Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V23, Page 222 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
1 PROLOGUE AND GREETING. I—8. Part I. Vision of Christ in the midst of the churches, i. 9–iii: 22. Vision of Christ in Heaven, iv. 1-v. 14. Preparations for the End, vi. 1–xi. 19. Part II. Vision of the Mother of Christ (i.e. the Church) and her enemies, xii. 18. Preparations for the End, xiv. I-xx. 15. Vision of the Bride of Christ arrayed for her husband, xxi. I-xxii. 5. Epilogue and benediction, xxii. 6-21.the latest critics have assigned either an earlier date or a different authorship. Chaps. i.-iii.—These chapters open with a prologue, i. 1-3, which defines the source, character and contents of the book, followed by a greeting, i. 4-8, in which the writer salutes the Seven Churches of Asia. Having so introduced his work the author describes a vision of the ascended Christ, i. 9—0, who sends His messages to the angels of the Seven Churches, ii.-iii. With the conclusion of these epistles the Apocalypse proper really begins. But the way has been prepared for it. Its contents are " the things which must quickly happen," i. 1. The visions are not for John's personal benefit, but for transmission to the church at large, i. and the writer is bidden to write down what he has seen and " the things which are and the things which shall be hereafter," i. 19. iv.-vi.—The first three chapters show great artistic skill, and the power of the artist is no less conspicuous in what follows. First of all John is bidden to come up into heaven and see the things that should be hereafter, the vision of iv. 1. Then he beholds the Almighty on His throne surrounded by the four and twenty elders and the four living creatures. Before Him they all bow in worship and acknowledge that by Him were created all things and of His own free will were all created. In the next chapter (v.) the seer has a vision of a roll in the hand of Him that sat on the throne which none could open or look upon, till the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the mighty one with seven horns and seven eyes, appeared. Before Him all the elders and the living creatures fell down and acknowledged that He had power to open the seven seals thereof, and their song was re-echoed by every thing alike in heaven and earth. The contrast between these two chapters and those that follow is striking in the extreme. The time of the seer's vision is one of direst need. The life and death struggle between the church and the empire has now entered on its final stage, and fear and trouble and woe are rife in the hearts of the faithful. But when the seer is exalted to heaven he sees no trace of the turmoil on earth. The vision of the Almighty is full of majesty and peace. All things do Him service; for all are the free creation of His will. The next vision serves to connect the Source and Sustainer of all things with the world and its history. The closing of the inter-mediate stage of the history of created things is committed to the Christ who will also be Lord of the age to come. The future of the saints is assured: what can avail against Him that hath " glory and dominion for ever and ever" the wild attacks of Rome and even of Satan and his hosts? The Lamb that was slain has taken upon Himself the burden of the world's history. In vi. we have the opening of the six seals, and the horrors of the future begin. The choice of three series of seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls, to form the framework in which the history of the last woes is to be given, shows the same hand that addressed the churches as seven. But between the sixth and seventh seals and the sixth and seventh trumpets the connexion is more or less disturbed by the insertion of certain interludes containing material foreign in certain aspects to the Apocalypse. These are vii. 1-17 and x. 1-xi. 14. vii. z-17.—These verses, which interrupt the plan of the book, fall into two independent fragments, 1-8 and 9-17, which are inconsistent in their original meaning with each other. For while 1-8 was most probably a Jewish apocalyptical fragment and strongly particularistic, 9-17 is clearly universalist in character and is probably from the hand of our author. The foreign origin of vii. 1-8 may be concluded with Spitta, Bousset and others from the fact that the four winds, which in vii. I are said to be held fast lest they should break in elemental fury on land and sea, are not let loose or referred to in the subsequent narrative, and also from the mention of the 144,000 Israelites of the twelve tribes, to whom no further reference is made; for these can no more be identified with the countless multitudes in vii. 9-17 than with those who are "sealed" in ix. 4 sq. nor with the 144,000 in xiv. I ; for in both these cases the sealed are not Jews but elect Christians. The object of both fragments was to encourage the faithful in the face of the coming strife. In the latter, in which the Apocalyptist looks forward prophetically to the issue, the assurance held out is of ultimate victory, but of victory through death or martyrdom. In the former (Jewish or Christian-Jewish fragment) the sealing seemed to have carried with it the assurance of deliverance from physical death, as in Ezek. in. 4 sqq. But in its new context this meaning can hardly be retained. Not improbably the sealing means to our author the preservation not from death, but through death from unfaithfulness, and the number 144,00o would signify mystically the entire body of true Christians, which formed the true people of God. Chapter vii., then, interrupts the development of the author's plan, but the interruption is deliberate. He wishes to encourage the persecuted church not only to face without fear, but also to meet with triumphant assurance the onset of those evils which would bring panic and despair on the unbelieving world. viii.-ix.—These chapters, though presenting some minor difficulties, do not call for discussion here. They recount the six partial judgments which followed the opening of the seventh seal and the blasts of the six trumpets. x.