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L. [See page 428.]
ON THE AUTHENTICITY AND THE DATE OF THE APOCALYPSE.
Notwithstanding the able and learned dissertations of Lücke on the passages of "the Fathers" which support the authenticity of the Apocalypse, those passages appear to us conclusive. Either external evidence must be denied all value, or it must be admitted to be conclusive in this case. Setting aside the passages of the writings of the apostolic "Fathers," which, in a general way, remind us of the Apocalypse, 501(for instance, the sixth chapter of Polycarp's "Epistle to the Ephesians," where mention is made of the prophets, who had declared the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ,) it is clear to us that Papias sought in it support for his millenarian views. Andreas, a writer of the fifth century, quoted, in explanation of Papias, Rev. xii, 7. Andreas, "Præf. ad Comment. in Apoc." Justin Martyr, who wrote about the year 139, cites it positively as the Revelation of John. "Dial. cum Tryph.," p. 179. According to Eusebius, ("Hist. Eccles.," iii, 26,) Melito must have written a commentary on the Revelation. The allusions to this book are plain in the letter of the Church of Lyons to the Churches of Asia Minor. Eusebius, "Hist. Eccles.," v, 1. The testimony of Irenæus, ("Contr. Hæres.," iv, 20;) of Clement of Alexandria, ("Stromat.," vi, 66;) of Tertullian, ("Adv. Marc.," iii, 14;) and of Origen, (see Eusebius, "Hist. Eccles.," vi, 25,) is, without any sort of hesitation, in favor of the authenticity of the Apocalypse.
The first doubts on this subject were expressed by the sect of the Alogi, who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. These doubts were carried further by Caius, and finally by Dionysius of Alexandria, (Eusebius, vii, 25,) and more or less confirmed by Eusebius. But it is only needful to study the grounds taken up by Dionysius, in order to be convinced that he reasons entirely from à priori arguments, and that it is fear of the chiliasts, or millenarians, which leads him to throw doubt upon the book of the Revelation.
Is the internal evidence in truth as adverse as is asserted? We think not. We admit that there are great differences in substance and in form between the Gospel of John and the Revelation, but there are also striking analogies. The differences seem to us to have been exaggerated by Lücke and Reuss,666666Lücke, "Offenbarung Johannes," pp. 707-744. Reuss, "Théologie du Siècle Apostolique, vol. i, p. 303. as well as by the Tübingen school, which exults in the asserted Judaism of St. John, in order to dispute the authorship of the fourth gospel. Baur667667Baur, "Das Christenthum der drei erst. Jahrh.," p. 75; Schwegler, work quoted, ii, p. 247. goes so far as to see in it a sort of Judaistic libel on St. Paul. Hengstenberg falls into the opposite extreme.668668Hengstenberg, "Offenbarung des Heiligen Johannes." Berlin. 1849.
Stress is laid first on the difference of style and on the Hebraic coloring of the Apocalypse. This difference is real; it is explained in part by the fact that the Book of the Revelation is, from its very 502nature, much more dependent on Old Testament prophecy, the vivid images of which it constantly reproduces. This explanation, however, is not alone sufficient, and we are fully convinced that the Revelation cannot have been written at the same date as the Gospel and Epistles.
Three points are especially insisted upon in proof of the difference between the Revelation and the other writings of John. 1st. The prophecy, properly so called, or the view of the future, is different. In the one case, it is said, every thing is materialized—resurrection, judgment, triumph, condemnation, Antichrist; to the author of the Apocalypse, all this is earthly and external, while to the Evangelist every thing is spiritual. Resurrection in the fourth gospel stands for conversion; judgment is the separation of light and darkness. Opposition to Christ is not personified in the form of a man. It is a condition of mind.669669This opinion is maintained by M. Réville, "Revue de Théologie," 1855; pp. 361, 362. Lücke himself does not admit this strongly-marked opposition. He allows that there is, in the Gospel, an element corresponding to apocalyptic prophecy. He thinks, firstly, that even the Evangelist refers to a resurrection, a judgment in the true sense, which is to be the actual close of the religious history of mankind.670670Lücke, "Offenbarung," p. 178. John v, 21; vi, 39; xi, 24. Only in the Gospel and in the Epistles this closing scene is not directly external, as, in the Apocalypse, it is in its first significance spiritual; the moral precedes the final judgment. We have here, then, a progression in revelation, but we deny that there is any contradiction. 2d. It is asserted that the Gospel is anti-Judaic, while the Apocalypse is said to be of a profoundly Judaizing tendency.
