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It will be remembered that S. Irenæus found in the more recent, and probably Latin copies of the Apocalypse, at Lyons, the number of the beast given as 616. This is fortunate, as it shows the Roman recipient of Revelation understood the meaning of the Beast, and marked his copy accordingly. The Latin name Nero Cæsar, expressed in Hebrew letters, and worked out to numerals by gematria, gives the number 616.
Some have denied that Nero was the sixth King. They begin the line of Cæsars with Augustus. We have to go back to the time of S. John to see how the Romans and Jews of the period reckoned the line of kings.
Suetonius, who lived a few years after Nero's time, begins the list with Julius Cæsar, in his work “ The Twelve Cæsars." Dion Cassius does the like. In the fourth book of Esdras, written by a Jewish Christian at the close of the first century, an angel, explaining the vision of the Roman eagle, says, that twelve kings shall reign in it, the second of which (Augustus) shall reign longer than any of the twelve (xii. 13 et seq.). In Book V. of the Sibylline Oracles, written not long after the destruction of Jerusalem, in an enumeration of the Roman emperors, Julius Cæsar is placed first, and Nero sixth. The emperors are not named, but are marked by a number corresponding to the initial letter of their official names. “He whose name signifies twice ten stands at the head of the series," meaning Kalap, or Julius Cæsar-K=20. Next follows: "He whose name is first of the alphabet”-i.e. Augustus; and sixth, 50=N-Nero.
Josephus, who lived in the reign of Nero, and who was a contemporary of S. John, makes Julius Cæsar the first of the Cæsars, and Nero the sixth.
When we consider that the principal object of the Roman theses was to set forth the crime and punishment of Cæsar worship, that Julius Cæsar was the first of the Cæsars, that he was the first of the Cæsar Gods, that he gave his name to the line of the Cæsars, that the name of Cæsar is part of the name of the Beast, it seems unreasonable to exclude him from consideration.
The Revelation foretells the overthrow of the Roman power by hostile armies. But Rome, Mistress of the World, was held by all in Nero's reign to be invincible. A symbol of a conquering power, threatening Rome, was required. It was chosen from Parthia.
For more than a century Parthia, in defiance of Rome, had proudly upheld the banner of the lion in the broad lands beyond the Euphrates.
For many years the struggle had been for the possession of
the kingdom of Armenia. In the year 66, Tiridates, a Parthian of the royal line of Arsacid, came to Rome to receive at the hands of Nero the crown of the kingdom of Armenia.
Tiridates was received with great splendour and the crown was given to him by Nero.
We turn now to the Apocalypse. The action of the book begins at verse two of Chapter vi. where our Lord appears as a conqueror. “And I saw and beheld a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow: and a crown was given to him, and he went forth conquering, that he might conquer.”
What is the significance of this symbolism ? The bow in those days was just as much a weapon of warfare as the rifle is to-day. The Romans had ceased to use it, but it was the chief weapon of their enemies, the Parthians, who used it, moreover, on horseback. The Parthian army was composed of mounted archers, whose battle tactics are so well known that “a Parthian shaft" has passed into a proverb. White was the sacred colour of the Persians, with whom the Parthians were confounded at Rome. The Roman poets of the Augustan era used the expressions Parthia and Persia indifferently. A sacred white horse accompanied a Persian army. Kings of Persia who led their armies to battle were mounted on white horses. Parthian coins of the years 42-65, just before S. John's exile, show the King, Artabanus III. mounted on a white horse. The regular reverse type on Parthian coins shows the King deified as Apollo, armed with a bow, as a symbol of military power (Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches, pp. 58-61). The Apocalypse makes use of both sides of the coin in this symbolism.
The horseman is identified as our Lord, later in the Apocalypse, when He appears at the head of His forces in final battle. He is "the Word of God” (R. xix. 13). Moreover, we are told that “He hath on his garments and on his thigh written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (R. xix. 16). Now Phraates II. adopted the title of “ King of Kings,” which came into general use as the title of the Parthian kings from the time of Orodes, 38 B.C. It was the title of the Parthian kings when Tiridates came to Rome.
A Greek inscription was found at Bisutun, in which Góterzés, a Parthian monarch who reigned A.D. 41-51, is called Satrap of Satraps, equivalent to Lord of Lords. He was chief Satrap of Parthia, and assumed the title of King of Kings, later on, when he came to the throne.
It will probably be admitted that this is Parthian symbolism and that it throws light upon the date of the Apocalypse. The book was written, apparently, when Parthian politics in relation
to Rome deeply interested all parts of the Empire, as in the
In all the thirty years that elapsed between the time of Tiridates' visit to Rome, and the persecution of Domitian, in 96, peace with Parthia reigned supreme. There was no Parthian question in Domitian's reign. The memory of the Parthian war had been blotted out by a succession of startling events at home and abroad.
It is not probable that either Jewish or Parthian symbols would be familiar to the Servants of God in the year 96. The old Hebrew leaders of the Church were dead. The Kingdom of Christ had been long established. The primacy of the Church had passed to Rome, when Gentile Bishops ruled the Church. There was no one left to read the riddle of the Apocalypse aright. Papias, Justin Martyr, and Irenæus were all Millenarians. The mere fact that the Revelation was not understood in the year 96, shows that it was not written at that time or for that generation. Dating the Book in Domitian's persecution is tantamount to saying that it fell flat and was not understood.
