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THE AUTHOR OF THE APOCALYPSE.
BY PROF. R. D. C. ROBBINS, MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE.
(Continued from No. 82, page 347.)
II. INTERNAL ARGUMENT.
1. Proof that John the Apostle was the Author of the Apoca
lypse from Declarations in the Book itself. The author of the book repeatedly indicates that his name is John (i. 1, 4, 9; xxii. 8).
This has been adduced as an objection to the authorship of John the evangelist, since he nowhere gives his name in the Gospel and Epistles. But there was in thern no occasion to name himself specifically. The authors of neither of the Gospels deem it necessary to make themselves conspicuous. But if a vision is seen or a revelation made, the one to whom the revelation is made or by whom the vision is seen is naturally designated. So it was with the Hebrew prophets : “ The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz"; "the word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw”; “the word that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord"; "a vision appeared unto me, even unto me, Daniel"; and so times almost without number, in the different prophets. Here the designation is, “to his servant John," merely indicating his relation to the Saviour in his exaltation, just as in the Gospel he calls him. self, in relation to his intercourse with the Saviour on earth, " the disciple whom Jesus loved," the one " who leaned on Jesus's bosom." The immediate designation in the first verse is, as Hengstenberg well says, not of John as apostle, but as prophet, and yet “ we are conducted indirectly to the apostleship, since revelations of such high importance as those contained here were not given beyond the limits of the apostleship, and could not have been given, without shaking the foundation of the apostolic dignity.” 1
Hengstenberg's Commentary, I. 1, xviii. 20, and Vol. II. 391.
The fact that no other designation is given with the name John, both in verse first and fourth, is a strong argument in favor of the apostolic authorship. There may have been others in the region who had the same name with the apostle; but there certainly was no one who was generally known. That“shadow of a man,” called John the presbyter or elder, is plainly cast from the designation of “elder,” given by John to himself in his second and third epistles, and deepened and endued with life by the wrong interpretation of a passage of Papias by Eusebius,' and an obscure tradition hunted up by Dionysius to give some consistency to his denial of apostolical authority to the Revelation. It is little less than absurd to suppose that a man who should be chosen as a depository of such revelations as are given in the Apocalypse, or was capable of composing a work so elevated and unique in its character, and who intended to be known and to speak with authority, should leave no trace of his existence which subsequent ages could with the minutest examination lay hold of. We can see no alternative, from the manner in which the name “ John” is employed, between supposing John the evangelist to be the author, and some impostor who wished to give the sanction of the apostle to his own work.
It was, as Hengstenberg says, directly in the region of the seven churches, that the apostle John had a diocese," and "he seems to be writing as to his seven churches,” beginning with Ephesus, where, according to tradition, “ he had his seat.” 2 Thus Neander says : “ All the ancient traditions, which may be traced back to his (John's) immediate disciples, agree in stating that Lesser Asia was the scene of his labors to the end of the first century, and Ephesus its central point." 3 How, then, could another in honesty designate himself as John, simply, when he must have been aware that he would be confounded with the well-known John, the apostle? If
See Hengstenberg's Commentary, Vol. II. 403 sq.
Comm., Vol. II. 390, 391. 8 Planting and Training of the Christian Church, Bk. V., where many particulars illustrating his influence there are given.
we should find a classical work prefaced by “I, Cicero, thus write," we should not doubt whether the words of the great Roman orator, or those of his brother Quintus, or his son Marcus,' were intended to be designated. In the case before us, there must be a far greater difference between the apostle and any other John of the time, than between Cicero and his brother or son; so that some more specific designation would unavoidably be necessary to prevent confusion.
