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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Revelation, Book of.
This, the last of the books of the New Test., according to their usual arrangement, is entitled in the A.V. "The Revelation (Ἀποκάλυψις, Apocalypse) of [St.] John the Divine (τοῦ θεολόγου )," but in Codices Alex., Sinait., and Ephr. Rescrip. it is simply Ἀποκάλυψις Ι᾿ωάννου; and in Cod. Vat. it takes the fuller and more explicit form of ‘Ἀποκάλυψις Ι᾿ωάννου θεολόγου καὶ Εὐαγγελιστοῦ , thus clearly identifying the author with the writer of the fourth gospel. The true and authoritative title of the book, however, is that which it bears iln its own commencing words, Ἀποκάλυψις Ι᾿ησοῦ Χριστοῦ; which has been restored by Tregel!es in his critical edition of 1844, and whichl has been adopted by most of the critical authorities and versions since.
I. Canonical Authority and Authorship. — These two points are intimately connected with each other. If it can be proved that a book, claiming so distinctly as this does the authority of divine inspiration, was actually written by John, then no doubt will be entertained as to its title to a place in the canon of Scripture. Was, then, John the apostle and evangelist the writer of the Revelation? This question was first mooted by Dionysius of Alexandria (Eusebius. H.E. 7:25). The doubt which he modestly suggested has been confidently proclaimed in modern times by Luther ( Vorrede auf die Offenbarung, 1522 and 1534), and widely diffused through his influence. Lucke (Einleitung, p. 802), the most learned and diligent of modern critics of the Revelation, agrees with a majority of the eminent scholars of Germany in denying that John was the author. But the general belief of the mass of Christians in all ages has been in favor of John's authorship.
1. Evidence in Favor of the Apostolic Authorship. This consists of the assertions of the author and historical tradition.
(1.) The author's description of himself in the first and twenty-second chapters is certainly equivalent to an assertion that he is the apostle. (a) He names himself simply John, without prefix or addition — a name which at that period, and in Asia, must have been taken by every Christian as the designation, in the first instance, of the great apostle who dwelt at Ephesus. Doubtless there were other Johns among the Christians at that time, but only arrogance or an intention to deceive could account for the assumption of this simple style by any other writer. He is also described as (b) a servant of Christ, (c) one who had borne testimony as an eye-witness of the word of God and of the testimony of Christ — terms which were surely designed to identify him with the writer of the verses John 19:35; John 1:14 : and l John 1:2. He is (d) in Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ: it may be easy to suppose that other Christians of the same name were banished thither, but the apostle is the only John who is distinctly named in early history as an exile at Patmos. He is also (e) a fellow-sufferer with those whom he addresses, and (f) the authorized channel of the most direct and important communication that was ever made to the seven churches of Asia, of which church es John the apostle was at that time the spiritual governor and teacher. Lastly (g), the writer was a fellowservant of angels and a brother of prophets — titles which are far more suitable to one of the chief apostles, and far more likely to have been assigned to him than to any other man of less distinction. All these marks are found united together in the apostle John, and in him alone of all historical persons. We must go out of the region of fact into the region of conjecture to find such another person. A candid reader of the Revelation, if previously acquainted with John's other writings and life, must inevitably conclude that the writer intended to be identified with John. It is strange to see so able a critic as Lucke (Einleitung, p. 514) meeting this conclusion with the conjecture that some Asiatic disciple and namesake of the apostle may have written the book in the course of some missionary labors or some time of sacred retirement in Patmos. Equally unavailing against this conclusion is the objection brought by Ewald, Credner, and others, from the fact that a promise of the future blessedness of the apostles is implied in 18:20 and 21:14: as if it were inconsistent with the true modesty and humility of an apostle to record — as Daniel of old did in much plainer terms (Daniel 12:13) — a divine promise of salvation to himself personally. Rather those passages may be taken as instances of the writer quietly accepting as his just due such honorable mention as belongs to all the apostolic company. Unless we are prepared to give up the veracity and divine origin of the whole book, and to treat the writer's account of himself as a mere fiction of a poet trying to cover his own insignificance with an honored name, we must accept that description as a plain statement of fact, equally credible with the rest of the book, and in harmony with the simple, honest, truthful character which is stamped on the face of the whole narrative.
Besides this direct assertion of John's authorship, there is also an implication of it running through the book. Generally, the instinct of single- minded, patient faithful students has led them to discern a connection between the Revelation and John's gospel and epistles, and to recognise, not merely the same Spirit as the source of this and other books of Holy Scripture, but also the same peculiarly formed human instrument employed both in producing this book and the fourth gospel, and in speaking the characteristic words and performing the characteristic actions recorded of John. This evidence is set forth at great length and with much force and eloquence by J. P. Lange in his essay on the connection between the individuality of the apostle John and that of the Apocalypse, 1838 (Vermischte Schriften, ii, 173-231). After investigating the peculiar features of the apostle's character and position, and (in reply to Lucke) the personal traits shown by the writer of the Revelation, he concludes that the book is a mysterious but genuine effusion of prophecy under the New Test., imbued with the spirit of the Gospel, the product of a spiritual gift so peculiar, so great and noble, that it can be ascribed to the apostle John alone. The Revelation requires for its writer John, just as his peculiar genius requires for its utterance a revelation. This special character of the Apocalypse as an inspired production under remarkably vivid circumstances is the true key to its diction, which certainly exhibits many striking differences as compared with John's other well-accredited writings. At the same time, there are not a few marked coincidences in the phraseology. Both of these points have been developed at great length by the writers above named and by others in their commentaries and introductions, to which we must refer the reader for details. Arguments of this nature are always inconclusive as to authorship, and we therefore rest the conclusion upon evidence of a more palpable character. (See § 3 below.)
