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But such external evidence is not equal even to that of Epiphanius, which, as standing alone, and at such a distance of time from the fact, Michaelis has, with great propriety, refused to admit.
2. This opinion, like the first, has no internal evidence, derived from the Apocalypse, in its favour. All that can be said is, that the internal evidence thence arising is not so decidedly against it, as against the former opinion. The Christians at Rome, and, it may be, in some of the Roman provinces, were persecuted in the reign of Nero. But there is no evidence, that the Christians in Asia suffered at this time. And the.arguments, used so successfully by Michaelis and others, to shew that the Apocalypse was not written in the reign of Claudius, will extend in some degree, to that of Nero. From the time of Claudius to the end of Nero's reign, we count only fourteen years. The date of the First Epistle to Timothy is placed, by Michaelis, about ten years before Nero's death ; by Fabricius, Mill, and other able critics, much later. The Epistle to the Ephesians, has certainly a later date. So that, it may still be doubted, whether the changes which appear to have taken place in the Churches of Lesser Asia, between the date of these Epistles and that of the Apocalypse, could well be brought about in so short a period of time, as must be allotted to them, if we suppose the Apocalypse to be written in the times of Nero. But But suppose this argument not
to be insisted upon, to what will the concession amount? The question, in favour of the Apocalypse having been written in Nero's reign, will gain no internal evidence positively in its favour. It will rest on the external evidence above stated, the insufficiency of which must be apparent.
III. A third opinion (as it is called) has been produced by those writers, who, having explained some of the Apocalyptical prophecies, as fulfilled in the Jewish wars, which ended in the destruction of Jerusalemn, are interested to make it appear, that these prophecies were written before the commencement of those wars. But to assert the Apocalypse to have been written before the Jewish wars, is the same thing as to attribute the date of it to the reign of Nero; for these wars began in the twelfth year of that Emperor *. The question, therefore, seems decided by the evidence already examined. But since the examination of this third opinion, by Michaelis, has produced another evidence, and other arguments, it will be proper to notice them.
A certain degree of external evidence is at, tempted to be derived from Arethas, who, in his Commentary on the Apocalypse, has endeavoured to explain some of its prophecies, as fulfilled in the Jewish wars; and he bas certainly affirmed, that “ destruction was not yet come upon
tho Jews, by the arms of the Romans, when he (the writer of the Apocalypse) received these prophe* Josephus, de Bell. Jud. lib. ii. c. xiv, 4.
cies.” The earliest date assigned to the commentary of Arethas, is in the sixth century ; but there seems internal evidence in the work, which will prove it of later date. The empire of the Saracens is mentioned in it, as succeeding in Babylon to that of the Persians *. But the Saracens were not possessed of Babylon till nearly the middle of the seventh century. A writer of so late a date will be entitled to little belief in this question, particularly if his evidence go no farther than to discover an opinion of his own, without proof in support of it. But, it is said, there is reason to believe that the opinion is more ancient than the period here referred to; for Andreas Cæsariensis, who wrote about the year 500, though he does not adopt the opinion, inentions it as the opinion of some others. And Michaelis, who favours this third opinion, is disposed to believe it derived from Hippolitus, or Irenæus. But he has produced no evidence of the fact. It is merely a conjecture, resting on this unsure foundation; “ Arethas must have received this opinion from some author, who explained the Apocalypse before the times of Andreas Cæsariensis; and who could this be, but Hippolitus, or Irenæus ?" Hippolitus would have been a valuable evidence, if any proof could be adduced of his having held such opinion. The testimony of Irenæus would be yet more decisive, could it be procured. This, then, is the desideratum; and accordingly we shall * Com. in Apocal, cap. xxxvi.
find, that attempts have been made to press Irenæus into this service. With what success, will be seen in our examination of the fourth opis nion.
IV. For, under the fourth opinion, we must produce the words of Irenæus, which have been understood, by all the ancients, and by all the modern critics, until these days, to assert plainly and unequivocally, that the visions of the Apocalypse were seen “ toward the close of Domitian's reign.” If these words had been supposed by ancient writers to have been capable of any other meaning, or of such meaning as hath lately been attributed to them, the tradition of the Church would not have been so uniform. For, as Michaelis observes, “ almost all the ecclesiastical “ writers, who have spoken of the time when the
Apocalypse was written, have followed this ac“ count," namely, that it was written “ toward the “ close of the reign of Domitian.” We have already produced all the evidence which has any tendency to contradict this general testimony of the Church, and we have seen to what little it amounts. It is
It is very far from sufficient for the purposes of those, who, wishing to apply certain prophecies of the Apocalypse to the times of Nero and his immediate successors, are driven to the attempt of establishing this necessary postulatum, that " it was written before the times in which (they say) these prophecies were fulfilled.” This is the true reason, (as Michaelis
allows *,) why they have recourse to the testimony of Irenæus; the importance of which, to the determination of this question, may be collected from the ardent desire of these writers to make his evidence support their sentiments; but will more fully appear, by considering his character and connections, and the time in which he lived.
Irenæus was born, according to his own account, (as his words have generally been understood,) in the age immediately succeeding that, in which the visions of the Apocalypse were seen t. He was a Greek by birth, as his name and language import, and probably an Asiatic Greek, for he was an auditor of Polycarp I, who was Bishop of Smyrna, one of the seven churches, and who had been the auditor of St. John the Apostle, whom Irenæus constantly affirms to be the writer of the Apocalypse ş. And accordingly, when Irenæus speaks upon such subjects as concern the external evidences of the Church, he appeals, for a confirmation of the truth of what he has advanced, to Polycarp, and to others,
* P. 524, 505.
+ The learned Dodwell has taken pains to shew, that Irenæus was born in the year 97, the very year in which the Apocalypse will appear to have been published. But there is reason to suppose that he has fixed the birth of this father about ten years too soon. See Grabe's Proleg. ad Irenæum.
| Iren. iii. 3. Euseb. H. E. iv. 14, 16. v. 4, 19, 20.
f Iren. lib. iii. 3, 4. Euseb. H. E. lib. iv. 14. 16. v. 4, 19, 20. Iren. iv. 50. v. 26, 28, 30, 34, 35. Lardner, Supplement, p. 348, 378.-Cave, Hist. Lit. art. Irenæus.