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THE

BIBLICAL REPOSITORY

AND

CLASSICAL REVIEW.

THIRD SERIES, NO. XI.-WHOLE NUMBER, LXVII.

JULY, 1847.

ARTICLE I.

REVIEW OF PROF. STUART ON THE DATE OF THE

APOCALYPSE.

By Rev. Geo. DUFFIELD, D.D., of Detroit, Mich.

The confidence with which some learned critics and biblical scholars have undertaken, in all cases, to decide upon the authorship, and even the original date of certain portions of the sacred Scriptures, from internal evidence alone, received a justly merited rebuke in that remarkable work, the “Amber Witch," written expressly to experiment on the extravagant pretensions of those who claimed to exercise such lofty powers of critical intuition. The success of the shrewd piece of irony has overwhelmed them with merited ridicule; and hereafter the biblical student need not be troubled by the professions of their superior skill and discernment, who, from language and style alone, affect to determine all that it is important to know about the author or the date of certain parts of the Scriptures, and paragraphs of the same.

We may now, with renewed proof of the propriety of such a course, adhere to the historical evidence, and require it in all cases to be thoroughly investigated. A priori reasonings may be of use, among the wise and learned, for the illustration and confirmation of positions already founded on fact. But a posteriori deductions are best suited to the common sense of mankind. External and internal evidence, each possesses its own distinctive and peculiar properties. In all investigations of the authenticity and genuineness of any work, we should be careful not to confound, or even to mingle them, at least until they have been separately examined. It will prevent prejudice, and facilitate the ascertainment of truth, THIRD SERIES, VOL. III.

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NO. 3.

first to hear the credible witnesses; afterwards it may be proper to attend to the intrinsic evidence; and when both have been separately examined they can be better united.

Neglect of this common-sense principle has led to confusion and error on the part of some who have undertaken to inquire into the inspiration of the Apocalypse. Michaelis, as Woodhouse has remarked, is "an unfair reporter of the external evidence,” in favor of its divine authenticity, having allowed bis mind to be prejudiced, by an opinion previously formed, with regard to its internal evidence. If an author, from what he considers to have been an exact fulfilment of Apocalyptic prophecies, has been convinced of the divine inspiration of the book, he will be disposed to look with less scrutinizing eye on the external evidence. The internal evidence being accounted sufficient, he will care but little to examine the external. On the other hand, if he has been dissatisfied with all expositions of the Apocalyptic prophecies, and the contradictions and endless variety of sentiment among commentators have obscured or vitiated all internal evidence, and affected him unfavorably towards their inspiration, he will regard with more or less prejudice the external evidence of their authenticity.

These remarks are applicable to the evidence alike of the divine inspiration of the Apocalypse, and of its being the genuine production of the Apostle John ; for the argument in support of the former derives much force from the latter. The external evidence, in both cases, is to be gathered from the testimony of ancient writers living at a period near to its publication. This testimony may be either direct and explicit

, like any ordinary historical statement, or it may be indirect, furnished in the quotations or allusions found in the writings of those Christian authors in the second century, who received it as divinely inspired. Eusebius' has distinctly informed us that the rule he observed in estimating the evidence of the genuineness of scriptural books, was, “their being handed down as catholic writings," writings generally or universally received by orthodox Christians of preceding ages.

As to the inspiration of the Apocalypse, Professor Stuart—whose views with regard to its date we purpose in this article to examine -has no doubt. Yet, we regret to say, there are indications everywhere throughout his work on the Apocalypse, of his having been seriously influenced by the views of German critics on the nature of the inspiration of this sacred oracle. On this subject we think he has exposed himself, by his want of caution, to just censure ; yet he has not departed from the well established foundation on which the faith of the church for ages has rested. He has collated, carefully, the evidence that John the Evangelist and Apostle, and not another John, was the penman whom the Spirit of God employed to write this wonderful book. Yet, he tells us,

1 1. Euseb. Hist., lib. iii., c. 3.

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that should recent leading German critics only be consulted on this point, the reader would scarcely suppose there is any ground for believing that it is a genuine production. Oeder, Semler, Corrodi, and others, not only questioned the fact, but heaped contempt and reproach upon it. Michaelis and Luther, and others, doubted; and, even in the third century, Dionysius of Alexandria, and in the fourth, Eusebius of Cæsarea, were sceptical in relation to John the Apostle being its author. De Wette, Ewald, F. Lücke, Credner, and others, although they vindicate it from reproachful criticisms as a rhetorical production, nevertheless are convinced, from its peculiarities of style and language, that the writer of the gospel and of the first epistle bearing the name of John, was not the author of the Apocalypse. The internal evidence is turned against the external; and, although Professor Stuart seems to regard it almost a desperate undertaking to defend the claims of the Apocalypse to Apostolic origin, yet, having “been the whole round of examination," he has come back with the persuasion that the argument from the testimony of the ancient Christian fathers is strongly on the side of the common opinion;" and that “the internal evidence is not of sufficient strength to settle the question against the authorship of the Apostle.”

