(On the Early Date of the Apocalypse)
“Evidently John did not wish by the isle of Patmos and the Lord’s day to direct his readers merely to locality or time, but to a definite locality, — it was the place of banishment or refuge, — and to historical circumstances, — it was on that ‘day of the week on which the resurrection of the Lord, in its meaning, was vividly present to his mind, and on which, in the spirit, he communed with the risen Saviour (comp. i. 17, 18) — in which the revelation came to him, and by which it was externally conditioned, and from which it proceeded. We need therefore expect no express information respecting the year in which this book was produced ; it was written ” in this year,” as it sometimes stands on the title-page of pamphlets written at the period of the Reformation. But this year is so clearly indicated by the description of the Beast, in complete agreement with everything else in the book, that, as we shall show in the sections on nearer doctrines, the choice can only be, whether it was written under the government of Galba, between August 68 and January 69, or in the time from the accession of Vespasian to the destruction of Jerusalem, between the end of December 69 and the spring of the year 70. And as in the same sections we find nothing in favour of Vespasian, but on the contrary very important considerations in favour of the time of Galba, we conclude, with Volkmar and others, that the Apocalypse was written in his reign, toward the end of the year 68, or early in the year following. “ (p. 11)
“Can we still understand “the holy city,” “the great city,” to be Jerusalem in a purely local sense ? No, the city is Jerusalem, but, as frequently elsewhere, it is at the same time the representative of the Jewish people. (Comp. Matt. xxi. 5, xxiii. 37 ; we may think also of Antichrist as equally representing both Nero and the empire.)
What does chap. xi. say to us of Jerusalem in relation to the Jewish people ? The true people of God, the servants of God, the saints, are, to our author, Christians whether they come from Jews or Gentiles; the believing Jews are to him, in contrast with the unbelieving, the temple of God, and the priests serving in it contrast with the court without the temple. Of those Jews who hate, malign, and indirectly persecute (comp. ii. 9, 10) the true Messiah and His followers, he says : ” they say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan,” ii. 9 (comp., as a contrast, Num. xvi. 3, xx. 4, xxxi. 16). ” I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie,” iii. 9. But the chapter treats of the Jewish people according as a small part of it was faithful to Jesus, and a far greater part rejected Him, and continued unbelieving. The seer was to “measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein ; ” that is, as Christians generally were protected from the trumpet and vial plagues, vii. 1-4, so should
Christians out of Israel be protected from the judgments which were to come upon Jerusalem and the Jewish people (comp. Matt. xxiv. 15-18). On the contrary, the court without the temple was to be “left out,” for it was given to the Gentiles, and they should tread the holy city under foot forty and two months; that is, the judgments already predicted by Daniel will burst in upon the non-Christian, unbelieving Jewish people. Whether John, by its being given to the Gentiles, and their treading it under foot, had in mind the destruction of Jerusalem, the words do not expressly say ; correctly interpreted, the measuring of the temple is not against it, and just as little, that later the city appears as still existing. ” (p. 258)
“What does the seer hold respecting the future of the Jewish people ? The evangelist represents Jesus as referring only infrequently, and then only generally and slightly, to the judgment of Jerusalem, which, in his idea, had already been pronounced, v. 43, vii. 34-36, viii. 21, 50, x. 1-3, xii. 35, 36; and there is not the slightest indication of the more distant fate of the Jewish people. The former circumstance furnishes us with a striking proof that, from the silence or cursory reference of the evangelist to any subject, we cannot conclude that his personal position was one of indifference or careless avoidance, but rather that, with a view to a definite circle of subjects, he limited himself in the Gospel to the material he had chosen. The absence of all indications respecting the future of the Jews simply leaves it undecided whether, after the experience realized since 68 A.D., he had given up the hope of Israel’s conversion; or whether, with changed relations, it had become modified, in a similar manner as his expectation of antichrist. Merely by the way, I throw out the question, whether it is wholly accidental that the seer represents the two witnesses — Moses and Elias — as preceding the advent of Him who had already once appeared, Rev. xi. 3-6 ; and that the evangelist represents the witness — the Baptist — of Him who should appear (John i. 7, 8, 15) as being asked whether he were Elias, or that prophet (vi. 1 4, vii. 1 0 ; comp. Deut xviii. 18), John i. 21-25 ?” (p. 395)
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
F.W. Farrar (1882)
“The internal evidence that the book was written before the Fall of Jerusalem has satisfied not only many Christian commentators, who are invidiously stigmatised as “rationalistic,” but even such writers as Wetstein, Lucke, Neander, Stier, Auberlen, Ewald, Bleek, Gebhardt, Immer, Davidson, Dusterdieck, Moses Stuart, F.D. Maurice, the author of “The Parousia,” Dean Plumptree, the authors of the Protestanten-Bibel and multitudes of others no less entitled to the respect of all Christians.
