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This reference confirms the testimony of Irenæus. As was before said, no Roman Emperor except Nero had persecuted the Church of Christ before the reign of Domitian. And there is no evidence that any Christian suffered death under Nero, except at Rome'.
It is much more probable, that, as ancient writers affirm, Antipas was martyred at Pergamos in the age of Domitian.
The testimony of Irenæus on the date of the Apocalypse is confirmed by writers in the age next to his. Clement of Alexandria says that, "After the death of the tyrant, John went from the Island of Patmos to Ephesus;" and he also says, "that John remained with the Presbyters of Asia to the times of Trajan."
This statement harmonizes with the assertion of Irenæus, that the Revelation was seen by St. John at the end of the reign of Domitian, who was succeeded by Nerva, the predecessor of Trajan.
Origen, the scholar of Clement, observes that, in accordance with the prophecy of Christ, both the Sons of Zebedee, James and John, drank His cup of suffering; for "Herod," he says, "killed James, the brother of John, with the sword";" and the King of the Romans, as tradition informs us, condemned John, when bearing witness as a Martyr, to the Isle of Patmos, on account of the word of Truth and John himself informs us concerning his own martyrdom, not telling us who it was that condemned him, but using these words in his Apocalypse, "I, John, your brother and fellowcompanion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience in Jesus, became a sojourner in the island that is called Patmos on account of the word of God"."
Victorinus, Bishop of Pettau in Pannonia, who wrote a commentary on the Apocalypse at the close of the third century, and suffered as a martyr in A.D. 303, affirms in that commentary, that when John saw the Apocalypse he was in the island of Patmos, being condemned by Domitian Cæsar to the mines there; and that when John, on account of his old age, supposed he would have a release by death, Domitian was slain, and his decrees were rescinded, and John was liberated from the mines".
After him Eusebius relates as a fact commonly believed in his age, that St. John was condemned under Domitian to the island of Patmos on account of his testimony to the divine word', and that he there saw the Apocalypse in the 14th year of the reign of Domitian, that is, in
After him S. Jerome, at the close of the fourth century, says, that "John wrote the Apocalypse in the island of Patmos, to which he was relegated in the 14th year of the Emperor Domitian, who was the second Roman Emperor that persecuted the Christians, Nero being the first"."
Thus then we find a consistent and uniform series of testimonies from S. Irenæus to S. Jerome -that is, from about A.D. 170 to A.D. 390-affirming that the Apocalypse was written by St. John in the Isle of Patmos about A.D. 95 of the common era.
2. The only evidence of any weight which may be adduced in opposition to these conclusions is that of Epiphanius, who died A.D. 403.
In his work on Heretics" he says that "St. John in the Apocalypse, writing to the Seven Churches of Asia, predicts the rise of Heresies which did not then exist, and foretells that a woman would appear at Thyatira who would call herself a prophetess "; and he adds that these things came to pass long after the death of John, inasmuch as he prophesied in the times of Claudius Cæsar, when he was at Patmos."
If this passage is genuine, and the text is not corrupt, it may be said without presumption, that through human infirmity, from which the most learned men are not exempt, the memory and judgment of the Author failed him when he wrote it.
This appears from the following considerations:
In speaking to the Angel of the Church of Thyatira, St. John is not censuring him for errors
1 Cp. Gieseler, Church History, § 28.
2 See below, on Rev. ii. 11.
Clem. Alex. ap. Euseb. iii. 23.
4 Acts xii. 2.
5 Rev. i. 9.
6 Victorinus in Apocalypsim, x. 11; Bibl. Patr. Maxima, tom. iii. ed. Paris, 1677; or in the Abbé Migne's Patrologia, vol. v. 333. See also in Apoc. xvii. 19, where Victorinus says that "Domitian was Emperor, when John saw the Apocalypse."
7 Euseb. H. E. iii. 23.
8 Euseb. Chronicon. ad Domitian. Ann. xiv.
9 S. Jerome de Viris illust. c. 9, and ad Jovinian. ii. 14,
10 Epiphan. Hæres. li. lib. ii. vol. i. p. 197.
and corruptions which would prevail after his time, and for which he would not be responsible; but he is reproving the Angel, or Chief Pastor, for abuses which actually existed there under his government, and which he ought to have corrected.
