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The external evidence, for the authenticity and divine inspiration of the Apocalypse, is to be collected from the testimonies of those ancient writers, who, living at a period near to its publication, appear, by their quotations or allusions, to have received it as a book of sacred Scripture. This was the test by which the primitive church was accustomed to determine the claims of all writings pretending to divine authority. All such writings were rejected, as appeared not to have been received by the orthodox Christians of the preceding ages*.
But to enable us to judge of the force of this evidence, as affecting any particular book, it is necessary to ascertain the time when the book was written. For if it shall appear to have been written and published in the early period of the apostolic age, we may expect to find testimonies concerning it, from apostles, or from
# Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. ii. c. S.
apostolical apostolical men*. If, on the contrary, it can be proved to have been published only in the latter times of that age, we shall not be intitled to expect this earlier notice of it.
Before, therefore, we proceed to examine the testimony of the writers by whom the Apocalypse is mentioned, it will be useful to ascertain the time in which it was published. For if it were not published before the year 96 or 97 (as some critics have pronounced) little or no notice could be taken of it by the writers of the first century; and, in such case, a writer in the second century, especially in the former part of it, becomes an evidence of great importance ; which importance would be much diminished, by the supposition, that the book had been written in the earliest part of the apostolic age, that is, almost a whole century before the time of that author.
This previous inquiry is the more necessary, since, according to Michaelis, no less than six different opinions have been advanced, concerning the time when the Apocalypse was written; only one of which can be true.
In examining these opinions, I shall endea
Apostolical men, in the acceptation of the Fathers, were those who had been personally instructed by apostles; and the apostolic age is that, which extends from before the middle of the first century, when the apostles began to write, to the closs of that century, when St. John, the last surviving apostle, died.Irenæus et Clem. Alexand. apud Euseb. H. E. lib. iii. c. 23.
vour to be concise. I shall freely use the arguments of Michaelis, where I can see reason to agree with him; but, where I am obliged to dissent, it will be necessary to take a larger compass.
I. The earliest date assigned to the Apocalypse is in the reign of the Emperor Claudius. This opinion rests on the single testimony of Epiphanius, a credulous and inaccurate writer *, who lived about three hundred years later than St. John the Apostle, to whom he ascribes this prophetical book.
This external evidence, weak in itself, is not only unsupported, but contradicted, by every argument which can be derived from internal evidence f. For, first, it appears from the evidence of the book itself, (chap. Ist. 2d. 3d.) that it was written at a time when the Asiatic Christians had been suffering persecution, even
* See his character, as given by Dupin and by Jortin.-Rem. Eccl. Hist. iv. 115. And his gross mistakes on ecclesiastical history are recounted by Spanheim, in his Introduction to Eccl. Hist. Sæc. iv. p. 425.
† The reader may, perhaps, begin to think, that I am already transgressing the rule, so lately proposed, to prevent the intermisture of internal with external evidence. That rule shall be scrupulously observed, when we proceed to examine the evidences for the authenticity of the book. But we are now engaged in a previous question, which must be delerinined before we can judge of the main object of inquiry. And in deterinining the several steps of this previous question, it is necessary to adduce both kinds of evidence. Still they shall be kept apart, and each come in its order.
unto death; John himself, the writer, was in banishment, “ for the word of God, and the tes
timony of Jesus, in the Isle of Patmos," when he saw the visions*. But no traces of such
persecution can be discovered in the times of Claudius. Nero, says the unanimous voice of history, was the first Emperor who persecuted the Christians, and enacted laws against themt. Claudius, indeed, commanded the Jews to quit Rome, but this command could not affect the Jews in Asia, much less the Christians there.
2dly. There is no appearance or probability that the seven churches, or communities of Christians, addressed by their Saviour in the Apocalypse, had existence so early as in the reign of Claudius; much less that they were in that established and flourishing state, which is described or inferred in this his address to them. For Claudius died in the year 54, some years before the Apostle Paul is supposed, by the best critics, to have written his Epistle to the Ephesians, and his first to Timothy. But, from these Epistles we collect, that the Church of Ephesus was then in an infantine and unsettled state. Bishops were then first appointed there by St.
* Hence St. John is called a Martyr, by Polycrates.Apud Euseb. E. H. lib. iii. c. 31.
4 Tacitus, Annal. lib. xv. C. 44. Suetonius, Vit. Neronis, cap. xvi. Tertulliani Apolog. Sulp. Sev. Hist. lib. ii. 39. P. Oras. vii. c. 7. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. ii. c. 25. Mosheim, H. E. Cent, 1. part 1.
Paul's order*. But, at the time when the Apocalypse was written, Ephesus, and her sister Churches, appear to have been in a settled, and even flourishing state; wbich could only be the work of time. There is, in the address of our Lord to them, a reference to their former conduct. Ephesus is represented as having forsaken her former love, or charity ; Sardis as bav. ing acquired a name, or reputation ; which she had also forfeited; Laodicea as become lukewarın, or indifferent. Now, changes of this kind, in a whole body of Christians, must be gradual, and the production of many yearsf. Colosse and Hierapolis were Churches of note in St. Paul's time; but they are not mentioned in the Apocalypse, although they were situated in the same region of proconsular Asia, to which it was addressed. They were probably become of less importance. All these changes required a lapse of time, and we necessarily infer, that such had taken place between the publication of St. Paul's Epistles, and of the Apocalypse. Add to this, that some expressions, which we meet with in the Apocalypse,
* See this prored by Michaelis, in his Observations on the Ist Epistle to Timothy.
† See more on this subject, in Vitringa, in Apoc. I. 2. and L'Enfant and Beausobre's Preface to the Apoc. ; also, Lardner's Supplement to the Cred. Gosp. Hist. ch. xxii. where passages from these books are quoted. # Acts iv. 13.