Verse ninth of ch. i. also points directly to the apostle as author: “ I John, who also am your brother and companion in tribulation ..... was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” The incidental information here that the author of the Apocalypse was in banishment to Patmos on account of persecution for his faithfulness in his Christian labors, applies most naturally to the apostle. “ According to a widely spread ancient tradition, the apostle John was banished to the island of Patmos, in the Aegean sea, by one of the emperors who was hostile to the Christians, but which of them is not ascertained.” And again, Neander says: “Certainly we cannot refuse to believe the unanimous tradition of the Asi. atic churches in the second century, that the apostle John, as a teacher of these churches had to suffer on account of the faith; for which reason he is distinguished as a martyr in the epistle..... of Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus.” The circumstance that the church at Ephesus was first addressed, too, is most natural when we consider the relation of John to it, as the centre of his circle of influence. And the whole superscription of these epistles, and indeed their contents, indicate so plainly definite knowledge of the peculiarities and circumstances of each, and confidence in the writer's per
1 Thus Twells, in Vindic. Apoc., says: "So that Cicero did this or that, or declared so and so to his readers, it is manifest who would be meant. We should at once understand that it was the oration of that well-known Cicero, and not Quintus Cicero his brother, or Marcus his son.”
2 Neander's Planting and Training, Bk. V. See also Tertull. Praescript., c. 36; Clemens, c. 42; Orig. I. xvi. in Matt. $ 6; Irenaeus, V. 30.
Vol. XXI. No. 83.
sonal influence, that while they fall pertinently and gracefully from the lips of John, the bishop of the region, they could scarcely belong to any other.
The name “ John seems to be repeated near the close of the Revelation (xxii. 8), from the feeling that there was a strangeness and importance in these communications which required the special confirmation of a witness of known character. The influence of the things seen and heard are also here given, to show that they are not a human device, but such as caused the author of the book to fall down and worship before the feet of the angel who made the revelation. Thus “ a trustworthy man, a tried organ of divine communi. cations, John, whom Jesus loved, expressly assures us that he has not spoken of his own, but only what he has heard and received."i So Bengel says: “John had placed his name in the title of his book, in the superscription to the seven churches, and at the beginning of his narrative. And now at the close, he names himself still again, so that we might perfectly know that he, namely the apostle John, had written this credible testimony of the future coming of Jesus Christ.”
The similarity of this passage with the subscription near the end of the Gospel of John should not escape notice. In John xxi. 24, after designating himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved, and referring to the same remarks of our Lord concerning him, the author says: “ This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things (oúτός έστιν ο μαθητής και μαρτυρών περί τούτων και γράψας ταυTa], and we know that his testimony is true.” The words in the Apocalypse differ only so far as the nature of the two works require difference: κάγώ 'Ιωάννης ο ακούων και βλέπων ταύτα. The witnessing (μαρτυρών) properly belongs to the Gospel, while the hearing (ukouwv) and seeing (Brétrwv) characterize the revelations and visions of the Apocalypse.
While some find an argument against the Apocalypse from the mentioning the name of the writer, others claim that he should have added the designation of " apostle.” If
Hengstenberg, Comm. on xxii. 8.
any other person had written this book and wished to pass it off as the work of the apostle, he would perhaps have blundered into such a designation. But it would not, in all probability, occur to John, known as he was in the whole region for which his book was immediately intended, that he could be mistaken for another. There is in the omission of any descriptive appellative, a decided indication that the author could be no obscure person, whose name alone would have carried no weight with it to his readers. 66 The John of Asia Minor was the only man of that day and that region who was honestly entitled to write in this manner.” It is scarcely necessary to add, in the words of another: “ History knows of no other John, of that time and district, who held an important position in the church; nor could any one possibly exist, who did not stand far below the apostle, and who would not have reckoned it necessary to designate himself more particularly, to prevent his being confounded with the other."
Chapter xviii. 20, “ Rejoice over her Heaven, and ye saints and apostles,” etc., is sometimes referred to as implying that John could not be the writer, since the apostles are spoken of as being already in heaven. But it is plain that the apostles are spoken of as a class, just as saints and prophets are ; and there is no more reason for supposing that this implies that the apostles had all gone to their rest, than that the saints all had. Besides, in the opinion of these objectors, the Apocalypse must have been written before John's death, and those words, if inapposite in the mouth of the apostle, would have been equally so in that of another.
Chapter xxi. 14 has also been referred to by Ewald and others as inconsistent with the modesty of John. It is only necessary in confutation to refer to such passages as Ephes. ii. 20: “ Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone,” and Matt. xix. 28, “ where the twelve apostles appear as the heads of the church in regeneration, which is all one with the new Jerusalem.” It would certainly indicate a selfconsciousness, which we should not expect in the Apostle