Revere Franklin Weidner (1898)
10. Gebhardt, Hermann. The Doctrine of the Apocalypse, and its relation to the Doctrine of the Gospel and Epistles of John. Edinburgh, 1878. This work, though not strictly a commentary, is a most valuable contribution to the better understanding of the teaching of the Apocalypse, even if we cannot always accept the conclusions which he draws from the facts he presents. Gebhurdt maintains that the Apostle John wrote the Apocalypse toward the end of the year 68, or early in 69 A. D. As he belongs to the Preterist School he refers the first beast, the Antichrist, to the Emperor Nero. The woman of 17:18 is the Rome of Nero’s time. The work is worthy of careful study, as representing the evangelical Preterist view.” (Annotations on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, li)
The Doctrine of the Apocalypse, and its Relations to the Doctrine of the Gospel and Epistles of John. By Pastor HERMANN GEBHARDT. Translated from the German by Rev. JOHN JEFFERSOX. 8vo., pp. 424. Edinburgh : H. J. Clark. 1878.
“In 1826 De “Wette uttered the oracular announcement that the fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse could not have been written by the same author. Assuming this dictum as axiomatic, the ” higher criticism” of Germany divided into two parties, one maintaining the apostolic authorship of the Gospel, and the other of the Apocalypse. And at a much later date Professor Keim announces that John is ” historically vanquished.” This is very much in the style of Voltaire’s ” Crush the Wretch.” But the crushed Christ still lives, and the vanquished evangelist still conquers, and both will live and conquer when these critical antichrists are dead and rotten. The fourth Gospel was written by John. The three Epistles were written by John. The Apocalypse was written by that same John. St. John did reside and die in Asia Minor. He was banished to the isle of Patmos. Ha wrote his Apocalypse not in the reign of Nero, nor of Galba, nor of Vespasian, but of Domitian.
All these statements were historically asserted with wonderful unanimity by the earliest Christian antiquity, and they are well substantiated truths. The reverse statements are made by modern German criticism, and they are unequivocal lies.
Pastor Gebhardt’s book is a clear flowing of the marked and minute coincidences between the theology of the Apocalypse and John’s other books. The resemblance is very complete, and is often of that occult character that discloses unintentionality and unconsciousness. In this peculiarity his arguments bear a striking resemblance to Paley’s “Horse Paulinse.” The same doctrines are often expressed, in both Gospel and Apocalypse, with a similarity of phrase, and often with a singular coincidence of thought in varied phrase. And thus this internal argument is twofold, based both on doctrine and on style. And that is carrying the war into Africa, for it is on differences of style between Apocalypse and Gospel that the former is denied to John. Even Alford acknowledges that the differences of style is a great difficulty not wholly removed. That difficulty is removable, we think, by two considerations. First, There-are ample instances in literature of styles quite as diverse by the same author. In his young days Thomas Carlyle wrote, if we rightly recollect so far back, a life of Schiller and a life of Stirling, both in a chaste English, in perfect contrast to the grotesqueries of his ” latter day pamphlets” and other spasmodic effusions. And these two cases are parallel, from the fact that it was in old age that both writers unfolded their ” wild oats.” Thomas Moore, in his ” Life of Sheridan,” gives opinion that Burke’s style grew gorgeous with advancing age. The contrast between his early treatise on the “Sublime and Beautiful ” and his thunderings against the French Revolution would seem to require two very different minds. Second, There are underlying identities of style which demonstrate identity of authorship. The subjects, of course, are stupendously different, and so require even of the same writer a stupendous difference of style. In the Apocalypse the pictorial imagination is perpetually on its utmost stretch; events and objects are crowding upon each other with intense rapidity. The scenery and pictorial material is generally borrowed from the Hebrew Scriptures, with immense improvements. And, more than all, the mind of the writer, steeped in Hebraism, is in a preternatural state. He who was in his youth a son of thunder has all the thunder of his youth supernaturally renewed within him. Rigluly, the extraordinary conditions demand an extraordinary change of style, both of thought and language. And yet, underlying all this change, the natural style and mind uumistakedly disclose themselves. He who cnnnot see this was never born a critic, and can never be reconstructed into one.