The opposition of the Gospel of John to Judaism must not be exaggerated. Do we not read in it these words, "Salvation is of the Jews?" John iv, 22. Has it not been often remarked with what scrupulous care the fourth Evangelist endeavors to show the harmony of Old Testament prophecy with the facts to which it refers? In this respect John almost rivals Matthew. It has. been far too much forgotten, in speaking of the Judaism of the Revelation, that the symbolism of a prophet of the first century must necessarily be borrowed from the Old Testament. The colors which he must use were, so to speak, already prepared for him. Besides, the author of the Apocalypse recognizes very distinctly Christian universalism, and was not that the essential point? The twelve tribes of which he speaks (vii, 5-9) cannot represent exclusively the chosen people, since the great multitude around the throne of the Lamb belongs to every tribe, 503and nation, and kindred, and tongue. Paul had already designated the Church "the Israel of God." Gal. vi, i6.671671Lücke, "Offenbarung," p. 739.
3d. It is maintained that the doctrine of the author of the Revelation is totally at variance with that of the author of the Gospel. And first, Jesus, it is said, is not represented as the Word of God, but only as the great revealer; but what, then, is conveyed by those hymns to the Lamb, which blend his name in common adoration with that of God? Rev. v, 13; xiv, 3, 4.
Even those who pretend to discover in the Apocalypse the notion of salvation by works, as opposed to the true Christian doctrine, are constrained to admit that there are few books of the New Testament in which redemption by the blood of Christ is more clearly taught. Rev. i, 5; vii, 14. How is it possible to reconcile such declarations with the idea of a simple recompense for good works? The Judaizing character of the Apocalypse is especially pointed out in that part of the book in which the martyrs are represented as crying to God to be avenged for their blood shed upon the earth. Rev. vi, 10; xiii, 10; xiv, 10, 11. How, it is asked, can this idea of vengeance be harmonized with the conception of love so beautifully set forth in the Gospel and Epistles? Let it not be forgotten that love implies holiness, and that the law of the universe, to which a sanction is attached, cannot be violated with impunity. Condemnation is spoken of in almost every page of the gospel, and we cannot forget the mysterious words of the first epistle as to the unpardonable sin. 1 John v, 16, 17. We admit that this element of justice is set forth in the Apocalypse under the form of ancient prophecy; but it embodies, nevertheless, an immortal verity, though without giving it its highest and most complete expression. This is one of the reasons which convince us that the Revelation cannot have been written at the same period as the Gospel. With reference to the immediate expectation of the return of the Lord, (i, 3; xii, 12; xxii, 10,) this does not at all go beyond that which was common in the writings of St. Paul, and among all the Christians of the first century. There is, then, no contradiction between John the Evangelist and the writer of the Apocalypse, and we do not find ourselves in the dilemma stated by M. Reuss, that if St. John wrote the one, he cannot have written the other. "Gesch. Schr., N. T.," p. 147. On the contrary, there are striking analogies between the two books; in both we note the tender and pathetic, often melancholy tone, which renders the writings of John so touching; the same love for the person of Jesus Christ, the same hatred of 504heresy. Can we not recognize the son of thunder, the impassioned opponent of Cerinthus, in every page of the book of Revelation?