Besides, if St. John had written, as Epiphanius supposed, in the days of Claudius, he could not have described himself as suffering exile at Patmos "for the Word of God," for no such punishment was inflicted by the Roman Power on Christians in the days of Claudius, or till the time of Nero'; nor could he have then referred to the days in which Antipas was slain at Pergamos, as a faithful martyr for the Truth. Nor would he then have censured the Angel of Ephesus for having lost "his first love';" for, in the days of Claudius, the Church of Ephesus was flourishing in the fresh spring-time of the Gospel, which it had just received from St. Paul.
Under these circumstances we may almost feel disposed to think that there is some error in our present copies of this passage of Epiphanius, and that it was hardly possible for him to have written at least to have written deliberately-that the Apocalypse was composed in the times of Claudius'.
However this may be, certain it is that this opinion of Epiphanius—if it were really his-never gained ground in the Church; and that the general belief of all the best ancient writers of Christendom was the same as Irenæus had expressed in the century in which St. John died, that he wrote the Revelation at the close of the reign of the Emperor Domitian ".
This opinion is strongly confirmed by the internal evidence of the Apocalypse itself.
The Epistles in it to the Seven Churches of Asia betoken a condition of things later than St. Paul's age; and similar to that which we know from other sources to have prevailed in Asia, at the close of the first century of the Christian era.
In these seven Epistles we see Churches settled with Angels or Chief Pastors at their head; we see that some years have elapsed since they were planted; that time has passed away, in which they have been tried, and some have stood the trial, as Smyrna and Philadelphia'; that some of them have declined from their primitive standard, as Ephesus, under fear of persecution, or through worldliness and lukewarmness, as Laodicea"; that others have a name to live and are dead, as Sardis'; and that heresies have grown up among them, as at Thyatira 10; and that they have been visited by forms of heretical pravity and moral libertinism, such as the doctrines and practice of the Nicolaitans and Judaizers ", which were the scourges of the Asiatic Churches at that time.
Such being the case, the received opinion of Ancient Christendom will not easily be disturbed by that spirit of scepticism which has unhappily shown itself in some quarters in recent times 12; and which has, however, overreached itself. It is not content with rejecting the date assigned to the Apocalypse by ancient testimony, but has proceeded to set itself against the universal consent of ancient Christendom, and to deny that the Author of the Book of Revelation was the Evangelist St. John.
These two theories will probably soon share the same fate, even in that country which gave them birth. They have already been encountered there with learning and ability ", and their unsoundness has been exposed, and the ancient consent of Christendom has been vindicated.
1 See above, p. 156.
2 ii. 13.
3 ii. 4.
We may almost be inclined to think, that, instead of enl KAATAIOT, he may have written el PAABIOT, and that the copyist did not remember that the Emperor Domitian was sometimes called Flavius; as he is by Juvenal, iv. 37:
"Cum jam semianimum laceraret Flavius orbem Ultimus, et calvo serviret Roma Neroni."
This passage will also remind the reader that Domitian was also called Nero, and it may serve to explain what is said by some other still later writers, that St. John was banished by Nero, which is another name for Domitian.
The argument which has been derived for a later date of the Apocalypse than Domitian's reign, from the words of the Apocalypse itself (xvii. 10): "And they are Seven Kings; Five are fallen, and One is, and the other is not yet come," will be examined in the note on that text.
5 Thus Primasius, Bishop of Adrumetum in Africa, in the 6th century, in his Commentary on the Apocalypse (Bibl. Patr. Max. x. p. 289), or in Migne, Patrologia (lxviii. p. 796), says, "Hæc videre promeruit in Patmo Insulâ pro Christo à Domitiano Cæsare exilio missus." And so Bede in Rev. i. 9, speaks of this opinion as generally received in his day: "Historia nota, Joannem à
Domitiano Cæsare propter Evangelium in hanc insulam rele-
7 iii. 8-10.
8 iii. 16.
9 iii. 1.
10 ii. 20.
11 ii. 6. 9. 15. 20; iii. 9.
12 Especially among the followers of Dr. Friedrich Lücke,
We may therefore hold fast the belief, that the Book of Revelation was written at the close of the reign of Domitian, who died in the year of our Lord 96.