-xi. z-z3.—This section bristles with difficulties. Chapter x. forms an introduction to xi. 1-13. In it the prophet receivkes a new commission, x. 1 r : " Thou must prophesy again over many peoples and nations and tongues and kings." This new com- mission explains his departure from the plan pursued in the earlier chapters of developing the seventh in each series into a new series of seven. The seer has a vision of the seven thunders, but these he is bidden to seal and not commit to writing, He is instead to write down the new book of prophecies. The end is at hand. It is noteworthy that in the earlier visions it was Christ who spoke to the seer. Here and in the later visions, especially those drawn from foreign sources, it is an angel. In xi. 1-13 we have a characteristic illustration of our author's dependence on traditional materials and his free adaptation of them to meanings other than originally belonged to them. For it is generally agreed among critics that xi. 1-13 is borrowed from Jewish sources, and that this fragment really consists of two smaller fragments, xi. 1—2 and xi. 3-13. The former oracle referred originally to the actual Temple, and contained a pre-diction of the preservation of the Temple. It must have been written before A.D. 70 and probably by a Zealot.' But our author could not have taken it in this literal sense if he wrote after A.D. 70 or even anterior to that date, owing to the explicit declaration of Christ as to the coming destruction of Jerusalem. The passage, then, must have a spiritual meaning, and its purpose is the encouragement of the faithful by the assurance of their deliverance not necessarily from physical death but from the dominion of the evil one. In xi. 3-13 we have another Jewish fragment of a very enigmatic character. Bousset has shown with much probability that it is part of the Antichrist legend. The prophecy of the two witnesses and their martyrdom belongs to this tradition. The fragment was apparently written before A.D. 70, since it speaks of the fall of only a tenth of the city, xi. 132 The significance of this fragment in our author's use of it is similar to that of xi. 1-2. The details defy at present any clear interpretation, but the incorporation of the fragment may be due in general to the emphasis it lays on the faithful witness, martyrdom and resurrection of the saints. xi. z4-sp.—The seventh trumpet, xi. 15, ushers in the third woe, xi. 14. Its contents are given in xii.-xx. In xi. 15-19 the seer hears great voices in heaven singing a triumphal song in anticipation of the victory that is speedily to be achieved. This song forms a prelude to the chapters that follow. 1 The Zealots occupied the inner court of the Temple during its siege by the Romans. 2 The linguistic evidence, as Bousset has pointed out, confirms the critical conclusion that xi. I–13 were independent sources. For whereas in ix.–x. the verb almost regularly begins the sentence and the object follows the verb, in xi. 1–13 the object frequently precedes the verb and the subject nearly always. The order of the genitive in xi. 4 is elsewhere unknown in the Apocalypse, and in xi. 2, 3 the construction of bt&LvaL followed by Kat instead of infinitive or Iva is unique in this book. xii.—This is the most difficult chapter in the book. Its main intention in its present context is apparently to explain Satan's dominion over the world and the bitterness of his rage against the church and against Christ. Christ, indeed; escapes him and likewise the Jewish Christians (" the woman," xii. 16) but " the rest of her seed," xii. 17 (the Gentile Christians?), are exposed to his fury. But his time is at hand; together with his hosts he has been cast down from heaven, and on the earth he " hath but a short time." The attribution of the seven heads and ten horns to the dragon, xii. 3, points forward to Rome, which is regarded as a temporary incarnation of Satan, xiii. 1, xvii. 3. But, though a few of the leading thoughts of this chapter may be obvious, we are plunged into problems that all but defy solution when we essay to discover its origin or interpret its details. Most scholars are agreed that this chapter is not, except in the case of a few sentences, the work of our author. In other words, it has been taken over from pre-existing material-either Christian or Jewish—and the materials of which it is composed are ultimately derived from non-Jewish sources—either Babylonian, Greek or Egyptian—and bore therein very different meanings from those which belong to them in their present connexion. Furthermore, the materials are fragmentary and the order irregular. (a) First of all, the chapter is not the free creation of a Christian writer. Such an one could never have so represented the life of Christ—a child persecuted by a dragon and carried off to God's throne. No mention of Christ's earthly life and crucifixion. Furthermore, the victory over Satan is ascribed to Michael. Again, a Christian could not represent Christ as the son of the wife of the sun-god; for such is the natural interpretation of the woman crowned with the twelve stars and with her feet upon the moon. Finally, even if " the woman " who is the mother of Christ be taken to be the ideal Israel in the beginning of the chapter, at its close she is clearly the Christian community founded by Him. We conclude, therefore, that the present chapter is not the work of our author. There are, however, traces of his hand. Thus 7—12, which is really a Jewish fragment recounting the victory of Michael over Satan, has to a certain degree been adapted to a Christian environment by the insertion of the rob-r r. (b) The order is not original. The flight of the woman is mentioned in verse 6 to a place of refuge prepared for her by God. Then comes an account of the casting down of Satan from heaven. Then again in 13-16 the flight of the woman is described. This fact has been variously accounted for by different critics. Wellhausen regards 1-6 and 7-14 as doublets, and differentiates two actions