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My chief authority in dates and points of history, has been the very diligent and exact Lardner; in both his "Credibility of the Gospel History," and his "Dissertations." In the learning of the Apocalypse, Vitringa is a voluminous guide, his research extends through almost all languages and all authorship; but like his countrymen he is overwhelmed by his literary opulence, his meaning is lost in endless and irrelevant discussion, and the severest task that I have been put to in a work proverbially intricate and laborious, has been the toil of wading through the ponderous "Implementa Prophetia" of Vitringa.
AUTHENTICITY OF THE APOCALYPSE.
The Apocalypse can be proved to have existed and been received as a portion of the inspired Volume in the earliest period of Christianity; it is quoted in the first writings of the Church; it became the subject of early commentary, and was fully accepted during the first three centuries, those of the clearest know-ledge, and most immediate transmission of authority from the Apostles.
It appears from some passages in "The Shepherd of Hermas," a work contemporary with St. John, to have been seen by the writer.
About the middle of the second century, scarcely more than fifty years after the death of St. John, there was a persecution under Marcus Antoninus, in which Pothinus, Bishop ot Lyons, with many others suffered. The Churches of Lyons and Vienne sent an Epistle relating their afflictions to the Churches of Asia, a well known document, and said to have been drawn up by Irenæus. In this there are obvious references to the Scriptures, and, among the rest, to the Apocalypse, "Those are they who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth."*
* Ch. xiv. 4.
Justin Martyr, still earlier, (about A. D. 140,) thus writes: "A man from among us by name John, one of the Apostles of Christ, in the revelation (Apocalypse) made to him, has prophesied, that the believers in Christ shall live a thousand years in Jerusalem, and after that shall come the general, and in a word, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all together."*
Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons, (successor of Pothinus, about A. D. 178,) a disciple of Polycarp, who had been the disciple of St. John, thus writes: "We will not run the hazard of too positively affirming any thing of the name of Antichrist, for if his name were to have been declared at this time, it would have been declared by him who saw the Apocalypse. For it was seen, not long ago, but almost in our own age, near the close of the reign of Domitian." Irenæus further attempts to give a solution of the mysterious number 666.
Clement of Alexandria (about A. D. 194,) writes: "Such a one, though here on earth he be not honoured with the first seat, shall sit upon the four and twenty thrones, judging the people, as John says in the Apocalypse. "+
Tertullian (about A. D. 200,) writes: "The Apostle John in the Apocalypse describes a sharp two-edged sword proceeding out of the mouth of God."
"We have Churches that are disciples of John, for though Marcian rejects the Apocalypse, the succession of bishops traced to the original will assure us that John is the author."
Origen, (A. D. 230,) the father of Biblical Criticism, writes, "Therefore John the son of Zebedee says in the Apocalypse, 'I saw an angel fly in the midst of heaveh." "||
* Dial. Tryp.
Ady. Marc. 1. iii. c. 14.
Stromat. 1. vi
Com. on the Gospel of St. John.
Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, (A. D. 247,) in his work against the Millenarians, treats of the Apocalypse as written by an inspired man, doubting, however, whether he were St. John the Apostle.
Cyprian, the Martyr, bishop of Carthage, writes, (A. D. 248,) "And in the Apocalypse the Angel resists John attempting to adore him, and says, Do it not."* "Hear in the Apocalypse the voice of your God." Lactantius (A. D. 306,) writes: "This name, (the Son of God,) is known to no one, but himself and the Father, as John teaches in the Apocalypse."+
The Apocalypse was received by Arius (A. D. 319,) and his sect; by the Donatists, (A. D. 400,) of whom one, Tichonius, wrote a commentary on it; and by the general Church.
Those authorities are undeniable; and they fully establish the fact that the Apocalypse was received in the first ages of Christianity as sacred, and forming a portion of Scripture.
I now proceed to the questions relative to the writer, and the time of the prophecy; some of the authorities already quoted are necessarily repeated, but in another sense, and merely for the purpose of showing the original strength of the testimony.
OF THE WRITER OF THE APOCALYPSE.
It is the earliest opinion of the Church that John the son of Zebedee, the writer of the Gospel, was the writer of the Apocalypse.
The arguments on this point are briefly,§
1. No doubts were entertained of the fact in the first century, the century of his contemporaries.
2. There is no denial of it from Polycarp, Papias, Ignatius, &c.
* De Bon. Pudic.
† De Op.
3. The book was public from the beginning, was extensively quoted as a book of Scripture, and must have thus excited inquiries relative to its authorship, if there had been any doubt on the subject. It is allowed by Michaelis himself that it must have existed at least before the year 120, (within 23 years of the date generally received.)
4. No opinions are advanced in the Apocalypse contradictory to those found in the Gospel.
The principal opponent is Michaelis; and his argument turns chiefly upon the dissimilarity of styles, that of the Gospel being gentle, and generally, pure Greek; that of the Apocalypse being rapid, abrupt, figurative, and abounding in Hebrew idioms.
To this argument there are evident answers.
The difference of subject between a detail of the doctrines of Christianity, and the penal consequences of its rejection, might well account for a marked difference of style.
In transcribing his Gospel, St. John probably employed a Greek amanuensis; it was understood in the ancient Church, that the Apostles employed at least occasional amanuenses;* that St. Paul did so, is evident from his distinguishing certain of his Epistles as written by himself.
"Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand."
"I, Paul, have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it, (the debt of Onesimust.")
It may be fairly conceived that he limited himself in his other Epistles to the "Salutation" at the end, as the sufficient mark of their authenticity. "The salutation of Paul with mine own hand," which is the token in every Epistle. §
Jerome, quoted by Woodhouse, p. 122. † Galat. vi. 11. + Philem. 19.
§ 2 Thess. iii. 17.
"The salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand."*
The probability is strong, that St. John, a Hebrew fisherman, (who, till about the year 68, is not known to have left Palestine,) should have availed himself of the hand of some Greek to transcribe his Gospel, a document prepared at his leisure, and which was to fill up and finish the narrative of Christianity.
But in writing the Apocalypse all this is reversed. He seems to have beheld the visions even with the pen perpetually in his hand.
In the first vision, he receives the command; "write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter."+
"Unto the Angel of the Church of Ephesus write." The same command to write is given with reference to all the churches. It is scarcely to be presumed, that, when writing was to be the instrument of conveying this most important prophecy, its use should have been deferred.
But the evidence is still more direct. "And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write, and I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me; Seal up these things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not."§
Under a Revelation so immediate he must have used such language as he could; a mixture of Hebræisms and Greek, the habitual style of his countrymen, and of the Septuagint. It may be doubted, whether in the desert island of Patmos, the Apostle could have found any one capable of correcting that style; it may be much more doubted, whether he would have dared to submit to any other hand the record of those solemn impressions which he must have felt to be struck by the very stamp of Heaven.
* 1 Cor. xvi. 21.
† Apoc. i. 19.