Introductory to the study and
right understanding of the Language, Structure and Contents of the
"I think with Grotius, and with Michaelis, (if that continued to be his
opinion,) that it was written in the time of Claudius;—-or, at all events,
not later than the reign of Nero, as maintained by Sir Isaac Newton, Bishop
Newton, and others."
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About forty years have
elapsed since the attention of the Author of these Dissertations was
first turned to the Revelation ; and the contents of that wonderful book
have, ever since, ranch occupied his thoughts. For some years, like many
other persons, be received implicitly, the dicta of those critics who
charge the original with solecisms; but, in his endeavors to gain from
translations, and from authors who bad written on the subject, some
knowlege of the meaning of the prophecy, he found it necessary,
occasionally, to have recourse to the original, and, after some time,
with such a result, in one or two iustauces, as led him to question the
propriety of submitting, without a rigid enquiry, to the decision of
those who impute grammatical improprieties to the amanuensis of the
Apocalypse. That the book might contain some Hebrew idioms, and also
peculiar modes of construction, appeared to him not improbable ; but the
more he considered the subject the more reasonable, at length, it
appeared to him, to believe it possible that critics might be mistaken,
than that a work, written by an Apostle,—by one endowed with the gift of
tongues, and writing under Divine inspiration,—should abound in
Persuaded that he has discovered the nature of those peculiarities in
the composition of the Apocalypse, which have perplexed men of
incomparably higher attainments, and have led to the erroneous opinion,
so generally entertained, respecting its style, he thinks that he but
performs a duty to his fellow Christians in giving publicity to that
discovery; and the more so as, from the precarious state of his health,
it is very probable that he may not live to finish a larger
work,—devoted to the elucidation of the Apocalypse— with which he has
been many years occupied:—but whether that work shall ever see the light
or not, it is hoped that the other topics, connected with the subject,
introduced into this volume, may also prove serviceable to persons
engaged in the same pursuit.
Wherever the author has felt himself obliged, in the subjoined pages, lo
express bis dissent from tlie opinions of previous writers, he hopes
that he will be found not to have treated any one with personal
disrespect. Should his language, in any instance, exhibit such a
semblance, he begs to disavow the intention; for he can truly affirm,
that he is grateful to every laborer who has preceded him in these
Differing, as he does, from received opinions, respecting the style of
the Apocalypse, the author is aware lhat he exposes himself to
criticism: but if dispensed with candour it shall be an excellent oil
which shall not break his head; for none will rejoice more than
himself in the correction of any error into which he may have fallen;
that truth, from whatever quarter it may come, may alone have that
influence, which the interests of literature, of religion, and of
society so universally deserve, and so imperiously demand.
ascertain the true date of the Apocalypse is, as will be shown
hereafter, a subject of much greater importance than at first view most
people may imagine. Critics are by no means agreed as to the time when
it was written : indeed they differ so widely, that some make it one of
the earliest, while others make it the last published book of the New
Testament. Grotius and Sir Isaac Newton ascribe it to the reign of
Claudius or of Nero. Mill, Lardner, Bengelius, Woodhouse and some other
able critics contend that it was written in the reign of Domitian, A. D.
96 or 97. Michaelis believes that it was written in the reign of
Claudius,' who died A. D. 54. and appeals to Sir Isaac Newton, " that
prodigy of learning," whose arguments in favor of an early date he
considers as generally unexceptionable, (excepting those drawn from
allusions to the Revelation, alleged to be found in the first Epistle of
Peter, and in the Epistle to the Hebrews.) " I have so high " an opinion
(says he) of the divine under" standing of Newton, that I cannot flatter
my" self with having discovered a proof in his " positions which was
undiscovered by him. " It is therefore with some diffidence that I lay "
before my readers some additional arguments " for his opinion, that the
Revelation was writ" ten so early as in the time of Claudius or "Nero."
His additional arguments are:—1. That when the Apocalypse was written,
the governors of the church were still called Angels, a name
nowhere else applied to them in the New Testament or in the writings of
the primitive fathers. In the Epistles they are called Bishops
[«r»Vxo7roi]- " Is it probable (says he) " that John would choose to be
singular in " calling those Angels [ayysXo«], who had, by "
custom, obtained a different title ? May we
"not then conclude, that his Revelation was " written before the title
of Bishops was in "use?"1—2. That
the Revelation mentions no heresy as flourishing at that time, except
only the sect of the Nicolastans : " this sect ex" isted long before
Cerinthus, and as John wrote " his Epistle and his Gospel against
Cerinthus, " between the years 65 and 68, the Revelation " must have
been written considerably earlier." His third argument he rests on what
is said respecting Christ coming quickly, (ch. xxii, 20) which he
considers as not having reference to the second coming of Christ to the
general Judgment, but to the judgment impending over Jerusalem :
alleging that John so uses the phrase in his Gospel (ch. xxi, 22); that
therefore, it seems probable, the same sense was intended in the
Revelation ; and that, " consequently, " the Revelation must have been
written before " the destruction of Jerusalem."—Of all the arguments
adduced by Newton, none appears more cogent to Michaelis than that which
is drawn from the Hebrew style of the Revelation; from which the former
concludes, that John
must have written the book shortly after he left Palestine, because his
style, in a later part of his life, was pure and fluent Greek.
Bishop Newton also thinks it more probable that John was banished to
Patmos in the time of Nero, than in that of Domitian. Like Michaelis he
rests his opinion chiefly on the evidence adduced by the great Newton,
to whom he refers both in his text arid notes. The style appears to him
an unanswerable argument that the book was written soon after John had
come out of Judea. He not only (contrary to the opinion of Michaelis on
this point) considers the allusions to the Revelation in the Epistles of
Peter, and in Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews, to which Sir Isaac had
referred, as being correct, but answers a possible objection, ' that St.
John ' might borrow from St. Peter and St. Paul, as ' well as St. Peter
and St. Paul from St. John:'— " If you will consider (says he) and
compare " the passages together, you will find sufficient " reason to be
convinced that St. Peter's and " St. Paul's are the copies, and St.
John's the " original."
Lardner, on the contrary, opposes the arguments drawn by Sir Isaac
Newton from the bearing of ancient testimony ; and, taking it for
granted that John had been banished, concludes, that he and other exiles
did not return from
their banishment until after the death of Domitian, (who died in 96);
which is the opinion of Basnage, and likewise of Cellarius and others;
and that the Revelation was written in the year 95, 96, or 97.
From the best examination that I have been able to give to this
question, I have arrived at a different conclusion from those who
contend for a late date for the Apocalypse. I think with Grotius, and
with Michaelis, (if that continued to be his opinion,) that it was
written in the time of Claudius;—-or, at all events, not later than the
reign of Nero, as maintained by Sir Isaac Newton, Bishop Newton, and
Before submitting to the reader-the evidence on which 1 have come to
this conclusion, I shall state briefly the substance of Ecclesiastical
tradition, respecting the time at which the Apocalypse was written;—and,
secondly, the arguments which have been drawn from the supposed state of
the Asiatic churches, with a view to the settlement of this question.
§ 1. Of traditionary Testimony respecting the Date of the Apocalypse.