We could wish that, on some other points, Prof. Stuart had exhibited equal logical accuracy in comparing the internal and external evidence. The time when the Apocalypse was written, presents an inquiry of vital consequence in any correct view, either of its origin or of its exposition. Prof. S. has magnified the internal evidence, that is, as he understands it, to the subversion of the entire chain of external evidence, or historical testimony, in relation to its commonly assigned date. It is essential to his entire views as to its structure, design, and exposition, to give it an earlier origin. For, inferring from what, according to his exposition of certain passages, he calls its internal evidence, that it was written during the reign of Nero, A. D. 68, he goes to work, most systematically and resolutely, to break up the whole chain of external evidence, or historical testimony, which has dated its origin A. D. 96, during the reign of Domitian. It deserves serious attention, that all this internal evidence is nothing more nor less than his preferred exposition of certain parts of the Apocalypse, sustained, chiefly, by some general remarks, and by results, to which he thinks he has been brought with regard to the Economy of the Apocalypse considered as' a great moral Epopee”" circumstantially” differing from the Iliad, the Æneid, or the Paradise Lost," as it celebrates the deeds, not of an Achilles, or of an Æneas, with their associates, but of the King of kings and Lord of lords, with his angels and saints." It is not our object to examine the correctness of his exposition;

I Vol. i., pp. 190, 191.

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nor of the hermeneutical principles he deems applicable to the Apocalypse. His unprotestant views,—if we may be allowed this expression,-have already been unanswerably exposed, in the last number of the Repository; so that the book still remains a rich magazine, replenished with invincible arguments against the apostate church of Rome, that “ Antichrist” or “ Vicar of Jesus Christ,” who has usurped his prerogatives, and is doomed to irretrievable perdition, “with the spirit of His mouth” and “the brightness of His appearing.” Some things we had prepared on this subject have been rendered unnecessary by the publication of the article above referred to. An examination of the internal evidence of the date of the Apocalypse, would necessarily lead more or less into an exposition at least of some of its parts; also of its object, economy, and the hermeneutical principles applicable, which would render our article too extended. We confine our attention to the external evidence. What is the character and force of that historical testimony which assigns the date of the Apocalypse ? Prof. Stuart relies entirely on the internal evidence, rejecting the external as insufficient and unworthy of respect. Our object is, to vindicate the claim of the latter, and to show, that he has not invalidated the evidence which has commonly assigned the date of its origin to the reign of Domitian.

It may be proper, however, to state Prof. Stuart's general views. In what he calls “the proem” of “the Epopee,” he comprises the three first chapters of the Apocalypse, designed to administer instruction, consolation, and admonition to the Asiatic churches. In the first part, comprising chapters IV. to XI. inclusive, he supposes the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of the Jewish

persecuting power to be set forth, forming THE FIRST CATASTROPHE." In the second part, comprising chapters XII. to XIX., he thinks is set forth, “Christianity struggling with the tremendous Roman power which governed the world—yea, carrying on a death-struggle for a long time, and with agonies often repeated-until final victory lights upon the standard of the cross”—which forms the SECOND GRAND CATASTROPHE, introducing the church into a long season of peace and prosperity diffusing themselves “over a great portion of the earth.” A sketch of this diffusion and prosperity,

A Chap. 20:4–6, forms a brief proem to the THIRD AND FINAL CATASTROPHE, when a new Heaven and a new earth

appear, Jerusalem comes forth in all the splendor of the upper world, a dwelling-place fit for the habitation of God and his saints," and “the Epopee” has terminated its “climacteric course."

The reader will perceive that this sketch depends on certain general views, which the author takes, of the nature, character, and design of prophecy, and likewise of the manner, or modus operandi, 1 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

• Com. i., p. 173. 3 Com. i., pp. 162 and 189.

· Com, i., p. 190.

the new

of the Spirit of God, in imparting inspiration to the mind of the apostle John. Much of the matter collected in the first volume is intended to sustain his sentiments on these points. With their claims to our confidence we are not particularly concerned, but take occasion to remark, that we regard some of his positions untenable, his statement and exposition of others inconsistent and contradictory.

Has Professor Stuart any good logical ground for assigning the origin of the Apocalypse to the close of Nero's reign, A. D. 68?

In prosecuting an argument in support of this view, it may right. fully be demanded, that the falsity of the commonly received date should be exposed, and that satisfactory reasons be adduced in favor of the earlier date. Under any circumstances this course would be indispensable, but much more so where a large part of the entire exposition mole ruit sua—at once falls, if it be not established.

Archdeacon Woodhouse very justly remarks, that, if the Apocalypse 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 those who had been personally instructed by apostles. The apostolic age dates from before the middle of the first century, when the apostles began to write, to the close of that century when John, the last of them, died. We are not to assume that it was published either early or late in this period, and reason accordingly: but if we shall find that external evidence assigns its origin to the latter period of that age, we shall not be justified in expecting or demanding earlier notice of it.

Different opinions have been entertained as to the date of John's writing the Apocalypse. The reader will find them stated by Michaelis. The earliest date is assigned to the reign of the Emperor Claudius, and that solely on the authority of Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, in Cyprus, in the latter part of the fourth century. Mosheim says of his work describing the different sects of Christians, that it “ contains many defects and misrepresentations, arising from the credulity and ignorance of the author.” Dr. Murdock says “his learning was great, his judgment rash, and his credulity and mistakes very abundant.” His character is given by Dupin and by Jortinto the same effect. Spanheim, in his Introduction to Ecclesiastical History, has given an account of his gross mistakes.

The book of “the Acts of the Apostles,” and the apostolical epistles, cover the period of the reign of Claudius, which lasted from A. D. 41 to 54. No traces of such a persecution as that referred to in the Apocalypse, at the period of its writing, can be discovered in the days of Claudius. Nero was the first emperor who persecuted Christians, and enacted laws against them. Nor is there

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1 Murdock's Tr. of Mosheim, Vol. i., pp: 242, 243., ' Rem. Eccles. Hist., iv., 3 Sec. iv., p. 425.

4 Annal. Tae., Lib. XV., C. 44.

115.

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