Book of Revelation - Encyclopedia

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BOOK OF REVELATION, in the Bible, the last book of the New Testament.

Title.-According to the best authorities H CA (in the subscription) 2, 8, 82, 93, the title of this book is auroKlOwths 'IWavvov. Some cursives (I, 14, 17, 25, 28, 31, 38, 51, 90, 9 1, 94, 97) read anr. (4T0U &yiov. I, 2 5, z8, 3 1, 3 8, 5 1, 9 0, 94) 'IWavvov Tou O€oX6yov; Q and 12, air. Toil O€oX. Kal Eivayy€AlaTov; P and 42, r t air. Tou airoaTOXov 'I. Kal Euayy€Aicr ov (The word "apocalypse" gives the current title not only to this book, but to a large body of Jewish and Christian writings. This is one of the first instances of its use in this sense in existing literature. An earlier use is probably to be found in the title of the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch, which = ypaclyi rris &7roKaXinkcos roil l3apOi x viov Tou Nnpivv. The title is different from what the New Testament use of the term would have led us to expect, i.e. 'A7rcocOunkts 'Broil, which are indeed the opening words of this book. With the latter phrase we might compare Gal. i. 12, where we have auroKaXukEWS 'Ivjvou X puxroi, "revelation from Jesus Christ." For the book is a revelation made by God to Jesus Christ, who through His angel made it known to John for transmission to the churches. Instead of this the Church substituted the name of the disciple through whom the message was delivered for that of his Master, and designated our Apocalypse "The Apocalypse of John." This title was familiar before the end of the 2nd century.

MSS. and Versions.-There are six uncials, N, A, C, P, Q, a, the last of which has not been edited or collated. Of the rest, P and Q are imperfect. The known cursives amount to 229, according to von Soden (Die Schriften des Neuen Testamentes, I. i. 289). There are six ancient versions of various values.

(a) The best is the Latin, which is found in the Old Latin (g h m and the text used by Primasius) and the Vulgate, of which there are eight MSS. written between the 6th and 15th centuries.

(b) The Syriac version appears in two forms, the Philoxenian (A.D. 508), recently discovered and edited by Gwynn, and the Harclean (A.D. 616). The true Peshitta did not contain the Apocalypse. (c) The Armenian version. The Apocalypse was admitted to the canon, according to Conybeare, in the 12th century through the influence of Nerses, who revised an older version traceable to the opening of the 5th century. (d) The Egyptian version is found in two forms, i.e. the Bohairic and Sahidic. The former has been edited by Homer, who is now also engaged on an edition of the latter. (e, f) The Ethiopic and Arabic versions have not yet been critically edited.

External Evidence and Canonicity, and Century.-It is possible that the Apocalypse was known to Ignatius, Eph. xv. 3 (Rev. xxi. 3); Philad. vi. I (Rev. iii. 12). Some have thought also that Barnabas (vi. 13, xxi. 3) was acquainted with our text, but this is highly improbable. Andreas of Caesarea mentions Papias as attesting the credibility of Revelation, and cites two of his remarks on Rev. xii. 7. The fact that Eusebius does not mention Revelation among the New Testament books known to Papias (H.E. iii. 39) may be due to the historian's unfriendly attitude to the book. Moreover, Papias may be one of the presbyters to whom, as havingactually seen John, Irenaeus (v. 30 = Eusebius, H.E. v. 8) appeals on behalf of the number 666. From these possible and highly probable references we pass on to the clear testimony of Justin Martyr, who is the first to declare that Revelation is by "John, one of the Apostles of Christ" (Dial. lxxxi. 15), and a book of canonical standing (i. 28). the latter half of this century it meets with very wide recognition. Thus a treatise of some description was written upon it by Melito of Sardis in Asia Minor (Eus. H.E. iv. 26), and quoted by the anti-Montanist Apollonius (H.E. v. 18) and Theophilus of Antioch (H.E. iv. 24). In Carthage its currency is proven by the references of Tertullian, and the phraseology of the Acts of Perpetua and Felicitas (§§ 4, 12); in Alexandria by the citations of Clement (Paed. i. 6.36; ii. Io. 108, &c.); in Rome by its inclusion in the Muratorian canon, and in Gaul by its use in the Epistle of the churches of Vienne and Lyons (Eus. H.E. v. 10.58), and in Irenaeus, who defends the apostolic authorship of the Revelation of John (Haer. iv. 14.1, 17.6, 18.6, 20. II, 21.3; v. 26. I, &c.).

But in certain quarters the authority of the book was denied. Thus Marcion rejected it on the ground of its Jewish character (Tertullian, c. Marcion, iv. 5), and the Alogi assigned both Revelation and the Gospel to Cerinthus (Epiphanius, Haer. li. 3). This attitude is more widely represented in the next century.

Third Century.-The attack on Revelation was resumed by abler antagonists in this century. The objections of the Alogi were restated and maintained by the Roman presbyter Caius in his controversy with the Montanist Proclus (Eus. H.E. ii. 25.6; iii. 28.2), but met with such overwhelming refutation at the hands of Hippolytus (see Gwynn, Hermathena, vi. 397-418) that no church writer in the West subsequently except Jerome seriously called in question the authorship of our book.

Dionysius of Alexandria (A.D. 255) wrote a moderate and effective criticism, in which he rejects the hypothesis of the Cerinthian authorship and urges that it was not written by the apostle, on the ground of its difference in language, style and contents from the other Johannine writings. Its author was some inspired man bearing the same name as the son of Zebedee. The arguments of Dionysius were repeated by Eusebius, who ascribed the work to the presbyter John mentioned by Papias (Eus. H.E. iii. 39) and was in doubt whether he should place Revelation among the spurious (voOa)works (H.E. iii. 25.4) or the accepted (oµoXoyyouµeva). Eastern Church. - In the Eastern Church the views of Dionysius and Eusebius were generally accepted. With the exception of Methodius and Pamphilus the book was not received by Eastern scholars. Thus it was either not mentioned or disowned by Cyril of Jerusalem, Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret and Amphilochus of Iconium. It is absent from the so-called Synopsis of Athanasius, the Stichometry of Nicephorus, the List of Sixty Books and other authoritative documents. It formed no part of the Peshitta New Testament. It was apparently unknown to Ephraem. Even when later it found a place in the Philoxenian and Harclean versions it never became a familiar book to the Syrian Churches, while it was unhesitatingly rejected by the Nestorian and Jacobite Churches.

But though the Syrian Church maintained this unconciliatory attitude to the book, opposition to it began gradually to disappear in the rest of the East. Thus it came to be acknowledged by Athanasius, Isidore of Pelusium, Gregory of Nyssa, and others. Commentaries on the book were written by Andreas, archbishop of Caesarea, in the 5th century, and Arethas in the 9th.

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Western Church

In the Western Church, Revelation was accepted by all writers from Hippolytus onward with the exception of Jerome, who relegated it to the class lying between the canonical and apocryphal. The authenticity of the book was unquestioned thenceforward till the Reformation, when the view of Jerome was revived by Erasmus, Carlstadt, Luther and others under various forms. In the Lutheran Church this opposition lasted into the next century, but in the Reformed it gave way much earlier. That Revelation has retained its place in the canon is due not to its extravagant claims to inspiration or its apocalyptical disclosures, but to its splendid faith and unconquerable hope, that have never failed to awake the corresponding graces in every age of the Church's history.

The History of Interpretation

This is a most fruitful subject, and the study of it helps to settle other related questions. We first of all might divide the methods of interpretation into two classes: I. Methods which presuppose the literal unity of the book; II. Methods which presuppose some breach of this unity either in the plan of the book as a whole or in some of its details.

I. Methods presupposing the Literal Unity of the Book. - Where the book was accepted the problem of its interpretation was differently dealt with according to the age and environment of the interpreter. The book was first taken in a severely literal sense, and particularly in its chiliastic doctrine.

i. Chiliastic Interpretation

Revelation was held to teach chiliasm, or the doctrine of the literal reign of moo years. Amongst the chiliasts were Cerinthus, Papias, Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian and Victorinus.' When the Church obtained the mastery of the world this method came naturally to be abandoned in favour of a spiritualistic interpretation, to which we shall presently refer. But the growing secularism of the Church led to a revival of the former method in the beginning of the 13th century amongst the Franciscans. Thus Joachim of Floris in his Expositio magni abbatis I oachimi in Apoc. teaches that Babylon is Rome, the Beast from the Sea Islam, the False Prophet the heretical sects of the day, and that on the close of the present age which was at hand the millennium would ensue. This method of interpretation was pursued to extravagant lengths by other Franciscans and was subsequently 1 The oldest Latin commentary was written by this scholar (ob. 303). He was the first in extant literature to interpret certain passages in Revelation of Nero.

adopted by the Protestant reformers, who could justify their identification of the papacy with the Antichrist from books written within the Roman communion. Joachim was the first to apply the "recapitulation" theory to Revelation.

