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We shall consider, in this place, the following questions:
First, Is the Apocalypse a Divine Book? and, By whom was it written?
Second, At what time was it written ?
IS THE APOCALYPSE A DIVINE BOOK? AND BY WHOM WAS
I. The book claims to be of divine origin. It is said to be “ The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he [i. e., Jesus Christ] sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John." - Rev. i. 1, 4. This is the pretension of the book itself. John, the author, styles himself the “ brother" of the churches, – their companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus."- See verse 9. This description certainly will apply, with much propriety, to John the apostle. The author of the book further states, that he was banished to “ the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” – Verse 9. Was it not true that the apostle John was banished to that island on account of his devotion to the Christian religion? We shall see, as we proceed. There are but two other instances in the book in which the author mentions his name, viz., xxi. 2, and xxii. 8.
In the former he was treating of the descent of the New Jerusalem, or the coming of the kingdom of God with power; and it is a well-known fact, that John the apostle lived until that time, although he had become a very old man. Jesus, when on earth, had pointed him out as the apostle who should live until his coming in his kingdom should take place. — John xxi. 23. It was appropriate, then, for the apostle, if he were the author of the book, to name himself in this connection.
II. We will, in the first place, give an abstract of the testimony of antiquity to the fact that the Apocalypse was written by the apostle John. It is supposed, by some, that it was referred to by writers in the apostolic age. The shepherd of Hermas (A. D. 100) is thought to have imitated in some instances the style and sentiments of the Apocalypse ; from which the conclusion may be drawn, not only that the book was then in existence, but also that it was in good credit. For what other reason could have tempted to an imitation?' Polycarp, who was in part contemporary with the apostle John, and was constituted bishop of Smyrna (as it is supposed) by him, is thought to have received the Apocalypse as the work of the apostle. Irenæus, a devoted disciple of Polycarp, is well known to have been a fervent believer in the Apocalypse as the work of the apostle ; and from the devotion with which he leaned to the opinions of Polycarp, it is believed that the latter venerable father also received it as a divine book. Prof. Stuart says: “ As Polycarp was the personal friend and attendant of John, so was Irenæus of Polycarp. Now Irenæus everywhere, and on all occasions, testifies his full belief in the apostolic origin of the Apocalypse. Could he have done so, if Polycarp had not believed the same? And must not Polycarp have certainly known what was the fact, in regard to the authorship of the Apocalypse ?""Is it
Lardner's Works, 8vo., ii., pp. 62–65; 4to., i., pp. 311-313. * Stuart on the Apocalypse, vol. i., 301.
probable,” says Prof. Stuart again, “ that Irenæus would venture on such a point to differ from Polycarp? Is it probable he did not know the opinion of Polycarp in respect to the authorship of the Apocalypse ?" But it is also said that “ Polycarp has cited the Apocalypse once in the only epistle of his that has come down to our times; and that the pious and sublime prayer which this holy man uttered at the awful moment when the flames were about to be kindled around him begins with the identical words of the elders in Rev. xi. 17.”2
But we pass to testimony of a more undoubted character. And here, as we find an abstract well made to our hand, we avail ourself of the following extract from an article in the “ Universalist Expositor,” for May, 1833. It was from the pen of the learned editor of that work.
“ From the language of Justin Martyr, about A. D. 160, it appears that the Revelation was then received as St. John's. He
says, • A man from among us, by the name of John, one of the apostles of Christ, has prophesied, in the Revelation made to him, that the believers in Christ shall live a thousand years
in Jerusalem ; and after that, shall be the general or eternal resurrection and universal judgment.' Melito, bishop of Sardis, one of the seven churches addressed in the Revelation, flourished about A. D. 174. All his works are now lost; but the historian Eusebius informs us, that among those extant in his time, there was one entitled, Of the Revelation of St. John:' a fact which sufficiently discovers the estimation in which the book was then held. In the Epistle of the Churches of Lyons and Vienna, written about A. D. 177, it is plainly referred to as authentic Scripture: • Both the magistrates,' say they, and the people were vexed at the very heart, that the Scripture might be fulfilled which saith, He that is unjust, let him be unjust still ; and he
i Stuart on the Apocalypse, p. 302.
that is holy, let him be holy still :' a passage quoted from the twenty-second chapter of the Revelation. Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, (about A. D. 181,) is said by Eusebius to have adduced proofs from this book, in a work, now lost, which he wrote against certain heretics. Irenæus, bishop of Lyons, (about A. D. 185,) often mentions the Revelation, and attributes it implicitly to John the apostle of the Lord. Clemens Alexandrinus (about A. D. 195) quotes it several times, and once in the following language :
They shall sit on twenty-four thrones, judging the people, as John says in the Revelation.' Tertullian (about A. D. 200) refers to it frequently as the work of the same John who wrote the epistle universally ascribed to the apostle. In one place he says, “ Again, the apostle John describes, in the Apocalypse, a sharp two-edged sword coming out of the mouth of God. In another passage, while opposing Marcion, a Gnostic heretic, who disowned several books of the New Testament and altered the rest, he observes, We have churches which are the disciples of John. For though Marcion rejects the Revelation, yet the succession of bishops, traced back to the beginning, will assure us that John is the author.'
“ Thus far we find no indication that the genuineness of the book had ever been doubted in the regular churches ; though, among the capricious and whimsical heretics of the Gnostic class, it had sometimes shared the fate of the rest of the New Testament. We now approach the period, however, when it appears to have been, for the first time, called in question by any of the orthodox Christians; and it may be well to take particular notice of the occasion. A gross idea had long prevailed, on the authority of the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, that the saints, after being raised from the dead, were to reign with Christ a thousand years upon earth, enjoying all the sensual gratifications which nature could afford. The fanatical sect of Montanists had lately carried this notion to the utmost extravagance, and dwelt
upon it as one of their favorite tenets. About A. D. 212, Caius, a Roman presbyter, attacked them; and for the purpose, it would seem, of depriving them of their principal evidence, attributed the Revelation to Cerinthus, a famous Gnostic, contemporary with St. John. Cerinthus,' said he, in some Revelations which he wrote in the name of a great apostle, imposes on us monstrous things, which he pretends were shown him by angels, saying that after the resurrection there shall be a terrestrial kingdom of Christ, and that men shall live again in Jerusalem, where they will enjoy sensual delights and pleasures, and spend a thousand years in nuptial entertainments.' Such was the ground that Caius took with regard to the author of the Apocalypse.
“ His unsupported assertion, however, carries its own refutation on its very face. Who can suppose that a book written by the hated Cerinthus, whose name was never uttered by the orthodox Christians but with abhorrence, would, nevertheless, be received by them, and venerated as we have already seen that the Revelation actually was in the early church? If it be said that they never suspected its real origin; whence, then, we would ask, did Caius obtain his knowledge, after more than a century of profound silence ? Indeed, his testimony seems to have weighed nothing with his contemporaries, nor with the immediately succeeding fathers, since they continued to quote the book as indisputably St. John's. Hippolytus (about A. D. 220) refers to it in the following significant connection, The Gospel and Apocalypse according to John.' The celebrated Origen, though a zealous opposer of the Millennarians, (A. D. 230—250,) received it without an intimation of doubt, and expressly ascribed it to • John the son of Zebedee,' that is, the apostle. Cyprian (about A. D. 255) reckoned it among the books of sacred Scripture, without, however, designating the author's name. With these notices before us, we cannot mistake the reputation it still continued to maintain in the church, notwithstanding the impeach