(2.) The historical testimonies in favor of John's authorship are singularly distinct and numerous, and there is very little to weigh against them.
(a.) Justin Martyr (cir. A.D. 150) says: "A man among us whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, in a revelation which was made to him, prophesied that the believers in our Christ shall live a thousand years in Jerusalem" (Tryph. § 81, p. 179, ed. Ben.).
(b.) The author of the Muratorian Fragment (cir. A.D. 170) speaks of John as the writer of the Apocalypse, and describes him as a predecessor of Paul, i.e. as Credner and Luicke candidly interpret it, his predecessor in the office of apostle.
(c.) Melito of Sardis (cir. A.D. 170) wrote a treatise on the Revelation of John. Eusebius (II. E. 4:26) mentions this among the books of Melito which had come to his knowledge; and as he carefully records objections against the apostle's authorship, it may be fairly presumed, notwithstanding the doubts of Klenker and Lucke (Einleitung, p. 514), that Eusebius found no doubt as to John's authorship in the book of this ancient Asiatic bishop.
(d.) Theophilus, bishop of Antioch (cir. 180), in a controversy with Hermogenes, quotes passages out of the Revelation of John (Eusebius, H.E. 4:24).
(e.) Irenseus (cir. 195), apparently never having heard a suggestion of any other author than the apostle, often quotes the Revelation as the work of John. In 4:20, § 11, he describes John the writer of the Revelation as the same who was leaning on Jesus' bosom at supper, and asked him who should betray him. The testimony of Irenaeus as to the authorship of Revelation is, perhaps, more important than that of any other writer: it mounts up into the preceding generation, and is virtually that of a contemporary of the apostle. For in 5:30, § 1, where he vindicates the true reading (666) of the number of the Beast, he cites in support of it, not only the old correct copies of the book, but also the oral testimony of the very persons who themselves had seen John face to face. It is obvious that Irenseus's reference for information on such a point to those contemporaries of John implies his undoubting belief that they, in common with himself, viewed John as the Writer of the book. Licke (p. 574) suggests that this view wvas possibly groundless because it was entertained before the learned fathers of Alexandria had set the example of historical criticism; but his suggestion scarcely weakens the force of the fact that such was the belief of Asia, and it appears a strange suggestion when we remember that the critical discernment of the Alexandrians, to whom he refers, led them to coincide with Irenaeus in his view.
(f.) Apollonius (cir. 200) of Ephesus (?), in controversy with the Montanists of Phrygia, quoted passages out of the Revelation of John, and narrated a miracle wrought by John at Ephesus (Euseb. H.E. v. 18).
(g.) Clement of Alexandria (cir.200)quotes the book as the Revelation of John (Stromata, 6:13, p. 667), and as the work of an apostle (Poed. ii, 12, p. 207).
(h.) Tertullian (A.D. 207), in at least one place, quotes by name "the apostle John in the Apocalypse" (Adv. Marcion. 3:14).
(i.) Hippolytus (cir. 230) is said, in the inscription on his statue at Rome, to have composed an apology for the Apocalypse and Gosple of St. John the apostle. He quotes it as the work of John (De Antichristo, § 36, p. 756, ed. Migne).
(j.) Origen (cir. 233), in his commentary on John, quoted by Eusebius (H.E. 6:25), says of the apostle, "he wrote also the Revelation." The testimonies of later writers, in the 3d and 4th centuries, in favor of John's authorship of the Revelation are equally distinct and far more numerous. They may be seen quoted at length in Lucke, p. 628-638, or in dean Alford's Prolegomena (N.T. vol. 4. pt. 2). It may suffice here to say that they include the names of Victorinus, Methodius, Ephrem Syrus, Epiphanius, Basil, Hilary, Athanasius, Gregory, Didymus, Ambrose, Augustine; and Jerome.
All the foregoing writers, testifying that the book came from an apostle, believed that it was a part of Holy Scripture. But many whose extant works cannot be quoted for testimony to the authorship of the book refer to it as possessing canonical authority. Thus
(a) Papias, who is described by Irenaeus as a hearer of John and friend of Polycarp, is cited, together with other writers, by Andreas of Cappadocia, in his commentary on the Revelation, as a guarantee to later ages of the divine inspiration of the book (Routh, Rel. Sacr. i, 15; Cramer, Catena [Oxford, 1840], p. 176). The value of this testimony has not been impaired by the controversy to which it has given rise, in which Licke, Bleek, Hengstenberg, and Rettig have taken different parts.