Though we concur in the belief of the authenticity of the Apocalypse, we are not, however, prepared to admit the traditional date for its composition. We have already pointed out several reasons which, from a doctrinal point of view, make us demur to this. We shall not recur to these. It is not, as we have shown, that we charge the writer of the Revelation with a rude Judaism, as has been done by others.672672This is the opinion of M. Réville, who, placing the composition of the Apocalypse before the destruction of Jerusalem, lays the strangest illusions of Judæo-Christianity to the charge of St. John. No, we discern in it a divine revelation full of wealth and beauty. Let us not forget, however, that the revelations of God have been progressive, even in the new covenant. It is clear, for example, that as regards doctrinal fullness, there is a wide disparity between the Epistle of James and that of Paul to the Ephesians. God always takes account of human receptivity. There is, then, no reason for surprise if the revelations granted to the same man, at two different periods of his life, manifest a progression of light, while they, nevertheless, rest on the same basis of truth. We admit, however, without hesitation, that if the testimony of history compelled us to place the Apocalypse in the reign of Domitian, we should at once accept the traditional date, setting aside our own judgment. But there is no such necessity; the sole testimony of the second century in favor of this hypothesis is that of Irenæus. "The Apocalyptic vision," he says, " took place not long before our day, but a short time before our generation, under Domitian."673673Οἰδὲ γαρ πρὸ πολλοῦ χρονοῦ ἐώραθη, πρὸς τῶ τέλει τῆς Δομετιανοῦ ἀρχῆς. Irenæus, "Contr. Hæres.," v, 30. Clement of Alexandria speaks only of some tyrant, under whom John was exiled to Patmos.674674Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ τοῦ τοράννου τελευτηοαντος. Clement of Alexandria, "Quis dives," § 42. Origen calls him the King of the Romans.675675Origen, "Opera," III, p. 719. Eusebius and St. Jerome echo the statement of Irenæus.676676Eusebius, "Hist. Eccles.," iii, 18, 20, 23. St. Jerome, "De viris illustr.," IX. Epiphanius is the first who differs from Irenæus as to the name of the tyrant or king who persecuted St. John. According to him it was Claudius who banished the Apostle to Patmos.677677Μετὰ τὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῆς Πάτμου ἐπάνοδον τὴν επὶ Κλαυδίου γενομένην Καισαρος. Epiphanius, "Ad. Hæres.," li, 12. Tertullian places the exile of John under the reign of Nero, who, he says, after having him plunged in a bath of boiling 505 oil, banished him to Patmos.678678"In insulam relegatus." Tertullian, "De Præscript.," xxxvi. The last two writers are evidently misinformed, but they prove to us that the tradition as to the date of John's exile was not generally accepted by the Church in their time. Nor was it so several centuries later; for Andreas, in his commentary on Rev. vi, 12, observes that some interpreters saw in this passage a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. Hengstenberg, in order to prove that the Revelation was written under Domitian, dwells upon the internal condition of the seven Churches. He thinks it impossible to suppose such a growth of heresies before the close of the apostolic age. i, 13. But what, then, does he make of the pastoral epistles, and how does he not see that he is thus furnishing negative criticism with weapons to attack them?
From the study of the question we draw the conclusion that it is not possible to determine with exactness, by means of external evidence, the date of the composition of the Apocalypse. We are, therefore, compelled to give full weight to the internal evidence. We have already observed that the doctrinal character of the book is adverse to its traditional date. If, now, we sum up its historical statements, we shall find that they give some indications as to the time of its composition. Lücke and Reuss see one such indication in the eleventh chapter, where the sacred writer is bidden to measure the temple.679679Lücke, "Offenbar.," p. 827. In their view, this passage should be taken literally, and would imply that Jerusalem could not then have been destroyed; whence it would follow that the book must have been written before the year 70. But it seems to us impossible to be satisfied with a literal interpretation. We think, with Thiersch,680680Thiersch, book quoted, p. 237. that it is not possible to suppose John giving such flagrant contradiction to the prophecies of the Saviour, which declared the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple. Matt. xxiv, 1, 2. Then has not Lücke himself admitted that, with John, the Church is the Israel of God? Does not the temple, then, represent the Church itself in its outward constitution? That the temple has this symbolic value appears from Rev. i, 13, where the seven candlesticks of the sanctuary at Jerusalem represent the seven Churches to which Jesus Christ addresses himself. The date of the Apocalypse is not to be sought in the eleventh chapter of the book, but rather in its general coloring.
