« PreviousContinue »
composition. He was told to write a book about his visions with special commands to write in it certain things (Rev. i. II, X. II, xiv. 13, xix. 9, xxi. 5). The Letters to the Seven Churches alone were dictated by God. It places them on majestic heights.
The Seer of the first century saw and described correctly, as history testifies, the relations of the Church with the world, through a period of over eighteen hundred years. That is proof sufficient of the Divine Authorship of Revelation. The value of the eschatological revelations in the Book, in Chapters iii. and XX., may now be appreciated.
A portion of the papyrus MS. Roll, “Herodias," in the British Museum, From Plate I.
Sir F. G. Kenyon's, " Classical
The original MS. of the Apocalypse was written by S. John on papyrus paper, in Greek uncials, or capital letters, without stops or breathings.
Papyrus paper was made from the Egyptian "paper-reed.” Manuscripts of the Apostolic Age were written on this material with a reed, dipped in cuttle fish ink, or other colouring matter. Pliny tells us that the stem of the reed, consisting of pith enclosed in a hard rind, was sliced into long strips, which were placed on a board, in two layers, one at right angles to the other. The sheets so formed were then soaked in Nile water, till soft, when they were pressed together and dried in the sun. The writing surface was then smoothed and polished with ivory or shell. The paper reed grew freely, and was cultivated commercially, on the delta of the Nile, where papyrus paper was almost exclusively manufactured (Pliny, N. H. xiii. II, 13). It has been estimated that the Apocalypse would cover a roll of papyrus fifteen feet in length (Kenyon, Text Crit. p. 30). To form this length several pieces were pasted together and rolled on a staff. Such a “ book "unrolled and let go, would by elastic reaction, roll up again. When S. John wrote, “and the heavens withdrew as a book rolled up together” (R. vi. 14), he had in his mind the book under his hand. These things have to be borne in mind in considering the question whether S. John wrote the Apocalypse during his visions, or afterwards. Of that more, hereafter, in the Commentary.
Papyrus paper became dry and brittle with age. It had to be unrolled and pinned down for the convenience of readers and copyists. It soon perished. No papyrus copies of the Apocalypse have come down to our time. The papyri of our museums were preserved in the tombs of Egypt, the ruins of Herculaneum, and like resting places. Our oldest existing copies of the Apocalypse are on parchment or vellum, and date from about the end of the fourth century.
Considering that the Apocalypse was addressed to the Hebrew Servants of God in the first century, who spoke
Aramaic, one may ask, Why was it written in Greek ? That, like its Hebraic cypher, was probably a measure of secrecy. Greek was used as the official language of the early Church. Rome was the enemy. As the catacombs shielded the bodies of the early Christians from persecution at the hands of Rome, so the Greek language shielded their intimate thoughts from Roman inquisition. The Apostles took the Greek language with them to Rome. S. Paul wrote his Epistles to the Romans and to the Hebrews in Greek. S. Mark wrote his Gospel in Rome, for the Romans, in Greek. The ritual of the early Church was Greek. So were the inscriptions in the Catacombs of Rome. The great majority of the Roman Christians were poor persons, ignorant of Greek, yet the Church of Rome held to the official use of Greek until the days of persecution were over.
The literary quality of the Greek of the Apocalypse, we have seen, is peculiar. It reveals a mind well stored with Greek, but too strongly charged with Hebrew thought to give that Greek classical expression. It is evident that S. John had not been long in Hellenised Asia Minor when he wrote his Book. Moreover he was intent on infusing the Revelation with a current of Hebrew thought and symbolism, taken from the O.T., wherewith to convey his message to the Servants of God, unnoticed by pagan readers.
The unbroken series of Greek uncials which originally composed the Book was divided by Andreas, in the sixth century, into seventy-two kepáraia, or “headings.” Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, gave us our present chapters. The versification of the Book dates from the era of the printing press and follows the stichometry, or lines, of the MSS. copies. Bearing in mind the vague and often fanciful exegesis of former times, it is wonderful how closely, chapter and verse accommodate themselves to the new meanings which have been found in Revelation. No one, however, claims that the modern Book is perfect in these respects.
Three MSS. of the Apocalypse have come down to us in the original Greek uncials. The Codex Sinaiticus-symbol X. This is written on parchment without accents or breathings, only occasional points. In all probability it is as old as the time of S. Jerome. The Codex Alexandrinus-symbol A. It is written on parchment and dates from about the fifth century. The Codex Ephraemi-symbol C. Also fifth century, and very imperfect. Chapters ii., iv., vi., xii., xiv., xv., xvi., xvii., xx., xxi., and xxii., are missing, and the rest fragmentary.
Besides the above, there are Greek Commentaries extant and quotations from the Apocalypse in the writings of the early Fathers of the Church.