The opinion that the Apocalypse was written in the time of Domitian, was
introduced by Irenaeus; and, indeed, independent of the fact, that such
is his testimony, all the other arguments that have been offered, for so
late a date, may be considered as mere assumptions, resting on no
conclusive evidence. Against the correctness of Irenaeus it is alleged,
that he postponed the dates of some other books, and, therefore, it is
not impossible that he might be mistaken respecting the date of this,
which he chose to place after them. Sir Isaac Newton thinks that he "
might perhaps have heard from his master " Polycarp, that he had
received this book from " John about the time of Domitian's death ; or,
" indeed, that John might himself at that time " have made a new
publication of it, whence " Irenaeus might imagine it was then but newly
" written." If, however, there be any error in Irenaeus, it is more
likely that his work has suffered from the attempts of transcribers to
make their copy conform to their own ideas of historical truth, than
that there could be any new publication of a work already given to the
churches. It has been suggested; and from the
facts to be submitted to the reader respecting the early date of the
Apocalypse, the idea seems to be not void of all probability ; " that as
the " name of Nero, before he was declared Ca?sar " and successor to
Claudius, was Domitius, " possibly Irenaeus might have so written it; "
and that, by some fatality, this name was " lengthened to Domitianus—the
difference be" ing only two letters.'"
Eusebius follows Irenaeus in his Chronicle and Ecclesiastical
history, but in his Evangelical Demonstrations he says,
"James, the Lord's brother, " was stoned, Peter was crucified at Rome
with " his head downward, and Paul was beheaded, " and John banished
into an island." That is, as Sir Isaac understands him, " he conjoins
the " banishment of John into Patmos, with the " deaths of Peter and
Paul," which happened in the reign of Nero. To which Lardner answers ; "
he (Eusebius) does not say that all these things " happened in the time
of one and the same " Emperor—he is only enumerating persons who "
suffered." Sir Isaac remarks that Tertullian also conjoins these events.
" True (says Lardner), " but he does not say that all happened in " the
same reign."—Some, however, may think it not a little remarkable, if not
that both these writers should, by mere accident, have mentioned the
death of Peter and Paul, and John's banishment together, without having
any reference whatever to the same period.
Other early writers have also followed Irenseus; but as they refer to
him, or to Eusebius who copied him, they are in fact the same authority,
and therefore to quote what they say would be encroaching unnecessarily
on the time of the reader.
Epiphanius twice names the reign of Claudius, as that during which the
Apocalypse was written. In \\isfifty-jirst Heresy he speaks thus
: " after "his (John's) return from Patmos, under the Em" peror Claudius
;" and afterwards he says, " when John prophesied in the days of the Em"
peror Claudius, while he was in the island of " Patmos." Lardner quotes,
with approbation, the opinion of Blondel (who alleges that, " as "
Epiphanius is singular, he ought not be regard"ed,") and adds, in two or
three pages after, " one would think Sir Isaac Newton had little "
reason to mention Epiphanius, when he does "not follow him." But we
might with equal justice say, " one would think Lardner had but " little
reason to mention either Epiphanius or " Sir Isaac Newton, when he does
not follow "either of them :" for Sir Isaac in quoting Epiphanius
is showing that, though many have followed the opinion of Irenseus, as
expressed in our present copies, the testimony of antiquity, for a date
so late as that of Domitian, is not so uniform as some would have it be
believed : Nor is the argument drawn from numbers, against the testimony
of one historian, so conclusive as Lardner and others have imagined ;
for if a thousand should report the testimony of Irenaeus, it is still
but one testimony, and would only show that they preferred his
authority, while Epiphanius followed some other now lost. But in fact
Epiphanius is not " singular" in following some other authority than
that of Irenasus. The commentator Arethas, who quotes Irenaeus' opinion,
does not follow it. In his explanation of the sixth seal he applies it
to the destruction of Jerusalem ; and he does so expressly on the
authority of preceding interpreters. Lardner's objection, that " Arethas
seems to have been of " opinion that things which had come to pass "
long before might be represented in the Revelation," does not apply to
the case before us: for Arethas says, and Lardner has himself quoted the
words, that " The destruction caused " by the Romans had not fallen upon
the Jews, " when the evangelist received these (Apocalyp" tic)
instructions. Nor was he at Jerusalem, " but in Ionia, where is Ephesus:
for he stayed
" at Jerusalem no more than fourteen years—i " And, after the death of
our Lord's mother, he " left Judea, and went to Ephesus, as tradition "
says : where also, as is said, he had the Reve"lation of future things."
These words are quoted by Lardner for the purpose of assailing them. "
How can we rely (says he) on a writer " of the sixth century for these
particulars; that " John did not stay at Jerusalem more than " fourteen
years, that he left Judea upon the " death of our Lord's mother, and
then went to " Ephesus: when we can evidently perceive " from the
history in the Acts, that in the four" teenth year after our Lord's
ascension, there " were no Christian converts at Ephesus : and " that
the church at Ephesus was not founded " by St. Paul till several years
afterwards ? What " avails it to refer to such passages as these ?"—
What avails it! To show that there were other traditions besides that
derived from Jrenaeus, and that some preferred them to his. Nor is the
fact that others, before Arethas, believed the Revelation to have been
given prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, set aside or even weakened
by his running into the same sentence other traditions, which might
appear incredible to Lardner, or which might even be false. Arethas was
not an original commentator, but exhibited a synopsis of what had been
advanced by An
drew of Caesarea (who lived about the year 500) and others ; and this
very Andrew quotes, in his commentary, the same application of a passage
in the Apocalypse to the destruction of Jerusalem, though he rejects it
himself. The testimony of Arethas is offered—not as having authority,
merely because it is his, but—as evidence, that the opinion which he
delivers, was held by other commentators before his time. Michaelis
remarks that " we know of no commentators be" fore him but Andrew of
Caesarea, and Hippo" litus, who lived at the end of the second "
century." This, however, it must be allowed is no proof that his
authority was Hippolitus: it might have been one later;—but, it is also
possible that it might have been one earlier; for though Michaelis has
here overlooked the fact, the Apocalypse was the subject of a treatise
written by Melito, Bishop of Sardis, in the early part of the second
century, of which nothing remains but its title, which is preserved in
Eusebius.1 I stop not to examine the
other facts, which Lardner thinks cannot be true ; for, if false, it
does not follow that the simple fact, of early commentators having held
the opinion, that the Apocalypse was written before the destruction of
Jerusalem, must also be false—any
more than it will follow, if it can be proved that Iron-urns is wrong,
in ascribing the book to the reign of Domitian, that, therefore,
his authority is to be questioned on all other points.—But why, after
quoting the words of Arethas, has Lardner repeated them, with
amplification? Arethas does not say that, on the death of our
Lord's mother John left Judea and
Then went to Ephesus ;
but that, after that event he left Judea and went to
Ephesus. It might be some time afier. But what has Ephesus to do with
the question ? Could John by no possibility have visited Patmos, "for
the word of God," or to preach the gospel, till after he had taken
up his residence at Ephesus ?
I mean not, however, to enter into the question, how long John stayed at
Jerusalem? for it is possible, though that city might for a long time be
his usual place of residence, that, like the other Apostles, he
sometimes travelled, preaching the glad news of salvation. Luke's
history is confined chiefly to the travels of Paul, which accounts
sufficiently for his recording nothing respecting those of John. It is
therefore a mere assumption, that John could not be in Patmos before the
reign of Domitian, and that he was banished to that island. Could
it even be proved, that he was actually banished to Patmos by that
Emperor, this would be no proof
whatever, that he had not been there before. Nay, more; he must have
been in that island long before, if the evidence, to be submitted
hereafter to the reader, be well founded.
The title of the Syriac version of the Apocalypse has also been offered
as an evidence for a date prior to the reign of Domitian. It runs thus:
" The Revelation which was made to John " the Evangelist, by God, in
the island of Patmos, " into which he was banished by Nero the Caesar."
To this evidence it is objected that the Apocalypse was not in the
first Syriac Version, which was made very early. This may be
true; but it is equally true that Ephrem the Syrian, who lived about the
year 370, several times quotes the Apocalypse in his sermons,
which yields a strong argument (though not a positive proof) that a
translation must then have been in existence, and known to the members
of the Syrian congregations. But even had no translation existed prior
to the Philoxenian version, which was made in the year 508, the argument
remains, that the tradition of the Syrian churches ascribed the
Apocalypse to the days of Nero; and the presumption is, that the Greek
manuscripts whence they made their version exhibited the above title.