ii. Spiritualistic Interpretation

The founder of this school of interpretation was Ticonius the Montanist (floruit A.D. 380), though he followed therein the precedent set by Origen. His interpretation is on the whole mystical. Historical fulfilments, if not excluded, are not sought for. The millennium is the period between the first and second comings of Christ. The method of Ticonius was dominant in the Church down to the middle ages, amongst his followers being such notable churchmen as Augustine, Primasius, Cassiodorus, Bede, Anselm.

iii. Universal Historical Method of Interpretation

A counterattempt over against Joachim to interpret Revelation in the light of history was made by Nicolas of Lyra (1329, in his Postilla), following (?) therein the lead of Petrus Aureolus (1317). Here for the first time a consistently elaborated world-historical interpretation is carried out from the reign of Domitian to Lyra's own period. Under this method might be classed the expositions of Luther, Osiander, Striegel, Flacius, Gerhard and Calovius; and English writers such as Napier, Mede and Newton. Throughout these later commentaries a strong antipapal interest which identified the pope with the Antichrist holds a central place - a doctrine which, as we have seen, goes back historically to the immediate disciples of Joachim and like-minded Franciscans.

iv. Contemporary-Historical Method

Under the stress of the Protestant attack there arose new methods on the papal side, and their authors were the Spanish Jesuits, Ribeira (ob. 1591) and Alcasar (ob. 1614). With these writers we have the beginning of a scientific method of interpretation. They approach the book from the standpoint of the author and seek the clue to his writings in the events of his time. It is from these scholars that subsequent writers of Revelation have learnt how to study this book scientifically. 2 This method was adopted and developed by Grotius, 3 Hammond, Clericus, Semler, Corredi and Eichhorn, Dicke, Bleek and Ewald, and the consciousness that Rome and not Jerusalem was the object of attack in Revelation became increasingly clear in the works of these scholars. The work of Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches (1904), is a pure representative of this method.

v. - vii. Continuously Historical, Eschatological 4 and Symbolical Methods. - These methods are now generally regarded as unscientific, and call for no further notice here save to mention that the first was upheld by Hengstenberg, Ebrard, Maitland, Elliott, &c.; the second by Kliefoth, Beck, Zahn, and the third by Auberlen, Luthardt, Milligan and Benson.

The learned Cambridge Commentary by Swete (The Apocalypse of John, 2nd ed., 1907) makes use of several of the methods of interpretation enumerated above. Thus Dr Swete writes (p. ccxviii) of his work: "With the ` preterists ' (contemporary-historical) it will take its stand on the circumstances of the age and locality to which the book belongs, and will connect the greater part of the prophecy with the destinies of the empire under which the prophet lived; with the ` futurists ' (eschatological) it will look for fulfilments of St John's pregnant words in times yet to come. With the school of Auberlen and Benson it will find in the Apocalypse a Christian philosophy of history; with the ` continuous-historical ' school it can see 2 The Jesuit Juan Mariana was the first after Victorinus to explain" the wounded head "as referring to Nero. This interpretation was introduced into Protestant exegesis by Corrodi.

3 The beginnings of the literary-critical method are to be found in Grotius. Starting from the different dates assigned by tradition to the exile to Patmos and the different chronological relations implied in the book itself, he conjectured that the Apocalypse was composed of several works of St John, written in different places and at different times, some before, some after A.D. 70. Herein he was followed by Hammond and Lakemacher, but the idea was before its time and practically died stillborn.

4 Or futurist. While it is impossible to interpret the Apocalypse scientifically as a whole by the eschatological method, there are undoubtedly some sections in it which must be so interpreted.

in the progress of events ever new illustrations of the working of the great principles which are revealed. And. .. it will gladly accept all that research and discovery can yield for the better understanding of the conditions under which the book was written." The chief value of this very scholarly book is to be found in its textual side.

The greater number of the methods discussed above have made no permanent contribution to the exegesis of Revelation; the method among them that has done most in this direction is the contemporary-historical. But, though this method has been applied in its fullness, and that by the keenest exegetes, there remains a consciousness that it has failed to solve many of the problems of the book. In many important points, however, its upholders are agreed, i.e. that the book is directed against Rome, that Nero redivivus is to be recognized in the wounded head, that the number 666 denotes Nero Caesar, and that in chap. xi. the preservation of the temple is foretold. Consequently the date of the composition of the book is placed before A.D. 70. Against the date assigned to the opening verses of this chapter modern scholars can make no objection, but, if this be the date of the entire work, then many passages in it are hopelessly inexplicable; for the latter just as certainly demand a date subsequent to A.D. 70 as xi. 1-2, a date prior to it. If, therefore, the possibilities of exegesis were exhausted in the list of methods already enumerated, science would have to put the New Testament Apocalypse aside as a hopeless enigma. But there is no such impasse. For in the New Testament Apocalypse there is not that rigid consistency and unity in detail that the past presupposed. The critical studies of recent years have shown that most of the Old Testament prophetical books are composite. And this holds true in no less a degree of most of the Jewish apocalypses. Such works are to be explained on what might be called the "fragmentary hypothesis." Other books, like the Ethiopic Enoch, exhibit a series of independent sources connected more or less loosely together. Such are to be explained on the "sources hypothesis." Others, like the Ascension of Isaiah, betray the handiwork of successive editors, and are accordingly to be explained on the "redaction hypothesis." Now modern scholars have with varying success used in turn these three hypotheses with a view to the solution of the problems of the New Testament Apocalypse. To these we shall now address ourselves.

II. Methods-Literary-Critical-presupposing some Degree of Compositeness in the Book. i. Redaction Hypothesis.-Suggestions, as we have already observed, had been made in this direction, but it was not till Weizsacker (Theol. Litteraturzeitung, 1882, p. 78 seq.) reopened the question that the problem was seriously undertaken. In the same year his pupil Volter (Die Entstehung der Apok., 1882, 1885) put forward the bold theory that the original Apocalypse consisted of 1.4-6, iv. I-v. 10, vi. I-17, vii. I-8, viii. I-13, ix. 1-21, Xi. 14-19, xiv. 1-3, 6, 7, xiv. 14-20, xviii. 1-24, xix. 1-4, xix. 5-IOa, which he assigned to the year A.D. 66 (so the second edition). To this the original author added as an appendix x. I-xi. 13, xiv. 8, xvii. I-18, in A.D. 68-70. The work underwent three later redactions at the hands of successive editors in the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian. Instead of the above complex theory this writer now offers another (Die Offenbarung Johannis, 1904), 1 in which he distinguishes an apocalypse of John, A.D. 65, i. 4-6, iV. I-v. Io, vi. I-vii. 8, viii.-ix., xi. 14-19, xiv. 1-3, 6-7, xiv. 14-20, xviii. i-xix. 4, xix. 5-io (pp. 3-56), an apocalypse of Cerinthus A.D. 70, x. I-1 1, xvii. I-18, xi. 1-13, xii. I-16, xv. 5-6, 8, xvi. 1-21, xix. II-xxi. 8, xxi. 9-xxii. 6 (pp. 56-129), a redaction of the work in A.D. 114-15, I. 7-8, V. 6b, 11-14, vii. 9-17, xii. i i, 18-xiii. 18, xiv. 4-5, 9-12, xv. 1-4, 7, xvi. 19b, xvii. 14, 16, 17, xxi. 14, 22-27, Xxii. 1-2, 8-9 (pp. 129-48), and certain additions, i. 1-3, 9-iii. 22, xiv. 13, xvi. 15, xxii. 7, 10-20, made in the time of Hadrian (pp. 148-171). First of all it should be observed that VSlter was the first to 1 Besides the works mentioned here Volter wrote two other works on the Apocalypse: Die Offenbarung Johannis, 1886; Das Problem der Apokalypse, 1893.

call attention to the radical difference in outlook between vii. 1-8 and vii. 9-17--a difference now generally recognized. Next it is noteworthy that in the second scheme here given Volter has abandoned his theory of a redaction hypothesis in favour of a sources hypothesis--a redactor. The earlier view of 'Wolter was rejected on every side: the later will not prove more acceptable, though individual suggestions of this scholar will be occasionally helpful. The problem was next dealt with by Vischer (Die Offenbarung Johannis, eine Jiidische Apokalypse in Christlicher Bearbeitung, 1886, 2nd ed., 1895), who took iv. I-xxii. 5 to be a Jewish apocalypse revised and edited by a Christian, to whom he assigned i.-iii., v. 9-14, vii. 9-17, Xi. 8b, xii. II, xiii. 9, 10, XIV. I-5, 12, 13, xvi. 15, xvii. 14, xix. 9, 10, 13b, xx. 4b-5a, 6, xxi. 5b-8, 14b, xxii. 6-21, together with some isolated expressions and all references to the Lamb. This scheme met with a better reception than that of Vdlter, but it also has failed to solve the problem. In 1891 Erbes (Offenbarung Johannis, 1891) maintained that the book was entirely of Christian origin. The groundwork was written about A.D. 62. In this an editor incorporated a Caligula apocalypse, and a subsequent editor revised the existing work in many passages and made considerable additions, especially in the later chapters. Another attempt, mainly from this standpoint, has recently been made by J. Weiss of Marburg (Offenbarung des Johannis, 1904). This writer seeks to establish the existence of an original Christian apocalypse written before A.D. 60. This included (see p. III) i. 4-6 (7, 8), 9-19, ii.-vii., ix., xii. 7-12, X111. II-18, xiv. I-5, 14-20, XX. I-15, xxi. 1-4, xxii. 3-5, 8 sqq. With this a Jewish apocalypse (x.-xi. 13, xii. 1-6, 14-17, xiii. 1-7, xv.-xix., xxi. 9-27-see p. 115), written A.D. 70, was incorporated by the redactor. This latter apocalypse consisted of a series of independent prophecies which appeared to have the same crisis in view. This redactor, moreover, was the first who gave to the Apocalypse the character of an attack on the Roman Empire and the imperial cult by means of a series of small additions. In the above work we have a combination of the redaction and sources hypotheses.

ii. Sources Hypothesis.-The same year Weyland (Theol. Tijdsch., 1886, 454-70; Omwerkings en Compilatie-Hypothesen toegepast op de Apoc. van Johannis, 1888) advanced the theory of two Jewish sources (K and 3), which were subsequently worked over by a Christian redactor. Such a theory as that just mentioned hopelessly fails to account for the linguistic unity of the book.

