Page images

that “his mind was passive rather than active. It received impressions.” “ Ideas were presented to him in a peculiar manner, and he had little more to do than record them as they were presented. He heard words, and he had to write them.” It would be manifestly unjust to apply rigidly the ordinary rules of composition to anything written as the Apocalypse was.

The mind of John, we should suppose, was reflective, rather than highly imaginative. Still no one would doubt that it would be wrought up to the highest pitch of enthusiastic excitement by the awful grandeur of the visions he was privileged to behold. Besides, who can doubt that the Spirit of God exerted an overmastering influence on the instrument it had chosen for its revelations? The author's “ own reflection shrank back into its feebleness, oppressed by the greatness of the task. Overawed by the sublimity of the scenes to be delineated it withdrew, giving place to the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit. Hence an abruptness and a vehemence are observable in the man.

Brevity and energy are strongly impressed upon the diction. The circumstances and time allowed no room for rounded periods or polished sentences. The dramatic action proceeds with rapid fervor, and the mind of the writer in high excitement is hurried along by the progress of events, hastening towards a catastrophe. The heavenly beings introduced as speaking, have no space for long dialogue, while the coming of Christ is at hand.” 1

Still there is a basis in the writings of John for just such a style as that of the Apocalypse, influenced by the attending circumstances. There is nothing of the dialectic, conservative, logical connection of argumentation, so common in the writings of Paul; but simplicity and vividness strongly characterize it. So Steinhofer says of the first Epistle : “ We find in this epistle clear, full words (voces fragmentes), since each word not only contains the whole matter in itself, but also suits the manifold circumstances that may occur in

1 Davidson's Introduction, Vol. III. 588.


connection with it. As, for example, when it is said : Ile that is of God abides in God. They are sayings of such a kind as immediately awaken suitable feelings, and produce a living impression and spiritual sense of the matter," i etc. “ In this connection," says Hengstenberg, “ let us only think of the Lamb;' of the Lion of the tribe of Judah ;' of the Word ;' but I have somewhat against thee, that thou hast left thy first love;' of the Laodiceans being neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm ; of the charge: Hold fast what thou hast, that no man take thy crown;' or of his standing before the door and knocking, and supping with those who let him in.”

2. The Hebraistic character of the style of the Apocalypse has been adduced as an objection to the authorship of John. In the first place, many of the peculiarities which have been charged to the imitation of the Hebrew, both by the advocates and opponents of the Johannean origin, are purely rhetorical, and are accounted for by the remarks under the preceding head of irregularities of construction. Then the Gospel of John is not entirely free from Hebraisms. Thus Hengstenberg says, that “in the Gospel of John there are not wanting points of contact with the Hebraistic character of the Apocalypse.” “ The Evangelist's predilection for the Hebrew language is indicated by his using so many Hebrew words with an appended interpretation.” Thiersch also says: “ It is not to be overlooked that in the Gospel of John, the introduction, especially in its earlier part, exhibits with perfect clearness, in the structure of the sentences, in the parallelism of the members, and the position of the words, the rhythm of the Old Testament hymns." 3 There is, indeed, enough of Hebrew coloring to occasion some to pronounce it strongly Hebraic, and to suppose that it was written in Aramaic, the Hebrew of that age. Still there is plainly no good ground for this supposition; and we cannot, if we would, deny that

[blocks in formation]

the Apocalypse is more allied in style to Hebrew, and more nearly related in contents to the Hebrew prophets, than any other book of the New Testament.

What produces this Hebrew coloring? In the first place, it is a book of prophecy, and the only one of the New Testament. This would naturally, of itsell, give it some siini. larity in style. Ther the native language of John was the Aramaic; his education was in that language, and his early religion that of the Hebrews; and it is by no means certain that he learned Greek before he went to Ephesus, where that language was much spoken. Then, tradition as well as other reasons, niake the fourth Gospel of a later date than the Apocalypse; and John, from his longer residence in Asia Minor, would here necesessarily have obtained a more easy and flowing style.

John, too, would doubtless be far more familiar with the Hebrew poetic style than with the Greek; and when he was brought into circumstances which required a poetic diction, he would naturally fall somewhat into that with which he was most familiar, although writing in another language.