I will not detain the reader longer on Ecclesiastical traditions
respecting the time at which
the Apocalypse was written. (Those who wish for farther information on
this subject should consult Lardner, who has collected the whole with
great labor; also Michaelis' Introduction to the JNew Testament.) But it
should be constantly recollected, that, however numerous the authors
are, who ascribe it to the end of Domitian's reign, the testimony of all
of them may be resolved into that of one individual, whom they
copied, namely Irenaeus ; that another tradition placed the date in the
reign of Nero ; and another in that of Claudius : and hence it follows,
that the true date, if it can be settled, must be ascertained on some
other evidence. That is, their conflicting testimonies must, if
possible, be tried by some standard on which reliance may be placed, to
ascertain which of them should be received as true. It may be proper,
however, to examine another argument against an early date, brought
forward by Vitringa, also by Lenfant and Beausobre in their preface to
the Revelation, and quoted with approbation by Lardner; and this shall
be attempted in the next section. I pass unnoticed a fourth tradition,
which says that John was banished to Patmos in the reign of Trajan; and
a fifth, which places his banishment in that of Hadrian; as both these
necessarily pre-suppose that the Apocalypse was not written by the
apostle John—a question
which has been so well treated of by Newton, Lardiier, Woodhouse, and
other British Critics, to say nothing of foreigners, that it does not
deserve another moment's consideration.
§2. Of the Arguments for a late Date, founded on the supposed State
of the Asiatic Churches when the Apocalypse was written.
Michaelis, alluding to the testimony of Epiphanius, who twice states the
Apocalypse to have been written, in the reign of Claudius, says:—" To
this single testimony of a writer " who lived three hundred years
later than St. " John, two very material objections have been " made.
[He means by Blondel, Lardner, and " others.] In the first place no
traces are to be " discovered of any persecution of the Christians " in
the reign of Claudius: for though he com" manded the Jews to quit Rome,
yet this com" maud did not affect the Jews who lived out " of Italy, and
still less the Christians."
This argument—often advanced by those who contend for a late date to the
Apocalypse—assumes, as not to be questioned, that John's visit to Patmos
was by compulsion, in consequence of persecution; but he himself
does not say so; he only states that he was there, 8i<% rlv
ou, "for the word of God"—words which, taken
in their strict and proper sense, do not convey that idea; and shall we
be content, on a question of this kind, to receive the traditions of men
who would have us believe, without giving their authority, that John was
cast by order of Nero or of Domitian into a vessel of boiling oil, and
came out unhurt ?
Michaelis thus states the second objection that had been made [viz. by
Vitringa, Lenfant and Beausobre, and Lardner] : " That the seven
"flourishing Christian communities at Ephesus, " Smyrna, &c. existed
so early as the reign of " Claudius, is an opinion not easy to be recon"
ciled with the history given, in the Acts of the " Apostles, of the
first planting of Christianity " in Asia Minor. Besides it is hardly
possible " that St. John resided at Ephesus, from which " place it is
pre-supposed that he was sent into " banishment, so early as the time of
Claudius: " for the account given, Acts xix, of St. Paul's " stay and
conduct at Ephesus, manifestly im" plies that no apostle had already
founded and " governed a church there. And when St. Paul " left the
place, the Ephesians had no Bishop : " for, in an Epistle to Timothy,
written for that " purpose, he gave orders to regulate the church " at
Ephesus, and to ordain bishops. This ar" gument (he adds) may perhaps be
strengthened " by observing, that the second Apocalyptical
" Epistle, ch. ii. 1, is addressed to the angel of " the church of
Ephesus, that is, as is commonly " understood, to the bishop."
The objection just stated rests on mere assumptions and on false facts.
It is first assumed that John was banished to Patmos; secondly, that he
resided at Ephesus before his banishment; thirdly, that he could not
have been in Patmos but in consequence of such banishment; fourthly,
that there was no bishop (or elder) at Ephesus when Paul left that city;
because, fifthly, au epistle was -written to Timothy to ordain bishops
there. Now ft is singular enough, that so many facts should be assumed,
without offering proof of the truth of any one of them : no, nor can any
one of them be proved. We learn from the 18th chapter of the Acts, that
when Paul left Athens he came to Corinth, and found there a certain Jew
named Aquila; and that this was in the reign of Claudius,—a fact which
deserves particular notice ; for the decree of Claudius, which commanded
all Jews to depart from Rome, and which was the cause of Aquila and his
wife Priscilla leaving Italy and proceeding to Corinth (Acts xviii. 1,
2), was issued in the eleventh year of that Emperor's reign, answering
to A. D. 51. We also learn from the Acts of the Apostles, that his stay
at Corinth was one year and six months in all, (for the account of
the insurrection which dragged Paul before Gallio is only episodical,)
and that immediately after this he sailed into Syria, with Priscilla and
Aquila, and came to Ephesus, where he left them; but not till after he
had himself entered into the Synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
Here we are made acquainted with the fact that the Apostle Paul
himself had been preaching at Ephesus, some time before the events that
are recorded in ch. xix. had taken place. How long this was I will not
presume to decide positively: but thence he sailed to Cesarea (on his
way to Jerusalem), after which he went down to Antioch, where he spent
some time, and afierwards went over all the country of Galatia and
Phrygia in order, strengthening the disciples. With these facts
staring Michaelis in the face, it is difficult to imagine what could
have led him to express himself as he has done in the foregoing
quotation, when he says, that " the account given Acts xix. "of Paul's
stay and conduct at Ephesus, rnani" festly implies that no Apostle had
already "founded and governed a church there; and " that when St. Paul
left the place the Ephe" sians had no bishop." It is impossible to
account for this inaccurate statement, but by ascribing it to mere
inadvertence and haste. Paul's visit to Ephesus, spoken of in Acts xix,
was in fact his second visit to that city. When this
Apostle quitted Ephesus, after his first visit, he had left Aquila and
Priscilla there; -who of course did not remain idle, as we see by the
care they took to instruct .Apolios. But even had we not been informed
that an Apostle had been at Ephesus,—and that Apostle Paul himself,
before the visit mentioned in xix. 1,—the inference of Michaelis would
be inadmissible; the presence of an Apostle not being necessary to the
founding of a Church of Christ: for wherever men are congregated in his
name, should there be only two or three of them, there is he
in the midst of them (Mat. xviii. 20). When Paul came to Ephesus
(Acts xix), instead of meeting no Christian converts he found
disciples there (v. 1), and congregated together too—that is, they
were a Christian church. The male members then amounted to twelve (v.
7): and they were a "flourishing Christian community" also, if we
may judge from their being thought worthy to receive the miraculous
gifts conferred by the Holy Spirit; of which visible manifestation of
the divine power they had not even heard till Paul now visited them.
When arrived at Ephesus this second time, he continued his visits to the
Synagogue for three months, reasoning with the Jews concerning
the reign of God ; after which he separated the disciples—that
is, organised them as a complete church—and continued at
Ephesus two years longer, disputing daily in the school of
Tyrannus; so That All They That
DWELT IN ASIA HEARD THE WORD OF THE LORD.
