic origin was not thereby called into question; for, concerning this, Clemens Alex., Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Hippolytus in Ephr. Syr., speak with one voice. Previous to Eusebius, the apost. origin of the Apoc. was rejected only by Marcion, the Alogi (which signifies little), and the presbyter Caius; the latter only, as an anti-chiliast, maintaining that Cerinthus had forged it as though coming from the apostle. In like manner, Dionysius of Alexandria doubted it, because much in the book is designated as unreasonable. He holds, therefore, that since also, both in contents and style, it is distinguished from the Gospel, and as there were two Johns, it might have been written by the other John; in entire opposition, therefore, to his teacher Origen. Even apart from the obscurity concerning the Presbyter John, in no way cleared up, this view of Dionysius is not tradition, but only conjecture. The Tübingen critics are entirely right in maintaining that the apostolical origin of no book is so well attested, throughout all antiquity, as that of this.”

XIV., p. 83

Trench ( On the Epistles to the Seven Churches ): “The unprejudiced reader will hardly be persuaded that St. John sets himself forth here as any other than such a constrained dweller at Patmos; one who had been banished thither ‘for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ Those modern interpreters who find in these words no reference to any such suffering for the truth’s sake, but only a statement on the writer’s part, that he was in the Isle of Patmos for the sake of preaching the word of God, or, as others, for the sake of receiving a communication of the word of God, refuse the obvious meaning of the words, which, moreover, a comparison with Revelation 6:9 , Revelation 20:4 , seems to me to render imperative, for one which, if it also may possibly lie in them, has nothing but this bare possibility in its favor. It is difficult not to think that these interpreters have been unconsciously influenced by a desire to get rid of the strong testimony for St. John’s authorship of the book, which lies in the consent of this declaration with that which early ecclesiastical history tells about him; namely, that for his steadfastness in the faith of Christ, he was by Domitian banished to Patmos, and only released at the accession of Nerva.”

Gebhardt (p. 10): “I decide for the interpretation, justified by Revelation 20:10 , that the author came to Patmos as a martyr; whether as a captive, or more probably as one banished, which was in accordance with the practice of Rome in Domitian’s time, and which also agrees with one form of tradition, or whether as a fugitive, which another tradition asserts, cannot with certainty be decided from the tribulation of Revelation 1:9 , and the ‘leading into captivity’ of Revelation 13:10 , or from the general contents of the book.”

Schultze: “With respect to time and place, the historical tradition is established by the book; according to Ir. v. 30, during the banishment of the apostle to Patmos, under Domitian: so also Clement of Alexandria, in Euseb. iii. 23; Origen on Matthew 20:0 ; Jerome, Cat . 9. Most involved in controversy is the time, since its determination depends upon the interpretation of the entire book.… Sure indications in the Epistles point rather to the time of Domitian. The state of the churches is one inwardly more thoroughly established; one is at the head ( ἄγγελος , not = angel). The erroneous teachers (Revelation 16:13 ) are like those in the Epistle of Jude; only with the distinction that they have come forward, not only for the first time, but for a long time already have pursued their course. There were actually Nicolaitanes (not a symbolical designation and translation of Balaam), but not in the time of Paul. In Isaiah 11:8 , Jerusalem is compared with Sodom, because, like the latter, it has been destroyed; and in Revelation 11:1 , it is not the temple at Jerusalem, but the sanctuary at the end of time, that is meant.… After the destruction of the earthly Jerusalem, the last of the apostles, as absolutely the last pillar of the church at Jerusalem, beholds, with the eyes of his spirit opened by the invisible Head of the Church, the future of the heavenly Jerusalem, and, with this, the victory of the Church of Jesus Christ, and its faith over the world and all persecuting powers.”

So also Davidson: “We therefore assume A. D. 96, as the most probable date of John’s residence in Patmos.” Alford: “With every desire to search and prove all things, and ground faith upon things thus proved, I own I am quite unable to come to Lücke’s conclusions, or to those of any of the maintainers of the Neronic or any of the earlier dates. The book itself, it seems to me, refuses the assignment of such times of writing. The evident assumption which it makes of long-standing and general persecution (ch. Revelation 6:9 ) forbids us to place it in the very first persecution, and that only a partial one. The undoubted transference of Jewish temple emblems to a Christian sense (ch. Revelation 1:20 ), of itself, makes us suspect those interpreters who maintain the literal sense when the city and temple are mentioned. The analogy of the prophecies of Daniel forbids us to limit to individual kings the interpretation of the symbolic heads of the beast. The whole character and tone of the writing precludes our imagining that its original reference was ever intended to be to mere local matters of secondary import. These things being then considered, I have no hesitancy in believing, with the ancient Fathers and most competent witnesses, that the Apoc. was written πρὸς τῷ τέλει τῆς Δομετιανοῦ ἀρχῆς , i. e., about the year 96 or 97.” Lange, Stuart, and Farrar maintain the Neronian period. Harnack, in Encyclopœdia Britannica , suggests that “the Apoc. was written under Galba, but afterwards underwent revisions under Vespasian, about 75 79, and perhaps in Domitian’s reign of terror, 93 96.”

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