in the original account which are here confused. Spitta takes verse 6 to be an addition of the redactor, which describes proleptically what follows, while Gunkel sees in 6 and 7-16 parallel accounts. In any case we should probably agree with the contention of J. Weiss, supported by Bousset in the second edition of his commentary, that 7-12 is a fragment of a Jewish apocalypse, of which rob-rr is an addition of our author. Next that 6 is a doublet of 13 sqq. What then is to be made of 1-5, 13-17? Different explanations have been offered. Gunkel3 traces it to a Babylonian origin. He urges that an adequate explanation is impossible on the assumption of a Jewish or Christian origin. At the base of this account lies the Babylonian myth of the birth of the sun-god Marduk, his escape from the dragon who knows him to be his destined destroyer, and the persecution of Marduk's mother by the dragon. But Gunkel's explanation is an attempt to account for one ignotuen per ignotius; for hitherto no trace of the myth of the sun-god's birth and persecution and the flight into the wilderness has been found in Babylonian mythology. More-over, Gunkel no longer lays emphasis on the Babylonian, but merely on the mythical origin of the details. A more satisfactory explanation has been offered by Dieterich (Abraxas, 117 sqq.), who finds in this chapter an adaptation of the birth of Apollo and the attempt of the dragon Pytho to kill his mother SchOpfung and Chaos § 3, Religionsgesch. Verstandniss d. N.T., 54 sqq. Leto, because it was foretold that Leto's son would kill the dragon. Leto escapes to Ortygia, which Poseidon covers with the sea in order to protect Leto. Here Apollo is born, who four days later slays the dragon. Yet another explanation from Egyptian mythology is given by Bousset (Ojenbarung Johannis, 2nd ed., pp. 354, 355) in the birth of the sun-god Horus. Here the goddess mother is represented with a sun upon her head. Typhon slays Horus. Hathor, his mother, is persecuted by Typhon and escapes to a floating island with the bones of Horus, who revives and slays the dragon.' There are obvious points of similarity, possibly of derivation, between the details in our text and the above myths, but the subject cannot be further pursued here, save that we remark that in the sun myth the dragon tries to kill the mother before the child's birth, whereas in our text it is after his birth, and that neither in the Egyptian nor in the Greek myth is there any mention of the flight into the wilderness. The insertion of the alien matter 7–12 between 1–5 and 13–17 may be due to our author's wish to show that the expulsion of Satan from heaven after Christ's birth and ascension to heaven was owing in some measure to Christ, although he has allowed Michael's name to remain in the borrowed passage, 7–12—a fact which shows how dependent the writer was on tradition. xiii.—In this chapter we have the two beasts2 which symbolize respectively Rome and the Roman provincial priesthood of the imperial cult. Thus the world powers of heathen statesmanship and heathen religion are leagued in a confederacy against the rising Christian Church. Against these the church is not to attempt to use physical force; its only weapon is to be passive endurance and loyalty to God. That this chapter must be interpreted by the contemporary-historical method is now generally admitted. Even Gunkel is obliged to abandon his favourite theory here, though he contests strongly the recognition of any allusion to Nero. Various solutions have been offered as to the seven emperors designed by the seven heads of the beast, xiii. 1. But the details of this passage are not sufficiently definite to determine the question here. It will return in chapter xvii. There are, however, two facts pointing to a late date. The first is the advanced stage of development of this, the Neronic-Antichrist legend. One of the heads " is smitten unto death," but is healed of the death stroke. This points, we may here assume, to the Nero redivivus legend, which could not have arisen for a full generation after Nero's death, and the assumption receives large confirmation from the most probable interpretation of the enigmatical words, xiii. 18, " the number of the beast .. . is six hundred and sixty six." Four continental scholars, Fritzsche, Benary, Hitzig and Reuss, independently recognized that Nero was referred to under the mystical number 666. For by transliterating Kairap Nepiav into Hebrew in1 and adding together the sums denoted by the Hebrew letters we obtain the number 666. This solution is confirmed by the fact that it is possible to explain by it an ancient (Western?) variant for the number 666, i.e. 616. This latter, which is attested by Irenaeus (v. 30. 1), the commentary of Ticonius, and the uncial C, can be explained from the Latin form of the name Nero, which by its omission of the final n makes the sum total 616 instead of 666. The above solution may be regarded as established, though several scholars, as Oscar Holtzmann (Stade's Geschichte des Volkes Israel, ii. 661), Spitta and Erbes, have contended that 616 was the original reading (Pai:os Kaivap=616) and that ' On the possibility of other points of contact between the Apocalypse and Egyptian mythology, see Mrs Grenfell's article, " Egyptian Mythology and the Bible," in the Monist (1906), pp. 169-200. 2 In xiii. 2 the description of the beast unites the features of the four beasts in Daniel's vision (vii.). It is clear that our author identified the fourth beast (vii. 23) with Rome, as did also the author of 4 Ezra xii. to. But this was not the original significance of the fourth beast, for the author of Daniel referred thereby to the Greek empire; but, since the prophecy was not realized, it was subsequently reinterpreted, and applied, as we have observed, to Rome.chapter xiii. was part of a Jewish apocalypse written under Caligula between the years 39 and 41. But this Caligula hypothesis cannot be carried out unless by a vigorous use of the critical knife, in the course of which more than a third of the chapter is excised. Moreover the number 616 is too weakly supported to admit of its being recognized as the original. The figure of the first beast presents many difficulties, owing to the fact that it is not freely invented but largely derived from traditional elements and is by the writer identified with the seventh wounded head. The second beast, signifying the pagan priesthood of the imperial cult, called " the false prophet " in xvi. 13, appears to be an independent development of the Antichrist legend. xiv.