(b) In the epistle from the churches of Lyons and Vienne, A.D. 177, inserted in Eusebius, H.E. v, 1-3, several passages (e.g. 1:5; 14:4; 22:11) are quoted or referred to in the same way as passages of books whose canonical authority is unquestioned.
(c) Cyprian (Epp. 10,12,14,19, ed. Fell) repeatedly quotes it as a part of canonical Scripture. Chrysostom makes no distinct allusion to it in any extant writing; but we are informed by Suidas that he received it as canonical. Although omitted (perhaps as not adapted for public reading in church) from the list of canonical books in the Council of Laodicea, it was admitted into the list of the third Council of Carthage, A.D. 397.
2. Evidence against John's Authorship. — Marcion, who regarded all the apostles except Paul as corrupters of the truth, rejected the Apocalypse and all other books of the New Test. which were not written by Paul. The Alogi, an obscure sect, (cir. A.D. 180), in their zeal against Montanism, denied the existence of spiritual gifts in the Church, and rejected the Revelation, saving it was the work, not of John, but of Cerinthus (Epiphanius, Adv. Heer. 51). The Roman presbyter Caius (cir. A.D. 196), who also wrote against Montanism, is quoted by Eusebius (H.E. 3:28) as ascribing certain revelations to Cerinthus; but it is doubted (see Routh, Rel. Sacr. ii, 138) whether the Revelation of John is the book to which Caius refers. But the testimony which is considered the most important of all in ancient times against the Revelation is contained in a fragment of Dionysius of Alexandria (cir. A.D. 240), the most influential, and perhaps the ablest, bishop in that age. The passage, taken from a book On the Promises, written in reply to Nepos, a learned Judaizing Chiliast, is quoted by Eusebius (H.E. 7:25). The principal points in it are these: Dionysius testifies that some writers before him altogether repudiated the Revelation as a forgery of Cerinthus; many brethren, however, prized it very highly, and Dionysius would not venture to reject it, but received it in faith as containing things too deep and too sublime for his understanding. (In his Epistle to Hermammon [Euseb. H.E. 7:10] he quotes it as he would quote Holy Scripture.) He accepts as true what is stated in the book itself, that it was written by John, but he argues that the way in which that name is mentioned, and the general character of the language, are unlike what we should expect from John the evangelist and apostle; that there were many Johns in that age. He would not say that John Mark was the writer, since it is not known that he was in Asia. He supposes that it must be the work of some John who lived in Asia; and he observes that there are said to be two tombs in Ephesus, each of which bears the name of John. He then points out at length the superiority of the style of the Gospel and the First Epistle of John to the style of the Apocalypse, and says, in conclusion, that whatever he may think of the language, he does not deny that the Writer of the Apocalypse actually saw what he describes, and was endowed with the divine gifts of knowledge and prophecy. To this extent, and no further, Dionysius is a witness against John's authorship. It is obvious that he keenly felt the difficulty arising from the use made of the contents of this book by certain unsound Christians under his jurisdiction; that he was acquainted with the doubt as to its canonical authority which some of his predecessors entertained as an inference from the nature of its contents; that he deliberately rejected their doubt and accepted the contents of the book as given by the inspiration of God; that, although he did not understand how John could write in the style in which the Revelation is written, he yet knew of no authority for attributing it, as he desired to attribute it, to some other of the numerous persons who bore the name of John.
A weightier difficulty arises from the fact that the Revelation is one of the books which are absent from the ancient Peshito version, and the only trustworthy evidence in favor of its reception by the ancient Syrian Church is a single quotation which is adduced from the Syriac works (ii, 332 c) of Ephrem Syrus. Eusebius is remarkably sparing in his quotations from the "Revelation of John," and the uncertainty of his opinion about it is best shown by his statement in H.E. 3:39, that "it is likely that the Revelation was seen by the second John (the Ephesian presbyter); if any one is unwilling to believe that it was seen by the apostle." (See JOHN THE PRESBYTER). Jerome states (Ep. ad Dardanum. etc.) that the Greek churches felt, with respect to the Revelation, a similar doubt to that of the Latins respecting the Epistle to the Hebrews. Neither he nor his equally influential contemporary Augustine shared such doubts. Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret abstained from making use of the book, sharing, it is possible, the doubts to which Jerome refers. But they have not gone so far as to express a distinct opinion against it. The silence of these writers is the latest evidence of any importance that has been adduced against the overwhelming weight of the testimony in favor of the canonical authority and authorship of this book. (See CANON OF SCRIPTURE).
II. Time and Place of Writing. — The date of the Revelation is given by the great majority of critics as A.D. 95-97. The weighty testimony of Irenseus is almost sufficient to prevent any other conclusion. He says (Adv. Haer. v. 30, § 3), "It [i.e. the Revelation] was seen no very long time ago, but almost in our own generation, at the close of Domitian's reign." Stuart's attempt to interpret this of Nero's reign (Comnment. ad loc.) is evidently forced. Eusebius also records as a tradition which he does not question, that in the persecution under Domitian, John the apostle and evangelist, being yet alive, was banished to the island of Patmos for his testimony of the divine word. Allusions in Clement of Alexandria and Origen point in the same direction. There is no mention in any writer of the first three centuries of any other time or place. Epiphanius (51, 12), obviously by mistake, says that John prophesied in the reign of Claudius. Two or three obscure and later authorities say that John was banished under Nero.
