the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Revelation Book of
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
In respect to the authorship of this book, it is to be observed that the writer styles himself John, but does not call himself an apostle (;; ). Hence some have attributed the book to another John, usually designated the presbyter. But there is no direct evidence that this was the case; while on the other hand Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, all ascribe it to the Apostle. We are disposed, therefore, to abide by the ancient opinion that the book was written by the beloved disciple. Ecclesiastical tradition clearly favors this view, while the objections from alleged internal evidence, so earnestly urged by recent German critics, do not appear sufficiently strong to overturn it.
But the entire question of authorship is more curious than profitable. The book may not have been written by an apostle, and yet be equal in authority to any acknowledged production of an apostle. Luke was only an evangelist; and yet his writings are infallibly true and correct in every particular, because they proceeded from the Holy Spirit. The question whether the Apocalypse was written by an apostle or not, is of trifling importance as long as its inspiration is maintained. If any imagine that, in attempting to destroy the directly apostolic authorship, they lessen the value or disturb the canonical credit of the book, they are mistaken.
The canonical authority of the book has been called in question, both in ancient and modern times. But the external evidence in favor of its authenticity and genuineness is overwhelming, while internal circumstances amply confirm it.
The style, language, and manner of the book cannot be mistaken. In dignity and sublimity it is equal to any of the New Testament writings, if not superior to them all. The variety and force of the images impress the mind of every reader with conceptions of a divine origin. Surely no uninspired man could have written in such a strain.
There is considerable difficulty in ascertaining the time and place at which it was written. The prevalent opinion is, that the book was written A.D. 96 or 97, at Patmos or Ephesus, after Domitian's death, i.e. under Nerva. There is no definite external evidence on this point, and, judging from internal circumstances, some writers assign it to the time of Nero, and the locality of Patmos, A.D. 67 or 68. Sir Isaac Newton fixed upon this date.
The books of the New Testament, like those of the Old, were designed to promote the instruction of God's people in all ages. They were adapted to teach, exhort, and reprove all mankind. They do not belong to the class of ephemeral writings that have long since fulfilled the purpose for which they were originally composed. Their object was not merely a local or partial one. So of the Apocalypse. It is suited to all. 'Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy.' But this general characteristic is perfectly consistent with the fact that it arose out of specific circumstances, and was primarily meant to subserve a definite end. When first written, it was destined to suit the peculiar circumstances of the early Christians. The times were troublous. Persecution had appeared in various forms. The followers of Christ were exposed to severe sufferings for conscience sake. Their enemies were fierce against them. Comparatively few and feeble, the humble disciples of the Lamb seemed doomed to extinction. But the writer of the Apocalypse was prompted to present to them such views as were adapted to encourage them to steadfastness in the faith—to comfort them in the midst of calamity—and to arm them with resolution to endure all the assaults of their foes. Exalted honors, glorious rewards, are set before the Christian soldier who should endure to the end. A crown of victory—the approbation of the Redeemer—everlasting felicity—these are prepared for the patient believer. In connection with such representations the final triumph of Christianity and the Messiah's peaceful reign with his saints, form topics on which the writer dwells with emphatic earnestness (See;;;; ). The suffering Christians of primitive times may have sorrowfully thought that they should never be able to stand the shock of their bitter and bloody assailants, the power and policy of the world being leagued against them—but the statements of the writer all tend to the conclusion that truth should make progress in the earth, and the church, emerging out of all struggles, wax stronger and stronger. If such be the primary and principal aim of the book, it follows that we should not look in it for a history of the kingdoms of the world. To compose a civil history did not comport with the writer's object. The genius of Christ's kingdom is totally different from that of the kingdoms of the world. It advances steadily and silently, independently of, and frequently in opposition to them. Hence the Apocalypse cannot contain a history of the world. It exhibits a history of the church, specially of its early struggles with the powers of darkness and the malice of superstition. Trials impending over the church, and judgments over her enemies—these form the burden of the prophecy.
The body of the work is contained in to , and is almost entirely a series of symbolic representations. To this is prefixed a prologue (Revelation 1-4). A brief epilogue is subjoined (). The prologue is of considerable length, embracing separate epistles to the seven churches in Asia Minor, peculiarly fitted to admonish and console amid the sufferings which were impending. After the prologue or introduction, we come to the body of the work itself, commencing with the fourth chapter, Revelation 4. With regard to the symbolical predictions of which this part of the work consists, the mere statement of the various conflicting theories which have been propounded would occupy a large volume. We cannot therefore enter upon a subject so extensive, but must content ourselves with referring the reader to the works in which the interpretation of these prophecies is discussed in all its bearings.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Revelation Book of'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​r/revelation-book-of.html.