–xvi.—These chapters contain a vision of Christ on Mount Zion and the 144,000 of the undefiled that follow Him, xiv. 1–5, the last warnings relating to the harvest and vintage of the world, xiv. 6–2o: the vision of the wrath of God in the out-pouring of the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues, xv.–xvi. In the above section most critics are agreed that xiv. 14-20 originally represented the final judgment and was removed frWn its rightful place at the close of an apocalypse to its present position. In its original setting " the one like unto a Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown " (xiv. 14), undoubtedly designated the Messiah, but the transformation of the final judgment into a preliminary act of judgment by a redactor, necessarily brought with it the degradation of the Son of Man to the level of a mere angel. Some critics hold that this apocalypse was the apocalyptic groundwork, but Bousset is of opinion that it stood originally in connexion with xi. I-13. As regards xvi. the views of critics take different directions, but that of Bousset followed by Porter seems the most reason-able. This is that this chapter forms an introduction to xvii., which was an independent fragment. The writer throws this introduction into his favourite scheme of seven acts, in this case symbolized by seven bowls. The earlier verses, 2–11, do not amount to much beyond a repetition of what is found in viii.–ix., save that as a preparation for xvii. references are inserted to the beast and his worshippers (ver. 2) and to Rome (ver. to). In xvi. 12–16 is a revised form of an older tradition. xvii.—This chapter presents great difficulties, especially if with the older and some of the recent exegetes we regard it as written at the same time and by the same author. Even so strong an upholder of the unity of the book as Swete is ready to admit that portions of xvii., as well as of xiii., show signs of an earlier date than the rest of the book. He writes: " The unity of the Book . . . cannot be pressed so far as to exclude the possibility that the extant book is a second edition of an earlier work, or that it incorporates earlier materials, and either hypothesis would sufficiently account for the few indications of a Neronic or Vespasianic date that have been found in it (Apoc. of St John2, p. civ.). This chapter cannot be interpreted apart from the Neronic myth. Of this there appear to be two stages attested here. Of the earlier we have traces in xvii. 16–17 and xvi. 12, where there are allusions to Nero's confederacy with the Parthian kings with a view to the destruction of Rome. Of the later stage, when the myth of Nero redivivus was fused with that of the Antichrist, we have attestation in xvii. 8, 12–14, where Nero is regarded as a demon coming up from the abyss to war not with Rome but with Christ and the elect. This development of the Neronic myth belongs to the last years of the 1st century, and is decidedly against a Vespasianic date. To meet this difficulty a recent interpreter—Anderson Scott—though he assigns the book to the year A.D. 77, is yet willing to admit that the book though composed in the reign of Vespasian was " reissued with additions by the same hand after the death of Domitian" (Revelation, p. 56). Our author represents himself as writing under the sixth emperor. Five have already died, the seventh is yet to come, to be followed by yet an eighth, who is one of the seven (i.e. Nero). In order to arrive at the date here implied, we can begin the reckoning from Julius Caesar or Augustus, we can include or exclude Galba, Otho and Vitellius, and, finally, when we have drawn our conclusions from these data, there remains the possibility that the book was after all not written under the sixth emperor, but was really a vaticinium ex eventu. Ac-cording to the different methods pursued, some have concluded that Nero was the sixth emperor, and thus dated the Apocalypse before A.D. 70; others Vespasian, and yet others Domitian. No solution of the difficulties of the chapter is wholly satisfactory, but the best yet offered seems to be that of Bousset (Offenbarung1, 410-18). He holds , that 1–7, 9–11, 15–18, belong to an original source, which was written in the reign of Vespasian and represents the earlier stage of the Neronic myth. To a reviser in Domitian's reign we owe 8,12–14 and 6b, a clause in 9, Hrra $pr- ... airrwv, and another in 11, S iv Kai Duet Evre.v. If the clause Kai iK rov aiparos rwv paprupwv'Invoii in 6 is an addition, then he thinks the source was Jewish and the " blood of the saints " was that shed at the destruction of Jerusalem, and the forecast of the author related to the destruction of Rome. When the reviser recast the passage it dealt not with the destruction of Jerusalem, but with the persecution of the Christians. Nero was now a demonic monster from the abyss, and the ten kings no longer Parthians but ghostly helpers of Nero. The destruction of Rome has now become a secondary event: the reviser's thought is fixed on the final strife between the Lamb and the Antichrist. xviii. xix. io.—This section describes in prophetic language borrowed almost wholly from Isaiah and Jeremiah the coming judgment of Rome, and gives the ten lamentations of the kings and the merchants and the seamen over her, and the thanksgivings in heaven for her overthrow. xix. ii-2i.