Revelation of St John
Revela’tion of St. John, the last book of the New Testament. It is often called the Apocalypse, which is its title in Greek, signifying “Revelation.”
1. Canonical authority and authorship.—The inquiry as to the canonical authority of the Revelation resolves itself into a question of authorship. Was St. John the apostle and evangelist the writer of the Revelation? The evidence adduced in support of his being the author consists of (1) the assertions of the author, and (2) historical tradition. (1) The author’s description of himself in the and 22d chapters is certainly equivalent to an assertion that he is the apostle. He names himself simply John, without prefix or addition. He is also described as a servant of Christ, one who had borne testimony as an eye-witness of the word of God and of the testimony of Christ. He is in Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. He is also a fellow sufferer with those whom he addresses, and the authorized channel of the most direct and important communication that was ever made to the Seven Churches of Asia, of which churches John the apostle was at that time the spiritual governor and teacher. Lastly, the writer was a fellow servant of angels and a brother of prophets. All these marks are found united in the apostle John, and in him alone of all historical persons. (2) A long series of writers testify to St. John’s authorship: Justin Martyr (cir. 150 a.d.), Eusebius, Irenæus (a.d. 195), Clement of Alexandria (about 200), Tertullian (207), Origen (233). All the foregoing writers, testifying that the book came from an apostle, believed that it was a part of Holy Scripture. The book was admitted into the list of the Third Council of Carthage, a.d. 397. 2. Time and place of writing.—The date of the Revelation is given by the great majority of critics as a.d. 95–97. Irenæus says: “It (i.e., the Revelation) was seen no very long time ago, but almost in our own generation, at the close of Domitian’s reign.” Eusebius also records that, in the persecution under Domitian, John the apostle and evangelist was banished to the island Patmos for his testimony of the divine word. There is no mention in any writer of the first three centuries of any other time or place, and the style in which the messages to the Seven Churches are delivered rather suggests the notion that the book was written in Patmos. 3. Interpretation.—Modern interpreters are generally placed in three great divisions: (a) The Historical or Continuous expositors, in whose opinion the Revelation is a progressive history of the fortunes of the Church from the first century to the end of time. (b) The Præterist expositors, who are of opinion that the Revelation has been almost or altogether fulfilled in the time which has passed since it was written; that it refers principally to the triumph of Christianity over Judaism and Paganism, signalized in the downfall of Jerusalem and of Rome. (c) The Futurist expositors, whose views show a strong reaction against some extravagances of the two preceding schools. They believe that the whole book, excepting perhaps the first three chapters, refers principally, if not exclusively, to events which are yet to come. Dr. Arnold, in his sermons “On the Interpretation of Prophecy,” suggests that we should bear in mind that predictions have a lower historical sense as well as a higher spiritual sense; that there may be one or more than one typical, imperfect, historical fulfillment of the prophecy, in each of which the higher spiritual fulfillment is shadowed forth more or less distinctly.