A very elaborate form of this theory was issued in 1884 (Offenbarung Johannis) by Spitta, who found three main sources in the Apocalypse. First, there was the primitive Christian apocalypse embracing the letters and the seals written by John Mark soon after A.D. 60,-i. 4-6, 9-19, ii. i-iii. 22, iv.-vi., viii. I, vii. 9-17, xix. 9b, 10, xxii. 8, 10-13, 16a, 17, 18a, 20b-21. Secondly, the trumpet source of the time of Caligula (circa 40),-vii. 1-8, viii. 2-ix., X. 1-7, xi. 15, 19, xii.-xiii. 18, xiv. I-1 I, xvi. 13-20, xix. 11-21, XX. 1-3, 8-15, xxi. 1, 5a, 6a. Thirdly, the vials source from the time of Pompey (circa 63),- x. ib, 2a, 8a, 9b, 10-11, xi. I-13, 15b, 17, 18, xiv. 14-20, XV. 2-6, 8, xvi. I-12, 17a, 21, xvii. I-6a, xviii. I-23, xix. I-8, xxi. 9-xxii. 3a, 15. The rest of the book is from the hands of the redactor.

In 1891 Schmidt resolved the book into three independent sources which were put together by a redactor (Anmerkungen iiber d. Komposition der Offenb. Johannis). In 1895 Briggs (Messiah of the Apostles, 1895) developed this theory to a still more extreme degree.

iii. Fragment Hypothesis.-The previous theories have brought to light and emphasized the fact that within the Apocalypse there are passages inconsistent with the tone and character of the whole. But, notwithstanding this fact, the Apocalypse gives a strong impression of its unity. Thus apparently the only remaining theory which can account for both these phenomena is that at which we have now arrived, i.e. the fragment hypothesis. To Weizsacker we owe the first statement of this theory. In 1882 (Theol. Litteraturz. pp. 78-9) he suggested that while the book is a unity the author made free use of older materials. Later, in his Apostolic Age (1886, 2nd ed. 1892), he specifies these additions as vii. 1-8 (A.D. 64-66), x. - xi. 1-13 (circa A.D. 67), xii. 1-11, 12-17 (circa 69), xiii. (time of Vespasian), xvii. (time of Domitian).

Sabatier (Les Origines litteraires. .. de l'apocalypse, 1888) regards the book as a unity into which its author had introduced older Jewish materials not always consistent with their new contexts, such as xi. 1-13, xii. - xiii., xiv. 6-20, xvi. 13, 14, 16, xvii. i - xix. 2, xix. 11-xx. 10, xxi. 9-xxii. 5. The author wrote x. with a view to adapting xi. 1-13 to its new context. Schoen (L'Origine de l'apocalypse, 1887) attached himself in the main to the scheme of Sabatier. Both these writers assign the Apocalypse to the reign of Domitian.

The labours of these scholars, though to the superficial student they seem to prove that everything is possible and nothing certain, have certainly thrown great light on the literary character of the Apocalypse. Though differing in detail, they tend to show that, while the book is the production of one author, all its parts are not of the same date, nor are they one and all his first-hand creation. For many of the facts, the discovery of which we owe to the literary critics, have made the assumption of an absolute unity in the details of the Apocalypse a practical impossibility. Incongruities manifest themselves not only between certain sections and the main scheme of the book, but also between these and their immediate contexts. These sections are vii. 1-8a, xi. 1-13, xii., xiii., xvii., xviii., xx., xxi. 9 - xxii. 5. Some of these sections (xi., xii., xiii., xvii.) contain elements that cannot be explained from any of the above methods. The symbols and myths in these are not the creation of the writer, but borrowed from the past, and in not a few instances the materials are too foreign to his subject to lend themselves to his purpose without the help of artificial and violent expedients. For the elucidation of these foreign elements a new method - the traditional-historical - is necessary, and to the brilliant scholar Gunkel we owe its origination.

iv. Traditional-historical Method. - Gunkel (Schopfung und Chaos in Urzeit and Endzeit; eine religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung fiber Gen. i and Joh. 12, 1895) opened up new lines of investigation. He criticizes sharply (pp. 173 sqq., 233 sqq.) former methods of interpretation, and with the ardour of a discoverer of a new truth seeks to establish its currency throughout the entire field of apocalyptic. To such an extreme does he carry his theory that he denies obvious references to historical personages in the Apocalypse, when these are clothed in apocalyptic language. Thus he refuses to recognize Nero in the beast and its number. But apart from its extravagances, his theory has undoubted elements of truth. It is true that tradition largely fixes the form of figures and symbols in apocalyptic. Yet each new apocalypse is to some extent a reinterpretation of traditional material, which the writer uses not wholly freely but with reverence from the conviction that they contained the key to the mysteries of the present and the past. From this standpoint it may be argued that every apocalypse is in a certain sense pseudonymous; for the materials are not the writer's own, but have come down to him as a sacred deposit - full of meaning for the seeing eye and the understanding heart. On the other hand, since much of the material of an apocalypse is a reinterpretation, it is necessary to distinguish between its original meaning and the new turn given to it in the Apocalypse. At times details in the transmitted material are unintelligible to our author, and these in some cases he omits referring to in his interpretation. The presence of such details is strong evidence of the writer's use of foreign material.

As an illustration of his theory Gunkel seeks at great length to establish the Babylonian origin of chap. xii. of the Apocalypse. His investigation tends to show that in the course of tradition cosmological myths are transformed into eschatological dogmas.

The above method was adopted by Bousset in his work Der Antichrist in der Uberlieferung des Judenthums, des Neuen Testaments, and der alter Kirche (1895), in which he sought to show that a fixed tradition of the Antichrist originating in Judaism can be traced from New Testament times down to the middle ages, and that this tradition was in the main unaffected by the Apocalypse, though in chap. xi. the Apocalypse shows dependence on it. Next in 1896 he published his commentary Die Offenbarung Johannis (2nd ed. 1906). In this work he availed himself of the results of the past and followed the three approved methods - the contemporary-historical, the fragmentary and the traditional-historical.

Julicher (Einleitung in das Neue Testament', 1901, pp. 204-29) adopts the same three methods of interpretation.

Holtzmann (Einleitung in das N.T. 2 , 1892; Hand-Commentar2, 1893; Lehrbuch der NTlichen Theol., i. 463-76) holds mainly to the contemporary-historical method in his earlier works, though recognizing signs of a double historical background; but in his last work the importance of tradition as a source of the writer's materials is fully acknowledged.

In 1902 0. Pfleiderer in the second edition of his Urchristentum (1902, pp. 281-335) abandoned his former view on the Apocalypse and followed essentially the lines adopted by Bousset, though the details are differently treated.

In the same year Porter's able article on "Revelation" appeared in Hastings' Bible Dictionary (iv. 239-66), and in 1905 his still fuller treatment of the same theme in The Messages of the Apocalyptical Writers, 169-294. To these works the present writer is indebted for many a suggestion.

A small commentary (no date) by Anderson Scott follows in some measure the lines laid down in Bousset and Porter.