It is to us evident that the Apostle wrote a few years after the terrible persecution under Nero. It is idle to draw any parallel between the persecutions under Domitian, and that first truly infernal explosion 506of pagan hatred against the Church. Let it be observed, further, that the sacred writer speaks only of Roman persecutions; he has ever in view the city of the seven hills. Now, was it not under Nero that in the first century Babylon the impure became drunk with the blood of the saints? The thirteenth and seventeenth chapters of the Apocalypse carry us into the midst of the Roman world. The beast in those two chapters represents the Roman power, for it is ridden by the "woman arrayed in purple and scarlet," who is the great harlot of the ancient world; and the seven heads of the beast correspond evidently to the seven hills of Rome. It is, then, in our opinion, a grave mistake to see in these seven heads a succession of monarchies, as in the book of Daniel. They might rather represent the succession of various forms of Roman government, but even this would be a forced interpretation. The seven heads, after representing the seven hills, represent seven kings, seven Roman kings, that is, seven emperors. One of these heads has a peculiar power, this is the Antichristian power, par excellence, antichrist in person. Now, this head, which has been mortally wounded, can be nothing else than an emperor who has fallen by a violent death. It is the fifth emperor, Nero. He was and is not. "Wounded to death," this head is yet to be healed and to reappear with greater power than before. xiii, 3. This feature recalls the opinion so prevalent in the Roman empire and in the Church, that Nero was not dead, but was to appear again. The ancient Church long regarded him as Antichrist.681681"Nero primus omnium persecusus Dei servos, dejectus itaque fastigio imperii nusquam repente compariuit; ut ne sepulturæ quidem loœes in terra tam malu bestiæ appareret. Unde ilium quidam deliri credunt esse translatum ac vivum reservatum, sibylla dicente matricidum profugum a finibus esse venturum ut qui primus persecutus est idem etiam persequatur et Antichristi præcedat adventum." Lactantius, "De Morte persecut.," chap. ii; Augustin, "Civ. Dei," xx, 19; Jerome, "In Daniel," xi, 28. See also the fourth book of the "Sibylline Oracles," v, 106, and the vision of Isaiah in Ethiopia. Victorinus, (2d century,) and Commodianus, (3d century,) think that Nero will be himself Antichrist. The idea of the return of Nero is further expressed in pagan writers. Suetonius, "Nero," 40, 57; Tacitus, "Historia," i, 2; Dio Cassius, lxiv, 9. See Reuss's "Theology of the Apostolic Age," i, 324. Lücke, "Offenbar.," p. 834. This is a very important fact for the interpretation of the Revelation. Does it signify that the sacred writer thus sanctioned an absurd legend so soon to be falsified by fact? Assuredly not; but, as Thiersch682682"In der Volksage selbst liegt eine Wahrheit." Thiersch, work quoted, p. 243. has observed, he has made use of the element of truth lurking in the 507legend, which was inspired by a sort of prophetic instinct. Opposition to Christianity in one period is the type of that in another. That which the Church saw in Nero it will see again; Nero, or rather the spirit of Nero, (brutal hatred of the Gospel,) will reappear.
The combat is not finished, it has only commenced, and the first century is a faint image of the true Antichrist. What is there here unworthy of the Revelation? Is not the symbol admirably chosen? Do we not know that prophecy has always a primary signification, which, however, is capable of progressive and indefinite expansion? It is certain that the idea that Nero was Antichrist was widely diffused throughout the ancient Church; the expectation of his return took a materialized form, but its origin may be traced to this passage in the Apocalypse. It is not more surprising to find John bringing out the true meaning of a legend, than to find Jude quoting the Apocrypha, or Job speaking of the crooked serpent. xxvi, 13. That which is of importance here is to avoid a literalism which would make John the mere echo of a popular superstition. Of little consequence are the symbols employed by the prophet, provided only his prophecy be true. Did not the last prophets of the New Testament use without hesitation the symbolism of Chaldæa? and did they not convey through this medium divine ideas? We have now before our eyes, in Paris and in London, those huge animals of monstrous forms which were the objects of absurd superstition at Babylon and the sublime types of Jewish prophecy.
