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passed away without any disturbance of the usual course of events, their works are now discredited.
This polemical strategy gave rise to a flood of controversial literature on the subject of the Apocalypse. Many learned Catholics turned their attention to the Book and studied it de novo, on their own account.
Alcazar, a Jesuit of Seville (c. A.D. 1554), showed that the Apocalypse contained two themes, one a Jewish theme, and the other a pagan Roman theme, in which the troubles and triumphs of the Church, at different periods, are revealed.
Cornelius a Lapide, S.J. (c. A.D. 1625), wrote an exhaustive Latin commentary on the Apocalypse. He gave a synopsis of the opinions of almost all the principal writers on this subject, before his time. He quoted Alcazar freely, but did not adopt his opinions. He followed the Antichrist and mystic tradition and applied it extensively in his exegesis. Grotius and Hammond (c. 1644) supported the ideas of
Holzhauser, a German Priest, who wrote in the year 1646, explained the Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia as addressed to the Seven Ages of the Universal Church. In other respects he followed a fanciful exegesis and the Antichrist tradition. He died, unfortunately, before completing his work, which stopped at Rev. xiv. 4.
Bossuet, the great Bishop of Meaux, a man trained in Hebrew, Greek, and Scriptural learning, wrote a book on the Apocalypse, about the year 1670, in which he placed the exegesis of Alcazar in such a clear and convincing light, that unprejudiced scholars everywhere admitted that the Roman theme related to the struggles of the early Church with Rome of the Cæsars. This led to a fresh inquiry as to the meaning of the number 666, usually ascribed to Antichrist. It was not till the nineteenth century that the great discovery was made, in Germany, that the number 666, in Hebrew“ gematria" spelt Kaloep Nepov, and that the alternative number 616 found in some of the oldest MSS., spelt Nero Cæsar, as written in Latin. This discovery at once solved the chief difficulty of the Apocalypse—the meaning of the Beast, and paved the way for an intelligible exegesis. We now know that S. John was writing about the Neronian persecution of his own time, and not about Antichrist.
Moses Stuart, an American Presbyterian Clergyman, before noticed, wrote a “ Commentary on the Apocalypse," in the year 1845. He also was a Hebrew, Greek, Scriptural, and German scholar. His work is a monument of learning and of painstaking research. He presents us with the views of the German writers, "the higher critics," who did so much at
Tubingen, and elsewhere, during the 18th and 19th centuries to throw light on this subject. Moses Stuart strongly supported the Neronian date and the Authorship of S. John. He wrote the first volume and part of the second volume of his book, to vindicate these opinions. His exegesis is, however, conventional.
A. Harnack, D.D., wrote an article on the Apocalypse in the Encyclopædia Britannica (1883), in which he says:
“ All impartial scholars are now agreed that in chapters xiii. and xviii. of the Apocalypse we must look for the key to the comprehension of the book, as well as to the question of the date of the composition. That the beast (xiii. I et seq. ; xvii. 3 et seq.) is the Roman Empire, that the seven heads are seven emperors, that the woman (xvii. 3, 9) is the city of Rome, that the ten horns (xiii. I; xvii. 3, 12 et seq.) are imperial governors all this is now beyond dispute" (Encyclopædia Britannica, Revelation xx., P. 499).
Swete, H. B., D.D. Regius Professor of Divinity, Cambridge, published a book in 1906, “ The Apocalypse of S. John," an exhaustive work on the text of Revelation, with a valuable introduction and notes. He does not offer an English version of his own, but his apparatus criticus shows that he holds conservative views. His name appears frequently in this book.
Dr. Hort, of Cambridge, left a posthumous work, edited by Dr. Sandys of Oxford in 1908. It is very valuable for its scholarly introduction and apparatus criticus. Unfortunately it only goes as far as Chapter iii. of the Apocalypse.
In conclusion, it may be said that although 20th century writers are agreed as to the meaning of the Roman theme of the Apocalypse, there is still great divergence of opinion on other points. The Letters to the Seven Churches are still taken to refer to the local Churches of Asia. The meanings of the seals and trumpets in the first or Jewish theme, and of the vials in the Roman theme, are variously interpreted. There is no agreement as to the exact meaning of the millennium. There is a strong tendency to find Antichrist in the Book, and the tradition of the middle ages respecting the Domitian date of the Book, still lingers on.
For centuries before the birth of Christ the monotheism of the Jews had eaten into the old pagan cults, and left them hollow and insincere. “Idols of gold and silver, and brass, and stone, and wood, which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk" (R. ix. 20), had multiplied to such an extent that they were discredited in the eyes of educated men. In the reign of Augustus the decadence of the old paganism was remarkable. Horace and Propertius tell us that cobwebs veiled the altars, that sacred images were blackened with smoke in crumbling shrines. Central temples, foci of religious life, were falling into decay. Jupiter Foretrius was unroofed, Juno Sospita, filthy and deserted. The world was ripe for a more reasonable cult of the Divine.
Then Christ appeared upon Earth, and Christianity began to spread over the Roman Empire. Satan baffled by the progress of the early Church and the decline of the old paganism, sought in Cæsar worship a new lease of his rule on earth. That is how the Roman Theme of Revelation begins (Ch. xii. xiii.). The Cæsars began to take themselves as Gods, and Cæsar worship, cunningly entwined with politics, came to the rescue of dying paganism. It became the settled policy of the Roman Senate, and hierarchy, to encourage the worship of the Cæsars with a view to the stability of the Empire, and the permanence of its religious orders. Cæsar worship was identified with the power and majesty of the Roman Empire. It swept aside all other cults, and reigned supreme in the hearts of those who were Imperialists. Sacrifice to the Emperor became the touchstone of loyalty as well as of religion.