But another circumstance seems to me to have had far more influence in giving a Hebrew tinge to the style, since the author indicates, in various expressions, that he does not use a Hebraic style from ignorance of Greek or inability to write correctly in that language. It was a time of the persecution of Christians, and John was in banishment for his adherence to the Christian faith (i. 9). He would naturally, in such circumstances, turn his attention to the promises of the Old Testament in reference to the oppressions of the people of God and the hope of deliverance. This led him, doubtless, to a close study of the later prophets, such as

Lücko, p. 363, says that the author of the Apocalypse “shows himself very dexterous in his way, and perfectly free from the rawness of a beginner”; and Winer maintains that the solecisms of the Apocalypse should be explained by the critics, as they can be, and not attributed to the ignorance of the author, who, “in other and much more difficult turns, shows that he knew well enough the rules of grammar.”

Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah; and it is not unuatural to suppose that this study was a part of the preliminary training that rendered him a fit medium for the revelation which God wished to make to the children of men. This would, it seems to us, be a sufficient explanation of the Hebraistic style of the Apocalypse, if there were no other. And this, taken with the preceding considerations, seems to warrant the strong language which Hengstenberg uses, when he says: “ It is difficult to understand how any one can still argue from them (the Hebraisms of the Apocalypse] that the author of it must have been different from the author of the Gospel. No one can do this in good faith, excepting he who makes his own mental weakness, incompetence, and monotony the measure for others.” 1 Words found in the other Writings of John and not in the

Apocalypse, and the reverse. Some words found in John's other writings do not appear in the Apocalypse; and, on the other hand, some words in the Apocalypse are wanting in the Gospel and Epistles. It may be said of many of those enumerated, that they are not specially characteristic of the style of John, and are used in other books of the New Testament. An author cannot, of course, expect to use all the same words in a simple narrative and in a prophetic writing, where works in another language are in some degree imitated, and where the style is highly poetic. Besides, “the range of the Gospel and Epistles is wider than that of the Apocalypse.” There is a far greater variety of ideas in them, while in the Apocalypse the ideas were peculiar, especially as compared with the rest of the New Testament. Hence we should expect different words and phrases.

1 We could hardly, however, put the stress that Hengstenberg does upon the fact that the writer is said to be “in the Spirit,” as if the Hebraisms were directly inspired, "a necessary result of the author's being in the Spirit.” Ho snys also, “A pure Greek gospel, a pure Greek apostolical epistle, is inconceivable. The canonical and the Hebrew are most intimately connected.” Comm., Vol. II. 413, 444. VOL. XXI. No. 83.


It is said by Ewald and others that the particles ráve τοτε, πώποτε, ουδέποτε, ουδέπω, are not found in the Apocalypse, although they appear in the other writings of John. We should not expect so many connective particles or so much variety in them in a work consisting of separate visions, communicated often in disconnected sentences. But, furthermore, these particles can none of them be considered as in any way characteristic of John's writings. Il ávtote is oftener used by Paul than John, who indeed never uses it in his Epistles, and but six or seven times in the Gospel. He had no occasion to use it in the Apocalypse, and it accordingly does not appear there. Of T óTOTE it is sufficient to say that it is used but once in the Epistles of John, and four times in the Gospel, and that the Apocalypse does not deal in negative clauses like those in which this particle is found. Oủ d é no te is used just once by John in Gospel vii. 46. dér w is used three times only by John, and he had no further occasion for it.

Kalós is frequent in the Gospel and Epistles, but not found in the Apocalypse. So it is frequent in the Romans and in the Corinthians, and not found at all, or rarely, in several of Paul's other epistles. Besides, we should expect the shorter form ús in the concise, abrupt style appropriate to the Apocalypse.

ós, as a particle of time, is not found in the Apocalypse, but often in the Gospel. It is not, however, in the Epistles of John, and is found in some of Paul's epistles, and not in others.

The particles of reasoning and consecutive narrative, such as oύν, άρα, μέν, τέ, γάρ, αλλά, ίνα, are naturally either sparingly used, or not used at all, in the Apocalypse. The simple connective kai is frequent when little attention would be given, in the excitement of the inspiration, to niceties and unnecessary discrimination in the use of connecting words. Besides, in respect to many of these words, “ the peculiarity is only a higher degree of that which is also met with in the other writings of John.”

« PreviousContinue »