Psychological Method

It might be supposed that all possible methods had now been considered, and that a combination of the three methods which have established their validity in relation to the interpretation of the Apocalypse would be adequate to the solution of all the problems of the book, but this is not so; for even when each in turn has vindicated the provinces in the book that rightly belong to it, and brought intelligibility into these areas, there still remain outlying regions which they fail to illumine. It is not indeed that these methods have not claimed to solve the questions at issue, but that their solutions have failed to satisfy the larger body of reasonable criticism. The main problem, which so far has not been satisfactorily solved, may be shortly put as follows: Are the visions in the Apocalypse the genuine results of spiritual experiences, or are they artificial productions, mere literary vehicles of the writer's teaching? Weizsacker unhesitatingly advocates the latter view. But the serious students of later times find themselves unable to follow in his footsteps. The writer's belief in his prophetic office and his obvious conviction of the inviolable sanctity of his message make it impossible to accept Weizsacker's opinion. Nor is it possible to accept Gunkel's theory in Schiipfung and Chaos as an adequate explanation, who explained the author's conviction of the truth of his message as springing always from the fact that he was dealing with traditional material. This theory, which we have already dealt with in other connexions, is undoubtedly helpful, but here we require something more, and Gunkel has in consequence of Weinel's work (Wirkungen des Geistes and der Geister, 1899) subsequently acknowledged that actual spiritual experiences lie behind some of the visions in apocalyptic (Kautzsch, Pseud. des A.T., ii. 341 sqq.). The fact of such visionary experience can hardly be questioned: the only difficulty lies in determining to what extent it underlies the revelations of apocalyptic. For a short discussion of this question we might refer to Bousset's Offenbarung Johannis 2 , pp. 8 sqq., and Porter's article on Revelation "in Hastings' Bible Dictionary, iv. 248 sqq.

Methods of Interpretation

As a result of the preceding inquiry we conclude that the student of the Apocalypse must make use of the following methods - the contemporaryhistorical, the literary-critical (fragmentary hypothesis), the traditional-historical and the psychological. Each of these has its legitimate province, and the extent of this province can in most cases be defined with reasonable certainty.

Plan and Detailed Criticism of the Book

Two theories have been advanced to explain the plan and order of the book. The first of these is the recapitulation theory which Tyconius originated and Augustine adopted, and which has been revived in later times by Hofmann, Hengstenberg and others. This theory holds that no progress is designed in the successive visions of the seven seals, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls; for that in the vision of the seals we have already an account of the last judgment (vi. 12-17) and the blessed consummation (vii. 9-17). Thus the three groups form parallel accounts and contain the same or closely related material. But such a view is in conflict with the fact that the Apocalypse exhibits a steady movement from a detailed account of the condition of actual individual churches on an ever-widening sweep to the catastrophes that will befall every nation and country till at last evil is finally overthrown and the blessedness of the righteous consummated. Accordingly later exegetes 1 hold that the seventh in each series is unfolded in the series of seven that follows. But to this theory also it has been objected (Holtzmann, Hand-Commentar. p. 294) that the bowls are in the main a repetition - in parts weaker, in others stronger - of what has already been put forward in the trumpets; that before the seventh member of each hebdomad there is a pause occasioned by the insertion of visions of a different nature; that the final judgment has already been depicted in vi. 17, and yet further descriptions recur in x. 6, 7, xi. 15-18, xiv. 7, xix. i i: the temple in heaven is opened in xi. 19 and yet again in xv. 5: heaven itself has already been rent in sunder in vi. 12-17, and yet in viii. 7-12 is supposed to be in its ancient order: all green grass is burnt up in. viii. 7, yet in ix. 4 the locusts are not permitted to injure the grass, and other like inconsistencies.

The impossibility of logically carrying out either theory has given rise to doubts as to the unity of the book. Holtzmann (Hand-Comment. 295) represents its structure as follows: i. 1 -8 Introduction.

i. 9-iii. 22 Group of seven letters.

iv.-v. 14 Heavenly scene of the Vision.

vi. I-17 Six seals.

vii. 1-17.. The sealed and the blessed. viii. 1-5 The emergence of the trumpets from the seventh seal. viii. 6.-ix. 21 Six trumpets.

x. I-xi. 14. Destiny of Jerusalem. xi. 15 -19 The seventh trumpet.

xii. I-xiv. 5. The great visions of the three chief enemies and of the Kingdom of the Messiah.

xiv. 6-20.. Return to the earlier connexion.

I -xvi. i. Transition to the bowls.

xvi. 2-21 Seven bowls.

xvii. i-xix. Io The great Babylon. xix. II-xx. 15 Final catastrophes.

xxi.-xxii. 5. The New Jerusalem.

xxii. 6 -21.. Conclusion.

It is noteworthy that the sections on the right hand correspond in the main to the elements which have been those to which 1 Swete divides the Apocalypse first of all into forty-two minor sections. Next he groups these sections into fourteen larger masses of apocalyptic matter, and by a process of synthesis seeks to arrive at the plan on which the author constructed his book. In so doing he points out that we become conscious of a great cleavage which practically divides the book into two parts, i. 9-xi. 14 and xii. 1xxii. 5, independently of the prologue and greeting, i. 1-8, and the epilogue and benediction, xxii. 6-21. A further study of the leading thoughts of the above parts enables him to set forth the scheme of the book as follows: Prologue And Greeting, 1.1-8.

Part I. Vision of Christ in the midst of the churches, i. 9-iii. 22. Vision of Christ in Heaven, iv. I-v. 14.

Preparations for the End, vi. 1-xi. 19.

Part II. Vision of the Mother of Christ (i.e. the Church) and her enemies, xii. I-xiii. 18.

Preparations for the End, xiv. 1-xx. 15.

Vision of the Bride of Christ arrayed for her husband, xxi. I-xxii. 5.

Epilogue and benediction, xxii. 6-21.

the latest critics have assigned either an earlier date or a different authorship.

Chaps. i.-iii.---These chapters open with a prologue, i. 1-3, which defines the source, character and contents of the book, followed by a greeting, i. 4-8, in which the writer salutes the Seven Churches of Asia. Having so introduced his work the author describes a vision of the ascended Christ, i. 9-20, who sends His messages to the angels of the Seven Churches, ii.-iii. With the conclusion of these epistles the Apocalypse proper really begins. But the way has been prepared for it. Its contents. are" the things which must quickly happen,"i. i. The visions are not for John's personal benefit, but for transmission to the church at large, i. i 1, and the writer is bidden to write down what he has seen and" the things which are and the things which shall be hereafter,"i. 19.

iv.-vi.---The first three chapters show great artistic skill, and the power of the artist is no less conspicuous in what follows. First of all John is bidden to come up into heaven and see the things that should be hereafter, the vision of iv. i. Then he beholds the Almighty on His throne surrounded by the four and twenty elders and the four living creatures. Before Him they all bow in worship and acknowledge that by Him were created all things and of His own free will were all created. In the next chapter (v.) the seer has a vision of a roll in the hand of Him that sat on the throne which none could open or look upon, till the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the mighty one with seven horns. and seven eyes, appeared. Before Him all the elders and the living creatures fell down and acknowledged that He had power to open the seven seals thereof, and their song was re-echoed by every thing alike in heaven and earth. The contrast between these two chapters and those that follow is striking in the extreme. The time of the seer's vision is one of direst need. The life and death struggle between the church and the empire has now entered on its final stage, and fear and trouble and woe are rife in the hearts of the faithful. But when the seer is exalted tg heaven he sees no trace of the turmoil on earth. The vision of the Almighty is full of majesty and peace. All things do Him service; for all are the free creation of His will. The next vision serves to connect the Source and Sustainer of all things with the world and its history. The closing of the intermediate stage of the history of created things is committed to the Christ who will also be Lord of the age to come. The future of the saints is assured: what can avail against Him that hath" glory and dominion for ever and ever "the wild attacks of Rome and even of Satan and his hosts ? The Lamb that was slain has taken upon Himself the burden of the world's history.

In vi. we have the opening of the six seals, and the horrors of the future begin. The choice of three series of seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls, to form the framework in which the history of the last woes is to be given, shows the same hand that addressed the churches as seven. But between the sixth and seventh seals and the sixth and seventh trumpets the connexion is more or less disturbed by the insertion of certain interludes containing material foreign in certain aspects to the Apocalypse. These are vii. 1-17 and x. 1-xi. 14.

vii. z-17. - These verses, which interrupt the plan of the book, fall into two independent fragments, 1-8 and 9-17, which are inconsistent in their original meaning with each other. For while 1-8 was most probably a Jewish apocalyptical fragment and strongly particularistic, 9-17 is clearly universalist in character and is probably from the hand of our author. The foreign origin of vii. 1-8 may be concluded with Spitta, Bousset and others from the fact that the four winds, which in vii. I are said to be held fast lest they should break in elemental fury on land and sea, are not let loose or referred to in the subsequent narrative, and also from the mention of the 144,000 Israelites of the twelve tribes, to whom no further reference is made; for these can no more be identified with the countless multitudes in vii. 9-17 than with those who are" sealed "in ix. 4 sq. nor with the 144,000 in xiv. 1; for in both these cases the sealed are not Jews but elect Christians. The object of both fragments was to encourage the faithful in the face of the coming strife. In the latter, in which the Apocalyptist looks forward prophetically to the issue, the assurance held out is of ultimate victory, but of victory through death or martyrdom. In the former (Jewish or Christian-Jewish fragment) the sealing seemed to have carried with it the assurance of deliverance from physical death, as in Ezek. ix. 4 sqq. But in its new context this meaning can hardly be retained. Not improbably the sealing means to our author the preservation not from death, but through death from unfaithfulness, and the number 144,000 would signify mystically the entire body of true Christians, which formed the true people of God.