Pastor Gebhardt’s treatise is an admirable contribution to the demonstration of this identity. His process was, first, to exclude the Gospel of John from his thought, and to study the Apocalypse from a most intense individualistic stand-point ; then to study them both in connection and unfold the results. Of these two parts of the process his book consists. The first part, thereby, is a very searching analysis of the book ; a sharp-eyed commentary on the Apocalypse. The second is a very powerful showing of a striking ment;il identity reigning through both books. For students who love to indulge in “apocalyptic hours” the first part will be very welcome ; to those who feel the identity of authorship a pi-rplt-xing question (as we do not) the second will bring a powerful solution.
Pastor Gebhardt is very wrong on three points. He is semi-rationalistic ; \\eispredestinarian; and he is pre-millermial. On several minor points is he serai-rationalistic, but a very major point is his identifying “the beast” of chapter xiii wiih Nero, and so making St. John a false prophet. Of that beast it is said he was, and is not, and yet is. Now, it eo happens that when Nero was assassinated, there was a current belief among his rabble of friends, that he really escaped from the assassin alive, and would yet return and recover his throne. This belief is held by our pastor as basis for John’s making the beast to be slain, descend to the bottomless pit, and ascend therefrom. This Nero beast, as he interprets, is the sixth of the first eight Roman emperors; the seventh is his successor, Galba. And when we ask who was ” the eighth ” predicted by John as yet to come, we are answered, Nero risen from the dead ! “What a monster of an exegpsis ! And yet the pastor holds that the Apocalypse was written by the Apostle John ! And this Apostle John prophesied that Nero, risen from the dead, would be the eighth emperor of Rome, when, in fact, the eighth was Otho. But this is not the worst of the matter. John makes, as Gebhardt interprets, the second advent, as described in Rev. xix, (which we do not believe to be a description of the second advent,) take place during the life of this beast, Nero. In fact, the Son of man descends from heaven at his advent for the very purpose of catching Nero alive and casting him into the lake of fire even before the general judgment of chapter xx. All that reduces the Apocalypse to an imposture fit only to be flung into the waste basket. This accords with the run of German interpreters, (including Diisterdieck,) and essentially, followed by Stuart.The pastor is a forlorn predestinarian. In the retrospective view closing in John’s Gospel the history of Jewish unbelief, (chap, xiii, 37-40,) the evangelist, quoting Isaiah’s statement that God had blinded their eyes, adds, “therefore they could not believe.”
Thereupon thus expoundeth Pastor Gebhardt: “There can be no doubt that in the thought of the evangelist, as in that of the seer, there existed, side by side with each other, the human historical view, according to which God wills the salvation of all men, and offers it to them, but they, freely deciding, believe or become hardened ; and the divine absolute view, according to which some men believe and attain salvation, because God wills it, and others do not believe and are lost, because God hardens them, and has not appointed them to salvation.” The “human historical view,” that man is free and responsible, is thus contradicted, abolished, and annihilated by a certain ” divine absolute view,” which affirms that God has beforehand excluded them from all adequate power to believe. Now the pastor forgets that both the prophet and the evangelist make that deprivation of power a consequent of antecedent unbelief with power to believe. It is that self-superinduced incapacity for faith which we well know as often taking place in human obduracy ; which is at once responsible because freely self- superinduced, and yet judicial and divinely imposed both by naturally established sequences and a justly withdrawn divine influence. Pastor Gebhardt revives the weary contradiction that is the stigma of all Calvinistic theology, which so misstates the cause of God as puts him in the wrong and places right and justice on the side of the sinner. It recalls that vain jangle so well expressed by the popular antinomies : — ”
You can and you can’t, you shall and you shan’t,
You will and you wont,
You’ll be damned if you do. and you’ll be damned if you don’t.”
Pastor Gebhardt, thirdly and lastly, ia a pre-millennialist. Like most of his co-thinkers, he bases his view upon making ” souls ” mean bodies in Rev. xx, 4. He admits the souls under the altar of chapter iv to be ” souls,” but those same ” souls ” on the throne in chapter xx are, forsooth, live bodies. Like the rest of the mil- lennarians he believes that this view is clinched by verse 5, ” But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” On that verse we remark : 1. The verse is of doubtful authenticity, being not found in the best authorities. 2. The word “again” is certainly spurious. 3. The Greek word for “until” does not imply that they will ” live ” after the close of the thou- sand years. All that we get from the verse, then, is the declaration that, so far as that period is concerned, “the rest “did not live the imparadised life of those souls. What kind of a life that is is indicated by the terms ” river of life,” ” tree of life ; ” namely, a celestial life overlying mere conscious vitality.”
“Gebhardt acknowledges that his own views have been completely changed by reading Wuttig, and while he does not follow his master at every point, he accepts the main conclusion, that the Fourth Gospel and the first Epistle were written before the fall of Jerusalem.” (Review of Theology & Philosophy, p. 820)
What do YOU think ?