Images de page
PDF
ePub

lypse, borrowing, altering and corrupting passages from the genuine one, having died before John, it is impossible that John's Apocalypse could have been written so late as the time of the persecution by Domitian.

CONCLUSION.

The inference drawn from the state of the Asiatic churches at the time when the Apocalypse was written, as necessarily presupposing that a considerable time must have passed before there could be any such departure from the primitive faith and discipline as to call for the reproofs given to these churches, in the epistles addressed to them respectively in the Apocalypse, rests, as we have seen, on no tenable ground, and is indeed opposed by the evidence of facts. All the Epistles of Paul, James and Peter were written before the death of Nero. Before they were written, sufficient time had elapsed to introduce, among the different churches, addressed in these epistles, deviations from the purity and obedience required from Christians, and they are reproved accordingly; and yet it has been attempted to be argued, that, among the churches in Asia, no such defections could take place in the same period! Such an

[ocr errors]

argument carries its confutation along with it, to every one disposed to look at plain matters of fact.-And why was all this labor undertaken? Why were the Christians in Asia to be calumniated beyond the words of the text ? Why were the virtues and graces for which they were praised by “ him who searches the hearts" to be put out of sight ?–Only for the purpose of supporting the tradition delivered by Irenæus for a late date to the Apocalypse, in opposition to other ancient traditions which assigned to it a much earlier origin. I say, only for the purpose of supporting his single testimony; for we have no other for the late date, however many subsequent writers

may

have repeated the statement, all of them having done so on his authority. Epiphanius, as we have seen, twice names the reign of Claudius as that during which the Apocalypse was written : Arethas also, who was not ignorant of Irenæus's statement (for he quotes it), says, on the authority of other interpreters, that the sixth seal had its accomplishment in the destruction of Jerusalem, and of course those whom he followed held that the book was written some time before that period. And that Arethas did not speak without authority, however much Lardner and others might think they had a right to hold him cheap, is proved by the title

[ocr errors]

to the Syriac version of the Apocalypse ; for the churches in Syria could not be ignorant of the date ascribed to this book by Irenæus, and yet they state, in their title, that the Revelation was given to John in the reign of Nero,--an evident proof that at least they had among them traditions to that effect, if not Greek manuscripts bearing the same title.—But on this I will not longer detain the reader. All that I aim at at present, is to show, that the historical evidence for a late date to the book, is by no means so conclusive as some have contended : and, indeed, when examined dispassionately, the weight of evidence would rather appear to be on the other side.

In one word :-neither Ecclesiastical tradition; nor the state of the churches in Asia, when the Apocalyptic Epistles were addressed to them ; nor any thing recorded in history respecting their secular condition, furnishes any evidence that may be relied on, that the Book of the Revelation was written so late as the reign of Domitian.

But it may be asked, “What possible dif“ference can it make, whether the Apocalypse

was written at an early or late period of the “ apostolic ministration ?" At first sight this subject may appear of trivial importance ; and

indeed, if the book were really written late, and an opinion should, notwithstanding, be taken up, that it was written early, it may be granted that this mistake could not be followed by any. injurious consequences. The case, however, is far otherwise, if the book was written early, and if, in opposition to this fact, a belief shall be entertained that it was written towards the close of John's life, who survived all the other apostles; for, being a direct revelation from the Head of the church, if written in the reign of Claudius, or early in that of his successor Nero, it must be considered as having been given for the instruction of the apostles themselves, as well as of the other members of Christ's body; and, if so, it must have been often the subject of their meditations; and, not unfrequently, its topics would furnish matter for allusion in their oral addresses, and, most probably, also in their epistles to the churches.—Such, a priori, might be expected as one of the natural consequences of the book having been written very early; but if, contrary to fact, it shall be believed that it was not communicated to the churches, till after all the Epistles of the New Testament, it is obvious that this very belief will, and must, operate to cause Christians to overlook entirely any allusions that may be found (if there be any such) in these Epistles, to the Apocalypse; and consequently, however numerous such allusions, quotations, or references to the Apocalypse in the Epistles of the New Testament may actually be, they must, under such a belief, elude all observation, and be thus deprived of that elucidation which they would receive by reference to their prototype in the Revelation. It is evident then, that, if the book was the first, or one of the first written of the New Testament, the Christian church may suffer a real detriment by holding a directly contrary opinion ; and therefore some pains should be taken to ascertain, precisely, how the fact stands. If passages can be found in the epistles and in the Apocalypse which the one must have copied from the other -and such it is certain may be found, as will be shown in the next dissertation-it will then only remain to ascertain which is the copy; and this it is believed will not be difficult, if the rules of sound criticism be closely adhered to.

a

« PrécédentContinuer »