Paul himself, then, was the founder of the churches in Asia, as he was
of a great number of other Gentile churches, and this too chiefly in
the reign of Claudius. Michaelis's statement—and others have stated
the same thing—that in his first epistle to Timothy, " he gave orders to
him " to regulate the church at Ephesus, and to ordain "bishops"
is not warranted by any thing in that Epistle. Such an order is
indeed stated respecting Titus, when left in Crete (Tit. i. 5); but the
reason for Timothy being desired to abide, on some occasion, at Ephesus,
is expressly stated to have been, that he might charge them to maintain
the doctrine delivered to them by Paul (1 Tim. i. 3), in opposition to
the fooleries of the Judaizing teachers; who began to trouble the
churches almost as soon as they were established. The instructions given
to Timothy (and by means of the Epistle addressed to him, to all
Christian churches, in all ages), respecting the character that ought to
be found in persons appointed to be bishops, offers no evidence that
this was written with an eye to his appointing them for the first time
at Ephesus. Timothy was in fact an Evangelist, and was often sent by
Paul to assist in arranging matters in different
churches, as may be seen in the Acts and in the Epistles; and it was
necessary that he should know how to conduct himself among Gofs
family, the church of the living God (1 Tim. iii. 15), in
what he was to teach them, respecting the characters that were to be
appointed office-bearers in the churches, as well as in every thing
respecting the common faith. I mean not to contend that Paul established
a church at Ephesus on the first occasion on which he visited that city
(Acts xviii. 19) ; or that the disciples whom he found there, on his
second visit, (xix. 1), were in perfect church order; for I think the
contrary is fairly inferable from the history: but I am decidedly of
opinion that the notice taken of his "separating the disciples"
(v. 9), is a plain intimation, that they were then put into an
organised state, as a church of Christ. This event took place two years
before the riot of the shrinemakers ; which happened just at the time
that he had purposed to pass through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to
Jerusalem (v. 21). It would be of importance if the precise date
could be ascertained; hut as this is not indispensably necessary to the
present inquiry, I shall only briefly notice, that chronologers have, in
my opinion, generally allowed too great an interval between the period
of Paul's departure from Athens (ch. xviii. 1), and his departure
from Ephesus to go in
to Macedonia (ch. xx. 1). The time that his journey from Athens
to Corinth would occupy, could not be long. His whole stay at Corinth
was eighteen months (xxviii. 11). The "good while," of v.
18, has been by some considered not merely as subsequent to his
appearance before Gallio, as was really the case, but as subsequent to
the "year and six months" of v. 11, which is certainly not the
fact. The " insurrection," though mentioned after the length of
his stay of "a year and six months," happened " a good while"
before the expiration of that term, which was the whole duration of
his stay there : it is particularly noticed in the history, seemingly
for the purpose of accounting for the quiet in which the Apostle was
allowed to remain so long in that city. The unbelieving Jews here, as in
other places, endeavoured to harass him with law proceedings, and
carried him before Gallio; who finding that his accusers could lay no
moral turpitude or breach of public law to his charge, did not even call
on Paul for his defence, but sent them out of court with a reprimand. He
would not allow " a question of words and names" to be construed
into a civil offence and a breach of the laws. In this, though it is
common with many, in their ill-judged declamations, to cry out against "
profane Gallios," he acted the part of an upright magistrate.
Paul's departure from Corinth was in the early part of the year, as is
evident from the purpose of his journey being named : he wished by
all means to keep the approaching passover at Jerusalem, v. 21.
After being at Jerusalem he went to Antioch, where he spent some time,
and then went over Galatia and Fhrygia, and having thus passed
through the upper coasts, came again to Ephesus (xix. 1). How long
he stayed at Antioch after he had gone from Cesarea to Jerusalem and
come thence to Antioch, is not stated, nor how long he was in passing
through Galatia and Phrygia; but it seems obvious enough that all this
was within a few months, for his journey was not intended to be
lengthened, as is plain from his leaving Aquila and Priscilla at
Ephesus, with a promise that he would return again (v. 21). Having
returned accordingly, his whole stay there on this second visit was, as
has been noticed, three months (xix. 8.) and two years
(v.9): nor did any farther time elapse before his departure for
Macedonia; for the particulars related respecting the vagabond
exorcists, the burning of foolish magical books, and the pretendedly
religious uproar of Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen, though related
after the duration of Paul's stay, belong to the same period. And,
therefore, the whole time intervening between Paul's departure from
Athens, and his subsequent departure
from Ephesus, could hardly exceed four years, if it were even so
much. The Bible chronology places Paul's visit to Corinth in A. D. 54,—
Macknight, Hales, and some others, with more reason, in the year 51. If
to this date we add two of the above four years, this will bring us to
the year 53, as that in which the believing Ephesians were put into full
church order by Paul himself;—so that it is not impossible that, before
the death of Claudius, this church might have so failed in love as to
deserve the reproof given in Rev. ii. 1.—" What!" an objector may say, "
while Paul himself was residing at Ephe" sus ? for, if his visit to
Corinth was not earlier " than the year 51, he must have been in that "
city when the Apocalyptic Epistle was sent " to the Ephesians—if sent in
the reign of Clau" dius." And why should this be impossible ? Did not
the conduct of all the churches, very soon after they were established,
call for reproof?—and were they not reproved in the different Epistles
of the New Testament, by the Apostles who founded them ?—This naturally
leads to the examination of another, and, indeed, what those who employ
the argument consider as the principal objection against an early date
to the Apocalypse :—
" It appears," say they, " from the book it" self, that there had been
already churches for
" a considerable time in Asia: for as much as " St. John, in the name of
Christ, reproaches " faults that happen not but after a while. The "
church of Ephesus had left her first love. That " of Sardis
had a name to live, but was dead. The " church of Laodicea was
become lukewarm." In brief, it has been objected that the state of
the churches in Asia, in the reign of Nero, was different from that
described in the second and third chapter of the Apocalypse; and,
therefore, the Revelation could not have been delivered to John so early
as that reign, and still less in that of his predecessor. To this it has
been answered, " What the state of the churches was " in the reign of
Nero, can best be decided from f the writings of the Apostles ;
for all their " epistles were written during the reigns of
Nero The state of the
" as described in the Revelation is as follows : "The church of Ephesus
is commended for " her sufferings for the name of Christ, for her
" patience, for her unweariness in tribulation. She "
would not bear the wicked, and discovered those " that
were false apostles; she hated the Nico" laitans, whom the
Lord hated also; but is " charged with having departed from love and
" charity, and is therefore called unto repentance.
M —The church of Smyrna was pure, only
pes* tered with false apostles.—The church of Per
" gamos \liddfast the name of Christ and his faith " but] had
such as held the doctrine of Balaam, " seduping the people to eat such
things as were " sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication; " and
had also such as adhered to the doctrine of " the JVicolaitans.—The
church of Thyatira is " praised [for charily, service, faith,
patience, and " good worAj], but at the same time there was fault "
found with some of the congregation, for sufler" ing the woman Jezebel
to teach and seduce " the people to fornication, and to eat things "
sacrificed to idols.—The church of Sardis is " greatly reproved, for
having the name of being " Christians while spiritually dead; [but even
" in her there were a few names who had not de"filed their
garments'}.—The church of Phila" delphia was pure, and nothing laid
to her " charge.—The church of Laodicea was found " lukewarm.
" If we read the Epistles of the Apostles, we " find the churches in
general pestered with all " these evils. St.
Paul wrote to the
Corinthians " about eating those things which were sacrificed to
" idols; St. Peter
writes against those that held " the doctrine of Balaam. St.
Jude did the same. "St.
against those whose " faith was mere words, and their deeds
wicked, " means the Nicolaitans, who afierwards took " upon
themselves the proud name of Gnostics,
" that is, of wise men. And the false apostles " made their appearance
eyery where, and were " complained of by all the Apostles. Love and "
charity slackened in many churches ; witness " ch. xiii. of the 2d
Epist. to the Corinthians, and
"the whole 1st Epistle of
" '2d Epistle of Paul
who was " then bishop of Ephesus, which was wrote in
" the year 67 is full of complaints against
" wicked Christians; and he mentions the names "of several of them, who
were of the churches " of Asia—Demas,
Alexander the smith, Her
" Mogenes, Philetus, and
" evils were all in the churches when the Apos" ties wrote their
epistles; and they were all "wroteduring the reigns of
Nero. " Who then will
say, that the state of the churches " in Asia, in the reign of
Nero, was different "
from that described in the Revelation ?'"
