« PreviousContinue »
allows *,) why they have recourse to the testimony of Irenæus ; the importance of which, to the determination of this question, may be collected from the ardent desire of these writers to make his evidence support their sentiments; but will more fully appear, by considering his character and connections, and the time in which he lived.
Irenæus was born, according to his own account, (as his words have generally been understood,) in the age immediately succeeding that, in which the visions of the Apocalypse were seen t. He was a Greek by birth, as his name and language in port, and probably an Asiatic Greek, for he was an auditor of Polycarp I, who was Bishop of Smyrna, one of the seven churches, and who had been the auditor of St. John the Apostle, whom Irenæus constantly affirms to be the writer of the Apocalypse g. And accordingly, when Irenæus speaks upon such subjects as concern the external evidences of the Church, he appeals, for a confirmation of the truth of what he has advanced, tó Polycarp, and to others,
* P. 524, 525,
+ The learned Dodwell has taken pains to shew, that Irenæus was born in the year 97, the very year in which the Apocalypse will appear to have been published. But there is reason to suppose that he has fixed the birth of this father about ten years too soon. See Grabe's Proleg. ad Irenæum.
Iren. iii, 3. Euseb. H. E. iv. 14, 16. v. 4, 19, 20. f Iren. lib. iji. 3, 4. Euseb. H. E. lib. iv. 14. 16. v. 4, 19, 20. Iren. iv. 50. v. 26, 28, 30, 34, 35. Lardner, Supplement, p. 348, 378.-Cave, Hist. Lit. art. Irenæus.
who, he says, had seen the Apostle John. He appeals also to the Asiatic Churches, in which he . appears to have been educated *. When removed from Asia into Gaul, where, upon the martyrdom of Pothinus, he became Bishop of Lyons, he kept up a correspondence with the brethren of the Asiatic Churches, from whom he would continue to receive the most genuine information then to be obtained concerning the Apocalypse. He was, in his own character, the most learned, pious, prudent, and venerable prelate of the age in which he lived t. He wrote largely in defence of the truth ; and it has been a prevailing opinion in the Church, that he sealed his testimony with his blood.
Here then is a witness, far surpassing, in authority and credibility, any that has hitherto been produced. Accordingly, his evidence has been received by the writers nearest to his time', and, with the very few exceptions which we have now produced, by the universal Church. And, until these days, there has not been the least doubt of the import of his evidence; no one has seen occasion to interpret his words, otherwise than
* Iren. lib. iii, 3. v. 8. Euscb. H. E. lib. iv. 14. v. 20.
of It was principally by the wisdom, authority, and moderation of Irenæus, that the furious Victor, Bishop of Rome, was kept in order, and induced, Tarns tipnums Apovety, to think of the things which make for peace, when a schism was about to take place between the Eastern and Western Churches, occasioned by the dispute concerning thic time of keeping Easter.- Euseb, H. E, lib. v. 24.
according to their obvious and received meaning -“ that the visions of the Apocalypse were seen in the times of Domitian *. But since a novel interpretation of these words has been attempted, in order to press them into the service of a preconceived opinion, it will be necessary to produce them.
Irenæus, speaking of the mystical name ascribed to Antichrist in the xijith chapter of the Apocalypse, and of the difficulty of its interpretation, adds, so de edel avo@avdoy εy TW vuv xalqa xnρυττεσθαι τένομα τέλο, δι' εκεινε αν ερρεθη τ8 και την αποκαλυψιν ωρακοτος. .
Ουδε γαρ προ πολλου χρονου εωραση, αλλα σχηδον επι της ημερας γενεας, προς το τελος της Δομέιανου egxns: which may be thus literally translated :* But if it had been proper, that this name " should be openly proclaimed in this present “time, it would have been told even by him “ who saw the revelation. For it was not seen
a long time ago, but almost in our own age “ (or generation), toward the end of Domitian's
These words are plain and unequivocal; no variety of interpretation of them arose during
* Michaelis, in another part of his work, considers the testimony of Irenæus, so far as relates to St. John's writings, as of the highest authority. “ Irenæus," says he, “ is not only the “ most ancient writer on this subject, but was a disciple of Poly
carp, who was personally acquainted with St. John. Conse
quently Irenæus had the very best information on this subject.” Introd. vol. iii. ch. vii. See also his translator's judicious remasks on the importance of Irenæus's testimony.
sixteen hundred years, in which they were read by the Church. And, indeed, the only doubt concerning them now is, “ what it is that Irenæus “affirms to have been seen in Domitian's reign ?" What does the verb seen refer to, and agree with ? What is the nominative case to the verb swpaon? Now, I will venture to affirm, that no Greek scholar, unbiassed by any favourite opinion, can possibly suppose that the verb ewpaon, “ was seen, can be referred to any other nominative than 'H Atonahelis, “ The Revelation.”—But it is not a matter wherein a critical knowledge of the Greek tongue is required, to enable us to decide. Plain common sense is to supply what is wanting. 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 which was said to have been seen in the former. The same verb, used so nearly with a relative, must refer to the same noun. Otherwise, there is no dependence on common language: and we must, in all our writings, be driven to use the repetitions which are in usage among the lawyers; and Irenæus, if he were to write in modern times, must be instructed to say, after the word “ Reve
lation,” not “ It was seen," but the “ Afore" said Revelation" was seen.
But if the discovery of these modern critics had rested upon any solid or probable founda
tion, they would be agreed among themselves, not only in rejecting Amonahundis as the nominative to which the verb is to be referred, but in ascertaining the noun which is to supply its place. They are agreed so far as to perceive the necessity of rejecting the common and obvious interpretation, (because, this being admitted, their explications of the prophecies cannot stand); but they contend, among each other, about the method of supplying the new interpretation. And, indeed, every proposition made by them, with a view to supply a new nominative to swpain, is full of difficulty and absurdity. Michaelis seems to pass this sentence upon all of them but one, which refers Espain to to ovou, and which, to me, appears as forced and improbable as any of the rest. What was seen? answer, the name was seen! If Irenæus had intended this meaning, he would not have written ecpaén but nxeofn. Michaelis has suggested this; and it is a sufficient answer. Yet this able critic is still inclined to favour this application of the verb, referring to ovou a to Titan. But this is to break all bounds of grammatical connection. And, to suppose, as this forced construction requires, that Irenæus understood the Emperor Domitian to be Titan and Antichrist, is to make Irenæus contradict himself; for this 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.” Ire