We have not yet spoken of the ingenious hypothesis of M. Reuss on the number of the beast, (666,) in which he says:
"We think with Lücke683683Lücke, "Offenb," p. 833.and De Wette684684De Wette, "Commentar. in Apoc." that it is more natural to look for a Greek than a Hebrew name in a book written in Greek. The ancient hypothesis of Irenæus, who read in it Latinus, is very satisfactory; it is sustained also by the relation of the numbers to the letters. Nero is not considered solely as an individual, but as the personification of the Roman power. The spirit of Nero, which is the true genius of paganism and of the Roman empire, the eighth king who comes of the seven, the Latinus par excellence, is to reappear among them, more terrible still. This prophecy received its first realization in the persecutions excited by the succeeding emperors; it is to be yet more fearfully fulfilled in the end of time. John is not in error."
Several commentaries on the Apocalypse have recently appeared in 508Germany. The most important is that of Auberlin, "Der Prophet Daniel und die Offenbarung Johannis in ihrem gegenseitigen Verhältniss betrachtet," von Carl Aug. Auberlin. Second ed., Basel, I857. The writer follows the præterist system, which pretends to find all modern history narrated in anticipation in the Apocalypse. He displays much learning, piety, and subtilty in the exposition of his theory. The woman of the twelfth chapter is in his system the Church, surrounded with the divine light under the figure of the sun, and having under her feet the light of this world, set forth by the moon, which receives light without possessing it. This Church, under her ancient form in Judaism, has given birth to the Christ, who has driven the demons out of heaven, these having hitherto occupied one of its regions. She extends her power in the pagan world, which is represented by the desert. Rev. xii, 6. The devil raises a fearful persecution, (xii, 13;) vanquished the first time, he casts forth upon her the floods of the barbarian invasion, like a great inundating stream. xii, 15. But the earth opens her mouth and swallows this flood; the barbarous peoples are brought into the Roman empire and are Christianized by the Church.
The beast of the thirteenth chapter is the temporal power. If the Apocalypse gives it seven heads, it is to represent its attempt to imitate the divine power, of which seven is the symbolic number. But it fails in this attempt, for in chap. xiii, 11, an eighth head is added; this is enough to denote its incapacity to reproduce the divine power. The number 666 pronounces its condemnation. In fact, the number six always symbolizes the judgment of God, for in the scene of the seven cups, the seven trumpets, and the seven thunders, the sixth link introduces the most terrible visitations of Heaven, which assure the triumph of truth. Further, the number six is the half of the number twelve, the symbolic number of the Church, and it indicates the divided condition of the temporal power. The number 666, by multiplying the number six, prophesies a terrible access to the condemnation of the world. The author sees in the seven hills and the seven heads the succession of monarchies. The fallen Church is set forth in the harlot of the thirteenth chapter. The beast, the image of modern powers, seemed vanquished when it was wounded. xiii, 3. This indicated a check to the evil power, and the Christianization of the world. But its healing shows that the modern, like the ancient world, has fallen again under the power of the devil. One last victory will be permitted to this diabolic power, (xiii, 7,) and the drama of history shall close with the millennium taken in the real sense.509
Such a system seems to us to refute itself; the symbolism of numbers on which it hinges, carries the arbitrary beyond all limit. Proceeding thus, we may see any thing or any body in the Revelation.
Ebrard, in the commentary which he published last year, upholds the old Protestant view. The Roman power is depicted in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters, and Papal Rome in the seventeenth chapter. The system of MM. Elliot and Gaussen is found complete in Grübe's commentary on the Apocalypse. "Versuch einer historischen Erklärung der Offenbarung Johannis." Heidelberg, 1857.
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