The objection to an early date, founded on the state of the churches in
Asia at the time when the Apocalypse was written, and which has been met
in the manner just quoted, has since been urged by Mr. Wood house (in
his Dissertation prefixed to ' The Apocalypse Translated'} as
strenuously as if it had never been before proposed or answered. As he
is the last writer, I
believe, who has taken a part in this controversy, his reasoning—for he
has produced no new facts—shall be briefly examined.
" There is (says he) no appearance or proba
" bility that the seven churches had exist
" ence so early as in the reign of Claudius ; " much less that they were
in that established " and flourishing state, which is described or "
inferred in the Saviour's address to them. For " Claudius died in the
year 54, some years be" fore the Apostle
Paul is supposed, by the
" best critics, to have written his Epistle to the " Ephesians, and his
first to Timothy. But "
from these Epistles we collect, that the church " of Ephesus was then in
an infantine and un" settled state. Bishops were then first ap" pointed
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 flourishing " state; which could only be the work of time. "
There is, in the 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 for11
feited; Laodicea as become lukewarm, or in" different. Now changes of
this kind, in a whole "body of Christians, must be gradual, and
production of many years. Colosse and Hie" rapolis were churches of note
in St. Paul's " time; but
they are not mentioned in the Apo" calypse, although they were
situated in the " same region of Proconsular Asia, to which it " was
addressed. They were probably become " of less importance. All these
changes require " a lapse of time; and we necessarily infer, that " such
had taken place between the publication " of St.
Paul's epistles and of
the Apocalypse." (p. 9).
" From the time of Claudius
to the end of " Nero's
reign, we count only fourteen years. "The date of the
First Epistle to Timothy
is " placed, by Michaelis,
about ten years before "
Nero's death; by
Fabricius, Mill, and " other able critics, much later. The
Epistle to " the Ephesians has certainly a later date. So " that it may
still be doubted whether changes " which appear to have taken place in
the " churches of Lesser Asia, between the date of " these epistles and
that of the Apocalypse, could " well be brought about in so short
a period of " time, as must be allotted to them, if we sup" pose the
Apocalypse to be written in the time of "
Nero. But suppose this
argument not to be " insisted up'on, to what will the concession "
amount ? The question in favor of the Apo" calypse having been written
in Nero's reign,
" will gain no internal evidence positively in its "favor." (p.
Afterwardsthe same argument is thus repeated: " In the three first
[first three] chapters of the " Apocalypse, the churches of Asia are
described " as being in that advanced and flourishing state " of society
and discipline reasonably to be ex" pected; and to have undergone those
changes " in their faith and morals, which might have " taken place in
the time intervening between " the publication of St.
Paul's Epistles and the "
concluding years of Domitian."
I will not attempt to discover what may be the precise ideas meant to be
conveyed by this author, when he employs the terms, "established. " and
flourishingstate,"—"settled and even flou" rishing state,"—"infantineand
unsettled state," "—churches of note,"—"churches of less im"
portance,"—" advanced and flourishing state " of society and
discipline," as applied to these churches; because they are relative
terms, and he has given us no clew by which to discover the standard to
which he refers them. The same remark applies, with equal force, to the
indefinite way in which he speaks of time. His general inference,
however, is intelligible; and it will be sufficient to show that it
cannot be admitted.—His whole argument may be reduced to this—" The "
churches of Christ could
not, so early as the
" reign of Nero, depart
in any measure from any "of the institutions or doctrines delivered to
them " by the Apostles." Why not so early ? Why should it be less
possible that the seven churches in Asia, mentioned in the Apocalypse,
should fall into errors and evil practices, than for those churches
which are reproved in the epistles addressed to them for similar
departures from the truth, before the death of Nero ? " Changes " of
this kind, in a whole body of Christians, " must," says Mr.
Woodhouse, " be gradual, " and the production of many years."—That
is, before the death of Nero a sufficient number of years had not
elapsed for such changes;—yet we see like changes in other churches, in
the life-time of Paul, who died before Nero ! May it not be asked too,
why Mr. Woodhouse extends our Lord's censures to the " whole body"
marking the words also in Italics, to give them greater force? Our
Lord in fact commends them for many things; but the change, to
suit Mr. Woodhouse's argument, must be one that \vou\d require " many
years," and therefore the whole body of the believers in Asia
must be calumniated.—" Many years /" How many would this writer
think sufficient for the establishment of Christianity in the world ?
Few or none of the Apostles, who effected this stupendous work,
except John, survived Nero.
" Colosse and Hierapolis," says Mr. Woodhouse, " were churches of note
in St. Paul's " time ; but they are not mentioned in the Apo
" calypse They were probably become of
" less importance." Can no other reason be assigned for these Asiatic
churches not being mentioned in the Apocalypse? How could they be named
in a book written before they had existence ? There were but seven
churches in Asia at the time when the Revelation was given. The
iirra. exxXT)<ria»£, Tous
ev T>j 'A<ria.—to the seven churches, to the
[churches] in Asia (Rev. i. 4), by the common construction
and usage of the Greek, includes every church in the district named.
They are enumerated in the 11 th verse; and, in the 20th, the seven
stars are declared to be ayysXoi rtuv eirra. exxXij«r»a»v—the
Angels of the seven churches. These passages prove that the
Apocalypse was written before there was a church at Colosse or at
Hierapolis; for Mr. Woodhouse has not ventured to state that these
churches had ceased to exist at the date he assigns to the Apocalypse.
As to these churches having " probably be" come of less importance," Mr.
Woodhouse must have been inconsiderate at the moment when he suggested
this, as a reason for their not being named in the Apocalypse ; for he
cannot surely believe, that the great shepherd and bishop
of souls, looks on his churches with the same kind of eye with
which the bishops of Antichristian churches look at theirs—disregarding
any of them because of their insignificance! He acts far otherwise.
Wherever there are even so few as two or three congregated in his
name, to observe his ordinances, there is
He in the midst of
them, of however little importance such a congregation may be
held in the estimation of those worldly churches which some people would
perhaps describe as in " a settled and flourishing state."
That the Asiatic churches could not,so early as the reign of Nero,
exhibit the character ascribed to them in the Apocalypse, is a mere
assumption ; for we have seen that other churches were equally
censurable, at the time at which the different epistles, addressed to
them, were written. Let us apply the same mode of enquiry into
character, to the Asiatic churches, by examining the only Apostolic
Epistle which we have, addressed to one of the Apocalyptic churches: I
mean that sent to the saints at Ephesus.
Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians (ch. iii. 17, J9), prays that
Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith, that, being
Rooted And Grounded In Love,
they might know the love of Christ, which excelleth knowlege
of any other kind. The
Apostle was ever earnest, in his prayers, that all the churches might
increase and abound in love yet more and more; but in his subsequent
exhortation he more than insinuates a reason for his particular anxiety,
on this point, respecting the Ephesians:—" 1 the prisoner of the Lord
be" seech you to walk worthy of your calling, with all "
lowliness and meekness, with LONG SUFFER" ING, FORBEARING (or
bearing with) ONE " ANOTHER IN LOVE; earnestly endeavour" ing to
PRESERVE The Unity Of The Spirit
"IN THE BOND OF PEACE—one body and " one spirit" (iv.