IX. On the Authorship of the Apocalypse.
1. In order to establish the Genuineness of the Apocalypse, it will be sufficient to refer to the testimony of the next age after it was written, and especially of that Country to which it was originally sent.
The first witness here is Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, a city at a few miles' distance from Laodicea, one of the Seven Churches. He was a disciple of St. John, and in a certain sense a colleague of the Seven Angels whom the author of the Apocalypse addressed. He was very diligent in collecting memorable facts concerning the Apostles and their works: and he received the Apocalypse as the work of the Evangelist St. John '.
His testimony is of greater value, on account of his nearness to Laodicea; for the Church of Laodicea could not have been ignorant of the authorship of a book addressed to itself; and if the Apocalypse had not been the work of St. John, we cannot imagine that the Laodiceans would have allowed such an unfavourable character of their Church, as is given in the Apocalypse, to be circulated throughout Christendom, in the name and with the authority of St. John. If the Apocalypse had been a forgery, they must have known it to be so; and knowing it so to be, they would have exposed it to the world.
This observation applies to others of the Seven Churches, who are addressed in similar terms of rebuke; and it adds weight to the facts, first, that there is a considerable amount of primitive testimony from the Seven Churches, assigning the Apocalypse to St. John; and that there is none from that quarter which ascribes it to any one else.
The next testimony is that of Justin Martyr. About the middle of the second century he came to the city of Ephesus, where he held a two days' conference with Trypho, one of the most learned Jews of his day. In the narrative which he published of this dialogue, Justin Martyr quotes the Apocalypse, and affirms that it is written by one of the Apostles of Christ, whose name is John 2.
This assertion was made only about half a century after the death of St. John, and it was made at Ephesus, the mother city of Asia, the principal of the Seven Churches, the city in which St. John passed a great part of his life, in which he died, and was buried. This testimony, therefore, of Justin Martyr is of great value, and confirms the belief, that St. John was the Author of the Apocalypse
We next come to Melito. He was Bishop of one of the Seven Churches, Sardis, in the second century; a successor, therefore, of one of the Seven Angels addressed in the Apocalypse. The witness of Sardis and its Bishop cannot be suspected of partiality; for Sardis, again, is one of the Churches which is rebuked with great severity in the Apocalypse. Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. And the character of Melito stands pre-eminently high both for piety and learning. He showed a laudable zeal with regard to the Canon of the Old Testament. In order to assure himself and the Church of Sardis concerning the Books of the Ancient Scriptures, as received by the Churches of Palestine, he visited that country in person, and he has given the result of his critical inquiries in an interesting and valuable Epistle'. And it cannot be supposed that he who was so diligent and circumspect in his inquiries concerning the Old Testament, would have been less careful respecting the New, and especially concerning that Book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse, which contains an address to his own Predecessor, and to his own Church; and to which, on other grounds, his best consideration must have been given, for he wrote a Cominentary upon the Apocalypse °.
The evidence, therefore, of Melito is important. He also received the Apocalypse as the work of St. John.
The latest witness to whom we shall appeal is S. Irenæus. He was probably a native of
1 Andreas and Arethas (Prolog. in Apocalyp.) refer to Papias as vouching for the inspiration of the Apocalypse, and S. Irenæus, who unhesitatingly received it as genuine, refers to Papias as among his authorities. Cp. Iren. v. 33, Пarías 'Iwávvov ȧKovorǹs, Πολυκάρπου δὲ ἑταῖρος. Euseb. iii. 39. S. Hieron. Catal. Script. xviii. tom. iv. 109, and Epist. ad Theodoram, iv. p. 581.
Euseb. iv. 18, διάλογον ἐπὶ τῆς Ἐφεσίων πόλεως πρὸς
τῆς ̓Ιωάννου ̓Αποκαλύψεως σαφως τοῦ ̓Αποστόλου αὐτὴν εἶναι λéywv.
3 S. Justin, Dialog. c. Tryphone, c. 80, 81. See also S. Hieron. Catal. c. ix.
4 Rev. iii. 1.
5 Euseb. iv. 26. S. Hieron. Catal. c. xxiv.
Asia Minor, whence he migrated to France, where he became Bishop of Lyons towards the close of the second century. In his youth he had been acquainted with S. Polycarp, who was placed in the see of Smyrna by the Apostles, and, as some affirm, by St. John himself'; and is supposed by some learned men to be no other than the Angel of the Church of Smyrna, who is addressed in the Apocalypse.