-The victory of the warrior Messiah over the two beasts, the Roman Empire and the imperial cultus and the kings of the earth. Many of the ideas set forth in earlier chapters here coalesce and find their consummation. The Messiah, whose birth and escape from the dragon was recounted in xii. 5, and who was to rule the nations with a rod of iron, at last appears in discharge of His office. The beast and the false prophet who are described in xiii. are cast alive into the lake of fire, and the kings of the earth who had assembled for this conflict, xvi. 14, xvii. 14, were slain by the sword of Him that at on the horse. The conception of the Messiah may be Jewish: at all events it is not distinctively Christian. The title " Word of God " can hardly be said to establish any connexion with the prologue of the Fourth Gospel; for the conceptions of the Messiah in that Gospel and in these chapters belong to different worlds of thought. It is to be observed that our author follows the apocalyptic scheme of two judgments which is first attested about loo B.C. The first judgment precedes the establishment of the temporary Messianic kingdom, as here in xix. 19–21; and the final judgment follows at its close, as here in xx. 7–10. xx. i-6.—The millennium, or the period between the first and final judgments, when Christ, with His chosen, reigns and Satan is imprisoned. Rome has been overthrown, but, as Rome is only the last secular manifestation of Satan, there is yet the final struggle with Satan and his adherents. But the time for this struggle has not yet arrived. Satan is bound' and cast into the abyss, and the kingdom of Christ and of the martyrs and faithful confessors established for a thousand years. Thus it is shown that evil will be finally overcome; for that the true and ultimate power even in this world belongs to Christ and those that are His. The main features of this section have been borrowed from Judaism. The Messianic kingdom was originally conceived of as of everlasting duration on the present earth, but about too B.C. this idea was abandoned and the hopes of the faithful were directed to a temporary earthly kingdom of 400 or 1000 years or of indefinite duration (see R. H. Charles, Critical History of 1 This idea appears as early as the 2nd century B.c. Cf. Test. Levi xviii. 12.the Doctrine of a Future Life, pp. 201–4, 261, 286, 288). More-over, the expectation that the saints would rise to share in the blessedness of this kingdom is also found in Judaism, 4 Ezra vii. 28 (op. Cit. p. 285). xx. 7-lo.-Release of Satan and final assault on the city of God by the hosts of Gog and Magog at the instance of Satan. Satan and the beasts condemned to eternal torment. xx. 4.-The Final Resurrection and Judgment. xxi. i–8.—The new heavens and the new earth. The language in this and the following section is highly figurative; but as Porter has well remarked: " Figurative language is the only language in which we can express our hope of heaven, and no figures can have greater power to suggest this hope than those taken from the literal longings of exiled Israel for the recovery of its land and city." xxi.' 9-xxii. 5.—The vision of the New Jerusalem. There are several grounds for regarding this section as an independent source possibly of Jewish origin and subsequently submitted to a Christian revision. This view is taken by Vischer, Weyland, Spitta, Sabatier, J. Weiss, Bousset and others. Our author has incorporated it as describing the consummation of the prevision contained in xi. 15-18, in which he foresaw the time when the kingdom of the world would become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and the saints should enter on their reward. Moreover, he has already hinted at its contents in xix. 7 and xxi. 2, where he speaks of the church as a bride and the marriage supper of the Lamb. But the section betrays inconsistent conceptions. The standpoint of the heavenly Jerusalem is abandoned in xxi. 24–27, xxii. 2, and the context implies an earthly Jerusalem to which the Gentiles go up as pilgrims. Outside the gates of this city are unclean and abominable things. These inconsistencies are best explained by the hypothesis that our author was drawing upon a literary fixed tradition. The doublets in xxi. 23 and xxii. 5b, in xxi. 25 and xxii. 5a, and in xxi. 27 and xxii. 3, point in the same direction. Various additions were introduced, according to Bousset, by the last redactor, such as the frequently recurring reference to the Lamb, xxi. 9, 22, 23, 27, xxii. 1, 3. In xxii. 3 the fact that the words " of the Lamb " are an addition is clear from the context; for, after the clause " the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein " the singular follows, " His servants shall do Him service." xxii. 6-21.—The conclusion. The promises are sure, the end is near and the judgment at hand. The words of the book are the message of Christ Himself and are inviolable. Unity.—From the preceding sections it follows that we cannot ascribe a strict literary unity to the book. The book is most probably the work of a single author, but it was not written wholly at one date, nor have all the parts come directly from one brain. We have several good grounds, for regarding vii. 1–8, xi. 1–13, xii., xiii., xvii., as wholly or in part independent sources, which our author has laid under contribution and adapted more or less adequately to his purpose. He appears to have taken over with but slight modification xx. and xxi. 9–xxii. 5. Furthermore, while certain fragments such as xi. 1-2 presuppose a date anterior to A.D. 70, others, as xvi. 12 and xvii. 12, require a date not later than Vespasian's time; other parts of xvii. postulate a Vespasianic date as the earliest admissible, and, finally, the composition of the book in its present form cannot be placed before the closing years of Domitian. But to this question we shall return presently. Nevertheless, the book exhibits a relative unity; for, whatever digressions occur in the development of its theme, the main object of the writer is never lost sight of. This relative unity is manifested also in the uniform character of the language, a uniformity, however, which is occasionally conspicuous by its absence in the case of independent sources, as in xi. 1–13. The author or the final redactor has impressed a certain linguistic character on the book, which differentiates it not only from all secular writings of the time, but also from all the New Testament books, including the Johannine. And yet the Apocalypse shows in many of its phrases an undoubted affinity to the latter— a fact which requires for its explanation the assumption that the book emanated from certain literary circles influenced by John. Date.