1—4). Does he not here plainly intimate, that they were now exhibiting a
temper and conduct very different from that spirit of love by which
Christians ought to be characterised ? He goes on, in the fourth
chapter, to remind them of the design of all
Christ's gifts to the
church, namely, the edification and perfecting of the body of
Christ, " that we may
no " longer be children, tossed like waves, and carried
" about by every wind of doctrine, butspeak
" ing the truth In Love
may grow up into
" the head This I say therefore and charge
" you in the Lord, that ye
No Lo Ng E R walk as
"gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind
" Put away lying, and speak every man truth to his "
neighbour: fur ice are members one of another.
" ARE YE ANGRY ! AND WITHOUT
" SIN ?' [impossible]. Let not the sun go down " upon your
wrath, nor [thus by your anger] give
"place to the devil Let no corrupt communi
" cation proceed out of your mouth and grieve
"not The Holy Spirit Of
God Let all
"BITTERNESS, and WRATH, and AN"GER, and CLAMOR,
and EVIL SPEAK"ING be PUT AWAY FROM YOU, and "all
MALICE: and BE YE KIND one to "another, TENDER-HEARTED,
FORG1V" ING one another, even as
Christ's " sake hath
forgiven you. Be ye therefore imita" tors of Gon as dear children, and
WALK IN " LOVE as
Christ hath loved us, and hath given " himself for us'
A departure from their "
First Love," is plainly inferable from the whole of this
exhortation ; nor can we longer doubt, that such a change in the conduct
of some of the members of this church, as Mr. Woodbouse, and those whom
he follows, maintain could not possibly take place before the reign of
Domitian, had actually occurred before the date of this Epistle (A. D.
according'to the best critics); and, so far, their argument for a late
date to the Apocalypse is unfounded. That they should have entirely
overlooked the strong reproofs of the apostle to this church—reproofs
which fix upon it the same character ascribed to it in the Apocalypse—
is surprising; and it is still more surprising that Mr. Woodhouse should
so strenuously maintain, and expand the argument, in the face of this
direct testimony of Paul, that this church had actually turned from
her Jirst lone, before he wrote this epistle.
The reproof to this church, in the Apocalypse, runs thus:
" I have against thee that
Thy Love [aya^*],
" THY FIRST [love], THOU HAST LEFT" [or for
saken]. Rev. ii. 4.
Paul, writing to Timothy, says:— " / besought thee to abide at
Ephesus that thou " mightest charge some that they teach no other "
doctrine. Now the end [or design] of this charge " is
Love [otyair*)], out
of a pure heart, and of a " good conscience, and of faith unfeigned;
From "which SOME HAVING
SWERVED, "HAVE TURNED ASIDE TO VAIN "JANGLING." 1 Tim. i. 5.
From this it appears not only possible, that the church at Ephesus could
depart from her first love, so early as the time of Nero, but
that this church had actually then swerved from it and turned aside.
The whole argument, therefore, for a late date for the Apocalypse,
drawn from the alleged state of the churches when the Revelation was
written, falls to the ground ; for here we have a church—one of the
seven Apocalyptic churches too—reproved for the very fault laid to her
charge in the Apocalypse, and that more than thirty years before the
date which those who ascribe the book to the reign of Domitian would
give to this prophecy.
§ 3. Other Arguments, which have been adduced for and against a late
date to the Apocalypse, considered.
Another argument has been suggested for a late date to the Apocalypse,
which may be briefly noticed. Laodicea was overthrown by an earthquake
in the year of Rome 813 (A. D. 60), and the persecution under Nero began
in the year of Rome 817 (A. D. 64). "It is not probable " (says Lord
Hales1) that St. John would have "
addressed the Laodiceans as he does at ver. " 17(ch. iii) had their city
been ruined about "Jive years before. This may contribute to sup"
port the very ancient tradition, that the Apo" calypse was published
under the persecution " by Domitian." His Lordship seems to have
understood the verse referred to, literally; as meaning temporal
riches—an increase of worldly goods ; or why should he have
offered in contrast, the ruined state of the city, after being visited
by an earthquake ? But assuredly the language is here figurative. The
Laodiceans believed themselves rich in spiritual attainments.
This is abundantly evident, from the nature of the remedy held out to
them for the removal of the delusion under which they were laboring:
"Buy " of me, &c. that thou mayest be rich—that thy
na" Itedness do not appear ; and anoint thine eyes that " thou
mayst see :" that is, " that thou mayst see " thine own
wretchedness, poverty and nakedness !— " how much thou hast mistaken
thy true charac" ter!"—His Lordship cannot mean, that there was not
time, in five years, to collect a church in the formerly, ruined but
then renovating city. Could this possibly be his meaning, it might be
answered, that, " as there could be no church "in Laodicea from A. D. 60
to A. D. 64, there" fore the Apocalypse must have been written, not "
only before the Neronian persecution, but before " the destruction of
that city in the year 60."— And such I take to have been indeed the
fact; though not for the reason just now suggested.
Sir David Dalrymple is, in general, such a close reasoner, that his
remark occasions the more surprise : for if we take the passage in v. 17
as meaning, literally, the good things of the present life, and
therefore allow that, in five years, they could not have acquired riches
and wealth to boast of; why pass on to the reign of Domitian, to allow
them time to get rich and increased in goods; when, by only going
back a few years, we should reach the period in which Laodicea possessed
the accumulated wealth of generations, undinnnished by the calamity of
the earthquake I Of the traditions respecting John one yet remains to be
noticed, and which by some has been considered as demonstrative that his
visit to Patmos—no matter how occasioned—and consequently his
publication of the Apocalypse, must have been long prior to the period
assumed by those who ascribe the book to the reign of Domitian.
Eu/sebius (lib. iii. c. 23) relates out of Clemens Alexandrinus, that
John, " some " time after his return to Ephesus out of the Isle " of
Patmos" [notice the statement—" after his " return from Patmos"]
" being requested, visited " the countries adjoining, partly to
consecrate " bishops—partly to organise new churches," &c. In this tour
he committed a hopeful young man to the care of a certain bishop, who
received him into his house, brought him up, educated,instructed, and at
length baptised him. The young man, it is stated, was for a time so
diligent and serviceable that his master distinguished him by some kind
of apparel as one of his family. In process of time, however, he became
remarkably dissolute, perniciously associating himself with some idle,
wicked and vicious young men of his own age, who first introduced him to
bad company, and then induced him to steal and rob in the night. In a
word (for it would occupy room unnecessarily to quote the whole passage
from Eusebius), he became at length the captain of a gang of thieves and
robbers who infested a neighbouring mountain and were the terror of all
the country: and, saith Chrysostom, " he continued their captain a "
long time." ' John, some time after, coming again to the church, to
whose bishop he had committed the care of the young man, enquired after
him, and being informed what had happened, called for a horse, and rode
immediately to the place where he consorted with his associates : and
when, out of reverence to his old master, the young man fled on seeing
him, John pursued and overtook the fugitive, reclaimed and restored him
to the church, &c. &c.
' Cbrysost. ad Thcodorum lapsum.
