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This is a story of many years ; but between the death of Domitian and that of John there were but two years and a half. In his lat. ter years too, John was so very weak and infirm that with difficulty he could be carried to church, where he could hardly speak a few words to the people.' The inference seems obvious. His return from Patmos, after which the circumstances related respecting the young man are stated to have happened, must be referred to some earlier period than the reign of Domitian. For John died near 100 years old, and it seems physically impossible that, in his latter years, he could have mounted a horse and rode briskly after a young robber, even were we to suppose that he survived Domitian for a period long enough to have allowed these events to intervene before his own death.
The opinion that the Apocalypse was written very early is, to use the words of Sir Isaac Newton,* “confirmed by the many false Apocalypses, “as those of Peter, Paul, Thomas, Stephen, “ Elias and Cerinthus, written in imitation of “ the true one. For as the many false Gospels, “ false Acts, and false Epistles were occasioned " by true ones ; and the writing many false
* Hieron. in Epist. ad Galat. I. iii. c. 6.
“ Apocalypses, and ascribing them to apostles “and prophets, argues that there was a true apos“tolic one in great request with the first Chris“tians: so this true one may well be supposed “ to have been written early, that there may be “room in the Apostolic age for the writing of so “many false ones afterwards, and fathering them “upon Peter, Paul, Thomas, and others, who “ were dead before John. Caius, wbo was con“ temporary with Tertullian, tells us that Ce“rinthus wrote his Revelations as a great apostle, “ and pretended the visions were shown him by “ Angels, asserting a millenium of carnal plea“sures at Jerusalem after the resurrection; so “ that his Apocalypse was plainly written in “imitation of John's : and yet he lived so early, " that he resisted the apostles at Jerusalem in “ or before the first year of Claudius, that is, “ twenty-six years before the death of Nero, and “ died before John.”3
This argument, which must strike every impartial mind, as very powerful and conclusive against a late date, is generally passed over, without notice, by those who refer the book to the reign of Domitian; but silence will not set it aside. Cerinthus, who wrote a false Apoca
* Apud Euseb. Eccl. Hist. 1. ïï. c. 28. Edit. Valesii. 2 Epiphan. Hæres. 28. 3 Hieron. adv. Lucif.
lypse, borrowing, altering and corrupting passages from the genuine one, having died before John, it is impossible that John's Apocalypse could have been written so late as the time of the persecution by Domitian.
The inference drawn from the state of the Asiatic churches at the time when the Apocalypse was written, as necessarily presupposing that a considerable time must have passed before there could be any such departure from the primitive faith and discipline as to call for the reproofs given to these churches, in the epistles addressed to them respectively in the Apocalypse, rests, as we have seen, on no tenable ground, and is indeed opposed by the evidence of facts. All the Epistles of Paul, James and Peter were written before the death of Nero. Before they were written, sufficient time had elapsed to introduce, among the different churches, addressed in these epistles, deviations from the purity and obedience required from Christians, and they are reproved accordingly; and yet it has been attempted to be argued, that, among the churches in Asia, no such defections could take place in the same period ! Such an
argument carries its confutation along with it, to every one disposed to look at plain matters of fact.—And why was all this labor undertaken ? Why were the Christians in Asia to be calumniated beyond the words of the text ? Why were the virtues and graces for which they were praised by “him who searches the hearts” to be put out of sight?-Only for the purpose of supporting the tradition delivered by Irenæus for a late date to the Apocalypse, in opposition to other ancient traditions which assigned to it a much earlier origin. I say, only for the purpose of supporting his single testimony; for we have no other for the late date, however many subsequent writers may have repeated the statement, all of them having done so on his authority Epiphanius, as we have seen, twice names the reign of Claudius as that during which the Apocalypse was written : Arethas also, who was not ignorant of Irenæus's statement (for he quotes it), says, on the authority of other interpreters, that the sixth seal had its accomplishment in the destruction of Jerusalem, and of course those whom he followed held that the book was written some time before that period. And that Arethas did not speak without authority, however much Lardner and others might think they had a right to hold him cheap, is proved by the title
to the Syriac version of the Apocalypse; for the churches in Syria could not be ignorant of the date ascribed to this book by Irenæus, and yet they state, in their title, that the Revelation was given to John in the reign of Nero,-an evident proof that at least they had among them traditions to that effect, if pot Greek manuscripts bear. ing the same title.But on this I will not longer detain the reader. All that I aim at at present, is to show, that the historical evidence for a late date to the book, is by no means so conclusive as some have contended : and, indeed, when examined dispassionately, the weight of evidence would rather appear to be on the other side.
In one word :-neither Ecclesiastical tradition; nor the state of the churches in Asia, when the Apocalyptic Epistles were addressed to them ; nor any thing recorded in history respecting their secular condition, furnishes any evidence that may be relied on, that the Book of the Revelation was written so late as the reign of Domitian.
But it may be asked, “What possible dif“ference can it make, whether the Apocalypse “ was written at an early or late period of the “apostolic ministration ?" At first sight this subject may appear of trivial importance; and