—There are many indications of the date, which may be summarized as follows: (a) Condition of the Asian churches. (b) Persecution of the church. (c) Attitude of the author to Rome. (d) The Antichrist legend. (e) Primitive tradition and its confirmation through the discovery of references in the text to certain edicts of Domitian. As a result of these considerations we may arrive at the date of the work with almost greater certainty than that of any other New Testament book. (a) Condition of the Churches.—Christianity appears to have already had a long history behind it. The fact that St Paul founded the church of Ephesus seems to have been forgotten. The earliest zeal has passed away and heathen ways of thought and life are tolerated and practised at Pergamum and Ephesus, and faith is- dying or dead at Laodicea and Sardis. These phenomena belong to a period considerably later than the time of Nero. (b) Persecution of the Church.—Persecution is the order of the day. Each of the seven letters concludes with praise of those who have been victorious therein. There had been isolated instances of persecution at Ephesus, ii. 3, Philadelphia, iii. 8, ro, and at Smyrna, ii. 9, and of an actual martyrdom at Pergamum, ii. 13. But now a storm of persecution was about to break upon the universal church, iii. to, and in the immediate future. Already the seer beholds the destined number of the martyrs complete, vi. 9—11: the great multitude whom no man could number, clothed in white before the throne of God, vii. 9: he exhorts his readers to patient endurance unto death, xiv. 12, and already sees them as victors in heaven, xv. 2. Over the true witnesses and martyrs he pronounces the final beatitude of the faithful: " Blessed are those who die in the Lord," xiv. 13. Such an expectation of persecution is inexplicable from Nero's time. There is not a trace of any declaration of war on the universal church in his period such as the Apocalyptist anticipates and in part experiences. Christian persecution under Nero was an imperial caprice. The Christians were attacked on slanderous charges of superstition and secret abominations, but not as a church. Not till the last years of Domitian is it possible to discover conditions which would explain the apprehensions and experiences of our writer. So far as we can discover, no persecution was directed against Christians as Christians till Domitian's time. In the year A.D. 92 Flavius Clemens was put to death and his wife banished, on the ground that they were adherents of the new faith. Thus the temper of the book on this question demands some date after A.D. 90. It marks the transition, from the earlier tolerant attitude of Rome towards Christianity, to its later hostile attitude. (c) Attitude of the Author towards Rome.—In earlier times the church had strongly impressed the duty of loyalty to Rome, as we see from the Epistle to the Romans and r Peter. This was before the pressure of the imperial cult was felt by the Christian church. But in the Apocalypse we have the experiences of a later date. The writer manifests the most burning hatred towards Rome and the worship of its head—the beast and the false prophet, who are actual embodiments of Satan. Such an attitude on the part of a Christian is not explicable before the closing years of Domitian; for, apart from Caligula, he was the first Roman emperor who consistently demanded divine honours. (d) The Antichrist Legend.—We find at least two stages of the Neronic and Antichrist myth in the Apocalypse. The earliest form is not attested here, that Nero had not really been slain, but would speedily return and destroy his enemies. The first pretender appeared in A.D. 69, and was put to death in Cythnus. The second stage of this legend was that Nero had taken refuge in the Far East, and would return with the help of his Eastern subjects for the overthrow of Rome. Two pretenders arose in conformity with this expectation among the Parthians in A.D. 8o and 88. This widespread expectation has left itsmemorial in our book in xvi. 12 and in xvii. 16-17, which point to the belief that Rome would be destroyed by Nero and the Parthian kings. Finally, in xiii. and xvii. 8, 12–14, we have a later phase of the myth, in which there is a fusion of the Antichrist myth with that of Nero redivivus. This fusion could hardly have taken place before the first half of Domitian's reign, when the last Neronic pretender appeared. As soon as the hope of the living Nero could no longer be entertained, the way was prepared for this transformation of the myth. The living Nero was no longer expected to return from the East, but Nero was to be restored to life from the abyss by the dragon, i.e. Satan. This expectation is recounted in xiii., but it appears most clearly in the additions to xvii. Thus in xvii. 8 the reference to Nero redivivus as the Antichrist is manifest: " The beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and is about to come up out of" the abyss and to go into perdition."' Thus again we are obliged to postulate a date not earlier than A.D. 90 for the book in its present form. (e) Primitive Church Tradition and its Confirmation through the Discovery of References in the Text to Certain Edicts of Domitian. —The earliest external evidence is practically unanimous in ascribing the Apocalypse to the last years of Domitian. The oldest testimony is that of Irenaeus v. 30. 