Chapter vii., then, interrupts the development of the author's plan, but the interruption is deliberate. He wishes to encourage the persecuted church not only to face without fear, but also to meet with triumphant assurance the onset of those evils which would bring panic and despair on the unbelieving world.

viii. - ix

These chapters, though presenting some minor difficulties, do not call for discussion here. They recount the six partial judgments which followed the opening of the seventh seal and the blasts of the six trumpets.

x. - xi. 1-13. - This section bristles with difficulties. Chapter x. forms an introduction to xi. I-13. In it the prophet receives a new commission, x. 11: Thou must prophesy again over many peoples and nations and tongues and kings." This new commission explains his departure from the plan pursued in the earlier chapters of developing the seventh in each series into a new series of seven. The seer has a vision of the seven thunders, but these he is bidden to seal and not commit to writing. He is instead to write down the new book of prophecies. The end is at hand. It is noteworthy that in the earlier visions it was Christ who spoke to the seer. Here and in the later visions, especially those drawn from foreign sources, it is an angel.

In xi. 1-13 we have a characteristic illustration of our author's dependence on traditional materials and his free adaptation of them to meanings other than originally belonged to them. For it is generally agreed among critics that xi. 1-13 is borrowed from Jewish sources, and that this fragment really consists of two smaller fragments, xi. 1-2 and xi. 3-13. The former oracle referred originally to the actual Temple, and contained a prediction of the preservation of the Temple. It must have been written before A.D. 70 and probably by a Zealot.' But our author could not have taken it in this literal sense if he wrote after A.D. 70 or even anterior to that date, owing to the explicit declaration of Christ as to the coming destruction of Jerusalem. The passage, then, must have a spiritual meaning, and its purpose is the encouragement of the faithful by the assurance of their deliverance not necessarily from physical death but from the dominion of the evil one. In xi. 3-13 we have another Jewish fragment of a very enigmatic character. Bousset has shown with much probability that it is part of the Antichrist legend. The prophecy of the two witnesses and their martyrdom belongs to this tradition. The fragment was apparently written before A.D. 70, since it speaks of the fall of only a tenth of the city, xi. 13.2 The significance of this fragment in our author's use of it is similar to that of xi. 1-2. The details defy at present any clear interpretation, but the incorporation of the fragment may be due in general to the emphasis it lays on the faithful witness, martyrdom and resurrection of the saints.

xi. 14-19

The seventh trumpet, xi. 15, ushers in the third woe, xi. 14. Its contents are given in xii. - xx. In xi. 15-1q the seer hears. great voices in heaven singing a triumphal song in anticipation of the victory that is speedily to be achieved. This song forms a prelude to the chapters that follow.

1 The Zealots occupied the inner court of the Temple during its siege by the Romans.

2 The linguistic evidence, as Bousset has pointed out, confirms the critical conclusion that xi. 1-13 were independent sources. For whereas in ix. - x. the verb almost regularly begins the sentence and object follows the verb, in xi. 1-13 the object frequently precedes the verb and the subject nearly always. The order of the genitive in xi. 4 is elsewhere unknown in the Apocalypse, and in xi. 2, 3 the construction of St50vae followed by Kai instead of infinitive or Iva is unique in this book.


This is the most difficult chapter in the book. Its main intention in its present context is apparently to explain Satan's dominion over the world and the bitterness of his rage against the church and against Christ. Christ, indeed, escapes him and likewise the Jewish Christians ("the woman," xii. 16) but "the rest of her seed," xii. 17 (the Gentile Christians?), are exposed to his fury. But his time is at hand; together with his hosts he has been cast down from heaven, and on the earth he "hath but a short time." The attribution of the seven heads and ten horns to the dragon, xii. 3, points forward to Rome, which is regarded as a temporary incarnation of Satan, xiii. I, xvii. 3.

But, though a few of the leading thoughts of this chapter may be obvious, we are plunged into problems that all but defy solution when we essay to discover its origin or interpret its details. Most scholars are agreed that this chapter is not, except in the case of a few sentences, the work of our author. In other words, it has been taken over from pre-existing material - either Christian or Jewish - and the materials of which it is composed are ultimately derived from non-Jewish sources - either Babylonian, Greek or Egyptian - and bore therein very different meanings from those which belong to them in their present connexion. Furthermore, the materials are fragmentary and the order irregular: (a) First of all, the chapter is not the free creation of a Christian writer. Such an one could never have so represented the life of Christ - a child persecuted by a dragon and carried off to God's throne. No mention of Christ's earthly life and crucifixion. Furthermore, the victory over Satan is ascribed to Michael. Again, a Christian could not represent Christ as the son of the wife of the sun-god; for such is the natural interpretation of the woman crowned with the twelve stars and with her feet upon the moon. Finally, even if "the woman" who is the mother of Christ be taken to be the ideal Israel in the beginning of the chapter, at its close she is clearly the Christian community founded by Him. We conclude, therefore, that the present chapter is not the work of our author. There are, however, traces of his hand. Thus 7-12, which is really a Jewish fragment recounting the victory of Michael over Satan, has to a certain degree been adapted to a Christian environment by the insertion of the b - I 1.

(b) The order is not original. The flight of the woman is mentioned in verse 6 to a place of refuge prepared for her by God. Then comes an account of the casting down of Satan from heaven. Then again in 13-16 the flight of the woman is described. This fact has been variously accounted for by different critics. Wellhausen regards 1-6 and 7-14 as doublets, and differentiates two actions in the original account which are here confused. Spitta takes verse 6 to be an addition of the redactor, which describes proleptically what follows, while Gunkel sees in 6 and 7-16 parallel accounts. In any case we should probably agree with the contention of J. Weiss, supported by Bousset in the second edition of his commentary, that 7-12 is a fragment of a Jewish apocalypse, of which lob-11 is an addition of our author. Next that 6 is a doublet of 13 sqq. What then is to be made of 1-5, 13-17? Different explanations have been offered. Gunkel 3 traces it to a Babylonian origin. He urges that an adequate explanation is impossible on the assumption of a Jewish or Christian origin. At the base of this account lies the Babylonian myth' of the birth of the sun-god Marduk, his escape from the dragon who knows him to be his destined destroyer, and the persecution of Marduk's mother by the dragon. But Gunkel's explanation is an attempt to account for one ignotum per ignotius; for hitherto no trace of the myth of the sun-god's birth and persecution and the flight into the wilderness has been found in Babylonian mythology. Moreover, Gunkel no longer lays emphasis on the Babylonian, but merely on the mythical origin of the details. A more satisfactory explanation has been offered by Dieterich (Abraxas, 117 sqq.), who finds in this chapter an adaptation of the birth of Apollo and the attempt of the dragon Pytho to kill his mother Schopfung and Chaos § 3, Religionsgesch. Verstdndniss d. N.T., 54 sqqLeto, because it was foretold that Leto's son would kill the dragon. Leto escapes to Ortygia, which Poseidon covers with the sea in order to protect Leto. Here Apollo is born, who four days later slays the dragon. Yet another explanation from Egyptian mythology is given by Bousset (Offenbarung Johannis, 2nd ed., pp. 354, 355) in the birth of the sun-god Horus. Here the goddess mother is represented with a sun upon her head. Typhon slays Horus. Hathor, his mother, is persecuted by Typhon and escapes to a floating island with the bones of Horus, who revives and slays the dragon.' There are obvious points of similarity, possibly of derivation, between the details in our text and the above myths, but the subject cannot be further pursued here, save that we remark that in the sun myth the dragon tries to kill the mother before the child's birth, whereas in our text it is after his birth, and that neither in the Egyptian nor in the Greek myth is there any mention of the flight into the wilderness.

The insertion of the alien matter 7-12 between 1-5 and 13-17 may be due to our author's wish to show that the expulsion of Satan from heaven after Christ's birth and ascension to heaven was owing in some measure to Christ, although he has allowed Michael's name to remain in the borrowed passage, 7-12 - a fact which shows how dependent the writer was on tradition.


In this chapter we have the two beasts 2 which symbolize respectively Rome and the Roman provincial priesthood of the imperial cult. Thus the world powers of heathen statesmanship and heathen religion are leagued in a confederacy against the rising Christian Church. Against these the church is not to attempt to use physical force; its only weapon is to be passive endurance and loyalty to God.

That this chapter must be interpreted by the contemporaryhistorical method is now generally admitted. Even Gunkel is obliged to abandon his favourite theory here, though he contests strongly the recognition of any allusion to Nero. Various solutions have been offered as to the seven emperors designed by the seven heads of the beast, xiii. 1. But the details of this passage are not sufficiently definite to determine the question here. It will return in chapter xvii. There are, however, two facts pointing to a late date. The first is the advanced stage of development of this, the Neronic-Antichrist legend. One of the heads "is smitten unto death," but is healed of the death stroke. This points, we may here assume, to the Nero redivivus legend, which could not have arisen for a full generation after Nero's death, and the assumption receives large confirmation from the most probable interpretation of the enigmatical words, xiii. 18, "the number of the beast ... is six hundred and sixty six." Four continental scholars, Fritzsche, Benary, Hitzig and Reuss, independently recognized that Nero was referred to under the mystical number 666. For by transliterating Ka7vap Nepc'ev into Hebrew 1113 10,P and adding together the sums denoted by the Hebrew letters we obtain the number 666. This solution is confirmed by the fact that it is possible to explain by it an ancient (Western?) variant for the number 666, i.e. 616. This latter, which is attested by Irenaeus (v. 30.1), the commentary of Ticonius, and the uncial C, can be explained from the Latin form of the name Nero, which by its omission of the final n makes the sum total 616 instead of 666.

