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The words of Irenæus, of this most competent and unexceptionable witness, being thus received in that obvious sense which has been affixed to them by all the ecclesiastical writers before our own days, will determine the time when the apocalyptic visions were seen and published, namely, toward the end of Domitian's reign.
Internal evidence likewise supports this conclusion; for, in the three first chapters of the Apocalypse, the Churches of Asia are represented as having attained to that flourishing state of society and settlement, and to have undergone afterwards those changes in their faith and morals, which might have taken place in the period_intervening between the publication of St. Paul's Epistles and the close of Domitian's reign, but were not likely to have been effected in a shorter time.
The death of Domitian happened in A. D. 96; and St. John obtained his liberty, and returned to Ephe
He would then, if not sooner, publish his Apocalypse, the date of which is fixed by Mill, Lardner, and other able critics, to be of the or 97.
This important point being thus settled, we may proceed with greater advantage to consider the external evidence, which affects the divine authority of the Apocalypse, for the value of this evidence will increase according to its approximation to the time when the book was published. There are many of the fathers who, writing prior to Irenæus, have afforded some testimony of this kind; but in none of them do we find evidence so comprehensive, so positive and direct as his. And as we are already in possession of his superior competency and judgment
I Lampe has asserted, and Lardner fully confirms the truth of the assertion, “ that all antiquity is abundantly agreed, that Domitian was the author of John's banishment" to Patmos.
in treating questions of this kind,' we will begin with his testimony, which, taken by itself, is almost sufficient to decide the question. The others, prior in point of time, but inferior in positive assertion, will afterwards be reviewed with greater advantage.
Irenæus, the auditor of Polycarp and of other apostolical men who had conversed with St. John, had the best means of information concerning the authenticity of the Apocalypse. .
But Irenæus, in many passages, ascribes this book to “ John the Evangelist, the disciple of the Lord,—that John who leaned on his Lord's breast at the last Supper." ? There are twenty-two chapters in the book of Revelation, and Irenæus quotes from thirteen of them, producing more than twenty-four passages, some of considerable length. The candid and judicious Lardner, after an examination of this evidence, says:
“ His (Irenæus's) testimony for this book is so strong and full, that, considering the age of Irenæus, he seems to put it beyond all question, that it is the work of John the Apostle and Evangelist.”:
Thn testimony of Irenæus may be supposed to extend from about thirty or forty years after the date of the Apocalypse, to about eighty years after that period, viz. the year of our Lord 178, when he is said to have published the books which contain this testimony. But during this time of eighty years, other more ancient writers appear to have quoted from, and so to have acknowledged the Apocalypse. We will now proceed to mention
1 We may justly conclude, from the zeal and judgment which he shows, to discover the true reading of a passage in the Apocalypse, (Irenæus, lib. v. c. 30. Euseb. H. E. lib. iii. c. 18.) that he was not wanting in the best methods of pursuing questions of this kind. But to him, in this particular case, the evidence required no such examination, it was plain and positive.
2 Irenæus, lib. iv, 37, 50, 27.
these, whose quotations and allusions will give additional weight to the testimony of Irenæus, while, froin the recollection of his evidence, theirs also will derive support.
Ignatius is mentioned by Michaelis as the most ancient evidence that can be produced, respecting the authenticity of the Apocalypse. He lived in the apostolical times, and died by a glorious martyrdom in the year 107, as some writers have stated, though others have placed this event somewhat later. He is commonly supposed to have made no mention of the Apocalypse ; and this his silence amounts, in the opinion of Michaelis, to a rejection of the book. For since he wrote epistles to the Christian communities at Ephesus, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, it is to be expected, he says, that he would have reminded them of the praises which, in the second and third chapters of the Revelation, their bishops had received from Christ. But let us advert to the peculiar circumstances under which this father of the Church wrote these epistles, which are the only remains of his works. He was a prisoner, upon travel, guarded by a band of soldiers, whom, from their ferocity, he compares to leopards, and by them hurried forward in his passage from Antioch to Rome, there to be devoured by wild beasts. In such circumstances, he would write with perpetual interruptions; and his quotations, depending perhaps on memory alone, would be inaccurate. And from these causes it has happened, that the references of Ignatius to sacred scripture are allusions rather than quotations; and to many of the sacred books he appears not to refer at all. The Epistle to the Ephesians is the only book expressly named by him. of the Gospels, he only quotes, or plainly alludes to, those of St. Matthew and St. John; and of the books remaining, it is dubious whether he
quotes or alludes to more than six. But shall we
Ignat, ad Rom. ad fin.
Εν υπομονη Ιησου Χριστου. .
Ignat. ad Ephes. sect. 3.
Ητοιμασμενοι εις οικοδομης Θεου-κατα παντα
Λιθοι ναου πατρός
Here the use of the word Κεκοσμημενοι, following So immediately after the words ητοιμασμενοι and θεου, and with such connexion of thought and of imagery, affords reason to suppose, that Ignatius had seen this passage of the Apocalypse. Ignatius appears to me to comment on St. John, referring this passage to the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, where the same images are used, and by a comparison with which it is best explained. Å better illustration cannot be given of κεκοσμημενην τω ανδρι αυτης, than in these parallel words of Ignatius, κεκοσμημενην εντολαις Ιησου Χριστου. The one is the mystical expression, the other is its meaning when disrobed of the figurative dress.
REV. Xxi. 3.
Ignat. ad Ephes. sect. 15.
Both these passages seem to have reference to 2 Cor. V. 16. και εσομαι αυτων ο θεος, και αυτοι εσονται μοι λαος, which is taken from Lev. Χxvi. 12. και εσομαι υμων θεος, και υμεις εσεσθε μοι λαος: Οr from Jer. Xxxi. 33. και εσομαι αυτοις εις θεον, και αυτοι εσονται μοι εις λαον ; or Jer. XXxii. 38. και εσονται μοι εις λαον, και εγω εσομαι αυτοις εις θεον; or from Ezek. XXxvii. 23. και εσονται μοι εις λαον, και εγω κυριος εσομαι αυτοις εις θεον.
I have produced all these passages to show in what degree Ignatius can be supposed to quote from, or allude to each. The expression, in the first part of the sentence, may be taken from any or all of them, as well as from this passage in the Apocalypse. But the peculiar turn and form of the latter clause is only to be found here. And I think it probable that Ignatius would not have relinquished the form observed in the other quotations for this mode of expression, which is very peculiar, if he had not seen and remembered it in the Apocalypse. They