5. There is a note of vengeance running through the Book which seems out of harmony with the placid character of S. John's old age and the nature of his teachings late in life. On the other hand, before the fall of the Temple, the fulfilment of prophecies was in the air. The Nazarene Church had inherited Jewish ideals, and believed in the lex or jus talionis. "The Lord is a jealous God and an avenger and hath wrath, the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries (Nahum i. 2. See Exod. xxi. 24, and Levit. xxiv, 20). The Book itself is in a great measure a revelation of God's vengeance on Jew and Pagan. The day of vengeance had come. The scroll of vengeance was unrolled in the sight of the Seer, and he was told to write it down.
We can hardly imagine S. John, carried into church, and preaching brotherly love as the one thing needed (p. 20), and in the same period of his life breathing forth the fire and slaughter of the Apocalypse, and painting its pictures of vengeance. The Domitian date is not patristic. It clashes with early and well established traditions. The internal evidence of the Book rules it out of court. It seems most probable, therefore, that the Apocalypse was written in the Neronian persecution, early in the year 67.
S. Irenæus, the supposed author of the Domitian date, makes no mention of Domitian persecution.
THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA
A FOREWORD is needed as to the meaning of the Letters addressed to the Angels of the Seven Churches of Proconsular Asia, viz., Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Many have thought that the Letters were intended for the above-named local Churches. Montanus of Phrygia thought so, and paved the way to schism.
On the other hand some have thought, even in early days, that the Letters were addressed to the Church at large.
Victorinus, Bishop of Petavio, A.D. 303, the earliest commentator on the Apocalypse, says: “ What John addresses to one Church he addresses to all. Paul has first taught us that there are seven Churches in the whole world, and that the seven Churches named mean the Catholic Church” (Bib. Max. Patrum, Tom. iii., p. 414 ff.). Andreas of Cappadocia agreed with this. Grotius and Vitringa held that the letters to the seven churches revealed the condition of the Church in the successive ages of its existence down to the end of the world (see Vit. in Apoc., p. 32). The Ven. Holzhauser specialised on this subject, to which he devoted a great part of his book, “ The Interpretation of the Apocalypse" (A.D. 1646). He found in these Letters a prediction of the spiritual state of the Church of Christ in the seven ages of its existence ; and he attempted to map out the seven ages from the pages of history.
Far-reaching consequences hang upon this inquiry. If we find that the letters were not intended for the local Churches of Asia Minor, but for the universal Church of all time, the messages will have to be re-examined and closely scrutinised from the point of view of history. From data already obtained, we may be sure that this will lead to most important conclusions respecting the past and future of the Church, the millennium, and the position of the Church of the twentieth century in the secular scale.
It seems probable that the early Church took the Letters to be symbolical; the note of symbolism is so clearly stamped
upon the whole Book of Revelation. If we look at the “History of the Book,” we will find that S. Polycarp in his Letter to the Philadelphians made no mention of the Letters. S. Ignatius of Antioch in his Epistles to Ephesus, Smyrna, and Philadelphia ignored the Letters. Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, close to Laodicea, made no reference to them. Neither did any other early writer of Asia Minor, or elsewhere. The Apocalypse was known. Its millenarian passages had given rise to Čħiliasm. But there is a significant silence about the Letters. If the letters were written in the Hebraic metaphoric style, which veils the political predictions of the Book, one could understand this silence. But they are not. They are written almost entirely in plain language. If their warnings came home to the individual Churches, and the truth and application of each was generally recognised, we should hear of it. It would have entered into the prolonged controversies as to the merits of the Book. The Seven Churches of Asia would surely be found ranged with the supporters of the Book. As a matter of fact, there is no mention of the Letters in the polemic about the authorship of Revelation. They seem to have been taken by both sides as symbolic and incomprehensible. The mere fact of there being seven Churches would have arrested the attention of S. John's Hebrew compeers. Seven, as we shall see in the next chapter, was a sacred Hebrew symbol, signifying completeness, or the full cycle of the things denoted by that number. In the seven days of creation and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, we have characteristic illustrations of the meaning of the number seven.
But to the numerical symbol we have added, in this particular instance of the Seven Churches, a most elaborate symbolical introduction. The Seven Churches are seen in a vision as "seven golden candlesticks” (R. i. 12). Our Lord explains to S. John that “the seven candlesticks are the Seven Churches " (R. i. 20). These candlesticks were familiarly known to the Hebrew Servants of God. They were the seven lamps of the Tabernacle of the Temple of Jerusalem, lamps which branched from a common stem uniting them all into one solid lamp of gold.
This lamp was designed by God, and the orders for its construction are given in Exodus xxv. 31 ff. It was a peculiarly sacred object. Even the oil burnt in it, was prescribed for its use by God (Levit. xxiv. 2). The light of the Tabernacle symbolised the Light of the Old Law. When the Temple was destroyed the Light of the Old Law was extinguished. The sacred candlestick was taken to Rome to adorn the triumphal procession of Titus; and its shape and form are sculptured upon his Arch, at Rome. The accompanying sketch, which