Page images

unbiassed by any favourite opinion, can possibly suppose that the verb swpain, (“' was seen,”) can be referred to any other

nominative than 'H Atokadvbıç (“ the Revelation.”) But it is not a matter wherein à critical knowledge of the Greek_tongue is required, to enable us to decide. Plain common sense is to supply what is wanting in the sentence. And no person, possessed of that valuable qualification, can read this passage, translated literally into any language, without perceiving, that the thing represented to be seen in the, latter clause, must be the same as was said to have been seen in the former. Otherwise there is no dependence on common language ; and we must be compelled to use the repetitions which are in usage among the lawyers. Thus Irenæus, if he were to write in modern times, especially in Germany, must be instructed to say, after the word “ Revelation,” not“ It was seen,” but the " aforesaid Revelation was seen.”

However, it is amusing to observe, that these ingenious critics, though they agree in rejecting the obvious sense of this passage, as subversive of their common object, cannot settle among themselves how it is to be understood, what noun should supply the nominative to εωραθη in the room of Aποκαλυψις. . Michaelis mentions some of these attempts, which at the same time he justly deems improbable. There is one only which he favours, and this refers ewpaon to το ονομα,---a proposal as forced and improbable as any of the rest. For, what was seen? Answer, the NAME was seen. If Irenæus had intended this meaning, he would not have written swpain but nksoon, not was seen, but was heard. Michaelis has suggested this difficulty, but at the same time he proposes the word Titan or Teitan, which in another place Irenæus had mentioned as one of the names proposed as representative of the mystical number 666. But

this is worse and worse: it is to break all bounds of grammatical connexion. And to suppose, as this forced construction requires, that Irenæus understood the prophecy to be fulfilled in his time, by the emperor Domitian being Titan and Antichrist, is to make Irenæus contradict himself. For this excellent father plainly tells us, that he understood not this prophecy, and that in his opinion, “it is better to wait the completion of it, than to guess at names which may seem to fit the mystical figures.” 1 Besides, the context of Irenæus, with this passage, will admit none of these novel, forced interpretations, and will accommodate to none but the old and obvious acceptation. It is his object, to dissuade his readers from a difficult and presumptuous attempt, to proclaim who is the Antichrist by applying in the manner he had shown the Greek figures 666. And his argument is to this effect :-“ the mystery was not intended to be cleared up in our times; for if it had, it would have been told by him who saw the vision.” This implies that the vision had been seen lately. But to complete the argument, and support the last clause of it, which was not yet perfectly clear, Irenæus adds, o for it was seen at no great distance from our own times."

In short, all these new interpretations are inconsistent, and have no support but what they derive from the Latin translation of the passage, which is very faulty in this place, as it is known to be in many others; ? and had it been of greater authority as a translation, it could only disclose the translator's opinion. But as we possess the original Greek, we must have recourse to this genuine text of the writer, and not be led away by the blunders of his translator.

See also Euseb. H. E. lib. iii. c. 18. 2 Grabe asserts, and proves it to be barbarous and defective.Prolog. in Irenæum.

1 Lib. v.

The words of Irenæus, of this most competent and unexceptionable witness, being thus received in that obvious sense which has been affixed to them by all the ecclesiastical writers before our own days, will determine the time when the apocalyptic visions were seen and published, namely, toward the end of Domitian's reign.

Internal evidence likewise supports this conclusion; for, in the three first chapters of the Apocalypse, the Churches of Asia are represented as having attained to that flourishing state of society and settlement, and to have undergone afterwards those changes in their faith and morals, wbich might have taken place in the period

intervening between the publication of St. Paul's Epistles and the close of Domitian's reign, but were not likely to have been effected in a shorter time.

The death of Domitian happened in A. D. 96; and St. John obtained his liberty, and returned to Ephe

He would then, if not sooner, publish his Apocalypse, the date of which is fixed by Mill, Lardner, and other able critics, to be of the




or 97.

This important point being thus settled, we may proceed with greater advantage to consider the external evidence, which affects the divine authority of the Apocalypse, for the value of this evidence will increase according to its approximation to the time when the book was published. There are many of the fathers who, writing prior to Irenæus, have afforded some testimony of this kind; but in none of them do we find evidence so comprehensive, so positive and direct as his. And as we are already in possession of his superior competency and judgment in treating questions of this kind,' we will begin with his testimony, which, taken by itself, is almost sufficient to decide the question. The others, prior in point of time, but inferior in positive assertion, will afterwards be reviewed with greater advantage.

| Lampe has asserted, and Lardner fully confirms the truth of the assertion, “ that all antiquity is abundantly agreed, that Domitian was the author of John's banishment” to Patmos.

Irenæus, the auditor of Polycarp and of other apostolical men who had conversed with St. John, had the best means of information concerning the authenticity of the Apocalypse. But Irenæus, in many passages, ascribes this book to “ John the Evangelist, the disciple of the Lord,--that John who leaned on his Lord's breast at the last Supper.”? There are twenty-two chapters in the book of Revelation, and Irenæus quotes from thirteen of them, producing more than twenty-four passages, some of considerable length. The candid and judicious Lardner, after an examination of this evidence, says:

- His (Irenæus's) testimony for this book is so strong and full, that, considering the age of Irenæus, he seems to put it beyond all question, that it is the work of John the Apostle and Evangelist."

Thn testimony of Irenæus may be supposed to extend from about thirty or forty years after the date of the Apocalypse, to about eighty years after that period, viz. the year of our Lord 178, when he is said to have published the books which contain this testimony. But during this time of eighty years, other more ancient writers appear to have quoted from, and so to have acknowledged the Apocalypse. We will now proceed to mention

1 We may justly conclude, from the zeal and judgment which he shows, to discover the true reading of a passage in the Apocalypse, (Irenæus, lib. v. c. 30. Euseb. H. E. lib. iii. c. 18.) that he was not wanting in the best methods of pursuing questions of this kind. But to him, in this particular case, the evidence required no such examination, it was plain and positive.

2 Irenæus, lib. iv. 37, 50, 27.
3 Cred. Gosp. Hist. art. Irenæus.

[ocr errors]

these, whose quotations and allusions will give additional weight to the testimony of Irenæus, while, from the recollection of his evidence, theirs also will derive support.

Ignatius is mentioned by Michaelis as the most ancient evidence that can be produced, respecting the authenticity of the Apocalypse. He lived in the apostolical times, and died by a glorious martyrdom in the year 107, as some writers have stated, though others have placed this event somewhat later. He is commonly supposed to have made no mention of the Apocalypse ; and this his silence amounts, in the opinion of Michaelis, to a rejection of the book. For since he wrote epistles to the Christian communities at Ephesus, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, it is to be expected, he says, that he would have reminded them of the praises which, in the second and third chapters of the Revelation, their bishops had received from Christ. But let us advert to the peculiar circumstances under which this father of the Church wrote these epistles, which are the only remains of his works. He was a prisoner, upon travel, guarded by a band of soldiers, whom, from their ferocity, he compares to leopards, and by them hurried forward in his passage from Antioch to Rome, there to be devoured by wild beasts. In such circumstances, he would write with perpetual interruptions; and his quotations, depending perhaps on memory alone, would be inaccurate. And from these causes it has happened, that the references of Ignatius to sacred scripture are allusions rather than quotations; and to many of the sacred books he appears not to refer at all. The Epistle to the Ephesians is the only book expressly named by him. Of the Gospels, he only quotes, or plainly alludes to, those of St. Matthew and St. John; and of the books remaining, it is dubious whether he

« PreviousContinue »