The above solution may be regarded as established, though several scholars, as Oscar Holtzmann (Stade's Geschichte des Volkes Israel, ii. 661), Spitta and Erbes, have contended that 616 was the original reading (I'aios Kaivap= 6r6) and that ' On the possibility of other points of contact between the Apocalypse and Egyptian mythology, see Mrs Grenfell's article, "Egyptian Mythology and the Bible," in the Monist (1906), pp. 169 - zoo.

2 In xiii. 2 the description of the beast unites the features of the four beasts in Daniel's vision (vii.). It is clear that our author identified the fourth beast (vii. 23) with Rome, as did also the author of 4 Ezra xii. io. But this was not the original significance of the fourth beast, for the author of Daniel referred thereby to the Greek empire; but, since the prophecy was not realized, it was subsequently reinterpreted, and applied, as we have observed, to Rome.

chapter xiii. was part of a Jewish apocalypse written under Caligula between the years 39 and 41. But this Caligula hypothesis cannot be carried out unless by a vigorous use of the critical knife, in the course of which more than a third of the chapter is excised. Moreover the number 616 is too weakly supported to admit of its being recognized as the original.

The figure of the first beast presents many difficulties, owing to the fact that it is not freely invented but largely derived from traditional elements and is by the writer identified with the seventh wounded head. The second beast, signifying the pagan priesthood of the imperial cult, called "the false prophet" in xvi. 13, appears to be an independent development of the Antichrist legend.

xiv. - xvi. - These chapters contain a vision of Christ on Mount Zion and the 144,000 of the undefiled that follow Him, xiv. 1-5, the last warnings relating to the harvest and vintage of the world, xiv. 6-20: the vision of the wrath of God in the outpouring of the seven bowls containing the seven last plagues, xv. - xvi.

In the above section most critics are agreed that xiv. 14-20 originally represented the final judgment and was removed from its rightful place at the close of an apocalypse to its present position. In its original setting "the one like unto a Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown" (xiv. 14), undoubtedly designated the Messiah, but the transformation of the final judgment into a preliminary act of judgment by a redactor, necessarily brought with it the degradation of the Son of Man to the level of a mere angel. Some critics hold that this apocalypse was the apocalyptic groundwork, but Bousset is of opinion that it stood originally in connexion with xi. 1-13.

As regards xvi. the views of critics take different directions, but that of Bousset followed by Porter seems the most reasonable. This is that this chapter forms an introduction to xvii., which was an independent fragment. The writer throws this introduction into his favourite scheme of seven acts, in this case symbolized by seven bowls. The earlier verses, 2-11, do not amount to much beyond a repetition of what is found in. viii. - ix., save that as a preparation for xvii. references are inserted to the beast and his worshippers (ver. 2) and to Rome (ver. 10). In xvi. 12-16 is a revised form of an older tradition.


This chapter presents great difficulties, especially if with the older and some of the recent exegetes we regard it as written at the same time and by the same author. Even so strong an upholder of the unity of the book as Swete is ready to admit that portions of xvii., as well as of xiii., show signs of an earlier date than the rest of the book. He writes: "The unity of the Book. .. cannot be pressed so far as to exclude the possibility that the extant book is a second edition of an earlier work, or that it incorporates earlier materials, and either hypothesis would sufficiently account for the few indications of a Neronic or Vespasianic date that have been found in it" (Apoc. of St John 2 , p. civ.). This chapter cannot be interpreted apart from the Neronic myth. Of this there appear to be two stages attested here. Of the earlier we have traces in xvii. 16-17 and xvi. 12, where there are allusions to Nero's confederacy with the Parthian kings with a view to the destruction of Rome. Of the later stage, when the myth of Nero redivivus was fused with that of the Antichrist, we have attestation in xvii. 8, 12-14, where Nero is regarded as a demon coming up from the abyss to war not with Rome but with Christ and the elect. This development of the Neronic myth belongs to the last years of the 1st century, and is decidedly against a Vespasianic date. To meet this difficulty a recent interpreter - Anderson Scott - though he assigns the book to the year A.D. 77, is yet willing to admit that the book though composed in the reign of Vespasian was "reissued with additions by the same hand after the death of Domitian" (Revelation, p. 56). Our author represents himself as writing under the sixth emperor. Five have already died, the seventh is yet to come, to be followed by yet an eighth, who is one of the seven (i.e. Nero). In order to arrive at the date here implied, we can begin the reckoning from Julius Caesar or Augustus, we can include or exclude Galba, Otho and Vitellius, and, finally, when we have drawn our conclusions from these data, there remains the possibility that the book was after all not written under the sixth emperor, but was really a vaticinium ex eventu. According to the different methods pursued, some have concluded that Nero was the sixth emperor, and thus dated the Apocalypse before A.D. 70; others Vespasian, and yet others Domitian. No solution of the difficulties of the chapter is wholly satisfactory, but the best yet offered seems to be that of Bousset (Offenbarung 2 , 410-18). He holds that i-7, 9-1 I, 5-18, belong to an original source, which was written in the reign of Vespasian and represents the earlier stage of the Neronic myth. To a reviser in Domitian's reign we owe 8,12-14 and 6b, a clause in 9, brat opri ... aurcov, and another in i i, o g iv Kai ourc g cTLV. If the clause Kai k Tou aiyaros rC:ov µapri)pcov'Incroii in 6 is an addition, then he thinks the source was Jewish and the "blood of the saints" was that shed at the destruction of Jerusalem, and the forecast of the author related to the destruction of Rome. When the reviser recast the passage it dealt not with the destruction of Jerusalem, but with the persecution of the Christians. Nero was now a demonic monster from the abyss, and the ten kings no longer Parthians but ghostly helpers of Nero. The destruction of Rome has now become a secondary event: the reviser's thought is fixed on the final strife between the Lamb and the Antichrist.

xviii.-xix. zo. - This section describes in prophetic language borrowed almost wholly from Isaiah and Jeremiah the coming judgment of Rome, and gives the ten lamentations of the kings and the merchants and the seamen over her, and the thanksgivings in heaven for her overthrow.

xix. zz-2z

The victory of the warrior Messiah over the two beasts, the Roman Empire and the imperial cultus and the kings of the earth. Many of the ideas set forth in earlier chapters here coalesce and find their consummation. The Messiah, whose birth and escape from the dragon was recounted in xii. 5, and who was to rule the nations with a rod of iron, at last appears in discharge of His office. The 'beast and the false prophet who are described in xiii. are cast alive into the lake of fire, and the kings of the earth who had assembled for this conflict, xvi. 14, xvii. 14, were slain by the sword of Him that sat on the horse.

The conception of the Messiah may be Jewish: at all events it is not distinctively Christian. The title "Word of God" can hardly be said to establish any connexion with the prologue of the Fourth Gospel; for the conceptions of the Messiah in that Gospel and in these chapters belong to different worlds of thought.

It is to be observed that our author follows the apocalyptic scheme of two judgments which is first attested about ioo B.C. The first judgment precedes the establishment of the temporary Messianic kingdom, as here in xix. 19-21; and the final judgment follows at its close, as here in xx. 7-10.

xx. z-6. - The millennium, or the period between the first and final judgments, when Christ, with His chosen, reigns and Satan is imprisoned. Rome has been overthrown, but, as Rome is only the last secular manifestation of Satan, there is yet the final struggle with Satan and his adherents. But the time for this struggle has not yet arrived. Satan is bound 1 and cast into the abyss, and the kingdom of Christ and of the martyrs and faithful confessors established for a thousand years. Thus it is shown that evil will be finally overcome; for that the true and ultimate power even in this world belongs to Christ and those that are His.