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 latter 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.1 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
" 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, who
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,1 that is, " twenty-six years
before the death of Nero, and " died before John."5
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 Apocalypse,
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 Ihere 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 Irenaeus 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 Irenaeus'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 Irenaus, 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 not Greek manuscripts bearing 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
indeed, if the book were really written late, and an opinion should,
notwithstanding, be taken up, that it was written early, it may be
granted, that this mistake could not be followed by any injurious
consequences. The case, however, is far otherwise, if the book was
written early, and if, in opposition to this fact, a belief shall be
entertained that it was written towards the close of John's life, who
survived all the other apostles; for, being a direct revelation from the
Head of the church, if written in the reign of Claudius, or early in
that of his successor Nero, it must be considered as having been given
for the instruction of the apostles themselves, as well as of the other
members of Christ's body; and, if so, it must have been often the
subject of their meditations; and, not unfrequently, its topics would
furnish matter for allusion in their oral addresses, and, most probably,
also in their epistles to the churches.—Such, a priori, might be
expected as one of the natural consequences of the book having been
written very early; but if, contrary to fact, it shall be believed that
it was not communicated to the churches, till after all the Epistles of
the New Testament, it is obvious that this very belief will, and must,
operate to cause Christians to overlook entirely any allusions that may
be found (if there be any such)
in these Epistles, to the Apocalypse; and consequently, however numerous
such allusions, quotations, or references to the Apocalypse in the
Epistles of the New Testament may actually be, they must, under such a
belief, elude all observation, and be thus deprived of that elucidation
which they would receive by reference to their prototype in the
Revelation. It is evident then, that, if the book was the first, or one
of the first written of the New Testament, the Christian church may
suffer a real detriment by holding a directly contrary opinion ; and
therefore some pains should be taken to ascertain, precisely, how the
fact stands. If passages can be found in the epistles and in the
Apocalypse which the one must have copied from the other —and such it is
certain may be found, as will be shown in the next dissertation—it will
then only remain to ascertain which is the copy; and this it is believed
will not be difficult, if the rules of sound criticism be closely
DISSERTATION THE SECOND.
ON THE EVIDENCE FURNISHED BY THE EPISTLES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT,
RESPECTING THE TIME WHEN THE APOCALYPSE WAS WRITTEN.
Having, in the preceding
dissertation, bestowed on Ecclesiastical tradition, and the inferences
thence drawn, repeating the period at which the Apocalypse was written,
and also on the arguments founded on the supposed state of the churches
at the period when the Revelation was given, as much notice as they seem
to deserve ; and shown that the whole reasoning, in favor of a late
date, rests on unfounded assumptions, partly unsupported and partly
contradicted by the real facts, I now proceed to enquire whether the
writings of the Apostles furnish any internal evidence of their having
been written later than the Apocalypse. If it can be shown that, when
they wrote, they had
the Apocalypse in their hands, this evidence will completely decide,
which of the ecclesiastical traditions, respecting the time at which
this prophecy was written, is best entitled to credit: or rather, it
will entirely discard tradition, as unworthy of regard.
It was noticed in the preceding dissertation, that this was one of the
proofs suggested by Sir Isaac Newton for an early date to the Apocalypse
; and that Bishop Newton was satisfled that the allusions to this
prophecy, pointed out by Sir Isaac, in the Epistles of Peter, and the
Epistle to the Hebrews, were conclusive. It were to be wished that the
Bishop had given the public the particulars of his investigation,
instead of the mere result; as a man of his learning would, no doubt,
have done the subject more justice than it can receive from the
individual who now presumes to pursue the inquiry. Michaelis, too,
professes to have examined the allusions pointed out by Sir Isaac, but
the result gave him no conviction. If, however, his inquiry was as
superficial, and his decision as dogmatical, on this point, as on some
others connected with the Apocalypse, his memory will suffer nothing
from the suppression of the reasons which left him in doubt. What I
particularly allude to is his statement, that—" The true and eternal "
Godhead of Christ is certainly not taught in
" the Apocalypse so clearly as in St. John's " Gospel."—This shows that,
with all his critical skill, Michaelis could not rightly read the
Apocalypse. In no book of the New Testament is the doctrine more
explicitly declared than in the Revelation. TVay, more : were it
necessary to say, that it is more clearly taught in any one book, than
another, the Revelation is that book. In examining the question before
us, I shall, for the sake of perspicuity, lay before the reader the
result furnished by an inspection of each of the Epistles, in separate
§ 1. Of allusions to the Apocalypse, found in the Epistle to the
As Sir Isaac Newton was, I believe, the first who suggested this kind of
evidence; and as those who have controverted his historical testimonies,
have, generally, passed over without notice all that he has advanced
respecting scriptural proofs—the best of all evidence,—I shall enter on
this inquiry by laying before the reader, in the first place, the
observations offered by that great man, on the allusions to the
Apocalypse, that are to be found in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
" The Apocalypse seems to be alluded to " (says he) in the Epistles of
Peter and that to " the Hebrews; and, therefore, to have been writ
ten before them. Such allusions, in the Epistle " to the Hebrews, I take
to be, the discourse con" cerning the High Priest in the heavenly
Taber" nacle, who is both Priest and King, as was "
Melchizedec; and those concerning tlie Word "of God, with the
sharp two-edged srvord; the " (ro00aTW7toj, or millennial
rest; the earth whose " end, is, to be burned, suppose by the
lake of fire ; " the judgment and jiery indignation which shall " devour
the adversaries ; the heavenly city which " hath foundations,
whose builder and maker it " God ; the cloud of "witnesses ; Mount Sion
; " heavenly Jerusalem ; general assembly ; spirits " of
just men made perfect, vis. by the resurrection ; " and the
shaking of heaven and earth, and re" moving them, that the new
heaven, new earth, and " new kingdom, which cannot be shaken, may
" The Epistle to the Hebrews, since it men" tions Timothy as
related to those Hebrews, must " have been written to them after their
flight into " Asia, where Timothy was Bishop; and by " consequence after
the [Judaic] war began, " the Hebrews in Judea being strangers to
Peter in his second Epistle mentions, " that " Paul had writ of the same
things to them, and " also in his other Epistles. Now as there is no "
Epistle of Paul to these strangers besides that
" to the Hebrews, so in this Epistle (x. xi. xii.) " we 'find at large
all those things of which " Peter had been speaking, and here refers to;
" particularly the passing away of the old heavens " and
earth, and establishing an inheritance im" moveable, with an
exhortation to grace, because "
God is a consuming fire (Heb. xii. 25—29)."
On the internal evidence to be found in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in
proof of its being written after the Apocalypse, I shall say but little,
in addition to what has been quoted, from Sir Isaac Newton, on the
contents of that book.
In this Epistle, it is to be remarked, the Apostle seldom employs direct
quotations from the Apocalypse, and, therefore, a cursory reader will
not easily perceive some of his allusions. They are, however, very
numerous ; but the language is often changed and adapted to the scope of
the argument where he employs them. Let it be also recollected that, as
will be shown in our progress, it was not then a question, at what time
the Apocalypse was written? or whether it was a divine work ? for if the
book was already in the hands of the church, its topics, of course,
were'familiar to believers, and therefore close quotations were not
necessary; nor was this the general practice of the inspired penmen.
In Ch. x. 35, 36. he exhorts them to retain their confidence, which
hath great recompense of
Reward, having need of
patience, that, after doing the will of
God, they " might
receive The "
Promise." That the
promise refers to the inheritance, promised by
Christ, in the
Apocalypse, is plain, from what he adds in v. 37. " For in a
very little while o spxtpsvog THE " COMING ONE mill come;
yea he will not pro" crastinate"—" Tfie coming one"
was a name applied to the
Messiah before he appeared on the earth, and is the term employed
in Mat. xi. 3. " Art thou The coming one?"(Common version, he
that should come-) But the Jews had lost all knowledge of the fact
that he was to come twice: nor did even his disciples understand
this, till after his ascension. That is, according to their belief, this
appellation must have ceased to be any longer applicable to him, after
he had once appeared on the earth. But it is again appropriated to him
in the Apocalypse, in reference to his second coming. He is there
called, o <$v, xal 'a fa KAI 'O 'EPXOMENOZ, and
The Coming One, (common
version, " him which is to " come") Rev. i. 4. iv. 8; and
it is from this second appropriation of this name that Paul employs it,
in reference to the promise which will be performed when the
Messiah comes again, to
receive his people to himself. In one word, " The "coming one" is
the Alpha and the Omega of the Revelation, who says, " Behold
I come Quickly,
" and my Reward w
with me ;" (Rev. xxii. 12.)