Unsupported by any historical evidence, some commentators have put forth the conjecture that the Revelation was written as early as the time of Nero. This is simply their inference from the style and contents of the book. But it is difficult to see why John's old age rendered it, as they allege, impossible for him to write his inspired message with force and vigor, or why his residence in Ephesus must have removed the Hebraistic peculiarities of his Greek. It is difficult to see in the passages Revelation 1:7; Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9; Revelation 6:12; Revelation 6:16; Revelation 11:1, anything which would lead necessarily to the conclusion that Jerusalem was in a prosperous condition, and that the predictions of its fall had not been fulfilled when those verses were written. A more weighty argument in favor of an early date might be urged from a modern interpretation of Revelation 17:10, if that interpretation could be established. Galba is alleged to be the sixth king, the one that "is." In Nero these interpreters see the beast that was wounded (Revelation 13:3), the beast that was and is not, the eighth king (Revelation 17:11). For some time after Nero's death the Roman populace believed that he was not dead, but had fled into the East, whence he would return and regain his throne; and these interpreters venture to suggest that the writer of the Revelation shared and meant to express the absurd popular delusion. Even the able and learned Reuss (Theol. Chret. i, 443), by way of supporting this interpretation, advances his untenable claim to the first discovery of the name of Nero Caesar in the number of the beast, 666. The inconsistency of this interpretation with prophetic analogy, with the context of Revelation, and with the fact that the book is of divine origin, is pointed out by Hengstenberg at the end of his Commentary on ch. 13 and by Elliott, Horoe Apoc. 4:547.
It has been inferred from 1:2, 9, 10, that the Revelation was written in Ephesus, immediately after the apostle's return from Patmos. But the text is scarcely sufficient to support this conclusion. The style in which the messages to the seven churches are delivered rather suggests the notion that the book was written in Patmos. — (See JOHN THE APOSTLE).
III. Language. — The thought first suggested by Harenberg, that the Revelation was written in Aramaic, has met with little or no reception. The silence of all ancient writers as to any Aramaic original is alone a sufficient answer to the suggestion. Lucke (Einleit. p. 441) has collected internal evidence to show that the original is the Greek of a Jewish Christian.
Lucke has also (p. 448-464) examined in minute detail, after the preceding labors of Donker-Curtius, Vogel, Winer, Ewald, Kolthoff, and Hitzig, the peculiarities of language which obviously distinguish the Revelation from every other book of the New Test. In subsequent sections (p. 680-747) he urges with great force the difference between the Revelation, on one side, and the fourth Gospel and first Epistle on the other, in respect of their style and composition and the mental character and attainments of the writer of each. Hengstenberg, in a dissertation appended to his Commentary, maintains that they are by one writer. That the anomalies and peculiarities of the Revelation have been greatly exaggerated by some critics is sufficiently shown by Hitzig's plausible and ingenious, though unsuccessful, attempt to prove the identity of style and diction in the Revelation and the Gospel of Mark. It may be admitted that the Revelation has many surprising grammatical peculiarities. But much of this is accounted for by the fact that it was probably written down, as it was seen, "in the spirit," while the ideas, in all their novelty and vastness, filled the apostle's mind, and rendered him less capable of attending to forms of speech. His Gospel and Epistles, on the other hand, were composed equally under divine influence, but an influence of a gentler, more ordinary kind, with much care, after long deliberation, after frequent recollection and recital of the facts, and deep pondering of the doctrinal truths which they involve.
Gebhardt has recently given the coincidences in language between the Gospel and the Revelation of John in a most convincing manner (Doctrine of the Apocalypse, etc.; transl. from the German, Edinb. 1878): "There are underlying identities of style which demonstrate identity of authorship. The subjects, of course, are stupendously different, and so require even of the same writer a stupendous difference of style. In the Apocalypse the pictorial imagination is perpetually on the utmost stretch; events and objects are crowding upon each other with intense rapidity. The scenery and pictorial material are generally borrowed from the Hebrew Scriptures, with immense improvements. More than all, the mind of the writer, steeped in Hebraism, is in a preternatural state. He who was in his youth a son of thunder has all the thunder of his youth preternaturally renewed within him. Rightly, the extraordinary conditions demand an extraordinary change of style, both in thought and language. Yet, underlying all this change, the natural style and mind unmistakably disclose themselves. He who cannot see this was never born a critic, and can never be reconstructed into one" (Meth. Quar. 1878. p. 739). (See JOHN) (Gospel and Epistles).
IV. Contents. — A full analysis of the book would involve much that is disputed as to its interpretation. We therefore here content ourselves with a general outline, in which the main visions are specified.