3: be Exetvov lie EppE617 Tof Kal Tt]v 'Arcata i 'tv ccopaKOTOS obbi yap apb 7roXXoi Xpovov &oaten, aXXa °XEbdv E7rl T17s f,2ETEpas yEVEas, srpds TW TfXet T7)s Dop.srtavo"v apxi-7s. The rest of the patristic evidence from Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Victorinus, Eusebius and Jerome will be found in Swete's Apocalypse of St John2, xcix. seq. Though a few later authorities, such as Epiphanius and Theophylact, assign the book to earlier or later periods, the main body of early Christian tradition attests the date of its composition in the closing years of Domitian. Not-withstanding, on various critical grounds, Baur, Hilgenfeld, Lightfoot, Westcott, Hort and Beyschlag assigned the book to the reign of Nero, or to the years immediately following his death, while Weiss, Dusterdieck and Mommsen assign it to the time of Vespasian. When, however, we combine the preceding arguments with that of the early church tradition, the evidence for the Domitian date outweighs that for any other. And this conclusion receives remarkable confirmation from a recent fact brought forward by S. Reinach in an article in the Revue archeologique, ser. III. t. xxxix. (1901), pp. 350-74, and reprinted in Cultes, mythes et religions, ii. 356–8o (1906). This fact explains a passage which has hitherto been a total enigma to every expounder, i.e. vi. 6: " A choenix of wheat for a denarius, and three choenikes of barley for a denarius, and the oil and the wine hurt thou not." Swete writes here: " The voice fixes a maximum price for the main food-stuffs. The denarius . . . was the daily wage . . . and a choenix of wheat ' Verse rr postulates either a Vespasianic or Domitianic date: " And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goeth into perdition." In verse to it is stated that five of the seven had fallen, " the one is and another is not yet come, and when he cometh he must continue a little while." If we reckon from Augustine and omit Galba, Otho and Vitellius, each of whom reigned only a few months, we arrive at Vespasian. The vision, therefore, belongs to his reign, A.D. 69–79. Verse r r, with the exception of the words " which was and is not," leads to the identification of the eighth with Nero redivivus. But what then is to be made of the above reckoning when it was taken over by the Apocalyptist who wrote in Domitian's reign? Some scholars are of opinion that this writer identified Domitian with the eighth emperor, the Nero redivivus, the beast from the abyss. But this is unlikely, notwithstanding the fact that even some pagan writers, such as Juvenal, Pliny and Martial (?), traced a resemblance between Domitian and Nero. On the other hand, if we refuse to accept this identification, and hold that the beast from the abyss is yet to come, any attempt at a strict exegesis of the text plunges us in hopeless difficulties. For Domitian in that case would be the sixth, and the preceding five would have to begin with Galba—a most improbable supposition. But ttuthermore, since this new reckoning would exclude Nero, how could the eighth be said to be one of the seven, i.e. Nero ? Bousset thinks that the Apocalyptist, knowing not what to make of this reckoning, left it standing as it was and attempted a new interpretation of the seven heads by taking them to refer to the seven hills of Rome in the addition he made to verse 9. the average daily consumption of the workman. . . . Barley was largely the food of the poor." According to the words just quoted from the Apocalypse, there was to be a dearth of grain and a superfluity of wine; the price of the wheat was to be seven times the ordinary, according to Reinach's computation, and that of the barley four times, This strange statement suggested some historical allusion, and the discovery of the allusion was made by Reinach, who points out that Domitian by an edict in A.D. 92 prohibited the planting of new vineyards in Italy, and ordered the reduction of those in the provinces by one-half. As Asia Minor suffered specially under this edict, an agitation was set on foot which resulted in the revocation of the edict. In this revocation the Apocalyptist saw the menace of a famine of the necessaries of life, while the luxuries would remain unaffected. From his ascetic stand-point the revocation of the edict could only pander to drunkenness and immorality. Reinach's explanation of this ancient crux inter pretum, which has been accepted by Harnack, Bousset, Porter, Sanday, Swete and others, fixes the earliest date of the composition of the. Apocalypse as A.D. 93. Since Domitian died in 96, the book was therefore written between A.D. 93 and 95. Author.—Before entering on the chief data which help towards the determination of this question, we shall first state the author's standpoint. His book exhibits a Christianity that is—as Harnack (Ency. Brit 9, xx. 498) writes—" free from the law, free from national prejudices, universal and yet a Christianity which is independent of Paul. . . . The author speaks not at all of the law 1—the word does not occur in his work; he looks for salvation from the power and grace of God and Christ alone ... nowhere has he made a distinction between Gentile and Jewish Christians. . . . The author of the Apocalypse has cast aside all national religious prejudices." The writer is not dependent, consciously or unconsciously, on the Pauline teaching. He has won his way to universalism, not through the Pauline method, but through one of his own. He has no serious preference for the people of Israel as such, but only for the martyrs and confessors, who shall belong to every tribe and tongue and people and nation (vii. 9 seq.). The unbelieving Jews are " a synagogue of Satan " (ii. 9). Yet, on the other hand, our author's attitude to the world reflects the temper of Judaism rather than that of Christianity. He looks upon the enemies of the Christian Church with unconcealed hatred. No prayer arises within his work on their behalf, and nothing but unalloyed triumph is displayed over their doom. The Christian duty of love to those that wrong us does not seem to have impressed itself on our Apocalyptist. Is the Apocalypse pseudonymous?