"I AM 'o »wiux>g, THE COMING
" ONE." Rev. i. 8.
In Heb. xi, 10. it is said thatAbraham "looked "for a city which hath
foundations;" but the Greek runs thus: " For he zrpected
T^v roij "
9EMEAIOTS s£oo<rav roXiv, THE city having «
FOUNDATIONS,"—exhibiting the article both before "city," and
"foundations,"— which the writer could not possibly have done had "
the city, having the foundations" not been a subject familiar to
those to whom he was writing.
I cannot find that the mode of speech employed in this passage, which is
deserving of particular attention, has been critically considered by any
of the commentators. They generally confine themselves to an exposition
of the sense, which, according to some, has reference only to the
superior privileges which the church was to enjoy under the Messiah,
when contrasted with those it possessed before his appearance on the
earth ;—a view of the passage which can hardly be conceived to apply
fully to the case of Abraham or any of the Patriarchs. In anticipating
the blessings secured to mankind by the coming of Christ, Abraham's
hopes certainly extended to things beyond the grave. Accordingly other
tors remark, that Abraham's views and hopes embraced that future state
of peace and bliss which was comprehended in the fulness of the promise.
" In thy seed shall all the nations of the " earth be
blessed;" and which, in the New Testament, is described under the
notion of being admitted to participate in the privileges of the "
Heavenly Jerusalem"—" the Jerusalem that is " above,"—and
" The city having
Ihe founda" tions:"
nor can this view of the passage be objected to. But whence did Paul
derive the latter expression?
Bishop Middleton, in his learned work on the Greek article, has taken no
notice of this passage. Dr. Mack night, one of our more recent
commentators, though he introduces the first article in his version—"
the city"—offers no remark on its appearance in the passage, but
contents himself with stating that " the city " which Abraham expected
was that promised " Gen. xxii. 17., Thy seed shall possess the gate
"(the city) of his enemies. Now as the promises " had all a
figurative, as well as a literal, mean" ing, the enemies of Abraham's
seed were not " the Canaanites alone, the enemies of his natu" ral seed,
whose cities were given them by this " promise; but the enemies of his
spiritual seed, " the evil angels, by whose temptations sin and " death
have been introduced and continued
among mankind. If so, the gate or city of " their
enemies, which Abraham's spiritual seed "is to possess, stript of
the metaphor, is the " state and felicity from which the evil angels "
fell. This city is mentioned, Heb. xii. 22., " under the name of the
heavenly Jerusalem: and " by the description there given of it, we
learn " that believers, after the judgment, shall all be " joined in one
society or community with " the angels, called a city which hath
foundations "because it is a community which is never to " be
dissolved." The passage alluded to by Macknight in Ch. xii. 22., we
shall have to notice hereafter. But here it may be asked, Why hath he,
in the words just quoted, for " the city" which he rightly
exhibits in his translation, substituted " a city ?"—for our
present inquiry is not, Why the community of " believers, after the
"judgment," is called a city which hath foundations, but Why,
in the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is called
"the city having
Every one who has paid even the smallest degree of attention to the
prophetic style, must be aware that with the prophets it was common to
predict the stability and glory of the kingdom of the Messiah under the
figure of a great and glorious city in which happiness and eternal peace
were to be secured for the inhabitants; and all are agreed that the
promised to Jerusalem in the future age of which the prophets spoke, had
reference to the good things which God hath provided for the family of
which Christ is the elder brother. There is therefore nothing singular
in the circumstance of the Christian church being described in the New
Testament under the same figure; and but for the peculiar structure of
Heb. xi, 10., the mere mention of a city in that passage would
not call for any particular attention. But in the Prophets there is no
passage to be found from which the mode of expression there employed
could have been derived;—and that it had a prototype will be admitted by
all who are acquainted with the laws which regulate the use of the Greek
article. The only passage in the prophets that exhibits terms at all
similar to the one under consideration is in Isaiah liv. 11, 12. " /
will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy " foundations with
sapphires: and I will make thy " windows oj agates, and thy gates of
carbuncles, " and all thy borders of pleasant stones ;"—but
the whole structure of these verses excludes the idea of the writer of
the Epistle to the Hebrews having hence borrowed the terms he employs.
As has been already remarked, the expression in Heb. ix, 10. is very
The city having
"foundations,"—a mode of speech which serves to intimate, very
plainly, that the terms employed were familiar to those here addressed.
In fact they are a quotation from the Apocalypse as close as the use to
which they are applied in the passage before us could possibly admit of.
The writer alludes directly to the holy city, new Jerusalem (Rev.
xxi. 2)>—to " the wall 1%
Tto" Xetoj S^qv
&Sjt«X»ouj SoiSexa q/"THE CITY HAVING "
14). They must, therefore, have had the Apocalypse in their hands,
and been well acquainted with its general topics, at the time when this
epistle was written ;—so well acquainted with if, that the writer
contents himself with a very brief quotation, but quite sufficient to
serve as a general reference to the fuller description in the
In this Epistle there is yet another passage which has every appearance
of allusion to matters recorded in the Apocalypse. In Ch. xii. 22, 23.
the writer tells the believing Hebrews, " Ye are come to
Mount Sign, to
The City op
" THE LIVINGGOD,THE HEAVENLY JERUSALEM,
" and to an Innumerable
Company Of Angels, "
/othe General assembly and
Church Of The
" FIRST-BORN,WHICH ARE WRITTEN IN HEAVEN,"
&c.—Have not these expressions direct reference to the Lamb standing
on Mount Sion,
with one hundred and forty-four thousand having
his father's name written on their foreheads, Rev. xiv, 1—to the
great and high Mountain
the GREAT CITY, THE HOLY JERUSALEM
DESCENDING OUT OF HEAVEN FROM GOD, Rev. Xxi, 10—tO THE BOOK OF LIFE IN
Written the names of
the redeemed, Rev. iii, 5 : xx, 12: xxi, 27, &c—to the
Myriads Of MyRiads Of Angels
which surround the throne, Rev. v, II—and to the
which have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, Rev. \ii, 9, 14.1
Comparing the terms employed in the passage that has been quoted
from the Epistle to the Hebrews with the passages just referred to in
the Apocalypse I cannot entertain the slightest doubt, that the former
were taken from the latter.
§ 2. Of Allusions to the Apocalypse found in the Epistles of Peter.
From Sir Isaac Newton I also copy the principal contents of the present
section.—" In the " first Epistle of Peter occur these allusions to "
the Apocalypse: The Revelation of Jesus " Christ,' twice
or thrice repeated; the blood of
" Christ as of a lamb ; fore-ordained before the " foundation of the
world? the spiritual building " in heaven* 1 Pet. ii. 5. an
inheritance incorrup" tible, and undefikd, and that fadeth not
away, " reserved in heaven for us who are kept unto the "
salvation ready to be revealed in the last time, " 1 Pet. i. 4, 5.
the Royal Priesthood,' the holy " Priesthood,4
the judgment beginning at the " house of God,s
and the church at Babylon.6— "
These are indeed obscurer allusions; but the " second Epistle, from the
19th verse of the " first chapter to the end, seems to be a contin" ued
commentary upon the Apocalypse. There, " in writing to the
Churches in Asia, to whom " John was commanded to send this prophecy, "
he tells them, they have a more sure word of " prophecy to
be heeded by them, as a light that " shineth in a dark place,
until the day dawn and the " day-star arise in their hearts, that
is, until they " begin to understand it: for no prophecy, saith "
he, is of any private interpretation ; the Prophecy " came not in old
time by the will of man, but holy " men of
God spake as they were
moved by the " Holy Ghost.
Daniel himself professes, that he " understood not his own
prophecies;7 and,there" fore, the
churches were not to expect the inter