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places it in the reign of Nero. No one would lay great stress upon any of these later statements, but putting them all together, and letting the naked facts stand apart, shorn of all the artful colourings of partisan writers, we find the external evidence of John's writing the Apocalypse at the close of Domitian's reign resting on the sole testimony of Irenæus, who wrote a hundred years after that date, and whose words admit of two different meanings.
One clear and explicit testimony, when not opposed by other evidence, would be allowed by all fair critics to control the argument; but not so when many other considerations tend to weaken it. It would seem much easier to account for the confusion of tradition on the date of John's banishment than to explain away the definite references of the Apocalypse itself to the temple, the court, and the city as still standing when the book was written. All tradition substantially agrees, that John's last years of labour were spent among the churches of Western Asia, and it is very possible that he was banished to the isle of Patmos during the reign of Domitian. That banishment may have occurred long after John had gone to the same island for another reason, and later writers, misapprehending the apostle's words, might have easily confounded the two events.
John's own testimony is that he was in the island which is called Patmos on account of the word of God (dià Tòv nóyov toŨ Jeo) and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. i, 9).
testimony. Alford says, though he does not adopt this meaning, that “in St. Paul's usage, diá would here signify for the sake of; that is, for the purpose of receiving ; so that the apostle would have gone to Patmos (not as an exile, but] by special revelation in order to receive this Apocalypse. Again, keeping to this meaning of diá, these words may mean that he visited Patmos in pursuance of, for the purposes of, his ordinary apostolic employment, which might well be designated by these substantives.”* This proper and all-suffit
See Stuart, Commentary on the Apocalypse, vol. i, pp. 265–269.
'Greek Testament, in loco. See also De Wette, in loco. Alford's “three objections” appear to us without force; for (1) the mention of tribulation and patience in this verse by no means requires us to understand that he was then suffering from ban. ishment. (2) The parallels (chap. vi, 9; xx, 4) which he cites to determine the use of diá are offset by its use in ii, 3; iv, 11; xii, 11; xiii, 14; xviii, 10, 15, in all which places, as also in vi, 9 and xx, 4, it is to be understood as setting forth the ground or reason of what is stated. This meaning holds alike, whether we believe that John went to Patmos freely or as an exile, on account of the word of God. Comp. Winer, N. T. Grammar, $ 49, on diá. (3) The traditional banishment of John to Patmos may have occurred, as we have shown above, long after he had first gone there on aecount of the testimony of Jesus.
cient explanation of his words allows us to suppose that John received the Revelation in Patmos, whither he had gone, either by some special divine call, or in pursuance of his apostolic labours. The tradition, therefore, of his exile under Domitian may be true, and at the same time not affect the question of the date of the Apocalypse. Turning now to inquire what internal evidence may be found
touching the historical standpoint of the writer, observe: dence of date. (1) That no critic of any note has ever claimed that the Six points.
later date is required by any internal evidence. (2) On the contrary, if John the apostle is the author, the comparatively rough Hebraic style of the language unquestionably argues for it an earlier date than his Gospel or Epistles. For, special pleading aside, it must on all rational grounds be conceded, that a Hebrew, in the supposed condition of John, would, after years of intercourse and labour in the churches of Asia, acquire by degrees a purer Greek style. (3) The address “to the seven churches which are in Asia" (i, 4, 11), implies that, at this time, there were only seven churches in that Asia where Paul was once forbidden by the Spirit to speak the word (Acts xvi, 6, 7). Macdonald says, “An earthquake, in the ninth year of Nero's reign, overwhelmed both Laodicea and Colossæ (Pliny, Hist. Nat., v, 41), and the church at the latter place does not appear to have been restored. As the two places were in close proximity, what remained of the church at Colossæ probably became identified with the one at Laodicea. The churches at Tralles and Magnesia could not have been established until a considerable time after the Apocalypse was written. Those who contend for the later date, when there must have been a greater number of churches than seven in the region designated by the apostle, fail to give any sufficient reason for his mentioning no more. That they mystically or symbolically represent others is surely not such a reason."* (4) The prominence in which persecution from the Jews is set forth in the Epistles to the seven churches also argues an early date. After the fall of Jerusalem, Christian persecution and troubles came almost altogether from pagan sources, and Jewish opposition and Judaizing heretics became of little note.
1 Avy one who will compare the rapidity of Paul's movements on his missionary journeys, and note how he addressed epistles to some of his churches (e. g., Thessalonians) a few months after his first visitation, will have no difficulty in understanding how Johu could bave visited all the seven churches of Asia, and also have gone thence to Patmos and received the Revelation, within a year after departing from Jerusalem. But John, like Paul, probably wrote to churches he had not visited.
The Life and Writings of John, p. 155.