The main features of this section have been borrowed from Judaism. The Messianic kingdom was originally conceived of as of everlasting duration on the present earth, but about roo B.C. this idea was abandoned and the hopes of the faithful were directed to a temporary earthly kingdom of 400 or 1000 years or of indefinite duration (see R. H. Charles, Critical History of 1 This idea appears as early as the 2nd century B.C. Cf. Test. Levi xviii. 12.

the Doctrine of a Future Life, pp. 201-4, 261, 286, 288). Moreover, the expectation that the saints would rise to share in the blessedness of this kingdom is also found in Judaism, 4 Ezra vii. 28 (op. cit. p. 285).

xx. 7-zo. - Release of Satan and final assault on the city of God by the hosts of Gog and Magog at the instance of Satan. Satan and the beasts condemned to eternal torment.

xx. zz-z4

The Final Resurrection and Judgment.

xxi. 1--8. - The new heavens and the new earth. The language in this and the following section is highly figurative; but as Porter has well remarked: "Figurative language is the only language in which we can express our hope of heaven, and no figures can have greater power to suggest this hope than those taken from the literal longings of exiled Israel for the recovery of its land and city." xxi. 9-xxii. .5. - The vision of the New Jerusalem. There are several grounds for regarding this section as an independent source possibly of Jewish origin and subsequently submitted to a Christian revision. This view is taken by Vischer, Weyland, Spitta, Sabatier, J. Weiss, Bousset and others. Our author has incorporated it as describing the consummation of the prevision contained in xi. 15-18, in which he foresaw the time when the kingdom of the world would become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and the saints should enter on their reward. Moreover, he has already hinted at its contents in xix. 7 and xxi. 2, where he speaks of the church as a bride and the marriage supper of the Lamb. But the section betrays inconsistent conceptions. The standpoint of the heavenly Jerusalem is abandoned in xxi. 24-27, xxii. 2, and the context implies an earthly Jerusalem to which the Gentiles go up as pilgrims. Outside the gates of this city are unclean and abominable things. These inconsistencies are best explained by the hypothesis that our author was drawing upon a literary fixed tradition. The doublets in xxi. 23 and xxii. 5b, in xxi. 25 and xxii. 5a, and in xxi. 27 and xxii. 3, point in the same direction. Various additions were introduced, according to Bousset, by the last redactor, such as the frequently recurring reference to the Lamb, xxi. 9, 22, 2 3, 27, xxii. I, 3. In xxii. 3 the fact that the words "of the Lamb" are an addition is clear from the context; for, after the clause "the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein" the singular follows, "His servants shall do Him service." xxii. 6-2z. - The conclusion. The promises are sure, the end is near and the judgment at hand. The words of the book are the message of Christ Himself and are inviolable.


From the preceding sections it follows that we cannot ascribe a strict literary unity to the book. The book is most probably the work of a single author, but it was not written wholly at one date, nor have all the parts come directly from one brain. We have several good grounds, for regarding vii. i-8, xi. 1-13, xii., xiii., xvii., as wholly or in part independent sources, which our author has laid under contribution and adapted more or less adequately to his purpose. He appears to have taken over with but slight modification xx. and xxi. 9-xxii. 5. Furthermore, while certain fragments such as xi. 1-2 presuppose a date anterior to A.D. 70, others, as xvi. 12 and xvii. 12, require a date not later than Vespasian's time; other parts of xvii. postulate a Vespasianic date as the earliest admissible, and, finally, the composition of the book in its present form cannot be placed before the closing years of Domitian. But to this question we shall return presently.

Nevertheless, the book exhibits a relative unity; for, whatever digressions occur in the development of its theme, the main object of the writer is never lost sight of. This relative unity is manifested also in the uniform character of the language, a uniformity, however, which is occasionally conspicuous by its absence in the case of independent sources, as in xi. 1-13. The author or the final redactor has impressed a certain linguistic character on the book, which differentiates it not only from all secular writings of the time, but also from all the New Testament books, including the Johannine. And yet the Apocalypse shows in many of its phrases an undoubted affinity to the latter a fact which requires for its explanation the assumption that the book emanated from certain literary circles influenced by John.


There are many indications of the date, which may be summarized as follows: (a) Condition of the Asian churches. (b) Persecution of the church. (c) Attitude of the author to Rome. (d) The Antichrist legend. (e) Primitive tradition and its confirmation through the discovery of references in the text to certain edicts of Domitian. As a result of these considerations we may arrive at the date of the work with almost greater certainty than that of any other New Testament book.

(a) Condition of the Churches. - Christianity appears to have already had a long history behind it. The fact that St Paul founded the church of Ephesus seems to have been forgotten. The earliest zeal has passed away and heathen ways of thought and life are tolerated and practised at Pergamum and Ephesus, and faith is dying or dead at Laodicea and Sardis. These phenomena belong to a period considerably later than the time of Nero.

(b) Persecution of the Church. - Persecution is the order of the day. Each of the seven letters concludes with praise of those who have been victorious therein. There had been isolated instances of persecution at Ephesus, ii. 3, Philadelphia, iii. 8, 10, and at Smyrna, ii. 9, and of an actual martyrdom at Pergamum, ii. 13. But now a storm of persecution was about to break upon the universal church, iii. 10, and in the immediate future. Already the seer beholds the destined number of the martyrs complete, vi. 9-11: the great multitude whom no man could number, clothed in white before the throne of God, vii. 9: he exhorts his readers to patient endurance unto death, xiv. 12, and already sees them as victors in heaven, xv. 2. Over the true witnesses and martyrs he pronounces the final beatitude of the faithful: "Blessed are those who die in the Lord," xiv. 13.

Such an expectation of persecution is inexplicable from Nero's time. There is not a trace of any declaration of war on the universal church in his period such as the Apocalyptist anticipates and in part experiences. Christian persecution under Nero was an imperial caprice. The Christians were attacked on slanderous charges of superstition and secret abominations, but not as a church. Not till the last years of Domitian is it possible to discover conditions which would explain the apprehensions and experiences of our writer. So far as we can discover, no persecution was directed against Christians as Christians till Domitian's time. In the year A.D. 92 Flavius Clemens was put to death and his wife banished, on the ground that they were adherents of the new faith. Thus the temper of the book on this question demands some date after A.D. 90. It marks the transition, from the earlier tolerant attitude of Rome towards Christianity, to its later hostile attitude.

(c) Attitude of the Author towards Rome

In earlier times the church had strongly impressed the duty of loyalty to Rome, as we see from the Epistle to the Romans and 1 Peter. This was before the pressure of the imperial cult was felt by the Christian church. But in the Apocalypse we have the experiences of a later date. The writer manifests the most burning hatred towards Rome and the worship of its head - the beast and the false prophet, who are actual embodiments of Satan. Such an attitude on the part of a Christian is not explicable before the closing years of Domitian; for, apart from Caligula, he was the first Roman emperor who consistently demanded divine honours.

(d) The Antichrist Legend

We find at least two stages of the Neronic and Antichrist myth in the Apocalypse. The earliest form is not attested here, that Nero had not really been slain, but would speedily return and destroy his enemies. The first pretender appeared in A.D. 69, and was put to death in Cythnus. The second stage of this legend was that Nero had taken refuge in the Far East, and would return with the help of his Eastern subjects for the overthrow of Rome. Two pretenders arose in conformity - with this expectation among the Parthians in A.D. 80 and 88. This widespread expectation has left its memorial in our book in xvi. 12 and in xvii. 16-17, which point to the belief that Rome would be destroyed by Nero and the Parthian kings. Finally, in xiii. and xvii. 8, 12-14, we have a later phase of the myth, in which there is a fusion of the Antichrist myth with that of Nero redivivus. This fusion could hardly have taken place before the first half of Domitian's reign, when the last Neronic pretender appeared. As soon as the hope of the living Nero could no longer be entertained, the way was prepared for this transformation of the myth. The living Nero was no longer expected to return from the East, but Nero was to be restored to life from the abyss by the dragon, i.e. Satan. This expectation is recounted in xiii., but it appears most clearly in the additions to xvii. Thus in xvii. 8 the reference to Nero redivivus as the Antichrist is manifest: "The beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and to go into perdition." I Thus again we are obliged to postulate a date not earlier than A.D. 90 for the book in its present form.

(e) Primitive Church Tradition and its Confirmation through the Discovery of References in the Text to Certain Edicts of Domitian.