This was no new or untried experiment. Rome borrowed Cæsar worship from the East. The Egyptians identified the Pharaohs with their Gods. Alexander the Great by his conquests in Egypt, became an Egyptian Divinity. His Greek subjects addicted to Hero worship, added him to the roll of their Gods. And so the evil spread to Hellenised Asia, where many Royal Divinities appeared, of whom the most noted
were Ptolemy I.“Soter," (Saviour), Antiochus IV.“ Epiphanes" (God Manifest), and Seleucus, “ Zeus Nikator" (Conquering God).
Julius Cæsar was placed amongst the Hero Gods, c. 45 B.C. With him the Roman line of Royal Gods began. His statue was put up in the temple of Quirinus, with the inscription “ To the invincible God.” Subsequently a temple was dedicated to him as Jupiter Julius, and a special priest offered sacrifice in his honour (Dion Cass. xlvii. 18, 33). His successor, Octavius Cæsar, was raised to the altar by slow and cautious steps.
About the year 27 B.C. Octavius accepted the title of Augustus, meaning "consecrated to God.” His worship was not pressed at Rome. But the ultra loyal cities of the Province of Asia, were encouraged to erect temples to Augustus--Augusteum Cæsareum. Tacitus says, “A mortal man was adored and priests were appointed to pay him impious homage” (Annals I. 10). Tiberius, who followed, was honoured with temples erected to his Divinity in Asia. Then Rome itself became familiarised with the new Cult. From Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamos, the tide of Cæsar worship flowed back upon the capital. Caius Cæsar, (Caligula), who succeeded Tiberius believed himself to be a God, and tried to force the worship of his image upon the Jews in the Temple of Jerusalem. Claudius, who followed, erected a Temple to the Divine Claudius" at Camuldonum= Colchester Suetonius tells us that he was numbered amongst the Gods. Nero, the sixth, and reigning Cæsar when our history opens, was accorded divine honours both at Rome and in the Provinces. His worship was nowhere more prevalent than at Ephesus. Inscriptions found at Ephesus, show that he was worshipped as “ Almighty God,” and “ Saviour.” Such titles were given to the Roman Emperors in temple inscriptions, found at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, and Sardis (Fiddes Owens Coll. Hist. Essy., p. 6).
The longest theme in the Apocalypse extending from the 12th to the 20th chapter is devoted to the exposure, condemnation, and punishment of Cæsar worship.
In S. John's day the Jews had considerable influence at Rome. Large colonies of Jews had long been settled in the chief cities of the Empire. At Alexandria there were over a million Jews. There were large Jewries at Rome. Julius Cæsar and Augustus sought to purchase their political aid by many favours. Josephus mentions twenty-eight decrees in favour of the Jews after B.C. 49 (Ants. xiv. 10). A special decree gave them the right to send their annual subsidy to the Temple of Jerusalem, and to use their own laws and customs (Ants. xvi. vi. 6).
Herod Agrippa, an Idumean Jew, was the friend of Drusus, and the companion of Caligula. A decree granting privileges to the Jews throughout the Empire, dated between A.D. 41 and 44, is headed “ Tiberius Claudius Cæsar Augustus Germanicus, High Priest, Tribune of the people, chosen Consul the second time, ordains thus. Upon the petition of King Agrippa, and King Herod, who are persons very dear to me” (Ant. XIX. v. 3).
Some twelve years before Nero's persecution the Jews were so enraged at the rapid growth of Christianity in the City of Rome, that they opposed its teaching by force. S. Peter's open-air preaching in the Nomentian Way, was interfered with, by hostile crowds with noisy rioting. Rome would not tolerate public disturbances. Accordingly Claudius Cæsar issued an edict expelling the Jews from Rome. We find S. Paul at Corinth, meeting Aquila, one of the expelled Jews. And finding a certain Jew, named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with Priscilla, his wife, because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome" (Acts xviii. 2). It seems that S. Peter was also expelled from Rome. He went there in the reign of Claudius, and preached the faith publicly to the Romans (Euseb. H. E. II. 14). In those days Christians were taught in the public cemeteries. Burial clubs and funeral associations, as well as graveyards, cemeteries and catacombs, were held sacred by the Romans, and enjoyed the privilege of sanctuary, down to the time of Valerian. As time wore on the cleavage between Jews and Christians in manners, appearance, faith, and practice became more and more apparent to the Roman world. As Gibbon remarks, The Jews were a nation; the Christians were a sect (D. and F. xvi.). In the Imperial City the great majority of the Christians were Romans, mostly plebeian freemen and slaves. S. Paul in his epistle to the Philippians, written from Rome, c. 62, says “ All the saints (ărycol) salute you, especially they that are of Cæsar's household” (iv. 22), showing that Christianity had many adherents even in Nero's palace.
On the death of Claudius, in the year 54, many of the Jews who had been expelled, returned to Rome, their enmity to Christianity sharpened by their banishment. They soon regained their former influence, and their position was strengthened by Nero's marriage in the year 62 with Poppæa Sabina, a friend of the Jews. When Felix was procurator of Judæa, Josephus went to Rome. He says, “I became acquainted with Alityrus, an actor of plays, and much beloved by Nero, but a Jew by birth, and through his interest became known to Poppæa, Cæsar's wife” (Life, sect. 3). The Jews lived under the protection of the Emperor, in their own quarters of the city.