« ÎnapoiContinuă »
fact that a key fits the lock, if it is a lock in which almost any key will turn."1
4. Character and Contents. The Revelation or Apocalypse (a Greek word meaning "uncovering ") has many of the characteristics of the Book of Daniel. Both
• • •
1 Whatever interpretation we may give to the "number of the beast," there is now a growing conviction that the theory which dates the composition of the book before the destruction of Jerusalem must be abandoned, and that the persecution referred to is not that which took place at Rome in the reign of Nero, but the sufferings inflicted on Christians at a later date, in the provinces, especially in Asia Minor, when they refused to worship the Emperor and Roma. In support of this conclusion the following considerations may be adduced. (1) "The absolute and irreconcilable opposition between the Church and the Empire" which distinguishes this book from all the other writings of the New Testament, even the latest of them. (2) The description of Rome as "the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus," which finds its explanation in the fact that the worship of Roma had spread over the Empire, and was now the most formidable rival that Christianity had to contend with. (3) The reference to Pergamum as the place "where Satan's throne is, where Satan dwelleth "-that city having been the first place in Asia to possess a temple in honour of the Emperor (Augusteum), and having been the scene of a Christian martyrdom, apparently many years before the Apocalypse was written, "even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you.' (4) The nature of the death suffered by the martyrs: "and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand". '-as beheading was a common form of punishment with proconsuls, but not in use at Rome during the Neronic persecution.
As to the precise date which, according to this view, is to be assigned to the composition of the book, there is room for difference of opinion. Mommsen argues for the later years of Vespasian (75-80 A.D.) chiefly on account of the interpretation which he gives to certain passages, as referring to the expectation of the later pseudo-Nero's return with the help of the Parthians. Apart from this there seems to be no good reason why we should not accept the statement of Irenæus, already referred to, that the Revelation came to John in the closing years of Domitian, whose name is traditionally associated with persecution of the Christians (of which we have some traces in the writings of Dion Cassius and Suetonius), and who took delight in the homage paid to him as emperor, and in the title of dominus et deus which had already been claimed by his predecessor Caligula.
books consist largely of prophecy couched in the language of symbolism. This was a mode of expression frequently adopted by Jewish writers towards the close of the Old Testament dispensation, when, owing to foreign oppression, it would have been dangerous to speak plainly in matters affecting the national interests.
The central theme is the second coming of Christ, in a magnificent setting of imagery-designed to represent the great struggles and events that are to precede the final consummation.
"After the Prologue, which occupies the first eight verses, there follow seven sections—
1. The letters to the Seven Churches of Asia (i. 9– iii. 22).
2. The Seven Seals (iv.-vii.).
3. The Seven Trumpets (viii.-xi.).
4. The Seven Mystic Figures The Sun-clothed Woman; the Red Dragon; the Man-child; the Wild Beast from the Sea; the Wild Beast from the Land; the Lamb on Mount Sion; the Son of Man on the Cloud (xii.-xiv.).
5. The Seven Vials (xv.-xvi.).
6. The Doom of the Foes of Christ (xvii.-xx.).
7. The Blessed Consummation (xxi.-xxii. 7). The Epilogue (xxii. 8-21)." 1
The essential unity of the book is one of its most striking features; yet there are passages in it which can only be explained on the supposition that the author made use of earlier sources, Jewish or Christian.
It must be acknowledged that the interpretation of the Revelation in detail is still, to a great extent, shrouded in mystery. Even those who feel assured that Nero is the man represented by the number of "the beast," and that the prophecy was, delivered before the complete 1 Farrar's Messages of the Books, p. 520.
Destruction of Jerusalem, find themselves beset with insuperable difficulties when they come to deal with certain portions of the book, while in other passages their theory would seem to imply that some of the predictions of the Seer were very soon falsified by events. This is a supposition which it is almost as difficult to reconcile with the high estimation in which the Apocalypse continued to be held by the early Church, as with its divine inspiration.
The safest and probably the truest interpretation of the book is to regard it as a symbolic representation of great principles rather than as a collection of definite predictions. In other words, it is intended for the edification and comfort of Christ's people, not to give detailed information regarding the future to those who are clever enough to solve its enigmas. "Here, if anywhere, faith and love are the key to knowledge, not knowledge the key to faith and love. It is in the very spirit of the book, not in a spirit hard or narrow or unsympathetic, that it closes with the words 'the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with the saints.'"1
1 Dr. Milligan on the Book of Revelation.
SUMMARY OF PATRISTIC LITERATURE
THE first six of the following are usually called the Apostolic Fathers” :
Clement of Rome, according to an ancient and unanimous tradition, was one of the earliest bishops of the Roman Church. Among the numerous writings that have been ascribed to him, only one is now regarded as genuine, which is known as his 1st Epistle to the Corinthians. The letter is written in the name of the Roman Church, not without a tone of authority (although there is scarcely any more trace in it than in the New Testament of episcopal jurisdiction in a monarchical sense, the terms "bishop" and "presbyter " being still used as convertible). The object of the epistle was to cure the dissension and insubordination that had broken out in the Corinthian Church, and which had led to the deposition of some blameless presbyters. The date now generally assigned to the letter, on what appear to be adequate grounds, is 95-96 A.D. The 2nd Epistle of Clement, so called, is a homily by an unknown author, probably written at Rome in the first half of the second century.
Ignatius, converted to Christianity comparatively late in life, succeeded Euodius as Bishop of Antioch, and was martyred in the arena of the Coliseum at Rome, under Trajan, 110-115 A.D. His genuine writings are now generally held to consist of seven epistles, written in the course of his last journey, as a prisoner, from Antioch to Rome, viz. :— (from Smyrna) to the Ephesians, the Magnesians, the
Trallians, the Romans, and (from Troas) to the Philadelphians, the Smyrnæans, and Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. With the exception of the Epistle to the Romans, which relates almost entirely to the author's expected and eagerly-desired martyrdom, these epistles deal with questions of doctrine and discipline. They emphasise the reality of Christ's humanity in opposition to Docetic error (cf. p. 180), denounce Judaising tendencies, and enforce the threefold ecclesiastical order (bishop, presbyter, and deacon) in the interests of Church unity.
• Äle valig
Polycarp, for many years Bish of Smyrna, was born about 69-70 A.D., and suffered martyrdom in that city about 155-156 A.D., when he was in his eighty-sixth year. From his disciple, Irenæus, we learn that he had been a hearer of the Apostle John, and that he had "not only been taught by apostles, and lived in familiar intercourse with many that had seen Christ," but had also "received his appointment in Asia from Apostles as bishop in the Church of Smyrna." The only extant writing bearing his name that is generally admitted to be genuine is his epistle to the Philippians, which was written nearly forty-five years before his death, about the time of Ignatius' martyrdom. It is of considerable length, but does not display much originality, borrowing largely from the teaching of "the Lord" and His apostles, as well as from the letters of Ignatius and Clement; and the chief value of his writing, as of his life, consisted in his unswerving attachment, in an age of transition and conflict, to the genuine apostolic tradition.
Barnabas. To this well-known associate of St. Paul there was ascribed by the early Church Fathers an epistle containing twenty chapters. It is very anti-Judaistic in spirit, maintaining that Judaism, in its outward and visible form, had not received the divine sanction, and that God's covenant had never belonged to the Jews. It betrays an imperfect acquaintance with Jewish rites and ceremonies, and a tendency to indulge in trifling allegories, for which reasons, as well as because of its Gnostic magnifying of the inner meaning of Scripture at the expense of its historical framework, most critics assign it to an unknown Gentile author of Alexandria, writing in the beginning of the second