The first three verses contain the title of the book, the description of the writer, and the blessing pronounced on the readers, which possibly, like the last two verses of the fourth gospel, may be an addition by the hand of inspired survivors of the writer. John begins (Revelation 1:4) with a salutation of the seven churches of Asia. This, coming before the announcement that he was in the spirit, looks like a dedication not merely of the first vision, but of all the book, to those churches. In the next five verses (Revelation 1:5-9) he touches the key-note of the whole following book, the great fundamental ideas on which all our notions of the government of the world and the Church are built — the person of Christ; the redemption wrought by hiim; his second coming to judge mankind; the painful, hopeful discipline, of Christians in the midst of this present world; thoughts which may well be supposed to have been uppermost in the mind of the persecuted and exiled apostle even before the divine inspiration came on him.
a. The first vision (Revelation 1:7 to Revelation 3:22) shows the Son of Man with his injunction, or epistles to the seven churches. While the apostle is pondering those great truths and the critical condition of his Church which he bad left, a Divine Person resembling those seen by Ezekiel and Daniel, and identified by name and by description as Jesus, appears to John, and, with the discriminating authority of a lord and judge, reviews the state of those churches, pronounces his decision upon their several characters, and takes occasion from them to speak to all Christians who may deserve similar encouragement or similar condemnation. Each of these sentences, spoken by the Son of Man, is described as said by the Spirit. Hitherto the apostle has been speaking primarily, though not exclusively, to some of his own contemporaries concerning the present events and circumstances. Henceforth he ceases to iddress them particularly. His words are for the ear of the universal Church in all ages, and show the significance of things which are present in hope or fear, in sorrow or in joy, to Christians everywhere.
b. In the next vision (Revelation 4 :l-8:1), Patmos and the Divine Person whom he saw are gone. Only the trumpet voice is heard again calling him to a change of place. He is in the highest court of heaven, and sees God sitting on his throne.The seven-sealed book or roll is produced, and the slain lamb, the Redeemer, receives it amid the sound of universal adoration. As the seals are opened in order, the apostle sees
(1) a conqueror on a white horse;
(2) a red horse, betokening war;
(3) the black horse of famine;
(4) the pale horse of death;
(5) the eager souls of martyrs under the altar;
(6) an earthquake, with universal commotion and terror. After this there is a pause, the course of avenging angels is checked while 144,000, the children of Israel, servants of God, are sealed, and an innumerable multitude of the redeemed of all nations are seen worshipping God. Next
(7) the seventh seal is opened, and half an hour's silence in heaven ensues.
c. Then (Revelation 8:2 to Revelation 11:19) seven angels appear with trumpets, the prayers of saints are offered up, the earth is struck with fire from the altar, and the seven trumpets are sounded.
(1) The earth, and
(2) the sea, and
(3) the springs of water, and
(4) the heavenly bodies are successively smitten;
(5) a plague of locusts afflicts the men who are not sealed (the first woe);
(6) the third part of men are slain (the second woe), but the rest are impenitent. Then there is a pause: a mighty angel with a book appears and cries out; seven thunders sound, but their words are not recorded; the approaching completion of the mystery of God is announced; the angel bids the apostle eat the book, and measure the temple with its worshippers, and the outer court given up to the Gentiles; the two witnesses of God, their martyrdom, resurrection, ascension, are foretold. The approach of the third woe is announced, and
(7) the seventh trumpet is sounded, the reign of Christ is proclaimed, God has taken his great power, the time has come for judgment and for the destruction of the destroyers of the earth.
The three preceding visions are distinct from one another. Each of the last two, like the longer one which follows, has the appearance of a distinct prophecy, reaching from the prophet's time to the end of the world. The second half of the Revelation (chapters 12-22) comprises a series of visions which are connected by various links. It may be described generally as a prophecy of the assaults of the devil and his agents (i.e. the dragon, the ten-horned beast, the two-horned beast or false prophet, and the harlot) upon the Church, and their final destruction. It appears to begin with a reference to events anterior, not only to those which are predicted in the preceding chapter, but also to the time in which it was written. It seems hard to interpret the birth of the child as a prediction, and not as a retrospective allusion.
d. A woman (ch. 12) clothed with the sun is seen in heaven, and a great red dragon with seven crowned heads stands waiting to devour her offspring; her child is caught up unto God, and the mother flees into the wilderness for 1260 days. The persecution of the woman and her seed on earth by the dragon is described as the consequence of a war in heaven in' which the dragon was overcome and cast out upon the earth.
The Revelator (ch. 13), standing on the sea-shore, sees a beast with seven heads, one wounded, with ten cxrowned horns, rising, from the water, the representative of the dragon. All the world wonders at and worships him, and he attacks the saints and prevails. He is followed by another two- horned beast rising out of the earth, who compels men to wear the mark of the beast, whose number is 666.
Next (ch. 14) the lamb is seen with 144,000 standing on Mount Zion, learning the song of praise of the heavenly host. Three angels fly forth calling men to worship God, proclaiming the fall of Babylon, denouncing the worshippers of the beast. A blessing is pronounced on the faithful dead, and the judgment of the world is described under the image of a harvest reaped by angels.
John (chapters 15 and 16) sees in heaven the saints who had overcome the beast, singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. Then seven angels come out of the heavenly temple having seven vials of wrath, which they pour out upon the earth, sea, rivers, sun. the seat of the beast, Euphrates, and the air, after which there are a great earthquake and a hail-storm.