In his work against Heresies, published only about ten years after S. Polycarp's martyrdom, S. Irenæus refers to the Apocalypse'. He mentions ancient Manuscripts of it, which he had examined; and he speaks of a particular reading of a passage in the Apocalypse (that concerning the number of the Beast), as being confirmed by the authority of those "who had seen St. John face to face." In this work he quotes the Apocalypse no less than twenty times; he makes long extracts from it; and speaks of it unhesitatingly as inspired Scripture, and as the work of St. John.
The testimony of S. Irenæus is of more value, because it was probably derived from Asiatic Bishops; for example, from Papias, whom he mentions; and from S. Polycarp, whose life, like that of his Master, St. John, seems to have been providentially prolonged to almost a patriarchal duration, in order that he might be a witness of the living Voice of Apostolic Teaching, till the Written Word was generally diffused.
2. Such, then, is the testimony from the country' to which the Apocalypse was originally sent; such is the witness of the Asiatic Churches to which it was addressed. No evidence of a contrary kind can be adduced from those Churches, and from that age.
No doubt was entertained by the Apocalyptic Churches concerning the inspiration and genuineness of the Apocalypse. On the contrary, those were condemned as holding heretical opinions, the Alogi, for instance, of the second century, who denied the Apocalypse to be St. John's. "We can appeal," says Tertullian, at the close of the second century, "to the Churches which are the fosterchildren of St. John; for though Marcion, the heretic, rejects his Apocalypse, yet the series of the Asiatic Bishops derives its origin from St. John"." All the Apocalyptic Churches ascribe the Apocalypse to St. John.
3. Let us consider now the facts before us.
A Writing, claiming to be from Heaven, dictated in solemn and sublime language, predicting future events, presenting, as it were, a series of pictures of the World's History to the end of Time, is sent to Seven Apostolic Churches of the most distinguished Cities of Asia; to Ephesus, the rich emporium of the East; to Smyrna, the nurse of Poets; and to Sardis, the ancient residence of Kings. It purports to come from an exile on the barren rock of Patmos, an isle almost within sight of Ephesus, and therefore accessible to those to whom the book is sent. It speaks in the voice of authority to those Churches, and to their spiritual Rulers; it pronounces judicial sentence upon them; it rebukes their failings, and commends their virtues; it promises blessings to those who receive the words of its prophecy, and denounces eternal woe on all who add to, or take away from, it. It speaks to men as being itself from God.
And what is the result?
This Book-with these claims, reproofs, promises, and threats—is received by all these Churches as the WORD of GOD; and is ascribed by them to the beloved Disciple, the blessed Apostle and Evangelist, St. John.
Such is their testimony; and they could not have been deceived in this matter. St. John was no stranger to them. He lived and died among them. If then the Apocalypse is not from God, and if it is not the work of St. John, it cannot be imagined that the Apostolic Churches of Asia would have conspired to receive it. Their duty, both to God and to the Apostle, required them not to do so. So far from receiving it, the Angels of these Churches, with one voice, would have protested against it. Not only they would not have recognized it as divine, not only they would not have received it as the work of St. John, but they would have condemned it as falsely ascribed to the Apostle, and impiously laying claim to the incommunicable attributes of God. It would have taken
1 Tertullian, de Præscr. c. 32. S. Iren. iii. 3, 4, ap. Euseb. v. 20. Cp. Euseb. iv. 14. S. Hieron. Catal. Scr. xvii.
2 For instance, by Archbp. Ussher.
Cave, i. pp. 66, 67, de
+ Iren. v. 30. Cf. Euseb. v. 8. Irenæus also quotes the Apocalypse as St. John's in Fragm. Pfaff. p. 26.
5 Rev. xiii. 18.
6 Euseb. iv. 14; v. 20.
7 Mr. I. C. Knight, in pp. 12-15 of an ingenious Essay on the Apocalypse (Lond. 1842), has shown reason for believing, that S. Ignatius, in Epist. ad Philad. 6, imitated the words in
Rev. iii. 12.