(5) A most weighty argument for the early date appears in the mention of the temple, court, and city in chapter xi, 1-3. These references and the further designation, in verse 8, of that city “which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified," obviously imply that the Jewish temple, court, and city were yet standing. To plead that these familiar appellatives are not real, but only mystical allusions, is to assume the very point in question. The most simple reference should stand unless convincing reasons to the contrary be shown. When the writer proceeds to characterize the city by a proper symbolical name, he calls it Sodom and Egypt, and is careful to tell us that it is so called spiritually (TrvEvpatikās), but, as if to prevent any possibility of misunderstanding his reference, he adds that it is the place where the Lord was crucified.
(6) Finally, what should especially impress every reader is the emphatic statement, placed in the very title of the book, and repeated in one form and another again and again, that this is a revelation of "things which must shortly (év táxel) come to pass," and the time of which is near at hand (éyyús, Rev.i, 1,3; xxii, 6, 7, 10, 12, 20). If the seer, writing a few years before the terrible catastrophe, had the destruction of Jerusalem and its attendant woes before him, all these expressions have a force and definiteness which every interpreter must recognize.' But if the things contem
"The trend of modern criticism is unmistakably toward the adoption of the early date of the Apocalypse, and yet the best scholars differ. Elliott, Hengstenberg, Lange, Alford, and Whedon contend strongly that the testimony of Irenæus and the ancient tradition ought to control the question ; while, on the other hand, Lücke, Neander, De Wette, Ewald, Bleek, Auberlen, Hilgenfeld, Düsterdieck, Stuart, Macdon. ald, Davidson, J. B. Lightfoot, Glasgow, Farrar, Westcott, Cowles, and Schaff maintain that the book, according to its own internal evidence, must have been written before the destruction of Jerusalem. The last-named scholar, in the new edition of his Church History (vol. i, pp. 834–837), revokes his acceptance of the Domitian date which he affirmed thirty years ago, and now maintains that internal evidence for an earlier date outweighs the external tradition. Writers on both sides of this question have probably been too much influenced by some theory of the seven kings in chap. xvii, 10 (see below, p. 371), and have placed the composition much later than valid evidence warrants. Glasgow (The Apoc. Trans. and Expounded, pp. 9–38) adduces proof not easy to be set aside that the Revelation was written before any of the Epistles, probably somewhere between A. D. 50 and 54. Is it not supposable that one reason why Paul was forbidden to preach the word in Western Asia (Acts xvi, 6) was that John was either already there, or about to enter? The prevalent opinion that the First Epistle of John was written after the fall of Jerusalem rests on no certain evidence. To assume, from the writer's use of the term “ little children,” that he was very far advanced in years, is futile. John was probably no older than Paul, but some time before the fall of Jerusalem the latter was wont to speak of himself as “Paul the aged.” Philem. 9.
plated were in the distant future, these simple words of time must be subjected to the most violent and unnatural treatment in order to make the statements of the writer compatible with the exposition, A consideration of these evidences, external and internal, of the
date of the Apocalypse, shows what delicacy and disGreat delicacy and discrimina. crimination are requisite in an interpreter in order to tion essential.
determine the historical standpoint of such a prophetical book. As far as possible, all systems of prophetical interpretation should be held in abeyance until that question is determined; but it may become necessary, in view of the conflicting evidences of the date and the difficulties of the book itself, to withhold all judgment as to the historical standpoint of the writer until we have tried the different methods of interpretation, and have thus had opportunity to judge which exposition affords the best solution of the difficulties.
This, then, is to be held as a canon of interpretation, that all due regard must be had to the person and circumstances of the author, the time and place of his writing, and the occasion and reasons which led him to write. Nor must we omit similar inquiry into the character, conditions, and history of those for whom the book was written, and of those also of whom the book makes mention.
WHILE it is true that the Bible is to be interpreted like other books, and therefore requires attention to the laws of General
Special qualiHermeneutics, it is also a notable fact that in many re- ties of the Bispects it differs from all other books. It contains many revelations in the form of types, symbols, parables, allegories, visions, and dreams. The poetry of the Hebrews is a special study in itself, and no one is competent to appreciate or expound it who has not become familiar both with its spirit and its formal elements. And what a wealth of figurative language in the Bible! “I am persuaded," wrote Sir William Jones, “ that this volume, indepen. dently of its divine origin, contains more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, more pure morality, more important history, and finer strains of poetry and eloquence than can be collected from all other books, in whatever age or language they may have been written.” 1
The Bible, moreover, is a textbook of religion, and its chief value is seen in the fact that it is divinely adapted to be
Textbook of profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and religion. for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. iii, 16). It is therefore of the highest importance to know to what extent these sacred instructions may be gathered from the written word, and to guard against false methods in the elaboration of scriptural doctrine. Some exegetes manifest a morbid desire to find “mountains of sense in every line of Holy Writ,” and are constantly finding double meanings, recondite allusions, and marvellous revelations in the plainest passages. Others go to an opposite extreme, and not only eliminate the doctrines of the supernatural, but even refuse to recognize some of the most obvious lessons touching the unseen and eternal which are set forth on many a page. No faithful and permanently satis
1 Written on a blank leaf in his Bible.