One (chapters 17, 18) of the last seven angels carries John into the wilderness and shows him a harlot, Babylon, sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns. She is explained to be that great city, sitting upon seven mountains, reigning over the kings of the earth. Afterwards John sees a vision of the destruction of Babylon, portrayed as the burning- of a great city amid the lamentations of worldly men and the rejoicing of saints.
Afterwards (ch. 19) the worshippers in heaven are heard celebrating Babylon's fall and the approaching marriage-supper of the lamb. The Word of God is seen going forth to war at the head of the heavenly armies; the beast and his false prophet are taken and cast into the burning lake, and their worshippers are slain.
An angel (Revelation 20 - Revelation 22:5) binds the dragon, i.e. the devil, for one thousand years, while the martyred saints who had not worshipped the beast reign with Christ. Then the devil is unloosed, gathers a host against the camp of the saints, but is overcome by fire from heaven, and is cast into the burning lake with the beast and false prophet. John then witnesses the process of the final judgment, and sees and describes the new heaven and the new earth, and the new Jerusalem, with its people and their way of life.
In the last sixteen verses (Revelation 22:6-21) the angel solemnly asseverates the truthfulness and importance of the foregoing sayings, pronounces a blessing on those who keep them exactly, gives warning of his speedy coming to judgment, and of the nearness of the time when these prophecies shall be fulfilled.
V. Schemes of Interpretation. — Few, if any, books of the Bible have been the sport of so great differences of view as this, arising largely from prejudice and the passion of the times. We can give here but a brief outline of these conflicting opinions, which prevail even to the present day.
1. Historical Review. — The interval between the apostolic age and that of Constantine has been called the Chiliastic period of Apocalyptic interpretation. The visions of John were chiefly regarded as representations of general Christian truths, scarcely yet embodied in actual facts, for the most part to be exemplified or fulfilled in the reign of Antichrist, the coming of Christ, the millennium, and the day of judgment. The fresh hopes of the early Christians, and the severe persecution they endured, taught them to live in those future events with intense satisfaction and cbmfort. They did not entertain the thought of building up a definite consecutive chronological scheme even of those symbols which some moderns regard as then already fulfilled; although from the beginning a connection between Rome and Antichrist was universally allowed, and parts of the Revelation were regarded as the filling up of the great outline sketched by Daniel and Paul. The only extant systematic interpretations in this period are the interpolated commentary on the Revelation by the martyr Victorinus, cir. A.D. 270 (Bibliotheca Patrum Maxima, 3, 414, and Migne, Patrologia Latina, 5, 318; the two editions should be compared), and the disputed treatise on Antichrist by Hippolytus (Migne, Patrologia Groeca, 10:726). But the prevalent views of that age are to be gathered also from a passage in Justin Martyr (Trypho, 80, 81), from the later books, especially the fifth, of Irenaeus, and from various scattered passages in Tertullian, Origen, and Methodins. The general anticipation of the last days of the world in Lactantius, 7:14-25, has little direct reference to the Revelation.
Immediately after the triumph of Constantine, the Christians, emancipated from oppression and persecution, and dominant and prosperous in their turn, began to lose their vivid expectation of our Lord's speedy advent and their spiritual conception of his kingdom, and to look upon the temporal supremacy of Christianity as a fulfilment of the promised reign of Christ on earth. The Roman empire, become Christian, was regarded no longer as the object of prophetic denunciation, but as the scene of a millennial development. This view, however, was soon met by the figurative interpretation of the millennium as the reign of Christ in the hearts of all true believers. As the barbarous and heretical invaders: of the falling empire appeared, they were regarded: by the suffering. Christians as fulfilling the woes denounced in the Revelation. The beginning of a regular chronological interpretation is seen in Berengaud (assigned by some critics to the 9th century), who treated the Revelation as a history of the Church from the beginning of the world to its end. The original Commentary of the abbot Joachim is remarkable, not only for a further development of that method of interpretation, but for the scarcely disguised identification of Babylon with papal Rome, and of the second beast or Antichrist with some universal pontiff. The chief commentaries belonging to this period are that which is ascribed to Tichonius (cir. A.D. 390), printed in the works of Augustine; Primasius of Adrumetum in Africa (A.D. 550), in Migne, Patrologia Latina, l48, 1406; Andreas of Crete (cir. A.D. 650), Arethas of Cappadocia, and Ecumenius of Thessaly in the 10th century, whose commentaries were published together in Cramer's Catena (Oxon. (1840); the Explanatio Apoc. in the works of Bede (A.D. 735); the Expositio of Berengaud, printed in the works of Ambrose; the Commentary of Haymo (A.D. 853), first published at Cologne in 1531; a short treatise on the (seals by Anselm, bishop of Havilberg (A.D. 1145), printed in D'Achery's Spicilegium, i, 161; the Expositio of abbot Joachim of Calabria (A.D. 1200), printed at Venice in 1527.
In the dawn of the Reformation, the views to which the reputation of abbot Joachim gave currency were taken up by the harbingers of the impending change, as by Wycliffe and others; and they became the foundation of that great historical school of interpretation, which up to this time seems the most popular of all (For the later commentaries, see § 6 below.)