The earliest external evidence is practically unanimous in ascribing the Apocalypse to the last years of Domitian. The oldest testimony is that of Irenaeus v. 30.3: St' EKEivov av ip0977 Tou Kai H y 'AlroKaXokt y EcepaKOTOS o15 E 'yap 7r0 7roXXOJ xpovov EWpeter/, aXXa U X Esov E7r1 T'91 iii.IETEpas ')'EUEas, ran TW ?Exec T?)s AoµETtavou - Apx7)s. The rest of the patristic evidence from Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Victorinus, Eusebius and Jerome will be found in Swete's Apocalypse of St John 2, xcix. seq. Though a few later authorities, such as Epiphanius and Theophylact, assign the book to earlier or later periods, the main body of early Christian tradition attests the date of its composition in the closing years of Domitian. Notwithstanding, on various critical grounds, Baur, Hilgenfeld, Lightfoot, Westcott, Hort and Beyschlag assigned the book to the reign of Nero, or to the years immediately following his death, while Weiss, Dusterdieck and AfIommsen assign it to the time of Vespasian. When, however, we combine the preceding arguments with that of the early church tradition, the evidence for the Domitian date outweighs that for any other. And this conclusion receives remarkable confirmation from a recent fact brought forward by S. Reinach in an article in the Revue archeologique, ser. III. t. xxxix. (1901), pp. 350-74, and reprinted in Cultes, mythes et religions, ii. 356-80 (1906). This fact explains a passage which has hitherto been a total enigma to every expounder, i.e. vi. 6: "A choenix of wheat for a denarius, and three choenikes of barley for a denarius, and the oil and the wine hurt thou not." Swete writes here: "The voice fixes a maximum price for the main food-stuffs. The denarius. .. was the daily wage. .. and a choenix of wheat Verse II postulates either a Vespasianic or Domitianic date:" And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goeth into perdition."In verse 10 it is stated that five of the seven had fallen," the one is and another is not yet come, and when he cometh he must continue a little while."If we reckon from Augustine and omit Galba, Otho and Vitellius, each of whom reigned only a few months, we arrive at Vespasian. The vision, therefore, belongs to his reign, A.D. 69-79. Verse II, with the exception of the words" which was and is not,"leads to the identification of the eighth with Nero redivivus. But what then is to be made of the above reckoning when it was taken over by the Apocalyptist who wrote in Domitian's reign ? Some scholars are of opinion that this writer identified Domitian with the eighth emperor, the Nero redivivus, the beast from the abyss. But this is unlikely, notwithstanding the fact that even some pagan writers, such as Juvenal, Pliny and Martial (?), traced a resemblance between Domitian and Nero. On the other hand, if we refuse to accept this identification, and hold that the beast from the abyss is yet to come, any attempt at a strict exegesis of the text plunges us in hopeless difficulties. For Domitian in that case would be the sixth, and the preceding five would have to begin with Galba - a most improbable supposition. But futhermore, since this new reckoning would exclude Nero, how could the eighth be said to be one of the seven, i.e. Nero ? Bousset thinks that the Apocalyptist, knowing not what to make of this reckoning, left it standing as it was and attempted a new interpretation of the seven heads by taking them to refer to the seven hills of Rome in the addition he made to verse 9.

the average daily consumption of the workman.. .. Barley was largely the food of the poor." According to the words just quoted from the Apocalypse, there was to be a dearth of grain and a superfluity of wine; the price of the wheat was to be seven times the ordinary, according to Reinach's computation, and that of the barley four times. This strange statement suggested some historical allusion, and the discovery of the allusion was made by Reinach, who points out that Domitian by an edict in A.D. 9 2 prohibited the planting of new vineyards in Italy, and ordered the reduction of those in the provinces by one-half. As Asia Minor suffered specially under this edict, an agitation was set on foot which resulted in the revocation of the edict. In this revocation the Apocalyptist saw the menace of a famine of the necessaries of life, while the luxuries would remain unaffected. From his ascetic standpoint the revocation of the edict could only pander to drunkenness and immorality. Reinach's explanation of this ancient crux interpretum, which has been accepted by Harnack, Bousset, Porter, Sanday, Swete and others, fixes the earliest date of the composition of the Apocalypse as A.D. 93. Since Domitian died in 96, the book was therefore written between A.D. 93 and 95.


Before entering on the chief data which help towards the determination of this question, we shall first state the author's standpoint. His book exhibits a Christianity that is - as Harnack (Ency. Brit. 9 , xx. 498) writes - "free from the law, free from national prejudices, universal and yet a Christianity which is independent of Paul.. .. The author speaks not at all of the law 1 - the word does not occur in his work; he looks for salvation from the power and grace of God and Christ alone. .. nowhere has he made a distinction between Gentile and Jewish Christians.. .. The author of the Apocalypse has cast aside all national religious prejudices." The writer is not dependent, consciously or unconsciously, on the Pauline teaching. He has won his way to universalism, not through the Pauline method, but through one of his own. He has no serious preference for the people of Israel as such, but only for the martyrs and confessors, who shall belong to every tribe and tongue and people and nation (vii. 9 seq.). The unbelieving Jews are "a synagogue of Satan" (ii. 9).

Yet, on the other hand, our author's attitude to the world reflects the temper of Judaism rather than that of Christianity. He looks upon the enemies of the Christian Church with unconcealed hatred. No prayer arises within his work on their behalf, and nothing but unalloyed triumph is displayed over their doom. The Christian duty of love to those that wrong us does not seem to have impressed itself on our Apocalyptist.

Is the Apocalypse pseudonymous

All the Jewish apocalypses are pseudonymous, and all the Christian with the exception of the Shepherd of Hermas. Since our book undoubtedly belongs to this category, the question of its pseudonymity must arise. In the articles on Apocalyptic Literature and Apocryphal Literature (qq.v.) we have shown the large lines of differentiation between apocalyptic and prophecy. The chief ground for resorting to pseudonymous authorship in Judaism was that the belief in prophecy was lost among the people. Hence any writer who would appeal to them was obliged to do so in the name of some great figure of the past. Furthermore, this belief that prophecy had ceased led the religious personalities of the later time to authenticate their message by means of antedated prophecy. They procured confidence in their actual predictions by appealing to the literal fulfilment of such antedated prophecy. In such literature we find the characteristic words or their equivalents: "Seal up the prophecy: it is not for this generation," which are designed to explain the late appearance of the works in which they are found. But this universal characteristic of apocalyptic is almost wholly lacking in the New Testament Apocalypse. The vaticinium ex eventu plays but a very 1 His freedom from legal bondage is as undeniable as his universalism. He lays no further burden on his readers than those required by the Apostolic Decree of Acts xv. 28 seq.

small part in it. Moreover, the chief ground for the development of a pseudonymous literature was absent in the early Christian church. For with the advent of Christianity prophecy had sprung anew into life, and our author distinctly declares that the words of the book are for his own generation (xxii. io). Hence we conclude that the grounds are lacking which would entitle our assuming a priori that the Apocalypse is pseudonymous.

Was the Author the Son of Zebedee, the Apostle

The evidence of the book is against this assumption. The writer demands a hearing as a prophet (xxii. 6), and in no single passage makes any claim to having been an apostle. Nay more, the evidence of the text, so far as it goes, is against such a view. He never refers to any previous intercourse with Christ such as we find frequently in the Fourth Gospel, and when he speaks of "the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (xxi. 14) he does so in a tone that would seem to exclude him from that body. Here internal and external evidence are at strife; for from the time of Justin onwards the Apocalypse was received by the church as the work of the Apostle John (see Swete, op. cit.', p. clxxv). If the writer of the Fourth Gospel was the Apostle John, then the difficulties for the assumption of an apostolic authorship of the Apocalypse become well-nigh insuperable. Nay more, the difficulties attending on the assumption of a common authorship of the Gospel and Apocalypse, independently of the question of the apostolic authorship of the Gospel, are practically insuperable. Some decades ago these difficulties were not insurmountable, when critics assigned a Neronic date to the Apocalypse and a Domitianic or later date to the Gospel. It was from such a standpoint conceivable that the thoughts and diction of the writer had undergone an entire transformation in the long interval that intervened between the composition of the two books, on the supposition that both were from the same hand. But now that both books are assigned to the last decade of the 1st century A.D. by a growing body of critics, the hypothesis of a common authorship can hardly be sustained. The validity of such an hypothesis was attacked as early as the 4th century by Dionysius of Alexandria in the fragment of his treatise irEpi 7ray yeAuA;v, in Eusebius, H.E. vii. 24 seq. His arguments, as summed up by Swete (op. cit., p. cxiv seq.), are as follows: "John the Evangelist abstains from mentioning his own name, but John the Apocalyptist names himself more than once at the very outset of his book, and again near its end. Doubtless there were many who bore the name of John in the early Christian communities; we read, for instance, of ` John, whose surname was Mark,' and there may have been a second John in Asia, since at Ephesus, we are told, there were two tombs said to be John's.. .. Again, while the Gospel and the Epistle of John show marks of agreement which suggest a common authorship, the Apocalypse differs widely from both in its ideas and in its way of expressing them; we miss in it the frequent references to ` life,' ` light,' ` truth,' ` grace ' and ` love ' which are characteristic of the Apostle and find ourselves in a totally different region of thought.. .. Lastly, the linguistic eccentricities of the Apocalypse bar the way against the acceptance of the book as the work of the Evangelist. The Gospel and the First Epistle are written in correct and flowing Greek, and there is not a barbarism, a solecism, or a provincialism in them; whereas the Greek of the Apocalypse is inaccurate, disfigured by unusual or foreign words and even at times by solecisms." All subsequent criticism has more or less confirmed the conclusions of Dionysius. On the other hand, it is impossible to ignore the signs of a relationship between the Apocalypse and the Gospel in the minor peculiarities of language? These, Swete holds, "create a strong presumption of affinity" between the two books, while Bousset infers that they "justify the assumption that the entire circle of Johannine writings spring from circles which stood under the influence of the John of Asia Minor." We conclude, therefore, that the Gospel and the Apocalypse See Bousset, Offenbarung Johannis 2 , pp. 177-179; Swete 2, pp. cxxv - cxxix.

are derived from different authors who moved in the same circles.' As regards the John mentioned in the Apocalypse, he is now identified by a majority of critics with John the Presbyter, and further the trend of criticism is in favour of transferring all the Johannine writings to him, or rather to his school in Asia Minor.2 For an independent discussion of the authorship of the Fourth Gospel, see JOHN, GOSPEL OF ST. (R. H. C.)

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