8 Epiphan. Hæres. li. 3, 4. 32, 33. Philastr. Hæres. lx. al. 13. • Tertullian, c. Marcion. iv. 5. See ibid. iii. 14.
a place among those spurious Revelations which were ascribed by heretics to Peter, Paul, and
4. If now we open the Book itself, every thing there harmonizes with this belief'.
The Author calls himself John. "I, John, who am also your brother, and companion in tribulation"." "John to the Seven Churches which are in Asia"." "I John saw these things, and heard them." Whom would this name suggest, placed thus by itself, without any epithet or accompaniment? Whom but the Apostle and Evangelist, St. John? He, and he alone, was John; their brother, their pastor, and their guide: and no one else in his age, writing to St. John's own Churches, would have ventured to assume the name of John, in this bold and unqualified simplicity.
Again; the Author writes from the isle of Patmos, where he was, "for the testimony of the Lord Jesus;" and we know that St. John was banished to that island by the Emperor Domitian, when he persecuted the Church 3.
It may be asked, perhaps, Why then does he not call himself an Apostle? We may ask, in reply, Why does not St. John himself, in his Epistles? Why does not St. James? Why does not St. Jude? The name John would suffice to identify him; and, by withholding the title of Apostle, and calling himself only a servant of God, and their brother in tribulations, he would show, that though he had "the gift of prophecy, and was permitted to understand all mysteries, and to speak with the tongue of Angels "," yet he was not elated above measure "by the abundance of his Revelations"; and the more he was exalted by God, the more he would humble himself with men. "The secret of the Lord is among them that fear him;" "and mysteries are revealed unto the meek"."
Further; the Author of the Apocalypse, modest as he is in the description of himself, speaks, as we have seen, to the Angels of Asia with all authority: he distributes praise and blame like a Ruler and a Judge. Now, there was only one person then alive in the whole world who was entitled to use this language; and that one person was not only entitled to use it, by his double character as the last surviving Apostle, and as Metropolitan of Asia, but he was most solemnly bound to use it. By reason of his office, he was obliged, in duty to CHRIST, Who called him to it, to "speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority He was bound to be no respecter of persons; to "be instant in season, out of season; to reprove, rebuke, exhort "." This ST. JOHN.
Again; we find that the Author of the Apocalypse, who writes to the Seven Angels, or Bishops, gives them an Apostolic Benediction,-The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you". "And without all contradiction," says the Apostle, "the less is blessed of the better," or greater ". Therefore we may infer that the writer of the Apocalypse is some one greater than the Bishops of Asia. He is some one entitled to bless them. Now, there was one person in the world, and one alone, who, in a spiritual sense, was greater than the Bishops of Asia, and so was entitled to bless them, and might justly be expected to do so; and that person was ST. JOHN.
Lastly; the Catholic Church from primitive times, which is the Body of Christ, and to which He has promised His Spirit and His presence", receives the Apocalypse as Canonical Scripture and as the work of St. John's. Her testimony is the testimony of Christ, Who is present with her; it is the testimony of the Holy Spirit, Whom Christ sent to be in her 10.
5. There was a remarkable fitness in the selection of St. John, particularly of St. John at Patmos, for writing the Apocalypse.
He was the beloved disciple; he had been with our Lord in His Agony and when on the
1 Some remarks have already been offered above on the objections derived from the difference of style between the Apocalypse and St. John's Gospel (Euseb. vii. 25). This question has been well discussed by Guerike, Einleitung in das N. T. § 60, p. 555. And, after all, the subject of the Apocalypse is so different from that of the Gospel, that arguments from style are scarcely admissible here. No one would argue from the Satires of Horace that he did not write the Odes. And yet how different is the style! What has been said above on the difference of style between St. Peter's two Epistles (pp. 71-77), may be applied, mutatis mutandis, here. Cp. above, p. 149, note.
2 Rev, i. 9.
3 Rev. i. 4.
4 Rev. xxii. 8.
VOL. II.-PART IV.
5 See above, p. 157
7 2 Cor. xii. 7.
8 Ps. xxv. 13.
9 Ecclus. iii. 19.
10 Tit. ii. 15.
11 2 Tim. iv. 2.
12 Rev. i. 4; xxii. 21.
13 Heb. vii. 7.
14 Col. i. 24.
Matt. xxviii. 20. John xvi. 13.
15 See the authorities in Wetstein, N. T. ii. p. 744, and Kirchofer, pp. 296-328.
16 Cp. above, pp. 77, 78.