2. Approximate Classification of Modern Interpretations. — These are generally placed in three great divisions.
(1.) The Praeterist expositors, who are of opinion that the Revelation has been almost, or altogether, fulfilled in the time which has passed since it was written; that it refers principally to the triumph of Christianity over Judaism and paganism, signalized in the downfall of Jerusalem and of Rome. The most eminent expounders of this view are Alcasar, Grotius, Hammond, Bossuet, Calmet,Wettstein, Eichhorn, Hug, Herder, Ewald, Lucke, De Wette; Dusterdieck, Stuart, Lee, and Maurice. This is the favorite interpretation with the critics of Germany, one of whom goes so far as to state that the writer of the Revelation promised the fulfilment of his visions within the space of three years and a half from the time in which he wrote.
Against the Proeterist view it is urged that prophecies fulfilled ought to be rendered so perspicuous to the general sense of the Church as to supply an argument against infidelity; that the destruction of Jerusalem, having occurred twenty-five years previously, could not occupy a large space in a prophecy; that the supposed predictions of the downfall of Jerusalem and of Nero appear from the context to refer to one event, but are by this scheme separated, and, moreover, placed in a wrong order; that the measuring of the Temple and the altar, and the death of the two witnesses (ch. 11), cannot be explained consistently with the context.
(2.) The Futurist expositors, whose views show a strong reaction against some extravagances of the preceding school. They believe that the whole book, excepting perhaps the first three chapters, refers principally, if not exclusively, to events which are yet to come. This view, which is asserted to be merely a revival of the primitive interpretation, has been advocated in recent times by Dr. J. H. Todd, Dr. S. R. Maitland, B. Newton, C. Maitland, I. Williams, De Burgh, and others.
Against the Futurist it is argued that it is not consistent with the repeated declarations of a speedy fulfilment at the beginning and end of the book itself (see Revelation 1:3; Revelation 22:6-7; Revelation 22:12; Revelation 22:20). Christians, to whom it was originally addressed, would have derived no special comfort from it had its fulfilment been altogether deferred for so many centuries. The rigidly literal interpretation of Babylon, the Jewish tribes, and other symbols which generally forms a part of Futurist schemes, presents peculiar difficulties.
(3.) The Historical or Continuous expositors, in whose opinion tihe Revelation is a progressive history of the fortunes of the Church from the first century to the end of time. The chief supporters of this most interesting interpretation are Mede, Sir L. Newton, Vitringa, Bengel, Woodhouse, Faber, E. B. Elliott, Wordsworth, Hengstenberg, Ebrard, and others. The recent Commentary of dean Alford belongs mainly to this school.
Against the historical scheme it is urged that its advocates differ very widely among themselves; that they assume without any authority that the 1260 days are son many years; that several of its applications — e.g. of the symbol of the ten-horned beast to the popes, and the sixth seal to the conversion of Constantine are inconsistent with the context; that attempts by some of this school to predict future events by the help of Revelation have ended in repeated failures.
Two methods have been proposed by which the student of the Revelation may escape the incongruities and fallacies of the different interpretations, while he may derive edification from whatever truth they contain. It has been suggested that the book may be regarded as a prophetic poem, dealing in general and inexact descriptions, much of which may be set down as poetic imagery — mere embellishment. But such a view would be difficult to reconcile with the belief that the book is an inspired prophecy. A better suggestion is made, or rather is revived, by Dr. Arnold in his sermons On the Interpretation of Prophecy: that we should bear in mind that predictions have a lower historical sense, as well as a higher spiritual sense; that there maybe one, or more than one, typical, imperfect, historical fulfilment, of a prophecy, in each of which the higher spiritual fulfilment is shadowed forth more or less distinctly. (See DOUBLE SENSE)
In choosing among the various schemes of interpretation, we are inclined to adopt that which regards the first series of prophetical visions proper (ch. 4-12) as indicating the collapse (in part at the time already transpired) of the nearest persecuting power, namely, Judaism; the second series (ch. 13-19) as denoting the eventual downfall of the succeeding persecutor, i.e. Rome (first in its pagan and next in its papal form); and the third series (20:1-10) as briefly outlining the final overthrow of a last persecutor, some yet future power or influence (figuratively represented by a name borrowed from Ezekiel). These three opponents of Christianity are set forth as successive developments of Antichrist, and the symbols employed are cumulative and reiterative rather than historical and consecutive. For special explanations, (See ANTICHRIST); (See MAGOG); (See NUMBER OF THE BEAST, ETC).