—All the Jewish apocalypses are pseudonymous, and all the Christian with the exception of the Shepherd of Hermes. Since our book undoubtedly belong% to this category, the question of its pseudonymity must arise. In the articles on Apocalyptic Literature and Apocryphal Literature (qq.v.) we have shown the large lines of differentiation between apocalyptic and prophecy. The chief ground for resorting to pseudonymous authorship in Judaism was that the belief in prophecy was lost among the people. Hence any writer who would appeal to them was obliged to do so in the name of some great figure of the past. Furthermore, this belief that prophecy had ceased led the religious personalities of the later time to authenticate their message by means of antedated prophecy. They procured confidence in their actual predictions by appealing to the literal fulfilment of such antedated prophecy. In such literature we find the characteristic words or their equivalents: " Seal up the prophecy: it is not for this generation," which are designed to explain the late appearance of the works in which they are found. But this universal characteristic of apocalyptic is almost wholly lacking in the New Testament Apocalypse. The vaticinium ex eventu plays but a very 1 His freedom from legal bondage is as undeniable as his universalism. He lays no further burden on his readers than those required by the Apostolic Decree of Acts xv. 28 seq.small part in it. Moreover, the chief ground for the development of a pseudonymous literature was absent in the early Christian church. For with the advent of Christianity prophecy had sprung anew into life, and our author distinctly declares that the words of the book are for his own generation (xxii. ro). Hence we conclude that the grounds are lacking which would entitle our assuming a priori that the Apocalypse is pseudonymous. Was the Author the Son of Zebedee, the Apostle?—The evidence of the book is against this assumption. The writer demands a hearing as a prophet (xxii. 6), and in no single passage makes any claim to having been an apostle. Nay more, the evidence of the text, so far as it goes, is against such a view. He never refers to any previous intercourse with Christ such as we find frequently in the Fourth Gospel, and when he speaks of " the twelve apostles of the Lamb " (xxi. 14) he does so in a tone that would seem to exclude him from that body. Here internal and external evidence are at strife; for from the time of Justin onwards the Apocalypse was received by the church as'the work of the Apostle John (see Swete, op. cit.2, p. clxxv). If the writer of the Fourth Gospel was the Apostle John, then the difficulties for the assumption of an apostolic authorship of the Apocalypse become well-nigh insuperable. Nay more, the difficulties attending on the assumption of a common authorship of the Gospel and Apocalypse, independently of the question of the apostolic authorship of the Gospel, are practically insuperable. Some decades ago these difficulties were not insurmountable, when critics assigned a Neronic date to the Apocalypse and a Domitianic or later date to the Gospel. It was from such a standpoint conceivable that the thoughts and diction of the writer had undergone an entire transformation in the long interval that intervened between the composition of the two books, on the supposition that both were from the same hand. But now that both books are assigned to the last decade of the 1st century A.D. by a growing body of critics, the hypothesis of a common authorship can hardly be sustained. The validity of such an hypothesis was attacked as early as the 4th century by Dionysius of Alexandria in the fragment of his treatise 7rEpi ira'yyeXuav, in Eusebius, H.E. vii. 24 seq. His arguments, as summed up by Swete (op. cit., p. cxiv seq.), are as follows: " John the Evangelist abstains from mentioning his own name, but John the Apocalyptist names himself more than once at the very outset of his book, and again near its end. Doubtless there were many who bore the name of John in the early Christian communities; we read, for instance, of ` John, whose surname was Mark,' and there may have been a second John in Asia, since at Ephesus, we are told, there were two tombs said to be John's. .. . Again, while the Gospel and the Epistle of John show marks of agreement which suggest a common authorship, the Apocalypse differs widely from both in its ideas and in its way of expressing them; we miss in it the frequent references to ` life,' ` light,' ` truth," grace ' and ` love ' which are characteristic of the Apostle and find ourselves in a totally different region of thought... Lastly, the linguistic eccentricities of the Apocalypse bar the way against the acceptance of the book as the work of the Evangelist. The Gospel and the First Epistle are written in correct and flowing Greek, and there is not a barbarism, a solecism, or a provincialism in them; whereas the Greek of the Apocalypse is inaccurate, disfigured by unusual or foreign words and even at times by solecisms." _ All subsequent criticism has more or less confirmed the conclusions of Dionysius. On the other hand, it is impossible to ignore the signs of a relationship between the Apocalypse and the Gospel in the minor peculiarities of language? These, Swete holds, " create a strong presumption of affinity " between the two books, while Bousset infers that they " justify the assumption that the entire circle of Johannine writings spring from circles which stood under the influence of the John of Asia Minor." We conclude, therefore, that the Gospel and the Apocalypse 2 See Bousset, Off enbarung Johannin2, pp. 177–179; Swete2, pp. exxv–cxxix. are derived from different authors who moved in the same circles.' As regards the John mentioned in the Apocalypse, he is now identified by a majority of critics with John the Presbyter, and further the trend of criticism is in favour of transferring all the Johannine writings to him, or rather to his school in Asia Minor .2 For an independent discussion of the authorship of the Fourth Gospel, see JOHN, GOSPEL OF ST. (R. H. C.)
PROLOGUE (from Gr. 7rpo, before, and Myer, a word)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.