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TIIE TESTIMONY OF IRENEUS, AND OF OTH E TÉ
FATHERS IN THE CHURCH BEFORE IT, or IGNATIUS, OF POLYCARP, OF THE WRITER OF THE EPISTLE DESCRIBING POLYCARP's MARTYRDOM, AND OF PAPIAS.
Having ascertained the time in which the Apocalypse was written, we may proceed to review the external evidence, which affects its authority. For we shall now be enabled to appreciate such testimony, by considering its approximation to the time when the book was published.
In the examination of this evidence, Michaelis has chosen to begin with that of Eusebius. But Eusebius wrote at an interval of more than two hundred years from the time when the Apocalypse first appeared. In his days, doubts had arisen concerning the authenticity of the book-doubts which had no foundation on any external evidence, but which had been suggested by some writers from a consideration of its internal marks and character. The subject appears to have been in debate among the Christian critics in these times. Eusebius hesitated where to place
the Apocalypse ; whether among the undoubted books of the inspired Canon, or among those which were accounted spurious. He promises farther information when the debate should be concluded; but we do not appear to have received it from him *.
I will begin, then, where we have more decided and authentic information ; from Irenæus, whose competency to decide on this question we havc considered. There are other testimonies, which, in point of time, are antecedent to this of Irenæus, but none so comprehensive, so positive, and direct. We shall review these with more ad'vantage, after the consideration of this important evidence.
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; and from the zeal which he shews, to discover the true reading of a passage in the Apocalypse (by appeal to ancient and authentic copies, and to the testimony of apostolical men), we may justly conclude that he took equal pains, and the same judicious methods, to assure himself concerning the writer of the hook fit But Irenæus, in many passages, ascribes this book to “ John the Evan“ gelist, the disciple of the Lord,that John who
* Euseb. H. E. lib. iii. c. 24, 25,
“ 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 *.”
The 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 the same period, viz. the year of our Lord 178, when he is said to have published the books which contain this testimony. But during this period of eighty years, other writers appear to have quoted, and acknowledged the Apocalypse. We will now, therefore, take a retrospect of their quotations and allusions, which will give additional weight to the testimony of Irenæus; while, from a 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 state, though others have placed this event a few years 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. “ If Ignatius,” says he, s had seen and ackuöwledged the Apocalypse " as the work of John the Apostle, he would “ probably, when he wrote his Epistles to the “ Christian communities at Ephesis, Philadelphia, " and Smyrna, have reminded them of the praises, “ which, according to Rev. ii. 1-7. ¿-11. iii. 667–12, their Bishops had received from Christ, “ more particularly when he addressed the “ Church of Ephesus; because, in his Epistle to " that Church, he particularly reminds them of " the praises bestowed on them by St. Paul.”
The connection of idea and train of thought, expected from Ignatius upon this occasion, is indeed natural, but it is not necessary ; so that the want of it will not amount to any proof that Ignatius had never seen, or that he rejected, the Apocalypse. Ignatius was not a Bishop of any of the Seven Churches to which it was addressed, nor of any of the Churches in Asia properly so called, but of Antioch in Syria ; and his familiarity with so obscure and mystical a book, would depend much upon his own turn of mind, and bent of study. We know that many eminent divines of our own times have been very little conversant with the Apocalypse; and we know
that many of those, who are conversant with the book, are little inclined to quote it in their sermons and popular addresses ; for they appeal to those books of Scripture with which they suppose their auditors most acquainted.
Besides, we are to take into our account the peculiar circumstances under which this Father of the Church wrote his Epistles, which are the only remains of his works. He was a prisoner, upon travel, guarded by a band of soldiers, whom for 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 at uncertain seasons, with frequent interruption, his train of thoughts necessarily broken; and his quotations, depending probably on memory alone, would be inaccurate. From these causes it has happened, that the references of Ignatius to sacred Scripture, in his hasty Epistles, may be styled allusions, rather than quotations; and to many of the sacred books, he appears not to allude at all. The Epistle to the Ephesians is the only book expressly named by him. Of the Gospels, he only quotes, or even plainly alludes to, those of St. Matthew and St. John. And it will appear dubious, to those who cxamine the writings of this Father, whether the Acts of the Apostles, or any of the Scriptural Epistles, are either indubitably quoted, or, alluded to by him, * Ad Romanos, sect. v.