VI. Commnentaries. — Most of the above questions are treated in the regular commentaries and introductions, and in numerous monographs, published separately, or in periodicals. The following are the exegetical helps solely on the whole book; to the most important we prefix an asterisk: St. Anthony, Expositio (in Opp. p. 645); Victorinus, Scholia (in Bibl.Max. Patr. 3, 414; Galland. Bibl. Patr. 4:49; also Par. 1549, 1609, 8vo); Berengaud, Expositio (in Ambrosii Opp. ii, 499); Trichonius, Expositio (in Augustini Opp. 16:617); Primasius, Commentarius (in Bibl. Max. Patr. vol. x); Andreas Caesar, Commentarius (ibid. v, 590); Arethas, Explanationes (ibid. 9:741; also in (Ecumenii Opp. vol. ii); Bede, Explanatio (in Opp. v, 701; also in Works, i, 189; 12:337); Ambrosius Autpert. In Apocal. (in Bibl. Max. Patr. 13:403); Alcuin, Commentarii (in Mai, Script. Vet. 9:257); Bruno, in Apocal. (in Opp. vol. i); Hervaeus, Enarrationes (in Anselmi Opp. ed. Picard, 1612); Rupert, In Apocal. (in Opp. ii, 450); Anon. Glossa (Lips. 1481, 4to); Albert, Comment. (Basil. 1506, 4to; also in Opp. vol. xi); Joann. Viterb. Glossa (Colon. 1507, 8vo); *Joachim, In Apocal. (Ven. 1519, 527, 4to); Huss, Commentarius (ed. Luther, Vitemb. 1528, 8vo); Lambert, Exegesis (Marp. 1528; Basil. 1539, 8vo); Aimo, Commentarius (Colon. 1529,1531,1534; Par. 1540, 8vo); Melch. Hoffmann, Auslegung (Argent. 1530, 8vo); Bullinger, Conciones (Basil. 1535,1570, and often, fol.; also in English, Lond. 1573, 4to); Thompas of Wales, Expositio (Flor. 1549, 8vo; also in Aquinas, Conmment. Paris, 1641); Bibliander, Commentarius (Basil. 1549, 8vo); Meyer, Commentarius (Tigur. 1554, 1603, fol.); Fulke, Prcelectiones (Lond. 1557, 1573, 4to); Conrad, Commentarius (Basil. 1560,1574, 8vo); Borrhaus, Conzmnentarius, (ibid. 1561; Tigsur. 1600, fol.); Serranus, Commentaria (Complut. 1563, fol.); Chytraeus, Comnenztarius (Vitemb. 1563, 1571, 1575, 8v-; Rost. 1581, 4to); Artopoeus, Explicatio (Basil. 1563, 8vo); Selnecker, Erklirung (Jen. 1567, 1568, 1608, 4to); (Tyfford, Sermons (Lond. 1573, 4to); Marloratus, Exposition (from the Latin, ibid. 1574, 4to); Brocardus, Interpretatio (L. B. 1580, 1590, 8vo; also in English, Lond. 1583, 4to); De Fermo [Rom. Cath.], Enarratio (from the Italian, Antw. 1581, 8vo); De Melo [Rom. Cath.], Commentarius (Pint. 1584, fol.) Foxe, Proelectiones (Lond. 1587, fol.; Geneva, 1596,1618, 8vo); Bulenger [Rom. Cath. l, Ephrasis (Paris; 15.89, 1597, 8vo); Junius, Illustratio (Heidelb. 1591; Basil. 1599, 8vo; and in Opp. vol. i, 1694; also in French, Basle, 1592, 1598.; in English, Lond. -1592, 1596, 4to; 1616, 8vo); De Ribera [Rom. Cath.], Commentarius (Salam. 1591, fol.; Lugd. 1593, 4to; Antw. 1603: Duoc. 1623, 8vpo); Gallus, Clavis (Antw. 1592, 8vo); *Napier, Interpretation (Edinb. 1593, 1611, 1645. 4to; in French, Rupp. 1603,1607; Geneva, 1643, 4to; in Dutch, Magdeb. 1618; in German, Leips. 1611; Frankf. 1615, 627, 8vo; Ger. 1661,4to); Funcke, Erklarung (Fr. a. M. 1596, 4to); Du Jon, Exposition (from the French, Lond. 1596, 4to); Foorthe, Revelatio (ibid. 1597, 4to); Winckelmann. Commentarius (Francf. 1600, 1609; Lub. 1615, 8vo); De la Perie, Paraphrase (French, Geneva, 1600, 1651, 4to); Eglin, Epilysis (Tigur. 1601, fol.; Hanov. 1611, 4to); Viegas [Rom. Cath.], Commentarii (Ebor. 1601, fol,; Lugd. 1602, 1606; Ven. 1602, 1608; Colon. 1603, 1607-; Par. 1606, 1615, 1630, 4to); Richter, Die Offenbarung (Leips. 1602, 4to); Dent, Exposition (Lond. 1603, 1607, 4to; 1623, 8vo; 1644, 4to); Pererius, Disputationes (Lugd. 1606; Ven. 1607, 4to); Brightmann. Scholia (Francf. 1609, 4to; 1618; Heidelb. 1612, 8vo; also in English, Amst. 1611, 1615, 4to; Lond. 1616; Leyd. 1644, 8vo; and in Works, Lond. 1644, 4to); Taffin, Exposition (French, Fless. 1609; Middelb. 1614, 8vo); Hoe. Commentarii (Lips. 1609-11, 2 vols. 4to; 1671, fol.); Broughton, Revelation (Lond. 1610,4to; also in Works, p. 408); Becan, Commentarius (Mogunt. 1612, 12mo): Lucius, Notoe (Hanov. 1613, 8vo); Forbes. Commentary (Lond. 1613, fol.; also in Latin, Amst. 1646, 4to); CottiBre, Expositio (Salm. 1614; Sedan, 1625, 4to); Alcassar. [Rom. 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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Revelation, Book of.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/r/revelation-book-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20