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CHAPTER I.

THE AUTHENTICITY AND CANONICAL AUTHORITY OF

THE

AFOCALYPSE.

ALTHOUGH the question of the Authenticity and Canonical Authority of the Apocalypse is not necessarily connected with the subject of the following Inquiry, which relates exclusively to the Prophetical Character and Inspiration of that book; and, in arguing upon these points, we necessarily take for granted that it is both canonical and that it was written by the author whose name it bears; yet perhaps the entire omission of all consideration of these questions would be deemed improper, when we consider, how much the reverence with which we regard any portion of Scripture, depends upon the full conviction which we entertain of its right and title to be considered as a part of the oracles of God.

This is rendered more particularly necessary in the present instance, when we reflect, how openly the Authenticity and Canonical Authority of the Apocalypse have been assailed by infidels, and the levity with which the subject has been treated by persons from whom better things might have been expected; and that the opinions of these persons have not been altogether without their influence on many, who have neither the opportunity nor the leisure for

The word authenticity is used in the present Chapter according to the definition which is given of it by Bishop

Marsh, "to denote that a book was written by the author to whom it is ascribed." Lectures, Lect. XXIII. p. 4.

A

the investigation of these subjects. Intimately connected also with the question of the Authenticity and the Canonical Authority of the Apocalypse, is that relating to the time of its publication. The whole subject has been investigated with great learning and ability by different persons, and especially by Dr Lardner and Dean Woodhouse; and it is principally from the mass of evidence which has been collected by these learned writers, that the following summary is collected.

1. The Apocalypse is expressly attributed to St John three several times in the opening chapter1 and, in the last of these passages, he describes himself as "being in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." The writer, therefore, at the time when he saw the visions which are contained in this book, was under persecution, and a prisoner in the island of Patmos and the consideration of these circumstances may enable us to ascertain with some certainty the date of the Apocalypse. (1). The earliest date which has been ascribed to the Apocalypse is the reign of Claudius. Now Claudius died A.D. 54, some years before the Apostle Paul is supposed, by the best critics, to have written his Epistle to the Ephesians and his first Epistle to Timothy. But from these Epistles we collect, that the Church of Ephesus was then in an infantine and unsettled state. Bishops were then first appointed there by St Paul's order. But at the time when the Apocalypse was written, Ephesus and her sister churches appear to have been in a settled and even in a flourishing state; which could only be the work of time. There is in the

1 Chap. i. 1, 4, 9.

address of our Lord to them a reference to their former conduct. Ephesus is represented as having forsaken her former love, or charity; Sardis as having acquired a name, or reputation, which she had also forfeited; Laodicea as become lukewarm, or indifferent. Now changes of this kind, in a whole body of Christians, must be gradual, and the production of many years. (2). Again, of the seven Churches which are mentioned in the Apocalypse, only two are mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, those of Ephesus and Laodicea. The internal evidence of the book, therefore, in this respect alone, implies the existence of a different state of things from what was the case during the time of Claudius. (3). Thirdly, the Gnostic heresies are described in this book as having attained to a great height in the churches of Asia: whereas they are merely alluded to by St Peter, in his second Epistle, which was certainly written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and by St Jude, whose Epistle was probably written about that period, as evils of which they beheld the seeds springing up in the infant Church'. The existence of these heresies, therefore, in the Asiatic churches implies a more advanced condition of Christianity in them than was the case in the time of Claudius. (4). Further, we may observe, that "some expressions, which we meet with in the Apocalypse, are such as seem not to have been used in the early period of the Apostolic times. Sunday is called the Lord's day: and we find the same expression used by Ignatius" and other writers of a later date. In the early books of Scripture, it

2 Woodhouse, pp. 9, 10.

3 Vitring. in Apoc. Chap. i.2. pp.7,8. 4 Chap. ii. 14, 15, &c.

5 2 Pet. i. 1, &c. Vitring. Ib. p. 8.

6 Chap. i. 10.

7 Epist. ad Magnes. Sect. 9.

is called the first day of the week, or the first day after the Sabbath &c., but never the Lord's day'." (5). Lastly, there is no evidence that any persecution in the reign of Claudius was of such a nature as to extend to the distant provinces of the Roman Empire. We are informed in the Acts of the Apostles, and it is confirmed by Heathen testimony, that Claudius, probably from an ill-founded jealousy of the rising sect of Christians, commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome, but this, as Vitringa has observed, is a very different thing from a persecution which extended to the distant provinces.

2. The next date which has been assigned for the publication of the Apocalypse is the reign of Nero; and this is done on the sole authority of a subscription to the Syriac Version of the Apocalypse". Though, however, the internal evidence is not so decidedly against this, as it is against the former opinion, there is no proof of any persecution during the reign of Nero which extended so far as to Asia1; and the same arguments, which have been used with regard to the former opinion, are in a great measure applicable also to this.

3. The last opinion, which it is important to mention, is that which attributes the publication of the Apocalypse to the close of the reign of Domitian; and this opinion is not only free from the objections which may be urged against the two former, but is confirmed by the history of the Church at this period; when the Christians became the especial ob

1 Woodhouse, p. 10.

2 Vitring. p. 9. Acts xviii. 2.

3 This was probably made in the sixth century; and Lardner and Dean

Woodhouse have shewn how little value ought to be attached to this inscription. See Woodhouse, p. 12.

4 This is shewn by Lardner, Vol.

II. p.

222.

ject of Domitian's cruelty, and many were sent by him into banishment, and many others were put to death". During these persecutions the Apostle John was banished to Patmos, where he was favoured with the revelations which are the subject of this book. The death of Domitian happened A.D. 96; when St John obtained his liberty and returned to Ephesus. It is probable that he would then, if not sooner, publish his Apocalypse; the date of which is therefore fixed by Lardner, Mill, Woodhouse, and the majority of critics, to the year 96 or 97. And this date is confirmed by the internal evidence of the book itself. For the heresies, which are alluded to in the Epistles of St Paul, St Peter, and St Jude, as having recently sprung up in the infant churches of Asia, and which also appear to be more openly spoken of by St John himself in his first Epistle,-(for the opinions to which he so repeatedly alludes as being directed against the article of our Saviour's Incarnation, were essentially of a Gnostic character,)-had, before this period, had full opportunity of arriving at the degree of maturity, in which they are described as being at the time when St John wrote the Apocalypse; and the growing sect of the Christians in the distant provinces had begun to experience those terrors of persecution, which had at a much earlier period visited their brethren in Judea and in the capital of the Roman empire. And this date of the publication of the Apocalypse is confirmed by the testimony of Irenæus, who has not only repeatedly quoted this book, but expressly ascribes it to "John the Evangelist, the

5 Euseb. III. 17, 18.

6 "There are twenty-two Chapters in the book of Revelation, and Irenæus quotes from thirteen of them, producing

more than twenty-four passages, some of considerable length." Woodhouse. Compare the Index to Irenæus. Ed. Grabe.

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